‘Till Death Us Do Part Blogathon: Marriage Misfires and Midnight Lace(1960)

“This is a refreshing change of pace. A totally new kind of topic for a Blogathon.  Theresa Brown from Cine Maven’s Essays From The Couch invited Bloggers to write a post on a movie with a planned “Murder” as its plot. However, there is a twist: The victim must be a Spouse of the murderer. In reality, this type of murder happens more often than one would think. If you consider the three e three main motives for murder: Greed, lust, or revenge, and compare them to what most couples fight about: Money, sex, and past hurts, it should not be surprising that spousal murder is as old as time itself. As a result, it has been the theme for many stories.  These timeless tales come from around the world:  India’s Schehezade, Germany’s Grimm’s fairy tales, Shakespeare’s Othello, and shown in hundreds of movies.  Uxorcide (technical word for murder of one’s wife) or mariticide (technical word for killing one’s husband), are hideous tales that we have all heard, at some time or other.  As a result, they can be seen in a fictitious work or in a newspaper headline.

When I first received this invite, I thought of all kinds of different movies.  Strangely, I realized some of these were also personal favorites of mine. The best movies of this murder theme is either a thriller or a comedy. So, here are five of my personal favorites.  From the favorites, I chose Midnight Lace (1960) to explain more in detail.  All of them are deserving of a blog post; and, if you followed the link below,  you may find a blogger who chose one or more of your personal favorites to write about too.

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1) I love the movie classic Gaslight (1944). This is the American version of a British movie with the same title from 1940.  In Britain, it is also know as A Strange Case of Murder.  Both British and American versions are based on a 1939 play by Patrick Hamilton. Usually, remakes are horrible.  But this film is anything but horrible. It is directed by George Cukor with an amazing cast. They include: Ingrid Berman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotton and eighteen year old, Angela Lansbury.

This movie is made with the perfect mood of mystery and fear (Film Noir).  The Husband, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer),  tries to convince his wife, Paula (Ingrid Berman) she is going slowly going mad. With mental illness in her family, it is suggested that a number of tragic actions may eventually happen to her such as a suicide, or a deadly accident or possibly, she needs to be locked away in a mental hospital.

Paula’s aunt Alice, a famous Opera singer, was murdered years ago in the same house that she and Anton reside.  In this spooky house, Paula hears strange sounds, she images she see things, and personal items of Gregory’s turns up missing; but, are later found in Paula’s possession.

A young inspector from Scotland Yard, Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotton) notices Paula’s striking resemblance to her famous murdered aunt. As a boy, he had a huge crush on the Opera singer. Being a sharp detective, he senses something isn’t quite right between Paula and her husband. He begins to watch them both. This isn’t a good movie, this is a great movie.  If you claim to be a movie lover, this movie cannot be missed.  I must have watched it a dozen times; and, each time, I liked it more than the last time.

2) Then there is the French film, Les Diabolique (1955) with Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, and Paul Meurisse.  This is another psychological thriller; and, this is also another great movie Classic, that must be seen.  Yes, it has English subtitles for those of us who do not speak French. A fragile wife, Christina DeLassalle (Vera Clougzot), with a serious heart condition, is married to a sadistic, greedy man, Michel DeLasseelle (Paul Meurisse), who has a mistress, Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret).  Michel is bitterly cruel  to Christina and deliberately humiliated her in everyway that he can think of.  He even forces his wife to accept the fact he is in love with Nicole. Michel and Nicole plots to murder Christina. The plan is especially horrid…to scare her death. With her weak heart, this should not be too difficult to accomplish.  However, trying to figure out what actually happens has delightful surprises throughout the movie.

This film is as artistic film that takes terror to a whole other level at that time. Many considerate this film a cinema masterpiece.  There is a tamer, American version of this movie with nearly the same title, missing the article, Les.  This movie remake stars Sharon Stone, Isabelle IsjaniChazz Palminteri, and Kathy Bates.  When most critics compared the 1995 version to the 1955 classic, most felt the remake was a travesty.  It is rare to find a remake better than a near perfect Classic.

