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TopBilled’s Essentials


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A few little tidbits to add, although I probably should have waited until after part 2 was posted.

It was fun watching The Kidnappers after this with Jon Whiteley having to care for both his little brother, adorable scene-stealing Vincent Winter, and the baby girl he finds. In that one, he is essentially switching to Dirk Bogarde's role as caretaker instead of the one taken-care-of.

I re-watched Victoria De Sica's The Bicycle Thief after this to refresh my memory since it had been a while. The storylines are totally different. Instead of a criminal running with a child, this one involves a father and son seeking his missing bicycle so he can keep his job as a poster hanger.

Yet they do resemble each other in a couple of interesting ways, being that this is British "neo-realism" not too far removed from the Italian kind. There is some similar post-war rubble on display, although Rome fared better than London with less bombing. The similar gritty atmospheres reflect major characters who are always down on their luck. Also a lot of supporting characters that are certainly NOT supportive of our main characters. Just as the brother turns away the two in The Hunted despite feeding them, the father and the son in The Bicycle Thief are also on their own with the police not caring all that much and even the fortune-teller telling Lamberto Maggiorani's Antonio "you are never going to get it back... so just deal with it" (paraphrasing here with her obnoxious Italian).

Also plenty of running in the streets with the kid falling down often. Key difference with De Sica's film is that Enzo Staiola is much more outspoken about it. When his father asks why he failed to keep up with him, he gets quite angry at him with his "I fell!" response. Jon's Robbie doesn't give Dirk much bite and is actually the ideal seven year old you want around. I should point out that both boys display very expressive faces; you always know what they are thinking. As mentioned above, their eating scenes get a nice smile from Dirk Bogarde and Lamberto Maggiorani respectively, which makes me wonder how long both stars went without eating just so the director could get them to look so famished.

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Essential: HUNTED (1952)

Part 2 of 2

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More about Italian neorealism

TB: Okay, we're back to continue our discussion of HUNTED. When we left off yesterday, we had been discussing how the film's director (Charles Crichton) was probably influenced by Italian neorealism. Anything else you'd like to say about that?

JL: This film is quite similar to other thrillers of the period that made great use of locales, but NOT in a tourist "pretty travelogue" sense. The Italians were presenting their country warts and all. The Brits and Yanks were impressed enough to do the same, but we do get some lovely countryside later on.

TB: Yes, good point.

JL: I am not sure if Visconti's OSESSIONE had much of a release in the U.K. by this time and whether or not Chris Crichton and cinematographer Eric Cross saw it before doing this one. My guess is that they had only seen THE BICYCLE THIEVES, which was a gargantuan international box-office smash.

Memorable scenes

TB: A few scenes stand out to me. Meaning I thought they were expertly staged and acted. Number one, I loved the scene where they jump off the old bridge on to the train. It's a nail biter.

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TB: Also, I consider the scene where Chris tells Robbie the bedtime story to be very memorable. It's a clever way to use to reveal some of Chris' backstory. And I think the scenes at the end are particularly effective-- the part where Chris turns back the boat, and when he carries a very sick Robbie off the boat.

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TB: Did these scenes affect you, too? Or were there other moments that stood out for you in HUNTED?

JL: The train scene was great, but we get a lot of those in these types of films. I also liked all of the shots of gulls at the end.

TB: There's a lack of background music in many of the scenes. This helps us focus on what the characters are saying and thinking. Did you notice this?

JL: Yes, there were scenes with no music but I didn't notice it as particularly unusual, but that is an interesting perspective.

Camera work

TB: What are your thoughts on the way it was filmed?

JL: There were some great opening shots done from a small boy's eye level. The first part of the movie showcases Robbie's point of view; lots of low angle shots, close ups of horses startled in the city streets and adults looking down at the viewer. Later, when the emphasis shifts to Chris the adult lead, the camera compositions change.

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TB: Yes. I hadn't considered the different vantage points, in terms of how the characters were photographed.

JL: All of the earlier shots focus on Robbie's point of view with the camera angles presented accordingly. Also we don't see the actual crime committed but come into the aftermath scene just as Robbie does. Therefore, we can understand why he becomes attracted to Chris and does not fear him as a murderer.

TB: The camerawork seems to change when they reach the boarding house. There are group shots, from more of an omniscient point of view.

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JL: There are also some very nice Hitchcockian set-pieces too, including the all-important railroad track narrow escape scene. One particularly good scene earlier in the movie predates Cary Grant at Grand Central station in Hitch's NORTH BY NORTHWEST. Chris tries to get quick cash on a coat but the pawnshop owner gets suspicious and gets on a phone in the next room. While he pretends he is only calling a potential buyer rather than the authorities, Chris knows better. Outside the window, a cop is questioning Robbie why he isn't in school. Like Cary's Roger, he is not waiting around to find out what happens next.

The film's conclusion

TB: What about the end of the movie?

JL: Love those shots of gulls flapping past herring boats, symbolizing Chris' need to literally... fly away.

TB: The final sequence of HUNTED is very visual. The long tracking shot at the end where he brings Robbie up from the boat while the crowd and the police are swarming along the dock is certainly memorable. And things are left unresolved in a way-- will Robbie go back to live with his adoptive parents, or will he be placed in a new home? What will happen to Chris and his wife?

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TB: Also, will Chris' brother ever acknowledge him? There are a few plot threads dangling, which makes us wonder what happens next. It's a great movie, and it gives us so much to consider.

HUNTED may currently be viewed on YouTube.

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Stumbled on an interesting article that was published two years ago, covering Jon Whiteley. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/won-oscar-aged-11-curating-ashmolean-museum-has-given-better/

Excerpt of interest:

Whiteley may not go in for showbiz hedonism now, but he got on famously with a young and rebellious Bogarde, who clocked up leading roles in the likes of Victim, Death in Venice and The Damned. The matinée idol once said on live television that he had wanted to adopt Whiteley - who was watching with his mother at the time - though “she wasn’t paying attention, which was just as well.” 

Bogarde’s proposition, he says, was “absurd. His own life was difficult enough. He wasn’t lavish but he was secretive; he particularly disliked fans and avoided them.” Between filming (The) Hunted together in 1951 and The Spanish Gardener in 1956, the actor went from “young and easy-going” to “more self-regarding,” Whiteley remembers. “I got the impression then that he had a slight chip on his shoulder, which was extremely puzzling for someone as successful as he was. There was a bitterness in the way he spoke.” 

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Essential: TIGER BAY (1959)

Part 1 of 2

TB: Two weeks ago Jlewis and I discussed John Mills in the postwar noir THE OCTOBER MAN. Today we're discussing another film Mills made, more than a decade later. TIGER BAY is interesting, because his daughter Hayley also appears in it. It marks her first major role in a motion picture.

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Hayley the tomboy

TB: So let's start with Hayley. Our initial glimpse of her as Gillie Evans, she's fighting with a bunch of boys in the streets of her seaside town. We know she's not like other girls her age. She's tough! What did you make of her introduction in this film?

JL: It is quite an introduction. She is surprisingly sophisticated for a 12-year old. Maybe too sophisticated since it seems like she will become more than just a "buddy" to Korchinsky (Horst Buchholz), possibly bordering on “lover” even if we don't see a lot of touching and there's no kissing. I am not surprised that Disney greatly sanitized Hayley for POLLYANNA in a total 180 degree turnaround. Plus, that character is totally honest while Gillie here is totally dishonest.

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TB: My thought was she's a tomboy in the introductory scenes of TIGER BAY, probably to contrast with her softening later and becoming more feminine in relation to Korchinsky.

JL: One could start up a whole other conversation in regards to her tomboy persona, complete with trousers and short haircut. During the late fifties and early sixties, such personas were quite fashionable as long as the characters were still young and under-age (i.e. they hadn't grown up yet and found a man to make a “proper” woman out of her), culminating with Susan Oaks' supporting role as a Jet member in WEST SIDE STORY and Mary Badham's Scout in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

Gillie the latchkey child

TB: I think screenwriter/producer John Hawkesworth does a good job establishing Hayley's character Gillie. Her aunt (Megs Jenkins) says right up front that girls wanting to play with bombs and wanting to dress up like gangsters are a disgrace. We also learn she's a thief and a compulsive liar. Plus a neighbor calls her a little devil. She's what we'd call unruly, and she's what we'd call a latchkey child. She has no parents, just the aunt she lives with, and very little supervision. Yet we instantly like her, and so does the killer, Korchinsky. What do you make of that? Is it sympathy for the devil or is there something genuinely good in her, despite her circumstances and rough exterior?

JL: I would say it's her charming personality that makes us root for her.

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Murder!

TB: Let's address the murder scene which takes place near the beginning of the movie. This is an important scene for a variety of reasons. She hears a fight on the stairway in her rundown apartment building. She goes up and peaks through a mail slot and gets a view of Korchinsky quarreling with his unfaithful girlfriend Anya (Yvonne Mitchell). Voices are raised, Korchinsky finds a gun and he fires it. The murder and subsequent death are properly built up, but it does seem to happen rather quickly. And we are also jolted by the fact we're observing this crime scene along with Gillie. The editing of the murder scene feels like something in a Hitchcock film. And the close-ups of Gillie's eyes and the revolver, as well as Korchinsky's face when he realizes someone is out in the hall-- it's all very powerful. Thoughts on this?

JL: I think this scene is important in how it shows Korchinsky do the killing by accident a.k.a. “I got angry.” We do not see how Dirk Bogarde's Chris commits murder in THE HUNTED and only meet him when little Robbie does, after the deed; Robbie views him not as a murderer but as a kinder substitute for his abusive stepfather. Was his murder also done in anger and by accident? In this case we know Gillie is in no danger here because of how Gillie's relationship develops with Korchinsky.

