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Hollywood Movie Memories » charles laughton

Posts Tagged ‘charles laughton’

Robert Mitchum is Menacing in The Night of the Hunter

Monday, August 8th, 2011

September, 1955The Night of the Hunter, starring Robert Mitchum and directed by Charles Laughton, is sure to send a shiver or two up your spine.

The United Artists film is set in rural America and provides an unforgettable battle between good and evil. Mitchum plays the psychopathic Reverend Harry Powell who has the words LOVE and HATE tattooed on the fingers of his hands and gets by by marrying and then murdering rich widows.

Shelley Winters plays Willa Harper the widowed mother of two young children who have a secret. The Reverend Powell shared a jail cell with Willa’s, not executed husband Ben, who shared just enough information with Powell to let him know that there is hidden money on his families land.

This is all the information Reverend Powell needs and upon his own release from jail begins his deadly hunt for the money. His plan is one that has worked perfectly for him in the past. He will court the newly widowed Willa, marry her, find out the location of the money, kill her, and move on.

The Night of the Hunter also features actress Lillian Gish along with young Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce as the Harper children.

Robert Mitchum’s performance is excellent and the first-time directorial debut of Charles Laughton makes The Night of the Hunter a film of nightmarish and haunting film noir beauty.

The Night of the Hunter

Monday, August 8th, 2011

The Night of the Hunter [Blu-ray]

Tagline –¬†The Hands Of ROBERT MITCHUM in “The Night of the Hunter”

Starring – Robert Mitchum (Harry Powell), Shelley Winters (Willa Harper), Lillian Gish (Rachel Cooper), James Gleason (Birdie Steptoe).

Released – September, 1955

Directed By – Charles Laughton

Produced By – Paul Gregory Productions

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – Harry Powell has a unique way of serving God. He believes that those women who arouse carnal instincts in men should be done away with. Especially, if they have money.

Having been arrested for auto theft, Harry is now sharing a cell with convicted robber Ben Harper. Harper is scheduled to hang for his part in the crime and Harry has been trying in vain to get Harper to reveal where he hid the stolen money.

Harper has given the location of the money only to his young son John. John does not share the secret with anyone including his mother and younger sister Pearl. The only clue Powell can come up with is a Bible phrase that Harper mumbles while sleeping: “And a little child shall lead them.”

Believing that Powell’s children know the location of the money, upon his release, Harper travels to Cresap’s Landing, West Virginia as the Reverend Harry Powell with a plan to court and wed Powell’s widow Willa.

Overwhelming her with his charm, Scripture quoting, hymns, and sermons, Willa agrees to marry Harry as a means to her own salvation. Harry’s self-defined religious beliefs toward carnal relations soon become evident to Willa as Harry informs her that they, although married, will never have sexual relations because he believes that would be sinful.

Willa, now confused and depressed, overhears Harry questioning the children about money and begins to realize the threat of the families situation. Growing impatient, and wanting Willa out of the way leaving him with the children, Harry murders Willa and throws her body into the river.

By now, John has told his sister Pearl about the money and, by threatening John, Pearl has told Harry. With their mother now dead, John and Pearl manage to get to the money first and attempt to escape downriver.

However, the Reverend is not far behind.

NOTABLE: In 1992, The Night of the Hunter was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

The motion picture is based on the 1953 novel by the same name. Both draw on the true story of Harry Powers, who was hanged in 1932 after having murdered two widows and three children in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

The Night of the Hunter was the only film directed by Charles Laughton and, although not an immediate success, has grown in stature, primarily due to Robert Mitchum’s performance, and is considered a Film Noir classic.

Empire Magazine has ranked this film #71 on its 500 Greatest Films List.

Charles Laughton originally offered the role of Harry Powell to actor Gary Cooper, who turned the offer down feeling that the role would prove detrimental to his career.

Personal Note: I like this film primarily due to the performance of Robert Mitchum. Anyone with the word Love tattooed on one hand and Hate on the other makes a menacing villain.

