Category: cinema experiences

Field Notes from the 2015 TCM Film Festival

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Field Notes from the 2015 TCM Film Festival

Back at the end of March, thousands of film nerds from around the US (and as far afield as Canada, Sweden, Norway and Scotland) descended upon Hollywood Blvd for the 6th annual TCM Classic Film Festival. I was lucky enough to be one of those nerds, making the pilgrimage to the film capital of America from the exotic and far away land of Sacramento.

I arrived on the afternoon of Wednesday the 25th and was immediately reminded of the one thing I hate about LA – the traffic. Don’t get me wrong, I love LA for many reasons but the constant gridlock on the 405 and the 5 is not one of them. What is usually about a 30-40 minute drive from LAX to West Hollywood without traffic took me a good two hours. There’s always the one mile-long stretch on the 405 just as you come to the 10 junction at Culver City where you end up crawling bumper to bumper. I blame the lack of sufficient public transportation in this glorious but sprawling city.

As a first-timer at the TCM Film Fest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Were the regulars nice? Were the fans crazy? How many films could I realistically see in one day? What about food? I forgot my phone charger – does anyone have a cable I can borrow? No, it’s an iPhone 4S, I’m too lazy to upgrade at the moment. It turns out the answers were yes, yes but in a good way, four, In n Out Burger, and yes because the people manning the ticket desk at the Chinese Theater were all sorts of helpful (thanks, longtime V&L supporter Sari Navarro!).

I saw 11 films in total plus attended two talks at Club TCM. Here’s the run down:

The Red Carpet

The opening night film this year was the 50th anniversary restoration of The Sound of Music. Unfortunately, only special guests and top-tier festival passholders were admitted into this screening. But part of me really wanted to see Julie Andrews in person, so I decided to brave the bleachers with fellow bloggers Jessica Pickens and Angela Pettys. It was about 85 degrees outside and pretty sweaty and uncomfortable. But Julie and Christopher Plummer were worth it, right? Back-of-knee sweat be damned! And the good people of TCM handed out free water bottles.

TCM Film Festival Red Carpet

I’m sorry to say the red carpet bleacher experience was a let-down. Most of it was spent greeting passholder fans as they walked down to enter the cinema. On the plus side, we did get to see Shirley Jones (radiant in a turquoise pant suit), Norman Lloyd (100 years old and still kicking ass and taking names), Keith Carradine (remember when he played Doc Holiday on season 1 of Deadwood? I do! He seems like a nice guy), Diane Baker (gorgeous), and Robert Morse (so sweet and touched that people remember him). And then the big moment arrived: Christopher and Julie were in the house! They stopped to chat with the press and were then quickly whisked past the bleachers while bodyguard/assistant people shielded them with giant black umbrellas. Neither of them stopped to acknowledge us cheering fans in the bleachers. It was really disappointing.

Christopher Plummer at the TCM Film FestivalChristopher Plummer

Julie Andrews TCM Film FestivalJulie Andrews’ chin

For future reference, I’d recommend the red carpet event only if you’ve got a press pass to either interview the stars or attend the film. Well, at least I can say I caught a glimpse of Julie Andrews’ chin!

Norman Lloyd and Ben Mankiewicz TCM Film FestivalNorman Lloyd and TCM’s Ben Mankeiwicz

Leonard Maltin TCM Film FestivalLeonard Maltin

Shirley Jones at the 2015 TCM Film FestivalShirley Jones

Keith CarradineKeith Carradine

Diane Baker TCM Film FestivalDiane Baker

The Films

My personal opening night film was Queen Christina. This was a first for me – my goal was to check out films I’d never seen before. It was followed by My Man Godfrey, which is one of my all-time favorites. Carole Lombard films on the big screen are too few and far between, so it was a real treat with a great audience and by far the better of the two films that evening. Unlike Garbo and John Gilbert in Queen Christina, the performances in and the overall pacing of Gregory La Cava’s 1936 screwball comedy still hold up pretty well today.

