Thursday, April 17, 2008


I must be going out of my mind! NOBODY wants to watch a ten-minute YouTube video, especially when it's about a novel! Oh well, if you don't have time for it, I'll understand.

The audio clips are from the film starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. Maybe I should add Peggy Ann Garner who got an oscar for her role as the kid in this film. Does anyone know who I'm talking about? She was the idealistic girl in "A Tree grows in Brooklyn." Whatever happened to her? She was a genius! And Henry Daniell who plays the school master, might have delivered his best-ever performance here. I feel sorry for Garner and Daniell.  They were both brilliant but Hollywood didn't often make the kind of film that could take advantage of their kind of talent.  Two great performers, wasted!

Wasting classically eloquent actors was a common practice in old Hollywood. Maybe eloquent actors required eloquent scripts, and writers who could do that were in short supply.  Maybe Daniell's talent was perceived as being uniquely English, or suitable only for the stage. Maybe articulate actors suffered from the false perception that film was a visual medium that didn't require great dialogue. The feeling might have been, "Don't have an actor ask for the salt if he can accomplish that by just pointing." Actually I agree with that..most of the time...but if you have eloquent performers like Garner and Daniell then I want to see them beg for the salt, demand the salt, cry over the salt, have lordly disdain for the salt, get on their knees and cradle the salt. I want the ultimate request for salt that will forever after change the way I think about asking for salt!

I love the scene where Jane talks to the schoolmaster. In the hands of lesser actors and a lesser writer it would only have been about the collision between stern age and idealistic youth. Here it's much more nuanced. The schoolmaster takes pride in his ability with words. He spits them out like weapons. He's obviously bright and skilled, but the audience is repelled to think of the small-mindedness that must have led him to use these assets against a child.  The kid is earnest and full of passionate goodness, but she's also reckless.  She's ready to throw her life away over small things, and that makes her tragically vulnerable to the predatory adults. Two opposites are brought into conflict and given beautiful words to say...sheer bliss for the audience!


lastangelman said...

Peggay Ann Garner? Sheesh, I had widdle kid cwush on her. Let's see what happened to her ... Oh my!Her story seems kinda' sad on Wikipedia

Ardy said...

I don't know much about Jane Eyre, but I've seen "I Walked with a Zombie." Supposedly it's based on part of Jane Eyre, but it's a stretch. They only used the story (loosely) because it was in the public domain.

Good video though, Eddie.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

I liked Jane Eyre, although I didn't see the film, so I won't watch because I want to see it first. Maybe this weekend.

I'm surprised no one's mentioned ( to my knowledge ) Ollie Johnston's death; you'd think being one of Disney's original 'Nine Old Men', in fact the last one, would garner more interest among our kind.

- trevor.

Anonymous said...

Old Hollywood also wasted potentially great directors. Charles Laughton directed but one film, under a tight schedule and budget, "The Night of the Hunter." A film classic, but he never got another shot because of the religious right losing its cookies both here and in Europe over the depiction of the minister character played by Robert Mitchum. Wonder how many more great pictures Laughton might have directed, given the chance?

The Horns and the Hawk said...

y'know eddie, one of my favorite parts about you posting youtube videos is being able to put a voice to what i read. i always feel so disarmed when i actually hear the voice of those i read the most.

i think if i was little jane, i woulda messed me under britches if i had to encounter that schoolmaster.

Anonymous said...
what do you think of Klaus Nomi Eddie?

Jenny said...

Henry Daniell was one of Hollywood's busiest character actors, worked constantly, and in his heyday was known by every moviegoer. Even now he's instantly recognizable in face & voice to many people who might not know his name. How is that wasted? Keep in mind that the casting competition for acerbic english character actors in Daniell's vein was fierce in those decades--it makes his success and steady work even more proof of how valued he was. Have you seen many of his other performances? He's great, perfectly cast in Jane Eyre, but he did a lot of other choice parts as well.

I would bet that in addition he probably found time in the 40s-50s to include stage work as well.

I don't think Hollywood "wasted " Garner either. I'd say being acknowledged with a special academy award is pretty good. The number of young actors who received those is quite small. It's nothing to do with films being visual(?!) vs. talkfests, but more I think to very few major, "showy" parts written in screen stories for very young kids. Then or now.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Trevor: I was very sorry to hear about Ollie johnston's death. I didn't mention it here because the subject was well covered on other animation sites and I didn't have any original insights to offer. I'm glad you brought it up so it'll get at least some recognition here.

Horns: I thought it was funny that an English commenter thought I would sound English and an Australian commenter thought I would sound Australian. Sometimes your print personna doesn't match your live personna and everybody's disappointed when they see you speak.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jenny: I'm sure Daniell worked a lot but not many of the roles I saw him play used him to best advantage. That's what I met by "waste." He was great in "Sea Hawk" and I seem to remember he was a good Moriarity, but most of the time I've seen him he was miscast. "Body Snatcher" was an example of that.

Garner got an academy award but that's small compensation for being marginalized and sent off to sell real-estate. The studios should have built projects around her.

Of course I never saw anything she did when she got older. Maybe the studios aren't to blame...maybe she just didn't age well.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Anon: I watched Klaus Nomi. Holy Cow! What an image! What a vocal range! I don't know what I think of him but he'd be great to caricature and so is a gift to cartoonists!

Anonymous said...

Ardy, that's weird! I just watched "I Walked with a Zombie" a few minutes ago and now I find it mentioned on the site I go to regularly. Eddie, if you like Jane Eyre, you must watch "I Walked with a Zombie". It's fantastic. One of the best horror movies I've ever seen. Val Lewton, the producer, called it "Jane Eyre in the West Indies". Please see it.

Stephen Worth said...

Eddie- You should give a gift to your diehard fans by posting a youtube video titled "Why fundamentalist platitudes fall on deaf ears when it comes to 18th century proto-existentialist architects". Then fill the video with really good clips of girls in bikinis!

see ya

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

I'm with Steve. That could help me get into fundamentalism. Thongs and theories, an idyllic combination.

- trevor.

Dume3 said...

"Old Hollywood also wasted potentially great directors."

You say this as though Hollywood today has a plethora of great directors. They don't.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for introducing me to the film "Jane Eyre". It sounds like a wonderful movie and I always like Bernard Herrmann scores.