Posts Tagged ‘melodrama’


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Sunrise is the first feature film directed by F.W Murnau for Fox Film Corporation. It was released with synchronized sound-on-film using the Fox Movietone system. It was a big budget production. But the ‘first talkie’ The Jazz Singer (1927) from Warner Brothers which, came after a few days cut into its profits. The film fared badly at the box-office.
Also known as A Song of Two Humans is a fable portraying rural life versus urban life. The story could have been set anytime and anywhere. A rural couple’s enduring love overcomes the hostile, destructive forces of the Jazz Age city. Within this we have love seduction, attempted murder, forgiveness and reconciliation the whole gamut of human emotions to qualify this as a melodrama but in its treatment and development the story acquires a lyrical quality: it is poetic work of art with roots in the German Expressionist movement (from 1914 to 1924).
Austrian Carl Mayer wrote the screenplay, adapting the story/novella A Trip to Tilsit (“Die Reise Nach Tilsit“) by novelist/playwright Hermann Sudermann.
A farmer falls prey to a seductress from the city. She suggests him to do away with his wife.
Woman: Tell me. You are all mine? (He nods and kisses her again. She strokes his hair.) Sell your farm…come with me to the City.
Man: …and my wife?
Woman: (laughing and holding close to his neck) Couldn’t she get drowned?
[The word drowned fades into view.]

He plots to murder her during a boat trip to City of Bright Lights. During this trip, the conscience of the farmer is pricked and he relents( reminiscent of a similar situation in the George Steven’s film, A Place In The Sun). In the city the couple fall in love again. On their return trip, a tempestuous storm appears to drown the wife, but she is eventually found and the family is reunited and reconciled.
Their tearful reconciliation is completed by a view of a church across the street where a wedding is taking place. It seems to bring to the farmer his own wedding and what it means to love. Overcome by emotion in a close-up, he sobs in his wife’s lap and recites along with bridegroom the vows. He now understands its significance of love even as the minister asks the bridegroom: “Wilt thou LOVE her?”
The minister continues:
God is giving you, in the holy bonds of matrimony, a trust. She is young…and inexperienced. Guide her and love her…keep and protect her from all harm.

Production Values:

Charles Rosher and Karl Struss won the first Academy Award for Cinematography (the first with panchromatic stock), for their skillful use of superimposition, effective employment of imagery and symbolism, and lyrical quality. Breakthrough camera tracking movements gave the film its fluidity and it wonderful atmospherics owe to the manner the camera could move through  space (the marsh, the trolley ride to town, boats, dance halls, trolley cars, and city traffic), creating an unusual illusion of depth and vastness. The moving camera was to influence future films, including John Ford’s The Informer (1935) and Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941). All the sets (both exterior and interior) were constructed to recede slightly in the distance, to produce further illusions of depth. Other techniques included placing larger physical objects in the foreground of shots, and having midgets as figures in the city backgrounds.
The contrast between rural ‘country’ life and urban ‘city’ life are emphasized through sun-lit and studio-lit exterior and interior shots and this sets the mood and interest. The moonlight, the swampy marshes, and the surface of the lake all capture the astonishing play of the light.
Memorable Quotes:
The Man: [pleading to his wife] Don’t be afraid of me!
[opening title cards]
Title Card: This song of the Man and his Wife is of no place and every place; you might hear it anywhere, at any time.
Title Card: For wherever the sun rises and sets, in the city’s turmoil or under the open sky on the farm, life is much the same; sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet.

*  The original negatives of the film were destroyed in a fire in 1937.

* Fox studio’s first ever feature film with a recorded score.

* Was the first and only film to win the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ (AMPAS) ‘Best Picture’ award in the category of “Artistic Quality of Production” (or “Unique and Artistic Picture”). This was the only year that this award was ever given out.

* The scenes in the city were not filmed on location. They were filmed on a vast and expensive set, built especially for the movie.

* Many of the superimpositions throughout the film were created “in the camera”. The camera would shoot one image at the side of the frame, blacking out the rest of the shot, then expose the film. They would put the exposed film back into the camera and shoot again, blocking out the area that already had an image on it.

Director F.W. Murnau wanted Camilla Horn (with whom he had worked in Germany on _Faust (1926)_) for the part of “The Wife”, but she was under contract to the German studio UFA at the time and they refused to loan her out, so the part went to Janet Gaynor.
* Although well-received critically, this film did not do well at the box office, which led to the studio “reining in” F.W. Murnau creatively for his next several films.

