Thursday, April 26, 2012

Elizabeth Von Arnim and other loves

Left to right: Joan Plowright, Josie Laurence, Polly Walker and Miranda Richardson in Enchanted April

I thought I should put up this post while it is still April. When the film "Enchanted April" came out in 1992 (I can't believe it was that long ago!) I was only ten. I can't remember when I first saw it, but I feel sure it might have been at the cinema. Perhaps they re-released it? My sister Morag had the movie-poster on her door. In any case, over the years, we obtained it on video and watched it whenever we liked. It wasn't until I moved to New York that I realised that Heather had made a beautiful tradition of the film, and only watched it once a year - in April. I resisted this idea at first, but have now adopted it whole-heartedly. You may remember that I myself had an "Enchanted April" party last year. 

Polly walker as the lovely Lady Caroline Dester

You will be glad to hear that I am having another one this year - it is coming up this Sunday (Heather has already had her party - I was able to speak to our mutual friends Jessica, Chantal and Regina on Skype before it began!) and even my mother had one, with her sisters Dianne, Jeannine and Laura. 

"Enchanted April" was written by a woman named Elizabeth Von Arnim. Actually, that is a pseudonym. Her real name was Mary Beauchamp. In 1891 she married a Prussian count: Henning-August von Arnim-Schlagentin. She turned to writing on account of her rascally husband who was arrested for fraud. Her first novel, "Elizabeth and Her German Garden" was wildly successful, and other novels followed. I have not read this first novel of hers, though I own a copy (in one of my many, many bookcases scattered across the American continent). And I only just read "Enchanted April" a few years ago. And I must confess, it was a rare case of realising I preferred the film to the book! The book does have some good background information on the characters - especially regarding Rose Arbuthnot. But there are other things which I see as improvements in the film (for one, Caroline Dester is blonde in the novel, but thankfully is a dark-haired beauty in the film. Also, the character of Mr Briggs is much better in the film).
Michael Kitchen (oh, I do love Michael Kitchen!) as Mr Briggs.

Josie Lawrence as Lottie Wilkins. I include this photo as it shows the amazing clothes that the cast wore, most, if not all of which was original from the early 1920s. You can tell when you watch it - the clothes are stunning.

Miranda Richardson and Michael Kitchen

Every time I watch Enchanted April I am astonished by how beautiful Miranda Richardson is.  I don't know that she's ever been prettier than she is in this film.

And every time I watch Enchanted April the scene above (and Rose in general) reminds me of this lovely painting by John William Waterhouse.
All in all, I have read four of Elizabeth von Arnim's novels (Mr Skeffington, Love, Enchanted April, and I can't remember the title of the forth one). The one I will now talk about is "Love". I have read it at least three times. It is such a beautiful novel. It is about a twenty-five year-old man who falls in love with a woman who is about forty-seven (he sees her first in a dark theatre, and supposes her much younger than she is). Of course, it is about other things as well, and it is a deep, touching novel, full of humour and sadness, and I love it! 

I am always trying to cast it in my head, as if it was going to be made into a film (and it really, really should!). I used to think that Miranda Richardson would be perfect in the role of Catherine, the forty-something woman, and indeed, she would have been, but is now too old (alas!). I have been trying to find a perfect Catherine (who is small and lovely) and haven't found the perfect actress. I have come up with a few ideas, though: 
Julia Sawalha. Though she doesn't fit the description of Catherine, she is a fabulous actress and would do very well. Plus, she is the right age for it.
Rachel and I have been watching films with Helena Bonham Carter in them lately (A Room with a View and Twelfth Night) and it occurred to me that she is also the right age, and might do very well.

And then, as I was looking up pictures from The King's Speech which would give an idea of how HBC might look in the role as Catherine, I came across these pictures of Jennifer Ehle - also the right age. She might do a very good job as well.  

But then, there's the problem of the young man, Christopher. He is twenty-five, and very energetic and has flaming red hair. I could only think of two actors:
Eddie Redmayne: he doesn't have red hair, but he has a gingery feeling about him.
Yes, Rupert Grint! Don't laugh! Even though both my mother and Rachel pooh-poohed my idea of casting him (in my after all imaginary film) I still think he'd be better than Eddie Redmayne. For one, he's a little younger, besides, he really does have red hair. 
And now, the only thing left to do if for you all to go out and read it, and tell me your opinion. But even if you don't read it, tell me what you think anyway!

Also, from my 1920s copy of the book "Love" I wanted to share these pictures:

The cover of my book

This is fabulous - a wee slip inside the book to return to the library! I was sure Heather would be thrilled with this - I think that libraries should still offer this service! (also a reminder that Boots used to have a library)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Glasgow Film Theatre

The Glasgow Film Theatre (or GFT as it is called by all and sundry) is such a fabulous place. I have already mentioned, I am sure, some of the films I have seen here. Well, within the past month, they had two fabulous 1940s films: Laura and Casablanca. I was very excited indeed to be able to see these on the big screen! I went to a matinee of Laura and Rachel came along with me as well! For Casablanca I met up with a girl in the YSA that I don't know that well, but since we both wanted to see the film, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to be sociable and get to know her a little more.

