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Author Topic: FilmStruck
Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 21, 2018, 08:43
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Last night’s FilmStruck movie was 1936’s Beloved Enemy. In 1921, the Irish launch an uprising led by handsome, likable Dennis Riordan. Through chance circumstances when helping an injured Irish lad, Lady Helen Drummond comes into contact with Riordan, having no idea he is the resistance leader.

The movie starts out with a rather exciting and violent interaction between the British police/army and a resistance hideout/headquarters. After that, the violence is mostly just referred to in the background. The growing affection, despite her being British and he being Irish, does not intersect too deeply on the realities of the violence. It’s just mentioned a time or to in passing. But let’s just say that for movie-goers, Riordan’s hands are clean.

Lady Drummond’s father is the ambassador charged with sorting out this mess. He wants a peaceful solution if at all possible but becomes convinced by various atrocities committed by the Irish that only a very strong military response will do.

All sides become aware of the romance between Lady Drummond and the Irish resistance leader, Riordan. The British use Drummond to try to track her to Riordan and many of the Irish partisan’s are calling for Riordan’s head for having anything to do with the Lady.

David Niven is in this but it’s a small, insignificant role. Henry Stephenson is good a Lord Athleigh (British diplomat and Lady’ Drummond's father) — and Donald Crisp snarls well as the militant revolutionary. Although this has a deserved 6.4 rating (not particularly high) at IMDB, the entertainment value is higher than that. The movie is well-acted, the action keeps moving along, and it’s an interesting (although non-historic) premise for a movie (based loosely on Michael Collins).

There is a general theme of the tragedy and pointlessness of war. But we don’t delve too deeply into the politics. This is a “tragedy on all sides” sort of look at the conflict.

A reviewer at IMDB brings a little historical context to the film:

This 1936 film was the only movie about the Anglo-Irish War of Liberation (1916 - 1922) that centered on a character based on Michael Collins prior to the 1996 movie called MICHAEL COLLINS. Why it took so long to outwardly make a major film about the Irish hero is a matter of mystery to me. The best reason is that Hollywood did not wish to jeopardize English and British Empire sales of their films by painting a positive image of the man who gave them such a stunning black eye and won independence (or technically semi-independence) for Eire in 1922. Hollywood would be willing to show a great Irish leader destroyed by a sex scandal (the abysmal 1939 film PARNELL), but that leader failed.

This 1935 film, BELOVED ENEMY, follows the general outlines of the events of 1921-22. Collins, directing intelligence against the British forces, destroyed the Black and Tans and managed to make mincemeat of British operations throughout the provinces of Ireland (except for Belfast and it's norther neighbors). Prime Minister Lloyd George and his advisers (including Winston Churchill) decided to have a peace treaty - but the negotiations were extremely difficult for all concerned. Lloyd George wanted to get the British forces disengaged, because the nation's prestige was badly shaken by it's increased defeat. The Irish negotiators (led by Arthur Griffiths and Michael Collins) were to try to get full independence if they could. However, Collins was put in charge of the negotiation team only because his one rival, Eamon de Valera, refused to go. This has remained a matter of controversy to this day, as to whether de Valera did this out of distrust of the British or as a cynical way of shafting Collins who would be blamed for the resulting treaty. Gumming up the work further were the Northern Irish Protestants (Ulstermen) led by Edward Carson and James Craig. They too were split (Carson wanted all of Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom, as Great Britain was officially known in 1922; Craig just wanted to protect the six northern Protestant provinces from being part of the Catholic Ireland envisioned by Collins and de Valera).

The resulting treaty basically satisfied nobody - and still doesn't. Eire was created as a semi-Independent part of the United Kingdon (in a sense it achieved Parnell's long dead "Home Rule" parliament system). Northern Ireland got it's independence as a semi-independent section with it's capital at Stormont near Belfast (Craig would become it's first Prime Minister; Carson was disgusted by the decision and never accepted it). Griffiths died of natural causes a few weeks after the treaty was signed. Collins had to face the anger of de Valera, who rejected the result. Within two months Collins was assassinated by anti-treaty Irish, and a Civil War began that lasted a year (and was bloodier than the fight against the British). Eventually de Valera would be elected President of Eire. In 1949 he formally removed Eire from the United Kingdom. The southern Irish state has remained independent ever since.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 21, 2018, 09:08
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The wikipedia entry on the movie is brief and makes no attempt to discuss the historical background at all. One nice tidbit is that in the original version, Riordan was killed at the end. This version did poorly, so they changed it to have him merely wounded. They also mentioned a comic relief scene in which the British raid a rebel office and wish they could get their hands on Riordan -- who's right behind them. Sounds like something out of Life of Brian. They list Niven as the head of the policemen pursuing Riordan, so his role would have been significant -- but not as much as it would have been if the movie focused on the pursuit rather than the romance.

