ANATOMY OF A MURDER. (1959) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Anatomy-of-a-Murder

ANATOMY OF A MURDER. (1959) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY ROBERT TRAVER. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY OTTO PREMINGER. MUSIC BY DUKE ELLINGTON. STARRING JAMES STEWART, LEE REMICK, BEN GAZZARA, ARTHUR O’CONNELL, EVE ARDEN, KATHRYN GRANT, MURRAY HAMILTON, GEORGE C. SCOTT AND DUKE ELLINGTON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Some might say that this was a strange vehicle for the all-American, wholesome-as-apple-pie Jimmy Stewart to get mixed up with. He’s not a grizzled old gunslinger in it, for one thing, and for another thing, there isn’t so much as a sighting in it of the giant rabbit who used to run the Savings and Loan.

Instead, James Stewart is casually using words previously unheard on the cinema screen, such as ‘rape,’ ‘panties’ and ‘spermatogenesis.’ That last one had even me scratching my noodle in bafflement. And this is the movie, if I’m not much mistaken, that made Stewart’s own Pops stop talking to him for a bit, it was so shocking to the old man.

For those who haven’t seen this black-and-white, rather controversial-for-its-time courtroom drama, James Stewart plays Paul Biegler, a small-town attorney who looks exactly as James Stewart does and who defends a man called Frederick Manion. Manion is accused of shooting dead the man who raped his wife.

The question is not whether he ‘dunnit.’ He ‘dunnit’ all right. The man’s as dead as dead and there are witnesses and everything. The question is whether he was in his right mind when he ‘dunnit,’ or if he was in fact temporarily insane, as this is what he’s going to plead.

The trouble for the viewer is that the married couple at the centre of the drama, Laura and Frederick Manion, are not what you’d expect for a woman who’s just been supposedly raped and battered by an acquaintance and the husband who’s so horrified by what’s happened to his lovely wife that he’s rushed out while his blood is up and shot the guy who committed these awful deeds.

Ben, an army lieutenant, is young, handsome and very, very cold. There seems to exist very little affection between himself and Laura. He’s suspected of having a jealous temperament and of giving her the odd clout round the head when he’s in the mood, although he shows us little or no emotion at all in the film. It’s not out of the question for the viewer that his wife, an incorrigible flirt, made up the story about the rape and battery to excuse her late arrival home to their trailer and her dishevelled appearance.

Let’s move onto the wife, Laura. Talk about a femme fatale. She doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word ‘inappropriate.’ Two days after the supposed rape, she turns up at Pauly’s office in a tight little outfit, flirting and smoking and smiling mysteriously, and making herself at home in his gaff, playing his records and sitting with her feet tucked up underneath her on his couch. She’s brought her adorable lickle wuff-wuff, Muff, with her too. Muff can do cute tricks, lol, and be altogether very obliging for an adorable lickle wuff-wuff. 

The homespun old Pauly is enchanted, to say the very least. There’s not much sign on the sexy blonde Laura of a recent trauma having taken place, barring the shiner underneath her sunglasses, which could just as easily have been given her by her husband as by the man she’s accusing of rape and battery. She looks rather in the pink, as a matter of plain fact.

Where’s the crying, the trembling, the hiding away and unwillingness to come forward that we might have expected from an on-screen rape victim? There’s none of that, just what seems like a vain, silly, thoughtless woman trying to add another middle-aged conquest to her army of followers. James Stewart, how easily you succumbed! For shame, haha.

Pauly and his elderly alcoholic assistant Parnell McCarthy (yep, it’s a good team, folks!) have to try to unravel what kind of man the dead guy, Barney Quill, was. In order to do this, they have to visit the bar which Barney owned and see the place where Laura and Barney met up on the night of the rape.

Over in one corner is the pinball machine on which Laura played on this fateful night, when she was boozing heavily and ‘swishing her hips’ in her little skirt and no doubt thrusting out her nips too in the little tight ‘Fifties sweater she wore.

