Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Traditional, Artsy, Genre-Within-Genre: A Little Something for Everyone

The Worldly Woman & The Prince

by Tony Nash

(Profiling a Forgotten TV Gem 1)

All opinions are of the author alone

(Spoilers ahead)

(Author’s Note: Little to no stills exist for the episodes of this series, so save for promotional stills of the main characters, all photos will of the real life people)

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Lady Killers Episode 1: Murder at the Savoy Hotel (1980) TV-14 ****

Robert Stephens: Sir Edward Marshall Hall, K.C.

Barbara Kellerman: Princess Madame Marie Marguerite Fahmy

Charles Kay: Sir Henry Curtis Bennett, K.C.

John Horsley: Mr. Justice Rigby Swift

Susan Wooldridge: Janet Cole

David Buck: Percival Clarke, K.C.

Edward Hammond: Roland Oliver

Lewis Flander: Said Enani

Hosted by Robert Morley

Written by: Helena Osborne

Directed by: Philip Draycott

Synopsis: Ex-Prostitute turned Princess Marie Marguerite is on trial for the murder of her husband, the Egyptian Prince Ali Fahmy Bey. Defended by the famous barrister Sir Marshall Hall, her case is primarily focused on Ali’s reported abusive and decadent behavior towards her.

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Before the British TV company Granada became famous for the Jeremy Brett version of Sherlock Holmes, one of its first touches of notoriety came from the Mini-Series Lady Killers. Initially focusing on infamous murders committed by women in the late 19th to mid-20th century, then on murders of women by both genders, the show was the first of its kind to present true life murder cases as close to historical accuracy as possible, often very unflinching and frank in the process. Veteran British character actor Robert Morley acted as the host of each episode’s beginning, sometimes offering a voice over at the end of further information of the case post trial.

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The Series’ premiere episode told the case of Marguerite Alibert (called Marie Marguerite in the episode) a French prostitute who stunned the world when it was announced she had married the Egyptian Prince Ali Kamel Fahmy. The rocky marriage, said to often include acts of physical abuse, bizarre sexual acts, and even sadism, became public knowledge very quickly, with rumors arising Ali cheated on Marguerite constantly and treated her like personal property rather than a wife. A heated argument in London in July of 1923 led to what was initially deemed an accidental shooting when Marguerite believed her life was in danger, shooting her husband three times with a gun she thought empty. What followed was one of the most discussed, bizarre, and intriguing trial of the day in London. The Prosecution argued Marguerite intentionally killed her husband as she was after his fortune, along with a document she failed to read properly stated under the law of Islam she couldn’t divorce him even with grounds, and that he purportedly denied her inclusion in his will. The Defense argued Marguerite was in constant fear of her life, that the gentle and charming man she first met changed into a beast that took every opportunity to force himself on her and commit acts of violence and debauchery, Marguerite finally having enough and acted completely in defense of her safety. The question remained, which story is true?

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Robert Stephens, one of Britain’s most prominent stage, film, and TV actors, gives the performance of a lifetime as the barrister Sir Edward Marshall Hall. Stephens depicts Hall as the English equivalent of many an American lawyer character on TV, with the flamboyancy and theatrics to go along with it. His team of fellow lawyers often try to reign him in during the episode, constantly telling him he could go too far in his conducting examinations, and surely get his client the death penalty. Like any lawyer, Hall tries not to think about his client’s innocence or guilt too much, but with Marguerite, he appears totally convinced she didn’t deliberately murder her husband. Hall appears to have a bias when it comes to the late Prince Fahmy, clearly expressing a very anti-Arab sentiment whenever he has the opportunity to make the dead man out to be a brutal savage trying to behave European. Very intense and methodical in his handling of witnesses, he uses both wit and plain speaking in discrediting his opposition. His opposing barrister, his team, and even the presiding Justice of the case are both impressed and confounded by his method of conducting his case, but feel he is a competent and fair-minded attorney.

