Posts Tagged ‘James Mason’

The Wicked Lady: For the 2nd Annual British Invaders Blogathon!

In 1945, writer Magdalen King-Hall had written her 7th novel, Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton.  It became a huge best-seller with book readers in Great Britian.    Gainsborough Studios came calling and they turned the book into the film, The Wicked Lady, which in turn, was the biggest box office hit of 1946 in Great Britain.  I happened to view the film a couple years ago when it was airing on Turner Classic Movies and I am so very glad that I tuned in to see it!  The film has romance, action, passion, good vs. evil, and Captain Nemo, err, James Mason in it when he was declared the biggest movie star in Great Britain.  Here’s a trailer that was used to advertise the film via Youtube.

The Wicked Lady poster 2

The Wicked Lady stars Margaret Lockwood as Barbara, who is the wicked lady of the title.   We first meet Barbara as she arrives at Sir Ralph Skelton’s(solemnly played by Griffiths Jones) estate.  Barbara is the guest of her childhood best friend, Caroline ( sweetly played by Patricia Roc).  Caroline and Sir Ralph have fallen in love and are planning to be married, but Barbara is jealous of Caroline and decides to  sneak behind her back, to seduce and steal her fiance!  Poor solemn Sir Ralph, he doesn’t know what’s hit him!  We soon see a wedding ceremony, except it’s Barbara wearing the wedding gown that Caroline was planning to wear!  Caroline is so sweet and good, and when she realizes Ralph loves Barbara, she willingly gives him up without a fight, and even agrees to be the Maid of Honor!  I would not have been so charitable!

Watch out Sir Ralph, she wants you!!!

Watch out Sir Ralph, she wants you!!!

During the wedding reception a handsome guest, Kit Locksby arrives(Michael Rennie) and as soon as he sees the bride, he falls in love with her!  Barbara, now Lady Barbara also locks eyes with the handsome Kit and we know she now has fallen out of love with her new husband and wants to be with Kit!

Lady Barbara and Kit

Lady Barbara and Kit

Since Kit is an honorable chap, he bows out of Lady Barbara’s life.  Meanwhile, the lady is bored out of her skull at the Skelton estate.  There’s 3 elderly, spinster aunts who also live in the house and they drive Lady Barbara nuts!  Especially the two who are twins.  (These three aunts are well acted by Martita Hunt, Beatrice Varley, and Amy Dalby-Varley and Dalby play the twins and they really do look alike so the casting office did a great work there!)  One evening, Sir Ralph’s sister, Lady Henrietta and her husband, Lord Highclere(played by Enid Stamp-Taylor and Francis Lister) arrive for a short visit.  The two ladies despise one another and their dialogue with each other is polite but mean-fun to see!  The Highclere’s share the tales they have heard about the daring highwayman, Capt. Jerry Jackson.  The rogue robs the coaches but not before giving passionate kisses to the ladies he robs!  These tales catch Lady Barbara’s imagination.   When Lady Barbara loses her mother’s brooch to Henrietta in a card game, Lady Barbara devises a plan to get the brooch back:she’ll disguise herself as a highwayman and stop Henrietta’s coach and get the brooch.  Since her bedroom has a secret passage to the grounds of the estate, Lady Barbara is able to sneak away, dressed as a highwayman, robs the coach, and gets her late mother’s brooch.

Henrietta has won Lady Barbara's brooch

Henrietta has won Lady Barbara’s brooch

Robbing that coach was such a thrilling activity that Lady Barbara decides to rob some more coaches!  On one of her nightly robberies she inadvertantly meets Capt. Jerry Jackson because she has invaded his designated robbery area.  He admiringly watches this new robber’s style, then invites this lady back to an inn for a shared supper.  Of course, when Capt. Jackson takes off Lady Barbara’s mask, it’s inevitable that they’re going to do a lot more than share a supper!

Lady Barbara turned highwayman!

Lady Barbara turned highwayman!