And over there behind the bar is Alphonse Paquette, the surliest barman who ever pulled a pint. He surely doesn’t want to co-operate with Pauly and Co. What in the hell is he hiding? He’s played by a really young Murray Hamilton, by the way, a man who was once accused of ‘queuing up to be a hot lunch’ in the 1975 summer blockbuster, JAWS.

He’s definitely hiding something. Protecting his attractive young bar manager, Mary Pilant, maybe? Who is she, anyway, and what’s her connection to Barney Quill, the deceased bar owner with his trophies for shooting on display behind the bar…?

George C. Scott is handsome and deadly as the visiting big-city prosecutor who has to pit his razor-sharp wits against the rambling homespun wisdom of Pauly Biegler. The ancient judge, a bit of a rambling old dodderer himself, seems to be pro-Pauly rather than pro-the-visiting-big-city-prosecutor, but it’s not the judge Pauly has to convince with his arguments. It’s the jury of roughly about nine angry men and three mildly pissed-off women, and they all have lives to be getting back to…

I loved Eve Arden as Maida, Pauly’s good-humoured and efficient Girl Friday who puts up with his crap with loyalty and stoicism, even though some weeks he clearly can’t pay her her goddamn salary because he’s a bad businessman and he keeps letting people go off without paying him. She must have the patience of a saint to put up with his bullshit.

The funniest scene in the movie (and there’s a lot of comedy in this for a film about a rape trial) is when the judge, James Stewart and the two prosecutors are trying to find a suitable word for knickers, one that won’t offend the delicate sensibilities of the listening public but won’t cause them to crease up with a fit of the giggles, either. George C. Scott: ‘When I was stationed in France, there was a word they used there but it might be too suggestive…!’ Ah, go on, tell us, George, we’re totally in suspenders here…!

Modern-day feminists viewing the film will be appalled at the way in which the rape victim is judged unfavourably for her flirting and her boozing and her habit of swanning off to the pub without her husband or her knickers of a night, to play pinball and knock back the booze with strange men.

What was she wearing, the question some people think should be an irrelevancy in a rape trial, is given more court-time here than most feminists would like, and The Panties deserve their own credit, maybe even their own spin-off show, a cutting-edge legal drama where the characters are all played by undergarments, perhaps.

The long-winded judge who keeps trying to finish early in court so he can sneak off to go fishing could be played by an old pair of stripey boxer shorts, for example, and the sexy young barrister trying to make a name for herself could be portrayed by a lacy hot-pink thong, and so forth. The Panties could be splitting up with her husband and she’s fighting him tooth and nail for custody of their wonderful offspring, a delightful little pair of twin sock garters, and of course the case comes up before our aforementioned judge. You don’t buy it? No, neither did Fox, lol…

 Finally, if I may end with an appeal to film-makers to refuse to have pinball machines in the bars in their movies in the future, as said machines have been an incitement to rape in at least two films; this one, and also THE ACCUSED, starring Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis.

In fact, the pinball machine in THE ACCUSED was later found to have participated actively in the on-screen rape of Jodie Foster’s character in the movie and became unofficially known as ‘the fourth defendant,’ along with College Boy, the Ted Bundy lookalike and the local, ahem, lackwit, shall we say, so you can see how easily it can happen. Say no to pinball machines and you’re saying no to pinball machine rape, and together we can stamp out this atrocity in our time. (Send donations too if you want; it’s a totally legit cause…!)

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

NORTH AND SOUTH: THE EPIC MINI-SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

orry george

NORTH AND SOUTH: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION. (1985, 1986 AND 1994) BASED ON THE BOOKS BY JOHN JAKES. STARRING MAINLY (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) THE DELICIOUS PATRICK SWAYZE, BUT THERE MIGHT POSSIBLY BE SOME OTHER PEOPLE IN THERE TOO.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is what I’m talking about. This is what I call a mini-series. A superb romantic and historical epic, it’s based on the three whopping great doorstops of books by John Jakes which must have set this guy up for life, they were so popular, probably mostly because of the mini-series.

Broadly, NORTH AND SOUTH, LOVE AND WAR and HEAVEN AND HELL tell the story of, respectively, the lead-up to America’s Civil War that set brother against brother and friend against friend; the Civil War itself; and then the grim, often depressing period of Reconstruction that followed the war and takes us a bit into cowboy-and-Indian times as well.

