Saturday, July 2, 2011

Home Before Dark questions

I've had a few things about Home Before Dark that have been bothering me since I saw it on TCM Tuesday night as part of the Star of the Month salute to Jean Simmons. (It's available on DVD, as part of the Warner Archive Collection.) First, the movie was released in 1958, at a time when everything was being made in one widescreen format or another. TCM showed this in full-screen, which naturally leads one to think this was panned and scanned. Interestingly, though, IMDb doesn't list any aspect ratio for the movie. I also looked in the opening credits for anything like the "Cinemascope lenses provided by Bausch & Lomb" that shows up in Cinemascope movies; nothing about any other wide-screen format either.

What on earth was Rhonda Fleming doing in blond hair and that ghastly hairdo? She was a redhead, and a particularly beautiful one at that, as you can see in the movie Inferno which I recommended a few years back but is sadly not on DVD. I'd guess the only good reason she was made a blonde is that in one key sequence, Jean Simmons gets herself made up to look like Fleming, including having her hair dyed platinum blond. This is reminiscent of a scene in Vertigo where James Stewart has Kim Novak's hair dyed blond so that she'll look more like Kim Novak. Vertigo was released about six months before Home Before Dark, but I'd bet the latter movie was already in production at the time of Vertigo's release.

Robert Osborne made a comment after the movie about it being filmed on location during the middle of winter. The winter shooting is obvious, even if it screws up the continuity of the movie. At the beginning of the movie, there's snow on the ground, and all the leaves are off the trees, but it looks like it rains in the rear-projection shots of Dan O'Herlihy taking Simmons home from the hospital. It's not established at the beginning of the movie when this scene is set, but by the end of the movie, there's a New Year's Eve party, and it's mentioned that it's been three months since Simmons got out of hospital. That would put the beginning of the movie around late September. Yes, I'm a nerd about these things.

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