THE SILENT YEARS: When we started not giving a damn on screen!
In celebration of our upcoming Anti Damsel Blogathon on August 15 & 16, I had this idea to provide a list of bold, brilliant and beautiful women!
There was to be no indecent exposure of the ankles and no SCHWOOSHING! Not in this Blogathon baby!
From the heyday of Silent film and the advent of talking pictures, to the late ‘20s to 1934 Pre-Code Hollywood, films were rife with provocative and suggestive images, where women were kicking up a storm on screen… The end of the code during the early 60s dared to offer social commentary about race, class, gender and sexuality! That’s our party!
In particular, these bold women and the screen roles they adopted have become legendary. They sparked catchy dialogue, inspired fashion trends, or just plain inspired us… All together there are 111 of SOME of the most determined, empowered and uniquely fortified femmes of classic film…!
First of course I consulted the maven of all things splendid, shimmery and SILENT for her take on silent film actresses and the parts that made them come alive on the immortal screen…. Fritzi at Movies Silently has summoned up thesefabulous femmes….
Now to unleash the gust of gals from my tornadic mind filled with favorite actresses and the characters that have retained an undying sacred vow to heroine worship… In their private lives, their public persona and the mythological stardom that has & still captivates generations of fans, the roles they brought to life and the lasting influence that refuses to go away…!
Because they have their own unique rhythm to the way they moved through the world… a certain kind of mesmerizing allure, and/or they just didn’t give a hoot, a damn… nor a flying fig!
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud”-Coco Chanel
Stars like Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Crawford managed to keep re-inventing themselves. They became spirited women with an inner reserve of strength and a passion for following their desires!
The following actresses and their immortal characters are in no particular order…!
Directed by J. Lee Thompson’s (Blonde Sinner 1956, Tiger Bay 1959, Cape Fear 1962, The Reincarnation of Peter Proud 1975) the outre surreptitious Eye of the Devil (1966) is an atmospheric smorgasbord of uncanny & haunting images encircled by the air of clandestine and provocative underlying forcefulness. With ease the film pulls you into an esoteric world of ancient rites and beliefs and primal fears and urges to prevail against or more aptly in honor of the pagan notion of the rule & reign of the old ways, and the dominant elementals. It’s a bit of a cryptic occult meditation on reverence, immortality, sacrifice and reaping what you sow.
Niven urbane and resolute in his stature as Patriarch of the French family who comes home to the ancestral chateau to tend to the vineyards, (the past season’s crop has suffered) and take his rightful place during the rites of the ceremonial harvest. Phillipe must not only observe the deadly family secrets that have survived for centuries but more horrifying than that, it must continue to be passed down to his children.
Eye of the Devil, works so well to capture our ideologies by the throat partly because of the convincing performances by the enormously talented cast who inhabit this secret world, Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Flora Robson (Beast in the Cellar 1970 ) as Phillipe’s Great Aunt the Countess Estell, Donald Pleasence as a malefic cleric Pere Dominic with shaved head and solemnity, David Hemmings, Sharon Tate, and Emlyn Williams.
Both Sharon Tate and David Hemmings play two beautiful yet sinister figures lurking about. David Hemmings went on to do Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Blow Up (1966) and Sharon Tate whose first movie this was, went on to do Roman Polanski’s originally called Dance with The Vampires, now called The Fearless Vampire Killers, a comedic romp through the classical vampire story, though a little numb possessed a few hilarious moments.
The film is an adaptation of Philip Lorain’s novel Day of the Arrow
Once again absolutely stunning visual frames from cinematographer Erwin Hillier
Erwin Hilliercombined with J. Lee Thompson’s directing style is tense and well focused gaze creating a closed world of authentic dis-ease. Beautifully photographed with slight suggestions of The Wicker Man. There is an intoxicating ambiance perfectly underscored by the simplistic yet alluring music by composer Gary McFarland. Hillier’s close ups capture fertile images of evil & arcane sensuality.
David Niven is the marquis Philippe de Montfaucon who is the owner of a historic Vineyard. When a dry season hits the harvest he is summoned to the castle Bellenac. Deborah Kerr plays his wife-Catherine de Montfaucon who is told to remain in Paris with the children, but she follows him anyway. And for her troubled she is assailed in the woods by very ominous figures in hoods which makes for a very potent scene… which does not cease even up to the end’s shocking climactic conclusion.
The opening frames are quick cuts which utilize the sound of a speeding train, cut away frames between reveal shots of a sharp arrow, we hear the train sirens, a lavish cocktail party in high society, an old world looking bearded man on the train, the arrow is raised- it pierces the heart of a white dove, the woods are filled with hazy black hooded figures, eerie and ominous they stand by the trees. A cross of branches is set on fire. Close up on Sharon Tate then close up on Hemmings then the screen goes black and the credits roll…..
It’s a post modern and riveting way to open a film about an esoteric narrative …the film’s title is set against the speeding train it’s windows like eyes themselves staring back at us.
When Phillippe the Marquis arrive in Bellenac the villagers all seem to revere him, lifted their hats to him, heads downward, humbled and proud. He meets up with the cleric Pere Dominic (Donald Pleasence) the mood and furnishings give one the idea of an Orthodox Christian sect.
Some thought he would not return to Bellenac the butler knew he would return… Phillippe asks how about you father?
“Ive never doubted the path you have chosen” Phillippe-“What makes you think I’ve chosen it?”
Pere Dominic-“You came back didn’t you”
The priest places an elaborate amulet on the table. Phillippe picks up the amulet Dominic tells him “I think you have chosen it Phillippe my son.”