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Barbara Kellerman, an actress only known by UK fans, delivers a quiet, but telling and convincing performance as Marguerite. Not being familiar with English customs or etiquette, Marguerite spends the majority of the trial sitting back and watching as her barrister tries to prevent her getting the death penalty or life in prison and as the prosecution tries to paint her as a cold blooded, non-feeling gold digger out to get prominence and money. Her behavior is generally shown through her interactions with the lady bailiffs between court sessions as a kind of quiet acceptance of what she must go through, but attempts to stay positive with encouragement from the one bailiff. When the time comes for her to tell what had occurred between herself and Ali, Kellerman goes into a melodramatic tirade of emotions as she expresses how she loved her husband, but at the same time was appalled by his change from gentlemanly to animalistic in only a short amount of time. The crescendo being when she described when she fired the gun, even then begging Ali to forgive her for not realizing the gun was still loaded, but also asking why he had to be so cruel to her is where her testimony gets a little laughable in how emotional she gets.

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While Host Morley states in the opening that the trial’s lengthy documentation had to be condensed to fit the hour time slot, quite a bit of important information was left out in the episode:

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Marguerite’s attorney Sir Marshall Hall spent a good bit of his cross examination of Ali’s male secretary making innuendoes that the two men engaged in a homosexual relationship. The public reasoning for this tactic was to discredit Ali’s character as an adherer to Islamic law and custom, thus giving Marguerite cause to wish to divorce him and her fears of his fetishes, but the real reason appears to have been that homosexuality was seen as a crime way back then, and a sin punishable by death under the edicts of Islam, thus making it possible he was looking for either Ali’s family to have the trial stopped to protect their standing in Egypt or to have the government stop the trial out of fear of an international incident.

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Marguerite was known, by rumor at the time, to have had an affair with Edward VIII, then the Prince of Wales, while he was stationed in France during WWI. Edward had made the mistake of writing very intimate and colorful letters to her while he was away on maneuvers, and Marguerite was noted to have kept all the Prince’s letters. Sources are certain Marguerite intended to blackmail Edward should Sir Marshall Hall’s defense prove faulty, and soon the Old Bailey was receiving orders the prosecution be denied the ability to question Marguerite about her past, specifically her life when she was a prostitute in Paris,  noted for engaging both male and female clients, some with very “eclectic” tastes. Today, many believe the government ordered the trial expedited to save the Prince’s character and reputation, which ironically would be destroyed by his actions during WWII.

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The Male-Female jury in the filmed version of the case is wholly fictitious. The real-life jury in Marguerite’s trial was made up entirely of women, all in their late teens to early 20’s, and were ordered to ignore the prosecutions references to Marguerite’s character and what was declared irrelevant evidence.

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Morley, in his closing narration, states that little was known of Marguerite after the Egyptian courts denied her claim to half of Ali’s estate. This is also untrue. Marguerite returned to Paris where she maintained a fairly comfortable lifestyle and kept the title of Princess, even appearing in some French films of the late Silent and Early Sound periods. After a libel suit that didn’t go her way made her a laughing stock in France, Marguerite retired to seclusion at her apartment in Nice until her death in 1971. She never had a second child after her first, though she did in fact destroy the letters from Edward VIII.

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While a little clunky in parts as there wasn’t enough time to utilize all the fascinating information associated with the case and focused mainly on the actual court room proceedings, the Murder at the Savoy Hotel is a good starting point episode to an interesting series that recreates some very fascinating, and at times disturbing, cases that rocked the whole of the United Kingdom. Main stars Stephens and Kellerman may go a little into overboard theatrics while some smaller characters can be a little stiff, is done fairly well by episode’s end and leaves the viewer satisfied.

(I do highly recommend giving this series a try as it does present the cases they chose to dramatize fairly well, even though some information had to be condensed to fit the hour time slot. History buffs, Murder/Mystery buffs, and even Courtroom Drama buffs will find something to enjoy about the series overall. The Stage Play atmosphere of the episode is also very creative and brings something unique and different to the series that was seldom done elsewhere. The DVD from Network Entertainment offers the best possible presentation of the episodes as some do have slight to them and fair audio transfers.)