TB: I like how the gunshot was mistaken for the sound of Gillie's little bombs, which gives us a plausible reason why tenants do not seem to notice at first that a woman was shot and killed. I also like how Gillie tries to run off, but then suddenly wants to get the gun, and then she is discovered by Korchinsky.

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The gun and the lies that follow

JL: Earlier we see the children playing Hopalong Cassidy and cops-and-robbers with toy guns. She too has an obsession with such toys, but wants a real gun and this gets her involved in the murder cover up story.

TB: What is it about movies with kids as eyewitnesses to murder? Does this automatically make for "good drama?"

JL: It's because children experience the world differently than adults that it makes for a different perspective. As Graham the police investigator explains to Gillie, just because you love somebody, it does not mean they should be exempt in the eyes of the law. Justice must always be served. Like Chris in the previous film, we know that Korchinsky will not get away. This is our lesson we are taught that compensates for all of the shenanigans Gillie commits earlier.

TB: In some ways this film reminds me of THE WINDOW (1949). Where we have young Bobby Driscoll witnessing a murder but nobody believes him since he is a chronic liar. Gillie in this film is also a liar, but the key difference is that she's lying to cover up the crime.

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JL: What strikes me is how much fibbing Gillie does here. That may be a stretch with reality. We want the police to seek the truth with her since the other adults have no success with her. Do you think this movie would work less effectively had she real parents instead of a workaholic aunt? She gets a pass initially because she has no strong authoritative father until Superintendent Graham (John Mills) steps in. I would even relate Gillie's lies to the classic conversation in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN between a school teacher and Peggy Ann Garner's Francie about “stories” still being wonderful as long as you understand the difference.

TB: Tomorrow Jlewis and I continue our discussion of TIGER BAY, with more about the performances from Horst Buchholz and John Mills. Please join us!

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2 hours ago, TopBilled said:

 

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I know she is just observing here with interest, but this shot reminds me of all of the passionate glaring between rivals Susan and Sharon at summer camp in The Parent Trap before they discover they are twin sisters. Also it is the same look one sports when posing as the other and plotting to get rid of daddy's new girlfriend (played with great sleaze by Joanna Barnes). BTW, the remake with Lindsay Lohan is equally good. Of course, Hayley was a very unique child actress, very different than others of her generation.

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4 minutes ago, Jlewis said:

I know she is just observing here with interest, but this shot reminds me of all of the passionate glaring between rivals Susan and Sharon at summer camp in The Parent Trap before they discover they are twin sisters. Also it is the same look one sports when posing as the other and plotting to get rid of daddy's new girlfriend (played with great sleaze by Joanna Barnes). BTW, the remake with Lindsay Lohan is equally good. Of course, Hayley was a very unique child actress, very different than others of her generation.

Thanks. I tried to find a photo of her playing with the other boys, with their guns and bombs, but the images were poor quality or had writing over them. So I settled for that shot of Hayley/Gillie gazing into the distance, which also occurs at the beginning of the movie.

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Not sure if she was covered before or not, but a month of essentials on Hayley would be fun. I have to re-watch The Flame Trees Of Thika again. Funny... I could easily see Elizabeth Montgomery playing the same part.

Backtracking to one of her funniest moments. How can you NOT be won over by lines like this?

"All right. I am not screaming. I will talk about this perfectly calmly and rationally."

 

OK. I had my fun. Back to Tiger Bay.

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23 minutes ago, rayban said:

I loved her later career in England, especially the films with Hywell Bennett - "The Family Way" and "Twisted Nerve".

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Can he consummate their marriage?

I'm with you on this. Her Disney films, with the exception of POLLYANNA, don't work for me. I find them too formulaic, too commercial. She's great in them, but they are not exactly great films. She had better, more subversive roles in those British productions. I do think TIGER BAY is a splendid vehicle for her. THE FAMILY WAY, which you mentioned, is a winner. And I rather like GYPSY GIRL (1965) in which she was directed by her father.

Perhaps Jeff is right-- we should do a month of her films at some point.

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15 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

I'm with you on this. Her Disney films, with the exception of POLLYANNA, don't work for me. I find them too formulaic, too commercial. She's great in them, but they are not exactly great films. She had better, more subversive roles in those British productions. I do think TIGER BAY is a splendid vehicle for her. THE FAMILY WAY, which you mentioned, is a winner. And I rather like GYPSY GIRL (1965) in which she was directed by her father.

Perhaps Jeff is right-- we should do a month of her films at some point.

She did a third film with Hywell Bennett - "Endless Night".

They were a team. 

MV5BMGNiZTA0YzAtMGVlNi00ZmRiLWIwMmUtZTdm

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

I'm with you on this. Her Disney films, with the exception of POLLYANNA, don't work for me. I find them too formulaic, too commercial. She's great in them, but they are not exactly great films. She had better, more subversive roles in those British productions. I do think TIGER BAY is a splendid vehicle for her. THE FAMILY WAY, which you mentioned, is a winner. And I rather like GYPSY GIRL (1965) in which she was directed by her father.