3)  My next choice is not a film Classic like Gaslight or Les Diabolique; but, Midnight Lace (1960) is an extremely enjoyable movie to watch nonetheless. This Hollywood movie unbelievably places wholesome Doris Day in harm’s way. Her real husband, Marty Melcher, co- produced this movie. Nothing like adding a bit more pressure to making a movie a success than a spouse who invested the family money into the deal.  Poor Doris, she had to “act” stressed outfor the movie and lived it at home. I will write more about this movie in more detail shortly.

4) Faithful (1996) This is my first comedy-drama favorite starting Cher, Ryan O’Neal, and Chazz Palminteri. Yes, Palminteri also played the husband in the remake of Diabolique (1995). He also wrote the movie screenplay that is based on his play.  In this film, he plays the hitman, Tony, hired to kill the Margaret (Cher) by her husband, Jack Connor (Ryan O’Neal) on there twentieth wedding anniversary. There is more comedy than drama.  Tony holds Margaret hostage as he waits for a call from Jack to signal the “go ahead” to kill her.  That is the drama.   Listening to Margaret outsmart her assailant while she bargains for her life is the comedy. In their discourse, we learn Tony is in therapy to help him to stop being a hitman.  He even becomes so frustrated, he calls his threapist, Dr. Susskind (Paul Marzursky) while he wrestled with his budding conscious. Marzursky is also the director of this movie.  This movie is fun regardless of its dark subject matter.

5) I Married An Axe Murder (1993) The is pure comedy about murdering your spouse with Mike Myers, Nancy Travis, Anthony LaPaglia, Amanda Plummer, Brenda Fricker, Alan Arkin, Steven Wright, Phil Hartman, … It has great mix of background music, some Scottish culture, and it is Funny.  Mike Myers plays Charlie Mackenzie and Charlie’s father, Stuart Mackenzie.  Charlie’s Mum, Kay,  is played by Irish actress Brenda Fricker.  The times when Charlie visits his family’s Scottish/Canadian home is priceless. His best friend is police detective Tony Giardino (Anthony LaPagelia).

Charlie is a performing artist/ poet in a coffeehouse. He meets a lot of women; but, he hasn’t met the “woman.”  We learn about Charlie’s life through his conversations with his cop friend, Tony and his visits home to his Scottish parents.  On his way to a visit them, he stops by the butcher to buy some haggis for dinner.  The butcher is the lovely, mysterious Harriet (Nancy Travis).

There is instant chemistry.  Harriet might be “the woman.”  They start dating.  There is only a few problems: Harriet’s sister, Rose Michaels (Amanda Plummer) is oddly intense, Harriet’s dead husbands, and a “rag” magazine keeps running a story about a “Honeymood Killer.”

This is my favorite Mike Myers movie.  It has an all star cast that only helps to prolong the fun and the many surprises in this charming film.

My list of movies for spousal murders could go on.  These are just the top few that come to my mind, now. There is one of the four, I would like to go into with a bit more detail.

The Murder Blog….Midnight Lace with Doris Day

Doris Day was one of the highest paid Hollywood actresses during the 1960s and 1970s.  In all of the her forty plus movie roles, her screen presence was phenomenon and her audience was totally mesmerize by her.  She is best known for her light comedies and lovely singing voice. There is something so wholesome about her that made you feel good as you watched her on film. In dramas or comedies, when she smiled or laughed, we felt it. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t like and admire her.

Doris Day usually portrayed a strong, determined contemporary woman who had obstacles to overcome. She usually accomplished this with a smile on her face.  In many roles, she played a working woman, single or married, who was placed in unusual circumstances. She tried to lived an ordinary life surrounded by extraordinary circumstances.

One of the joys in watching Midnight Lace is to see Day in some of the most beautiful dresses, gowns, and coats made by designer, Irene  Lentz. They are so gorgeous she received a Oscar nomination for costume design for this film. Irene was one of Hollywood’s premier designers (Gaslight, Shall We Dance, Easter Parade….).  I can only guess how Day feels as she sees herself wearing fur lined and trimmed garments in this movie. She has been a staunch animal activist for many years now, which I greatly admire.

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Besides seeing Day in these stunning outfits, I am intrigued by Day’s performance. You can actually witness Kit Preston’s nervous breakdown spiralling out of control.  In Day’s autobiography, she confesses that in scenes where she displayed hysteria, she was not acting. She was hysterical because she relived events in her life where she feared for her own safety.  Unfortunately, she feared death from the hands of her ex-husband. After one such scene, she passed out.  They shut down production for a few days while Day recovered. This is one of five movies Day made that was not a comedy. Not surprisingly, Midnight Lace would be her last drama.

