Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I marveled at the speediness of the Prime Minister transition in the UK. Jackie shared photos from a 2007 trip to Belfast in Northern Ireland. Becky reviewed The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. Sim gave us a preview of Absolutely Fabulous, The Movie. Jean continued her recap of her recent trip to England with Ely Cathedral, Cambridge, and Lucy M. Boston’s house. Jean also reviewed two books, one about English walks and the other about Lucy M. Boston’s patchworks.
We’ve watched several films recently that had British connections, although only one could be considered a British film. I thought it would be fun to compile some short reviews in case anyone is looking for some weekend movie-watching.
These first two were in honor of Olivia de Havilland’s 100th birthday on July 1.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream was de Havilland’s film debut in 1935, reprising her stage performance of Hermia at The Hollywood Bowl amphitheater. The movie was a showcase for Warner Brothers contract players, most of whom had never performed Shakespeare, so teenage de Havilland’s performance looks quite polished in comparison. We got a kick out of the mid-30s special effects and at how well Shakespeare’s humor plays after 400 years.
Captain Blood was de Havilland’s fourth film (also in 1935 — they rolled them out fast in those days!) and Errol Flynn’s first starring role. The film is mostly set in Jamaica and the Caribbean Sea, but the British history of the late 1600s propels the plot. If you’re going to watch this film, a quick read of the Wikipedia article about King James II will provide appropriate background. But, no one watches Errol Flynn for the history — it’s his mischievous smile and swashbuckling swordplay that steal the show. Olivia de Havilland is charming with a bit of spunk for a woman in a mid-30s role. The spare soundstage sets were disconcerting at first, but the story won out in the end.
A big jump forward in film history, we also recently watched The Great Mouse Detective. This 1986 animated feature is the film that’s credited with convincing Disney that they still had the knack, opening the gate for the Disney Renaissance of animated films. I attended a presentation at a computer graphics conference in Anaheim in 1987 that featured the animators of The Great Mouse Detective. The film was mostly conventionally drawn, but the clockwork in the finale was an exciting development for film and computers. The British connection? The Great Mouse Detective is a fun homage to Sherlock Holmes and set in London, including a wonderful flyover of the city and that amazing climax in and around the tower of Big Ben.
The Gathering Storm was a co-production of the BBC and HBO, a 2002 made-for-TV biopic about Winston Churchill in the years leading up to World War II. Albert Finney starred as Churchill (winning both a BAFTA and an Emmy for the performance) and Vanessa Redgrave played his wife, Clemmie. You’ll recognize lots of other British actors, too. I found this an oddly comforting story about a time of confusion and turmoil when things are likely to get worse before they get better. There seemed to be a message for our times about looking for ways to contribute, accepting uncertainty, and proceeding anyway. Keep calm and carry on.