FALLING DOWN. (1993) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

falling down

FALLING DOWN. (1993) DIRECTED BY JOEL SCHUMACHER. STARRING MICHAEL DOUGLAS, ROBERT DUVALL, BARBARA HERSHEY, TUESDAY WELD, RACHEL TICOTIN, DEDEE PFEIFFER AND FREDERIC FORREST.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I bloody love this film. Michael Douglas as the film’s anti-hero Bill Foster, a man who helps to make missiles for a living until he is made redundant, is a kind of Everyman, at war with the reality of everyday life.

One morning while sitting in traffic on the freeway in sweltering heat, surrounded by angry morons, he suddenly decides that he’s mad as hell with everything and he’s not going to take it any more. (Although, the signs are that this rebellion against life in this particular man has been brewing for some time.)

He abandons his car, telling other pissed-off motorists that he’s ‘going home.’ By this, he doesn’t mean the home he shares with his jumpy mother who’s terrified of his mood swings and explosive temper, but the house where he used to live with his wife Elizabeth, their daughter Adele and their beautiful Labrador dog. Until he was kicked out for, guess what, his mood swings and explosive temper.

Now he’s got it into his head that he’s going home for his daughter Adele’s birthday, despite the fact that the frightened Elizabeth has a restraining order out against him and keeps calling the police out to the house to reassure her that she and Adele are safe enough. Bill’s journey home is an extraordinary one.

He encounters various situations and people as he travels, throughout the course of one day, back to his former family’s home. They are the kinds of situations and people that drive most of us demented but, unlike the rest of us, for whom grumbling passive-aggressively is the only real outlet for our frustrations, Bill Foster actually takes the law into his own hands, while immediately putting himself outside the law for ever after because of it.

Most of us are probably cheering loudly as he steadily dispatches the villains of everyday life, such as the shopkeeper who charges over the odds for a can of fizzy drink and the burger place that stops serving breakfast on the dot of half-eleven, even if you’re gagging for a bite of scrambled egg and you’re only a measly seven seconds late.

My favourite bit in the whole film is when Bill compares the flat soggy burger they serve him in the Whammyburger to the juicy, succulent-looking burger in the advertised picture on the wall in front of him. This is a favourite bugbear of mine own, lol. Aren’t I always complaining about that exact same thing in real life? My kids are vigorously nodding yes, yes she is…!

There’s also the Latino punks who try to rob him because he’s inadvertently wandered onto their crappy derelict ‘pissing-ground,’ and the rich old white man who tries to keep him from walking across his precious golf-course while a game is in mid-play. Rich people in their exclusive golf-courses with glittering lakes and acres of lush green rolling parkland where the poor are forbidden to enter are really pissing Bill Foster off today.

I love the bit where he tells the homophobic and racist guy in the Army Surplus Stores, when the guy tries to make out that he and Bill are the same: ‘We’re not the same. I’m an American, and you’re a sick asshole.’ Woo-hoo! Go, Bill.

The guy is like Herman, the menacingly soft-voiced, one-armed surplus stores owner in THE SIMPSONS, and there’s a similar set-up in Quentin Tarantino’s PULP FICTION as well. Something about a spider catching itself a nice juicy fly…

There’s an hilarious episode of Irish clerical sitcom FATHER TED which sees the titular Fr. Ted inheriting a room full of Nazi memorabilia from a priest who clearly supported that side during the war. ‘Eh, would you have anything there from the Allied side at all, Seamus?’ a bewildered Ted asks his friend. ‘Oh no,’ replies Fr. Seamus instantly. ‘That type of thing wouldn’t interest me at all…!’ Very funny stuff indeed.

Anyway, as Bill Foster gets ever closer to his family home and his little daughter’s birthday party, accumulating scalps and ever bigger and more dangerous weapons along the way, Robert Duvall is superb as Martin Prendergast, the cop with literally one day left before he’s due to take early retirement.

He takes it on himself to track down Bill Foster, the square little man in the short-sleeved white shirt and tie (like Homer Simpson’s beloved Detective Sipowicz, lol!) with the pens in his breast pocket and a buzzcut you could set your watch to.

Prendergast has been virtually emasculated by his neurotic wife Amanda, who is pushing him to leave the force early and retire to some place where he’ll be utterly miserable for the rest of his life. She’s worried to death that something will happen to him in his life as a cop that will take him away from her. She doesn’t seem to be at all worried about the fact that he’ll resent her forever if she takes him away from a job he’s good at and enjoys. Meantime, however, he has the thrill of the chase (with Foster as the prey) to remind him that he’s alive and still a good cop.

