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Beautiful stars and plain heroines


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#16 Old Fashioned

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 08:02 AM

does the world really need another "Pride and Prejudice" movie?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


My thoughts exactly when I saw a preview for it in the theater. I'll stick to the Garson/Olivier version, thank you very much.

#17 dirac

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 11:21 AM

Paul writes:

The key to Lizzy Bennett is her FINE EYES, and the play of intelligence, merriness, and scorn they're capable of. You'd want her to smile with you and you would NOT want her to frown at you....



Very true. You’d want her approval. Even as Darcy condescends to her, he wants her approval.

I agree, Old Fashioned. I guess because P&P is a reliable, familiar choice. The Garson/Olivier version is not perfect but it’s awfully good. (And Olivier is perfect. So often these days Darcy is played like a sort of Heathcliff, and he’s not.) I don’t get the whole Keira Knightley fuss, myself. She’s a skinny kid who looks like a taller Winona Ryder with a Jennifer Garnerish jaw, and when she smiles broadly she displays long white fangs that are terrifying even by contemporary bigtoothed starlet standards. Not much of an actress, either, even for her age. Maybe she’ll improve as she matures.

GWTWwrites:

Has anyone seen the TV adaptation of "Emma" wher Kate Beckinsale played Emma and Samantha Morton played Harriet?


I didn’t see it, GWTW, but you're right about the role swap. I think that’s the looks issue cropping up again. Beckinsale would have been better known, and she’s more conventional leading lady looks.


Speaking of leading lady looks, that may be what I was trying to get at, Paul. I didn't mean that Emma is unattractive in comparision to Harriet, but that in the film adaptations it's always clear that Emma is the Leading Lady and the actress cast as Harriet, even when she's pretty as Brittany Murphy is, can't outshine the star lookswise. And that's not quite right, IMO.

#18 GWTW

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 11:48 AM

With regard to "Clueless", I think Alicia Silverstone outshines Brittany Murphy because Alicia Silverstone has true star charisma and not because Silverstone is better looking in any way than Murphy. I think it's a shame that Silverstone hasn't managed to get better roles the last few years - she lights up the screen.

#19 dirac

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 12:41 PM

GWTW, I was actually referring back to Helene's observation earlier in the thread that Murphy is dressed and made up in order to seem less appealing. It is too bad about Silverstone.

#20 chrisk217

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 01:46 PM

The features prized in her day  included that Greek nose, bee-stung lips, rounded shoulders, and so on --well, except for the bee-stung lips, which are still very much in favor, the rest of those things are quite out, except that maybe Almodovar could use the nose.

:thumbsup: Paul, the actress playing Jane Bennet (in the Ehle/Firth P&P) is actually very close to the aesthetic ideal of the era. If you look at portraits or schetches of the reknown beauties of the Regency era you'll see the uncanny resemblance of features. Most modern viewers though consider her a bad choice and not beautiful enough to play Jane.

#21 canbelto

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 05:41 AM

I think Jane Austen never describes very specifically her characters' features because she wants the reader to use his imagination. That being said, I agree with those who write that Emma is obviously a pretty girl who is quite confident of her own looks -- her mentorship of Harriet I think always had a touch of snootiness and contempt. Therefore I think it's proper to make Harriet pretty but not glamorous. Notice that Emma is exceedingly jealous of Jane Fairfax, the girl who is actually a rival of Emma in terms of looks and accomplishments.

Count me as one person who didnt like the Greer/Olivier movie. Besides "updating" the time to Victorian England, I thought that Olivier and the supporting characters were just about perfect, but there's something about Greer Garson that bugs me. She always seems a bit self-conscious and affected. Elizabeth Bennett is someone I think of as completely spontaneous and blunt to a fault -- if she doesnt like someone she doesnt hide it. Greer Garson's Elizabeth is too polite and arch for my taste.

I think a more egregious example of beautiful star/plain character is Olivier as Heathcliff. In this case, Emily Bronte was quite specific in her description of Heathcliff -- he's of mixed race, and not very handsome. Cathy's attraction to Heathcliff is not really based on looks, but on a Level Z kind of connection. Olivier is Hollywood handsome.

Joan Fontaine is also way too pretty to play Jane Eyre. Again, in this case, Charlotte Bronte is very explicit that Jane was nothing to look at, but Fontaine had that kind of doe-eyed beauty. But Orson Welles was perfect for the part.

#22 dirac

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 05:34 PM

Joan Fontaine is also way too pretty to play Jane Eyre. Again, in this case, Charlotte Bronte is very explicit that Jane was nothing to look at, but Fontaine had that kind of doe-eyed beauty. But Orson Welles was perfect for the part.


Fontaine is too pretty, true, but the Hollywood of that era would never have cast a genuinely plain actress as Jane.

Count me as one person who didnt like the Greer/Olivier movie. Besides "updating" the time to Victorian England, I thought that Olivier and the supporting characters were just about perfect, but there's something about Greer Garson that bugs me. She always seems a bit self-conscious and affected.



