Sunday, July 25, 2010
Title: The Manxman
Studio: British International Pictures Ltd
Screenplay: Eliot Stannard
Source Material: From the novel by Sir Hall Caine
Running Time: 80 minutes
A Silent Picture in Black & White
Sunday 25th July, 10:45am
Ah, back to the grindstone! Last weekend was very busy due to it being my birthday weekend and I had the Murder Party, day trips to Sassafras and jaunts into the city, so the notion of attacking the project was rather implausible.
After having had a ridiculously late night on Saturday, I awoke around 9am (and for anyone who knows me well will concur that this is almost unheard of!) and I roused myself with no less than three mugs of Yorkshire Gold tea.
I knew today's viewing would be the first milestone of the journey as it is the final of Hitchcock's silent movies. However I was unprepared for the quality - more of that later.
I was briefly, albeit pleasantly, interrupted by a visit from my friend Brad who brought me a belated birthday present and some chocolate cake (nom, nom, nom) and we has tea & coffee and discussed Doctor Who.
Eventually I got back into the movie and watched the final half hour. What a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday day.
Pete Quilliam - Carl Brisson
Philip Christian - Malcolm Keen
Kate Cregeen - Anny ondra
Caesar Cregeen - Randall Ayrton
Mrs Cregeen - Claire Greet
"What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"
With this statement, the film opens with a sense of foreboding.
The famous triskelion flag of the Isle of Man flutters before us and the fishing boats are returning to harbour from a days work. Aboard one is Pete, a jolly, excitable and naive young man with the best of intentions.
Pete's best friend, Philip Christian, a rising young lawyer, is awaiting Pete on the dock. They have known each other since they were young boys. Phil has a petition for Pete and his fellow fisherman to sign.
He and the fisherman head to the 'Manx Fairy' - the local pub run by Caesar Cregeen.
At the pub, both Phil and Pete see their friend, Kate, a girl with whom both of the young men have feelings.
Pete flirts with Kate with bravado and Phil watches on.
Later, when the pub is practically empty, Phil and Pete discuss Kate. Pete wants to marry her but is doubtful he has the eloquence to persuade Kate's father to allow him her hand. He asks Phil to do the honours.
Phil does so, but Caesar is not impressed. He storms into the abr, flings open the door and asks Pete to leave.
"I tell you - get out! How dare you mention my daughter's name, you penniless lout."
Pete and Phil leave the pub, but Pete is not deterred. He plans to make his fortune overseas and return for Kate when he can afford to look after her properly.
The two men hang out below Kate's window. Pete throws up a stone to get her attention, she sees them, covers herself with a blanket and flirts with them in a '2 Romeos & Juliet' sort of way. Pete climbs on Phil's shoulders so he can steal a kiss from her. He promises he'll come back rich from his travels, but he promises her to wait for him. She teases him with a series of nods and shakes of the head.
Pete: "Aw, Kate - hold your capers - - be serious a-while. Will you wait, darlin'?"
Kate: "All right, Pete, I promise."
As he leaves, all giddy with joy, she realises what she has done and a look of panic crosses her face. He was more serious than she thought. This isn't merely a game.
Pete leaves on a liner and heads to Africa to seek his fortune. He has asked Phil to take care of Kate and make sure she sticks around for his return.
We see Kate;s diary and over a period of about a month, we see she has a number of dates with Phil. Initially referring to him as 'Mr Christian', but eventually, he becomes 'Philip'.
At the Christian home, his Aunt berates him. She is concerned that his dallying with the publican's daughter will not fare him well with his career as he climbs the ladder to become Deemster oif the island (a Deemster being a judge).
Aunt: "Your father married beneath him - let his ruined career be a warning to you."
Phil goes to the pub, but the atmosphere is sombre. It turns out that Pete has been killed. Caesar is surprisingly regretful...
Caesar: "Maybe I was wrong about Pete and Kate - she hasn't spoken a word since the news came."
Phil goes to Kate to console her, but she doesn't need consoling - she acts like she's been granted the grace to do as she pleases.
"Philip - we're free. Don't you see what this means for us?"