More specifically, though, the books and mini-series tell the story of two families, the Hazards and the Mains, who find themselves on opposing sides of the war when it kicks off in 1861. And, more particularly again, it’s the tale of two men from these families, George Hazard and Orry Main, who form lifelong friendships at Westpoint military college, but their friendship is tested in many ways over the years both because of the war and the fundamental differences between their families, the differences that started the war in the first place.

The Mains own a huge cotton plantation in the Deep South. They are filthy rich, live lovely gracious lifestyles characterised by fabulous elaborate dresses for the women and mint juleps and political chit-chat on the lawn for the men. They have lovely accents and call everyone ‘suh,’ as in, ‘Suh, I say, suh, I fear that your necktie offends me and I demand satisfaction, suh!’

The demanding of satisfaction might be preceded by a harmless but infinitely insulting glove-slap to the kisser. If you don’t come back with the appropriate response, you’ll certainly be branded a coward for life, and who wants that…?

The Mains are like the O’Haras and the Wilkeses from GONE WITH THE WIND. Despite their being much more enjoyable to watch than the duller Northerners or ‘damn Yankees,’ to use the correct historical term, they have one major flaw. They keep slaves, black slaves without whom they could not run their precious cotton plantations, from which comes all their money.

The Mains of South Carolina pride themselves on treating their slaves fairly and nicely, but when a man can be hanged or branded with fire on the face for trying to run away from his ‘owner,’ then you know there’s a problem with the whole damn system. People are human beings, not cattle. Even cattle themselves don’t deserve to be treated like that.

And the poor female slaves are having the shit raped out of them as well by the white overseers like the horrible Salem Jones. What do the plantation owners do about this? They neither know nor care about it, my friends.

The term ‘Gone With The Wind’ referred to the ‘Southern way of life,’ gracious, easy-going, privileged, cultured, genteel and all the rest of it, disappearing for ever in the Civil War, trampled underfoot by dusty, nasty Yankee boots. But a way of life that has so many basic human rights violations as its bedrock could never be permitted to exist indefinitely.

Orry’s mother, played by SPARTACUS actress Jean Simmons, spends a lot of time in the film mooning over photo albums that represent this lost way of life. She’s mourning its loss, weeping for it night and day, but, again, that way of life was based on slave-owning and the slaves doing all the work while the Southerners sat around, being genteel in their fabulous mansions. Again, how could this last…?

The Hazards up North (Pennsylvania) make their money, not from genteel cotton, but from vulgar industry, in the form of Hazard Iron. On the plus side, they don’t use slave labour to run their factories for them for nothing.

George (played by James Read) and Orry clash continually on the issue of the Mains using slave labour, and it causes such contention between them that they have to agree to disagree on the touchy subject and steer clear of it if they want to remain friends.

The dreamy Patrick Swayze plays the handsome and dashing Orry Main, the typical courteous, gallant, chivalrous Southern gentleman who would never permit a lady to step through a puddle while he had a coat to spread across it first. But he also owned slaves. Unfortunately, we can’t forget about that.

Orry is desperately in love with Madeline Fabray La Motte, played by English beauty Lesley-Anne Down. Madeline has been married off by her father to the abusive Justin La Motte, brilliantly played by David Carradine of the Carradine acting dynasty.

Justin is a brutal slave-owner, who revels in the violence he’s allowed to get away with just because he’s a rich white Southern male slave-owner. He hits Madeline, he whips his slaves and he wants Virginia to secede from the Union, the one bit of the Civil War I always find hard to understand. I think it’s a bit like Britain leaving the EU, but you might want to check up on that for yourselves, lol.

Orry and Madeline have a super-exciting, super-sexy secret affair for donkey’s years behind Justin’s back, during which time Orry never so much as looks as another woman and positively lives for their sexy-time trysts in the old abandoned church. Justin uses that same church for his dalliances with slave-girls. If the old deserted church gets any busier, some sort of booking or queuing system will have to be worked out.

