The Woman in White (1948) - Movie Review

Hello again, everybody! Halloween is almost here and this is a movie you must see! Full of suspense and danger, this movie will definitely get your blood racing. Never have I seen Sydney Greenstreet in a more terrifying and demented role. Hardly the overbearing-but-jolly man I grew up seeing in Christmas in Connecticut (one which I reviewed last year if you'd like to read about it).

Eleanor Parker plays duel parts in this film and does a remarkable job at it. Many times we have raved at the diversity of roles she pulls off but her drama in this takes the cake. It's funny, but in another movie she played called One For the Book, she was an actress who had a problem figuring out how to play a mad woman. I think she succeeded in figuring it out.

Other actors of note are Alexis Smith and Gig Young. The movie begins from Walter's --Gig Young-- point of view and then when the mystery really livens up, switches over to the more personal view of Marion played by Alexis Smith. Based on a book from the 1800's by Wilkie Collins, here is the review for The Woman in White: 

Brief Synopsis

In Gothic England, a young painter travels to Limmeridge House to teach the master's daughter, Laura, but as soon as he arrives he runs into a mysterious woman and even stranger members of the household. After discovering a terrible plot, he is forced from the house, but not before he makes known his beliefs to Marion, Laura's cousin. At first she doesn't believe him, but when things start changing, she realizes she should have listened to her friend's advice and now it might be too late!

Full Synopsis

Walter Hartright is a young painter on his way to Limmeridge house where he is to teach the master's daughter, Laura Fairlie. He arrives late and meets a strange woman all clad in white along the road who warns him not to go to the house but disappears when a coach drives up. The man in the coach asks about her but for some reason Walter is reluctant to divulge her whereabouts.
At the house, he is met by Laura's cousin, Marion, who makes him right at home, and Count Fosco, a seemingly cheerful friend of the family. When he meets Laura, he is shocked at the resemblance between her and the woman on the road but Laura thinks it a good joke and tells the family. It's not long before Walter has fallen in love with Laura and for some reason this causes Count Fosco to tell Marion that Walter should be dismissed. In light of Laura's engagement to Sir Percival Glyde, Marion agrees that this is for the best and asks Walter to leave.

Leaving the house, he runs into the strange woman again and this time he finds out her name is Ann Catherick. She tells him that Count Fosco and Sir Percival are working together on a plot to gain Laura's fortune. Walter confronts Count Fosco and Sir Percival only to be thrown out of the house. Having liked Walter very much, Marion finds it all very hard to digest but having known the Count for so long is reluctant to believe the worst.

Laura and Sir Percival marry and spend their honeymoon in Europe. The day they are to return to Limmeridge House, Marion returns from visiting with family. To her surprise everything is changed: all the beloved servants of her and Laura's childhood have been replaced and Count Fosco and his wife have moved in. A bit distressed by all the change, Marion tries to be cheerful and welcome the newly-weds home. Things only get worse when she finds Laura strange and changed as well. Later Laura tells her that something is wrong and life is not as she thought it would be. Not long after she becomes sick and Marion begins to suspect that Walter may have been right all along.

That night she overhears the Count and Sir Percival discussing their plans but she is caught in the process and locked in her room. From then on the Count is very careful to keep her from being able to say or do anything.
While struggling with delirium, the affect of Count Fosco's drugs that he uses on his patients at the asylum, Laura is visited by Ann Catherick. Ann, who has long been a victim of the Count's tactics, tries to warn Laura against the two of them but when Count Fosco suddenly appears the half mad girl dies of shock. The Count sends Laura to his asylum in Ann's place and tells everyone that Laura has died.

At the funeral Walter finds Laura's death hard to believe. He knows something has to be going on and speaks to Marion. The two plan to go to London and see if Laura is at the Asylum.

Though heavily drugged, Laura manages to escape the asylum the same way she heard Ann do. Walter finds her but is met by Sir Percival, whom he fights and eventually sees get accidentally killed by one of his own men.

Marion, feeling hopeless, decides to return to Limmeridge House and beg the Count to release Laura. Count Fosco explains that Ann was the illegitimate daughter of his wife, the Countess, who happens to be the sister of Lord Fairlie, Laura's father. He blackmailed Fairlie all these years and managed to get Sir Percival, a incorrigible gambler, in on his plan to steal Laura's fortune.
Marion demands he write a confession and leave Limmeridge House forever. He agrees to... but only if she goes with him. Horrified but resolute, Marion promises to go with him. But while he is writing the confession and gloating his wife stabs him unexpectedly in the back. At that instant, Walter arrives with Laura and the police.