That something bugs a lot of other people too. The funny thing about Garson is, just as she’s getting on your nerves, she’ll turn around and be absolutely perfect.
I didn’t mind the date change in the Garson/Olivier P&P. I wouldn’t like it if all Austen-based movies did the same, but I had no problem with it. I did feel that the tone of the humor wasn’t quite right – too broad, not dry enough, too much Dickens, too little Austen.

Thanks for reviving this thread, canbelto.

#23 canbelto

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 07:33 PM

Now that you've got me started :) I'll add a few more examples of this phenomenon:

Scarlett O'Hara. Now, I worship at the shrine of Vivien Leigh and I think she didn't just act Scarlett, she EMBODIED Scarlett. There are so many things I love about that performance, from Vivien's almost manic, brittle way of talking, to the fact that she singlehandedly, against all the advice from director Victor Fleming and costar Clark Gable, made Scarlett a complex character, worthy of our respect and affection. But that being said, the very first line of Margaret Mitchell's novel is "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful." It's clear that Scarlett is very pretty, and quite the flirt. But Vivien Leigh happened to be literally among the short list of most beautiful women, EVER. Of course I got the GWTW dvd boxset which had some truly horrifying screen tests from the likes of Lana Turner and Katharine Hepburn, so I should thank my lucky stars that Vivien was ultimately cast :wink:

An opposite phenomenon happened with Sense and Sensibility. Elinor and Marianne are supposed to be close in age, but next to the luminous Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson looked like a plain soccer mom. Thompson CAN look very beautiful, but in this movie the huge age difference between the two sisters really would have horrified Jane Austen, I should think.

A movie that I think got things exactly right was "The Age of Innocence." Daniel Day Lewis was just about right as Newland -- mildly handsome but not really dashing. Michelle Pfeiffer was glamorous and appealing but had the kind of aged, world-weary look that reminded viewers that Ellen was running away from an abusive marriage. And Winona Ryder was perfect as May: young and innocent looking, but with enough steeliness to be scary. That scene when she tells Newland she's pregnant -- crying and gloating at the same time -- always gives me the chills.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a movie that got things totally WRONG was The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald is pretty explicit about Gatsby -- he's sort of phony looking, with an eager smile and "beautiful shirts", but in the end he's just a thirty-something "roughneck." In other words, not Robert Redford. And Mia Farrow bugged me to no end as Daisy, especially her pipsqueak rather whiny voice. Hello! Daisy's voice is supposed to be so alluring even Nick is totally transfixed by it. It's the most important part of Daisy. Did the producers and director even read the book?

#24 carbro

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 07:45 PM

Perhaps, but wasn't Kathleen Turner just a kid when they made Gatsby? :wink:

Hepburn as Scarlett? :) :wink:

#25 Helene

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 10:25 PM

Mia Farrow bugged me to no end as Daisy, especially her pipsqueak rather whiny voice. Hello! Daisy's voice is supposed to be so alluring even Nick is totally transfixed by it. It's the most important part of Daisy. Did the producers and director even read the book?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Assuming that your last question is rhetorical, I don't think voices are very important to film directors. Huge blow-up noises and horrendously sentimental soundtracks to tell you what to feel are. Otherwise, neither Brad Pitt, Winona Rider, or Keanu Reeves, all of whom swallow their words, would never have been cast in the movies. (Uh, and Winona Ryder cast in The Age of Innocence as a Wharton heroine who is described as a "sylvan Diana?")

#26 dirac

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 09:49 AM

Winona Ryder doesn’t fit Wharton’s description, true, but I agree with canbelto that she rises to the occasion beautifully in that last scene alone with Day-Lewis, big brown eyes wide as she moves in for the kill.

De Niro would have been the perfect Seventies Gatsby, not that I think a successful movie could ever be made of that book for reasons beyond the bounds of this thread, although we’ve already transgressed those. :wink: Interestingly, Gatsby was made at that time because Ali MacGraw, at that time married to Robert Evans of Paramount, had a longstanding yen to play Daisy. Then she went off on location with Steve McQueen, with predictable consequences, and she and Evans were phfft. McQueen offered his services for nothing, or at a very reduced rate, if Paramount would cast MacGraw anyway, but no dice. MacGraw would have been just as bad as Farrow, if not worse, but McQueen might have made a fine Gatsby. So it's quite true that vocal suitability was not a primary concern. :)

#27 canbelto

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 02:08 PM

dirac, the horror! The horror! (The thought of Ali McGraw as Daisy). I think in the 1970s if anyone could have played Daisy it was Cybill Shepherd. Of course Shepherd at that point was completely controlled by Peter Bogdanovich, so it wouldnt have been likely. Julie Christie, if she could have shed her British accent, might have been a good Daisy too. But Shepherd would have been better -- Daisy at her core is ice cold, and Christie was naturally a warmer actress. Perhaps Faye Dunaway too. Anyway, any of these ladies would have been better than Farrow.

#28 Helene

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 04:15 PM

Winona Ryder doesn’t fit Wharton’s description, true, but I agree with canbelto that she rises to the occasion beautifully in that last scene alone with Day-Lewis, big brown eyes wide as she moves in for the kill.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I really dislike Daniel Day Lewis, too, in the movie. Except for Pfeiffer, the entire movie was lost on me. I don't expect Mae to be a mouse, and I do expect her to have the posture of her station and to enunciate.


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