Yes, one of my favourite actors was born on this day a hundred years ago. Named Yuli Borisovich Bryner, ‘Yul’ Brynner was born in Vladivostok on July 11, 1920 and ended up moving first to Harbin (in China) and then to Paris, along with his mother and his sister Vera after their father abandoned them. Yul’s musical and dramatic abilities came to the fore in Paris, where he became a guitarist and later a trapeze and theatre artiste. In 1941, having travelled to America, he debuted on stage in Twelfth Night. That was the start of Yul Brynner’s career in the US, debuting onscreen eight years later in Port of New York (1949).
Yul Brynner’s decidedly exotic features meant that he, like contemporary Omar Sharif, ended up playing several different nationalities in films. Russian, of course; German; Mexican; Japanese…
… and Thai.
In what proved to be his only Oscar-winning role in a career spanning almost three decades, Yul Brynner played a historical figure: the Thai ruler King Mongkut.
My mother grew up in a family ruled by the iron hand of her grandfather, a strict disciplinarian who thought dining out, nightlife, and cinema were a waste of time. Not to mention immoral. As a result, while he was alive, about the only films the family went to watch were The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, and Kismet.
Mummy once told me that the first film she happened to watch after the old gentleman (and his controlling ways) had passed on was The Innocents. And that she liked it. When I discovered that it starred Deborah Kerr—a favourite of mine—I was curious. I watched this film shortly after I began blogging, but decided I’d postpone a review (and a rewatch) for after I’d read the story on which this film was based: Henry James’s famous The Turn of the Screw.
I probably shouldn’t call it a genre, but one type of film that always appeals to me is the ‘journey film’: people, often strangers, setting off on a journey together. The motive or need for the journey can be varied, from the very dire necessity of staying alive (Lifeboat, Ice Cold in Alex) to making a new life for oneself (Westward the Women) to – well, what else – tourism (If It’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium). And this, pure and simple adventure. King Solomon’s Mines is based on the novel of the same name by Rider Haggard. I haven’t read the book yet, though from what I’ve heard, it’s quite different from the film. Not that I mind; this is an entertaining, visually very pleasing film, and a must-see for any fan of Stewart Granger’s, which I certainly am.
It’s been a while since I did my eye candy posts—lists of the Hollywood and Bollywood actors I think top the class when it comes to sheer good looks (nobody’s talking acting ability here). And in case you thought I’d forgotten about the ladies: no, I hadn’t. And yes, here they are: a list of the ten women I think were the loveliest in English-language cinema during the golden years.
Yes, I know I should’ve included her and her and her, and yes, how could I’ve forgotten her, but hey: this is my list! Enjoy, and tell me who your favourites are.
These, by the way, are more or less in order.
Or rather, I was back in India a couple of days ago, but I’ve only now managed (somewhat) to get over the jet lag, clean up home a bit, and find time to see what’s happening in cyberspace. Travelling is so tiring and trying.
Having said which, I’ll have to admit I love travelling. Give me a new place to explore—preferably with lots of old buildings, museums or pretty sceneries—and I’m very happy. Though I suppose I have to confess: Switzerland didn’t quite measure up to all I’d expected of it. There was, for one, no Shammi Kapoor begging me not to go off on my own…
For Easter, it seemed appropriate to rewatch (and, subsequently, review) a film with a biblical touch to it. I could’ve opted for The Robe or the superb Ben Hur, but decided instead on Quo Vadis—partly because it’s been a while since I saw the film. And also, perhaps, because it stars two people who are just such a feast for the eyes: Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr. As if that wasn’t enough reason, Quo Vadis also boasts of a brilliant performance by Peter Ustinov.
Like Robert Mitchum, Stewart Granger is one of those actors who just needs to be in a film for me to want to see it. When the film in question boasts of Deborah Kerr opposite Granger, lots of swordplay and palace intrigue, a magnificently villainous villain, and some very fancy costumes: my day is made. And, best of all: not one Granger, but two: he’s in a double role here (well, one of the characters is hardly there, but still). Yippee!
If you have a quick look through the rest of my posts, you’ll notice I have a particular style when I review a film. I typically begin with an introduction—what made this film special for me, why I wanted to see it, and so on—and then I go on to a brief synopsis of the plot. Not a blow-by-blow account, and not giving away the climax, but enough to present a broad enough picture of what the story’s all about.
It’s a strange thing, but I’ve noticed I invariably end up watching one actor again and again—often unwittingly. I saw Deborah Kerr inVacation from Marriagea couple of weeks back; last week, I saw her in The Prisoner of Zenda, and then today, in Heaven Knows, Mr Allison. This is a film I hadn’t heard of till a few days back, and now I can think of few films that I’ve loved more. It’s superb.
Having watched this movie (released in the UK as Perfect Strangers), I’m realising I need to watch more of Robert Donat. He—and Deborah Kerr, who overdid the saccharine act in Quo Vadis—pull off this unusual tale of a wartime romance with ease. Frankly speaking, wartime romances à la A Farewell to Arms don’t thrill me. I hate the angst, the fear of the loved one copping it, etc. Too much stress.
So Alexander Korda’s Vacation from Marriage, never too blue, never really distressing and with a mostly predictable end, was perfect. Sweet!