Thursday, September 26, 2013

Party Like It's 1904 - Book Giveaway

Oh, yeah, party like it's 1904.  Today I'm offering a free paperback copy of my novel Meet Me in Nuthatch to the lucky winner whose name I a draw out of a hat.  It's an Australian Akubra, actually, but that has nothing to do with it.  Just send me an email at with the heading I WANT THE BOOK.  You have from now until next Thursday, when promptly (or as soon as I finish breakfast) at 8 a.m. Eastern Time, I shall draw the lucky winner and announce it on next Thursday's blog post.  Then I will email the winner on where to send the book.  No emails or addresses will ever be made public.

Here's the story:
A publicity stunt to attract tourists to a small dying town results in the entire community turning the clock back to 1904. It is local Christmas tree farmer Everett Campbell's idea, after watching the film Meet Me in St. Louis, his young daughter's new favorite movie. What begins as half practical joke and half desperate ploy initiates the rebirth of Nuthatch, Massachusetts. Tourists do come, along with the media. To Everett's dismay, his campaign to save their community results in also attracting representatives of a chain of theme parks who want to buy Nuthatch 1904. Everett now stands to lose his town in a way he never imagined, and the community is divided on which alternate future to choose. A local drug dealer, the longtime enemy of Everett, may hold their future in his hands unless Everett can pull off his most spectacular, and dangerous, practical joke.
It's poignant, it's silly, and it's got an old movie reference.  What more could you ask?   With the holiday season approaching (I know, nobody likes to be reminded of December in September), I'm going to be offering a few of my books, one a month in this manner.  Maybe you have a Great Uncle Herman who's difficult to buy for.  Maybe you need a gift for your Cousin Louise, who nobody in the family likes.  Get her this.  It would serve her right.
Remember, just an email with I WANT THE BOOK, and your gift-buying woes could be over.
See you next week

Saturday, September 21, 2013

-30- (1959)

-30- (1959) is a story of the gritty newspaper game played out entirely in the newsroom.  Unlike the spirited hijinks of The Front Page where a fugitive is hidden in a roll top desk and the smart aleck newshounds will do just about anything for a story, this movie is more mature, more world-weary, more soul-searching, and presents the journalists in a much more human light of both idealism and self-doubt.
This is our entry in the Breaking News blogathon  hosted by Comet Over Hollywood and Lindsay's Movie Musings. Have a look at these two great blogs for a list of the other swell blogs taking part.
Jack Webb, who directed and produced the movie, stars as the editor-in-chief, who, refreshingly, is not the usual barking kind of editor we see in movies about newspapermen.  He’s tough, cunning, but quiet, with a sense of humor and a wellspring of tenderness that is borne of daily reporting on an often unpleasant world, and from being haunted by his own past personal tragedy. 

The barking in this film is left to William Conrad, an editor whose war cry of, “Boy!” refers to the gang of 20-something copyboys on staff always looking for their big break as journalists, but always reduced to menial gofers. 
His chief irritant is David Nelson, who just can’t seem to please his boss.  Much of the film’s wry humor comes from the clashing in this newsroom full of oddball personalities: Richard Deacon, the frustrated staff artist whose talent and art education is wasted on retouching photos.  Another editor who is assigned to both real estate and religion, wishes he could cover the weather, and Jack Webb decides to let him do all three, proclaiming him editor of heaven and earth. 
Howard McNear aka Floyd the Barber shows up, too, as an editor, and it's neat the Mr. Webb has casted so many movie lesser knowns and bit players for featured roles in this film.

We have Louise Lorimer at the rewrite desk, an old vet of the paper, who follows on teletype the news of her grandson’s Air Force test flight, and Nancy Valentine, stuck doing obits, who wants her big chance at a story.

We see there are no restrictions on the ladies in this newsroom, as career opportunities in journalism have been a gateway to women since the days Nellie Bly was working as an investigative reporter in 19th century.  Jack Webb is supportive of the gals, and helps Nancy Valentine to get her big break when a big story happens.

They work the evening shift, preparing the morning paper.  The newsroom never closes in these days of big-city dailies that had both morning and afternoon papers, and any number of “extras” as the events permitted.  In 1959, print journalism was at a crossroads, and we see it here.  When the big story happens, they are competing with the new television media, and William Conrad jokingly laments, “Oh, why didn’t we all get together and stamp out TV when there was still time?”