Years later Marion and Walter have married and live with their daughter at Limmeridge House with Laura and her son, no longer plagued by the horror of Count Fosco and his greedy, murderous schemes.

As I may have mentioned before, Eleanor Parker is the lady of many faces. She can be lighthearted and a bit ditzy, or forward and world-hardened, or as country as all get out. The emotion she displays in this film is extraordinary. Some of her other great films I would recommend are Scaramouche (1952), One for the Book (1947), and Many Rivers to Cross (1955).

If you want something tensing to watch this Halloween, this is the movie for you! Check it out and tell me what you think. I'd love to hear from you!

Classy Velvet - Men's Fashion: Then and Now

Like most women, I have a natural inborn interest in fashion. But not only am I interested in women's fashion; I have a definite opinion on what a well dressed man looks like. On my Pinterest page you will find a board called The Dapper Man, if you are interested in seeing more of my opinion. And don't miss a previous post on men's fashion called The Ever Loving Trenchcoat.

Today we are going to take a look at velvet, then and now.

In the 1957 version of My Man Godfrey, David Niven is seen with a forest green velvet hat. Since he never wears it, and only gives us a slight glimpse, I can't tell what type of hat it actually is, though I am suspecting a homburg. The color is rich and warm, paring nicely with his light gray overcoat and brown and taupe scarf.

Similarly, some 5o years later, actor Jeremy Renner has been seen choosing a velvet blazer, at least twice, to complete a dressy look. Above, you will see him sporting a royal blue velvet blazer, while in another instance he wears a dark gray. Both colors are rich, well chosen for formal attire. Which brings me to the conclusion that if one must wear velvet, let it be in dark colors. Clearly, a lime green velvet would be the makings of a cheap Halloween costume worth a lousy 5 bucks. Also, too much velvet is a bad idea. A full suit of velvet might be a hard one to pull off. I don't recall ever seeing it done and liking it. But I'm sure there are those who could convince me otherwise.

Velvet is a material only occasionally seen in fashion, especially men's, but every once and a while it pops up when a daring trendsetter wants to make a statement. In all honesty, velvet has never been a material I'm partial to. It can appear cheap or, paired with the wrong look, merely a sad imitation at classy. But worn with tact and a keen sense of style, it can make the outfit.

Crochet Inspiration in the Movies - Frontier Shawl and Motif Blankets

Some months ago I wrote a blog post called Crochet Inspiration in the Movies where I mentioned a blanket I wanted to make shown on The Glass Bottom Boat and fingerless gloves from The Scarlet Pimpernel.

A lot has changed since then. But my tendency to look for crochet inspiration in the movies has not. I've rounded up a few more.

In The Far Country, James Stewart plays a man who gets himself tangled in a crooked town and must fight his way out.

At one point there is a pioneer woman, a mother holding a child, wearing a two-tone shawl. The stitch is very open and it is very ruffled at the bottom. It's obvious that it is folded, so maybe it is a very long shawl that has been folded for better warmth, or it is actually a blanket that she uses for a shawl. This is something I have actually done. I had an afghan that I folded and wore as a shawl until it started wearing out. Now I need to make myself another one... A good excuse to try and reinvent this one. When I do, I will have a problem making my mind up on the color of yarn. This taupe and chocolate isn't my favorite color combination, even though it's nice. But since the original was made in those colors I would like to make mine with those colors as well, simply to reproduce the original design.

(Here is the link to my follow up post: Crochet Inspiration Follow Up - Pioneer Shawl)

The next movie with an object that caught my eye was Tammy Tell Me True with Sandra Dee. The blanket on the bed, the one that she has her elbows on, looks to be the typical granny motif, a simple and well known design that still has a great deal of charm. The colors are excellent choices, though. One motif is dark red in the center, a brighter red on the next row, and then a granny smith green on the outside. Then there are light pinks and light yellows, and maybe even a darker green, all surounded by black.
The black really makes the brighter colors pop, even though black is not a color I often use. It's a wonderful choice. I would definitely like to remake this blanket.

