Melodrama Screening and Discussion, 29th October, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are very welcome to join us as we take a brief break from Dirk to screen something suitably Halloweeny. We will be showing The Bat Whispers (1930, Roland West, 83 mins) on Monday the 29th of October, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bat Whispers tells the tale of an infamous criminal (the bat of the title) who has supposedly retired. A bank robbery near Cornelia Van Gorder’s (Grayce Hampton) home suggests otherwise, however.  As the house is filled with unexplained noises and spooky occurrences, Detective Anderson (Chester Morris) arrives on the scene to investigate…

Like last time’s offering, Hunted, the film was categorised as a ‘melodrama’ by the trade press. In a double-page advertisement for the film in Film Daily (11th December, 1930) the film is hailed as the ‘Best Mystery Melo Screen Has Had For Decade’.

Do join us if you can, to watch a film which allows us to focus on the first element of the mystery violence chase of male melodrama.

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, 15th of October, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are very welcome to join us for our next melodrama screening, on Monday the 15th of October, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6. We will be showing Hunted (1952, Charles Crichton, 84 mins).

This film, also known as The Stranger In Between, stars Dirk Bogarde as Chris Lloyd, a desperate man who has killed his wife’s (Elizabeth Sellars’) lover. After being discovered in a bombed out house by a boy, Robbie (Jon Whitely), Chris has to take the young witness with him as he goes on the run…

In contrast to Esther Waters’ focus on the suffering, though resilient, heroine, Hunted focuses on Bogarde’s tortured male criminal. The film contains aspects of the male melodrama, which Steve Neale relates to the Hollywood director Raoul Walsh’s use of ‘mystery, violence, chase’ (Genre and Hollywood, 2000).

To reinforce such a categorisation, trade paper Variety’s review called the film a ‘man-hunt meller’ (i.e. melodrama) (5th March, 1952, p. 6). Furthermore, fan magazine Picturegoer’s review commented on the last of the three aspect Walsh favoured: it describes the film as an ‘exciting chase’ (15 March, 1952, p. 16).

Do join us, if you can, for the second in our season of Dirk Bogarde melodramas.

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, 1st of October, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are very welcome to join us for the first of this term’s melodrama screening and discussion sessions. We are screening Esther Waters (Ian Dalrymple and Peter Proud, 108 mins) on Monday the 1st of October, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

 

As explained in a previous post, the BFI has very kindly recently allowed me access to its collection of Dirk Bogarde journals. This collection of magazines and other ephemera featuring Dirk was donated to the BFI by the late star’s estate. This led me to think about how focusing on one star, and especially a male one, for a term, may begin to show some of the many facets of melodrama.

We are taking a chronological approach, and start with Dirk’s third film, and first credited and starring role. The Victorian melodrama Esther Waters is adapted from the 1894 novel by Irish writer, George Moore. It sees Dirk playing a groom who seduces the heroine, kitchen-maid Esther (Kathleen Ryan), abandons her, is reunited with her, and, predictably, causes her further heartache.

Dirk’s earliest appearance in a film fan magazine in the BFI’s journal collection is the feature article ‘Dirk Takes His First Chance’, in the UK’s Picturegoer, on the 23rd October 1948 p. 5 (for the accompanying portrait and caption, please see picture above).  This would have been available to readers by the date of Esther Waters’ release (22nd September 1948). The article is strangely ambivalent about the quality of the film (though please don’t let that put you off!) Its subheading observes that ‘[t]he picture itself was given only a mixed reception from the critics and judgment on the young man has to some extent been suspended until his next can be seen. All the same, his work in “Esther Waters” shows promise and imagination. Dirk is convinced he can do it’.

While this is less gushing than we might expect from a fan magazine, the very presence of the feature article, and its contents, suggests that Dirk is being built up as a star by the studio he is contracted to, J Arthur Rank. This includes ‘factual’ comments on Dirk’s family and theatre background, and also an insight into his person.  He is reported to have artistic tendencies, to be sensitive and shy, although this is balanced by a focus on the bravery he displayed during his war service.

We can compare this to later fan magazine coverage of Dirk as we address several of his other films in detail. It will also be worth focusing on the gap between the supposed ‘real’ Dirk and the ‘screen’ Dirk. The article mentions Esther Waters is a ‘good test’ of his talent since he plays a character ‘entirely unlike himself’. We can consider if as time goes on the ‘real’ Dirk, at least the one presented by fan magazines, alters and/or whether his screen image adapts to reflect his star image. For example, the caption to the above picture (from the article) ponders ‘[w]here does he go from there’ and notes that Dirk’s next role will be a ‘modern’ one – the case for much of his career.

You can also see more on my work on the BFI collection of Dirk Bogarde journals on the NoRMMA blog: http://www.normmanetwork.com/

Do join us, if you can, for the first in our Dirk season.

