About Judy

I'm a 55-year-old film fan from Suffolk in England. My other passions include classic literature and costume dramas.

Under Capricorn (Alfred Hitchcock, 1949)

Under Capricorn poster

This is my contribution to the Ingrid Bergman blogathon being organised by Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema. Please visit to read the other postings.

Ingrid Bergman starred in three Hitchcock films, all made during the 1940s. The first two, Spellbound (1945) and Notorious (1946), are both  recognised as classics, but the third, Under Capricorn (1949) has fallen under the radar. It seems to have disappointed many Hitchcock fans, partly because it was wrongly marketed as a thriller. There are some especially misleading posters which seem to have been issued for a 1960s rerelease, with a headline screaming “Murder will out!” and black-and-white photos arranged to make the film look like a close relation of Psycho.  

In fact, the film is a slow-burning romantic period drama set in 1830s Australia, and filmed in gorgeous Technicolor by the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Sadly, it wasn’t actually filmed in Australia, but mainly made in London, so there are no glimpses of the wildlife which is repeatedly mentioned, and it’s hard to believe in the characters’ complaints of heat! Bergman gives a brilliant, intense performance in the lead role as alcoholic Lady Henrietta Flusky, with Joseph Cotten and Michael Wilding as the two men caught up with her in a damaging love triangle.

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Mata Hari (George Fitzmaurice, 1931)

Mata Hari Greta Garbo Lionel Barrymore

Greta Garbo and Lionel Barrymore

This is my very belated contribution to the Barrymore Trilogy blogathon – many apologies for being so late (I forgot the blogathon’s date), but please do visit Crystal’s blog, In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, to read the other entries. 

This smash hit romantic melodrama is dominated by Greta Garbo, playing the woman whose name has become a byword for seductive spying. However, Lionel Barrymore also gives a powerful performance as a General who falls under her spell. Although Ramon Novarro is ostensibly the male lead, Barrymore has a more interesting role and manages to steal a large number of scenes.

The film is only loosely based on the life of the real Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer living in Paris who was executed for spying for the Germans in the First World War. A recent biographer argues that she wasn’t a spy at all and says there was little evidence against her. Be that as it may, Mata was around 40 during the war and her career as a dancer was on the wane. By contrast, Garbo was only 26 when she made the film and at the height of her beauty – so the character doesn’t quite have the desperation which Mata would have had in real life. Another difference is that the real Mata was Eurasian, but fortunately, although Garbo is seen performing a sexy Oriental dance, the studio didn’t try to alter her appearance.

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The Damned Don’t Cry (1950)

The Damned Don't Cry poster

This is my contribution to the Joan Crawford Blogathon, hosted by Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Please do visit and read the other postings, covering a great range of films.

In her mid-40s when The Damned Don’t Cry was made, Joan Crawford was just a little too old for the part of a gangster’s moll. Yet that’s just what makes this movie so compelling, as she pours herself one more time into the kind of working girl role she had made her own earlier in her career. Although the film is often described as a noir, in some ways it is a successor of pre-Codes like Baby Face. Just like Barbara Stanwyck’s character in that film, Crawford here has nothing but her looks and her wits, and uses them to climb from one man to another, taking revenge on a world which has wronged her.

At the start of the film, a gangster’s body is thrown out of a car. Police start to search for a missing socialite linked with the dead man, Lorna Hansen Forbes, only to discover that her name and her whole lifestyle appear to be fake. Where did she come from? As they try to find out, Lorna (Crawford) turns up at the poor shack where her parents live. Her mother greets her as “Ethel”, but her father coldly ignores her.

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Hold Back the Dawn (Mitchell Leisen, 1941)

Charles Boyer, Paulette Goddard and Olivia de Havilland in Hold Back the Dawn

Charles Boyer, Paulette Goddard and Olivia de Havilland

Happy 100th birthday, Olivia de Havilland! This is my contribution to her centenary blogathon, being organised by The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Please visit and read the other entries, which cover a wide range of Olivia de Havilland’s films.

With a fine cast headed by Olivia de Havilland and Charles Boyer, a great director in Mitchell Leisen and a sharp script by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, it’s a mystery that bitter-sweet comedy romance Hold Back the Dawn isn’t better known. The story is sadly only too topical, centring on a group of refugees who have fled from war and are trying to cross a border. Let’s hope the celebrations for de Havilland’s centenary lead to this fine film getting more attention. At my time of writing, it’s only available on a Spanish DVD in region 2 – I bought an import copy and can confirm that the picture quality is fine. However, it will be shown on TCM in the US at 1.45am ET on July 22, 2016, and again at 9.45pm on August 29.