Unbeknown to them, it appears that there was a mistake - Pete is actually still alive and prepares to return.
Phil and Kate's relationship blossoms and on one fateful day, they are having a look around the nearby mill. It is here that they consummate their relationship albeit a sinful rendezvous.
It is later that Phil discovers the news about Pete and he writes for Kate to meet him. They are on a beautiful beach where he tells her the news and they vow to never speak of their love affair for fear of breaking Pete's heart.
Kate: "I am glad Pete's alive but it makes no difference. I don't love him."
They return to the pub and Pete has returned. The two lovers have to feign happiness but find it hard. Pete has returned with money and the wedding is planned.
In a montage, we see Kate pondering as she looks out from a balcony, having her veil fitted, the ring placed on her finger and her arms linking with Pete. They are married, but she is apathetic and lost.
The wedding reception is held in the mill, at the same spot where Phil and Kate made love. After the reception, the guests follow the newlyweds back to their new home and leave them in peace after passing on their congratulations.
After a period, there is a newspaper announcement regarding Phil's appointment to Deemster. Both Kate and Pete are very happy for him. Pete heads off to work in his usually buoyant mood and Kate meets with Phil again. She tells him some devastating news. She is pregnant - it is too far along for it to be Pete's. It has to be Phil's.
Phil is appalled and terrified. This could affect his career greatly. He states that Pete must never find out the truth.
Eventually, Pete comes home, initially spying through the window a strange man talking to his wife, but he is relieved when he sees it is his good friend Phil.
Months later, Pete and Phil are waiting downstairs whilst the doctor is helping with the delivery of the baby. Fortunately, all goes well and they welcome a baby girl into the family. Pete is overjoyed.
A few weeks later, Phil has finally been officially made Deemster and after giving his speech from the balcony to the crowd, he returns to his office only to be greeted by Kate who says she has left Pete and wants somewhere to hide away.
Back at Pete's, the man of the house returns home to find Kate gone - the table is set for one and there is a note and the wedding band left upon it.
Pete. I can't deceive you any longer. I'm going away. Before I married you I loved another man and I love him still. Good Bye. K.
Pete breaks down and sobs.
Later he tells locals that she has merely gone away to London for a brief holiday.
He turns up at Phil's place bemoaning Kate's absence, little knowing that she is in the next room listening.
Back home, Pete is with the baby and Kate's parents. Caesar has the note Kate left and he is suspicious and unimpressed with his daughter's actions.
At Phil's office, Kate gives Phil an ultimatum, asking him to choose between his career and her - he needs time to think. She storms off saying she is going to get her baby.
Back at Pete's she confronts him and tells him that the baby is not his. He is astonished and horrified. He screams at her saying she is lying, grabs the baby and locks himself in the bedroom. All forlorn and at a loss, Kate leaves the house. She walks down to the docks and plummets into the water.
The next day, it is Phil's first day in Court as Deemster. The whole town is there for the event. The first thing on the agenda is an attempted suicide, but it is announced that the guilty party won't give her name. A policeman gives his testimony of how he saved her. She is in the courtroom shrouded in a blanket.
She lifts her head and Phil sees who it is - he is gutted.
Pete bursts into the courtroom ready to defend his wife and speak for her.
Phil discharges her and says she must return to her husband. However, she says she does not want to. She stands stoically staring at Phil. It is now that Caesar has confirmation of his suspicions - he leaps to his feet and accuses Phil of being the man whom Kate left her husband for.
Caesar: "There before you is her betrayer, the Deemster himself. Can't you see, Pete - Can't you see?"
Phil removes his wig and stands - the court also rises. He admits the travesty.
Phil: "I am not fit to sit in judgement on my fellows, I who have sinned against God and man. I resign this - the dignity I strove for, that I may devote myself to righting the wrong I have done."
Pete lunges at Phil, grabs him by the collar, in readiness to do damage, but Phil is calm and simply states;
"Pete, we too have suffered."
At the home, Pete is now lacking all of his energy and verve. Kate takes her baby and leaves with Phil.
Later, Pete is back on his fishing boat, heading out to sea, tears rolling down his cheeks.