Screening Schedule for the Autumn Term

We now have a provisional list of films we’re screening in the Autumn Term. We’re focusing on several films of the British star Dirk Bogarde. (Apart from our Halloween offering on the 29th of October which dates from 1930 and stars Chester Morris.)


 

1st October Esther Waters (1948, Ian Dalrymple and Peter Proud, 108 mins)

15th October Hunted (1952, Charles Crichton, 84 mins)

29th October The Bat Whispers (1930, Roland West, 83 mins)

12th November EITHER A Tale of Two Cities (1958, Ralph Thomas, 117 mins)

                                 OR Libel (1959, Anthony Asquith, 100 mins)

26th November The Singer Not the Song (1961, Roy Ward Baker, 132 mins)

10th December I Could Go On Singing (1963, Ronald Neame, 99 mins)

 

More detail on each film will be posted in advance of its screening.

 

All are very welcome to join us on these dates, from 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

Timetable for Autumn Term 2018

We are very pleased to announce that melodrama screening and discussion sessions will resume in the Autumn Term.

All are welcome to join us when we meet from 5-7pm, on alternate Mondays, in Jarman 6.

 

The dates:

1st of October

15th of October

29th of October

12th of November

26th of November

10th of December

 

Details of films and other events will be posted here in due course.

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, 27th of February, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are very welcome to join us when we screen and discuss our next pre-code film. We will be showing Ladies They Talk About (1933, Howard Bretherton and William Keighley, 69 mins) on Tuesday the 27th of February, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

Like all of our most recent screenings, this is a Warner Brothers production. It also, like Baby Face, stars Barbara Stanwyck. She plays gangster’s moll, Nan Taylor, who is caught during a bank robbery but who appeals to old male classmate David Slade (Preston Foster) for help. David is now a radio evangelist, intent on just punishment for criminals, but agrees to help Nan. Despite David’s intervention, Nan is sent too San Quentin prison where she meets an array of fellow female convicts. Dramatic urgency is supplied by a thwarted escape, a shooting, and romance.

The film was later remade in 1942, starring Faye Emerson as the more aptly titled Lady Gangster (Robert Florey). Once more, as with Three on a Match and Broadway Musketeers, this affords us the opportunity of  comparing  pre and post-code treatments of a story.

Do join us if you can.

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, 30th of January, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are very welcome to join us for our next screening. We’ll be showing Three on a Match (1932, Mervyn LeRoy, 63 mins), on Tuesday 30th of January, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

Three on a Match continues the melodrama research group’s interest in pre-code Hollywood and, like both of our recent screenings Female and Baby Face, is a Warner Brothers production. It too is especially concerned with women. But it provides us with three heroines instead of one. Friends Mary (Joan Blondell), Vivian (Ann Dvorak) and Ruth (Bette Davis) meet again a decade after leaving school.  Their lives widely diverge: crime is followed by redemption through acting for Mary, a stable marriage to a wealthy lawyer is ruined by a messy break up for Vivian, while Ruth embarks on a career as a secretary. All three face challenges, with Vivian’s life taking a particularly melodramatic turn.

Do join us if you can.

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, 16th of January, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are very welcome to join us for our first melodrama meeting of 2018. We’ll be screening Female (1933, Michael Curtiz, 60 mins), on Tuesday 16th of January, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

The film stars Ruth Chatterton as Alison Drake, the owner-manager of a family business whose casual affairs with men turn serious once she meets Jim Thorne (George Brent). Like Baby Face, a film we screened at towards the end of the Autumn Term, Female is a pre-code film, written by Gene Markey and Kathryn Scola.  It too raises many interesting issues regarding film history, audience address, gender and genre. We hope to further explore these by watching and discussing more pre-code films in the Spring Term.

Do join us if you can.

UPDATE: Lies has very kindly posted some wonderful fan magazine material about Female on the NoRMMA blog: 

http://www.normmanetwork.com/you-wouldnt-have-these-problems-if-you-were-a-fallen-woman-female-curtiz-1933/

This gives us  great insight into the film’s promotion and reception at the time. Thank so much Lies! 

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, 11th of December, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are very welcome to join us for our last screening before the end of term. We will be showing a television adaptation of the M.R. James short story Number 13 (2006, 40 mins) on Monday the 11th of December, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

Part 2 of the BBC’s 4 part occasional A Ghost Story for Christmas strand (2005-2013), Number 13 stars Greg Wise as Oxbridge academic Professor Anderson. Anderson is visiting a hotel in a cathedral town to authenticate some historical papers, but while researching long ago history becomes fixated on a current mystery – the room next door. Room 13, however, is said not to exist….

Do join us, if you can, for some pre-Christmas viewing.

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, 27th of November, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are welcome to join us for our next screening and discussion session, which will take place on Monday the 27th of November, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

We will be screening and discussing Baby Face (1933, Alfred E. Green, 75 mins) – postponed from the last session.

Please refer to recent posts for more information on the film and some interesting extra-textual material.