George, meanwhile, is stuck with goody-goody Constance (Wendy Kilbourne: MIDNIGHT CALLER with Gary Cole), whose dreadful ‘Oirish’ accent on the show attracted a fair amount of ridicule at the time. PS, Guess who married each other after meeting on the set? You guessed it; James Read and Wendy Kilbourne, lol!

George’s brother, Stanley (Jonathan Frakes: STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION), has lovely eyes but he’s fiddling the books at Hazard Iron with the help of his ball-breaking wife, Isabel, who is played by a different actress in each of the three segments.

George’s brother Billy (he morphs from Cary Guffey, who played little Barry Guiler from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, 1977, into Parker Stevenson from THE HARDY BOYS in the second segment) marries Orry’s milksop sister Brett, which proves to be extremely problematic once the war kicks off, as their families are each on different sides.

George and Orry have one very interesting sister apiece. Orry’s sibling Ashton (Terri Garber) is a great character. She would sell her whole family down the river for a diamond necklace. She’s a total social-climbing, money-grabbing bitch who marries for social advancement but carries on a sizzling affair with Elkanah Bent (Philip Casnoff) behind her politician husband’s back.

Bent is a short man with a Napoleon complex (Say ‘I am a military genius, you can’t kill me!’ in a Southern accent!) who has been Orry and George’s bitter enemy since their Westpoint days. Check out Bent’s duel with Orry at Westpoint. Bent doesn’t have a prayer against a bona fide Southern gentleman, much to the amusement of those present. Orry’s lovely floppy hair in this section deserves a credit all of its own. Guess who just stepped out of a salon…?

Anyway, the evil Bent won’t rest until he’s created the ’empire’ for himself he knows he deserves. He uses Ashton to help him achieve this, and if he can take down Orry Main at some point along the way, so much the better.

Bent is pathologically jealous of Orry for his wealth and his sense of Southern entitlement, and his hatred for Orry twists and contorts his judgement till he can’t even see straight, never mind think things out rationally and logically, so you just know he’s gonna come a massive cropper in the end.

George’s sister Virgilia (Kirstie Alley: CHEERS) is an Abolitionist, someone who wants to free the slaves. Her marriage to a handsome slave called Grady (‘You wants to lay with me, don’t you?’) causes great embarrassment to her family, and her disastrous affair with the oily Congressman Sam Greene (David Ogden Stiers) will see poor Virgilia finally come to the end of her rope. Well-meaning but ill-fated, that’s our Virgilia. Terrific character, though.

NORTH AND SOUTH had a terrific theme tune and really long credits featuring little drawings of the characters, and it gave old Hollywood greats such as Jean Simmons, James Stewart, Robert Mitchum and Olivia De Havilland (if you thought she was old THEN, lol…!) another stab at the brass ring.

Erica Gimpel (Coco from FAME) and Forest Whitaker both play slaves. Linda Evans, Krystle Carrington from DYNASTY, and Johnny Cash both have cameos, as do Morgan Fairchild (Chandler’s bitchy mother from FRIENDS), Peter O’Toole, Robert Wagner, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Kelly and Nancy Marchand (Tony’s Ma from THE SOPRANOS).

It’s truly a magnificent sweeping epic, romantic and historical, and you accidentally pick up a fair bit of info about the Civil War as well. Hal Holbrook (THE FOG, THE SOPRANOS) plays Abe Lincoln for the North, and Lloyd Bridges is Jefferson Davis for the South. All the famous Generals from both sides- Sherman, Grant, Lee, etc. – get a look-in too. Grey uniforms bad, blue uniforms good, in a nutshell, is another way of looking at it, lol.

The battle scenes used real Civil War re-enact-ers, who must have been (excuse vulgarity) jizzing themselves big-time at the thought of acting out all the well-known battles for a big prestigious mini-series like this. I bawled my eyes out when Lee surrendered to Sherman in such a staunch, dignified manner, because that scene is so genuinely moving, but then I remembered about the slaves and I hardened my heart…

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

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. (1940) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

phila wedding

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. (1940) BASED ON THE 1939 PLAY OF THE SAME NAME BY PHILIP BARRY. DIRECTED BY GEORGE CUKOR. STARRING KATHARINE HEPBURN, CARY GRANT, JAMES STEWART, JOHN HOWARD, RUTH HUSSEY AND HENRY DANIELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Billed as ‘a sophisticated romantic comedy,’ THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is just that, a romantic comedy about- and possibly even for- rich, connected people. No peasants may apply, lol.

