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The Lodger (1927)

Ever since reading FictonFan’s and Silverscreening’s reviews of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger, I have been doubly curious to see the film, which is also my contribution to Coffee, Classics, & Craziness’ “The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon 2017.” It was the third film that Alfred Hitchcock directed, but is the one that he considered essentially his first film, the first to be recognizably Hitchcockian.

The Lodger is one of many film and stage adaptations of the novel by Marie Belloc Loundes, published in 1911 and inspired by the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888. Hitchcock’s film, however, appears to be set in 1927, though there is a definite gaslight and Gothic ethos. Ivor Novello, who plays the mysterious lodger, would have made a fantastic Dracula, actually.

The film opens with a silent scream.

Neil Brand, who wrote the contemporary score for the version I saw, has the orchestra scream along with the image. The scream reminded me of Hitchcock’s later close-up image of Janet Leigh screaming in the shower in Psycho. The beginning of The Lodger is really excellent and demonstrates Hitchcock’s visual skill, which requires minimal inter titles to explain the action. A blonde girl (Hitchcock already demonstrating his preference for blonds) has been murdered. There is one witness, who says she saw a tall man with a scarf wrapped around the lower half of his face. We see the police, the curious spectators, the ghoulish interest, the press, everything in a rapid fire of images (including a brief glimpse of Hitchcock). We also see a sign for a show called “Golden Curls.” The image of the sign will show up mockingly throughout the film.

The story then shifts to Mrs. Bunting (Marie Ault), her husband (Arthur Chesney), their daughter Daisy (June Tripp…who has golden curls), and the boyfriend/policeman Joe (Malcolm Keen). Joe and Daisy flirt with a heart-shaped cookie cutter and some dough, once again demonstrating Hitchcock’s flair for visual storytelling. Into this tranquil and domestic scene comes…the Lodger! Who looks like Dracula, or at the very least his cousin.

played by Ivor Novello

Would you let this man rent a room in your house?

The lodger is definitely a strange young man, who doesn’t like pictures of women with golden curls in his room and has a habit of looking tormented by some inner turmoil. Not to mention pacing restlessly in his room, which is shown with a glass floor that shows him walking while the Buntings look up at the ceiling, the visuals of his footsteps almost making us “hear” the sound of his footsteps that the Buntings actually hear. When the lodger’s not looking creepy, he looks like Lord Byron, all sensitivity and anguish.

Hurting him would be like hurting a puppy

The tension in the film comes from Mrs. Bunting and her husband beginning to suspect that their lodger is the mysterious killer after he sneaked out at night and was gone during the time when another golden-curled woman was murdered. Their anxiety is heightened when he shows a strong interest in Daisy, who does not see anything wrong in the lodger’s behavior. Joe, on the other hand, grows increasingly jealous.

It’s quite an exciting, atmospheric film and really shows Hitchcock’s ability to create tension visually rather than via words, as well as hitting on a number of themes that he would explore later. And if you have never seen it, I would definitely recommend watching it before reading the spoilers section below.

(Spoilers) I have to admit that I knew the surprise ending before coming into the film, that the lodger is actually, incontrovertibly innocent (unlike Laird Cregar’s lodger in the 1944 film), but I was curious how it would play out. The lodger’s innocence had a rather odd affect, I thought, somewhat like the affect of Hitchcock’s later Suspicion, though far less egregious. It makes Ivor Novello’s performance both sinister and romantic, which makes him a creepy lover. At one moment, he is stalking Daisy to her job as a model and buying her the dress she was modeling (it’s obvious that he’s a well-off young man, socially far above Daisy) and another moment gazing soulfully into her eyes like a young man with bad case of puppy love. In fact, the second part of the film feels more like a romance than a mystery or thriller.

I also have to admit that my view of the characters is somewhat colored by the fact that about two-thirds of the way through the movie, my sister labeled the two romantic leads as “pretty ninnies.” This is partly because the plot is not consistent. If he’s innocent, why didn’t he go to the police? Why did he run? Why is she standing by him, even though she knows nothing about it. They do not behave rationally. But they certainly look pretty while their doing it…especially Novello.

still looking mysterious

It is interesting to note that never again would Hitchcock have a woman place such unreasoning faith in a man for no reason. In The 39 Steps, Madeleine Carroll initially tries to turn Robert Donat in, Eva Marie Saint “helps” Cary Grant because she’s really working for the villain, Grace Kelly is simply turned on by the fact that she believes Cary Grant is a criminal in To Catch a Thief, and in Sabateur Priscilla Lane also initially tries to turn Robert Cummings in.

Regarding the ending, however, I’ve noticed that there is a theory floating around on the internet about another possible interpretation of the end of the film, which jives with my own impressions. Perhaps he really is the killer after all! Hitchcock originally meant to have the ending be ambiguous, but when Ivor Novello was cast, he was forced to change the script so that the leading man (rather like Cary Grant in Suspicion) would be innocent. But quite a few questions go unanswered. Like who killed the lodger’s sister and why? His sister was the first victim, but she died in the middle of a ballroom when the lights are turned off. Whoever killed her had to be someone in upper class society. But her murder doesn’t fit with all the other murders that come after, which seem to be happening in the street. Which makes one wonder if the lodger really killed his sister and went on a mad spree afterwards, until he saw Daisy, who perhaps reminded him of his sister.

It’s just a theory, but it seems odd that Hitchcock would make the lodger’s mansion look so creepy and Gothic. I half expected him to greet Daisy and her parents by saying, “I am…Dracula.” And then when they embrace, we can see the sign “To Night – Golden Curls” blinking in the background. Is it meant to be portentous of what is to come? Evidently, Neil Brand, the composer, thought so because as the lodger and Daisy embrace, the music grows gradually more ominous. Hmm.