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners, including the IMDB

For more information

This video from ObsoleteOddity of YouTube and Vimeo offers more detailed information of the Case

(I’m including both sites version of the video as I imagine people may prefer one over the other)

Buying options

Filed under: TV: Analysis/Overview, TV: Special Topics

The Joys & Benefits of a Region Free Blu-Ray Player (And Why Film Fans Should Have One)

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Author’s Note: I’m taking a little break from doing film reviews, I haven’t stopped watching films, but for some reason or the next has made being able to sit down for at least 2 hours to enjoy a film a little flip-floppy for the moment, but I want to keep the content going on the blog, so here’s something I’ve wanted to write about for a while in a little more depth, and I hope you enjoy it)

Sony BDP-S3700 Region Free Blu-Ray Player - front view

Hello to my followers, those I’m following, all curious visitors,

What happens when there’s a film or TV Series you’ve read about for a while via the IMDb or a film forum that has peaked your curiosity, but you learn it isn’t on DVD or Blu Ray in the US or Canada, but is available from the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, etc. Pretty good right? Well, then you discover in your research there’s a pesky thing called Region Encoding, which prevents discs from playing on certain players. All is lost right because there’s no way you can find some means of playing a non Region A disc? It’s not over yet, because certain companies specialize in Region Free, or All Region, players that allow discs from all over the world to played on the same player.

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I have to admit that while I’m fairly knowledgeable when it comes to films, I’m a complete novice when it comes to the technology in putting them into disc form and creating the machines they play in. For a long time I held a certain envy for film collectors over in Europe as they had access to these great editions of films that either weren’t available at here in the US or where available in less than mild quality. Finally having enough of spending money on no product or spotty product, I started doing the research into Region Free Players to see if they were in fact real, or if it was something out of my reach. Seeing it was possible to get one was a thrill, but the price at first seemed a little steep, a $150 plus steep depending on how simple or how fancy you wanted your player. Talking it over with my folks, so long as I wouldn’t be double dipping too much on certain films, I got the green light to purchase my first All Region Player.

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Now for those of you who are wondering if working this type of machine is complex, it’s actually fairly simple. The company you purchase the player from, provides you with specialty instructions in how to work with Region A, B, and C, discs.  The only part that can be tricky is making sure which button to push when shutting off or starting up the player, as certain machine actions can affect the All Region Encoding, but luckily the manufacturers have a step in the All Region instructions to fix the issue.

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Now I imagine you viewers are asking why a Region Free Player is something to have. Well, to begin with, having this player will fully open your opportunities to films you might not normally have access to. For Fans of Italian Westerns, Giallos, and Euro Crime for example, many companies the UK and Germany, Germany having the market for variety and output of these particular genres, will include both the English dub and the original Italian language track. Unfortunately, the German releases often lack English translated subtitles, unless of course no English dub exists, so that may damper some peoples interest in giving those films a try, but if you’re interested in learning another language, or simply daring enough to take a chance in watching a film sans subtitles, I guarantee you’d be in for a treat.

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For Fans of British films and certain types of US Genre films, the UK offers some the best editions in transfers, extras (interviews and the such), and availability. The films of Roger Corman for example, which are only available in boxsets from companies like Shout Factory! for instance, the UK company Arrow Video gives its customers the option of individual releases of those films, often with more in the way of extras and information. In other cases, films that fans want to see on Blu Ray or DVD, but that mainstream companies insist won’t give them a profit to put money into a release, the UK, German, and Japanese companies will put the time and effort in to making a fine release. Now of course Boutique labels like The Criterion Collection, Arrow’s US Division, etc, will always put 100% into releases other places won’t, but there’s just so many films a year they can do and it does take time, so the more mainstream labels do need to pick up the pace.

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Another benefit, and one that works very well for collectors, is price for overseas releases. Sometimes the UK, German, and even Japanese editions of certain harder to find films elsewhere are actually cheaper and more affordable than the US editions. So while the player itself will certainly cost triple figures, it’s all worth it when you find you can pay less for certain editions of DVDs or Blu Rays overall. A concern here might be the fear of ordering from overseas, whether it be from websites of the companies themselves or Amazon’s UK and Euro sister sites, which is natural and not unexpected, but I think I can ease these fears. Amazon is one of those companies you either love or hate, but their partners in Europe are actually quite good in customer service, making sure lost items are replaced should they get lost in transit, and include the tax cost on the item page so you don’t feel like you’re getting blindsided by unseen costs. With the websites and shops of the many companies out in Europe, I found it best to use PayPal for all purchases. One of the nicest things about PayPal is that you don’t need to have an account to use to it, though I’ll admit having an account is beneficial as it does help to keep track of purchases. The only website I purchase from that doesn’t use PayPal is Eureka! Masters of Cinema, but they have an equally good service from World Pay that also doesn’t require an account to use.