Lady Barbara, busy with her new hobby of robbery and her new love affair with Capt. Jackson, has no idea that her husband, Sir Ralph has fallen out of love with her and that he now loves, once again, Caroline!  Caroline(who had agreed to stay on at the estate to help run it because that duty was too boring for Lady Barbara), wise as well as sweet, moves back to London.  While there, she meets Kit and soon the two of them are fast friends, both confiding they have broken hearts due to being in love with people they cannot be with.

Lady Barbara and Capt. Jackson

Lady Barbara and Capt. Jackson, she can’t resist him!

A new conflict emerges to spoil all of Lady Barbara’s fun-the faithful servant Hogarth(wonderfully played by Felix Aylmer) is a Puritan, likes to quote scriptures, and he had become suspicious of Lady Barbara’s sleeping in so late each day so he takes it upon himself to stay up late one night and spy on her.  He confronts Lady Barbara: he knows of her disguise, of her using the secret passageway, of her robbing coaches with Capt. Jerry Jackson and that she is his lover, and that she may have murdered a young man who is a tenant on the estate, as the young man was a new guard for a coach company that hauls gold and silver, and the young man had recently died in a coach robbery.  Hogarth announces that he will be telling Sir Ralph all that he knows about Lady Barbara!  She is horrified and decides to convince Hogarth that she is ready to repent, that Capt. Jackson was trying to blackmail her and that she was forced to go along with him, that he was the murderer of the young tenant.  Lady Barbara is convincing and poor Hogarth is completely fooled.  However, when Hogarth is later ill, and Lady Barbara is nursing him back to health, she decides to make sure he will never recover!!

Lady Barbara promising Hogarth that she has truly repented

Lady Barbara promising Hogarth that she has truly repented

I can’t give away anymore of the plot as I want you to find this film and discover how it will all end for yourself!  Will Capt. Jackson ever be caught? Will Kit and Caroline marry?  Will Sir Ralph get a divorce from Lady Barbara and then marry Caroline?  Will Hogarth manage to tell Sir Ralph all he knows before he dies?  Will Lady Barbara continue to live a wicked life or will she get tired of it and try to really repent?

From time to time TCM does air this British film, so check their online site to see if it will be airing anytime in 2015.  It is available to view via Amazon‘s instant rent.   A kind soul has put the entire film up on Youtube, but the quality of the print isn’t that great.  Netflix may have it still on their roster.  Criterion Collection also has the film and a fun clip when Lady Barbara is at the Inn with Capt. Jackson.

The British Invaders Blogathon banner

My post today has been for the Second Annual British Invaders Blogathon, hosted by Terry at A Shroud of Thoughts.  Be sure to visit his blog site to read about other wonderful movies from across the pond that we Americans shouldn’t dismiss!



Classic Movie Suggestions for New Year’s Eve

The Lady Vanishes (1938 film)

The Lady Vanishes (1938 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a Classic Movie fan.   I drive my family a bit nuts due to our dvr list being full of old movies’ titles.  Turner Classic Movies is my favorite channel, and I am often watching one of the movies from that channel and not watching network tv.   Our family usually stays home on New Year’s Eve, munching on favorite snacks,  and watching movies.  With all of this in mind, I thought I’d make some Classic Movie suggestions for New Year’s Eve viewing, movies that I have seen and highly recommend.

If you like a good mystery, with a bit of comedy mixed in and espionage, than The Lady Vanishes is for you.  It was one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s biggest hits in England, and he made this movie in 1938.  The movie stars Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, and Dame May Whitty, as the vanishing lady of the movie’s title.  Most of the action takes place aboard a train  as a group of British travelers are winding their way across continental Europe in order to get to a port city in France to then take a boat back to England.  Margaret Lockwood’s character is a young, rich socialite, who befriends Dame May Whitty’s character.  Upon awakening after a nap, Lockwood goes about the train to find Whitty, and she is not there, she has vanished!  No one on the train believes her that the elderly lady was on the train.  Michael Redgrave, playing a handsome music professor, agrees to help Lockwood search the train to find the missing elderly lady.  This movie was one of Hitchcock’s last British movies before he came to America and Hollywood.  In fact, this movie did so well at the British box office, that it helped Hitchcock prove to American movie studios that he knew how to make successful movies and he was able to make  a nice, profitable deal with MGM, who he made his first American movie with.