Towards the end, when Phil is making his confession to an entire courtroom, he delivers the line;
"You gave me your trust which I am unworthy to bear."
And although it is directed to the public in his role as Deemster, it is also a brave admission to his dear friend Pete and it's double-meaning is eloquent and simple.
Hitchcock certainly loved Anny Ondra (he would use her again in his next film) and the camera certainly loves her too with a great number of close-ups on her face.
The movie is punctuated with tableauxs more than any other of his silent films - they are intentional and effective, telling the story powerfully through images of human emotion.
Also worthy of note is Hitchcock's eye for framing a scene. The shots of Kate rushing from her home, across the hill and down to the beach are marvellous and highlight the beauty of the Cornish countryside. My breath was taken away with the silhouetted image of Kate running across the hill with the sun breaking out from a cloud beyond her.
One slight worry is Kate's selfish behaviour to the point of incredulity when she leaves the baby alone in the house when she leaves Pete and goes to Phil's offices. SHe's not fit to be a mother!
Without doubt, my favourite of the silent films in Hitchcock's canon. Beautifully filmed, superb tableauxs used to perfection throughout and a heartfelt performance from Carl Brisson as the naive but lovable Pete. It's certainly not the most optimistic movie ever made, but it's exquisitely handled. 8/10
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Studio: British International Pictures Ltd
Screenplay: Eliot Stannard
Source Material: An original story by Walter C Mycroft
Running Time: 85 minutes
A Silent Picture in Black & White
Sunday July 11th, 9:30am
Ah, a lazy Sunday! Well, not particularly lazy. I did go shopping at 6:00am to avoid the crowds, spent time scribbling down all my notes whilst watching the film, prepared the soundtrack for next week's Murder Party (for my birthday - bless!), did the laundry and tidied up around the house. In fact, I'm lazier at work than I was today. Heavens to Betsy.
I settled down at 9:30 to watch Champagne and was interested to learn that Hitchcock himself was rather fond of the famous bubbly and was rumoured to down half a bottle or more each lunch time. If I did that, I'd spend the rest of the afternoon fast asleep. Maybe he did too...
I am trying not to pressure myself too much about this blog (see last entry) and I want to have a rather carefree attitude towards the timing of it all. Heaven knows I am barely a fraction of my way into the journey and I have a long way to go yet - however, I can see myself marking off various milestones.I will soon be coming to the end of the first furlong, which we can call 'The Silent Years'. Then we will have a stretch of the 'British Talkies', beginning with Blackmail and taking us right up to Jamaica Inn, just before he headed off to America to make the superb Rebecca. At that point, I may just see each stretch as 'decades' - golly, Hitch, you did work hard and long, didn't you, my old friend!
I will try my best to keep the blogs coming without too large a gap in between, but I fear next weekend may be an issue as I will be preoccupied with the Murder Party and my own birthday shenanigans, so do not judge me too harshly.
With that said, let's proceed...
Rather strangely, the cast are referred to without proper nouns in the title card.
However, some names are referred to during the film.
The Girl (Betty) - Betty Balfour
The Boy (John? - I lip-read Betty saying his name, but it's a guess) - Jean Bradin
The Man (no idea) - Theo Van Alten
The Father (Mark - as seen on telegram) - Gordon Harker
We begin by witnessing a rather angry man reading newspapers and, in one case, ripping it up. This is Betty's father. He seems a very stressed man.
A headline in the New York Daily News reads:
CUPID TAKES A LEAF FROM LINDY'S
Wall Street Magnate Again Defied By Headstrong Heiress Daughter
Gives Him The Air and Makes Freak Flight to Join Lover in Atlantic Liner
Romantic Reunion on Mid-Ocean
A champagne bottle pops open, the spray filling the screen. We are on board the liner and there's a grand old time being had by all in the dining area.
Suddenly everyone rushes out on deck as they have heard something is happening.
A plane has had to land in the sea and a lifeboat goes out to save the pilot.
It turns out to be the American heiress, Betty. She needs to get aboard the lifeboat before the plane sinks, but she makes sure she has all her luggage saved first.