Not everyone watching it will be able to relate to Tracy Samantha Lord’s elegant swimming pool-and-tea-in-the-conservatory lifestyle, and I suppose not everyone watching it will sympathise with her haughty, aristocratic fault-finding manner which presupposes that no-one, husband or lover, will be able to live up to the almost excruciatingly high standards she’s set for herself. And, most importantly, for other people as well. On the other hand, she’s played by Katharine Hepburn and it’s a good strong performance, so I say just relax and go with the flow…

Beloved American actor James Stewart plays Macaulay Connor (I nearly wrote Culkin there!), a promising young newspaper writer who fancies himself as the next Ernest Hemingway, with his short-story-writing and his big literary dreams.

He’s disgusted, therefore, when his Editor Sidney Kidd, played by Henry Daniell- here for once in a non-villainous role- orders him to Philadelphia to cover the society wedding of the year, that of wealthy socialite Tracy Lord to a chap called George Kittredge.

What am I, some kind of shitty gossip columnist, he wails to his Editor but it’s no dice. Off to Philadelphia he must obediently trot, if he wants to keep his job, that is. As the accompanying photographer Elizabeth Imbrie points out, they’ve all got to eat, haven’t they, and for that they need jobs. I daresay that even the great Ernest Hemingway himself had to boil the odd egg and butter the odd slice of toast to go with it in order to stave off the hunger pangs.

When Macaulay, known to his friends as Mike, and Liz get to the Lord estate, they’re a bit bedazzled by all the grandeur. Liz (who, by the way, is head-over-heels in love with Mike but he’s too thick to know it) rather politically incorrectly remarks that she half expects to see ‘picaninnies’ floating around the place.

No doubt what she means by this is that the Lord house, with its ‘south parlour,’ resembles nothing so much as a modern-day Tara-from-GONE WITH THE WIND-style plantation.

The gangly reporter Mike, sorry, serious writer Mike, who’s already actually published a book of his short stories, is a little out of his depth amidst such obvious wealth and position. Liz is none too comfortable either, although she implies she’d swap places with Tracy Lord in a heartbeat.

Tracy herself is polished, sophisticated and able to greet the two newshounds with a professional ease that contains no real warmth. It’s born of years of practice and means little in terms of sincerity.

Mind you, she resents deeply that it was her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), who managed to insinuate the pair of journos from SPY magazine into the Lord house in the first place. Now they’re staying in her home to cover her wedding- a little blackmail goes a long way- and there’s nothing she can do about it.

Tracy and Dexter split up two years earlier when Tracy could no longer tolerate his drinking and he was no longer willing to put up with her Little Miss Perfect holier-than-thou attitude.

He blames her for his drinking, saying that the worse she behaved to him the more he drank. Talk about seeking to blame others for your own failings. If he’d gone to AA at all, they might have taught him to ‘own’ his own drinking and take responsibility for it, the creep.

Tracy and Dexter fought like cat and dog and they eventually broke up. Tracy’s annoying younger sister Dinah gleefully recounts how Dexter ‘socked’ her sister in the kisser before he left- and she even expresses a hope that he might do it again some day- but don’t worry folks. He didn’t actually hit her, he merely shoved her so that she fell over. Well, that’s all right then.

There’s still a major spark between the pair though. Dexter- and indeed Macaulay- are both wondering what the hell the spirited Tracy is doing getting married to the undoubtedly worthy but undoubtedly stodgy and rather dull George Kittredge.

He’s not of Tracy’s ‘class,’ you see, and he doesn’t know how to ride properly or even to wear jodphurs properly like a proper rich person. Oh dear, how shocking. Tracy needs someone she can spar with, not this dull older man who’ll probably be in bed by nine-thirty with a cup of cocoa and a lurid paperback thriller, the closest he’ll probably come to experiencing any real thrills himself. Miaow…!