Friday March 27 was the first full day of the festival. The theme this year was “History according to Hollywood.” There are countless films that fit under this broad umbrella but TCM had the challenging task of curating a selection that spanned about 80 years of filmmaking and appealed to a broad audience. There were many people who complained online about some of the films that were chosen; we tend to adhere to the idea that the 1960s was the cut-off in terms of “old Hollywood” and that anything made beyond 1967 (or even earlier for some people) doesn’t belong at a festival like this. But how do we even define “classic”? Because there were many films made during the studio era that haven’t endured. Just because it’s old, does that automatically make it a classic film? Maybe. Maybe not. The idea of a classic film is pretty subjective. I mean, Raiders of the Lost Arc is a classic in my book (as are the other Indiana Jones films – especially Temple of Doom. Haters to the left! – except that new one which I didn’t care for at all). I saw it in a packed screening at the El Capitan and I loved it!

That said, I ended up veering from my original schedule and saw some films I hadn’t planned on seeing. And it was great! The only thing I’m sad to have missed was Anthony Mann’s little-known 1949 film Reign of Terror. I fully planned on going, but being a first-timer at this festival, I completely underestimated the tastes of my fellow festival-goers. Having met up with Cindy De La Hoz, my editor at Running Press, for a coffee beforehand,  I figured getting there 40 minutes beforehand would be plenty of time. I was wrong. I was so wrong. As I walked down the line and saw that many of my blogging friends had been queueing for a while, I had the sinking realization that I wasn’t going to get in. And I wasn’t the only one. It ended up being such a popular film that they screened it again on Sunday. Alas, I missed that one, too. Cindy and I ended up watching The Purple Rose of Cairo, which was a suitable consolation prize. It’s my favorite Woody Allen film and it fit the History According to Hollywood theme to a “T”.

Here are the other films I saw during the festival:

Christine Ebersole at the TCM Film FestivalBroadway star Christine Ebersole introducing 42nd Street

+ Naughty, gaudy, bawdy, sporty 42nd Street – my friend Amy drove up from Orange County to watch this with me! She used to take dance lessons and so knew the songs but had never seen the film (neither had I). I thought it was a blast. Who doesn’t like a good Busby Berkely number? Or a young Dick Powell? Or toe-tapping dance numbers? Would watch again.

+ Gunga Din – another first for me. I really enjoyed the film itself but the introduction by Craig Barron and Ben Burtt of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences made it even better. They gave a really informative presentation about the making of the film, including screening color home video footage of Joan FOntaine, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Victor Mature and Cary Grant on the set, and traveling to northern California to scout out the locations used in the film. They did all of this while wearing pith hats. While parts of the film were rather uncomfortable to watch (most notably the title character being played by white actor Sam Jaffe in brown face), Barron and Burtt reminded us that Gunga Din, like many other films of the era, was a product of its time, and that to really enjoy it, we might have to remove our “PC hats” for a couple of hours. Good advice, guys.

+ An Affair to Remember – This is one of those iconic love stories that sucks you in and at the same time makes you want to smack the characters.. Aren’t you asking why Terry isn’t getting up from the couch and greeting you, Nicky? And Terry, why didn’t you contact Nicky after the accident and tell him you didn’t run out on him at your Empire State Building wedding?! What’s wrong with you two? “If you can paint, I can walk!” *Melts into a puddle of tears in the audience*

+ Apollo 13 – We owned this on VHS when I was a kid and it’s far from my favorite film so I wasn’t planning to see it at the festival. But my other plan ran afoul and my friend Jeremy was in line, so I decided to join him and boy, am I glad I did! To introduce the film, everyone’s favorite Jeopardy! host interviewed astronaut Jim Lovell live onstage right there in the Chinese Theater. Lovell, for those of you who have never seen Apollo 13 or don’t care about space, was played by Tom Hanks in the movie. It was one of the most interesting and gripping interviews I’ve ever witnessed. I was literally on the edge of my seat as he talked about being on that spaceship when it blew up and having to steer his co-astronauts back to earth. The infinite concept of space in and of itself is one I have a hard time wrapping my brain around. So you can imagine how blown my mind was when Lovell described having a two degree window in which to steer the little module they were in. If they went too far to one side, they’d burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Too far to the other side and they’d miss Earth completely and float out into the abyss forever. I can’t imagine anything more terrifying. He was so calm about reliving that experience and I was sitting there going:

Bill Paxton also turned up.