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Another concern is typically the conversion of either Dollar to Pound or Dollar to Euro. This process is also not as difficult as people might believe it to be or have heard it to be. Currency Conversion is on the list of simple mathematics and becomes almost secondary nature like any other type of equation once learned. All you need to do to find out the cost in dollars from either pounds or euros is to look up the current currency exchange charge and multiply it by the cost of the item you want to purchase. Now most websites, including Amazon, will tell you the final cost in dollars when you list the US as the place your ordering from, which is a big help. Taxes and shipping also should be factored in, but generally it works out in the end. Another way of finding the cost of currency exchange is to Google Pound to Dollar or Euro to Dollar ratio and type in the cost of the item in the assigned converter. This I find works well too, as the currency conversion is constantly changing, sometimes day to day.

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Now I fully understand that the Region Free Player isn’t for everybody either because their genre interests don’t require getting a region free player or because they feel the price of $150 or more of a player is too much for a player. The serious film fan should consider the Region Free Player as an honest option because of the option it holds for expanding your interests and ability to see films you wouldn’t normally have access to. In terms of price, the more flash you want for your player like apps for things like Amazon Prime, YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix, and 3D, 4K UHD, and Streaming, any combinations of which would come out to $250 or $300 and more in price. Companies like 220 Electronics, MultiSystem Electronics, and Bombay Electronics offer pretty decent sales prices of sometime $120 and lower depending on the type of sale they’re doing, and Amazon offers $150 and under for the simpler, easy to use models. Whether your interests justify getting a Region Free Player is completely up to you and the choice is fully yours, I merely hope I have given any of you out there a pretty good idea of the positives, and lessened your fears of others.

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

(I also highly recommend reading their sales pitch on players)

Sony, IMHO, offers some of the best Region Free Players around

Filed under: Annoucements, Film & TV: Potpourri, Film: Special Topics, TV: Special Topics

My Sunshine Blogger Nomination Try-Out

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone.)

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Hello to all my followers, those I’m following, and all curious visitors

About 48 hours ago I saw one of my followers, The Wee Writing Lassie, had been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award, and as I reciprocated her following and decided to follow her channel and adventures, offered her my congratulations. My first look at her nomination was a quick one as I was getting ready for my daily walk, and when I was checking my blog today, was in for a surprise of my own when the sweet Lassie informed me she had put up my name for nomination as well.

I want to start off by giving an ultra BIG THANK YOU! to the Wee Writing Lassie for thinking of me and offering my name up for nomination. My goal has always been to have fun with this blog and share my love of films with others, and hoping others will give the lesser known films I write about a viewing. Being nominated for something like an award is extra icing on the cake for me.

Now to tackle the questions the sweet Lassie set down for her nominees

1. Who is your favorite author?

I’m gonna admit right now that I’ve never been able to limit myself to picking just one answer, so some of these questions may have multiple answers. My top five favorite authors are: Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Samuel Beckett, and Robert Bloch.

Poe was the first author to ever get me interested in reading, and while my favorites have always been The Raven, Annabel Lee, and The Black Cats, his style and themes have always fascinated me more.

Shakespeare was the first playwright I ever read in school, and was also the first writer to get me interested in seriously writing plays. What I especially love about him is that the majority of his plays are timeless and will always have a place in every generation.

Christie reignited my interest in Murder Mystery stories and I’ve always loved her ability to keep the viewer guessing as to who committed the crime.

Samuel Beckett introduced me to the Intellectual side of literature and play-writing my senior year of High School and I’ve always been grateful for that. He also helped me in starting off with smaller plays and working my way up to longer stuff.

Robert Bloch is primarily on the list for his short story The Opener of the Way, one of the finest constructed stories ever on Ancient Egyptian Curses. He also showed me that story writers can be script writers from his brief period on the original Star Trek series.

2. If you could rule one of these five fictional/mythical lands: the Galaxy of Star Wars, King Arthur’s Britain, Westeros, Middle-Earth or Discworld – which one would it be and why?

I want to thank Lassie again for inspiring a carefully thought out choice here. For me, I would choose King Arthur’s Britain to rule.

As to the why, there are several reasons I’ll try to be brief and to the point with each. First off, the Medieval Period of Europe has always had a big fascination with me, especially the inspiration I received on it from my Sophomore English teacher in High School; he made the whole era sound magical and exciting. The Knights in armor, Kings, Queens, Dragons, and Wizards are cool to think about having existed at one time too.