And, of course, both were fabulous! Gene Tierney (in Laura) is *so* lovely! And it always amuses me to see a very young Vincent Price in his role as a philandering southerner.

The GFT used to be called the Cosmopolitan (but called the Cosmo) and has been a cinema since it opened in  1939.

It was too bright a day, and so you can't really see the poster. But I was just excited that there *was* a poster, and I could pretend I was going to see it all brand-new!

Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in Laura
As it was late afternoon, this shows up much better. Of course, seeing Casablanca on the big screen was fabulous! What a cast! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

And the cottage itself!

I'm afraid I shall continue in my misanthropic ways, by stating that it is very difficult to get the proper feeling for a place when it is full of tourists, many of which, on this occasion,  had small children. But still, I am bound to think that had it been empty, I might still have been a little disappointed. I am beginning to think, with presenting the past, that a careful balance is needed, and in many cases, less is more. I often pine for the days I have read about in the travel books of HV Morton (who traveled about Britain in the 20s and 30s), as he sometimes describes going to the gatehouse of an old castle to procure the key, letting himself in. Those days are over and dead. But I think back to a trip my mother and my sister Heather took to Britain about twenty-five years ago, and miraculously, they caught the tail-end of that Morton-esque era. Things were still rough, unrestored, unexplained, when they came here. And I think that too much has been done to the cottage. Words have been written on the wall, with wee explanations beneath them. I suppose this is an artistic approach, and I should not be against it, yet, in order to get a proper feeling for what life was like when Burns scampered about as a poor child, I certainly don't want to see "Superstition and Folktales" (or some such nonsense) painted on the kitchen wall!

The cottage is on the main street of Alloway, but one is only able enter from the back.

The ghostly christening gowns, with the names of Robert and his siblings embroidered on them - all of which were born in the bed in which they are hanging.

The bed. I do love a good box bed.

One of the windows.
Standing beneath the gorgeous thatched roof, at the front of the house. 

Oh, I took this picture for old times sake. Had I come to Alloway nine years ago, when I first visited Britain, I'd have made quite a fuss of this war memorial. I confess, I still take pictures of them -and as you know - post them on my blog. But I *don't* go into high-pitched raptures about them anymore.

Besides, I like that old cinema there as well!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Auld Kirk and Brig O' Doon

After visiting the museum, we walked over to the Auld Kirk, which was there in Burns time, and also is featured in the poem "Tam o' Shanter. This was lovely. We also walked over to the Burns Monument (erected in the 1820s I believe). For some reason I was not interested in this at all (I get contrary sometimes, when visiting places), and I don't think I took any pictures of it. Then we walked over the Brig O' Doon, also featured in the poem. There is no connection to the musical of the similar name, Brigadoon, though I like to think there is. I was watching Brigadoon when my mother called me and told me my niece Katie was born. I also thought of the lyrics from the wonderful song "The Whole of the Moon" (by the Waterboys) which go, "I saw the rain dirty valley; you saw Brigadoon"

The auld kirk. There was quite a crowd milling around - I like to take pictures with no-on in them,  but I think I did pretty well given the circumstances!

Like the Govan churchyard, this too was full of beautiful old graves.

Despite disapproving of horseshoes, I do have a fondness for blacksmiths in general, and this grave is *amazing*!

This is the back of the stone above.
What Burns had to say about it...

A peek at the inside (there was a metal gate in the doorway that was locked, unfortunately).

Another stone with marvellous images.

The view of the river, from the bridge.

It is quite a steep bridge. I was trying to capture that in this photo, but failed to do so.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Oh the Burnsiness of it all!

Last week, Rachel and I visited Alloway. This wee town is the birthplace of the Poet Burns. You must allow me to digress and quote one of my favourite exchanges from the Jeeves & Wooster series:
Bertie: The rank is but the penny stamp.
Jeeves: The guinea stamp, sir. The Poet Burns was writing at a time when--"
Bertie: Never mind the Poet Burns, Jeeves.
Jeeves: No, sir.
Bertie: Expunge the Poet Burns from your mind.
Jeeves: I have already done so, sir.
Bertie: What about the Aunt Agatha? She will kick, Jeeves.

Thank you. In any case, Rachel and I certainly did not expunge the Poet Burns from our minds! We recalled many of his songs, and quoted snatches of his poems (well, Rachel did, in any case, for which I was most grateful!).

A lovely fox statue!

These lovely weathercocks were all depicting scenes from "Tam o' Shanter" ( a poem which seems to have some similarities to the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow") 

The devil playing bagpipes, witches and graves! Smashing!

'Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie...'

Only this particular mouse is not so wee!

The new, fancy museum was fabulous in that *all* their information panels were in modern Scots (with some words explained in English below). WHAT a fabulous idea!

Look at this hare! Unfortunately I didn't get all of his huge, fluffy feet in my picture.

A carved scene from "Tam o' Shanter"

This is the image (repeated oft in sculpture and painting) that put me so strongly in mind of "Sleepy Hollow.