Perhaps Jeff is right-- we should do a month of her films at some point.

While Pollyanna is probably her best film for the Mouse House, I like The Parent Trap merely because of her performance and the cast rather than the predictable storyline. The sequels were not quite as good, despite Hayley being in them, but the remake is a favorable comparison... again due to the cast. Yes, both Brian Keith and Dennis Quaid are as dull as dishwater in their roles but Maureen O'Hara and Natashia Richardson are fun to watch. The earlier film also has some established oldtime familiars like Charles Ruggles, Una Merkel and Hitchcock regular Leo G. Carroll too. Apparently Joanna Barnes enjoyed her role as the gold-digger so much that she just had to play the mother of the gold digger in the remake. I didn't get a sense that Maureen was terribly comfortable being in a Disney film, unlike Kirk Douglas who clearly enjoyed himself in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea even though he had no desire to work with the studio again. Of the other Hayley Disney films, The Moonspinners was one that could have been great but just missed the mark somehow.

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4 minutes ago, Jlewis said:

While Pollyanna is probably her best film for the Mouse House, I like The Parent Trap merely because of her performance and the cast rather than the predictable storyline. The sequels were not quite as good, despite Hayley being in them, but the remake is a favorable comparison... again due to the cast. Yes, both Brian Keith and Dennis Quaid are as dull as dishwater in their roles but Maureen O'Hara and Natashia Richardson are fun to watch. The earlier film also has some established oldtime familiars like Charles Ruggles, Una Merkel and Hitchcock regular Leo G. Carroll too. Apparently Joanna Barnes enjoyed her role as the gold-digger so much that she just had to play the mother of the gold digger in the remake. I didn't get a sense that Maureen was terribly comfortable being in a Disney film, unlike Kirk Douglas who clearly enjoyed himself in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea even though he had no desire to work with the studio again. Of the other Hayley Disney films, The Moonspinners was one that could have been great but just missed the mark somehow.

And of course THE PARENT TRAP is itself a remake of an earlier MGM film. Disney often re-used old properties, properties developed by other studios, because the stories were familiar to audiences and they were high concept. Plus they'd appeal to the youth market Disney was courting.

SUMMER MAGIC is also a remake (of an earlier RKO film). But I don't think the production values are as good in these films as they could be, and in some ways they are a step up from television.

Most of the films that Hayley made at Disney were commercially successful but artistically lacking in some way. They haven't been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and are not deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

But they are still crowd pleasers that have now entertained generations of people. However, I definitely think her best work was in British films. She didn't have to conform to a specific roles in her British films...she was freer to experiment and offer up subversive characterizations in the British productions she did.

She was/is a fantastic actress...but I think the Disney stuff is a blessing AND a curse when discussing her legacy. 

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While I agree these films are not cinematic masterpieces, I don't have all that much faith in the National Film Registry regarding some of the titles judged "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". Also don't get me started on the number of old shorties ignored in favor of feature films of mainstream commercial appeal.

 

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18 minutes ago, Jlewis said:

While I agree these films are not cinematic masterpieces, I don't have all that much faith in the National Film Registry regarding some of the titles judged "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". Also don't get me started on the number of old shorties ignored in favor of feature films of mainstream commercial appeal.

Well, what it means is that some films stand less chance of being preserved and being seen by audiences in the 22nd Century if they don't make it on to the Registry.

Probably a lot of films are in jeopardy of being forgotten or lost 80 years from now. Plus there will be all the ones that are made between 2020 and 2099 that make it on to the Registry. So we have films that haven't even been made yet that will be considered culturally, historically or aesthetically significant and worth preserving, while these other ones get left behind.

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I do not necessarily pooh-pooh what all gets chosen any more than I pooh-pooh the Oscars or Sight & Sound's top ten lists. They reflect what is trending during a particular time period. As discussed before, The Bicycle Thief was the critical darling of S&S at the time The Hunted was released (and it is not surprising that film showed some of its influence), not anything by Orson Welles or Alfred Hitchcock.

Yes... movies are like all of those old books you have in your storage unit that are falling apart because the heat and silverfish are eating the gum that keep the pages together. Or those old View Masters from the 1940s that boast superior photographic color while those equally worthy, at least subject-wise, reels from the '70s have turned pink because the company went on the cheap in their production at that time and nobody realized the shorter shelf-life as a result (ditto Eastmancolor's situation with movies). How does one determine what gets saved and what doesn't? In the Charles Urban thread, I mentioned a feature film he produced in 1916 that is pretty much ignored in the history books despite every TV documentary and YouTube video covering the first world war that recycle footage shot for it. Mind you, The Battle Of The Somme was a British film and not something to include with the National Film Registry but just as many American compilers have borrowed from it than the Brits.

