Monday, March 7, 2011

Metal Mummy's Movie Meme - Part Deux

Metal Mummy is doing another Movie Meme but this time the theme is black and white. What are your favourite black and white films?  There are so many wonderful ones that I could name so I've stuck with two that I remember most vividly from my childhood. And in case you were wondering, I was actually born in the era of colour TV but only just!

My first childhood crush was on Freddie Bartholomew in Captains Courageous (1936) with Spencer Tracy based on Rudyard Kipling's novel of a brattish rich little boy who falls off an ocean liner and is rescued by a fishing boat. Unable to convince the captain to return him to land or that he is actually very wealthy he is forced to take a low paid job on the fishing boat to earn his passage back to land. Under the tutelage of Manuel Fidello (Spencer Tracey) he 'becomes a man' and realises that his old ways of whining, bragging and lying are just not a good model for the future. Sadly, he loses his surrogate father in a fishing accident. Boy did I cry!

Freddie was one of the most popular child actors in Hollywood. Born in Ireland he was abandoned by his parents as a baby and bought up by an aunt in London. He first found fame in 'David Copperfield' and went on to star in many prestigious films. You may remember him as Little Lord Fauntleroy.  His new found fame soon flushed his parents out of the woodwork and with their eye on his fortune they started a protracted legal battle to regain custody of him. Most of his fortune went on legal fees. Some things never change. He retired from films in the 1940s and had a successful career in advertising. He even has a non-alcoholic 'mocktail' of ginger ale and lime named after him.

I was about 10 when I developed my Freddie crush. By that time he was probably a 50 years old man. Eeewww!
A publicity shot for 'Captains Courageous'
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The other film I remember vividly from my childhood was 'Whistle Down the Wind' with Hayley Mills. Ahh, Hayley. She and I were twins separated at birth, well and truly separated as she is 20 years older than me! But as a child she was my idol. I wanted to be like her.... no, I wanted to be HER! Inside this shy, retiring child was  Hayley Mills just waiting for her moment. In my bedroom I was an Oscar winning actress but in public, the height of my success was reading 'The Magnificat' at my primary school Christmas concert when I spent the whole time convinced that my skirt was tucked into my knickers. I read the Magnificat like Jim McGrath commentating on the King George V Cup. Oh, and a brief moment of fame as 'Mary' in our French nativity play.  Never made Mary in the mainstream one.

Whistle Down the Wind is based on the book by Mary Hayley Bell (good old nepotism) about three children in Lancashire who find a Blakey, a runaway murderer (Alan Bates in his first film) in their barn.  Injured and exhausted, he responds to their question about who he is by saying 'Jesus Christ' before passing out.

In their innocence, they believe that this is the Second Coming, a mistake he doesn't put right when he realises that Kathy (Hayley Mills) is determined to protect him from the local police who are hunting him.  Gradually word gets out  to other local children that Jesus is in their barn, until eventually Kathy's father hears about it and calls in the police. All the local children converge on the barn and Kathy slips round the back to talk to Blakey through the wall.  She apologises for letting him down and persuades him to give himself up. He forgives her and throws out his gun before being arrested and taken away.  At the end of the film, two young children approach Kathy and ask if they can see Jesus. She tells them they have missed him this time but he'll be back again. Those with a keen eye may spot a certain young Richard Attenborough as 'man with sack' in one of the background scenes. He also directed the film.

Kathy (Hayley Mills) and Charles (Alan Barnes) with
Blakey (Alan Bennett)
Image courtesy of
The film beautifully contrasts the innocence of the children with the suspicious adults and is heavy in allegory, with the intitial group of children in on the secret being 12 and called 'the disciples' in the credits.  There are allusions to Thomas's denial of Christ, the three Wise men and in the final scene, when Blakey stands with arms outstretched to be frisked by the police it is a clear allusion to the Crucifixion.

Of course when I was 8 I didn't give a toss about any of this, I just wanted to be Hayley Mills.


Steve said...

My favourite black and white films? Blimey. The orginal The Turn Of The Screw is still unnerving even today. I also remember some very early Carry On films - especially one set in a school where all the kids (Richard O'Sullivan played the head boy or something) rebelled because they didn't want their much loved headmaster to retire.

Hannah said...

I can understand why you stuck at 2 choices - it can be so hard to try and pick a favourite!

Haven't seen the first one but Whistle Down the Wind I remember from when I watched it when I was a kid. Need to watch it again though

Thanks for joining in - the new theme is live tomorrow! :) x

Wylye Girl said...

Oh, oh, oh I remember that one, Steve. They all stood outside in the playground chanting 'We Want Wheatley' while he got all misty eyed in his office. God, why do I remember that when I struggle to remember something I did last week! And the Turn of the Screw was very memorable. I could have included David Copperfield, The St Trinians Films, Brief Encounter, Passport to Pimlico... the list goes on

Wylye Girl said...

Hannah, I shall probably spend the rst of the day wishing I was Hayley Mills. It's opened up old wounds you know! ;) Look forward to the next one.

hausfrau said...

I can think of lots: love anything with Cary Grant or Katherine Hepburn, or Audrey. Sticking b&b I'd suggest Arsenic and Old Lace, Bringing Up Baby and Roman Holiday just to get started...

Curry Queen said...

Wow - Whistle Down the Wind brings back some memories. I too wanted to be Hayley Mills, then ended up seeing her every so often years later when she lived down the road from TPS! the other b&w films I love are andthing featuring Fred 'n Ginger or choreographed by Busby Berkeley...swoon!

The Vegetable Assassin said...

Holy crap yes, I haven't seen "Whistle Down The Wind" in YEARS. Since childhood one Saturday morning, probably. I loved that movie. Now i have to go uh...try to acquire it from the webz...

Usually I'm not big on black and whites except some classic favourites like "Casablanca" and "Night of the Hunter" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" and a few select others. But yes WDTW is a classic too. Thanks for reminding me!

Perpetually In Transit said...

Great Expectations, Jane Eyre (with Orson Welles as Mr Rochester), Some Like it Hot (one of my all-time favorites), Casablanca, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (or almost anything with Charles Laughton). I could go on and on... Great topic, Wylie Girl!

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

I don't remember the first but certainly have fond memories of Whistle Down the Wind. I would quite like to see the musical of the story: the title song is beautiful.

Wylye Girl said...

Hausfrau, all fab choices. The more you think about it, the more that spring to mind

CQ, WHAT? She lived up the road from TPS? How did I miss out on that little snippet of important local information? Bums!

Veggie, I'm pleased I could resurrect a happy childhood memory. I was trying to explain the plot to The Girl (13) last week, before I even read this, and she just laughed and said 'How could anyone be so dumb. As if you'd really find Jesus in your barn'. So much for the innocence of youth

Wylye Girl said...

PiT - Yes, I remember the Hunchback of Notre Dame. There really are so many great ones aren't they. I wish I could claim credit for the topic but really it's Metal Mummy

Trish - I've just had to go online to find it. It was just such a magical story. Sadly, I don't think it would translate for today's far more savvy generation of kids (see comment to Veggie above)

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

By the way, my fave black and white film is Brief Encounter - terribly, terribly British with clipped tones and repressed passion.

Wylye Girl said...

Oh yes, Brief Encounter. That could easily have made my list. Wonderful film!

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