Similarly, there is a shawl worn by Mary Stuart Cherne's mother in Many Rivers to Cross.

Unlike the first shawl I mentioned, this one looks very thick and warm, obviously a necessity during the cold winter nights in America before central heating was invented. But like the blanket I just spoke of, this shawl is full of bright colors surrounded by black. Either this was a popular color choice over the years or Hollywood had the blanket on hand from the first movie and decided no one would notice if they used it in another one. I've seen it done before. I guess they didn't expect anyone to keep that close an eye on things.

You will notice the motifs are arranged in diagonal rows. One line of light blue, then light pink, light red, minty green, light purple, and the last color might be blue again. From the front you will notice a row of light yellow and bright red. My previous thoughts on it being the same blanket are obviously wrong since the colors in the motifs are different.

Of course, they might not be in diagonal rows. I can't figure out if it was made square or like a typical shawl. If it were square then it would be bunched up around her neck, and even though the picture quality is lacking, it doesn't look like it is. I'm not sure, but the jury is still out on that subject.

And that is all I have for now. I'll be keeping my eyes open, as usual, for other crochet inspiration occurrences. Now that I am makine two store patterns a month, as well as two free patterns, I don't have as much time to crochet other projects. In fact, I've had a Crochet Today Lollipop Tank I'm making for my Mum that I've been working on for quite a while now. I think I'll just have to make time for it.

Thanks for reading. And if you see any crochet inspiration in the movies be sure to drop me line. I'd love it!

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) - Movie Review

Welcome to the October series of movie reviews on the perfect films for Halloween. This first one is an absolute favorite. Just reading the synopsis might cause you to consider this one a dark and demented movie, but it's not at all. In fact, the movie is a comedy. Cary Grant plays the role of Mortimer Brewster, a man who finds out that his family is crazy. The faces of Cary Grant are immortal. His shock, disbelief, obstinate attitude, during the whole story is hilarious. And, anyone who has seen a Cary Grant movie (specifically his comedies) will recognize the typical mumbling he does when no one will listen to him.

With the acting talents of Priscilla Lane, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, Jack Carson, and Raymond Massey, looking a lot like "Boris Karloff", the movie was destined to be a smash!

Brief Synopsis:

Mortimer Brewster is a well known marriage critic but when he falls for the girl next door, Elaine Harper, they elope and prepare to spend their honeymoon in Niagara Falls. While waiting for Elaine, Mortimer decides to find his most recent manuscript and burn it. During the search he finds something he never expected to: a body in the window seat! His innocent aunts admit to having killed the gentleman and what is more shocking, they think they've done the man a service. Beside himself with disbelief, Mortimer tries to figure out how to handle the situation without turning his dear aunts in. But matters only get worse when he finds there are more dead bodies, and his malicious brother arrives with another!

Full Synopsis

Despite his well-known outspoken opinion against marriage, Mortimer Brewster falls in love with Elaine Harper, the girl next door, or at least next door to his childhood home where his dear aunts reside. On their way to the train station and Niagara Falls after eloping, Mortimer drops Elaine off at her house and goes to tell his aunts the big news. Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha are dear old ladies. They tell him just how happy they are that he and Elaine have decided to marry, and Teddy, his mentally challenged brother who fancies himself President Roosevelt, wishes him well with all the fervor of the president himself.

While he waits for Elaine, Mortimer decides to find and burn his latest manuscript on the downsides to marriage. Mortimer browses the room for the manuscript. Opening the windowseat, Mortimer stands stunned. A body! Shocked beyond belief, Mortimer stares at the contents of the windowseat.  Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha appear and he warns them that Teddy's condition is worsening and turning to murder. Casually and quite at ease, the two sisters clarify that the body is not Teddy's but theirs, "Mr. Hoskins", they say, and go merrily back into the kitchen. Aunt Abby says that she had to put him there since the Reverend Harper, Elaine's father, was arriving for tea and she didn't have time to call Teddy to take him down to the cellar. What's more, the kind ladies tell him that there are twelve other gentlemen buried down in the cellar. Why?! Mortimer asks.

The first man to die, they tell him, had a heartattack and the look on his face was so peaceful that they reasoned if they could assist other lonely old men in such a way as to give them that peace then they would. As simple as that.