Since the Medieval Age promoted the idea of chivalry and honor, I would really try to have the period live up to those ideals and also promote brotherhood and diversity. As someone with Asperger’s Syndrome I would try to have awareness made to be kind and not harsh to people who were different than the norm. To be able to mold the world the way you’d like it to be is very inviting.

And to be able to interact with such figures as Arthur himself, Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere, Uther Pendragon, etc, would be the ultimate dream come true.

3. If you had the powers of a god, what would you do with them?

Whew, to be able to be like Zeus or Odin. If I had the powers of a god, I would use them to make positive changes to the world and in people’s lives. As the gods as we know them from folklore and literature tended to have selfish reasons in using their powers, I would try not to follow that pattern and try to do good whenever I could, though I admit the idea of making bad people pay for their crimes is tempting, I would stick to doing the right things.

4. Which famous historical figure would you have round to dinner?

Like with first question, I can’t pick just one person.

I would have Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc )as a dinner guest as I was always impressed with her stoic nature, her resolve, her honesty, and down to earth quality. She’s a religious figure that’s true, but I’m certain we’d find much to talk about.

I would have Abraham Lincoln as a dinner guest just because of all the accomplishments he made and the good man he always tried to be. He’s always been my favorite president and as someone who came from humble beginnings, he’d be someone I’d feel totally comfortable talking with.

I would have Cleopatra as a dinner guest cause you have to have at least one bad girl at the dinner table. As she was an intelligent person and could speak a dozen or more languages, I think I’d have no trouble finding something very engaging to discuss.

I would have the Pharaoh Akhenaten as a dinner guest to find out what inspired him to become the first monotheistic ruler in Egypt. He seemed like a really fascinating man and it would be interesting to engage in a discussion with him.

I have to include at least one figure from my interest in film and theater and I choose to have Shakespeare as a dinner guest. I think we’d mainly discuss his plays and themes, but I feel I could learn a lot from him.

5. You’ve been abducted by aliens, and they demand you take them to your leader- who do you take them to? 

To be honest, I doubt aliens would find me a worthy abductee as I’m a Liberal Arts Associate, but hey, anything’s possible.

I would take them to see the Dalai Lama in Tibet, as he has both wisdom and common sense. I’ve never had the chance to meet him myself, but I believe he’s the only one who could transcend the barrier between us and the aliens, and get positive communications and brotherhood going on.

6. If there was a film made about your life story, which famous actor would you want to play you? 

Hmm, that’s a tough one, and like question 1 and 4, I can’t pick just one.

I’m not the handsomest guy around, but I’d really like it if the following guys could play me: Peter Sellers, Jonah Hill, Will Sasso, Billy Gardell, and Kevin Smith. I think any of these actors could pull me off as I’m a slightly big guy, but not overweight.

7. If you were trapped in a historical time (presumably your time machine has malfunctioned) what period would you be most likely to survive in?

America and Europe of the 1960’s and 1970’s. As a lover of films, the International scene of the 60’s was the place to be for American actors/actresses, writers, and such to get their foot in the door to their career of choice when the chances of getting noticed ion Hollywood would take years. With my having Asperger’s Syndrome, I think being seen as an eccentric in 1960’s America and Europe would be the best for me.

8. What is your favorite kind of weather and why?

I would have to say a cloudy day, between 38-48 degree in temperature, it’s the perfect weather for taking walks to stay healthy.

9. Chocolate or Caramel?

I like both. Plain and simple.

10. If you could turn into any mythical creature, which one would it be?

Whew, that too is a tough one. I’ve always been a little on the uncoordinated side for a lot of  tasks and dancing, so I would say I’d like to be Pegasus, simply for his gracefulness and demeanor. And who wouldn’t enjoy the ability to fly. 😉

11. Who are you most grateful to in your life?

My Parents, my immediate Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and my two best friends Christine and Ashley, all of whom do their best in their own way to encourage me and help me reach my life goals.

Now for the people I wish to nominate for the Sunshine Blogger Award

Spinenumbered aka Make Mine Criterion!