Towards the end of the movie, when the paper goes to press, we can hear the hum of the huge presses rolling on a floor below.  We are past the days of Linotype in the composing room, but on the desks and light tables in the newsroom we see this is still an era of paste-up and layout, literally.  (This era continued, for me at least, into the 1980s, and it is a kick to see them work with blue pencil and rulers and rubber cement, and to crop photos, literally, by drawing margins, where figuring out column inches and percentages was done with math.)


There are other, less technical touches to this film that endear the viewer to this world of second-shift newspapermen and women.  The way William Conrad uses a piece of typing paper to wipe yesterday’s grounds out his small electric coffee percolator at the beginning of his shift, berating David Nelson, who stands before him with a tray of paper cups of water so Conrad can refill his pot.  I like the sweater vests, and the editor wearing the green eyeshade he probably put on with pride in his youth and never took it off. 

I like the back of the swivel desk chair we see behind Conrad with somebody’s name written on it, as if the owner was tired of having it swiped.

There is also the omnipresent rain, like the Day of Judgment.  We see it out the window over Jack Webb’s shoulder as he looks toward the neon sign of the diner across the street.  We hear it, and everybody who comes into the office is drenched.  The rain also plays an ominous role in the big story for this evening.
A little girl has crawled into an open storm drain.  She is lost somewhere in the sewer tunnels below the street, and the sewers are filling rapidly with the unrelenting rain.  It had been a slow news night, but nobody on staff is jumping for joy over this one.  They all approach the story with knots in their stomachs, but with a steely resolve to be emotionless.

In a sense, the same kind of “procedural” style Jack Webb used in his Dragnet series is employed here, as the movie shows us the nuts and bolts of what it takes to put out a newspaper edition, and here and there reminds us that there are people involved.  Their stories are subordinate to the Big Story, and this is the deal they entered into when they signed on to this kind of work.  So subordinate to the news are their personal lives that often when they engage in serious personal conversations with each other, their backs are to us, as if they cannot admit to us they have feelings.
But we do get a peek at a few of their personal stories.

Louise Lorimer’s grandson’s test flight turns to tragedy.  She keeps working through her shift to avoid going home alone to her empty apartment.  Eventually, we see she does not go home alone—Nancy Valentine takes her home to her apartment; the bonding of the sorority of young and old “girl reporters.”

Jack Webb, especially torn by the Big Story, ponders, “What those parents must be going through.  At least with me, it was all over before they told me.”  Here is his past tragedy.  His wife and son were killed some years previously, and he is not through grieving.  This night will bring his single greatest challenge.  His new wife of three years, played by Whitney Blake, wants to adopt a little boy.  At first Webb agreed, and the two-year process of adoption and the search for a child is over.  She’s found a little boy, but now Jack has cold feet.  He’s afraid to commit his heart to another child.
“The Speech” is given to William Conrad, as he bawls out David Nelson and another copyboy for wanting to quit.  His soliloquy, as he brandishes a rolled up sample of their life’s blood, is capped with, “It only cost ten cents, but if you only read the comic section or the want ads, it’s still the best buy for your money in the world.”

Despite the wisecracks and the cynicism, these are closet idealists who dream big and hurt deeply.

These were the days when the newspaper was the window to the world, something the whole family read, when people had personal loyalties to certain papers, and when a newspaper could be so much the conscience of a community that in later days when they began to close down, the community mourned.  When Jack Webb tears out the planned front page and inserts a new lead story, 72-point heading, with a huge photo of the storm drain, its open jaws threatening to eat us all, he warns the children readers to stay away from this awful thing.  The newspaper is for the whole family to read and discuss.
Nancy Valentine pulls off a coup by talking to the family and getting photos.  She has earned their trust.  Richard Deacon puts his art skills to work, finally, by drawing an illustration of the sewer system that is not only informative for the readers, but helpful to the news staff.  These people don’t just want to report on another dead body, they want to find that kid, and flesh out where and when and why and how.

Then through the night we get reports of injured rescue workers and it does not look good for the missing little girl.

Spoilers here.  Go to the water cooler for a minute if you don’t want to know.
The reporter on scene calls in, and it goes to Louise Lorimer, wearing her headphones to type, hunt-and-peck style, the rewrite.  (In these days, you didn’t automatically get a byline; you had to earn it.  Reporters with bylines were rock stars.)  She listens and types, and Jack Webb listens on the other line.  The staff looks up from their work, apprehensively.

The girl is saved.  The newsroom is quiet, only a sigh of relief and big smiles, and a few tears as one fellow mops his face with his handkerchief. 
Whitney Blake brings the little boy she wants to adopt to the newsroom to meet Jack. He’s still reticent to go through with it, but when the boy wanders into his office and asks what the noise is—he hears the loud presses running—Jack Webb is faced with his greatest nightmare: the prospect of loving another child.

In a sweet finale, Jack’s emotions are, again, subjugated to the newsroom.  It is his point of reference for everything.  He asks the boy, “Don’t you know what that is?”
The boy, a little scared, shakes his head.

“They’re printing the funny papers,” he says reassuringly. 
The little boy has wondered into the magical land where the funny papers come from!  Webb reduces the magnitude of the work and sorrow, tragedy-dwelling and corruption-sniffing of his profession to the simple, but profound level of a small boy who will grow from funny papers to sports page, to editorials and politics. 

Oh, the joy and bliss and magic of the funny papers.

We may wonder if the Big Story didn’t work out with a happy ending, would he still take this child in his arms?  Or would he head for the nearest bar?
As the movie ends, David Nelson passes out the copies of the newspaper they’ve been working on all night.  Very few of us get to see the results of our day’s work so immediately. 

The credits roll, the actors get their bylines.

“-30-” as we are told in the final title card means “the end.”  It comes from the old Western Union telegraph codes established in 1859, one hundred years before this movie was made, when the news was first transmitted over long distances.  The number 30 was telegraphed to mean there was no more news coming across the wire.  Kind of like “over and out.”  It was used by reporters and rewrite staff, and pressmen in the composing room for generations, long after the use became obsolete.  I don’t know if it’s used anymore to signal the end of an article, probably not.

But, with great fondness for the history of journalism and my own very small participation in it over the last few decades, and with a nod to my high school journalism teacher, to this day when I finish a first draft of anything I write—the draft nobody else sees—I end it with…




Thursday, September 19, 2013

This just in...Journalism in Classic Film Blogathon

My post for today will be moved to Saturday, September 21st so we can participate in the Breaking News: Journalism in Classic Film Blogathon hosted by Comet Over Hollywood and Lindsay's Movie Musings. Have a look at these two great blogs for a list of the other swell blogs taking part.

My pick is -30- (1959) starring Jack Webb, William Conrad, and a newsroom of newshounds reporting on all that is funny, breathtaking, and tragic.  Personal stories of the newspapermen and women are woven around the big story of the day. 

See you Saturday.

Also on Saturday the 21st, I'll be signing books at the Springfield (Mass.) City Library Author Fair on State Street from noon to 4 p.m.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

TV Guide - 1976 - The Search for Classic Films

 Remember the good old days before Turner Classic Movies?  For the classic film fan, there were no good old days before TCM, but we were a resilient lot who scoured the TV Guide, actually taking notes and memorizing schedules to be able to catch a flick.  In these days before VCRs as well, we were known to stay up until four in the morning just to catch that elusive Boston Blackie flick we'd been trying to scratch off our list since we were seven.

These pages are from the TV Guide from July 1976.  You'll note the generous episode descriptions of the sitcoms and game shows, and the BW in the little TV screen next to the name if the show was in black and white. (Before this, you'd see a little C to show the program was in color.)

On this first page above we have midday Wednesday, and Johnny Guitar on Channel 27 (which was an independent station out of Worcester, Massachusetts.) Followed by Island of Lost Women.  Apparently this was ladies day on good old Channel 27.

Friday night, the wee small hours of the morning, as Frank Sinatra used to sing.   Elvis Presley in Spinout and Strategy of Terror with Barbara Rush.  These were sixties movies, so they were "new".  Clifton Webb is on board with Mr. Scoutmaster (1953), and if you can keep your eyes open until 3:15, there's Bob Hope in Fancy Pants.
Yeah, I know, the CBS lineup of sitcoms was irresistible in this era.  But for the movie buffs, we've got Alec Guinness in The Man in the White Suit (1951), and a documentary series on classic film directors Men Who Made Movies, both courtesy of Channel 57 out of Springfield, Mass., which was (and is) a PBS station.
Here in the wee small hours of the morning on Saturday, we've got Crack in the World (1965) and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961), both of which entertain us with atomic bomb scenarios.  So helpful to insomniacs.  But if you need a little less nuclear option, there's Audie Murphy in 40 Guns to Apache Pass.

Okay, I have to include this one, a movie we've actually covered on this blog: The Woman in White (1948)  See here for previous post.  This came by Channel 30, which was an NBC station out of Hartford, Connecticut.  I've watched lots and lots of old movies on good old Channel 30 back in the day.  And there's Shirley Temple on Channel 27.  Always independent.

The wee small hours of Tuesday evening.  A Cry in the Night (1956) with Edmund O'Brien and Sayonara (1957) with Marlon Brando.  Odd to see an add for a product which will put on weight, rather than a weight-loss product. 
I stopped buying TV Guide years ago, because I now get something like a zillion channels and watch very little TV.  The news, a few history docos, that's it. That, and a passion for one old movie channel that is only reason I subscribe to cable.
Thank you, TCM.  There has never been a better time to be a classic film fan.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I'll Never Forget You (1951) and Berkeley Square (1933)

I’ll Never Forget You (1951) is one of those quiet movies that if you catch it on a rainy day, the gentle memory of it will stay with you for a long, long time.  It’s a time-travel romance, and like all time-travel stories, from Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward: 2000-1887, which was published in 1887 and has never been made into a movie, to Portrait of Jennie, to Somewhere in Time, the “present” depicted as the point from which the story is launched is as integral to the adventure as the final destination.  The “present” is the locale—or state of mind—from which the protagonist is trying to escape, and interestingly, because the past is fixed for us, the “present” is the part of the story that inevitably becomes dated. 
Long post.   Best to make some toast and let the dog out now.  Also a few well-meaning spoilers, for which I beg your pardon.
The “present” for I’ll Never Forget You is post-World War II, and the protagonist is a nuclear physicist.  The movie is a remake of Berkeley Square (1933), the “present” for which was 1933.  It was based on a play of the same name that was produced in London in 1926, and on Broadway in 1928, so the “present” from which to escape was one of Jazz Age frenzy, of motor cars and shallow society, and the memory of the Great War. 
The Broadway version of John L. Balderston’s play was co-directed by Leslie Howard who also starred.  It was a hit, and Mr. Howard reprised his role in the 1933 movie, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.  I’ll Never Forget You is one of those times where the remake is better than the original, partly because of technological advances in filmmaking, and partly because I think the story benefitted, was really fleshed out, when launched from a more somber and mature “present”.  The 1933 version shows a fitful, restless dissatisfaction with the “modern age,” but the 1951 version has nuclear annihilation as its “present,” with the prospect of no future at all.  Curiously, I’ll Never Forget You is a brighter, more hopeful movie despite this.
Tyrone Power plays Peter Standish, the atomic scientist burdened with guilt and despair over the enormous ethical and moral consequences of his work.  The story is set in London.  He is an American helping with the British nuclear program, and he lives in an 18th century townhouse in Berkeley Square, a home he inherited from a distant cousin.  The furnishings of the house are original, and with the exception of modern plumbing and electricity, the rooms look pretty much as they did in the late 1700s.
On the wall above the fireplace is a large painting of his distant relative, painted in 1784, a man also called Peter Standish.  He looks exactly like Tyrone Power.
One of the intriguing aspects to the movie is that we never really slip off into a ghost story, though it feels like this could happen any moment.  However, Tyrone Power finds reality far more haunting than any supernatural elements of the story.  Tyrone orchestrates his trip to the past as carefully as he would conduct an experiment in the lab—or nearly so; he does make mistakes, and they cost him. 

Along with the furnishings, he has discovered this 18th century Peter Standish’s diary, which tells of his life in this house.  He was an American, too, a veteran of the Revolutionary War.  In 1784, the war over, he traveled to Britain to meet his cousin, Kate Pettigrew to complete an arranged marriage with her.  It was through his marriage to her that he came to live in this, her family home.
The last few entries of the diary are strange, as this Peter Standish fancies he has seen into the future, experienced life in the 20th century. 
Tyrone Power, so absorbed by the past of this house, and armed with the diary of Peter Standish, concludes that he and Standish will switch places, that it is inevitable that they do so, for a limited time.  Then, as noted in Standish’s diary, Standish will return to his own time and marry Kate, have children, and live his life here.  Tyrone Power therefore believes that he, too, will return to his own time, but not before he enjoys one heck of an adventure.
He needs some time off, anyway.  He’s been working too hard.
We begin at the lab, with concrete walls and eerie glowing dials, an experiment in some reaction of two substances that cast off a white glare, gauges that measure in Röntgens, and serious men doing unfathomable science.  It’s a slow start to the movie, but curiously intense.  At one point, Tyrone pushes an experiment to the danger zone, and his boss has to remind him not to take chances.  He thinks Tyrone needs some downtime.
Handsome Michael Rennie is his co-worker and the closest thing Tyrone has to a friend.  Mr. Power is a loner, and his socially awkward manner with Rennie, who has also been trying to introduce him to his sister, is a really good fit for the character.  (In Berkeley Square, Leslie Howard just seems like a boyish eccentric with too much nervous energy.  Tyrone Power’s brooding introspection is more appealing.)

But having said that, I love the comic moment when Leslie Howard delightedly discovers his pony tail.
“What about going away for a while?”  Rennie asks companionably.  Power replies, “I am.”  It’s a long shot with the room, cavernous, foreshadowing his portal to the past.  He confesses his theory about his upcoming time travel to 1784.  He explains, much as other writers have sought to explain, that time is not a straight line, the way we might draw a chronology of events.  It co-exists in another dimension.
“I believe the 18th century still exists.  It’s all around us if only we could find it.”  What particularly appeals to him is the break from nuclear annihilation, although, despite the scary lab at the beginning, this is never spoken, only implied, as are the horrors of World War II, and the Holocaust.  The director knows the audience doesn't need reminding.  Indeed, they've come to the movie theater to forget the front page.  Similarly, Tyrone Power looks forward to returning to “The age of reason, of dignity and grace, of quietness and peace.”

A thunderstorm is brewing outside, and the lights go out.  Tyrone lights a candelabra and takes Mr. Rennie upstairs to see the diary.  Creepy music as they climb the stairs—shades of a ghost story, but not quite.
Michael Rennie thinks he’s nuts, but he’s a tactful guy and worried.  He implores Tyrone to leave the house, as it seems to have cast a spell on him.  Tyrone sees him to the door, and stands outside a moment on the steps as a thunderstorm moves in.  Time travel in this story is done by thunderstorm. 
A clap of thunder, a bolt of lightning, and Tyrone falls, collapsing on the landing.
The camera draws our attention to the door of the house, as the metal mail slot begins to disappear.  Then an arm reaches up from the landing—Tyrone’s arm, grasping for the knob to pull himself up.
A tuft of lace protrudes from the sleeve of his coat, a striped pattern—and it's--in color!  Upon opening the door of his own home, he sees Kate, his intended, here played by Beatrice Campbell, lowering herself to a deep curtsey in a hall of soft colors and the muted gentle sound of a harp playing a light air (or ayre, we are in London).  Tyrone’s in 1784.  (Oooh!  Pretty!)
This Wizard of Oz-style use of a dreary black-and-white existence and escape into a Technicolor world is only one of the technological improvements on the original Berkeley Square of 1933, though to be sure, it is the most spectacular. 
Counting the original stage play, these three incarnations of the story are interesting for what their medium allows them to convey.  The original stage script is tight and very witty, with one character, Kate’s brother Tom, who is a rogue, getting a crack at some risqué dialogue.  One can sense the inventive use of present/past on a fixed set.  I don’t know if this old chestnut is staged anymore, but I’d love to see it.  I enjoyed reading the lively script very much.  (By the way, I understand there was a TV version in March 1949 with Richard Greene and Grace Kelly in the lead roles.  Wish I could see this.)
Berkeley Square the movie is toned down both in language (less saucy) and action, and has a somewhat confusing beginning showing Leslie Howard as the original Peter Standish enjoying the fellowship of his new friends in a pub.  Then we must work to accept him as the 20th century version.  The movie attempts to follow the play, with only a few scenes out of the house, but what might be called stagey I think is really just downright static.  There is very little movement, and we could attribute probably a lot of that to early sound camera issues which kept the actors practically bolted to where the mic was.  As it is, the sound is scratchy and the film quality is somewhat poor.
I’ll Never Forget You takes up the script from the previous movie and the stage play and to a much farther place, a poignant, dreamlike scenario that is continually punctuated, as all time-travelers find out, with the ultimate knowledge that the past wasn’t such a great place.
Tyrone Power meets the family he’s pretending, as the 1784 Peter Standish, to marry into, and we can see his interest, his sense of adventure, even his latent sense of humor warming to the occasion.  He has trouble relating to people in his own time, but here he is allowed to be a different man, and he bravely attempts sociability like a shy boy eager for friends at a party.
Irene Browne plays Lady Anne, Kate’s mother, who, like any good mother in a Jane Austen novel of the period is desperately trying to marry off her daughters.  Her husband is deceased and left them with debts.  Her rascal son, the indolent gambler, drinker, and chaser of servant girls, Tom, is played with irresistible panache by Colin-Keith Johnson. 
“What do you call the colonies now?” he asks Tyrone.
“The United States of America.”
“Trifle pompous, don’t you think?  But after all, it’s only temporary.”  He refers to constantly putting his boot-in-mouth, but we sense that saying the wrong thing at the wrong time is Tom’s favorite hobby.  He is particularly pleased to have Tyrone marry his sister, because Peter Standish is said to have 10,000 pounds a year income.  Tom wants to mooch off him.
Then Tyrone is introduced to the younger sister, Helen, about whom he knew nothing, as the original Peter Standish did not write of her in his diary.  She is played here by Ann Blyth, who becomes an ally of Tyrone’s when she generously covers for him as he blunders about knowing something he really can’t have known.  Before long their curiosity for each other turns to love.  At first she resists, because he is to marry her sister, but when she learns from him—and more importantly, believes—that he is a different Peter Standish from the future—she allows herself to enjoy a sweet, passionate, and ultimately hopeless love for him.
Miss Blyth is fascinating to watch—all the cast are excellent—but she has a lot to convey and make us believe and she has to do this under acting restrictions that the other more emotional and physically expressive characters don’t have.  Her character is sheltered, demure, gentle, all qualities which can only be indicated by her posture, her voice, and disciplined economy of movement.  She walks softly, sits and stands with a ramrod-straight back, lowers her eyes at moments of mature discretion, a minimalist way of telling us who she is and what her world is like.  Her lovely face melts into a smirk at one of Tyrone’s naïve attempts to “catch on” to this old way of life.  She also has intelligence, and a sense of humor, making her the most reasonable and capable member of her family.  In trusting Tyrone and his tales of a future world, she is also the most courageous.  Like Tyrone, she silently carries burdens, the chief of which is the pressure by her mother to marry a much older man who is also a self-important jerk.
He is played by Raymond Huntley.  Something about the voice was tantalizingly familiar, and then I remembered him from the BBC series Upstairs/Downstairs.  You’ll recall he was the family solicitor, Sir Geoffrey.  Here he is a man always clinging to this family, trying to work his way in, and becomes jealous of Tyrone’s easy friendship with the beautiful young woman he had culled out of herd for himself.  His resentment will lead to revenge.
By the way, the role of Helen was played on Broadway with Leslie Howard in 1928 by Margalo Gillmore, who we met here as the superior officer in Skirts Ahoy from 1952, the year after I’ll Never Forget You was released.
Tyrone navigates through parties where he meets the greats of the age, including James Boswell and Samuel Johnson, and sees enough of the wretched filthy streets of London, including a glimpse of children being abused in a workhouse, to understand that life in the 18th century was not without its misery.  He becomes disillusioned. 