The end is both chilling and sad, as we learn what Bill has in mind as a grande finalé for his little family and compare it against what actually happens to Bill, a man who was so tightly wound that, like the delicate mechanism to which we’re comparing him, he was bound to snap and break after so long.

He’s not evil, just sad and confused, pissed-off and fed-up after losing his job and his family. He not only was made redundant, but he feels that he is redundant. No-one needs or wants him any more. Like that other poor guy in the movie, he feels like he’s ‘not economically viable’ any longer.

This is a terrific film. I’m not condoning Bill D-FENS Foster’s violent methods, but I challenge you to watch this film and not cheer him on at least once for his decision to take no more shit from modern life.

Life can be crowded, noisy, sweaty, confusing, irritating, unfair, clogged up with pettifogging bureaucracy and downright baffling and bewildering at times for the people trying to get through it. Is it any wonder that, one day, it should prove too much for someone…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

 

SUNSET BOULEVARD. (1950) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SunsetBlvd

SUNSET BOULEVARD. (1950) A PARAMOUNT PICTURE. DIRECTED BY BILLY WILDER. STARRING GLORIA SWANSON, WILLIAM HOLDEN, ERICH VON STROHEIM AND NANCY OLSON. ALSO FEATURING CECIL B. DEMILLE, HEDDA HOPPER AND BUSTER KEATON AS THEMSELVES. COSTUMES BY EDITH HEAD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Say, don’t I know you from someplace? Aren’t you Norma Desmond, the silent movie star? Didn’t you used to be big?’

Joseph Gillis.

‘I AM big. It’s the pictures that got small.’

Norma Desmond.

‘They (the silent movie stars) had the eyes of the world back then. But that wasn’t enough for them. They wanted the ears as well. So they opened their mouths, and what came out? Talk, talk, talk…!’

Norma Desmond.

‘We didn’t need words back then. We had faces!’

Norma Desmond.

This magnificent film lost out on the Best Picture Oscar for that year to ALL ABOUT EVE, another excellent film. SUNSET BOULEVARD should have won, but some of the bigwigs in Hollywood weren’t exactly thrilled at the way their precious industry was portrayed as being so cynically soul-destroying and merciless towards the stars it routinely chewed up and spat out, and also ruthlessly dismissive of its older, washed-up stars. If you were hot, you were hot, and if you were not, well then, goodbye for ever and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Still, we know SUNSET BOULEVARD should’ve won the Best Picture Oscar and that’s what matters.

Beefcake William Holden does a stellar job as Joe McGillis, the hack writer who keeps trying to write that bestselling Hollywood film script that’ll make his name and keep him in clover for the rest of his days. At the moment, however, all his ideas are dull and derivative and he’s up to his cojones in debt, because Hollywood doesn’t pay you for rubbish script ideas, only for good solid polished script ideas, see?

Joe has just about decided to throw in the towel and return home to Dayton, Ohio, where he’ll go back to working for the local rag and live out his working life reporting on Bonnie Baby beauty contests and charity bring and buy sales, when a strange thing happens.

Whilst fleeing from a pair of heavies who want to re-possess his jalopy, he accidentally finds himself in the grounds of a fabulous but decaying old Hollywood mansion from the ‘Twenties, the kind of house that was built by the super-rich silent movie stars of bygone years for them to enjoy their wonderfully privileged lifestyles in.

Swimming pool, deserted now, ruined tennis court, unswept deserted courtyard. Joe is inclined to think that the queer but fascinating place has actually been abandoned when a strange female figure appears from behind a curtain and imperiously bids him to hurry up and get his arse inside. He’s just been mistaken for a monkey-undertaker (that’s right, you heard me, lol!), and he’s also just had his first experience of Norma Desmond, star of the golden era of the silent screen…

Norma Desmond is rude, haughty, selfish and self-obsessed. She lives in her crumbling mansion surrounded by framed photographs of herself in her hey-day and the memorabilia of her long-lost film career, including a home cinema on which she never tires of playing her old movies. Talk about narcissism.

She’s all alone but for a solemn little foreign man called Max who carries out her every wish and whim, no matter how ludicrous. Max has gone to ridiculous lengths to hide from ‘Madame’ the fact that her legions of fans have not only deserted her, but forgotten her as well. He’s an enabler to Norma’s sick visions of herself as still a huge star.

