Hamish Downie has a new type of column that started backing December as his Holiday playlist. It was so popular hat he decided to make it a monthly recurring column with a movie playlist for each month. Thanks, Hamish for creating a new concept for TG Geeks.
If you have seen any of these films, let us know your thoughts.
Hello everyone, I’m back with a new playlist. Sorry for the lack of playlist last month, I was struck down with the plague early last month, and I’m still dealing with the fatigue of post-plague. (I’m purposely not mentioning the virus, because I don’t want the article tagged as being about the virus, when it’s clearly about movies!)
So, let’s get to the movies! The student I share movies with has started studying a chapter on historical figures, and I just so happened to have planned some films about historical figures this month (I can’t claim forethought, it was just a nice coincidence).
QUEEN CHRISTINA (1934)
Garbo is back with one of her later films, but one of her most famous. While it flopped at the time, and got her unkindly named Box Office Poison, it has since grown in stature among film fans, and lesbians alike. This film is based on the first half of the life of Christina, Queen of Sweden, who lived in the early 1600s. Her father didn’t have any sons, so brought her up as a boy, and she ruled from a very young age when her father met an untimely death. I don’t want to spoil the film, which has many twists and turns, but I will say that it involves a love story with a Lady in Waiting (although mostly told in the subtext), and with a Spanish Envoy who was played by John Gilbert (who Garbo was engaged to at one time). Originally, Garbo had wanted to work with Laurence Olivier, but the two didn’t share any chemistry on screen, so was changed out for Gilbert, who was suffering from a string of box office duds himself. The film is most famous for its end scene, which is incredible, but the whole film is a masterpiece. I only wish that Garbo had been able to make a follow-up film to tell the second half of the story, which was equally dramatic. But, now, we can only dream.
ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS (1969)
Henry VIII was a jerk. I don’t think anyone will disagree with that. On the other hand, his obsession with siring a son, helped to shift the power of the monarchy to the government and helped bring about democracy. Richard Burton brings to life this most interesting historical figure, and his obsession with the nineteen year old Anne Boelyn. Canadian actress Geneviève Bujold brings Anne Boelyn to life with some very 1960s characteristics, which was so refreshing that she was nominated for an Academy Award. She and fellow nominees Liza Minelli, Jane Fonda, and Jean Simmons all lost to Maggie Smith that year, but Bujold gave a performance for the ages. She never quite reached the stardom that she should have, but thirty years later in “Eye of the Beholder” she proved in a small role why she was nominated for an Oscar in 1970.
THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943)
Speaking of the obsessive love of a powerful man for a young woman, we come to Jennifer Jones’ debut under the Jennifer Jones’ name and her Oscar-winning performance as Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. Similar to Anne Boelyn, when Jennifer Jones was discovered by the uber-producer of “Gone with the Wind” David O. Selznick engineered her divorce from Robert Walker (actor and precursor to James Dean’s broadening young man), and took control of her and her career. But, unlike Norma Shearer, this svengali had found both a great beauty, and a great actress. Jennifer Jones would have been a star with or without Selznick. But, enough about that. Here we have a simple film about a young girl who claims to have seen the image of Mary in a small grotto in France. She is lauded and derided for her claim. She survives interrogations, and when her fame becomes too much, retires to a convent. In Rupert Everett’s second autobiography, he talks about taking his elderly father to Lourdes. And Madonna named her firstborn after the city, so clearly this is still important to Catholics. Whether you believe or not, it is still worth watching as a meditation on the ramifications of such a swift rise to fame. Jones is supported by other legendary actors such as Vincent Price, Gladys Cooper and Anne Revere (who we recently saw in “National Velvet”).
I also recommend CLEOPATRA (1963) which I wrote about last month, and LAURENCE OF ARABIA (1962).
What are your favourite films about historical figures? Let me know in the comments or on twitter!