I’ve always been nonchalant about The Secret Garden. I never read it as a kid, and while I saw the various film adaptations I was never particularly fond of them; I was a Little Princess girl (how funny that both Princess and Garden were written by the same author, and saw adaptations in the 1990s). This 1949 MGM drama is the version that I enjoy the most, although it’s riddled with flaws including Margaret O’Brien shaking off the mantle of child stardom with leaden results. Nevertheless, it’s a fun Gothic mystery that’s boiled down (while not talking down) for a child’s view.
Twilight Time does it again with the release of the 1945 melodrama/film noir Leave Her to Heaven. I’ve had this on my TCM Top 12 since April, and I’m glad I waited for the Blu-ray release which lovingly preserves and enhances the three-strip Technicolor process. Leave Her to Heaven is far from perfect but its sudsy romance turned sour and discerning film noir elements build up a strong film held back by Code enforcement.
I didn’t adore author Anne Edwards biography on Judy Garland, but she turned that around with her exploration into the troubled mind of actress Vivien Leigh. Recently republished, Vivien Leigh: A Biography is a biting analysis of the actress with a focus on her childhood growing up in India, her troubled marriage with Sir Laurence Olivier, and her battles with mental illness. Edwards still has an issue with assumptions, although not quite on a level as with the Judy Garland biography, but exudes confidence and a keen awareness of her subject that should compel Leigh fans to seek this out…or you can enter my contest for a free copy courtesy of Taylor Trade Publishing!
The minute Disney decided to adapt the Pocahontas tale for the big-screen, they had to expect problems. The story has become a romanticized examination of early intolerance and love transcending all that’s been critiqued ever since. Disney is definitely firing on all cylinders with the music by the amazing duo of Alan Menken and Steven Schwartz, but the plot completely falls apart for adults and will go over the heads of children. We also see the growing dependence on cutesy, mute animal side characters, as well as a shift in the appearance of Disney’s “princes.”
Margaret O’Brien is scrambling up the ranks to becoming one of my favorite actresses, and in watching Tenth Avenue Angel you understand why she was so popular; she is able to elevate a non-existent plot to tolerable lengths with her effervescence and blithe spirit. None of this makes the actual film tolerable or particularly memorable, but once O’Brien is on-screen, it’s easy to gloss over the issues.
It’s mostly DVD/Blu-ray news this week, but with all that I’ll mention details on a new Hollywood biography you should look into as well as more fun with Cleopatra.
The Two Mrs. Carrolls is an intriguing experiment in casting against type that doesn’t quite pay off as expected. Drawing inspiration from far better films like Suspicion and Gaslight, The Two Mrs. Carrolls is a B-list film with A-list actors. However, the actors feel as underwhelming as their characters, leading to a miasma of missed opportunities. It’s a quick little thriller, but there’s far too many sequences that make you question why the director wanted the performance that way, and ultimately have you wanting to watch the actors in better work.