In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #82 Greatest Movie of All Time. It was the first inclusion of this film on the list.(imdb)
* Much of the exterior shooting was done at Lake Arrowhead in California.
* Murnau makes extensive use of forced perspective throughout the film. Of special note is a shot of the City where you see normal-sized people and sets in the foreground and little people in the background along with much smaller sets. (wikipedia)

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Directed by     F. W. Murnau
Produced by     William Fox
Written by     Carl Mayer
Hermann Sudermann
Starring     Janet Gaynor
George O’Brien
Margaret Livingston
Cinematography     Charles Rosher
Karl Struss
musical score by Hugo Riesenfeld
Editing by     Harold D. Schuster
Distributed by     Fox Film Corporation
Release date(s)     Sept. 23, 1927
Running time     95 minutes
Silent film
English intertitles
Similar Movies
Variété  (1925, Ewald André Dupont)
Lonesome  (1928, Paul Fejos)
Broken Blossoms  (1919, D.W. Griffith)
A Day in the Country  (1936, Jean Renoir)
Fièvre  (1921, Louis Delluc)
Menilmontant  (1925, Dimitri Kirsanoff)
An American Tragedy  (1931, Josef von Sternberg)
East Is East  (1916, Henry Edwards)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Tabu  (1931, Robert Flaherty, F.W. Murnau)
The Johnstown Flood Narrated  (1926, Irving Cummings)
A Star Is Born  (1937, Jack Conway, William Wellman)
No Man of Her Own  (1932, Wesley Ruggles)
The Farmer Takes a Wife  (1935, Victor Fleming)
I Loved a Woman  (1933, Alfred E. Green)
The Iron Horse  (1924, John Ford)
Romance in Manhattan  (1934, Pandro S. Berman, Stephen R. Roberts)
Other Related Movies
is featured in:      Interview With the Vampire  (1994, Neil Jordan)
(wikipedia, filmsite.org http://www.allmovie.com)


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Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) is a classic film looking at British school system with a rose tinted glass. It might well be for the author of the book on which the film was based was a teacher himself. Mr. Chips was modeled on W.H. Balgarnie, James Hilton’s old classics master who taught for over 50 years at The Leys public school in Cambridge. James Hilton’s short novel of the same name was first published in the British Weekly and then in The Atlantic Monthly (April 1934 issue).

The plot is simple. It traces the life of a British schoolteacher guiding many generations of schoolboys through almost 60 years of education at the fictitious Brookfield School, from his early career days as a young classic scholar to his slightly doddering old age.
For authenticity’s sake, this melodrama was filmed at the Repton School that was founded in 1557, with actual students and faculty serving as extras in the cast.
The film was remade three times and none of these is as unforgettable as the 1939 version. (Herbert Ross’ big-budget musical drama/romance Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969) with Peter O’Toole as the schoolmaster in an Oscar-nominated performance (he won the Golden Globe award for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy), as a 1984 BBC-TV mini-series with Roy Marsden, and as the 2002 made-for-TV movie for Masterpiece Theatre with Martin Clunes in the title role.)
Robert Donat rightly deserved his Oscar for Best Actor in the year of the giants: Clark Gable (Gone With the Wind), James Stewart (Mr.Smith Goes To Washington) and Laurence Olivier (Wuthering Heights) were other nominees for the same category.
Film In Depth

The film opens within the quadrangle of the revered Brookfield School, founded in 1492:

…one can almost feel the centuries…Gray old age, dreaming over a crowded past.

A train whistle blows, signaling the arrival of chattering, excited boys for the beginning of the new school term. They file into a building for an all-school assembly, and they are about to fulfil the time-honored tradition of the British boys’ school called ‘call-over.’ [The film ends with the same tradition.] A master stands at the doorway with a list of the names of each pupil, and the boys file past and call out their last name.

The film opens around the late 1920s.
The story of Mr. Charles Chipping (nicknamed “Mr. Chips”) at Brookfield is told through flashback memories, as he dozes as an old codger in front of a fire at Mrs. Wickett’s (Louise Hampton) place just across from the school:

A long time ago, yes. A long time. Things are different now. (He hears other voices: “Chips at Brookfield. Discipline, Mr. Chipping, discipline,” and the last names of boys during a typical ‘call-over.’)

