Saturday, January 23, 2010

R.I.P Angel Face

One of the loveliest and talented ladies of the silver screen, Jean Simmons, has passed away today. She starred in many a classic, including Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, in which her Ophelia is oh so enchanting and ethereal. At a similar point she was also quite recognisable as Kanchi in Powell & Pressburger's Black Narcissus.

The film that perhaps really made me sit up and pay attention to Jean was her comedic turn in The Grass is Greener. Amongst the likes of of Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum, she ran away with the film. As Hattie Durant, Jean was deliciously kooky.

Her engaging presence and talent probably peaked in the 50s - one of my favourite performances is her femme fatale turn in Angel Face, where she comes off as both vulnerable and dangerous. She was also in Guys and Dolls and The Big Country. In 1960 she gave a truly haunting performance as Sister Falconer in Elmer Gantry. She received two Oscar nominations - one for Hamlet and the other for The Happy Ending, but I firmly believe she deserved more.

I hope Jean is forever remembered for all she has given to cinema. R.I.P dear lady.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Audrey, in a class of her own

Harley of Dreaming in Black and White has posted some really lovely things about Audrey Hepburn on the anniversary of her passing. You can view it here. It's inspired me to put in some thoughts on Audrey and why she was and still is wonderful.

"A great lady. It's quite an achievement to spend that long in Hollywood and not become a Hollywood product. She always maneuvered around that -- and that takes intelligence. She was always her own person." {David Niven

One of the first things that drew me to Audrey Hepburn, some years before I was into classic films, was how she presented herself. With one glance at a photo of hers, you could see she was poised and well-mannered. When you see a few of her films, you also notice her smile and quirky sense of humour, all while maintaining class. She reflected who she was - from the way she conducted herself to her fashion sense - and didn't compromise that.

It's interesting because when Audrey made it big with the success of Roman Holiday, she wasn't like other Hollywood actresses of the time. When I think of Audrey, I don't usually think of her as side-by-side of her contemporaries, she stuck out among other upcoming starlets of the 50s and I think that's why she was able to have such a distinguished career with star vehicle after star vehicle.

But she wasn't only a lady with a delightful screen presence, she could stretch herself in her acting. It's easy to turn to her signature role in Breakfast at Tiffany's, but I really think it was a triumphant performance. She herself said - sorry, adlibbing here - that the part called for an extrovert when she was an introvert. Audrey was also in fine form as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Even though Audrey didn't sing her own songs, she gave a convincing stretch as a cockney girl. Then there's the straight drama parts in The Nun's Story and Two For the Road where Audrey abandoned the Givenchy and exposed her deep sadness and vulnerability to the camera.

Perhaps, though, the most admirable quality of Audrey was her kindness. She gave back to UNICEF for their aid to her during world war 2 and travelled to Africa. Footage and images show the true caring nature of Audrey. She was that rarity, a sweetheart on screen and in reality.

R.I.P Audrey Hepburn.

Monday, January 11, 2010

If Only...

I was thinking lately of things that could've/should've happened - film-wise - that didn't happen. Here is the list:

If only...

- Marilyn Monroe's last film Something's Gotta Give had been completed before her passing. I haven't seen the remaining footage that gets circulated around the web yet, but I've seen screencaps and stills for the film and Marilyn looks so refreshing and happy. I earnestly believe it would have been one of her best films, and with Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse on board, well that would have been delightful.

- Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had danced to 'They Can't Take That Away From Me' in Shall We Dance. It just doesn't sit right that this poignant song was danced by Fred with Harriet Hoctor instead.

- The original, unbotched version of Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons could be miraculously re-discovered. Because as much as the current version hints at a good film, it doesn't feel as whole as it may have been.

- Audrey Hepburn could've used her real voice - flawed as it may have been - in My Fair Lady (or else Julie Andrews should've been allowed to reprise her stage role). This might be contestable, but Marni Nixon's dub just doesn't sit right with me. Their voices don't match and so I can't suspend disbelief when Audrey's character sings. Otherwise, I did like Audrey's performance. Yet it would be interesting to see how Julie Andrews' Eliza Doolittle would have been.

And that is all I can think of know. I might make a part 2 if I come up with some more...