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16 minutes ago, Jlewis said:

I do not necessarily pooh-pooh what all gets chosen any more than I pooh-pooh the Oscars or Sight & Sound's top ten lists. They reflect what is trending during a particular time period. As discussed before, The Bicycle Thief was the critical darling of S&S at the time The Hunted was released (and it is not surprising that film showed some of its influence), not anything by Orson Welles or Alfred Hitchcock.

Yes... movies are like all of those old books you have in your storage unit that are falling apart because the heat and silverfish are eating the gum that keep the pages together. Or those old View Masters from the 1940s that boast superior photographic color while those equally worthy, at least subject-wise, reels from the '70s have turned pink because the company went on the cheap in their production at that time and nobody realized the shorter shelf-life as a result (ditto Eastmancolor's situation with movies). How does one determine what gets saved and what doesn't? In the Charles Urban thread, I mentioned a feature film he produced in 1916 that is pretty much ignored in the history books despite every TV documentary and YouTube video chronically the first world war recycling footage shot for it. Mind you, The Battle Of The Somme was a British film and not something to include with the National Film Registry but just as many American compilers have borrowed from it as the Brits.

As of 2012, there was no British Film Registry. Not sure if that's been rectified in the past seven years.

https://www.nus.org.uk/en/lifestyle/the-british-film-registry/

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Essential: TIGER BAY (1959)

Part 2 of 2

TB: Okay, we're back for the rest of our discussion about TIGER BAY.

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An emotional attachment

TB: It's interesting how Hawkesworth and director J. Lee Thompson manage to get us to go along with the way Gillie becomes so attached to Korchinsky. We get drawn up into the blossoming friendship between these two characters. Did you find this believable?

JL: Since she witnessed his crime, she is fearful of him at first. Yet, like a moth drawn to a flame (or Bonnie to Clyde), she accepts him soon enough. I should point out an interesting early scene with him pushing a little girl on a swing (and she is of a different race than him, which was interesting in itself). This established that he knows the age differences of people and what is expected in proper behavior between them. He views Gillie as a “girl” even though she views him differently than her same-age “boy” friends. In a key scene later, he tells Gillie that she will understand certain things “when” she becomes a woman despite Gillie knowing quite a bit more than a great many women older than her.

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TB: I must admit I had a few questions while watching the early portion of the film. Why did she want the gun? Did she really plan to use it? Also, why did she want to protect Korchinsky without really knowing him. Ultimately, I chalked this up to her being attracted to him and liking him. That he was her first real crush, despite the unusual circumstances. What was your take on their relationship, as the story progressed?

JL: Yes, she is attracted to him at first meeting. I should add that the music score gets way too slushy in some of their scenes together, suggesting more romance in scenes where it is not supposed to exist. This is a hodgepodge of different genres, alternating between thriller and family oriented comedy. The music is all over the place in themes, menacing during the suspense, jovial when Gillie is up to no good and, rather bizarrely, getting too "romantically" slushy in her scenes with Korchinsky. They could have toned down that aspect a notch.

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Scenes in the church

TB: I'd like to discuss the church scenes. They're a riot. She takes a gun into church, sings in the choir, gives another kid one of the bullets from the gun (without anyone seeing this)...then we have Korchinsky show up, since he intends to get the murder weapon back. There is also a quirky bit, after the others have left, where he corners her in a dark storage area, gets the gun back, but takes a moment to pray.

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TB: Then this is followed by her wanting to go to sea with him, since he's a sailor, and her desire to work on a ship with him. It's all highly improbable, but it works as black comedy though there is a serious murder investigation going on. What are your thoughts on the mood of these particular scenes and the subversive "lightness" of these moments?

JL: I don't view them as a "riot" although there may be some comedy with her bringing a gun into church. You are addressing the dark versus light aspects of the church itself. That is quite interesting, especially with candles and other limited lights giving it a German Expressionist vibe. It could also reflect the dark and light aspects of both characters who relate to each other.

TB: Yes, most definitely.

JL: When she brings a gun to choir practice to show her same-age boy friend (versus Korchinsky who is her boyfriend), it is clear that her “moral compass” is not conforming with what the mass majority expects. Note too that even our killer himself seeks redemption by actually praying for forgiveness in the very same church. This is a key scene to get average viewers to both sympathize with him but also see that he will eventually accept the consequences of his actions in true “crime does not pay” fashion (to please the movie censorship boards). Gillie is far less religious and concerned about retribution for her “sins."

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Horst Buchholz

TB: This was Horst Buchholz's first English language film. I found his acting quite good. I enjoyed the tenderness he conveyed at key intervals, despite being assigned to portray a violent murderer. I really think he has some of the best close-ups, too. He has a striking visual presence in all his movies. What are your impressions of him as a performer?