De Valera frequently gave Churchill headaches during World War II. It's only fair since Churchill at least considered taking some Irish port for use in the anti-U-boat campaign. The British never have been very good about neutral rights. This is what happens when you always see every war as a struggle between Good and Evil, though this was in fact partly true (the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese were both clearly Evil) in World War II.

During the Alamein campaigns, Erwin Rommel once discussed affairs with a captured New Zealand brigadier. One subject that came up was the Commonwealth's support for Britain. Rommel brought up Ireland, and Clifton (the prisoner) mentioned a report he'd recently seen that they were actually contributing well. This may have mostly been Ulster Protestants.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 21, 2018, 09:30
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They also mentioned a comic relief scene in which the British raid a rebel office and wish they could get their hands on Riordan -- who's right behind them. Sounds like something out of Life of Brian.

They do indeed walk this tightrope when they try to have this soft romance amongst the awful realities of a guerrilla war. In that scene, it would have been extremely foolhardy for the Irish leader to be anywhere near the scene. Errol Flynn could have pulled it off. But it’s a little dodgy for this film that Riordan would do that.

But he’s so blissfully sure that his identity is safe that he even tells officials who take him into custody (I forget why) that he is Dennis Riordan, but it’s so obviously a barefaced joke (it seems) that nobody takes notice and they get his “real” name that they find in his identity paper which say something else.

We get a little “Three’s Company” switcharoo comedy-of-errors when Lady Drummond listens in on this interview and really does believe his name is Dennis Riordan…which it is. She later betrays him when she find out the he really is the Irish guerrilla leader. But they somehow make up again. Hey, war is hell, you know. Politics makes strange bedfellows and all that.

The implication at the end is that the guy (a good friend) who shoots Riordan intentionally gives him a not-fatal shot. We’re left in suspense until the end, but he doesn’t die. The movie would have worked either way. But whatever.

The British were imperialists. Yes, compared to most, they were good imperialists. But they still had a “master race” conception of themselves — something that definitely rubbed the American Revolution leaders wrong. I think it’s extremely doubtful that there would have been an American Revolution except for the fact that the British went out of their way to treat the American leaders as second-class citizens.

The British were real bastards in regards to the Irish. And, in resisting, the Irish didn’t do themselves much credit either.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 21, 2018, 09:41
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Telling the truth when someone expects you to be lying (or finds the truth incredible) can be very effective. I seem to recall Archie Goodwin doing it a lot in Nero Wolfe stories, and there's a nice version at one point in Michael Kurland's A Plague of Spies (the third and last, and probably best, of his WAR, Inc. novels).

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 24, 2018, 10:08
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1948’s Enchantment is a pretty good movie which has a unique way of telling its story through flashbacks. There’s a modern story sort of running parallel with an old one, all centered around a house in a “if the walls could talk” sort of way. This aspect is very well done.

David Niven plays young Roland Dane (flashback mode) and the older General Dane (present-day mode). He’s barely recognizable in his old-man makeup which is very well done for the time…as is Niven’s portrayal.

This is one of Niven’s better performances. Instead of playing the stylish playboy always with a drink in one hand and a clever quip ready in the other, he plays more of a real person rather than a stereotype. He lives with his brother, Pelham, and his sister, Selina. Due to an accident in which both her parents are killed, the young girl, Lark, is taken into their home to live as their sister.

Selina (Jayne Meadows) is basically the evil stepsister. But she dotes on Niven. It’s one of those frustrating cases where no one either sees how Selina manipulates them or doesn’t have the backbone to try to stand up to her. She has most of the people in the house wrapped around in finger in one way or another.

This is a good performance by Meadows. On the other hand, I found Teresa Wright as the grown-up Lark to be flat and unsympathetic. At some point it was in my mind that she deserved some of the mistreatment by Selina if she was going to be so obtuse about it. Others will disagree on this point. But I found this to be a bad bit of miscasting.

Farley Granger (playing a Canadian pilot) seems a bit miscast as the modern-day soldier who is Lark’s nephew. His aunt had told him that if he was ever in England he must visit the old house. From her stories about the house, he know it by heart…even better than the visiting relative, Grizel Dane, who I think is played with wonderful realism by Evelyn Keyes. She’s come over from Canada as well to take her part in the war. She’s been hurt before romantically but who can resist Farley Granger and his penciled-on pencil mustache?