The Grim Game – Harry Houdini + previously considered lost silent film + live orchestra accompaniment by the TCM Players = total geek moment for Kendra

+ Out of Sight – Sadly, this screening wasn’t very full. I’m assuming that’s because Out of Sight was made in 1998 and stars George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez (those last two things being why I’d never bothered to watch it before). But it turned out to be one of the best films I saw at the entire festival. It was introduced by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, who claims it’s one of his favorite guilty pleasure films (after watching it, I’d like to say “Come on, Ben. Nothing to feel guilty about here!”), and editor Anne V. Coates – my favorite celebrity at the festival (more on that in a bit). Coates chose this film along with Lawrence of Arabia to represent her work at the festival and after watching it, it’s easy to see why. Coates is a brilliant editor and is especially known for editing sex scenes. Out of Sight may be one of the hottest films I’ve ever seen, and one even gets naked. It was a masterclass in creating sexual tension without resorting to nudity and exhibitionism. In addition to enjoying Steven Soderbergh’s humorous crime drama as a whole, Out of Sight taught me two things: George Clooney was never better looking and Jennifer Lopez is actually a really good actress, something many of us tend to forget in lieu of her pop career and string of subsequent mediocre film choices.

+ Earthquake – Ava Gardner? Charleton Heston? Monical Lewis? Awful 1970s disaster film? Sign me up! I joined Amy, Lara and Kristen for this poolside screening at the Hollywood Roosevelt. There was alcohol and a veggie platter. We laughed. A lot. There was a very long-winded intro by Illeana Douglas and Richard Roundtree. My favorite part was when Roundtree spoke about how wonderful it was to work with the great David Niven and how funny he was. My ears perked up. David Niven’s in this film? It’s going to be brilliant. Well, it turns out that David Niven actually isn’t in the film. Rather, it’s some guy called Kip Niven who probably isn’t even related to David. But you know what? I’m glad Mr Roundtree has memories of working with David Niven, because that’s how I’d want it to be too, even if that memory was false. Also, Ava Gardner’s performance in this film was the greatest! So camp and fun! She apparently did her own stunts so we were hoping she’d ride away into the sunset on Richard Roundtree’s motorcycle. Alas.

The Special Events

Carrie Beauchamp interviewing editor Anne V. Coates

One of the great things about the TCM Film Festival is that there’s always something going on. Miss a screening? Head to Club TCM at the Roosevelt for special talks and activities. I attended two of these. The first was a conversation with editor Anne Coates, who I mentioned above as being my favorite celebrity at the festival. I went because I wanted to learn about her association with David Lean, but I walked away having learned a lot more about this fascinating woman.

Coates fell in love with the movies when she saw Wuthering Heights in England and fell in love with Laurence Olivie. She began her career working as a director of religious films in the 1940s for her uncle, one J. Arthur Rank (producer of Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet, several Powell and Pressburger films, and many other British classics). It was Rank who suggested she should become an editor and she got to assist on the Powell and Pressburger masterpiece The Red Shoes. It was fascinating to hear her talk about her role in shaping an actor’s performance.  If an actor gave a good performance, her work was relatively easy. If it was a terrible performance, she had her work cut out for her, trying to turn something terrible into something worth watching. Much to our disappointment (but much to her credit), she didn’t name names. However she did speak of one anonymous actress who had most of her dialogue cut out of the finished film because the delivery was so awful. Everyone praised the final performance, but it was Coates who deserved the accolades.

Coates is in her 80s now and is semi-retired. Throughout her busy career she’s edited choice films like To Paris with Love (1956), Becket (1964), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Elephant Man (1980), Chaplin (1992), In the Line of Fire (1993), Unfaithful (2002). Her most recent film was Fifty Shades of Grey (2014).

Jane Withers at the TCM Film Festival

“Good gravy!” Child star Jane Withers talking about her home movies at Club TCM.

The second special event I attended at Club TCM was “Hollywood Home Movies,” which is exactly what it sounds like: Jane Withers, Bob Koster and Neile Adams McQueen joined AMPAS’ Randy Haberkamp and Lynne Kirste for an afternoon of home videos. It was so much fun and such a treat to see color footage of famous names like Freddie Bartholomew, Elsa Lanchester, Charles Laughton, Jane Withers, Steve McQueen and others going about their normal lives – lives that included pool parties, motorcycle riding, luncheons, tennis matches and other activities. Haberkamp and Kirste also treated us to rare footage of Gary Cooper behind the scenes on one of his lost silent films. Getting an inside perspective into this footage really brought it to life. Now if only AMPAS would release that color footage from Wuthering Heights!