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Broadway Bill and Riding High (Frank Capra, 1934 and 1950)

broadway billI’m still on the blogathon trail! This is my contribution to the Animals in Film Blogathon, which is being hosted by Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Please do go along and look at the other postings.

Horse-racing tale Broadway Bill was clearly a story which meant a lot to Frank Capra. After being dissatisfied with the film first time around, he remade it 16 years on as Riding High. The original film was then thought to be lost for many years, before resurfacing in the 1990s. I thought it would be fun to compare the two for the blogathon, as I’ve already done with another Capra film that he remade, Lady for a Day and Pocketful of Miracles. However, I hadn’t quite realised just how similar the two versions of Broadway Bill would be!

Broadway Bill is available on DVD in both region 1 and the UK/region 2. The print on the region 2 DVD I watched is grainy and doesn’t look very good, although it’s said to be restored. Riding High is available from Warner Archive in region 1 and there is also a Spanish region 2 DVD, but I watched it via streaming at Amazon.co.uk, where the picture and sound quality were good.

The story, scripted by Robert Riskin, centres on a charming drifter, Dan Brooks (Warner Baxter). He has married an heiress and uneasily settled down in her small home town, Higginsville, where every business in sight is owned by her dad, overbearing banker J.L. Higgins (Walter Connolly). Shades of Pottersville in It’s a Wonderful Life – though Higgins doesn’t quite have Potter’s evil glee!

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Our Town (Sam Wood, 1940)

Our Town 7This is my contribution to the Golden Boy Blogathon hosted by Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema. Please visit and read the other postings, about a wide range of films starring William Holden.

One of William Holden’s earliest roles was as George Gibbs in a poignant screen adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play about American small-town life, Our Town. This is a film well worth seeing, with a good director, Sam Wood, and a cast including Martha Scott and Frank Craven, who had starred in the original Broadway production, as well as  character actors such as Thomas Mitchell, Beulah Bondi and Guy Kibbee. It also has a  stirring and atmospheric score by Aaron Copland. However, there is a big but!

Before getting into discussion of the film itself, I’d urge anybody setting out to watch it to learn from my mistake and be very careful about the print you choose. Unfortunately, this is one of those movies which has fallen out of copyright and into one of the lowest circles of public domain hell. There are dodgy copies around where the picture is grey and shaky and the surface noise is so loud you can hardly hear the dialogue or music. Worse still, some of these duped copies have huge chunks of the film missing. After initially starting to watch a truly dire copy, I belatedly realised it had a running time of only 75 minutes instead of 90 and gave up. Fortunately, I then found a complete version in reasonable condition, free to watch, at The Video Cellar YouTube channel, but I’d be interested to hear if anyone has seen a good DVD or Blu-ray of the film.

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The End of the Affair (Edward Dmytryk, 1955)

This is my contribution to the Beyond the Cover blogathon, hosted by Liz of Now, Voyaging and Kristina of Speakeasy, which is focusing on film adaptations of novels. Please visit and read the other entries.

the end of the affair 6Graham Greene’s short novel The End of the Affair is a tale of love, jealousy,  pain and Catholic guilt, set against the background of the London Blitz. I’ve read the book many times over the years, since first falling in love with it as a teenager, and have never failed to be gripped by Greene’s haunting prose – but for some reason I’d never seen a film adaptation until now. I decided to watch the British 1955 film starring Van Johnson, Deborah Kerr and Peter Cushing, and found it captures quite a lot of the novel’s disturbing power, even though the censors of the day watered down some elements. Greene later described it in a 1984 Guardian film lecture, included in The Graham Greene Film Reader, as the “least unsatisfactory” adaptation of one of his religious novels.

The film is available on DVD from Columbia Classics in both region 1 and region 2/UK, with different covers. The UK sleeve captures the dark and brooding atmosphere of the film far better than the sweet colour photo on the US sleeve. The UK disc is a barebones presentation, but does have a good quality print. There is also a region 1 double DVD which combines this film with the 1999 remake starring Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore. I’m hoping to see and compare that version soon. The movie can also be streamed via Amazon in the US.

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