Out to Sea: Kramer’s Ship of Fools (1965) & Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944)

I. Ship of Fools (1965)

When I think of the things I have seen on this ship. The stupid cruelties. The vanities. We talk about values? There’re no values. The dung we base our lives on…We are the intelligent, civilized people who carry out orders we are given. No matter what they may be. Our biggest mission in life is to avoid being fools. And we wind up being the biggest fools of all” (Dr Wilhelm Schumann in Ship of Fools).

Based on a novel by Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools tells of a passenger ship sailing from Mexico and bound for Germany. On board, the people are from all walks of life and classes, from a Countess (played by Simone Signoret) who lost everything to desperate Spanish farm workers. They are also one artistic couple having a serious relationship trouble, a middle-aged Nazi sympathiser, an aging southern belle (played by Vivien Leigh), who is in search of “something”, and a troupe of Spanish dancers, among others. The film focuses on each of those in turn, taking rounds, and could be said to represent a series of “film vignettes”, rather than a straightforward plot moving to one cinematic climax. Directed by Stanley Kramer (Look Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)), who always promoted films with important social issues, Ship of Fools is distinguished by its unusual presentation, incredible cast, and the acting of Simone Signoret and Oskar Werner.

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Celebrating National Classic Movie Day with the Five Stars Blogathon

The 16th of May is National Classic Movie Day, and what better way to celebrate this than to write a post on one’s favourite five classic movie stars. The rules of this blogathon hosted by the Classic Film and TV Cafe is that people list their five favourite classic movie stars and then say why they love them. So, without further ado and in no particular order:     

I. Vivien Leigh (1913 – 1967)

Vivien LeighMy birth sign is Scorpio and they eat themselves up and burn themselves out. I swing between happiness and misery. I am part prude and part nonconformist. I say what I think and I don’t pretend, and I am prepared to accept the consequences of my actions.” (Vivien Leigh)

I will talk about three November-born ladies, and my first one is Vivien Leigh, who had a rich life story. She was born in British India, but when her parents left for England, found herself at a British boarding school. From there, she was determined to succeed as an actress, and even set aside her married life with a lawyer to pursue theatre work. She later married no other than Laurence Olivier, with the two sharing a passionate love and mutual professional admiration. Her breakthrough came when she was cast as Scarlett O’Hara in the famous adaptation of Margaret Mitchell novel of the same name “Gone with the Wind” (1939) alongside Clark Gable, for which she won her first Oscar. There, she proved to be a great actress indeed: controlled, magnetic, capable of showing every possible façade of a personality, from cunning aloofness to extreme passion. Vivien Leigh really was Scarlett O’Hara, strong-willed, determined, intelligent, passionate, magnetic and beautiful. She was a femme fatale, both on screen and in life, but without any negative connotations, admired for her irresistible charm and acting skill. She was later also cast in such films as “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951) alongside Marlon Brando, for which she won her second Oscar, “That Hamilton Woman(1941), “Caesar and Cleopatra” (1945) and “Anna Karenina” (1948).

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