The Friends

The festival itself was enough to write home about but what really took it to the next level for me was meeting so many fellow film bloggers and people I’d been talking to on social media for ages. There was a real sense of camaraderie – of people being interested in each other’s work and what they’re doing in the classic film community, whether it’s reporting for top publications, writing books, archiving, or simply blogging as a hobby. I felt I gained some real friends, people I’d actually hang out with in real life. Everyone, bloggers or not, came together to celebrate a mutual love of movies, and it was beautiful. So cheers to all of you that I met. You’re all extraordinary in your own ways. And cheers to TCM for creating this wonderful event where we could geek out to our hearts’ content without embarrassment or judgement. I’m moving back to London in the fall, so I might not be able to go again next year, but I’m so grateful for the opportunity to experience the TCM Film Festival in all its glory at least this once.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 11.31.39 PMWith Amy, who I’ve known since 6th grade!

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 11.31.59 PMWith Jill from The Black Maria!

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 11.32.08 PMWith Ben Mankiewicz!

Finally, I’d like to give a special shoutout to the following people whom I had the pleasure to meet and whose blogs you should definitely seek out: Aurora (Once Upon a Screen), Jill, Carley and Wade (The Black Maria), Diana (Everywhere, basically), Marya (Cinema Fanatic), Kellee (Outspoken and Freckled), Raquel (Out of the Past), Kristen L. (Journeys in Classic Film), Christy (Sue Sue Applegate), Kristen S. (Sales on Film), Kim (I See a Dark Theater), Lara (Backlots), Jessica (Comet Over Hollywood), Angela (Hollywood Revue), Trevor (A Modern Musketeer), Joel (Joel’s Classic Film Passion), Iba (I Luv Cinema), Laura (Lauras Misc. Musings), Casey (Noir Girl), Kendahl (A Classic Movie Blog).

All photographs in this post © Kendra Bean

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Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait

On the road to the TCM Film Festival

cinema experiences events

On the road to the TCM Film Festival

Around this time a couple of years ago, I sat in the flat I shared with my boyfriend and cat in London and wrote a jealous and bitter post about how I wasn’t going to the TCM Film Festival like everyone else in blog land but it was okay because I had other things to do, so there! Whatever!

Despite living in southern California when Turner Classic movies launched their now-annual film festival in Hollywood, I’ve never been before. I haven’t mentioned this here, but I’ve been back in California for a year now (visa issues; but I’m going back to London in the fall for another Master’s degree – professional student for life! – and to resume my life with boyfriend and kitty). So this year I was determined to go to the festival I’d heard so much about…if I could get a media credential. TCM, smartly in tune with how much their fans drive their success as a network, has reportedly been pretty open to allowing film bloggers to cover the festival for their respective sites. I was encouraged by a friend to apply to be one of these reporters, so I did and I guess they liked my blogging skillz to pay the billz (or something) because I’m heading down to LA next week to cover the festival for! Thanks, TCM!

This year’s theme: “History according to Hollywood.” Unfortunately, they’re only screening one Vivien Leigh and/or Laurence Olivier film this year – Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca. But since I’ve already seen that film on the big screen and have written about it previously, I’ve decided to forego it in favor of curating a personal schedule of films that I mostly haven’t seen (or haven’t seen on the big screen, anyway) before.

Here’s my tentative schedule. I didn’t think it would be this hard to choose! In fact I posted this on Facebook about 10 minutes ago and have already changed my mind about some films.

  • Queen Christina
  • My Man Godfrey 
  • The Dawn of Technicolor
  • I had at first considered seeing Lenny or Lawrence of Arabia but now I think I might skip both in favor of Reign of Terror, a film about Robespierre and the French Revolution! (although I should probably see Lawrence of Arabia because I do love me some David Lean and have never actually made it to the end of this film)
  • Limelight
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark 
  • Roman Holiday
  • Boom! (this one’s for you, Andy Budgell!)
  • 42nd Street
  • The Miracle Worker (or the discussion with David Lean’s editor Anne V. Coates)
  • Viva Zapata!
  • Adam’s Rib (or Return of the Dream Machine)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Gunga Din
  • Judgement at Nuremberg
  • The Grim Game (a surviving Harry Houdini film with live musical accompaniment! JOY!)

This year’s festival takes place from March 26-29. I’m very excited to finally meet a lot of the bloggers I’ve had the fortune of “knowing” on social media over the past few years, as well as seeing some old friends!