Tracy is intrigued by Mike, who’s becoming more smitten with Tracy by the hour, much to poor Liz’s distress. Tracy checks out Mike’s book from the local library and falls in love with his words. What’s someone who can write like that doing covering a society wedding for SPY magazine, she demands to know. It’s clear she’s never had to work for her own living.

There’s a lot of talk amongst the men in the film, including Tracy’s own father, of Tracy’s being like a cold, untouchable statue of a goddess who doesn’t have any real human feelings and is utterly devoid of the milk of human kindness.

They imply she’s not a real human being at all, just a perfect automaton without any faults or human frailties. She’s accused of having no understanding of, or patience with, these human frailties and human imperfections that other people have but she apparently doesn’t.

Tracy is hurt by these assertions, especially coming from her father who is a randy philanderer who has hurt Tracy’s mother immeasurably with his dalliance with a dancer. Tracy, seemingly, has forced her mother to live up to her own exacting standards by kicking the Dad out, which he certainly deserves but it makes Mrs. Lord desperately unhappy.

Maybe Tracy’s standards are okay for Tracy herself, but not for everyone. Maybe she shouldn’t try to impose them on other people? Is that the lesson she’s supposed to learn in this highly popular and successful ‘comedy of re-marriage…?’

So, who does ‘Red’ wed, in the end? The rather judgemental George Kittredge, who at the end of the film pronounces that Tracy’s ‘class’ are on the way out and good riddance to every man Jack of ’em?

The starstruck Macaulay Connor, who’s too stupid to know that he has a good woman in love with him already in the form of photographer Elizabeth Imbrie, who’s obviously had to fend for herself in a way that the uber-privileged Tracy never has?

Or will it be the dashing C.K. Dexter Haven, the gadabout yacht designer who was Tracy’s first real love and the man she drove away with her criticisms and her overbearing attitude that holds that she’s right and everyone else is wrong…?

Personally I feel like Tracy, who must be worn out from uttering all that sparkling dialogue in Katharine Hepburn’s trademark haughty voice, could benefit from some time alone to work out how she really feels about each man, but what do I know? I’m just some schmuck.

The stage is set, as it were. The wedding guests are already seated, the pastor is ready with his ‘Do you, Tracy Samantha Lord, take this man to be thy awfully wedded etc.,’ and the pianist has already struck up the first few familiar bars of the Wedding March.

Tracy has clearly got to marry someone, in order to give the guests the show they’ve come for. Which man will it be? Will it be one of our Big Three, or is there even a fourth suitor possibly waiting in the wings? (There isn’t. That’s just some red herring I threw in to stir things up.) Well, watch out anyway, folks. Here Comes The Bride…

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

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. (1946) THE CHRISTMAS CLASSIC REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

its_a_wonderful_life_still

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. 1947. BASED ON THE SHORT STORY ‘THE GREATEST GIFT’ BY PHILIP VAN DOREN STERN. DIRECTED BY FRANK CAPRA.

STARRING JAMES STEWART, DONNA REED, HENRY TRAVERS, THOMAS MITCHELL, GLORIA GRAHAME, BEULAH BONDI, H.B. WARNER AND LIONEL BARRYMORE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Attaboy, Clarence…!’

‘I got a punch on the jaw in answer to a prayer a while ago.’

‘My mouth’s bleeding, Bert! Whaddya know about that?’

‘Merry Christmas…!’

What can I say about this cinematic offering that hasn’t already been said? God only knows! It’s a gorgeous fairytale of a film that has been topping ‘BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIES’ lists for nearly seventy years now.

Everyone knows it. Most people, I’m guessing, love it. Maybe some people hate it. I know some people who refuse to watch it because they think it’s ‘too soppy.’ You certainly can’t get the festive season started without it. So what’s it actually all about…?