JL: He did remind me of Dirk Bogarde in the previous film, a romantic leading man who didn't exactly fit the criminal mode and also played him as a sympathetic character we can relate to. Granted, so many criminals are played the same on screen and we all know that criminals are average people just like us... and we ourselves are equally capable of crime. If there is a flaw to both his and Dirk's performances, it is the fact that they don't seem terribly threatening enough. Not that they should be since we need a child attracted to them. However movie killers generally display more passion/anger in their personalities to at least explain "why" they would even think of taking another person's life.

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TB: Yes, Anya's murder is not premeditated. Korchinsky flies into a rage and kills her in the heat of the moment. It's a crime of passion. Later when he goes back to visit the roommate, he's still full of rage.

JL: Korchinsky is not a “natural” criminal but a criminal who became so by circumstances. Therefore, he knows that ultimately he too must... eventually... pay his debt to society and not just “get away." Otherwise he would not be allowed to be so looked up to, by a child on screen.

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TB: Speaking of Korchinsky's tenderness, there's an interesting scene where he almost considers pushing Gillie off the boat and into the water. In a way this is foreshadowing for the sequence at the end when she does fall off the ship and he saves her life (which costs him his freedom). I'd say there's something sweet about her demeanor that causes him to do right by her. Even the inspector, Superintendent Graham (John Mills), has to sort of acknowledge their close bond at the end of the movie. Are there any other scenes like these that stand out to you?

JL: We learn in his church pray scene that he may eventually confess his crime to the authorities even if he will still try option #1 of getting out of the country first. Also, Gillie supports Korchinsky unconditionally as if she is his new girlfriend replacing Anya, and she even criticizes his “ex” after Anya's death. I also enjoyed him joking with her in Polish and she riding a horse. Such scenes allow her to behave more as an average 12 year old enjoying average 12 year old activities rather than getting caught up protecting a criminal in his getaway.

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Cooperating with the law

TB: Eventually, she does "switch sides." Korchinsky has taken off on the boat, and now the inspector and his men are using her to find out where Korshinsky went. They ask here a series of questions. I loved Gillie's re-enactment of the murder. She was so over the top that I couldn't help but laugh. And yes, I think we were meant to find that bit funny.

JL: That is what Hayley does best. She often gets all excited in her performance within a performance. She always was a talented method actress who loved putting on a show. This scene relates to my earlier thoughts on this movie's overall theme of reality vs. perception. Yes, she knows she saw an actual murder but she behaves like it was an acted out scene for pretend, a bit like how the children played with toy guns earlier with no bullets involved.

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TB: Related to this was the reality that she was willing to keep lying in order to protect Korchinsky...but at the same time it would possibly incriminate an innocent man. Graham gives a short speech near the end where he tries to get Gillie to tell the truth about Korchinsky, by explaining to her the difference between lies that prove loyalty and lies that are wicked and allow an unjust person to go free.  Yet she is still fiercely loyal to Korchisky, because of her attachment to him. It's not your run-of-the-mill story about a girl coming of age, is it?

JL: There are two key aspects that I gained from it. First, she recreates much of this scene for Graham, with his assistant Barclay (Anthony Dawson) playing the villain. We can see how different her staged events are. It almost seems as if she was watching a TV show and not a real murder... “pretend” like the children “pretending” to shoot each other with toy guns. (Yes, we know that is not the case.) Note too a key early discussion that Barclay has about a gun being used as a stage prop, keeping up with a recurring theme here of reality vs. perception. In the 1960s, there was a lot of debate about children getting too comfortable watching violence on screen, even if just TV western violence, and often confusing toys and props with the dangerous real thing. I guess this film is asking some of the same questions.

TB: I would say it is, yes.

JL: Secondly, there's the Polish talk featured that Barclay wouldn't understand and Korchinsky would that is the “evidence” that exposes her later re-enactment. The screenwriters John Hawkesworth and Shelley Smith use this “evidence” a little too blatantly for my tastes, since I think Gillie, had Hayley got to play her more realistically, would be more clever not exposing that. Yet I understand that this movie needed to reach its expected conclusion within a prescribed time frame.

TB: The writers have almost created a monster with Gillie, in the sense that she's too clever, too smart. So they have to dial her down a bit, in order to make sure the plot finishes on schedule. Let's talk a bit about John Mills.

John Mills

JL: A few interesting comparisons can be made to THE OCTOBER MAN. Here, John Mills is on the other side of the law, behind the police desk. In the earlier film, he is the one falsely accused of a crime and not finding the police sympathetic to him. I can almost imagine that, after successfully proving his innocence as Chris Lloyd and settling into happy married life with Joan Greenwood's Jenny, he decided to join the force himself due to all of his experiences and do a more thorough job at it than others.

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TB: What are your thoughts about John Mills' acting with his daughter Hayley?

JL: I wonder if this “reel” cop-investigating-the-kid situation reflected the real father-daughter relationship off screen. I bet Hayley could be quite a handful if not kept busy on some project... like movie acting. I especially love the scenes of the two in the police car and that impish grin of his turning to frustration.

