Saturday, May 10, 2008

Becky Dull

My previous post was a bit brief, and I prefer to write a bit more than that each day. I noticed after writing the post that I mentioned the actress Miriam Hopkins, and so would like to point out one of her movies: Becky Sharp.

Becky Sharp, in which Hopkins plays the title role, is based on William Makepeace Thackeray's Victorian novel Vanity Fair; in the book, the aforementioned Sharp is the main character. The story is that of Sharp, a girl of humble beginnings in Regency England (for those who don't know English history too well, that's the 1810s, when George III was too sick to carry out his royal duties and the eventual George IV served as regent), who uses the men around her to rise above her station. To be honest, the movie isn't the greatest. It borders on the melodramatic, with Hopkins often getting into Bette Davis scenery-chewing territory. Sharp is in many ways like the later Scarlett O'Hara, in that she marries for wealth and on multiple occasions has to start over from the beginning; unlike Vivien Leigh's Scarlett, however, Hopkins is dragged down by a script that just doesn't give us much opportunity to care about her.

The movie is important, however, for another reason. It's the first feature-length movie released in the then-new "three-strip" Technicolor. Before 1935, as I mentioned a few months ago, Technicolor used a more primitive process that resulted in most reds being pinkish, greens being a very dark green, and most other colors not being represented very well. But with the newer process, colors were more accurate, leading to relatively vivid blues, and even oranges and purples, too. In 1935, the process was still in its infancy, so the color wasn't as good as in The Garden of Allah, the 1936 movie which prompted my previous post on three-strip. However, the color is still surprisingly good for a new process.

The supporting cast of Becky Sharp includes Frances Dee as Becky's best friend; Nigel Bruce as Dee's brother; and such character acting stalwarts as Cedric Hardwicke, Billie Burke, and Alan Mowbray. It's available on DVD, too.

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