Be sure to subscribe to updates in order to be notified when new posts are made here on the blog. I’ll also be live Tweeting/Facebooking/Instagraming so you can be part of the experience, too! Join me on this  adventure where I talk about films, old movie stars, and what happens when you get a ton of rabid classic film fans in a one mile radius. It should be interesting!

And if you’re going to be at the festival, please let me know because I’d love to meet you! Also, if you have a copy of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait on hand, I’d be happy to sign it for you.

See you next week in LA, everyone!

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Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait

cinema experiences laurence olivier

Cinema Experiences: Marathon Man

Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier on the set of Marathon Man

“Is it safe?” Mary Ellen Mark captures Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier in a playful moment before the tense final scene on the set of John Schlesinger’s Marathon Man

Coinciding with renewed public interest in the Holocaust following the Cold War, and the race to bring WWII criminals to justice, 1970s Hollywood saw the reemergence of  the Nazi as the ultimate screen villain. Suddenly, many of moviedom’s pre-war male heartthrobs were donning the evil, masochistic mask of Hitler’s henchmen. Famous examples include Dirk Bogarde in The Night Porter (1974), Gregory Peck as real-life Joseph Mengele in The Boys from Brazil (1978) and, perhaps most famously, Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man (1976). I had the pleasure of viewing this last film at Screen on the Green in Angel, Islington a couple weekends ago as part of their Saturday late night flashback series.

Screen on the Green is part of an increasingly rare and dying breed of cinemas that still screen films in 35mm, and this is what my friend Anthony and I were treated to (along with wine, brownies and popcorn!) when we went to see John Schlesinger’s political thriller.

Babe Levy (Dustin Hoffman) is a Ph.D. student and marathon trainee who unwillingly becomes entangled in a complicated and violent web of government secrecy. The situation is triggered by a car accident in New York City that kills the brother of infamous Auschwitz dentist Christian Szell (Olivier), known to his Jewish victims as “The White Angel”. Szell’s brother had in his possession a Band-Aid box full of diamonds, and his death prompts Szell to leave South America, where he’d fled after the war, to safeguard the rest of his assets in New York.

Babe becomes involved with a secretive German student called Elsa (Marthe Keller) who seems to spell trouble from the get-go. They’re chased down and mugged by suspicious-looking goons in Central Park. Not long after, Babe’s brother Doc (Roy Scheider) is murdered by Szell, whose weapon of choice for literally cutting down anyone who he feels is a threat to his fortune is a metal fist-cuff containing a long switch blade. It turns out Doc was a CIA operative and Babe begins to realize that his brother was simultaneously hunting and helping Szell. Also, Elsa is in cahoots with the Nazis.

It gets worse. Much worse.

Doc’s death leads Szell and the other members of Doc’s special ops division to Babe, who they’re convinced is in on the diamond-smuggling plot. Szell wants to know whether his diamonds are “safe,” but instead of being diplomatic, Szell goes straight for what he did best: torture by dentistry. Babe knows nothing of Szell’s diamonds, but gets a good tooth-drilling anyway. He then outwits and outruns Szell’s men for a good couple of hours (hence the film’s title) before he comes face to face with his torturer; this time getting the upper hand.

Throughout his life, Laurence Olivier played a number of less-than-savoury characters, but Christian Szell remains one of the worst on the spectrum of good and evil. AFI included him on their list of 50 greatest movie villains in American cinema. Despite being seriously ill while making the film, Olivier’s performance won him a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and an Oscar nomination for the same category. Both well-deserved, considering it was by far one of the best screen performances he gave in the later part of his career. Hoffman cherished his experience working with Olivier, and still tells with fondness the famous anecdote about not sleeping for days in order to appear genuinely exhausted a la Lee Strasberg’s Method. When encountered by Olivier, the older thespian suggested he “try acting”.

I’d watched this film a couple times before on DVD and TV, but the 35mm print trumped any previous viewings by a long shot. It was as if the entire film had run through an orange-brown filter and it just screamed “1970s!” I love how cleaned-up digital prints are able to make old films seem as if they were made yesterday. But I think many film fans would agree that there’s something special about watching a film as it was originally meant to be seen.

Marathon Man is a bit long in running time, but definitely worth a watch for killer performances by Olivier (see what I did there?) and Hoffman. Beware, you may never want to step foot in the dentist’s office again.