His victims, waiting for Dracula to appear

Dracula welcomes his victims

Why is the sign “To Night Golden Curls” blinking in the background? Is that meant to be ironic or prophetic?

This post is my contribution to “The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon 2017.” Be sure to check out the other posts, which can be found here.

 

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2017 in Movies

 

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Dorothy Lamour and the History of the Sarong Around the World

lounging-dorothy-lamour-with-flowerApart from being remembered for accompanying Bob Hope and Bing Crosby on the road so often, Dorothy Lamour has been immortalized as “The Sarong Girl.” She made her debut in The Jungle Princess in 1936, playing a Malaysian native wearing an Edith Head designed sarong. The sarong was to become an inescapable part of her persona; which she humorously poked fun at repeatedly in the Road movies.

(for more information on Dorothy Lamour and her sarong, check out “Dorothy Lamour: Fashion Icon of Old Hollywood,” by Old Hollywood Films.)

Ultimately, she only wore a sarong in “about six” movies (perhaps most famously in John Ford’s The Hurricane), but she never really did get away from her image as an exotic native, draped in clothe, at home on the beach, perhaps swimming in the ocean or singing a song.

In America, the sarong has ever since been associated with swimwear, often as a wrap or even (like in the case of Lamour) a short dress. However, the sarong actually has a long and varied history around the world

History

Though I used to associated the sarong with South Sea islands, the term “sarong” comes from Malaysia, and the sarong itself (known by a variety of names around the world) is believed to have originated in Yemen (called a futah). Its use has expanded around the world, originally through Arab traders during the 1300s. The sarong is still commonly worn in Indonesia and in the Arab peninsula. It’s use can vary by location, from religious observation (the sarong is especially identified with Islamic culture), ceremonial use, daily life, comfort, and national and cultural identity. In some places, only men wear the sarong, in others, women and children wear sarongs, too.

women_making_batik_ketelan_crop

examples of batik

The colors and patterns of the sarong can also vary greatly. Some are plain, some checked, some with geometric shapes, and others with floral patterns. In Indonesia (especially Java), they color the fabric using the batik method. Patterns are created by applying wax to the fabric in the desired shapes, then the fabric is dipped in dye, after which the wax is removed.

The shape of the sarong is described as being like a tube (sarong means “scabbard” in Indonesian) and you step into the sarong before pulling it tightly and securing it at your waist. For women, the sarong can also be worn not just at the waist, but also up to the armpits. There are also, evidently, many other uses for the sarong – such as a blanket, headgear and even as a knapsack.

I confess, I had no idea the sarong was so ubiquitous, multi-purposed and traditional. It shows, as Phyllis Loves Classic Movies also showed in her post on “Costume Dramas of Golden Hollywood,” that Hollywood is all about flavor. They derive inspiration from around the world (or from novels) and distill it down into a specific flavor. Sometimes it’s artificial flavoring and sometimes it’s natural flavoring.

I will admit, however, that I’ve always had an affection for Dorothy Lamour’s films. Perhaps it’s the good humor in which she approached all her work – whether comedy or South Sea romance. Or perhaps it’s her voice and songs. She seems, somehow, unaffected, even though she’s not what one would consider a natural actress. Always gracious, somehow.

In closing, here is Dorothy Lamour singing the song that would become most associated with her: “The Moon of Manakoora.”

And a video on the many ways to wear a sarong in Indonesia.

Sources

http://1worldsarongs.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-history-and-origin-of-sarongs.html

http://www.batikguild.org.uk/whatisbatik.asp

http://www.oldhollywoodfilms.com/2016/03/dorothy-lamour-fashion-icon-of-old.html

http://www.travelfoodfashion.com/indonesian-skirt-famous-indonesian-sarong/#

http://lifeinbigtent.com/wearing-tube-sarong/

This post was written as part of “The Characters in Costume Blogfest,” which I am honored to be co-hosting with Andrea of Into the Writer Lea! Click here for more marvelous posts from Days 1, 2, and 3.

frankenstein-4

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2016 in Movies

 

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“The Characters In Costume Blogfest” Day 1 Recap

I must admit that when Andrea first suggested we host a “Characters in Costume Blogfest,” I was not the most observant person when it came to costumes and a character’s appearance or thinking about how a character could be create or described. But after reading everyone’s posts, I have come to a new appreciation of the emotional and storytelling force of costume and appearance. Thanks everyone for making this a thought-provoking first day!

Don’t worry if you do not see your post on today’s recap; we will be sure to include it in tomorrow’s.

15Love Letters to Old Hollywood explores The Fashion of Fred and Ginger’s Characters

vlcsnap-2016-10-27-00h20m49s842Cinematic Scribblings writes about Cabiria, Inside and Out: Nights of Cabiria (1957)

comparisonThe Costume Vault looks at Disney’s Cinderella(s) and the evolution of the “princess” aesthetics

dracula-ad-1972-beacham-leeRealweegiemidget Reviews 4 (Un)Deadly Dracula Reawakenings

outlander-claire-and-jamie-first-look1Lifesdailylessonsblog writes of Outlander Costumes: From Fiction to Film – Designer Terry Dresbach

pride-and-prejudice-1940-bPhyllis Loves Classic Movies discusses Costume Dramas of Golden Hollywood

pp-4Into the Writerlea talks about Describing Memorable Characters: Elizabeth Bennett

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2016 in Books, Movies

 

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