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

All are very welcome to join us for the first of this term’s screening and discussion sessions.  We’ll be showing Young and Innocent (1937, Alfred Hitchcock, 83 mins) on Wednesday the 15th of January, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

This film is part of our new focus on film adaptations of detective novels written by women. It is based on Josephine Tey’s second Inspector Alan Grant novel, A Shilling for Candles, which was published in 1936.

 

In addition to comparing the film to Tey’s novel, we will, of course, be focusing on how it relates to melodrama. The UK fan magazine Picture Show is helpful in this regard. Its preview, written by Maud Hughes, opens by noting that ‘romance runs through the warp of crime’ (25th of December 1937, p. 5). Hughes then briefly recounts some crucial aspects of the characters and the plots provides more detail. In edited form (for the sake of spoilers!) the summary is that ‘Nova Pilbeam is the daughter of a Chief Constable [who] helps a…man wanted by the police on a charge of murder’.

The man on the run (played by Derrick de Marney) may be related to some Dirk Bogarde melodramas we have screened over the last couple of years. These showed Bogarde as a suffering figure and also contained the Mystery, Violence and Chase  aspects of the male melodrama (see especially Hunted: https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/melodramaresearchgroup/2018/10/18/summary-of-discussion-on-hunted/  ) .

Meanwhile the main female character is potentially the ‘woman in peril’ we have often seen in gothic films, as well as the ‘suffering woman’ of melodrama. The US title of the film, The Girl was Young, further underlines this, suggesting that it is she who is the ‘young and innocent’ (and therefore the most vulnerable character) of Hitchcock’s film.

Hughes comments following her plot summary that ‘cynical’ critics may consider the film to be ‘sheer melodrama’ are very instructive. They demonstrate that ‘melodrama’ is often a pejorative term, especially when it is undiluted (‘sheer’). But Hughes argues for its historical popularity: it is the sort of the story which has ‘held the interest of the big public for hundreds of years’.

Hopefully we’ll enjoy it too. Do join us if you can.

Timetable for Spring 2020 Melodrama Screenings

All are welcome to attend our screening and discussion sessions in the Spring term. These will take place on ‘odd’ Wednesdays from 5-7pm in Jarman 6, starting on the 15th of January.

This term we will be turning our attention to film adaptations of detective novels written by women from the UK. This gives us the chance to compare melodrama on the page (from the 1930s to the 1950s) and the screen (with films dating from 1937 to 1963).

15th January 2020  Young and Innocent (1937, Alfred Hitchcock, UK, 83 mins) based on the 1936 novel A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey.

29th January 2020 Haunted Honeymoon (1940, Arthur B Woods, Richard Thorpe, UK 99 mins), an adaptation of the final entry in Dorothy L Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey series, Busman’s Honeymoon, published in 1937.

12th February 2020 Green For Danger (1946, Sidney Gilliat, UK, 91 mins), from Christianna Brand’s 1944 Inspector Cockerill novel of the same name.

26th February 2020 The Franchise Affair (1951, Lawrence Huntingdon, UK, 95 mins), adapted from Josephine Tey’s 1948 novel of the same name, which in turn was based on a real-life case. This is the 3rd of Tey’s Inspector Alan Grant series, immediately preceded by A Shilling for Candles (see 15th January 2020 entry above).

11th March 2020 Tiger in the Smoke (1956, Roy Ward Baker, UK, 94 mins) based on  Margery Alingham’s ‘Campion’ novel of the same name, the 17th of the series, from 1952.

25th March 2020 Murder at the Gallop (1963, George Pollock, UK, 81 mins), a very free adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1953 Hercule Poirot novel, After the Funeral, which was altered to star Margaret Rutherford as Christie’s other best-known detective – Miss Jane Marple.

Additional details will be posted in due course.

Christmas Screening and Discussion Session, Tuesday 10th of December, 4pm-8pm, Jarman

All are very welcome to join us for a Christmas Screening and discussion session on Tuesday the 10th of December, 4-8pm, in Jarman.

We will be screening The Bat Whispers (1930, Roland West) and Night of the Demon (1957, Jacques Tourneur). We have previously screened the former at Halloween (https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/melodramaresearchgroup/2018/11/08/summary-of-discussion-on-the-bat-whispers/) Night of the Demon seems especially appropriate, however,  for the season. (I have indeed Christmassifed the images from the films to make both seem more festive!)  Night of  the Demon is an adaption  of MR James’ short story ‘The Casting of the Runes’. We screened a TV adaption of James’  ghost story ‘Number 13’ two years ago:

https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/melodramaresearchgroup/2017/12/21/summary-of-discussion-on-number-13/

 

Do join us if you can.

 

 

 

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, Wednesday 3rd of April, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are very welcome to join us for the last melodrama screening session of the term. We will be screening Doctor in the House (1954, Ralph Thomas, 92 mins) and/or Doctor at Sea (1955, Ralph Thomas, 93 mins) on Wednesday the 3rd of April, 5-7pm, Jarman 6.

Including films from the popular ‘Doctor’ comedy series in our season of Dirk Bogarde melodramas may seem an odd choice. While it would be a stretch to describe the films as melodrama, they are hugely significant to Bogarde’s screen image. Bogarde appears as Simon Sparrow, a medical student in the first instalment, but then a qualified doctor who develops and climbs the career leader as the series progresses – he appears in 4 of the 5 films made between 1954 and 1963 (in 1954, 1955, 1957 and 1963).