Mikes Take on the Movies

Debbi aka I Found it at the Movies

Kevin Lyons aka The EOFFTV Reviews

Progcroc aka House of Freudstein

Zaijovan aka CatMarie at the Movies

Through the Shattered Lens

Eric Binford aka Diary of a Movie Maniac

Hilly Elkins aka 24 Femmes Per Second

B and S About Movies

Here are the 11 Questions I’ll put to them

  1. Who or what inspired you to take up your passion in life?
  2. What is your favorite language other than English or Spanish?
  3. Which of 6 lost Wonders of the Ancient World do wish was still in existence?
  4. The Blu Ray release of Abel Gance’s Napoleon was one of the Holy Grail’s of Cinema. What film that you’ve seen that has had little exposure on home media would you like to see restored to its original glory?
  5. Which European country would you most love to visit?
  6. If you could rediscover one of the famous Lost Civilizations and/or Cities, which one would it be and why?
  7. Name 5 actors and/or actresses (living or dead) that you would love to meet in person.
  8. Which pantheon of gods do you prefer: the Greek/Roman ones, The Nordic ones, or the Celtic ones?
  9. What short story or book would love to see made into a film or which deserves a better film adaptation?
  10. Which film genre that you normally don’t watch would you be willing to give a try of if a friend recommended a film from said genre?
  11. Give a shout out on your blog to someone you really admire.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to post this before or after I find out I win, but I’ll take a chance and send the post to my nominee’s not long after.

Again I want to give a BIG THANKS to The Wee Writing Lassie and hope the people of the Sunshine Blogger Awards find this as well written as so many others hopefully do.












Filed under: Annoucements, Film: Special Topics, TV: Special Topics

Two of the Original Boss Women or, a Tale of Two Mae’s

A Look at Mae West and Mae Busch

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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For a good number of people, a Boss Woman refers to women who don’t necessarily have to be pretty, but always exhibit a type of allure and appeal that draws both men and women to them in one form or another. Two women who exemplified this type of exoticism to its full effect were Mae West and Mae Busch.

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Mae West was both a tough Boss Woman and the Queen of the Pre-Code era. Initially starting out in Burlesque and Vaudeville, West became a sensation fairly quickly with her famous sexual innuendo dialogue and risque body moments, and still famous today for coining the phrase Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?  probably the first ever sexually explicit piece of dialogue ever uttered in both private and films. Before Hollywood curtailed what she wanted to do, West often portrayed a streetwise woman who spent some time on the wrong side of the tracks with a heart of gold, never denying she accepted things from the men who wanted her company, but never conning or exploiting them. I’m No Angel from 1933 perfectly fits West’s type of character, particularly in the court room sequence in which she disproves the prosecution’s  libel case against her by seamlessly getting the truth from disgruntled former suitors willing to lie about her.

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Not only was West a Boss Woman in her physical attributes, but a Boss Woman in how she spoke. As streetwise as the characters she played, West’s voice oozed with plain speaking and touches of slang, never mincing words and usually bringing a smile and chuckle from those she was speaking to and those who stopped to listen. While the public adored all these aspects about her, the people behind the infamous Hayes Code weren’t amused, and considered West to be their biggest obstacle in ridding the screens of what they considered smut and immoral. Unlike the majority of Hollywood who caved in to the Hayes Code demands, West stoutly refused, not wanting to censor her creativity in anyway and soon left Hollywood behind. Hollywood’s loss ended up being the stage’s gain as West would have a successful series of nightclub, burlesque. and stage show acts, particularly her “Beefcake” shows which featured her surrounded by muscle hunks from the world of bodybuilding. By the 60’s, the public’s opinion of sexuality had become more open and accepting, and West came back to Hollywood for occasional parts, but pretty much stuck to her work on stage.

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Mae Busch had both the pretty face and the toughness to become one of the first female foils for comics of the Silent and Early Talkie period of films. Usually in Busch’s case, she acted the antagonist to the comics, particularly Laurel and Hardy whom she spent the majority of her career in the Talkie shorts with, often playing a scheming  shrewish female looking to cause trouble for the boys or the overly exasperated housewife who finally snaps and unleashes a barrage of physical destruction and insults on her husband played most times by Hardy. Three of the rare occasions she played a kind-hearted woman were in the Laurel and Hardy double-bill Them Thar Hills Tit for Tat in 1934 and 1935 respectively, playing the bewildered wife an insanely jealous husband who finally has it out with him over that fact, and in the Lon Chaney Silent Classic The Unholy Three in 1925 playing the Silent icon’s lovely accomplice who pleads with him not to frame the man she’s fallen in love with for Chaney’s crime.