Mortimer tries to explain that what they had done is considered murder in the eyes of the law but this only upsets the women. They think he simply doesn't understand. So Mortimer tries to figure out what to do, all thoughts of Elaine and marriage gone from his mind. Then he comes up with the wonderful idea to put the blame on Teddy, since everyone knows he's crazy. The former plan was to wait until the two women died to send Teddy to the Happy Dale Sanitarium but Mortimer calls the judge up and has him draw up the papers to have Teddy committed at once and takes off to visit the judge.

While he is away, his aunts get ready to hold services for the man in the windowseat but are interrupted by strangers at their door. When they don't answer the men enter anyway. To their surprise, he calls himself Jonathan, their nephew. But his face is horrifying and they find it hard to believe.

With him is Dr. Einstein, a small man with a foreign accent. They make themselves at home, helping themselves to supper and rooms for the night. Unfortunately, Teddy returns from digging the lock and invites the doctor to go with him to the Panama Canal, otherwise known as the cellar. The doctor qucickly returns to tell "Jonny" about the grave-sized hole down there. He says it will be just the right size for "Mr. Spinalzo". Ordering the ladies to an early bedtime, they plan to bring the body of another criminal Jonny killed through the window and bury him in the cellar. But while they are in their rooms, Teddy takes the body from the windowseat and puts him in the "lock".

Jonathan and Dr. Einstein bring Mr. Spinalzo in through the window and have to stuff him in the windowseat to hide him.

Mortimer returns to find Jonny manhandling Elaine. He doesn't believe it's Jonathan either, until Jonathan reminds him of some of the horrible things he did to Mortimer when they were boys. Still bothered about the problem with his aunts, Mortimer tells Jonathan to leave. He then proceeds to call Mr. Witherspoon of Happy Dale Sanitarium to tell him things are in order for him to take Teddy. Hurt and mad, Elaine stomps from the house.

With nothing to do but wait, Mortimer takes another look at Mr Hoskins in the windowseat but sees Mr. Spinalzo instead. Accusing Aunt Abby of the crime, to which she denies, he realizes the body is Jonathan's when it becomes apparent he is trying to hide it.

Eventually, sounds from the house draw the neighborhood officer, O'Hara who comes to investigate. O'Hara, unfortunately, fails to see the seriousness of the situation but Mortimer tries to use him to scare Jonathan away. When Jonathan finds out what the old ladies have done, Mortimer's plan is fouled, and he instead has to keep Jonathan from telling O'Hara the truth.

After a narrow escape from Jonathan's evil schemes, Mortimer sits by in a resigned stupor when his brother gets found out and fights the cops to get away.

Finally, when Jonathan is taken away, Mr. Witherspoon arrives to get Teddy. But Mortimer isn't out of the clear yet. Before he left he managed to mention the cops going down in the cellar. The dear old ladies don't deny there are bodies down there, to which Mortimer becomes hysterical. At first the chief of police thinks he's nuts, but he finally gets the idea Mortimer is trying to "humor" the old ladies. Since it's obvious the old ladies are as crazy as Teddy, they are all happily admitted to Happy Dale Sanatorium. And Mortimer can breathe at last.

Right before they leave, his aunts come up and tell him that he really isn't a Brewster but the son a sea cook. Convinced that all Brewster blood is tainted with insanity, Mortimer whoops and hollers. That is, until Elaine ventures into the cellar to see if the story is right. She comes up screaming that it's true and Mortimer grabs her and kisses her to silence her. He then slings her over his shoulder and runs for her house, all of his troubles over.

Behind The Scenes

First written as a play, Frank Capra adapted the long running broadway show into a film play but wasn't able to be released until 3 years later after the show had finished. Originally, Boris Karloff played Jonathan Brewster, but since his name was so big they didn't dare pull him from the play to do the movie, so they got Raymond Massey instead.

Bob Hope was their first choice for Mortimer Brewster but Paramount wouldn't release him to do the film. In my opinion, it's a good thing. Bob Hope couldn't have pulled off the stunned expressions as well as Cary Grant did. Ronald Reagan was another choice. I think Ronald Reagan would have been a good choice, but I still don't think he would have been as good at the part as Cary Grant was.

After only eight weeks of filming, the movie Arsenic and Old Lace was finished, and in 1944, released for the world to enjoy. Critics raved then and they still do today.