TB: Yes, I did find that to be one of the most realistic interactions between them in the movie. I think he enjoyed working with his daughter and that reflected in his occasional smiles with her. I also liked the scene where they arrived at the dock and he hauled her down the steps, the way a father hauls a daughter somewhere when she's in trouble.

JL: I really enjoyed this movie and can understand its surprise box office success.

TB: I know we've spoiled quite a bit of the plot, but it's a film worth watching and re-watching. It contains a lot of interesting moments among the main characters. Thanks so much for taking the time to discuss it. This has been fun. TIGER BAY may currently be viewed on YouTube.

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5 hours ago, TopBilled said:

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It is nice that you found the shot we were discussing of him praying for forgiveness. I forgot she was holding a candle at the time. Candles in churches and other dark "spiritual" places often have interesting symbolism for movie characters. In a peculiar way, this set-up reminded me of the famous scene in Mata Hari when Greta Garbo forces Ramon Novarro to blow out his "Madonna light" and, therefore, lose his innocence. Later in the movie, he even loses his eye sight a.k.a. being totally in the dark with Garbo. However Hayley's Gillie is never in the dark.

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I'd love to see a Hayley Mills day or month and maybe even an interview.  In addition to the more familiar Disney movies, I'd like to see Whistle Down the Wind (1961) and The Family Way.  The Trouble with Angels (1966) was always one of my favorites as a kid.

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Essential: SAPPHIRE (1959)

TB: This weekend, we're going to do things a bit differently. First Jlewis is going to share a detailed review he wrote about SAPPHIRE...then I will share a few of my observations about the film.

***

Part 1 of 2

JL: The most important scenes in this movie, for me, are those right before and after the opening credits and at the end just before “The End.”

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In the beginning, a woman's face is shown... dead, with blood from her mouth. After we get through the credits, a toy ball rolls towards it and one of two girls comes to retrieve it. She and her sister are speechless when confronting the corpse. Their mother arrives and screams in shock. This scene is vitally important because they are not the only mother-with-two-daughters featured in this movie.

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Before the final end credits, Inspector Learoyd (Michael Craig) compliments the head police investigator Hazard (a most unusual name, played by Nigel Patrick) on finally solving the murder of Sapphire, the woman whose corpse was showcased. His response is “We did not solve anything. We just picked up the pieces.” That, for me, is a rather powerful statement to end a movie.

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In-between we learn who Sapphire was, with just a photograph of her alive (and very happy)...dancing with a partner whose side of the picture is torn off. We learn more about her when we meet her brother (Earl Cameron), who surprises those investigating with his appearance. You see, like Sarah Jane in the newer version of Imitation Of Life, which preceded this by just a few months, Saphhire was biracial and passing for “white” so she could have better advantages in life. While Sarah Jane was humiliated by her boyfriend when he learned the truth, Sapphire was lucky in that her boyfriend (Paul Massie) accepted her. Only his family (Yvonne Mitchell, Bernard Miles, Olga Lindo) did not, and they were in a state of shock. Plus she was three months pregnant at the time of her death.

I saw this British movie, coming from Basil Deardon (who also handled the even more socially influential Victim),  when President Obama was in office and pretty much considered it a relic of an earlier time. Today I think differently due to how much has happened these last few years... or, rather, how much has been exposed that I was not noticing enough. Thus, I agree with Hazard that picking up the pieces is not quite the same as solving anything.

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Obviously this world is not black and white, figuratively speaking. Every one of us has a back story. Every one of us has prejudices about something or somebody due to either the way our parents raised us (cue the mothers and daughters in this movie) or due to personal experiences that impacted us psychologically. Spencer Tracy tells Katharine Houghton and Sidney Poitier in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner: “I'm sure you know what you're up against. There will be 100 million people right here in this country who will be shocked and offended and appalled.” Remember too his character of Matt Drayton was initially among those 100 million before he changed his mind.

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What I like about this movie is that we have no cardboard villains; nobody dressed in white robes and burning crosses like so many ol' South sagas in vogue during the 1970s and '80s whom we can point the finger to and say “well, I am at least not like those people.” “Those” people in this film include a very kind landlady who still refuses back payment from the murdered woman's brother and a seemingly well-educated and highly articulate black man (a very stoic Paul Slade) who had refused to marry this same woman because she wasn't 100% his race either.

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Ironically he and his new girlfriend ride a very white sport-car, which was clearly an intentional visual reference showcasing how people of all races are more willing to conform to a black vs. white world rather than accept the many shades of gray.

We get a few “red herrings” in this lengthy detective story to distract us. Most notable is a black dancing partner of Sapphire's at an “international” club named Johnnie (Harry Baird). He is not guilty, but his found knife causes him trouble. The speed with which he becomes a suspect over other Caucasian characters present was a rather provocative statement for its time.

