Firelight (1997) is a little known gem about how women in the early nineteenth century were often not only robbed of their personality, individual desire and ambition, but also the right to raise their own children, because men had complete control over their destinies. The film brings to mind such feminine bildungsroman as Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, with its study of a poor, but clever and resilient young woman who is determined to be independent and authentic in a world that wants her to be neither.
The film was the directorial debut of William Nicholson, who was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplays for Shadowlands and Gladiator. Nicholson would never direct another film after Firelight, which I found to be a pity, as the film is beautifully shot, with Nicholson’s direction and Nic Morris’ cinematography coming together to create many striking images. The film also stands out as an example of how talented both Sophie Marceau and Stephen Dillane are.
Christmas in Connecticut is a lighthearted, lovely holiday film. But upon closer inspection, it has a far more serious cultural resonance. And before you roll your eyes and grumble at the fact that I’m making a serious, real life connection to a romantic comedy, please hear me out. While the film is full of laughs and a wonderful lead performance from the irrepressible and incomparable Barbara Stanwyck, it’s also about the post war situation of women.
Colleen McCullough dreamed of being a medical doctor, but due to her allergy to the surgical soap used, she was told to find another career path. Colleen then became a successful neuroscientist, and taught and researched at Yale Medical School for a decade. During this time she was not only highly successful in her chosen field of study, but she also wrote one of the most famous novels of the late twentieth century. The novel followed the story of the Cleary family, particularly that of Meggie Clearly, who grows from a young girl to a woman, all the while harbouring a deep, and forbidden love for a Catholic priest, the handsome, and ambitious, Ralph de Bricassart. The novel was called The Thorn Birds, named for the fact that Meggie’s love for Ralph is so great that it brings her lifelong suffering.
After struggling to be recognised in Hollywood for several years, the beautiful Carole Landis was cast in One Million B.C. by Hal Roach and launched into stardom. Moon Over Miami, in which she stars opposite fellow popular pin-up, Betty Grable, and Don Ameche and Robert Cummings, was her fifth film after she had made a name for herself. This was the second film she would make in 1941 opposite Betty, the other being the evocatively titled film noir, I Wake Up Screaming.
Lone Star (1952) is the second of three films that Ava Gardner and Clark Gable starred in together, which include The Hucksters (1947) and Mogambo (1953). Unlike in those two films, Ava has no rival for Gable’s affections in Lone Star, and she is quite decidedly the female lead, with Belulah Bondi the only other woman in the film.
Both Ava and Gable’s characters seem to have been created for the purposes of the film, but the events depicted seem to have been inspired by Texan President Tyler’s secret negations with Sam Houston. Although there is no mention of future Texan President Polk, and U.S. President Andrew Jackson is given a far greater role in the film in regards to his desire to have Texas annexed than in actual history. For these reasons, the film shows MGM, and the studio system’s, propensity for historical revisionism that concentrated on the Great Man and Rugged Individualism theories of history.
I’d like to preface this by saying that although I’ve been a classic film fan since I was a small child, I’ve only been active in the classic film Twitter community since the end of last year, and I only started my blog this year. So I still have many films to discover. And while I discovered so many gems 💎 this year thanks to the wonderful classic film fans on Twitter, the Mad About Musicals course hosted by TCM and Ball State University, and some of my own tireless digging, these are the ones that left the largest impression on me.
From the pre-code to the Western to the film noir and musical, these films expanded my insights into the classic film era and also exposed me to some very memorable performers. These are in no particular order as I’m not very good at countdowns, so I like to think of it as a list that could really be in any order.