As well as the cumulative effect of Bogarde appearing in several films, the series, especially the first film, was hugely popular. The BFI’s list of the top 100 films at the UK box office (adjusted for inflation) places Doctor in the House at no. 36, with an estimated audience of 12.2 million, roughly a quarter of the UK population at the time. Bogarde had previously been listed on the trade paper Motion Picture Herald’s survey of the stars which exhibitors through brought in audiences at no.5 (in 1953). But Bogarde ranked higher during the 50s each year he appeared in a Doctor film: no. 2 in 1954, no. 1 in 1955, before dipping to no. 3 in a non-Doctor year, back up to no. 1 in 1957.

The ‘Doctor’ films therefore provided audiences with an alternative to some of Bogarde’s darker or more challenging roles which we have screened – such as Cast a Dark Shadow (1955), Libel (1959), Victim (1961), The Singer Not the Song (1961). While the Doctor films have garnered less critical attention, they are arguably more central to Bogarde’s screen image, and especially worthy of our attention.

Do join us for these enjoyable films if you can.

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, Wednesday 20th of March, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are very welcome to join us when we continue our Dirk Bogarde season by screening Death in Venice (1971, Luchino Visconti, 130 mins) on Wednesday the 20th of March, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

Like our previous film, Victim, Death in Venice tackles a controversial subject, and is much written about in film studies. Based on German writer Thomas Mann’s 1912 novella, it stars Bogarde as composer Gustav von Aschenbach. Aschenbach has travelled to Venice for his health, and the film depicts his growing obsession with an adolescent Polish boy, Tadzio (Bjorn Andresen), as  Venice becomes gripped by a cholera epidemic.

The decision to change Death in Venice’s  protagonist from a writer to a composer of music is especially interesting, and the film’s famous score may be a particular point of discussion in relation to melodrama.

Do join us if you can, for one Bogarde’s early European films.

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, Wednesday 6th of March, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are very welcome to join us for our next melodrama screening and discussion session. We will be showing Victim (1961, Basil Dearden, 96 mins) on Wednesday the 6th of March, 5-7pm, Jarman 6.

Victim stars Dirk Bogarde as barrister Melville Farr, a man whose apparently happy marriage to Laura (Sylvia Syms) and professional reputation are jeopardised when a compromising photograph of him comforting a young man is exploited for criminal purposes.

The film’s concern with male homosexuality at a time when this was illegal in the UK made it controversial with contemporary audiences (including the British Board of Film Censors) and its bravery for tackling the subject is still recognised today.

US trade paper Variety described the film as both ‘thriller-drama’ and ‘social probe’ (6th September 1961, p. 6 ). It also applauds the fact that the film lacks ‘sensationalisation of the homosexual problem’. It will be useful to assess whether we concur with this assessment in the current day, and how this fits with a view of melodrama privileging exaggeration and excess.

Do join us if you can.

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, Wednesday 20th of February, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are very welcome to join us as we return to screening Dirk Bogarde films with links to melodrama. We will be showing A Tale of Two Cities (1958, Ralph Thomas, 118 mins) on Wednesday the 20th of February, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

This British adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel sees Bogarde playing the initially dissolute, but ultimately self-sacrificing, lawyer Sydney Carton. We have previously screened Bogarde films which adapted modern texts (Libel, The Singer Not the Song and Cast a Dark Shadow) and one from the late 19th century (Esther Waters). Through discussing A Tale of Two Cities we can tackle one of English literature’s most adapted authors, whose connections to, and influence on, melodrama, bear further examination.

 

Do join us if you can.

 

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

All are very welcome to join us as we take a brief break from screening Dirk Bogarde melodramas to once more appreciate Barbara Stanwyck. We will screen Ladies They Talk About (1933, Howard Bretherton and William Keighley, 69 mins) on Wednesday the 6th of February, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

The British Film Institute (BFI) is celebrating Stanwyck in a season running from February to March. (More information on their programme of events can be found here). The season includes screenings of Barbara Stanwyck films the melodrama group has previously discussed such as Baby Face (1933, Alfred Green) and Stella Dallas (1937, King Vidor).(See summaries of our discussion here and here)

The event starts with a series of talks ‘Barbara Stanwyck in the Spotlight’ on Saturday the 2nd of February, at BFI Southbank in London. One of the speakers is melodrama research group member Lies Lanckman. (See more details and purchase tickets here.)

Lies will also kindly be introducing our on campus screening of Ladies They Talk About. 

A quick plot summary of the film:

This Warner Brothers production 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).

Do join us if you can.

 

 

 

 

 

NEW Timetable for Spring Term 2019

To maximise the number of possible attendees, we have changed the day on which we meet for melodrama. Meetings will now take place on the Wednesday of even weeks, from 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

Screening dates:

6th of February

20th of February

6th of March

20th of March

3rd of April

My sincere apologies to anyone who is inconvenienced by this change.

Melodrama Screening and Discussion, Monday 21st January, 5-7pm, Jarman 6

All are very welcome to join us for the first of this term’s screening and discussion sessions. We’ll be showing Cast a Dark Shadow (1955, Lewis Gilbert, 82 mins) on Monday the 21st of January, 5-7pm, in Jarman 6.

The film continues our focus on Dirk Bogarde. In Cast a Dark Shadow he stars as Teddy, a man who having disposed of one wealthy wife (Mona Washbourne) is lining up Margaret Lockwood as the next Mrs Bare… Consideration of these as women in peril allows us to examine another facet of melodrama, since it returns the group to the subject of the Gothic.

Do join us if you can.