She is brought back to the liner and she is received warmly by the crew - she has managed to remove her flying gear whilst on the lifeboat to reveal a rather swanky outfit.
The captain asks if she was trying to fly over the Atlantic and she confesses that she was merely trying to catch this particular boat.
She is assigned room B46 and she spies the young boy (John) in the crowd, but she also spies a mustachioed man who seems to have his eye on her.
John meets Betty in her room and she is so happy to see him.
"Wouldn't I love to see dear Daddy's face when he hears I've run away with you after all - and lost his aeroplane besides!"
It appears that back home, her father is in fits and making a lot of trouble for his many staff members. They are baring the brunt of his anger.
Introductions aboard ship are easily arranged.
Betty is meeting a variety of people but eventually she manages to get away with John on her own. They go out on deck and they discuss getting engaged. He takes off his own ring, but it is too large for her wedding finger, so for the mean time, she places it on her thumb.
Cupid at the prow - but Neptune at the helm.
It's lunch time and the boat is rocking. There are not many people in the dining room, probably all in their cabins lying down! The man with a mustache is there and seems quite at home. Betty joins him at his table and they chat. John comes down the stairs but he does not fare so well. Already feeling queasy, he is turned greener when he spies a pig's head on a platter - despite wanting to prise the man from his fiancee, he turns around and heads back to his cabin.
Betty receives a telegram from her father:
DOES LIFE MEAN NOTHING TO YOU THAT YOU RISK IT FOR THAT CAKE HOUND. YOUR BOULEVARD SHEIK IS ONLY AFTER MY BANK ROLL.
Betty takes it to John's room, he is not well and sees three versions of Betty swirling around his head. She shows him the telegram and he is angry.
Betty: "I've arranged for the captain to marry us."
John: "You've arranged! Don't I arrange anything? You think your money entitles you to do all the arranging"
Betty: "My Money allowed me to fly half across the Atlantic to join you."
John: "And your father thinks his money enables him to insult me by wireless!"
She removes the ring in a huff and hands it back to him. The boat lurches and he drops it as he tries to take it back. She then storms out, saying;
"You'll not spoil my trip - I'll have a good time in Paris in spite of your silly ideas."
PARIS - revelry - and at last the longed for arrival.
Betty is having a whale of a time in her rented accommodation with lots of new friends and a great number of cocktails.
John arrives and does not seem impressed with her extravagances. She invites him into the soiree and he sees that the same man from the boat is in attendance.
Betty makes cocktails and then goes to put on one of her new designer gowns.
Everyone is wowed - except John.
John: "I've always understood that simplicity was the keynote of good taste."
Betty: "If I've offended your good taste I must try to make amends."
She goes back into her private room and borrows the drab gown off one of her maids. Returning into the room, playing up melodramatically with a headscarf and mocking the poor, John is even less amused.
The other man knows how to charm:
Betty: "Which do you think the most charming creation?"
The Man: "The wearer, undoubtedly."
The doorbell rings. Betty's father has come to see her. He brings her bad news. He sees her drab dress and tells her that it suits her now moire than she knows. He then tells her that he is flat broke - they are ruined. Her head spins. First she laughs as if he is joking, then she panics.
She returns to her crowd and tells them politely that the party is over. They all leave saying their farewells. John leaves sullenly. Betty's father thinks he has lost interest now that she is poor.
Betty tells her father that she'll sell her jewellery. When she goes to do this, she is robbed and loses it all.
Not to be discouraged, she and her father take meagre lodgings. Whilst she tries to make their new small rooms homely and attempts to make bread - her father is out having a splendid meal in a posh restaurant - it seems he is lying to his daughter!
John arrives and Betty is pleased initially, but they row again and he leaves her alone once more. She decides she is going to get a job.
Betty spies an advert in the newspaper:
WANTED Young girls with beautiful teeth to demonstrate the advantages of using MINTO tooth paste.
Betty turns up at the audition, but does not wait with other girls, simply barges in. The agent asks her what she wants and she bares her teeth. Another gentleman in the office lifts her skirt with his foot and mentions her great legs to the agent. He writes her a reference for a local cabaret joint and send her on her way.