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Unlike Mae West who made a career of broadening her style, Busch was regulated to the role of Femme-Fatale, but she was able to make each she-devil interesting in their own unique way, usually causing some form of mischief and trouble for the men who cross her path. Ironically, she started her career as a glamour model, later being discovered by Mabel Normand, wife of Mack Sennett who got her her start in comedy. Sadly, her career stalled after Laurel and Hardy went into making feature films, and somehow producers were no longer interested in using the type of characters she played. When she passed away in debt and poor health, she was practically forgotten by the industry and her remains went unclaimed for years until the Laurel and Hardy Society went on a search for ashes and finally gave her the burial she deserved. Today she is remembered as one of the great comic villains of the 20’s and 30’s, preserved forever by the fans of Laurel and Hardy and others.

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While only remembered by a select group of people who enjoy the Classic days of Hollywood, there’s still enough interest in these two ladies to keep their memories and careers alive. Radically different in style and personalities, both West and Busch offered up a different kind of appeal then the standard actresses of their period that made them interesting. West was the spitfire sultry beauty who didn’t take guff from no one  and Busch mainly was the scheming vixen who may or not have been trustworthy.

( I highly recommend give anything with West or Busch a try as they brought their own individual style that added to the story and atmosphere of the various shorts, film, and stage work they did. I’m No Angel and She Done Him Wrong are the quintessential Mae West films to see and anything Mae Busch did with Laurel and Hardy is always fun, especially Chickens Come Home and Oliver the Eighth.)

All Images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

for more information


Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

The Complete Tolstoy

by Tony Nash

(A Part of the Epics)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Author’s Note: Mild discussion will be on the Soviet Government’s treatment of Director Sergey Bondarchuk upon the film’s release in this review. It would be difficult not to discuss the Propaganda surrounding the film’s approval as film-making in Russia at the time was more about spreading their “superiority” to everywhere else. Let me say in no uncertain terms this is NOT about politics, ONLY the Historic elements, so please enjoy the review for its merit on recounting the beauty and history of the film, and not other reasons please.)

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Война и мир (Voyna i Mir/War and Peace/War & Peace) (1966) PG-13 *****

Sergey Bondarchuk: Count Pierre Bezukhov

Lyudmila Saleva: Countess Natasha Rostova

Vyacheslav Tikhonov: Prince Andrei Bolkonsky

Boris Zakhava: Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov

Anatoly Klorov: Prince Nikolai Andreevich Bolkonsky

Antonina Shuranova: Princess Maria Bolkonskya

Oleg Tobakov: Nikolai Rostov

Viktor Stanitsyn: Ilya Andreyevich Rostov

Irina Skobtseva: Helene Bezukhova

Kira Golovko: Natalya Rostov

Vasily Lanovoy: Anatol Kuragin

Anastasiya Vertinskaya: Princess Lisa Bolkonskya

Vladislav Strzhelchik: Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte

Written by: Sergey Bondarchuk & Vasiliy Solovyov, based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy (as Lev Tolstoy)

Directed by: Sergey Bondarchuk

Synopsis: An Epic account of the Napoleonic Wars and the lives of two families, one of an illegitimate Count and the other a soldier Prince.

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In 1966, while Russia was still in the heavy grip of Fascism/Socialism, filmmaker Sergey Bondarchuk was able to successfully adapt Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel of the Napoleonic Wars to the big screen. While filmed as one whole piece the film, due to its near eight-hour length, was split into four parts and released in the course of a year and a half. Bondarchuk’s visionary imagination told the tale in intertwined and connected parts, going from love story to the story of war seamlessly. Two friends, Pierre and Andrei, experiences the highs and lows of life, the impact the wars started by Napoleon and others have on them, and how the constantly changing social and political climates mold and unmold not only them, but everyone around them. While at times hard to understand, Bondarchuk How the war affects the two friends and their respective families is what ties the unique imagery and stories together, making it a cohesive whole.

