As far as film adaptations of novels go, this is one of the best. Which is very odd since the film only covers a little more than half of Emily Bronte’s classic novel of the same title. The movie ends and avid Bronte readers must wonder…hey, what happened to the second part of the story??? And, then you’re probably wondering about me and why I called this one of the best film adaptations since it only is an adaptation of half a novel. To state my case, I will say that even though this movie is WAY too short and it does not cover much of Bronte’s original plot, the movie is a beautiful, vivid portrait of the love story between the star-crossed lovers Catherine and Heathcliff. So what if it ends in the midst of Bronte’s story (I can almost imaging her rolling over in her grave…) since the part of the novel that is filmed here is pretty close to a perfect rendition of the book. Director William Wyler follows the book closely and uses the sets to his full advantage, lavishing showing the vastness of the Yorkshire landscape. From there, actors Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon take over and enter the souls of the characters, making us believe that they are really dying inside without each other. Olivier’s performance as he is driven to madness without Catherine is one of the best he ever gave. So, for all you Bronte fans out there, do not discard this one because of its fatal flaw of cutting off the story too soon. The part that IS filmed is pure magic and well worth seeing.

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When you hear about gangs in New York, do you automatically think of the Sharks and the Jets? When is the last time you heard someone say that they feel or look pretty when you didn’t think of West Side Story and the infamous song I Feel Pretty… “I feel pretty…oh, so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and bright…” If you don’t know that song, you might want to watch or even re-watch this film and I promise that soon, you will humming at least one of its many catchy, timeless tunes. Trust me, this film is contagious. More than most musicals of its era, this one is filled with songs and characters that are actually memorable. True, there is some corny stuff here but it wouldn’t be a 1960s musical with some sentiment. Part of the “difference” of West Side Story comes from the music itself…a score and songs written by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Both men perfectly capture the rhythm and energy of New York, but without forgetting about the grime and grit that goes along with any urban setting. Speaking of New York, this one is actually FILMED there…on the streets themselves…not on a set, like most musicals (and even many non-musical movies) of the day. So, the Jets and the Sharks are fighting about territory we REALLY see and can REALLY feel. The story, for the few who do not know, is really a modern day re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed who were doomed from the get-go. Whereas Shakespeare’s couple had feuding Italian families to hinder their romance, here it’s rival gangs and, more importantly, different cultures that get in the way of the young lovers’ happiness (Tony is in a White gang…The Jets…and Maria’s brother, Bernardo, is leader of the Puerto Rican gang, The Sharks). The real draw to this one, though, is the music…which is good since this is a musical, right? I promise after you hear a few bars of America, you will be singing along for weeks…“I like to be in America…OK by me in a America…”

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Surprisingly, I didn’t see this one until I was in my 20s. I used to think Bogart was a rough, unappealing creature…that is until I saw 1954’s Sabrina and began to see him as a softer, more compassionate soul. He possesses a knack for charming women off their feet, while being just a bit brash about it. He’s still rough and tough when he needs to be, but he knows when to bring out to tough guy and when to bring out his softer side. In Sabrina, I got a sneak peak at this behavior. In Casablanca, Bogart had it perfected…his character Rick Blaine is the romantic leading man to end all romantic leading men—not because he’s OVERLY sensitive but because he’s JUST sensitive enough. Now for the story…basically it’s about a nightclub owner in Morocco during WWII (Bogart) who reunites with an old flame (Ingrid Bergman, looking her best) that he fell in love with in Paris during the German occupation of France. Complications are plentiful, such as that the “old flame” is married…to a member of the French Underground, no less, which makes him trouble to the Nazis in Casablanca. But…really the details of the plot are pretty irreverent. Why? Well, how come even though the story is rich and filled with subplots and interesting characters, people only remember the relationship between Bergman and Bogart? And even though this film is a WWII intrigue thriller, why is it mostly know for being strictly a timeless “love story?” Rent this one and see if you can put answers to these questions…

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What can I say? Venice. Rossano Brazzi (tall, dark, handsome, and Italian) and summer. What more is there? Add into the already-perfect mix director David Lean and star Katharine Hepburn and what you end up with is simply magical. Summertime is a movie for everyone who has ever been in love, ever wanted to be in love or ever even thought of falling head of heels in bliss. Hepburn plays a single woman in the prime of her life (someone who might be derogatorily called an old maid or a spinster) who finally fulfills her dreams of venturing to Venice. While she loves the beauty of the city, she feels forlorn at seeing all of the couples enjoying the splendors of Venice together. Soon, she encounters a shop owner (played by Brazzi) who sweeps her off her feet, even though he has more than his fair share of secrets. Their love affair changes her life and her outlook on everything, especially Venice. Director Lean (best know for his sweeping epics including Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai) uses his mastery in both capturing the magnificence of Venice and the delicateness and wonder of a love affair. Once you watch this one, you might want to head to Venice and fall in love, so be prepared to call the airlines!

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