My Week with Marilyn/The Prince and the Showgirl

Films about classic cinema are proving very popular at the moment. There’s The Artist, a tribute to silent cinema – and My Week with Marilyn, starring Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne and Kenneth Branagh, which goes behind the scenes of the making of The Prince and the Showgirl in 1957. After watching this alternately amusing and bitter-sweet slice of nostalgia, I saw the earlier film (yes, I know it would have made more sense to do this the other way round!), and was struck not only by how well the new movie captures its mood at times, but also, to my surprise, by the similarities in theme between the two.

Each of these two movies is a period piece – with the new film being directed by Simon Curtis, who also helmed the BBC’s costume drama Cranford. (He brings the same loving attention to detail to this film as he did in that mini-series, both in re-creating the 1950s and in showing the 1950s’ version of 1911 in the restaged movie scenes.) Each is set against the background of a major event – a royal wedding in one, the making of a great film in the other.  Also, each film is about a couple temporarily thrown together by circumstances, although they are from different worlds. And each shows a younger person who isn’t famous seduced by the fame and glamour surrounding an older, damaged stranger, but having to come back down to earth and return to real life at the end.

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We Were Strangers (1949)

This is a contribution to the John Huston blogathon currently running at Adam Zanzie’s Icebox Movies site. 

John Garfield and Jennifer Jones

 

John Huston’s 1949 film We Were Strangers, set in the revolutionary Cuba of 1933 and starring Jennifer Jones and John Garfield, has grown on me with repeated viewing. First time round I thought it was pretty good – now I’m thinking it is a lesser-known Huston masterpiece. It came in a strong period for him, just after Key Largo and The Treasure of Sierra Madre, and has a lot in common with these, like them focusing on a small group of people forced together in an isolated and claustrophobic setting with turbulent events going on around them. 

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