At the venue, she presents herself to the maître d'hôtel and he seems to be a rather brusque man, however, he likes her sass and gives her a trial.
Her first night, she is a flower girl - she has to give flowers to the gentlemen in the club wearing evening dress only. She gets confused and he is appalled to find her giving them to the orchestra players too.
Becoming a little bored with her job, she wanders to the bar and notices a rather flamboyant woman who is both entertaining and annoying her fellow patrons. She sees a cocktail newly made up and she watches it as it is delivered to its recipient. It is the charming man who has been following her. Their eyes meet and she tries to hide, but he locates her and invites her to sit, much to the maître d'hôtel's annoyance. She has a brief fantasy of the man taking her away to a private booth and making a pass at her, but when she returns to reality, she seems to be enjoying herself. John arrives on the scene and is not happy with what he sees. The man takes his leave, but passes a note to her first, written on the back of a business card - it reads:
always a good friend if you are in need.
John and Betty sit uncomfortably together. She explains that she works there and at one moment, the annoying woman from the bar approaches and congratulations on how she has picked up a bloke so quickly. (Implying a little more than 'flower girl', perhaps?)
Whilst still seated, Betty throws her arms around in a jazzy dance. John is even less impressed by now.
It's bad enough to find you here, but worse to find you enjoying it.
He storms off and returns later with Betty's father. By now, she is becoming debauched, laughing and smoking - certainly not doing her job.
Her father approaches her and chastises her bawdy behaviour. She defends herself saying she took the job to help him. He then reveals all - he hands her a newspaper clipping.
FLYING HEIRESS ROUSES FATHER'S WRATH
Daring Daughter to Be Taught Lesson She'll Never Forget, Millionaire Declares.
It has been a ruse to make the girl see sense. She is appalled and screams at both John and her father.
With the thought of the man's note in her head, she goes to his lodgings. She begs him to take her back to America with him and he complies. They board a boat together but he locks her in their cabin. Arming herself with the towel rail from the bathroom, she waits for him to return - the door opens and she hits him over the head - only it's not the man - it is John! Both confused, they try to figure it out. Betty tells John to wait in the bathroom for the man's return. Not only does the man return, but her father also turns up - it turns out they are dear friends and he had sent a telegram to the man to keep an eye on Betty and stop her from eloping with John. He shows it to her.
BETTY ON BOARD YOUR BOAT TRYING TO ELOPE. PREVENT MARRIAGE AT ALL COSTS. ELOPE WITH HER YOURSELF IF NECESSARY.
Eventually, when everyone realises what's been going on and that John isn't a gold-digger after all, they all seem happy and raise a toast.
The two lovers begin to plan their marriage - bicker - but then kiss.
One sequence in particular is a lovely set-up and a great pay-off. When John visits Betty at her lowly rooms, she is so pleased to see him, she interrupts her baking session and throws her arms around him.
John: "Now I've found you I'm going to take you out of this wretched place."
Betty: "Do you think that I'd leave Daddy now?"
John: "I'd even look after your father."
Betty: "Very kind of you - but you needn't bother. You seem to forget there's such a thing as pride."
John: "You can't live on pride."
Betty: "I shall get a job."
John: "You'll make a mess of it, as you do everything you lay your hands on."
...he turns and leaves - and we notice two of her floury hand-prints on his back.
It's a bit of a mess. Apparently, the original story is quite different and Hitch more-or-less improvised the story as they went along (with Eliot Stannard, one presumes) and it pretty much shows. There is little structure and it flails around quite a bit. However, Betty is great fun, even if a little bonkers. I imagine Paris Hilton has taken her as a role model.
The crazy notion of the headline towards the end reporting Betty's father's plan of humiliating his daughter is a terrible cheat and reeks of desperation.
There are some wonderful moments including the use of the various receptacles for drinks which act as tools in telling the story, either as catalysts for dialogue and plot, or as a new lens for us to view our characters.
Fun until the end, which is mad and ill-conceived. It doesn't make any sense.