It would have been kinder altogether to let her know the real truth about her washed-up career twenty years ago, but Norma’s so used to thinking of herself as Queen of the Cinema Screen that maybe Max feels that the shock of a good hard dose of reality might actually kill her. Well, he should know. After all, he’s her butler, ex-husband and the film director who discovered her, all rolled into one obliging package, lol.

This is the bizarre household in which Joe finds himself suddenly embroiled. Madame takes an enormous liking to Joe, the prime slice of ‘Fifties beefcake, and immediately hires him to live in her house and edit a long messy screenplay she’s written, with herself in the starring role of Salome.

She has every intention of presenting it to her old director, Cecil B. DeMille, when it’s finished. It’ll be her comeback film, even though she hates that word, lol (she prefers ‘return’), and it will be humongous. The notion of a comeback is entirely in her own head, by the way, and everyone but Norma knows it, even the mysterious little Max.

Joe soon finds himself rapidly becoming more than just an editor to the delusional Norma. He’s her gigolo now too, her toyboy, her plaything, and with every gift of cufflinks, gold cigarette cases and vicuna coats she buys him, he feels worse about himself. (What’s a vicuna, by the way? Does anyone know? Is it an animal or summat?) Norma has bought him lock, stock and barrel, and they both know it, and their card-playing friends (the waxworks) know it too.

Worst of all, he gives up writing altogether and just gives in to this meaningless lifestyle of indolence and luxury. Just look at the most uncomfortable New Years’ Eve party ever at Norma’s house! This is his life now, and how sad it is too.

In case you guys think all this indolence and luxury sounds terrific, and nice work if you can get it, etc, hear ye this. Anyone with a gift for writing, or indeed painting, playing music or running very, very fast, can’t just squash this gift into an old biscuit tin and slam a lid on it. It will out, like a plague of zombies under the stairs.

Joe’s real gift for writing ‘outs’ when a pretty young reader of scripts for Paramount Pictures, Betty Schaefer, encourages him to re-write a tired old script of his into something new and vibrantly exciting. He enters into this project with Betty with great enthusiasm, but their writing sessions have of necessity to be a secret from the jealous and possessive Norma.

Norma, you see, has a disturbing habit of harming herself, or even just threatening to, every time Joe’s five minutes late coming back from ‘t’ privy. Max and now Joe have got to watch her pretty closely because of it, just like Norma is watching Joe. What a strange, uncomfortably paranoid household it is!

It’s not like Norma wouldn’t have any reason to be jealous, either. Pretty soon, the sparks flying between Joe and Betty are enough to ignite a fire on the Paramount lot where they meet in secret, in Betty’s little office.

But there are two things standing in the way of their happiness. One thing is Joe’s own hatred of himself for submitting to being Norma’s kept man. After all, he could have said no, couldn’t he, if he wasn’t so morally weak and detestable in his own eyes? The other thing, of course, is Norma Desmond herself…

There are so many iconic scenes to single out for praise. I adore the monkey burial ceremony, carried out in the dead of night ‘with all the solemnity of a state funeral.’ Also, Buster Keaton and two other stars of the silent era, Anna Q. Nilsson and H.B. Warner, playing cards (bridge?) with Norma while Joe looks on, bored, emptying the ashtray when Norma tells him to like a good, obedient little stud. (H.B. Warner, by the way, plays Mr. Gower who clouts George Bailey over the ear in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE!)

Then there’s Cecil B. DeMille, resplendent in his riding boots, playing himself when Norma makes her first visit to Paramount Studios since her career as a silent film star ended, and the uncomfortable scenes where poor Norma undergoes a series of gruelling ‘beauty treatments’ in order to look young and beautiful for her big ‘comeback.’

The poor, poor woman. It’s all an illusion, a big rip-off. Being boiled, squeezed into bandages and made to look like a gimp-slash-mummy will not lead to her appearing one iota younger or feeling a jot happier.

(Joan Crawford goes through the same ridiculous tortures in the film MOMMIE DEAREST). It’s hard for women to look at these scenes when we’re fully aware that Norma’s only fooling herself. How out of pocket would she have been as well?