Mitchum does a great job as a smooth-talking, evil, psychotic religious fanatic. An eerie film. While not a critical, or commercial success, The Night of the Hunter has developed a cult following and is a favorite among film noir fans.



Mutiny on the Bounty

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Tagline – A Thousand Miles of Hell for One Moment of Love

Starring – Charles Laughton (Captain Bligh), Clark Gable (Fletcher Christian), Franchot Tone (Roger Byam), Herbert Mundin (Smith), Eddie Quillan (Ellison).

Released – November, 1935

Directed By – Frank Lloyd

Produced By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Distributed By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Description – Clark Gable, as the daring mutineer, in the screen’s most exciting adventure story!

Although having several historical inaccuracies, this version of the real-life mutiny aboard the HMS Bounty is the most popular.

Midshipman Roger Byam has joined the crew of the HMS Bounty on a voyage to Tahiti to obtain a cargo of breadfruit plants. While Byam signed on willingly, many were “strong-armed” into becoming part of the ships crew. It can be quite difficult putting together the men necessary to complete a ships crew when the captain of the ship is known to be a brutal tyrant.

Captain Bligh’s reputation has been earned, but on this trip his command will be stripped from his hands. His barbaric acts on this particular journey, including flogging, and cutting of rations, always disguised as discipline, will lead to his first-mate Fletcher Christian and most of the other ships officers to mutiny.

The mutiny occurs on the return portion of the trip and is easily accomplished. Captain Bligh and his supporters are set adrift in a small boat while the mutineers return to the beauty and peacefull island of Tahiti. Midshipman Byam, who did not participate in the mutiny, chooses to stay on the island.

The mutineers never expected Bligh to survive being set adrift, but he has. The small ship has made it back to England. Almost immediately, Captain Bligh obtains another ship, sets sail for Tahiti, and vows revenge on those who participated in the mutiny. There will soon be a great deal of trouble in paradise.

NOTABLE: Mutiny on the Bounty won the Best Picture Oscar and was also nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Clark Gable), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Charles Laughton), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Franchot Tone), Best Director (Frank Lloyd), Best Film Editing, Best Music, Score, and Best Writing, Screenplay.

MGM had hoped to have Cary Grant play the role of Roger Byam, but Grant was under contract to Paramount Pictures, who refused to allow him to take the role.

Clark Gable had to shave his trademark mustache for the picture as they were not allowed by the Royal Navy during the time of the film.

While sailing his boat off Catalina Island, California, actor James Cagney came across the area where the film was being shot. Cagney called director, and old friend, Frank Lloyd telling him he had a little free time and would like to earn a few bucks. Lloyd put Cagney in a sailor uniform where he spent the remainder of the day as an extra in the film.

Actor Wallace Beery turned down the role of Captain Bligh because he didn’t like Clark Gable and couldn’t bear the thought of being stuck on a long location shoot with Gable.

Mutiny on the Bounty was the only film in Oscar history to have three Best Actor in a Leading Role nominations. Because of, and shortly after this, the Academy created the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Clark Gable did not initially approve of actor Franchot Tone being cast as Roger Byam. It seems the two had been bitter rivals for the affection of actress Joan Crawford. However, as filming progressed the two became friends. It seemed that they had two important things in common…alcohol and women.

In a later conversation with playwright George S. Kaufman, Charles Laughton attributed his fine performance in the film because he had come from a long line of seafarers. Kaufman, reminding¬† Laughton of his equally impressive performance in The Hunchback of Notre Dame commented, “I assume, then, that you also came from a long line of hunchbacks”?

Personal Note: This is the best known and most engrossing adaptation of the famous mutiny. Charles Laughton is superb and unforgettable as the merciless Captain Bligh. His work is supported by Clark Gable’s fine performance as Fletcher Christian.

Every bit as enjoyable today as it was in 1935.