Not a great nor original story, but has a few highs. 5/10
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Title: The Farmer's Wife
Studio: British International Pictures Ltd
Screenplay: Eliot Stannard
Source Material: From the play by Eden Phillpots
Running Time: 94 minutes
A Silent Picture in Black & White
Monday 5th July, 7:30pm/Tuesday 6th July, 6:30pm
Well, firstly, let me apologise for my rather stern review upon the last entry. I was a bit miserable about it, wasn't I? In hind-sight, I can see I was a bit harsh, but I was a little bit unwell that weekend and had to have an awful amount of sleep and the film was about boxing!! Nope, I can't let that pass, can I?
One day, I shall re-watch it and give it another trial.
Also, it is worth noting that I am a little late with this more recent review, but unlike some (more disciplined) bloggers, I am not committing myself to a strict time-frame and regime. What with work, social life, freelance duties and a Murder Party to orchestrate all at once, I can't weigh myself down with a strict code on when I have to write-up this project. It will be as and when I choose to do so.
At this point, I would also like to make another slight apology. It's about my style. No, I don't mean my rather inept fashion sense, I imply merely about my attempt at critique. Despite attending a course in media studies at university, I am not a scholar of mighty proportions. I cannot claim to be a voice of authority when it comes to the nature of film, not even one in the studies of Alfred Hitchcock. My love of his work is simply an adoration and this blog is, at its core, a small hobby for my own pleasure - although I don't mind at all if others get some sense of entertainment out of it, even if it is mockery.
So, I hope you do not expect great things and if you've been reading thus far, you will have experienced the manner and tone of my stream of consciousness prose.
This latest viewing had to be split over two nights as with these (Southern Hemisphere) winters, I become tired very early in the evening and have to retire to the comfort of my bed with a pathetic amount of resistance. This, however, does not make comment on this particular film, as you will see below...
Samuel Sweetland - Jameson Thomas
Araminta Dench - Lillian Hall-Davies
Churdles Ash - Gordon Harker
Henry Coaker - Gibb McLaughlin
Thirza Tapper - Maud Gill
Louisa Windeatt - Louie Pounds
Mary Hearn - Olga Slade
Mercy Bassett - Ruth Maitland
Susan - Antonia Brough
Dick Coaker - Haward Watts
Sibley Sweetland - Mollie Ellis
Applegarth Farm is home to Farmer Samuel Sweetland, his wife, Sibley, and their daughter, Susan. Sibley lies dying in her bed and her final words are spoken to their dutiful maid; “…and don’t forget to air your master’s pants, ‘Minta.”
Time passes and ‘Minta does as she is told and also manages to run the house efficiently and capably.
Soon it is Susan Sibley’s wedding day. She is marrying Samuel Sweetland’s friend’s son, Dick Coaker. Whilst the wedding party are off at the church, Araminta and Churdles Ash, the handyman chat amongst themselves. She is busy organising for the return of the party and Ash is merely lazing about dipping bread into the meat dripping when no one is looking. Churdles Ash is grumpy and cynical, especially about love.
“I’d seed the Master ‘ave ‘is eye on a woman or two of late. To see an old man in love be worse than seeing him with whooping cough!”
“Holy matrimony be a proper steam roller for flattening the hope out of a man and the joy out of a woman.”
The bride and groom return followed by the rest of the wedding party. The table is all laid ready for a feast, they say grace and begin their meal – speeches are made but the farmer is glum. He’s losing his daughter and has already lost his wife. He glances over to her old chair by the fire and remembers her wistfully.
The groom’s father, Henry Coaker makes a clear point in his speech;
“…and there be many here who have oft been wishful of a partner… …and the need of a strong man to lean against.
His eyes gesture toward three single women at the table.
During the festivities afterwards, Thirza Tapper asks Samuel if he will be attending her party later in the week. She also asks if she can borrow his staff to help serve. She says she has a spare livery that Ash can borrow to wear. Ash shows his displeasure at having to do so, but Sweetland agrees on his behalf anyway.
