Under Capricorn (1949)

Alfred Hitchcock is, for me, the cinematic equivalent of writers like PG Wodehouse or Georgette Heyer or Agatha Christie: I see their names on a work, and I know that this is something I can read (or watch, in Hitchcock’s case) and almost certainly not end up finding it a waste of time. The other day, trawling Youtube for something to watch, I came across Under Capricorn. I had heard of this one before, but besides being aware that it had been directed by Hitchcock, I knew nothing of the film. A good opportunity to watch a Hitch film I hadn’t seen.

This story begins in an unusual location (for Hollywood, that is): below the Tropic of Capricorn, in Australia. Set in 1831, Under Capricorn begins one day in Sydney, where the new Governor (Cecil Parker) of New South Wales, having just arrived on the continent from Ireland, is addressing the people. His welcome, while all gleaming brass and starched uniforms on the official side, is lukewarm when it comes to the general public. They aren’t especially impressed.

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Spellbound (1945)

When I posted my review of Charade a couple of weeks back, I ended up being reminded of this film. Firstly, because Charade is referred to as ‘the best Hitchcock film Hitchcock didn’t direct’. Secondly, because in the comments, a couple of readers mentioned a film in a similar vein, the Gregory Peck-starrer, Arabesque. My mind did a quick jump ahead, and came up with this: Hitchcock + Peck = Spellbound.

And, as if fate itself had decreed it, I realised just as I was beginning to write this review, that today – August 29 – is the birth anniversary (and, oddly, death anniversary, too) of Spellbound’s leading lady, the lovely Ingrid Bergman. This was the day she was born in 1915, and this was the day she died, in 1982. Happy birthday, Ms Bergman – and RIP.

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The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958)

The Chinese wish each other five happinesses: wealth, longevity, good health, virtue, and a peaceful death in old age. The sixth happiness one must decide for oneself.

Richard’s recent post on Dr Kotnis ki Amar Kahani reminded me of this film, because the two films share a lot in common. Like Dr Kotnis ki Amar Kahani, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is based on a real life story—in this case, that of the Englishwoman Gladys Aylward (1902-70), who in 1930 went off to China to ‘serve’ the people there. Like Dr Kotnis, she too fell in love with a Chinese national, and is even today, 40 years after her death, regarded as something of a national heroine.

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, while not completely true to the story of Gladys Aylward (artistic license makes films sell!), is accurate enough in the basics. It tells, with sensitivity and feeling, the story of a brave woman’s determination to go halfway across the world—to a land of which she didn’t even know the language—simply in order to follow her dream.

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Anastasia (1956)

I sometimes discover films in a very roundabout way. This one, for example.
Those who’ve explored this blog probably know that I also do travel writing, and that I recently went to Switzerland. While doing background research on the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Geneva (which was constructed from funds donated by a Russian Grand Duchess, Anna Feodorovna), I read again about the Romanovs—and inevitably, about Anna Anderson, the woman who emerged in Western Europe in the 1920’s, claiming to be Czar Nikolai’s youngest daughter, the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolayevna. Some more research, and I ended up at this film, starring one of my favourite actresses.

Ingrid Bergman in and as Anastasia

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Eye Candy Part 3: Hollywood’s Classic Beauties

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.

Hollywood's classic beauties

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The Bells of St Mary’s (1945)

I have a bunch of films waiting at home to be watched, and (uncharacteristically indecisive), I’ve been see-sawing between Wait until Dark, The Maltese Falcon, and It Happened One Night. What I ended up seeing was this: a sweet, poignant, sometimes overly optimistic film with some lovely music and a memorable performance from the matchless Ingrid Bergman.

Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St Mary's

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Gaslight (1944)

It’s a coincidence that memsaab reviewed Woh Kaun Thi? just after I’d seen Gaslight and decided to review it. The films are worlds apart (and yes, Raj Khosla fan though I am, I must acknowledge that George Cukor is better at this!) There is, however, an interesting similarity: a central character who seems to be steadily going insane.
That said, this is a great film, very watchable and with the beautiful Ingrid Bergman in a superb, Oscar-winning performance.

Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight

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