My next movie suggestion would be for an audience of teens and adults to experience the great character study that it contains. The movie is 12 Angry Men, directed by Sidney Lumet.  The movie stars Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E. G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, Martin Balsam, and John Fiedler( great character actor known for his light and high-pitched voice.  He was the voice of Piglet in many Winnie the Pooh movies and one of the regular patients of Bob Newhart’s Dr. Hartley on the Bob Newhart tv show.)

Publicity photograph of Henry Fonda.

Publicity photograph of Henry Fonda. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The plot is very straightforward and pulls no punches.  A teen has been on trial for murder.  The action of the movie takes place in the jury’s deliberation room.  All but one of the jurors thinks the teen committed the murder and it is up to that one juror, Henry Fonda, to carefully relook at all of the evidence with his fellow jurors, and to see if it is possible  that the teen is innocent.  The movie is riveting,  and we also get to know each juror and what makes him tick, why some of the jurors are eager to just get a verdict in and leave so they can get on with their weekend plans.  Jurors and their prejudices are also scrutinized by Fonda and one another.   The movie is tense, dramatic, well-acted, and makes one look inward; how would we act if we were on a jury, deciding upon a life and death situation?

For an exciting family adventure, one cannot go wrong with a Disney movie and one of my favorites is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  The famous novel was written by Jules Verne and Walt Disney decided to make a movie based upon this popular book.  The movie appeared to American audiences in 1954, and it starred Kirk Douglas(who sings in the movie, and not too badly!), James Mason, Paul Lukas, and Peter Lorre.

Lukas and Lorre are scientists who have been hired by the U.S. Government to try and find out what is causing the mysterious sinkings of commerical ships on the high seas.  Kirk Douglas plays a sailor, Ned, who agrees to go along on the investigation.  The trio soon discovers that a technologically  advanced submarine, the Nautilus,

Captain Nemo

Captain Nemo (Photo credit: gnews pics)

Captain Nemo's Office

Captain Nemo’s Office (Photo credit: Peter E. Lee)

and a strange and engimatic Captain Nemo, played by James Mason, are responsible for the sinkings.  With Captain Nemo’s dire warnings about the environment, the movie doesn’t seem that dated, and what more can one ask for then an epic submarine vs. giant squid battle!

My last movie recommendation is the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  It is a favorite at our house, even our menfolk enjoy the humor in it, and the dance numbers and songs don’t make them cringe!  It was made by MGM in 1954, directed by Stanley Dolen, choreographed by Michael Kidd, and it starred Jane Powell as Milly and Howard Keel as Adam Pontipee.  Adam is the oldest of 7 brothers.  He decides on his next visit to town, when he buys supplies, that he’ll also get himself a wife.  He wants a helpmate who will cook and clean and sew, a woman who is pretty, but who can also work hard.  He finds that wife in Milly, a local girl who works in the town’s restaurant.  Milly agrees to marry Adam, but she is angered with him when they arrive at Adam’s cabin and find that his 6 brothers live there too.  The 6 are a mess-they’re rude, dirty, and after she gets over her initial shock,

Cover of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers...

Cover of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Milly takes on the task of turning these 6 new brothers-in-law into gentlemen.  She also impresses on them how to properly court a girl.  At a local barn raising, potluck and dance, the 6 brothers set their sights on 6 ladies from the town, who are unfortunately seeing 6 men from the town.  Adam, seeing his brothers moping around the cabin as winter sets in, tells them about a story written down by Plutarch, how some Roman Soldiers got wives from the Sabine Women.  The brothers take Adam’s advice  and hilarity ensues.  An interesting side note is that at the same time Seven Brides was in production, MGM was pouring more money and time into another musical, Brigadoon.  The studio fully expected Brigadoon to be a box office smash and to their surprise, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was the smash hit, and Brigadoon didn’t fare as well at the box office.   The roles of the brides and brothers were mostly filled by dancers, but Julie Newmar-pre Cat Woman days, and Russ Tamblyn-before he played Riff in the movie West Side Story, are a bride and brother you might recognize.   For a fun, toe-tapping way to welcome in the New Year, don’t overlook this gem!