Still, although you see the stereotypical movie romance wherein people can fall deeply in love with each other after only one or two meetings, the chemistry between Grizel and Pilot Officer Pax Masterson is pretty good.

We eventually reach the deep flaw in this movie which involves miscommunication between Niven and Lark. They have just announced their love for each other and plan to be married. Selina, of course, does all she can to prevent this including getting her brother a top post on the general staff oversees which will keep him apart for five years (wives not allowed).

And this is where you can’t help feeling a little schadenfreude. Lark had been seeing some rich Austrian dude. (And he appears to be a real nice guy.). But she’s conflicted because deep-down she’s in love with Niven. Selina counsels both Niven and Lark that five years is not too long to wait if two people are really in love.

This is cynical manipulation, of course. Niven is torn between his career and his love for Lark. He offers to marry Lark before he takes his posting. For some damn reason (the miscommunication) she thinks he has run off to his posting so she then decides to marry the Austrian. The best line in the movie is when Selina tells Niven something like, “She couldn’t last five minutes let along five years.”

This movie doesn’t set out to make Lark look like a dumb-ass. Clearly Selina is supposed to be the bad guy and Lark the innocent victim. But there are at least some undertones that Lark is flighty and her own worst enemy.

Needless to say, the Niven we meet in the present-day is full of regret and counsels Pax and Grizel not to make the same mistake. The movie ends with some terrific scenes of London under the Blitz. Will this be a happy ending? Who knows. You’ll have to watch it to find out. I’d be curious if you also experience a little schadenfreude regarding Selina’s abuse of her stepsister, Lark.

The arithmetic of this movie is that the first 2/7 is compelling. The middle 3/7 drags and repeats itself, and the ending 2/7 is compelling once again. The present-day scenes are better than the flashback ones. But it’s a unique way that they tell this story and it makes this a movie that is definitely worth watching…and a must-see for Niven fans.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 24, 2018, 10:31
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I read the wikipedia entry, so I know how this ended. Ooof. It seems Rollo did realize what Selina had done after he lost Lark, and promised never to return to the house while Selina was there.

This also sounds like old home week for Hitchcock fans. Teresa Wright starred in Shadow of a Doubt and Farley Granger in Rope and Strangers on a Train. Leo G. Carroll aka Alexander Waverly was never a Hitchcock star, but appeared in 6 of his movies, including major roles in Spellbound, Strangers on a Train, and North by Northwest.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 24, 2018, 12:02
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Selina is a one-note character. But that note is consistent and works.

Movies like this frustrate me a bit though because everyone seems to miss that Selina (Jayne Meadows) is such a lying manipulator. And even if they see it, they just tend to sit there and say “Thank you sir, may I have another.” I wish I could say that this movie included a theme about not giving people this kind psychological power over you. But it doesn’t.

There is one scene near the end where the milquetoast Lark has it out with Selina. It’s not much of a battle but at least it’s something. Interestingly, it’s in this scene that Meadows does her worst acting. Instead of playing it icily cool, which is her character, she starts yelling as well. I just don’t think it was consistent with her character.

Granger is terrific, of course, in the one-off gadget film, Rope. I like the movie but can’t imagine it being nothing but a b-film without the cast that it had.

It’s nice that you mentioned Leo G. Carroll. He really does help to anchor this film. He’s good in it even though he’s mostly a background character.

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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 24, 2018, 12:13
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Sometimes a little vengeful savagery can be very therapeutic. Caroline Cooney's Rear-View Mirror ends with the woman who's spent most of the book trapped with a monster finding herself in a room by the road as he goes off to get the scissors to snip off one of her ears. The only furniture seems to be a chair, and when he returns she starts hitting him with it. As the chair breaks she keeps hitting him with the broken pieces, only stopping when there's nothing left big enough to hit his corpse with. It was a very satisfying ending.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 24, 2018, 15:12
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I don't think I've seen Rear View Mirror. That does sound like a satisfying ending indeed.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 24, 2018, 15:17
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They made a TV movie from it, but the movie doesn't have that ending, and differs in many other ways that make the monster much less monstrous. It does show his trick of running a string through her earrings and pulling down on them as a mild means of torture. In the book she takes them off and dumps them when she gets a chance -- and he gets angry that she deprived him of that particular pleasure.

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