Showing posts with label Maureen O'Hara. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maureen O'Hara. Show all posts

Monday, December 24, 2018

Lisbon (1956)

Lisbon: City of Murder, Intrigue and Excitement!

Captain Jack (Ray Milland) is a professional smuggler with an eye for the ladies. He goes by a strict code of ethics: no murder, no narcotics, just straight smuggling. When Jack arrives at Lisbon port he finds Inspector Fonseca (Jay Novello) hot on his trail. But luckily Jack and his shipmate Tio Rabio (Humberto Madeira) hide their loot before the Fonseca and his team can find it. In Lisbon, Jack meets with career criminal Mavros (Claude Rains) who has an assignment for him involving the wife of an American imprisoned in a Communist country. Jack is to arrange for Sylvia Merrill (Maureen O'Hara) to have a clandestine business meeting with Mavros and to help Mavros' team smuggle Sylvia's husband Lloyd Merrill (Percy Marmont) into Portugal safe and sound. However Captain Jack is about to get more than he bargained for with this new job. He's equal parts smitten and confused by the beautiful Sylvia. It's clear that she married her much older husband for money. Is she really concerned about her husband's well-being or are her efforts to ensure her financial security? Sylvia quickly becomes enamored with Captain Jack. And she's not the only one. Mavros' live-in girlfriend/employee Maria Madalena (Yvonne Furneaux) also develops an affection for him. But the mercy of her boss and the infatuated Seraphim (Francis Lederer). When Mavros plants an idea into Sylvia's mind to ensure that her husband doesn't make it back alive, she dismisses the idea at first. But $24 million dollars and the chance at real romance with Jack is much more alluring. Will Jack break his code of ethics or will he stay true to himself?

Lisbon (1956) was shot on location in Portugal for Republic Studios. Filming in Europe was big business for Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s and this film has the notable distinction of being the first film entirely shot in Portugal. The story was based on an original idea by Martin Rackin and was adapted for the screen by John Tucker Battle. Paramount held the rights to the story before it was purchased by Republic.

Ray Milland not only stars in the film but he also produced it and directed it. In the credits he goes by R.A. Milland for his producer role and R. Milland for the director role. After making Dial M for Murder (1954), Milland took his career in a different direction and Lisbon was the second film he directed and the only one in which he received credit as producer.

I'm half Portuguese so for me Lisbon (1956) was like time traveling back to my dad's home country around the time he was living there. He emigrated from Portugal in the late 1950s and moved to Brazil before moving to the United States in the early 1960s. I've spent time in Lisbon and it's a gorgeous city. And 1956 Lisbon looks beautiful shot in Naturama and Trucolor. There are lots of great shots of the city and Milland used a variety of Portuguese actors in the film including Vasco Santana, Joao Benard da Costa, Humberto Madeira and singer Anita Guerreiro. Nelson Riddle composed the music for the film and his rendition of Lisbon Antigua was a huge hit in the US. It's a  fado song (a type of traditional Portuguese folk music) and is sung by Guerreiro in one of the scenes.

Story-wise, Lisbon was kind of a disappointment. It took too long to get to the point and when it did I didn't care much. The beginning and ending scenes were great. I loved the resolution to the story. It's very satisfying for Milland's character. And the opening scene shows Claude Rains as the heartless Mavros as he lures and kills a bird to feed to his cat. It gives us some insight into his cruel nature. Maureen O'Hara is absolutely stunning in this film. She has the most complex character of the cast which isn't saying too much because a lot of these characters are rather two dimensional. It's worth watching Lisbon for the beautiful on location shooting by Jack A. Marta, the brilliant color made even more beautiful with the newly remastered Blu-ray, for the great cast and O'Hara and Furneaux's amazing wardrobe.

Lisbon (1956) is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Kino Lorber. When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thanks!

The Blu-Ray comes from a new high definition master from a 4K scan of the original Trucolor negative. It also includes audio commentary by film historian Toby Roan and a variety of Kino Lorber related trailers.

Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of Lisbon (1956) for review. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Maureen O'Hara: The Biography by Aubrey Malone

Maureen O'Hara: The Biography
by Aubrey Malone
Hardcover - ISBN: 9780813142388
October 2013
304 pages
University Press of Kentucky

Barnes and Noble

I had received a copy of Aubrey Malone's biography of Maureen O'Hara from the publisher a while ago. In preparation for the TCM Classic Film Festival and seeing the actress in person, I picked it up to read because I didn't know very much about O'Hara's life and I was excited to learn more.

Malone's book is a practical biography of the legendary Irish actress. It's a no frills kind of book that doesn't seek out to reveal anything extraordinary but serves to tell the story of O'Hara's life with a firm focus on her career and her relationships with her husbands and with important figures in her life such as director John Ford and actors Charles Laughton, John Wayne and Brian Keith. If you are looking for juicy gossip, look elsewhere. If you want a basic primer on O'Hara, then this is a basic and readily available choice.

Besides a few attempts at being creative with language, the book is written in a very approachable style. O'Hara's life is fascinating and that coupled with very clear language made this book quite readable. The first few chapters felt a little awkward but the author gets into a good rhythm and the book progresses quite well. It follows O'Hara's life and career from her early days in Ireland up to 2013.

Reading the book you learn about the influence of several male figures in O'Hara's life. For example, actor Charles Laughton helped her get her start in Hollywood, she had a troubled relationship with director John Ford and she developed a close friendship with John Wayne and became a big support for him when he was dying. Her third husband Charles Blair was one of the most important person in O'Hara's life and his tragic death was a major loss for her.