In Midnight Lace, Doris Day portrays an American heiress, Kit Preston, who recently marries wealthy, British Anthony Preston (Rex Harrison). In addition to Harrison, the rest of the cast is also very impressive: John Gavin, Myrna Loy, Roddy McDowell,

After moving to London, Kit finds herself stalked and threaten over the phone, in the thick London fog, on a lift (elevator), and just about everywhere she goes. She hears a mechanical, high pitched voice address her by name and tell her he cannot wait to squeeze the life out of her body. There are also attempts on her life.  As Kit fanatically tells Tony of these events, there is no actual witnesses. Tony tries to help and even calls Scotland Yard. Yet, no one can collaborate her stories. Overworked, Tony, is constantly being called back to work to deal with a corporate disaster. So, Kit reaches out to her Aunt Bea (Myrna Loy) and  her neighbor Peggy.

There are a list of suspects.  The construction site manager, John Gavin, who just happens to push her out of the way before a rail would have fallen on her head and killed her.  The construction is at a building adjacent to Kit’s building. Later, he saves her from a broken lift (elevator) in her building. He claims knows her name because he looked at her name on her post.  Why? When he invites her to  have a drink with him, she learns he is a WWII veteran who suffers from severe blackouts (PTSD: Past Traumatic Stress Disorder).  Which is kind of ironic since Day suffered from it also in her own life without the blackouts.

Another suspect is the son of Kit’s housekeeper, Nora. She is a sweetheart but her son is a narcissistic, deranged adult (Roddy McDowell) who keeps her poor.  Because Kit has a soft spot for maid,   she readily gives her money, if she foresees a need, like a new coat. Whatever money Nora receives, she gives it to her worthless son who has been passively and aggressively threatening Kit and his Mum for more money.

Aunt Bea’s boyfriend has some financial woes; and, he wants Tony to bail him out.  Then, there is Peggy, the neighbor.  She is the only witness who sees Kit pushed in front of a moving bus. Yet, she does not see who pushed her. Plus, Peggy claims she has a husband; but, he works away. We never see him.; but, we do see strange looking men who stalk Kit.

All of these people who surround Kit come under suspicion. While Kit suffers, Scotland Yard believes she is kind of lonely; and, she is unconsciously trying to get attention from Tony. Therefore, she is imagining these events and phone calls. “Gaslighting” at its best. This is a worthwhile movie to watch as it is a beautiful Hollywood film that will keep you guessing to the end.

So, if you have a free afternoon, you might like to watch any of these murder mysteries. Two are wonderfully perfect Classics;  two are endearing comedies; or, one is a fascinating Hollywood rarity with Doris Day. Any of these are worth your time, as a movie lover.

To read more posts written for this Death Do Us Part Blogathon, please use the following link:

https://cinemavensessaysfromthecouch.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/till-death-us-do-part-2/

REFERENCES:

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/76014/Gaslight/articles.html

April Showers in The Movies Blogathon: Pride And Prejudice (2005)

Many thanks to Movie, Movie, Blog, Blog for hosting April Showers Blogathon 2017.  I enthusiastically urge you check the link below for more posts on other movies that use rain to enhance its movie experience:

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After a particularly harsh Winter, it feels natural to welcome Spring with some sort of celebration.  Being able to stay outside for long periods of time, you are able to see nature bursting with new life as it graces us with images and scents of  blooming flowers, fresh air and wet green grass. As it rains, you can feel the growth of new beginnings. As true with most things in life, there is an upside and a downside.  The negative reactions to change could also include degrees of fear, uncertainty, and apprehension.  As a result, people tend to be a bit anxious about changes, especially when it affects their future, like a new love.

Nothing affects the future like a budding romance in the Spring. It is one of nature’s strongest forces. However, no matter how glorious it feels to be in love, there is a stark reality. There is no guarantee that it will last, forever. In the United States,  50% of all marriages end in divorce and many, who don’t divorce, wish they could have chosen a different spouse.  The positives and negatives of Spring romances are a reality that affect life on this planet, for better and worst.