Her final scenes- ‘I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille’- are pretty damned near heart-breaking to witness. Oh Norma, poor poor Norma. Has she cracked under the strain of it all? And will Joe find the courage to walk away from all that lovely money for ever, to live as an impoverished script-writer with the real love of his life, Betty Schaefer? You’ll have to watch this legendary movie for yourselves to find out, folks. Enjoy your stroll down Sunset Boulevard…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

D.W. GRIFFITH’S ‘THE BIRTH OF A NATION.’ (1915) ‘THE MOST RACIST FILM OF ALL TIME’ REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

birth elsie captive

THE BIRTH OF A NATION. (1915) DIRECTED BY D.W. GRIFFITH. BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF THOMAS DIXON JR. STARRING LILLIAN GISH, HENRY WALTHALL, MIRIAM COOPER, MAE MARSH, RALPH LEWIS, GEORGE SIEGMANN, WALTER LONG, JOSEPH HENABERY AND RAOUL WALSH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’d heard before I ever watched this film that it was possibly the most racist movie ever made, in its depiction of African-American people in America in the time of their Civil War. Having watched the film, I can definitely concur, lol.

Do you know what it reminds me of? A couple of summers ago, I watched a German anti-Semitic movie from the 1940s called JŰD SUSS, in which Jewish people were represented as scruffy bearded moneylenders with big hooked noses, sly dispositions and an insatiable greed for money.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION does pretty much the same to black people, and it glorifies that most racist of organisations, the Ku Klux Klan, an organisation that was birthed during this period right along with the titular nation.

There are even written disclaimers before the movie comes on that basically say, Oh, we’re not being racist or offensive to any one race, we’re just telling it like it happened back then. It’s the truth, so y’all can’t have a go at us for telling the truth. Humph.

Well, the film-makers can’t prevent us viewers who are living in these thankfully more enlightened times for having our own opinions either, so there. If we want to consider THE BIRTH OF A NATION the most racist thing before that wall to keep out ‘dem pesky Mexicans’ that Donald Trump promised to build during his election campaign, then we can. Can I get a ‘Harrumph…?’

The plot is so similar to that of GONE WITH THE WIND (1939), that other huge sweeping Civil War drama (from which I derived literally everything I know about the ‘Murican Civil War, lol), that it seems likely that Margaret Mitchell got at least some of her ideas about writing a Civil War epic from watching THE BIRTH OF A NATION.

GONE WITH THE WIND is a much glossier chocolate-boxy production, however, with the racism milder and more tastefully presented. It is the big stunning Hollywood depiction of the famous War, after all.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION, while beautifully shot and exquisitely presented, is much more warts-and-all in its depiction of the racism, or should I say the shockingly bad and thoroughly unsporting behaviour of the freed black slaves after the Civil War ended. Tut tut…

There’s only one use of the controversial ‘n’ word in the film, and that’s used by a black ‘Mammy’ to another black servant of whom she disapproves. The word ‘Aryan,’ which I thought had been coined by Hitler and which I didn’t realise was in use as far back as 1915, is used once, and in the exact context in which Hitler would have used it too.

There are two wealthy, privileged families, the Camerons and the Stonemans, in the film. Before the Civil War starts, the two families are the best of friends and travel back-and-forth frequently to visit each other.

Once the War begins, however, they find themselves on opposing sides. The Camerons are as ‘Southern’ as it gets, their whole demeanour and appearance simply screaming mint juleps on the lawn and pistols-at-dawn to get ‘satisfaction’ for a real or imagined slight. The Stonemans are on the side of the North.

The Cameron parents send out three sons out to fight for the glorious Cause. I think they thought it’d all be over by Christmas. I genuinely don’t think they expected to lose that war or that only one of their three sons would ever come home. Talk about a wake-up call.

The son that survives the war is Colonel Ben Cameron, known affectionately as ‘the Little Colonel.’ He’s been in love with Stoneman’s beautiful ringleted daughter Elsie since he first saw her portrait as a particularly charming miniature.

When she finally meets him after he’s been injured in the fighting, it’s love at first sight for her too. Which is awkward, as the several years of Reconstruction that happen after the war ends won’t really see any major reconciliation between the defeated South and the victorious North. Their families are basically still enemies, in other words. Capulets and Montagues, with the pair of star-crossed lovers in the middle.

Halfway through the movie, which by the way clocks in at a whopping three-and-a-quarter-hours long, a certain assassination of major historical importance takes place in a theatre, of all places.

It’s only when this happens that the film’s infamous racism starts kicking in. Prior to this, it was mainly a film about the Civil War, with some really well-done scenes of battle and fighting which are pretty much incredible for the time.

But once the man known as ‘the South’s best friend’ is out of the picture, the American political scene descends into a sort of chaotic free-for-all. The Southerners are deeply, deeply chagrined when the ‘Negroes’ or ‘darkies’ are given the vote and are encouraged to use it to vote the South’s ‘oppressors’ into power. Well, you just try resisting the tempting promise of ‘forty acres and a mule,’ lol.