I really enjoyed reading O'Hara's reflections on old age. There were several quotes in the book and they were from when she was younger and looking ahead to the future.

"Me? All I want is to live to be a hundred."
"I can't wait to grow old. I'm going to be the nastiest old lady you ever saw."

In fact, there were lots of great quotes from O'Hara but most of them are from her autobiography.

This book was a good starting point for someone like me who wanted to learn more about O'Hara and was pressed for time. But when I finished reading it I didn't feel satisfied. The backmatter reveals that much of the information in the book comes from archives, libraries, O'Hara's autobiography and various printed sources. O'Hara was not interviewed for the book and neither were her relatives or friends. A lot of research went into this biography but I felt like it could have been a lot richer if it were made longer with the addition of some interviews. What results from all of this is an informative yet mediocre book. After reading this, I immediately put O'Hara's autobiography Tis Herself, published in 2004, on my wishlist because I still felt there was still much more to learn about O'Hara as a person and an actress.

Maureen O'Hara: The Biography is part of the University Press of Kentucky's Screen Classics series. The publisher has a fantastic Newsletter and Blog both of which have regular classic film related articles.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How Green Was My Valley (1941) screening and Maureen O'Hara at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival

The screening of How Green Was My Valley (1941) at the TCM Classic Film Festival was such a spectacular event.  It was worth waiting in line for almost two hours to make sure that I not only got in but that I got a good seat as well. I waited in line with K.C. of A Classic Movie Blog, Jessica of Comet Over Hollywood and Dan of Celebrity Cafe. We had a blast chatting that the 2 hours flew by. I got sick during the festival and was at my worst point right before the screening. However, there was absolutely nothing that was going to get in my way. I was going to see Maureen O'Hara!

Once we settled into our seats at the historic El Capitan theatre, we were treated to some music before the event commenced. Robert Osborne came out onto the stage to introduce the film and Maureen O'Hara. How Green Was My Valley won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Donald Crisp), Best Director (John Ford), Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. Some people harbor resentment towards this film because they feel that Citizen Kane (1941) deserved to win the Oscar that year. Osborne reminded us that Citizen Kane wasn't as well understood or appreciated as it is today and How Green Was My Valley was a great film in its own right.

Then it was the moment we were all waiting for! Maureen O'Hara, escorted by her grandson Conor Beau, made her grand entrance.

There was a roar of applause and O'Hara received a standing ovation. She seemed overcome with emotion and was seen wiping away tears. O'Hara motioned to us to sit down which I thought was very sweet. She seemed to be very humble but also very sassy too.

The audience listened with rapt attention. O'Hara was a bit hindered by her advanced age and at one point got very religious and philosophical. It might have been awkward if she wasn't the MAUREEN O'HARA! I'm sure I speak for all of us in attendance that it was such a blessing to have her there. O'Hara could have just wielded insults at us for an hour and we'd all be grateful for every word. And believe you me, we hung on to every word she said.

I loved the moment when O'Hara told the audience not to think that she does magical things. Osborne replied that she does do magical things on the screen. With the help of directors who are magicians themselves, actors and actress do incredible, magical things on screen that make us feel a gamut of emotions. We are all captivated by the magic of the movies.

Before the film started we were treated to a video tribute to Maureen O'Hara's career. I believe this came before the interview. It was a wonderful tribute and I really wish the video lived somewhere online so I could share it. It was so well done and I also really loved the one shown in tribute of Charlton Heston at another event. Whoever writes the copy for those tributes is absolutely brilliant.

I had never seen How Green Was My Valley (1941) so this screening was a very special way to be introduced to a film. Of all the movies screened at the festival, I think this one fit the theme Family in the Movies: The Ties That Bind the best. I was already very emotional from seeing Maureen O'Hara in person that the film's ending just destroyed my already fragile emotional state. Theaters should extend the courtesy to patrons by leaving the lights off a little longer when a film has a particularly sad ending. That way we'd all have a few moments to wipe away our tears and compose ourselves.

Press Photo

It wasn't enough for me to see Maureen O'Hara once at the TCM Classic Film Festival. When Robert Osborne announced that he would be interviewing O'Hara at ClubTCM the following day it became imperative that I go to that too. Several folks camped out in front of the screening area in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel early so they could get up close to Maureen O'Hara. I was too sick to do that so I had to wait until around the time it started. I didn't get the best view but it was still glorious to catch little glimpses of O'Hara and to listen to a more in-depth interview with her. The interview will be airing on TCM some time in the future so watch for it!

Press Photo

At the end of the interview, Osborne and O'Hara posed for pictures. She also took a few questions from the audience. Her grandson Conor Beau was escorting her out when he was stopped by O'Hara so she could say one last thing to the audience. She recited a rhyme and was then whisked away. I think the rhyme was "Love is like a lizard; it winds itself around your heart and penetrates your gizzard."

I thought it was really interesting that Maureen O'Hara was not scheduled to appear at the screening of The Quiet Man (1952). O'Hara has said in the past that it's her favorite of her films. Perhaps she was added too late to the festival's roster that their original plans for that screening could not be changed.

Seeing O'Hara and watching How Green Was My Valley on the big screen are experiences I'll never forget and I'm infinitely grateful to TCM for making this all happen at the festival.

Here's a little video I shot of Maureen O'Hara's exit from the How Green Was My Valley screening. Enjoy!

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