Holy crap, one of my posts has gotten 500+ notes and I’m one follower away from 600… wowza [@_@]
Day 6: Charles Laughton
OH GOD I really can’t express how much I adore Charles. It only took one film, and I was sold. Charles is my perfect dead-actor pub companion. This is how much I love him. I feel that there was something at least a little bit right with the world in the 30s (despite all evidence to the contrary) that someone like Charles could become a worldwide film star. I mean, he’s a ridiculously talented actor, but that’s never been at the top of Hollywood’s list for stardom.
Just look at him. He’s irrepressible, and yes at times he wanders over into scenery chewing, when he’s not stealing scenes, or raiding the make-up box for increasingly eccentric noses or eyebrows. But underneath that surface deception, he’s a remarkably delicate actor, with a beautiful naturalness about him. Watch any of the slightly creaky films he made in the early 30s and he feels really modern compared to the other actors. He has an almost improvisational style, so that you never know what he’s going to do. Also he is excellent at Northern accents, which is a rarity even now, and uses them subtly - like giving his Javert a hint of his own Yorkshire accent, to show his working-class origins.
At his best there is no-one to touch him, which makes his own self-doubt all the more bemusing, and sad, especially when he owns the screen whenever he’s on it, and was also a thoughtful and humane director and collaborator. One of my time-machine theatre moments would be to see Charles in The Life Of Galileo, in the 50s, which he re-wrote/co-wrote with Brecht (Brecht’s final post-war reworking of the play). I can only imagine how fabulous he would have been.
Favourite Role: Rembrandt van Rijn in Rembrandt (1936). Not the greatest film, narrative-wise, as it’s more a series of painterly tableaux (designed by Vincent Korda and shot by Georges Perinal) which evoke 17th century Holland to perfection. Charles’ Rembrandt is beautifully drawn; not only is there the great humanity one sees in the self-portraits, but he is adorable. (Also, bonus Roger Livesey as an old beggar.)
Another good place to start: In fact, start here. Sir Wifrid Robarts in Witness for the Prosecution (1957). A perfect film, full of humour and tension with a marvellous cast, of which Charles is the best, showcasing his whole range.
I have been trying to think of a worthy commentary for this post all day, other than THIS etc.. So instead I will just post this, which I found yesterday and was saving for next Thursday.
This is the perfect antidote to waking up to find that England are under the Australian cosh again; a British Council short film from 1950 which is - even for the non-cricket fan - delightful. With the familiar tones of John Arlott and the soothing sights of vintage cricket, as well as a bit of history and a ton of 1950 documentary footage of London and Lord’s, it’s just the thing. It also features an Ashes test where England are getting hammered by Australia. Plus ça change. Although this Australian side is captained by Don Bradman, on his last test tour.
Oh, and it’s narrated by Ralph. RALPH! “My name is Richardson, and I happen to have been born in Britain. All peoples have their peculiarities and their enthusiasms. We are no exception. One of our enthusiasms is a game.” IT’S FABULOUS.
Cricket crops up in lots of my favourite books and films, and is often used as a metaphor (Maurice) or as a shorthand for character (Murder Must Advertise, all of Raffles - Raffles uses cricketing metaphors all the time when he talks) or to gently satirise the English character (Charters and Caldicott), but it’s cricket for a reason; none of these things would work with golf, say, or football. Cricket’s peculiarities and the ideas of class and Empire/Colonialism that hang about it, especially pre-WWII, are very specific. So if you’ve feel you’ve missed some of the nuances, this little joy of a film might help.
Sunday Pic #14Marcia has suggested this pi, partly because of its prettiness and partly on the off chance anyone…
Over dinner with some Janite friends, my son (aged 7) overheard us talking about a literary feud between fans of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. The next day he presented me with this comic and explained the drawings to me as “Jane Austen and her crew arrive in a limo, armed with hand guns, while Charlotte and her supporters have only a mighty sword and a box for their side. Jane Austen faints (sadly, ignoring her own advice to run wild as often as you choose, but do not faint) and Charlotte (or Sharlit, or Carlit…) wins, celebrating her victory with a banquet. Jane Austen and her supporters look down from heaven —Jane Austen’s face is in the moon—and curse Charlotte. I like to think that it is Jane Austen’s shin bone that Charlotte has at the banquet, as per Mark Twain, but the boy assures me it’s just a fork.”
Roger in a kilt standing next to a giant wheel, just to remind everyone that today is Thursday and I Know Where I’m Going is a lovely film.
Hey, it’s a trick, in a way, as it’s not from a film. It’s from an ep of The Man From UNCLE. George plays G. Emory Partridge, in two eps, in S1 and S2 (the gif’s from S2, S1 is B&W). He’s just a guest baddie, but wonderfully George about it. That ep is set in the Yukon, hence the fur. The other ep is better because he chains the boys up and tortures them. (What can I say, I like it when my OTPs are in danger!) I’m sure you can trace the eps somewhere online. I’ve got the complete series dvd box set because I love MUNCLE but it was not cheap. :D
Oh wow! I thought this was Mr. Freeze from Batman for some reason. Now that I think of it, it makes no sense as Mr. Freeze wouldn’t have needed the fur, but everyone else would.
I am reminded that in the book, A Dreadful Man, Brian Aherne reports that whenever George Sanders made a TV show, his wife, Benita Hume, described it as “George is doing a television.” I don’t know why I find that hilarious.
Stewart Granger, successfully rocking a monocle.