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RATED Not Rated
STUDIO Cohen Media Group
RUNNING TIME 339 minutes
• Featurette with Vivien Leigh biographer Anne Edwards
• New Essay by Vivien Leigh biographer Kendra Bean
• Original Theatrical Trailers
What if they made movies before there was an eighties to remake movies from?
Vivien Leigh, Vivien Leigh, Vivien Leigh, and Vivien Leigh.
Four movies showing the chick from Gone With The Wind not being the chick in Gone With The Wind.
A mixed bag, with two strong movies and two weak ones, all somewhat dated. Whether they stand the test of time or not is really contingent on your love of Old Hollywood.
Fire Over England
Elizabeth I vs. the Spanish Armada. Laurence Olivier plays a buckler of swashes. He and his father are privateers for the Brits — old-fashioned ‘the Secretary will disavow all knowledge’ types. When they get into a naval battle they can’t win, they surrender to the Spanish. Larry’s father is executed, but an old friend helps him escape to hide out in Spain. After he makes his way back to Britain, he gets in good with the Queen, who sends him back as a spy to find out who in her court has sold out to Spain. Run-ins with some old friends from his fugitive days gets him in some trouble.
The hypothetical Spartacus version of this story would probably be more fun–Larry has the Queen, a handmaiden, and of course the Spanish lady who hid him all lusting after him, as well as a nasty vendetta against the Spain, but since this is from 1937, before cool things were invented, you can forgive them for not knowing how much more awesome this story would be with decapitations and boobs. As is, it still holds up well, aside from the Queen getting a dignity-draining subplot about how she’s old and men don’t wanna fuck with her anymore. Vivien Leigh plays Olivier’s main squeeze.
Storm In A Teacup
One of those movies time hit worse than a bad guy at the end of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. Rex Harrison is a newspaperman who can’t talk to animals (total bullshit) so he interviews a Scottish politician, Provost Gow. As the guy raves about what a kind-hearted soul he is, Rex overhears him dealing with a poor woman whose dog is going to be put down because she can’t afford to pay a licensing fine. Gow throws her out on her ass, so instead of giving Gow the softball treatment his editor wants, Rex writes an article about what a hypocrite he is. This is supposed to be the ‘storm in a teacup,’ as Gow is meant to be a generally good-natured, bit-full-of-himself sort who shouldn’t be questioned overmuch. But when his position is all about what a compassionate sort he is, and that’s bullshit, it is a valid news story; even more so when he begins prosecuting the poor woman and Rex in retaliation for being besmirched. By saying Rex is just as bad for calling Gow out, the film is essentially saying ‘don’t question authority,’ a bullshit moral.
Vivien Leigh plays the politician’s daughter, Victoria. It’s probably because of her romance with Rex that the film plays fast and loose with Gow’s comeuppance, since Rex can’t hit him too hard and get with his daughter, leaving the film with an unsatisfactory ending that plays like a soft endowment of authoritarianism.
Conrad Veidt plays a German spy romancing Vivien Leigh’s French spy during WW1. Interesting from a historical perspective, as this was made in 1937, and the German is treated as just a guy doing his job, same as Leigh, and not a proto-Nazi. Some smart writing and suspense, if you can get past the era’s insistence on our leads being in love after meeting once or twice (though that does happen in today’s films as well). More love stories should end in a submarine fight.
It is odd to watch a movie where you’ve been trained to want to punch the romantic lead in the face, though (hasn’t happened since Imagine Me And You). With his monocle and German accent, ol’ Veidt couldn’t be more of a Captain America villain if he was bitch-slapping Sebastian Stan.
St. Martin’s Lane
It’s a movie about buskers, which is just as annoying as it sounds. Stupid, hateful, annoying people act stupid and hateful, which is annoying, and we’re entertained because they’re in love with each other, or not in love with each other, or successful, or not successful. Charles Laughton is a street performer who recites Shakespearean monologues, making everyone appreciate mimes a lot more. He and two friends form a muscial group with tramp singer Vivien Leigh, but since she’s the only one who’s really talented, her career moves forward, despite Laughton demanding she marry him and physically bullying her around trying to make her listen to him. She, in turn, becomes a haughty asshole. Mild points for the ending, where Leigh decides to stay rich and famous while Laughton keeps being the worst thing to happen to Shakespeare since the Sons of Anarchy finale. A note of realism there.
All I ask of a movie, is that if it features a guy in blackface, to try to be less hateful than that guy. Yet I think Amos (or Andy) might come off best at the end of the day.
Snappy case. A nice booklet inside which includes an overview of the movies and some essays about Leigh. Apparently we have more than one Vivien Leigh biographer, so don’t let the older generations get away with complaining about selfies. Some old-school trailers: less BWAAHM, more exclamation points.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars