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Dinner At Eight [1933] (REGION 2) (PAL) [Dutch Import]
Dinner At Eight [1933] (REGION 2) (PAL) [Dutch Import]
Dvd ~ Marie Dressler
Offered by brrsales
Price: £9.98

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of everything, 12 Jan 2009
In the 30's Hollywood adapted many film comedies of manners from hit Broadway plays. Some like the Barrymore vehicle "Twentieth Century" seem stage-bound and are terribly overacted as if played in Madison Square Gardens. But this version of the George Kaufman/ Edna Ferber stage play pulls it off totally. John Barrymore takes his role as a washed-up matinee idol more seriously in this than in many of the films in which his art imitated, then parodied, his own downhill trajectory. As a result he is subtle and touching here, even as he is courting a girl young enough to be his daughter, and you can see from this performance why he had once been the most famous leading man of his generation. The other leading roles- and if ever there was a balanced ensemble cast in the movies, this is it- are taken by players who, each in their own way, show themselves to be masters of character acting. Marie Dressler, one of the greatest character players in the movies, is funny and magnificent, a warship in full sail. Lionel Barrymore, the businessman whose own shipping line is- well, sinking- is at the end of his tether with business worries, and consequent failing health, but maintains throughout an air of gentle decency and good manners. The background to this comedy drama is the Depression, and in spite of the lavish settings and magnificent costumes, we seem never far away from personal or romantic disaster. Love, romance, marriage, sex and high finance are woven into a carefully controlled narrative perfectly brought to the screen by George Cukor and his screenplay adapters. The dreadful marriage between the loud, rude, bullying nouveau riche tycoon played by Wallace Beery and his trashy, wheedling, spectacularly underdressed younger wife, Jean Harlow, shows another side of 1930's high society. Marie Dressler performs what has to be the finest double-take in the movies, in reaction to strident Jean Harlow's conversational gambit " I read a book the other day..." I won't spoil it by quoting further, but this exchange leads to what must rank as among the best last exchanges in cinema- up there with the ending of Some Like it Hot. Like all the best comedy, Dinner at Eight has a serious edge to it, more than a touch of darkness. One of the films to see before you die- or go bankrupt.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2010 2:27 PM BST


The Discreet Interventions of Verdon James
The Discreet Interventions of Verdon James
by Julian Roach
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.17

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most discreet investigator, 12 Jan 2009
Part detective, part spy and socialite, the kind of acquaintance you call on in times of crisis, Verdon James is a wholly individual creation. He is unmatched for affability and loyalty, has a great line in self-deprecation, but is dogged and unstoppable once he has found his strategy and is set upon his path. Nevertheless, Julian Roach never allows his literate, intelligent hero to appear smug or sanctimonious. Verdon James makes mistakes, regrets past errors of judgment in life and in love, and along the way he makes you laugh in a way no infallible smarty-pants detective ever could. When an adversary adopts, in hiding in France, the name Palmer- derived from a fine chateau wine- Verdon James counters by calling himself M. Leoville-Bartin. He remarks to the reader as he arrives at the door of his enemy's hideout that "it seemed to me that when a second growth St. Julien called on a third growth Margaux, someone would be pretty much obliged to come to the door."

Verdon James' adventures are often woven around real life events, based on an eclectic reading of 20th century European affairs and history. The background to his adventures is impressively traced like those of a more straight down the line storyteller like Robert Harris, but in this reader's view, Roach conjures up more memorable and engaging characters. Again unlike other contemporary adventure/ detective writers, his attitude to narrative is agreeably relaxed and ruminative, which means these discreet interventions probably won't turn out to have the ingredients for an airport best seller.

If Mr. James does not seem to you by now a good prospect as a dinner companion or confidante, better give this book a miss. I thought it a delight, and Verdon a creation of real originality. He will remind some readers of the classic English gentleman spy, but he's more will-o'-the-wisp, like somebody remarkable you once encountered but didn't really get to know, and whose memory haunts you still.


The Seven Year Itch [DVD]
The Seven Year Itch [DVD]
Dvd ~ Marilyn Monroe
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £5.84

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Billy knew best, 10 April 2008
This review is from: The Seven Year Itch [DVD] (DVD)
The divine Marilyn is the real reason to see this fairly clumsy comedy, since her male lead Tom Ewell is a decent likeable jobbing actor but no movie star, in spite of having apparently starred in the theatre version of the play. He can't, as they say, carry the picture, and it's tragic to read that Billy Wilder tested, and wanted, the young Walter Matthau for the part, but was over-ruled by the studio, since Matthau wasn't a name at the time. Matthau and Monroe, now there would have been a five star combination. When Monroe is on screen the whole thing takes off, but in between, the long scenes with Ewell alone indulging his jokey sexual fantasies are clunky and one-note and haven't worn well with time. That there is no sexual chemistry whatever between the stars presumably worked well at the time for the Hays code- the theatrical version has the couple actually getting it together, but the film keeps the sex within the male character's fevered imagination. A missed opportunity, and as usual the director's casting could have made this a comic masterpiece, but the studio's intervention turned it into a now dated but watchable curiosity. Watchable, because inevitably the screen lights up every time Marilyn appears.


The Pope in Winter: The Dark Face of John Paul II's Papacy
The Pope in Winter: The Dark Face of John Paul II's Papacy
by John Cornwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.14

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Careful but unflinching portrait, 25 Sep 2007
This is an elegant, sharply intelligent account of Karol Wojtyla's pontificate, a refreshing antidote to the more official and fulsome biographies of him. The author is a respected catholic thinker and academic. He hasn't set out to shock, but to flesh out the complex personality of John Paul II and to relate him to his time- a period of great political change in central Europe and of knife-edged diplomacy and still unresolved conflict in the middle East. Cornwell has his own un-named sources for some previously unknown anecdotage, some of it startling, some amusing. Ultra-conservative catholics may find these Vatican tales a touch scandalous, but they humanise this figure of power and authority, and indeed they seem to ring true when one already knows a bit about the character of Wojtyla before he became Pope. It may be an uncompromising, "warts and all" portrait, and Cornwell is unequivocal about what he sees as the Pope's failings in, for instance, religious pluralism, but he is respectful of his achievements. He details the Pontiff's early visits to his native Poland at the days when the Solidarity movement faced up to the communist-controlled regime. At that time Wojtyla whole-heartedly encouraged the spirit of freedom in his compatriots without overtly urging a people's revolt, and though he could not claim to be the prime mover of the fall of communism, his moral leadership could not be ignored, and his oratory and diplomatic skills, as Cornwell puts it, were "perfect" for the occasion. The book is also realistic about those occasions on which John Paul II and the Holy See appeared to stumble over, or not to react swiftly enough to, controversies that engulfed the church in the late 20th century, such as the child abuse scandal in the USA involving Catholic priests. He also dispassionately analyses Wojtyla's personal viewpoint during the arguments over womens' rights, including the debate over the ordination of women, and sexual health issues such as contraception for AIDS sufferers. What might appear from its back cover quotes to be a calculatedly iconoclastic account turns out to be a thoughtful and immensely readable biography.


Shelley's Boat: The Turbulent, Tragic Last Weeks of Percy Bysshe Shelley
Shelley's Boat: The Turbulent, Tragic Last Weeks of Percy Bysshe Shelley
by Julian Roach
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Storm, 22 Dec 2005
This is an ingenious book, ostensibly the biography of an inanimate object- though it becomes a portrait of the little group surrounding Shelley during his final days in Italy. It is beautifully written, with an idiosyncratic and witty authorial voice. Though a slim volume, it is packed with information, quotation, and well researched detective work on the possible causes of Shelley's demise- the faults in the vessel itself, and the poetical, almost wished-for, nature of his death. Like Dava Sobell's 'Longitude' it is a lucid combination of scientific nuts and bolts and personal biography, attractively produced, nice to handle, and a delicious read.


Collectible Bohemian Glass, 1880-1940
Collectible Bohemian Glass, 1880-1940
by Robert Truitt
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good general survey by expert collectors, 15 Dec 2005
This book and its companion volume 2 will give the collector a good overall view of Bohemian glassmaking in the early 20th century. The authors are a husband and wife team who were expert collectors and researchers themselves, though I believe their collection is now largely dispersed. They have collated much information that isn't available in the several books on this subject that have more elaborate production values. This has a more modest look and design, the photos are not superb in their quality, and smaller than the illustrations in the more 'coffee table' publications, but they are fine for reference, and most important the information is largely accurate. This is a difficult field to research because of the sad and confused history of this region during the past century. Beginners will find this a good overall view of the subject, but those with some prior knowledge will also appreciate elements like the facsimile pages of old trade gazettes, giving original adverts, names and addresses of firms from the major glassmaking towns.


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