It’s the story of George Bailey, played by James Stewart at his All-American best and handsomest. George has spent his whole life in picturesque American small town, Bedford Falls, though his dearest wish is to travel the world and have adventures. Fate intervenes time and again, however, to prevent George from following his heart. Could Fate possibly have a reason for so doing? We’ll find out…

When George’s beloved father dies from a stroke, George is obliged to stay in his home-town and run the Baileys’ Building And Loan. This is the business Mr. Bailey Senior set up so that the people of Bedford Falls could someday buy their own homes and not have to live in the slum dwellings owned by Mr. Potter, the town’s richest man and a regular Scrooge/Mr. Burns-type.

Mr. Potter owns everything in Bedford Falls except for the Baileys’ Building And Loan and, man, doesn’t it gall him! He’s tried every trick in the book to get his hands on this surprisingly successful little family concern.

There’s an awful lotta love in Bedford Falls for this little financial institution. Not only is it run on decent family values of honesty and hard work, but it also provides the locals, as we’ve just noted, with a choice, a choice not to live in Mr. Potter’s exorbitantly-priced slum houses. This choice is crucial for the people of the small town and they appreciate that the Bailey family have given it to them. 

Mr. Potter tries to make a grab for the Building And Loan when Pa Bailey dies, but George steps in to stop him. Mr. Potter then tries to bribe George with twenty thousand bucks a year and the promise of European travel to bring George over to his way of thinking, but George holds firm. It’s a real ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ moment, though.

All that’s really left for the mean, immoral and scurrilous old Mr. Potter to do, aside from fuming privately about his loss, is to wait for George to fuck up in some way, to put it bluntly, and see if he can acquire the Building And Loan that way. He gets his chance one gorgeous snowy Christmas Eve.

Bedford Falls looks a pretty as a picture under all that snow. It looks just like a winter wonderland from a Christmas card. George’s Uncle Billy is en route to the town bank to lodge eight grand of the Bailey’s Building And Loan’s money before close of business today. Should be simple enough to do, right?

When George’s Uncle Billy loses eight thousand dollars of the Building And Loan’s money, however, and the police are called in, George is so distraught and fearful of the shame and disgrace about to befall him that he contemplates suicide. He wishes, in fact, that he’d never even been born. Next comes the trippy part. Pay attention now…

After a series of painful misadventures that only serve to bolster George’s notion that things would have been better for everyone if he’d never been born, an elderly angel called Clarence is sent down from Heaven to help him.

His mission? To show the despairing George just what the lives of his friends and family would have been like had George never been born. And guess what? That’s right, you guessed it. It turns out that everyone he knows would have been a lot worse off for not having known George, who is the kindest and most generous man you could ever meet in a day’s walk, as we say here in Ireland.

I always get annoyed, though, when I see that Mary Hatch, George’s loving and endlessly loyal wife, would have been doomed to a sexless, repressed and colourless life as the town’s spinster librarian if George hadn’t been around to ‘save’ her.

She had other suitors, hadn’t she? Why couldn’t she have married Sam ‘Hee-Haw’ Wainwright and had loads of sex and kids with him? I just don’t see why she has to turn out like the very model of someone’s maiden aunt just because some guy wasn’t there to save her from it. Very sexist, that is, very sexist indeed. It just irks me, that’s all. 

I love Gloria Grahame as the feisty Violet Bicks. Not quite as soft and genteel as the more fortunate Mary Bailey, Violet is a woman who’s had to fight and struggle for her place in life. I also love that Ellen Corby, the Grandma from THE WALTONS, has a small role in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE as the little woman who only wants seventeen-fifty from the kitty at the Baileys’ Building And Loan.

Anyway, when George sees all that Clarence has to show him, he decides that he wants to live after all. Clarence lets him go back home to his wife and children, who are waiting for him with the most marvellous news.

Yes, it appears that at George’s house, a Christmas miracle has occurred. Everyone in Bedford Falls has rallied round the Baileys with enough of their hard-earned cash to make up the shortfall and then some.

Then good old Sam Wainwright, George’s old schoolfriend who’s now become something of a millionaire at business, comes through for George as well and things are all hunky-dory and tickety-boo once more. 

The Building And Loan is saved and so is George. Clarence the Angel gets his wings at last and we nod off in front of the telly with a surfeit of turkey and plum pudding inside us. Aw, isn’t it a wonderful life after all…? Of course it is. Just ask George Bailey. He knows…

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

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