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While Russia’s Socialist Soviet ideals of the times had to be adhered to in regards to film, literature, and art, director Bondarchuk was able to appease the Propaganda people and to make the film so countries outside the Soviet Bloc could appreciate and understand the film. Tolstoy’s novel was more about the ever changing ideals and beliefs of the aristocracy and nobility as Russia goes through the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812, sometimes becoming more humane and losing the arrogance of their class, other times losing their humanity completely to the point  where they just go through the motions of life, losing everything. When Bondachuk and his cowriter decided to stick strictly to Tolstoy’s text and the historical sources the famed author researched when writing the book there was fear the Soviet government would turn the project down as anything regarding the Czarist age of the country was banned and criminalized. Bondarchuk may have been totally aware of this hypocrisy regarding Government activities, but his knowledge of the Russian youths praising of Tolstoy and his writings, would prevent the authorities from saying no to the film. Publicily the film was green-lit because of Bondarchuk’s assurance the film would depict a unified Russia, all classes working together in spite of corcumstaces, defending the motherland  against the forces of Napoleon.

Image result for bondarchuk's war and peace"

Image result for bondarchuk's war and peace"

Image result for bondarchuk's war and peace"

Image result for bondarchuk's war and peace"

Director Sergey Bondarchuk plays the lead of Pierre Bezukhov, a noble of illegitimate birth who only gains acceptance by his family when his dying father wishes so. His journey is the most difficult of the novel/film as he tries to maintain the status quo and dignity a man of his birth should have, but at the same time can’t help but feel the weight of change as the Russian Empire is besieged by invaders and the culture radically changing to conform to the new way of life across the ocean. Having led something of a decadent life across the ocean while in a self-imposed exile, Pierre is fully knowledgeable of the ways of Western Europe and is uncertain of how the commoners and peasants will react to the new way of life sweeping throughout the lands surrounding Russia and erasing the culture laid out by the nobles. He is joined by equally talented performers like Lyudmila Saleva, Vyacheslav Tikhonov, and Boris Zakhava who all must go through similar journeys, experiencing the highs and lows, loves and hates, and the certainty and uncertainty of the times shall bring them. Some will be able to survive and find new meaning in the new world while others will either be crushed completely by the changing tides, or survive only to live the remainder of their days as an outsider looking in, not fully separated from the world they once knew, but have nothing binding them to it. Actor Tikhonov embodies the latter of this perfectly as he knows the world he and his father knew is now in the past, but the will to live is too strong for him to deliberately try to end his own life, instead hoping joining the army will take care of such a dilemma for him.

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Like with any great film, War and Peace had its share of problems. Bondarchuk himself suffered two heart attacks midway through production, forcing halts to filming and editing as he recovered, the stress of keeping the film on time, on budget, and meeting the criteria he himself expected of it finally becoming too much. Inclement weather was a constant issue during location shooting, sometimes lasting days, but had the benefit of adding to the beauty of the lush forests and fields chosen to host the battle scenes. When the film won an Oscar at the Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, A National Board of Review and New York Critics’ Awards, and getting a British Academy nomination, what should’ve been a crowning achievement for Bondarchuk turned into a nightmare when the Soviets began intimidating him, angered the film had impressed America and Western Europe. Fearing for his life and career, Bondarchuk caved in and joined the Communist Party in 1970, which he later regretted as it harmed his international reputation and inspired false beliefs that he was the poster child for Soviet filmmaking. Like with anything else, time healed these wounds and now Bondarchuk is recognized as the artist he truly was.

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Grand scale in every sense of the term, War & Peace combined beautiful artistic imagery and storytelling to make the most faithful adaptation of any work of literature in the history of cinema. While plagued with the hazards any film shoot and under the constant surveillance of untrustworthy government people, Bondarshuk, his actors, and his crew created a masterpiece that has stood the test of time and is seen as one of the greatest films ever made.

(A highly recommend giving this all time classic a viewing, even if only once due to its massive running time of just a little over 7 hours. While its creation and release caused issues for the careers and lives of most of the people involved, the problems of the period the film was made in faded into the past and Bondarchuk’s impressive vision of what he wanted the film to be is now able to be seen in that intended life. I really can’t add too much to I’m sure others have already said about it. The Criterion Collection Blu Ray of the film is magnificent, the picture and audio quality amazing, crisp, and clear, and always including a good amount of extras including interviews with some of the surviving cast and crew.)

All images courtesy of Images and their respective images

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics