Thursday, May 3, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks #199: Characters making a new start

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week the theme is characters making a new start. I thought about it for a few minutes, and realized that there was an obvious way in which movie characters make a new start. With that in mind, I came up with the following three movies:

The Emigrants (1971). Life is ridiculously difficult for tenant farmers in 1840s Sweden, and with enough crop failures and other disasters, one family, led by Max von Sydow, decides they've finally had enough. So they sell off everything to make the money to book passage to America, specifically Minnesota Territory where they have a cousin. This was followed by the sequel The New Land, in which the characters, finally having reached Minnesota, settle down and try to make a living of it.

Plymouth Adventure (1952). Hollywood telling of the Pilgrims crossing the Atlantic on the Mayflower and settling in what is now Massachusetts to get away from religious persecution in Europe. The story is of course glamoured up so that they could have a lead actress like Gene Tierney play Dorothy Bradford. Spencer Tracy plays the captain of the Mayflower; Van Johnson plays John Alden; MGM got a bunch of character actors you'll recognize for the smaller roles. It also has nice color cinematography.

The Big Trail (1930). John Wayne got his first starring role in this very early Fox talkie as a trail scout leading a group of pioneers west along the Oregon Trail. Marguerite Churchill plays the love interest; El Brendel is comic relief, and Tyrone Power Sr. appears (the Tyrone Power we most remember was still a teenager at this time). The movie was filmed in a wide-screen process called Grandeur alongside the then-standard aspect ratio, and you can see some potential in the Grandeur print such as a scene of trying to get all the wagons and animals down a cliff. Unfortunately, Grandeur couldn't handle close-ups well, and with theaters having just paid a pretty penny to convert to sound, they didn't want to convert to wide-screen too, so the film lost a bundle and sent Wayne to Poverty Row for years until Stagecoach.


joel65913 said...

Love a theme within theme!

It has been so long since I've seen The Emigrants I don't have a very clear memory of it other than thinking it was a good film if heavy going at times.

I had hoped to love Plymouth Adventure more than I did. You can't ask for a better cast but since many, including Tracy, seemed miscasted and it went on for longer than it should it ended up being only passable.

The Big Trail betrays its early talkie origins and the Duke really wasn't ready for the big leagues yet. On reflection it's probably for the best that he had to go back to the cheapies for several years of seasoning.

I didn't go as far back as I usually do this week but since a new start is a common theme the pickings were plentiful.

My Fair Lady (1964)-Coarse cockney flower vendor Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) goes to Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) and his friend Col. Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White) after a chance meeting to teach her “how to talk genteel like” so she can get a job in a shop. On a bet with Pickering Higgins decides to remake Eliza and pass her off as royalty and she’s off to a fresh start! Harrison is inimitable and Audrey charming but you can’t help but yearn for Julie Andrews, who created the role on stage, and her bell like soprano. Sumptuous musical won Best Picture and is a treat for the eyes and ears.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)-Recently widowed Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) and her son Tommy leave their New Mexico town so that Alice can try her luck as a singer in California. In Arizona they find themselves short on funds and she takes a job in a small diner until they build up their resources again. But when she meets handsome rancher David (Kris Kristofferson) it looks like she might be making a new start of a different kind. Directed by Martin Scorsese this won Ellen Burstyn a Best Actress Oscar.

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)-Freshly divorced and in a purple funk from which she seems unable to extricate herself writer Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) is gifted by her newly pregnant friend Patti (Sandra Oh) with a tour of Italy that Patti can’t take. Passing through Tuscany Frances impulsively buys a somewhat distressed villa and sets about rebuilding her life with the help of the colorful locales and a new romance. Charming and well-acted with breathtaking vistas you’ll want to jump the next flight to Tuscany when it’s over.

Birgit said...

I saw Plymouth Adventure but many years ago and would like to revisit. The Big Trail was head of its time in the way it was filmed for sure. I just thought of the film Hawaii...not one of my favourites

Brittani Burnham said...

I haven't seen any of these, but I enjoyed that bit of trivia on The Big Trail. I didn't know about that.