No one understood these Spring Romances better than Jane Austen in her novel, Pride and Prejudice (1813). She presents rules, obstacles and warnings of how to, and not to, fall in love with the wrong person. The main  characters, Elizabeth Bennett (Lizzy) and William Fitzgerald Darcy, represents a couple who struggle with these rules. They approach each other with as much honor and passion as any knight on a battlefield. The emotional duel between these two head strong, intelligent people is like nothing ever written before; even  when compared to Shakespeare‘s standards of fearsome love battles: Beatrice and Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing or  Katherine and Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew.  Austen’s Lizzy and Darcy tangle with the Forces of Nature too; and no amount of reason or strong will can stop them from hating the fact that they are falling in love, despite their best efforts not to do so.

Of course, the real test of this classic tale is to transfer their love battle to the Hollywood screen, with all its explosively charged passions still in tact within the confines of polite society.  How does a film maker translate this magical and sensual tale to the screen and still be true to the book?  How do you take people from another time in multi-layered clothes, who are not allowed to touch each other, let alone talk openly or privately without a chaperone, appear sexy and passionately in love for a modern audience?

In my humble opinion, Director Joe Wright‘s film, Pride and Prejudice (2005), had accomplished just that. It is the most beautiful and sensual retelling of any romantic classic that I have ever seen.  It is so beautifully made,  I believe it is visual poetry. And poetry, as we all know, is the language of love.

How does Wright make a classic love story into poetry on film?  It is accomplished with careful and artistic use of the movie making elements of cinematography, filming in lush locations, employing the right melodic music,  having a great story, with wonderful actors set in lavish sets and costumes. And perhaps, and even more importantly, the use of the Seasons with its natural elements. Much of this film’s imagery, is a product of an artistic utilization of the natural landscape and weather. Since April Showers is the theme of this post, and romance is the background, I want to focus on one a scene in this movie that uses rain, in particular, in conveying the emotional tone and the movement of the story..

Summary for Essential Scene

During 19th century Merry England, the Industrial Revolution was soon to begin as the war with Napoleon was nearing its end.  On the home front, life was routine.  Women, for centuries, were needed to help increase their family’s fortunes by marrying wealthy men.  They were not allowed to inherit the family fortune if there was a male relative about who could inherit instead.  These woman faced eviction if these male relatives so chose (Entailment in Property law).

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The Bennett Family consisted of a Mother, Father and five daughters. With no sons to inherit, an estrange male cousin, Mr. Collins, will inherit the Bennett estate, Longboure, once the Father passes away.  So being a good mother, Mama Bennett (Brenda Blethyn), who has a complete lack of any tack or finesse,  finds it imperative to hunt and capture good husbands for her young daughters.

This is made very difficult, because the money that should have been saved to add to their dowry (to attract suitors) was foolishly overspent on new dresses and frills to lavish on her favorite daughters and the home. Father Bennett (Donald Sutherland) basically lets Mother Bennett have her way in most cases to avoid listening to her nagging.  Elizabeth loves and admires her father’s witty intellect. She finds solace in her father’s company when they discuss and debate concepts introduced by the books they have read.  Thanks to her parent’s unhappy marriage, Elizabeth is determined to marry for love, only.  Poor Elizabeth, due to  the family’s unfortunate circumstances, Mama Bennett is near manic and extremely manipulative in her matching making efforts. You know the philosophy: The ends justified the means.

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At every opportunity, she would “present” her daughter’s before men of wealth, usually at local dances.  Jane (Rosamund Pike) is the eldest and prettiest daughter. She is a very sweet natured young Lady; but, she is also extremely shy. Jane and Elizabeth are each others confidante.  The family relies on Jane to find the wealthiest husband in order to save them from poverty. Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) is the second daughter and also very pretty. She is very intelligent with an independent spirit. She doesn’t always filter her words when she speaks her mind. Which is a huge turn off for most men.

When Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) and Elizabeth eyes first connect, they both like what they see. This is why Elizabeth asks Mr. Darcy if he likes to dance.  His response is: Not if I can help it. It is too crowded and loud to continue the conversation.  It is at this same dance that Jane attracts the attention of a new wealthy neighbor, Charles Bingley (Simon Woods).  He walks up and introduces himself, his two sisters, a brother-in-law and his best friend, Mr. Darcy.  He asks Jane for a dance. Mama Bennett is pleased to be sure; but, she sees the wealthier, Mr. Darcy, standing behind his friend.  Without missing an opportunity, Mama Bennett begs Darcy to dance with one of her daughters; then, she nearly pushes Lizzy ( Elizabeth) on Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth is naturally embarrassed.  Darcy who is completely disgusted by Mama Bennett’s obviously crass attempt at  “head hunting” turns his back on them all and stalks off.  Shocked by his rudeness, Lizzy is equally disgusted by his snub.

Elizabeth soothes her mothers hurt feelings and her own by agreeing that Mr. Darcy is “ill-favored” despite his wealth. He does appear arrogant and haughty; but, in his defense, he is overly shy and inept at social function.  So much so, that when he gets nervous, he tends to stutter.  Of course, Mother Bennett agrees with Lizzy; and, advises her never to dance with “the man” even if he asked her too.  Elizabeth promises never to dance with Mr. Darcy.

Later, Elizabeth hears Charles Bingley trying to urge his friend into dancing. He compliments Jane, “She looks like an Angel” and says that Lizzy is quite handsome too.  At this, Darcy went to a place, no man in his right mind, should ever go.  Miss Austen, please excuse my paraphrasing.

He says: She is not handsome enough to tempt me.  I didn’t come here to give “consequence” (boobie prize) to girls who have been rejected by other men.

Oh yeah, Darcy went there.  Guess who over heard it? Yep, Elizabeth. The War is on!  So, what does a young, powerless women do to get back at someone who has insulted her very core? You heard the expression: A best defense, is a great offence.  Lizzy perseveres and pretends, it did not bother her.  Then, she smiles the most dazzling smile she has ever smiled before, and looks straight into the eyes of Mr. Darcy, as she sides pass him on the crowded dance floor. She then finds her closet friend to whisper what Darcy had said.  He is still watching (bewitching?) sees both woman look back at him and laugh.

The lines are drawn; yet, we know both Darcy and Lizzy cannot continue this confusing entanglement for too long. She believes the horrible lies and gossip about Darcy.  He constantly reminds himself of her common breeding.  At every opportunity she tries to avoid him; and, if she cannot avoid him, she sarcastically teases him about his pride. He interprets this as a coy flirtation.

When Darcy hears that someone said Elizabeth was the Local Beauty, he not only says that it must have her mother who said it; but, he also adds that her mother must have been a “wit” or joking.  All awhile, Darcy continues to fall helplessly in love with her; until, he cannot take it anymore.  He decides to degrade himself and declare his love.  He knows that Lizzy must agree that she is very fortunate to have him propose since he is her superior.   He understands that he has much to lose, his reputation, family respect and his own self respect…”but it cannot be helped.”   Elizabeth has everything to gain.  How could she refuse him?

Just before he proposes to Elizabeth, they attend Church service.  She is told by Darcy’s cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, that Darcy bragged about helping his friend Bingley dodge the marriage bullet with an “unsuitable” young lady.  Lizzy knew that the unsuitable young lady was her dear sister Jane.  Elizabeth also understood that Darcy destroyed her sister’s happiness and possibly her family’s as well.  This truth, along with the many lies told to her from Mr. Wickham (Darcy’s enemy), is overwhelming. Elizabeth runs from the Church just as a thunder storm is about to break loose.  Darcy runs after her, and finds her under a stone pavilion, sheltering herself from the storm. This is the climax of the movie.  Here,  Director Wright creates a vividly visual poem .  I have included a link below to watch this magnificent scene. Confrontation and open truth, can be brutally painful; but, it can also cleanse the spirit for change. The rain, music, and emotions are one. Their sounds are as vital as any lover’s heartbeat.

Even with the Academy Award winning music by Dario Marianelli , the lush locations, brilliant cinematography by Roman Osin , and the incredible performances under Wright’s direction, this scene is unforgettable as a result of implementing the thunder storm as a leading character.  It is one of the most passionate and powerful scenes in movie history. Enjoy!

The Darcy’s Proposal in the following link:

https://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=1R-Zg5es7mg

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