Grade: A

cinema experiences gone with the wind guest post

{Guest Post} Gone with the Wind at the Egyptian Theatre

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind

I always love reading about other people’s cinematic classic film viewing experiences. Some films were simply meant to be seen in the cinema, as is the case with Gone with the Wind. Last weekend, GWTW was screened at the magnificent Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. This venue, home to the American Cinematheque, is a haven for film nerds in the movie capital and has a special place in my heart. So, when I learned a couple of my friends were meeting up and going to the screening, I immediately invited one of them to write about her experience for Luckily she said yes!

Marissa recently relocated from New York to Los Angeles where she is currently enrolled in the Archival Studies graduate program at UCLA. This past May, she attended A Weekend with the Oliviers, the event put on through in London. Over in LA, as someone who has always loved film and film history, Marissa is enjoying all the city has to offer.


No other film has made more of an impact on my life or means as much to me as Gone with the Wind, and just as I’ll never forget watching it for the very first time when I was eleven, I’ll never forget the experience of seeing it for the first time on the big screen. This is something that I had hoped to do for a long time and was able to experience last Saturday.

I had the great fortune to see Gone with the Wind at the beautiful and historic Egyptian Theatre. The grandeur of the theatre is a sight to behold in itself. Kendra, a very thoughtful friend, put me in contact with her friend Mark and I was able to share the experience with him and his friends, which made the viewing all the more enjoyable.

Before the film was shown, the programmer said that our socks would be knocked off and he was right. Viewing the digital print and hearing Max Steiner’s score at the Egyptian Theatre added even greater depth to the movie. Being part of a large audience was truly a unique experience that enhanced and heightened moments of humor and tension.

There are so many exceptional elements that come together seamlessly to make Gone with the Wind so very special, but above all it’s the brilliant performances by Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable and the rest of the cast that always mesmerize me. The experience of seeing it on the big screen was even better than I imagined and, as always, when watching it, I didn’t want it to end.


If you’ve had a chance to see a Vivien Leigh or Laurence Olivier film on the big screen and want to share your experience with other fans, feel free to get in touch.

Check out more Cinema Experiences here.

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Cinema Experiences: Hamlet

The Ritzy theatre, Brixton

Its been a long while since I’ve done a post in the Cinema Experiences feature! I have actually seen a few classic films on the big screen since my last post about Gone with the Wind at the Prince Charles in Soho, but just didn’t have time to write about them. Fast forward to yesterday evening. The Ritzy cinema in Brixton is currently doing a series called the “A to Z of Cinema.” Today happened to be “O for Olivier” so my friend Chris and I went down to watch the Oscar-winning Hamlet (1948). And it was a celluloid print that made for some scratchy old-school viewing. I loved it.

Hamlet has long been my favorite of Laurence Olivier’s Shakespeare trilogy, and one of my favorite from his filmography as a whole. And I’m not just saying that because it condenses a 4 hour play into little more than 2.5 hours (although I have to admit that does help). No. I’m saying it because it feels more cinematic than Henry V or Richard III. There’s an artistry that is not present in the other two films, and indeed, this is what Olivier was striving for when he chose to collaborate with Alan Dent to adapt Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy for the screen.

With Henry V, Olivier wanted to bring theatre and cinema close together. He did so obviously by bookending the live-action with scenes set on the Elizabethan stage. In contrast, Hamlet is purely cinematic. Soliloquies are done by a mixture of speaking out loud and voice over, the later of which wouldn’t work in the live theatre. Although most of the story takes place inside a Elsinor Castle, the use of deep focus photography lets us know that what we are watching is “real”. However, what seems to really interest Olivier, and the theme around which all aspects of the film revolve, is Hamlet’s psychology. This is evidenced by the  bare sets, moody black and white photography, and the loud, throbbing heart beat noises whenever Hamlet starts to go a bit off the rails.

Chris knows of my fondness for Larry and asked what it was about him as an actor that I liked best. I thought for a split second before answering. The thing I like most about Laurence Olivier as an actor is his voice. I love listening to him recite Shakespeare (okay, I’d listen to him recite the phone book but that’s beside the point) because he speaks the lines so naturally and you can just tell he actually understands the nuances and phraseology. It’s rather poetic and beautiful.

But back to the actual cinema experience. Sitting in possibly the most comfortable seats ever in one of the oldest picturehouses in London with a box of salty and sweet popcorn whilst a very handsome, blonde-haired Laurence Olivier rattles off Olde English as if it’s modern language? Priceless.