Showing posts with label Elizabeth Hartman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elizabeth Hartman. Show all posts

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Beguiled (1971)

The Beguiled 1971

Union soldier John "McB" (Clint Eastwood) finds himself injured in Confederate territory. A young girl named Amy (Pamelyn Ferdin), is out in the forest picking mushrooms and stumbles upon him. He's near death and Amy takes pity on him and brings him back to her all girls school. The women are reluctant to help an enemy soldier but take him in anyways. At first their intent is restore his injured leg, bring him back to full health and turn him into the Confederate Army. But it's been a long war and they've been lonely. And it's nice having a handsome man around especially one as vulnerable as John. He takes advantage of their situation and starts seducing three of the women. The headmistress Martha (Geraldine Page) carries a dark secret with her and sees a dalliance with John as a way to reignite old passions. Then there is the modest Edwina (Elizabeth Hartman) who tends to John's leg and dreams of a romantic life outside the school. And then there is the more sexually aware Carol (Jo Ann Harris) who is not conflicted by her desires for an affair with the mysterious soldier and by the need to turn him into the local Confederates. Once the women discover John's true nature they turn on him. What follows is a downward spiral into what seems more like a fever dream than reality.

The Beguiled (1971) was directed by Don Siegel, produced by Clint Eastwood's production company Malpaso and distributed by Universal. It's based on Thomas Cullinan's novel published in 1966. After the movie was released Cullinan followed with two additional novels The Besieged and The Bedeviled, both Confederate Civil War era stories. The film was poorly marketed as another Eastwood action film when it was really a psychological drama. As a result it did poorly at the box office.

This film came to my attention when I heard of Sofia Coppola's new adaptation The Beguiled (2017) which releases next month. Intrigued by the film's concept, I went back to the original. And I've always been curious about Elizabeth Hartman who stars in one of my all-time favorite movies A Patch of Blue (1965) and this was a good excuse to watch more of her work.

The Beguiled is a mesmerizing movie. It's dark and unrelenting. It's fascinating to see how the dynamics of relationships change during war time. The film has some great performances by Geraldine Page and Clint Eastwood in particular. There is a feverish quality to the movie that heightens the psychological drama.

Geraldine Page and Clint Eastwood in The Beguiled (1971)
Geraldine Page and Clint Eastwood in The Beguiled (1971)

The film tests the waters of propriety in the way that many films did in the 1970s. Eastwood kisses the young Ferdin in a scene that is uncomfortable to watch. Some will see it as a kiss to keep her quiet as the Confederate soldiers march by. Others will see it as an unnecessary moment of inappropriate sexuality. There is also the them of inc-st in the movie. Martha, played by Geraldine Page, has a passionate and sexual affair with her brother who at the time of the story is missing in action and presumed dead. John discovers her secret and the audience is clued in to this with several flashback scenes. I'm curious to see if the new adaptation incorporates these scenes from the original. I also wonder if they'll do away with the slave character Hallie played by Mae Mercer. She's a strong female character who fights back but depiction of slaves on film is always problematic territory.

If you're at all interested in seeing Sofia Coppola's version of The Beguiled, I highly encourage you to try the original too. I rented the film from DVD Netflix and it's currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray. Below are the trailers for the 1971 and 2017 versions.

Listen to me discuss The Beguiled (1971) on the Our Friends Said They'd Listen podcast.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Searching for A Patch of Blue in cloudy skies

When I started my last semester, taking on a full-time school load as well as maintaining a full-time workload, I had a burning desire to watch Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) (see previous entry). Something about 2 people tackling on a ginormous family gave me comfort with my load which seemed tiny in comparison. This time however, at the eve of the Spring semester, I felt like watching a very different movie from the Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda comedy.

On the eve of the Spring semester, I watched a film that I absoltutely love. I throw around the word "love" pretty loosely when talking about films. But in this case I have an emotional attachment to this particular movie as it finds its way into the recesses of my emotions and touches my heart on a deeper level than most of my regular cinematic experiences ever dare to delve into. This film is A Patch of Blue (1965).

A Patch of Blue has been on regular rotation on TCM for a few years. There is a good chance that on a quiet Sunday afternoon, you may find this playing on the channel. My first instincts were to change the channel. But after I watched the short documentary "A Cinderella named Elizabeth" (1965), which shows how Elizabeth Hartman got her first movie role as Selina D'Arcy in A Patch of Blue, I was curious to see how her performance turned out. The result, a movie that took my breath away.

If you haven't seen it yet, in a nutshell, this film is about a young African-American man, Gordon (played by the very handsome Sidney Poitier), who befriends a blind girl who is optimistic about life even though she lives with her promiscuous and abusive mother, Rose-ann (played by Shelley Winters), and her drunk grandfather (last performance by Wallace Ford). The two fall in love in a society in which miscegenation is a threat to a society that values the separation of races.

Why do I watch this film now, before my last big crazy-busy semester of my graduate school career? Because I love it and watching a film I love always comforts me in times of crisis. And also because watching poor Selina D'Arcy live a horrid life of destitution and abuse, on top of being blind, and to watch her still have a happy outlook on life reminds me to appreciate what I have and to not complain!

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