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)


  1. This is your most beautiful post ever!! And I am all for Rupert Grint--he would be fabulous! (tho I guess I need to read the book!!)

  2. What a lovely post! I need to read the book "Love" as well. And I have to say, that I think Rupert Grint would be a perfect red-head for your movie. I've seen him in other films and he's actually quite a good actor when he's not being all goofy. (I think he's better than Daniel Radcliffe, anyway.) My vote for the lady would definitely be Jennifer Ehle. How great to see her in her natural hair color! I've only ever seen her in Pride & Prej. I think she's a splendid actress. Now, I'll have to go read the book!

  3. I can't believe it has taken me so long to read this! I loved every minute of it! And now I have to read Love again!!!

    As for the casting, do we really have to cling to the red hair? I just feel that if we deleted that small detail, many other wonderful options would open up! I was also surprised to find that Jennifer Ehle is VERY close to how I imagine Catherine, though I would love to see Helena's version because she can completely transfer for any role.

    I'll let you know if I can think of any brilliant male actors who don't have red hair.