José Arroyo in Conversation With Nicky Smith on Fredric March

Great fun to chat to librarian extraordinaire on her favourite subject, Fredric March: two time Oscar winner; recipient of the very first Tony award; in his time considered one of the great actors of his generation; headliner of films that continue to be seen and appreciated —The Best Years of Our Lives, Dr. Jekyll and … Continue reading José Arroyo in Conversation With Nicky Smith on Fredric March

Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel by Allan R. Ellenberger


Very good book on a great actress, still under-rated star, and key figure in the ‘pre-code’ era. The book is as good on her life as on her career. Her relationships with her mother, sister and child figure prominently and are woven throughout the narrative along with her numerous marriages and affairs. The plays, films and performances are well discussed and one also gets the nitty gritty dollars and cents information I at least am keen on. 

The book is interesting on all her key films (The Smiling Lieutenant, Trouble in Paradise, Design for Living, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Story of Temple Drake, Becky Sharpe, These Three;). It also gives a very good account of how difficult she was to work with, on the making of The Sisters, Old Acquaintance and the onset shenanigans with Bette Davis that ensued on those films. If Ryan Murphy wants to do a prequel to Feud this would provide very good material. Her reputation for being difficult affected her ability to get work in Hollywood but luckily she always had a stage career to return to in moments were she wasn’t getting what she wanted from Hollywood.

The book is fascinating on her extensive love life: Fritz Lang, Anatole Litvak, Robert Montgomery, and many others. The famous incident with Litvak and Paulette Goddard gets a full airing and Ellenberger also discusses and dismisses the rumours of Hopkins’ lesbian tendencies, locating the sources of the rumours and indicating how and why those rumours might have been propagated.

As an added bonus, one also gets a rich and full account of Hopkins’ career in the theatre. I recommend.


José Arroyo

Speaking East: The Strange and Enchanted life of Isidore Isou by Andrew Hussey

  Half-way through Andrew Hussey’s extraordinary SPEAKING EAST: THE STRANGE AND ENCHANTED LIFE OF ISIDORE ISOU, Isou, barely 20, has yet to arrive in Paris, the city where he would found LETTRISM, become a left bank avant-garde celebrity, and live in for the rest of his life. In those first twenty years, his family left … Continue reading Speaking East: The Strange and Enchanted life of Isidore Isou by Andrew Hussey

Jingyi Zhang on Parasite

Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about Parasite: a  video essay which succeeds in showing how camera movement and the recurrence of strongly symbolic images are deployed to demonstrate distinctions between classes in Bong Joon Ho´s Parasite.    The Revelry in the Basement: Bong Joonho’s Parasite and Class discussion in films … Continue reading Jingyi Zhang on Parasite

La Marie du Port (Marcel Carné, France, 1950)

  Gabin as he is in La Marie du Port (right), and the much more youthful portrait the poster advertises (left). The image the poster sells harks back to his thirties films, perhaps hoping to appeal to his pre-war popularity and regain it. But it´s also an image that somewhat contradicts one of the film´s … Continue reading La Marie du Port (Marcel Carné, France, 1950)

Orry-Kelly, ‘Women I’ve Undressed’

Orry-Kelly was a bachelor all his life; he was chief costume designer for Warner Brothers between 1932 and 1944;  lived with Cary Grant in the late Twenties and was furious when Grant moved on to Randolph Scott in the Thirties; was bestie to Texas Guinan, Ethel Barrymore, Marion Davies, Fanny Brice, Hedda Hopper and other … Continue reading Orry-Kelly, ‘Women I’ve Undressed’

Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch, USA, 1933)

A Lubitsch film adapted by the great Ben Hetch from the Noel Coward play about his relationship with the legendary Lunts*? The heart speeds, the mouth salivates. Yet, it’s extremely disappointing; indeed almost awful. Coward and Lubitsch are like oil and vinegar or rather two superb vinegars that might have got toxic when mixed by … Continue reading Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch, USA, 1933)

The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola, USA, 2013)

  When I saw The Bling Ring on its initial release I wrote myself a note: ‘Permit me a speculation: If Sofia Coppola were a male director or if a greater proportion of film critics were female, there would have been shouting from the rooftops at the appearance of The Bling Ring’. Seeing it again … Continue reading The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola, USA, 2013)

César et Rosalie (Claude Sautet, France 1972)

César et Rosalie is the kind of film current cinema seems to have given up on: about love; small scale but thought through; each shot both a picture worth looking at and a space of feeling; and about something worth feeling too, which is to say it’s about that which hurts. César (Yves Montand) loves … Continue reading César et Rosalie (Claude Sautet, France 1972)

Max Reinhardt and Lubitsch

  Was Max Reinhardt an influence on Lubitsh? Lotte Eisner thought so. In the The Haunted Screen she tells us that Lubitsch was ‘less sensitive to his influence than other German filmmakers’ (p.79) but also notes the Reinhardt influence in ‘the famous square market place around which Lubitsch was so fond of moving his crowds in … Continue reading Max Reinhardt and Lubitsch

Les choses de la vie/ The Things of Life (Claude Sautet, France, 1970)

The original trailer for the French release in 1970 promised that Les choses de la vie/ The Things of Life would be ‘about people, people like you, people to whom things happen, things of life: beautiful, sweet, stupid; things of life that make life worth living’. If the ‘you’ referred to is an ideal ‘you’ … Continue reading Les choses de la vie/ The Things of Life (Claude Sautet, France, 1970)

Elysium (Neill Blomkamp, USA, 2013)

In Elysium, rich people have extracted everything they can from earth and made it so dirty, dangerous, ugly and poor in the process that they refuse to live in it. They’ve created a satellite colony, Elysium, where only they can live. It’s like Earth is East LA and Elysium is a super-rich gated community like … Continue reading Elysium (Neill Blomkamp, USA, 2013)