When all the guests have left, the farmer’s heart aches at the loss of his wife and the loneliness of his life. He envisions the speech his friend Henry had made and it inspires him. Checking himself in the mirror, he sees he still has what it takes to attract a woman. He addresses Araminta;
“I must take time by the forelock, ‘Minta, else I’ll be a lonely man soon. ‘Twas the late Tibby’s last wish that in the fullness of time I would take another… but she didn’t name no names.”
Araminta agrees and they decided to make a list of potential wives.
#1 Louisa Windeatt – “You know her back view’s not a day over thirty!” says Samuel. “But you have to live with her front view.” replies Araminta.
#2 Thirza Tapper (the one who invited him to the party later in the week.
#3 Mary Hearn. “I don’t mind they pillowy women… so long as they be pillowy in the right places.” says Sam. Araminta reminds him; “A woman that’s pillowy at thirty be after a feather bed at forty!”
#4 Mercy Bassett – Landlady of the Royal Oak – put down for luck.
Samuel is now a renewed man with extra vigour as he sets out on his goal.
His first goal is Louisa Windeatt and he rides his horse out to her farm.
He clumsily announces he is set to marry again and hints at her being his bride.
“I am not the sort of woman for you – I am far too independent.”
She laughs off his proposal and he becomes infuriated. He expected her to fall into his arms. The more angry he gets, the more she laughs at him. He eventually rides off in a tantrum.
Upon arriving home, he scribbles Louisa’s name off the list and it’s time for #2.
It’s the day of Thirza’s party. Araminta and Ash are helping out. ‘Minta is being as efficient as usual but Ahs is being as slovenly as usual.
Thirza is a stickler for punctuality and is thrown into a tizz when Samuel arrives early with a basket of plums. She isn’t even dressed yet and so hurries to fix her attire. When she finally descends, she finds Samuel being all smug. He keeps knocking things over in her orderly front room much to her distress. He bluntly asks her to marry him. She shakes and nearly hyperventilates and has to take a seat. He thinks he has her caught in his net, but she responds;
“…I shall never seek the shelter of a man’s arms – not even yours.”
He is apoplectic and goes into a fury. Thirza’s own maid enters in tears because she left the ice creams by the fire and they’ve all melted.. Samuel storms out. Whilst in the garden, he spies his third victim arriving – Mary. He has a change of mind and decides to stick around and ask her.
The party is getting into full swing and there are the glee-singers ready to perform outside, the parson and his wheelchair-bound mother and a whole host of other guests easting and drinking. While everyone else is outdoors enjoying the entertainment, Samuel beckons Mary to him and tackles her with his question.
Her response is not what he expected.
Mary: “You… you, at your age!”
Sam: “Well, you don’t want to marry a boy, do you?”
Mary: “Why not? ‘Tis a way with girls to marry boys, isn’t it?”
Sam: “Have you got the face to call yourself a girl?”
Mary: “What the mischief should I call myself, then?”
Sam: “Full blown and a bit over… that’s what I call you! The trouble with you is, you are too fond of dressing your mutton lamb fashion.”
Mary: “Is this a nightmare?”
Sam: “Your hat is!”
She becomes overtly hysterical and draws the crowd in from outside.
Samuel has failed again.
Back home again, Sam has had enough, he doesn’t think he’ll get a woman to marry him. He goes to leave but is in hearing shot of Ash as his handyman chatters to ‘Minta regarding his failed attempts at wooing the ladies.
“It’s a disgrace to us males that he can sink to go among ‘em hat in hand… only to be laughed at for his pains!”
Re-entering the parlour, he is powered up again by these words. And takes his horse out once again – this time to the Royal Oak. When he is gone, ‘Minta pictures herself in the wife’s chair by the fire…
At the Royal Oak, the place is packed with gentlemen ready for the foxhunt. Samuel has a brink with Mercy, but although she is chatty, she is already mocking him for being ‘in love’ and he doesn’t even pursue it. Meanwhile, Mary and Thirza are bickering at the post office over Samuel. Thirza is expressing her disapproval over Mary’s hysterics and Mary simply fires back insults – calling her a pinnicking little grey rat. Mary is fired up and ready to rethink Sam’s proposal. They bath hat-up and head to the farm.
