Greer Garson

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Julius Caesar Review


Extraordinary
"Caesar! Beware of Brutus. Take heed of Cassius. Come not near Casca. Have an eye to Cinna. Trust not Trebonius. Mark not well Metellus Cimber. Decius Brutus loves thee not. Thou hast wronged Caius Ligarius. There is but one mind in all these men and it is bent against Caesar. If thou beest not immortal, look about you. Security gives way to conspiracy."

Artemidorus's warnings to Julius Caesar, soon to be given dictatorial powers in Rome, falls upon Caesar's deaf -- and soon dead -- ears and the Roman conqueror trundles off to the Senate to be stabbed to death by his best friends. In Shakespeare's play, the rejection of the warning by Artemidorus is more fodder for Caesar's ballooning ego. In Joseph Mankeiwicz's 1953 film version of Shakespeare's classic, Artemidorus's warning is like a howl in the wilderness. For Mankiewicz, adapting and directing during the height of the period of the blacklist, the warning takes on a different context of a McCarthyesque conspiracy to bring down society, a mass madness so potent that even honorable men become embroiled in the hothouse hysteria.

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Madame Curie Review


Excellent
Hey, I never thought the hunt for radium would make for an engrossing way to spend two hours, but Madame Curie reveals itself to be one of the most engaging biopics of its era. Reuniting the stars of Mrs. Miniver (as heralded on the poster), Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon make for perfect Marie and Pierre Curie, respectively. The film covers virtually their entire adult lives, from Marie's early interest in math and science to her "business only" marriage to Pierre, to their joint work searching for a mysterious radioactive substance in pitchblende ore, melting tons of material over many years and eventually coming up with a couple of grams of the stuff. While Pierre dies early (not from radiation poisoning, he was hit by a carriage), Marie would go on to win two Nobel Prizes. Her death (from radiation exposure) is off camera. Both Garson and Pidgeon are outstanding, and the film's treatment of science is both incredibly realistic and, shockingly, a lot of fun.

Mrs. Miniver Review


Excellent
For some reason, I've resisted seeing the acclaimed Mrs. Miniver all my life (probably due to the dull title) -- but finally I caught a showing on Turner Classic Movies and I was duly impressed. Now out on DVD, there's no excuse for anyone to miss seeing Miniver for themselves.

The titular missus is just a moderatly wealthy English lady in 1939 who's trying to keep her family together on the eve of World War II. Her son enlists in the RAF, her husband serves in the river patrol. The Germans drop bombs and, eventually, a Nazi soldier lands in the Miniver backyard. In happier times the son woos and marries the local beauty. A flower show is held. Oddly, all of this is compelling and makes perfect sense -- and it all looks gorgeous thanks to some lush black & white photography, excellent set designs, and impressive war effects.

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Random Harvest Review


Good
Like many Hollywood romances, Random Harvest is not great but not bad either, and more emotionally involving than the contrived premise would seem to justify. Ronald Colman plays a British soldier who suffers amnesia in WWI and is befriended by a showgirl (Greer Garson), who falls in love with him. They marry and start a family. Then, in a strange plot twist, he regains his memory of his identity but loses his recent memory, and starts another life as a wealthy tycoon and politician. Then, in an even more unpredictable plot twist, he meets Garson again and eerily revisits his past, while still remembering nothing.

The film is an adaptation of a novel by James Hilton (who wrote Lost Horizon, which Frank Capra made into one of Hollywood's greatest epics, also featuring Colman). The contrived plot of Hilton's novel is not helped by the film's condensed treatment. Neither of Colman's lives is fully fleshed out, and it's possible to imagine the plot going off in other, more plausible directions than the one it takes. And the premise is essentially a male fantasy, with Colman's protagonist getting two shots at success, happiness, and marriage (however, he is happy in only one of his lives, until both are reconciled at the end).

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Goodbye, Mr. Chips Review


OK
Mr. Chipping (Robert Donat) is on his way out as professor and headmaster at a proper British boys' school, and the aging man looks back on his life. Goodbye, Mr. Chips provides a comprehensive look at one teacher's life and love -- from the disciplining of his students to the chance meeting of the love of his life on a mountaintop. (Played by Greer Garson with about 20 minutes of screen time, I have no idea how her awkward debut here earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.)

Everybody loves Chipping to death, which is what makes this and its contemporaries (like Mr. Holland's Opus) such harmless works of cinema. Chipping's challenges are so meaningless that he all but waltzes through life. There's less conflict than in your typical animated Disney movie, and that makes watching Chips an often tedious experience. Even when asked to retire by a younger headmaster, he merely brushes it off like dust from his lapels. Sure, there's some teary eyes when he eulogizes a student that dies during WWII, but Chipping himself lives to a ripe old age with little more than a cold to keep him down.

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Greer Garson

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