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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Opportunity to vote for the BFI to restore Margaret Lockwood Melodrama Bedelia (1946)

Exciting News! The British Film Institute (BFI) is giving the public the chance to vote for 1 of 3 selected films to be restored back to its former glory.

Bedelia 6145628601_d8bb8155b6_b

You have the choice of:

Bedelia (Lance Comfort, 1946, starring Margaret Lockwood)

Mr Topaze (Peter Sellers, 1961, starring Peter Sellers)

The Assam Garden (Mary McMurray, 1985, starring Deborah Kerr and Madhur Jaffrey)

All of these films look really interesting though the possibility of seeing another Lockwood melodrama made Bedelia my choice.

The poll closes on the 11th of March.

Find more information and vote here:

http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/vote-rescue-forgotten-british-film

 

BFI Event on Female Stardom on 7th of March

Frances has very kindly drawn the Melodrama Research Group’s attention to an event taking place at the BFI on the 7th of March.

BFI Female Stardom event

The BFI invitation: ‘Join us for this special one-day course looking at the political and cultural questions raised by the dynamic careers of various female screen stars. Featuring illustrated presentations, film clips and extended discussions, we’ll assess stars of the 20s and 30s such as Marlene Dietrich, through to contemporary icons such as Jennifer Lawrence. As we study their performances and public personas, the ideas of leading thinkers in film studies and gender theory such as Laura Mulvey and Jacqueline Rose will also be considered. At the heart of our discussions will be Katharine Hepburn’s own fascinating career and how it helped shape notions of stardom and gender today.’

For more information, including a schedule of the BFI’s season of Katharine Hepburn films  and a link to buy tickets, please visit the BFI website:

https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::permalink=herpoliticsoffemalestardom

Do log in to comment, or email me on sp458@kent.ac.uk to add your thoughts, including any other melodrama links you’d like to add to the blog.

Lois Weber’s The Blot (1921) to be screened at the BFI

Posted by Sarah, on Frances’ behalf

the blot

The BFI will be screening a Lois Weber film next month which may be of interest to some of you. Weber, you may remember, was the director of one of the early cinema shorts we watched last term called Suspense (1913). Weber was a prominent film director of the period, often making films which addressed social issues and controversial topics. The BFI will be screening Weber’s The Blot from 1921 next month which is an important film in the director’s oeuvre and it incorporates many of the themes we have discussed in our melodrama meetings. Here is the description from the BFI website:

“Lois Weber was in her time one of the most influential figures in the US film industry. Her masterpiece, The Blot, is a realistic study of genteel poverty among the struggling middle-classes. A professor scarcely has the means to support his wife and daughter, who in turn has three suitors, one an [sic] poor cleric, one the son of a nouveau riche neighbour, and one a playboy. The film is a subtle, compassionate study of the vagaries of society’s rewards and the cruel masquerade of gentility.”

Enjoy!

https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loadArticle=Load&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::article_id=7D94E989-64D2-4501-8343-53214B47AB99&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::context_id=D227EFA6-8921-484E-B232-8A687EDA0B05

BFI’s Gothic Film Season

Posted by Sarah

I thought it would be worth drawing attention to an upcoming melodrama-related event. This especially ties into the Gothic strand of melodrama the Melodrama Research Group has recently been investigating.

The British Film Institute has announced its season of Gothic Films. This is scheduled to run from October 2013 to January 2014 and involve indoor and outdoor events across the country.

BFI gothic

Visit the website http://www.bfi.org.uk/gothic for more details, including a spooky video trailer.