Sam is once again home. He confides in Araminta.
Samuel: “’Tis all over, ‘Minta – I’m done for! Every time I’ve had to creep off with my tail between my legs. The whole power of the female sex be drawn against me. They have taken away my self respect.”
Araminta: “Don’t say that, Sweetland – I won’t hear a strong, sensible man talk like that. What be women made of nowadays?”
Samuel: “I’ve got a lot of faults, but there’s good in me yet, ‘Minta.”
Araminta: “’Tis enough to weaken your faith in the whole pack of us.”
Samuel: “You’d think being mistress of the farm might tempt them, if the farmer can’t!”
He visualises the four women sat in his late wife’s chair… then his vision is broken when Araminta sits down in it. He has an epiphany at last!
Samuel: “There is a woman… one woman…”
He goes to the list of scribbled out names and writes something on it. He hands Araminta the paper and she sees written at the top of the page ‘Minta’.
She is touched, surprised and a little drained, emotionally.
Samuel: “Don’t think you’ll make me angry if you say no – I be tamed to hearing ‘no’. I’m offering myself so humble as a worm... ….the Lord works the same as lightning and don’t give warning when He is going to wake sense in a man’s heart.”
Araminta: “I’ll be proud to enter in, Samuel…”
They are both finally happy. Ash is pleased with the decision as long as ‘Minta puts in a good word for a pay rise.
Thirza and Mary barge in. Mary has come to offer herself gladly to Samuel, but it is too late. He admits his new love and Mary once again has hysterics. Thirza is cool and polite and congratulates him.
Araminta has been upstairs and changed into something more formal. Samuel is proud at last. He announces;
“And if anybody knows a woman with a gentler heart and a straighter back and a nobler character, I’d like to see her!”
There are a number I have already quoted above, including the wonderful insults Sam fires at Mary Hearn, My favourite line is as follows, albeit a little incongruous… “Us be drawing turnips a’ready. Proper masterpieces – so round and white as a woman’s bosom!”
I wish I could have the time and energy to venture into the worlds of the source materials for all of Hitch's work. It would be fascinating to study the differences between the original plays/books etc. Of course, there are future examples where I can (Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, The Birds - yes, I'm a Daphne du Maurier fan too!) In this case, I can boast no such attempt as I have not seen any of these plays on which the films are based. This in mind, I cannot begin to guess which moments are touches of Hitchcock or merely great moments lifted directly from the play. It has been noted in other texts that Hitchcock was often requested to cut down on his use of dialogue cards in his silent films, but quite often it was almost impossible to do so. Although the action in The Farmer's Wife is very self-explanatory, there are a number of great pieces of dialogue which I imagine Hitch felt he could not do without (as detailed above).
Another comment would have to be about this monstrous myth some people spout regarding Hitchcock never doing 'comedy'. For one, he has a wonderful sense of humour - often black, but always funny - and in a number of films, he did superb comedy. Later in the run, we'll see a superb screwball comedy in Mr & Mrs Smith (nothing to do with "Brangelina" *shudder*).
Here, in The Farmer's Wife, he turns his hand to slapstick and farce during the tea party scene. Although some of it may look a little dated - trousers falling down, cumbersome wheelchairs and hysterical women - it was all par for the course in its day and Hitch pulls it off with great aplomb.
My favourite thing about this movie (apart from the performances) was the use of the farmer's late wife's chair. It's a constant throughout the movie illustrating kinship, familiarity and loss. When it is used as a theatre for his imaginations, it is at its most vulnerable, however by the end it is a beautifully romantic tool which eases 'Minta into the arms of Samuel. Effective, yet simple.
A much more entertaining film than his previous with, what I imagine is, great source material. The performances of our two leads (Thomas and Hall-Davies) are absolutely exquisite. Their range of emotions are delightful and prove how good you had to be in the early days of cinema where every thing had to be dealt and delivered with intricate performances in the face and body. These two leads are so good, we may not even have needed the dialogue cards.
I am giving this one 6/10 for pace, energy and those top-notch performances.