He remembers how he arrived in 1870 at Brookfield Boys School as a shy, withdrawn 24 year-old Latin master, wearing a bowler hat. Appearing eager but uncertain as a novice on the “Brookfield special” train full of new “stinkers,” he is an easy target for their teasing.
The hold of the film on a viewer is built gradually. In the manner the awkward and cold school master copes with his fears of failure and disappointments (of being bypassed from becoming a housemaster with the retirement benefits and loss of his wife) we see the gift of love which abounds in one so noted for lack of  warmth and vision. A traditional British school life of the time one might think is an all-male prerogative with studies and cricket predominating. Mr. Chips for all his disadvantages was lucky to find a progressive English suffragate in his first summer vacation while cycling through Tyrol, Europe.
After being introduced to a new History master, a young graduate named Mr. Jackson (David Tree), Chipping remembers how it “took time – too much time” to become a beloved old schoolmaster.
Jackson:You seem to have found the secret in the end.
Chips: Hmm? What? The secret? Oh, yes, in the end. But I didn’t find it myself, Mr. Jackson. It was given to me by someone else. Someone else.
The grandeur of little people is not that they set the world on fire but they realize they could mold influences that came their way however small and make them go long way. In the present world the challenge of teaching as a profession is swamped under high paid jobs in the corporate world, teaching is far less considered as a welcome choice. Mr. Chips would have lived his life without fulfilling his potential had he not that vision. It was a gift passed on by his wife, Katherine Ellis, a charming, beautiful, spunky English girl from Bloomsbury (Greer Garson in her exceptional film debut.) She makes him thaw and see what a great calling he has.
Chipping: Do you suppose a person in middle age could start life over again and make a go of it?
Katherine: I’m sure of it. Quite sure. It must be tremendously interesting to be a schoolmaster.

Chipping: I thought so once.
Katherine: To watch boys grow up and help them along. To see their characters develop and what they become when they leave school and the world gets hold of them. I don’t see how you could ever get old in a world that’s always young.
Chipping: I never really thought of it that way. When you talk about it, you make it sound exciting and heroic.
Katherine: It is.

Give this core idea of a teacher who renews himself to mold so many ‘stinkers’ to take up responsible positions later in life is inspiring. One who accepts his humble position in life and keep the gift of life through the loss of his wife ( after just one year together she dies during delivery and also her infant) and loss of many other to war is touched by grandeur. Of course Robert Donat’s acting is so exceptional we are also moved to feel empathy for him as he advances well into old age.

Towards the end we see Mr.Chips ill and on his deathbed. He is in his eighties, in response to overhearing that he was a poor chap and must have had a lonely life by himself – with regrets because he never had children of his own, Mr. Chips stirs and refutes the remark:

Doctor: Poor old chap. He must have had a lonely life all by himself.
Headmaster: Not always by himself. He married, you know.
Doctor: Did he? I never knew about that.
Headmaster: She died, a long while ago.
Doctor: Pity. Pity he never had any children.
Chips: What, what was that you were saying about me?
Headmaster: Nothing at all old man. Nothing at all. We were just wondering when you were going to wake up out of that beauty sleep of yours.
Chips: I heard you. You were talking about me.
Headmaster: Nothing of consequence, old man. I give you my word.
Chips: I thought I heard you say ’twas a pity, a pity I never had children. But you’re wrong…I have…thousands of them…thousands of them…and all boys!

With his eyes closed, he smiles as the camera rises up when he passes on. He dreamily remembers many schoolboys filing past to repeat their names at call-over, while the music of the school song swells in volume in the background. The final lad, the superimposed image of the last Peter Colley, appears and speaks directly into the camera:
Goodbye, Mr. Chips…Goodbye...

The film was voted the 72nd greatest British film ever in the BFI Top 100 British films poll.
The film was shot at Winchester College and Denham Film Studios.
Directed by     Sam Wood
Produced by     Victor Saville
Written by     R.C. Sherriff
Claudine West
Eric Maschwitz
James Hilton (novel)
Music by     Richard Addinsell
Cinematography     Freddie Young
Editing by     Charles Frend
Distributed by     MGM
Running time     114 minutes
Language     English

Similar Movies
Dead Poets Society  (1989, Peter Weir)
The Browning Version  (1951, Anthony Asquith)
Mr. Holland’s Opus  (1995, Stephen Herek)
Cheers for Miss Bishop  (1941, Tay Garnett)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp  (1943, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
Good Morning, Miss Dove  (1955, Henry Koster)
L’Ecole Buissonière  (1948, Jean-Paul Le Chanois)
The Browning Version  (1994, Mike Figgis, John K. Watson)
Selskaya Uchitelnitsa  (1947, Mark Donskoy)
Merlusse  (1935, Marcel Pagnol)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Random Harvest  (1942, Mervyn LeRoy)
Forever and a Day  (1943, René Clair, Edmund Goulding, Cedric Hardwicke, Victor Saville, Kent Smith, Robert Stevenson, Herbert Wilcox, Frank Lloyd)
For Whom the Bell Tolls  (1943, Sam Wood)
Knight Without Armour  (1937, Jacques Feyder)
The Young Mr. Pitt  (1942, Carol Reed)
The Devil and Miss Jones  (1941, Sam Wood)
Kitty Foyle  (1940, Sam Wood)
Julia Misbehaves  (1948, Jack Conway)
Other Related Movies
To Sir, With Love  (1967, James Clavell)
has been remade as:      Goodbye, Mr. Chips  (1969, Herbert Ross)
Goodbye, Mr. Chips  (2002, Stuart Orme)
(Ack:filmsite, allmovie, wikipedia)
compiler: benny

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