He also makes more and more blunders, and people begin to pull away from him in fear of his seeming ability to predict events.  He becomes just as isolated as he was in his lab (feeling comfortable in the lab environment, he even attempts to recreate it by performing simple experiments in a rented basement).
The date in Peter Standish’s diary that marks the end of the adventure is drawing near, but Tyrone does not want to leave Ann.  The authorities, when he has been accused of sorcery, will have the ultimate power over him.
Director Roy Ward Baker tells the story with exquisite cinematography and actors that are beautifully choreographed, not just the requisite Austen-like ball scene, but in ordinary circumstances.  When Tyrone Power hands Ann Blyth out of a coach, her long dress ripples to the ground, dripping down the metal fold-out coach steps. 
Shots of the rooms in the house, the stairway, the halls, convey mood and the house becomes like another character in the story.  The muted colors are lovely.  A bowl of colorful flowers catches our eye in the foreground as the actors stand behind, held together by the pastoral scenes on the wallpapered panels in the background.  The outdoor shots of London streets, of the quiet square, of the peaceful countryside, of Tyrone Power gazing out the window at night with satisfaction on his first day in the Age of Reason.
I like how Tyrone and the other men have a slight five-o’clock shadow in the color sequences that looks very much like men in the 18th century oil paintings.  This is a really nice piece of detail.  I don’t think this would have shown up well in black and white.
There are some major scenes that are handled differently in I’ll Never Forget You than they were in Berkeley Square, with very good effect, and turn the ending from a flat tragedy to a more hopeful, romantic, if equally gut-wrenching ending.
First, the crux ansata (more commonly known as an ankh) is a symbol of eternal life and was a trinket brought back from Egypt by Helen’s deceased father.  In Berkeley Square, Leslie Howard has this item from the beginning of the story as something he found in the house and wonders what it is.  Later on in the story, when he is in 1784, the Helen character shows it to him, and says she will leave it in the house as a symbol of their eternal love and connection.  At the end of the story, when he has returned to 1933, he holds it mournfully as a symbol of his lost love.
I’ll Never Forget You uses the crux ansata in a more romantic and suspenseful way, when at the point Ann Blyth realizes Tyrone Power must return to his own time, she shows him the object, tells him of its significance, and demonstrates that she will hide it in a secret compartment in a desk for him to find one day as a reminder of her.  At the end of the story, when Tyrone is back in 1951, he has a fleeting few time-travel hangover moments where he thinks his adventure was all a hallucination. 
Then—aha!  He remembers the object, and runs to the hiding place.  He fumbles a few moments, not able to locate the hidden drawer.  Will he find it?  Is it there?  Please let this not be a dream!  (If we just wasted 90 minutes of our life on a dream sequence we are not going to be happy.)  And then—bingo!  His recovery of the crux ansata is joyful.
Another scene played very differently is when the Helen character, who hints that she has envisioned Peter coming to her before they met—she had a vision of him walking down the staircase holding a lighted candelabra as we saw him in modern times—and she wants to see into the future.  She looks into his eyes and through what is, I guess, meant to be a telepathic communication between them, she sees fleeting images of his world as he thinks of them.  In Berkeley Square, Helen is played by Heather Angel (We last saw her here in Cry Havoc), who though a lovely young woman, has a bit of a deer-in-the-headlights look in this movie which I think is meant to be shorthand for her soulfulness.  Her visions are splashed on the screen as stock footage of skyscrapers, locomotives, racing cars (racing cars?) biplanes, warships, gangsters, and finally World War soldiers in gas masks, bayonets drawn, flamethrowers—and she is horrified.
“Devils!  Devils!  God, would not put us here to suffer for a race of fiends like that to come after us!”
Powerful sentiment, and the image of gas masks, that iconic, ultimate horror of World War I, lingers even today as we lately hear about the threat of chemical warfare.
I’ll Never Forget You has a drastically different take on this scene.  Instead of the horrors of World War II and the nuclear age, Ann Blyth sees only beautiful cities lit by electric lights in Tyrone Power’s dark, sad eyes.  There is no stock footage superimposed over her beatific expression, we have only the trust we have invested in her, and the trust she has invested in him, to know that her wondrous visions are real. The message here is not to pound us with our recent horrors, but to count our blessings. 
“What a beautiful dream of heaven.  Who would want to leave a world such as that?”
Tyrone returns to his own world, by force, when magistrates drag him down the staircase, off to the lunatic asylum, and we see a magnificent shot from Ann Blyth’s vantage point on the upper landing to the hall below.  The great double doors close behind Tyrone Power and his captors. 
Then more flashes of lightning, and the warm colors fade into crisp black and white.  The door slowly opens again, and Tyrone is in modern dress, his hair cropped, his arm tentatively reaching for the light switch.  As he enters the house, looking all around at these rooms that have not changed with the centuries, we hear a soft, plaintive reprise of an 18th century flute piece.  Truly, the past is alive around us if we are perceptive to it.
How we perceive our own times is the spectrum through which we judge the past.  How fascinating that the modern Peter Standish’s perspective of his own era (or rather, the filmmaker's perspective) could change so much in the eighteen years from 1933 to 1951. 
There is more to the ending that I won’t spoil for you, but it is open to our imagination, and imagination is the very essence of time travel. You can watch both Berkeley Square and I’ll Never Forget You on YouTube.  I’d love to know what you think.

Our friend Laura at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings discusses I'll Never Forget You here.


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