Family friend Jean-Claude Ibert (Edward Mulhare) sits by the fireplace in Paris talking about Phillippe’s trip back to Bellenac. Catherine tells him the first time she was there after their wedding she says it was the most frightening place almost as though they were back in the Middle Ages. Jean-Claude tells her that Phillippe had always been obsessed with the place as if he was trying to solve it’s diabolical secret.
Once at the castle Philippe seems distant as if he is following a mysterious compulsion guided by the pervading force of a cult that recognizes ancient pagan rituals, and perhaps sacrificing his own life in order to save the vineyard. Catherine can do nothing to change her somnolent husband’s mind to leave and come back with her and the children to Paris.
Both Sharon Tate as the luminous Odile de Caray and David Hemmings as the impish Christian de Caray play two beautiful yet other-worldy and sinister figures lurking about with bow and arrows. Turning toads into doves, and is fixated on the children.
Odile mesmerizes both Jacques and Antoinette She asks if they believe in magic, then she demonstrates her powers by changing a frog on a lily pad into a dove. Could she be using the art of hypnosis to create an illusion?
Catherine does not want her brother Christian killing anymore doves on the property and isn’t happy to see her influence over her children. It begins to rain. But Odile tells her that they are not life giving clouds and that it will pass quickly. Catherine asks why she is at Bellenac. Odile tells her that she and her brother come there often… Then Christian appears and shoots an arrow into a tree right next to Catherine. The siblings wander through the landscape like other-worldly minions.
Phillippe begins to pull away consciously from his wife and children, he tells her to take them and leave. She pleads with him to come home with her and that she can help him. In a sense it’s all begun and even if she tries to make a fuss afterwards, no one will either believe her or come forward to help her.
She says he must be mad, that he’s dying for nothing, walk away from this stupid evil.
“I’m dying for what I believe.”
“No one can help me, not even you. You don’t understand you could never understand”
He is preparing for a glorious pilgrimage of the soul. He is beyond being reached. He is prepared for the festival of ‘The Thirteen Days” or rather The Thirteen Dancers…
Alain de Montfaucon (Emlyn Williams) tells Catherine that he expects to be a living God, and that Pere Dominic is more than part of it… He is all of it. He is a Pagan. And Bellenac is… A Fortress of Heresy…
IMDb fun fact:
Originally Kim Novak was cast in the role of Catherine de Montfaucon. Filming began in the fall of 1965 in France. Near every scene had been filmed when Kim Novak fell from a horse and wasn’t able to complete her scenes. Deborah Kerr was hired to take over and every scene that featured Miss Novak had to be re-shot with her replacement.
HAVE A SO-REAL SUNDAY NITE- FROM YOUR EVERLOVIN’ MONSTERGIRL!
Directed by Mark Robson, produced by David Weisbart and Helen Deutsch, with a screenplay by Dorothy Kingsley and Harlan Ellison. Cinematography by William H. Daniels (CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF 1957, IN LIKE FLINT 1967)
Film editing by Dorothy Spencer (STAGE COACH 1939, TO BE OR NOT TO BE 1942, LIFEBOAT 1944 and CLEOPATRA 1963) Set Direction by Raphael Bretton (HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE 1964 and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE 1972) and Walter M Scott. (THE SOUND OF MUSIC 1965 and BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID 1969) Art Design by Richard Day (ON THE WATERFRONT 1954, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE 1951 and THE GRAPES OF WRATH 1940) and Jack Martin Smith (BATMAN 1966 and PLANET OF THE APES 1968) and wardrobe by Travilla.
With all that creative talent on board, you can call the film trashy, but it sure has a lot of style!
Starring Barbara Parkins (THE MEPHISTO WALTZ 1971 never looking more beautiful in my opinion. One of my favorite horror films of the 70s, I plan on doing a long winded overview of it this Winter 2012.)
From the moment the utter fabulousness of this tawdry pulp icon of the 60s starts rolling on screen with Barbara Parkin’s heavenly visage gazing out the train window, and Dionne Warwick starts confessing the movie’s theme song with her soulful voice… I get vaklempt.
Doll a euphemism for little colored pills of varying types of barbiturates… ‘uppers’ and ‘downers.’
Based on the best selling explosively trashy novel by Jacqueline Susannand directed by of all people, Mark Robson.(THE SEVENTH VICTIM 1943, THE GHOST SHIP 1943, ISLE OF THE DEAD 1945 and well his tell tale progression into melodrama land with PEYTON PLACE 1957 and eventually into darker territories with DADDY’S GONE A- HUNTING 1969)
Growing up as a little girl in the 60s there wasn’t a coffee table or bookshelf that I didn’t see a copy of Valley of the Dolls sitting atop next to a hard cover of best selling self help book by Dr. Thomas A. Harris’, I’m Okay You’re Okay which was first published in 1967, the year Valley of The Dolls was released.
There was certainly a copy of it in my own house and I remember seeing the film either during it’s theatrical release or later on the huge Magnavox cabinet tv with only 3 dials. At first I was struck by the incredible score from composer John Williams and songs by Andre Previn and lyrics by Dory Previn. And then I fell under the spell of the badness and the beautifulness of it all….
Standing out is it’s vivid colors of the 60s film processing, the vogue style couture, flashy set design, and mod art direction. Populated by the campy over the top acting in all the right places of course, by the entire cast makes for one hell of a ride through the tunnel of tragic love in high dramaville. As cliche after libidinous, compulsive and histrionic cliche prance across the screen as a story of meandering disassembled desire, by the needful women, and their male companions.
It’s campy and tawdry and melodramatic trash, and that’s a GOOD THING, for us junkies of melodramatic trashy & campy flicks from the 1940s -1960s.