What seems to be portrayed in the film is a sort of reverse racism perpetrated against the white people by the black people. White people are disenfranchised, shoved off the pavement, chained up and ridiculed by the newly-freed ‘blacks,’ who are shown to be at least as eager for revenge against their former masters as they are to have the right to vote conferred on them.

We see faithful black servants, who still want to remain with and serve the families who previously ‘owned’ them, being rounded up and monstrously ill-treated by the freed ‘blacks’ for not being loyal to the new order.

They’re not allowed the freedom of choice about what they want to do next, they’re just castigated roundly for wanting to stay with their white ‘families.’ Well, striking out on your own can be scary. Maybe they feel safer where they are, especially the older people.

Ben Cameron, the one remaining son of the Camerons and the chap that’s in love with his enemy’s daughter Elsie, gets the bright idea of forming the Ku Klux Klan after seeing some local kids messing about with some bed-sheets. This is the organisation that means to put those uppity ‘blacks’ and ‘carpetbaggers’ firmly back in their place. 

Pretty soon the local black population of Piedmont- that’s where they all live- is being terrorised by white-hooded riders too cowardly to show their faces or take direct ownership of their actions.

The most haunting and chilling scenes in the film are similar to those in GONE WITH THE WIND when Scarlett O’Hara, now married to a big girl’s blouse called Frank Kennedy whose lumber business she’s taken over for her own, drives her carriage through the ‘Shanty-Town’ occupied by freed black people, who are portrayed as reprehensible ne’er-do-wells in the film. She does this against the advice of the people around her. Who cares about any possible danger, she clearly thinks to herself, when I’ve got lumber to sell…?

Scarlett may not care a snap of the fingers for her own honour, but there are certain men in her life who do, very much so, in fact. After Scarlett is attacked by one of the black inhabitants of this Shanty-Town, a posse of able-bodied men is speedily gotten up and they go out to the Shanty-Town to clean up the cesspit it’s apparently become. One of these men never comes home at all, and another one nearly doesn’t make it back in one piece…

In THE BIRTH OF A NATION, the youngest sister of Colonel Ben Cameron, he of the Ku Klux Klan, wanders off alone to play by the Spring when she’s been expressly ordered to stay away from there, presumably because it’s dangerous in its isolation from the rest of the town.

There, Flora the sister is pursued by a black man called Gus, who’s already been presented as evil to the viewer, who has ‘ideas above his station’ now. Because black people are now allowed to ‘inter-marry’ with white people, Gus has the idea that the pretty little ringleted Flora is up for grabs. Flora is petrified and runs for her life through the woods…

I won’t tell you how this episode ends for Flora, or for Gus, but if the word ‘lynching’ were to spring unbidden into your mind, well, you wouldn’t be too far off the mark. These are some very chilling and unforgettable scenes.

The period costumes in THE BIRTH OF A NATION are absolutely stunning, especially the women’s dresses, hats and parasols. Even their hair, of which they have masses and masses, is beautifully dressed. Even though the film is black-and-white, you can tell that the costumes are even more detailed and glamorously gorgeous than their Technicolor counterparts in GONE WITH THE WIND.

A couple of miscellaneous items now for y’all to peruse. Not all the black characters in the film are played by black actors and actresses. Rather, they are played by white people gotten up in ‘blackface,’ with the big white lips and everything, a process used back then which would be completely unacceptable today. Apparently, D.W. Griffith had his own reasons for so doing…

Finally, here’s a snippet you don’t get from the film. I learned from the booklet that comes with the film that D.W. Griffith’s earliest memory is of seeing his father ‘jokingly’ threaten an elderly black servant- who’d once been his slave- with a sword, and over a too-tight haircut, of all things. Hmmm. It might all have been a big hilarious jape to Paw Griffith, but I doubt if the old black man who thought he was about to breathe his last was wetting his britches with laughter.