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The message of this movie may be what hooks me in more than its entertainment value. The detective story itself isn't all that exciting otherwise, especially if you have watched many like it before. Yes, we are surprised by who is found guilty; it does satisfy with its conclusion. However, had this movie been made more recently, I think we would get more out-and-out suspense involved. For example, there is an extended scene of the boyfriend searching for stuff at the scene of the crime and being casually observed by those who aren't concerned at all if he would notice them noticing him.

Likewise, there is a certain drabness to the visuals (perhaps intentionally?) with the usual abundance of winter coats and hats in the wardrobe, making one wonder why this wasn't shot in black and white instead of the stock fifties Eastmancolor that tends to make many faces of different racial tones look brown.

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Nonetheless this is still a stellar three and a half star production, if I was to rate it accordingly.

***

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Great that you included the Jaguar. Trivial note: There are so many cars in so many movies that need identifying. One of these days I should get an account with https://www.imcdb.org/ and upload all of those MGM Crime Does Not Pay screencaps featuring vintage 1934-42 chrome. That site also lacks many Jimmy FitzPatrick Traveltalks and Warner shorts like Service With a Smile that showcased them in Technicolor.

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Essential: SAPPHIRE (1959)

Part 2 of 2

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TB: I think Jlewis covered the main points yesterday. First, I agree that the film should have been shot in black and white. Mainly so that when we see the corpse at the beginning she looks less "colored"...as in any color. The way it was filmed it seemed like a Caucasian actress lying on the ground, because even her neck was very white, her skin was too creamy. With black and white cinematography, we wouldn't be able to tell her race so easily.

There was one line where the boardinghouse owner said she'd never met the brother, only talked to him by telephone. But would he sound white on the phone? I didn't quite buy that. I do think people of certain cultures exhibit speech patterns indicative of those cultures (that's why there was a study of Ebonics at one point). Sapphire and her brother were said to have originally been from the West Indies. And when he came to the precinct, he never used phrases that made him seem like a white Englishman...he sounded like a black man from the West Indies. And I think the landlady would have picked up on that over the phone. But it's a minor point.

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I think the best performer in this picture is Yvonne Mitchell. She actually has the most difficult role to play. We are not really supposed to like her but I think Mitchell does make us like her to some extent, which makes it harder to reconcile her part in Sapphire's death at the end. I don't want to see a mother of two torn away from her kids and her husband, going off to prison. But of course that is what will happen, since she must face a consequence and justice must be served.

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I also think we're supposed to view the white boyfriend's family as a bunch of narrow-minded bigots, or at least people who do not handle race relations well. Even though Sapphire's boyfriend did love her and did plan to marry her.

I didn't feel the pregnancy added anything to the story and question its inclusion. Was it supposed to make us think Sapphire slept around, that she had loose morals? How she was obviously having sex outside of marriage?

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This story, if made today, would probably be reworked as a plot about a transgender character. Where the family couldn't accept their son/brother being involved with a transgender male who had passed as female. In that scenario, a potential pregnancy could be a lie...a definite red herring to throw the police off the track at first, thinking the victim was a biological female not originally a biological male and thus unable to give birth.

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What I like most about the story is how one person's death affects so many people. This event ripples across the landscape and causes many of these characters to re-examine their lives. You do wonder how they can all go forward after this.

***

JL: I think the pregnancy angle did add a little to this. It was hinted that, yes, David was the father on account of nobody else coming forward to being more than a dancing partner or since-a-year-ago boyfriend.

The belief, whether true or not, that is held by multiple characters is that there is no certainty that the child would be as "white" as Daddy. This is why the lines coming from the brother about he and Sapphire looking different a.k.a. "you don't know which way..." was important as was the focus on twin little girls and the mother clearly favoring children who looked alike. Whether or not it was known by these characters that she was pregnant may not matter since it was assumed she would be someday.  However I do think the film suggested the family knew already (another reason for their, um, concerns about her) even if the screenplay didn't spell it out.

***

TB: I see what you're saying. But the pregnancy still doesn't work for me. Even though the white boyfriend acted like it would have been his child, there was no certainty of it. And he seemed to be more at a loss over Sapphire's death than over an unborn child's death. It felt like the filmmakers were just trying to give us more dimensions to Sapphire and thought making her a mother-to-be added another dimension.

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Anyway that wraps up our review of SAPPHIRE. Thanks again to Jlewis for joining me. Next week, we will conclude this series with a discussion about the 1974 motion picture THE TAMARIND SEED. Please be sure to join us!

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Earlier I had mentioned that this was probably the best of the five films these Q&As involved. That is, if we judge it by screenplay and cinematic details. Yet it may also be the dullest. Not that it lacks entertainment value. Just that you sense you may have seen something like this before. In hindsight, the one famous earlier title that jumps out at me as a comparison is Edward Dmytryk's Crossfire, another excellent-but-still-somewhat-dull-and-preachy film noir with a message. It does feel like something that Dore Schary would have greenlit at MGM had he not been canned three years earlier.

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