The ending of THE BIRTH OF A NATION is undoubtedly ridiculously racist, and the sudden unexplained appearance of Jesus Christ is like something that Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels might have dreamed up for one of his little anti-Semitic newsreels. If you have to blink and rub your eyes and look again, don’t worry too much about it. I did too…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

 

THE GLENN MILLER STORY. (1954) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

glenn millerTHE GLENN MILLER STORY. (1954) DIRECTED BY ANTHONY MANN. STARRING JAMES STEWART AND JUNE ALLYSON. MUSIC BY GLENN MILLER, JOSEPH GERSHENSON AND HENRY MANCINI. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

God, I love this film. I watch it every Christmas without fail, which is perfectly appropriate as it’s ideal family viewing and the action in the film ends on Christmas Day, 1944. It’s the story of the most famous ‘big band’ leader of them all, Glenn Miller, who between 1939 and 1943 scored no fewer than twenty-three Number Ones, a feat unequalled by Elvis Presley or even The Beatles.

And that was back when being Number One actually meant something. These days, Ed Sheeran could just break wind and it’d sail straight to the top of the charts without any competition whatsoever, no offence intended to the Rich Ginger One, lol.

Glenn Miller is magnificently portrayed here by America’s third favourite leading man after Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant, James Stewart. He looks so like Glenn Miller it’s actually uncanny, and his lanky, awkward charm is so devilishly endearing that it can’t fail to captivate the hearts of any women watching. Probably men too, I don’t know…!

The story takes us from Glenn Miller’s early attempts to establish himself as a musician and band leader to those heady, heady days when he was on top of the world, having finally established that distinctive ‘Glenn Miller Sound’ that we know so well and that he’d quite literally slaved to achieve.

Present for most of the struggle was Glenn’s lovely wife, Helen Miller née Burger. His courtship of her in the film is erratic and quirky and ultimately desperately romantic for the viewer. In real life, leaving two or three years between phone calls to his girlfriend would’ve garnered Miller the bum’s rush and a painful punch in the kisser, but the film has an almost fairytale quality to it and Glenn’s advances are welcomed by Helen with no harsher a remonstrance than the occasional humorously-toned ‘Honestly…!’ As in, Honestly, this man of mine, lol. He gets away with murder because of his eccentric and individualistic charm. Guys everywhere could learn a thing or two from him, they really could.

There are cameos in the film from such real-life musical luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Babe Russin, Gene Krupa, The Modernnaires and Frances Langford. I love when he’s leading his own big band overseas as Captain Glenn Miller in World War Two, and at an open-air concert for the troops the band keeps playing, even as the bombers are flying overhead and the earth is shaking ominously.

The band keeps playing on and receives a rapturous reception from the appreciative crowd after the danger has passed. I always get a big lump in my throat at that bit. Even mean old Hitler himself couldn’t stop Glenn Miller…!

I also love when his band start playing Glenn Miller’s own music to the troops on parade instead of the usual dreary marching music. Suddenly the troops are marching with these giant goofy grins plastered all over their mugs. It’s wonderful to see.

Of course, Captain Glenn Miller gets a big bollocking afterwards from his immediate superior for his maverick, Robin-Williams-in-GOOD-MORNING-VIETNAM-style behaviour, but he’s the winner ultimately when he’s given official permish to entertain the troops in his own inimitable Glenn Miller way.

We can’t talk about the film without talking about the marvellous music it contains. MOONLIGHT SERENADE is, of course, the big one, and the story of how it came about features prominently in the movie. You can also hear PENNSYLVANIA 6-5000, TUXEDO JUNCTION, AMERICAN PATROL, IN THE MOOD, A STRING OF PEARLS and LITTLE BROWN JUG, many of which were written as wonderful musical gifts to his wife. Lucky Helen…! Wish someone would write me a song of any description, lol.

The end comes when Glenn Miller’s plane goes missing somewhere over the English Channel on December 15th, 1944, while he’s en route to entertain American troops in France. Neither Glenn Miller nor his plane nor the pilot were ever seen again. It’s so sad to see this bit in the film.

It’s an unsolved mystery about which people have been speculating for years but the obvious answer to the puzzle of what happened is that the plane simply failed in some way and fell into the sea. It was a tragic end for the man who once denounced fascist oppression in Europe with the words: ‘America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music.’

Even sadder is the Christmas Day radio broadcast for that year, at which Glenn Miller was supposed to be present and playing. The broadcast poignantly goes ahead without him, while his wife Helen, his best friend and fellow musician Chummy MacGregor and Glenn and Helen’s two adopted children, Stevie and Jonnie, listen at home.

The Christmas tree twinkles while the adults listen to Glenn’s music, smiling through their tears. It’s just too sad. I always break down completely at this bit. It’s just like I always suspected, folks. I’m just too soft for this job, haha. Anyway, watch the film if you haven’t done so already. Glenn Miller isn’t just for Christmas, you know…glenn millerglenn miller

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

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