The African Queen

Like many of the films I see for my New Year’s Resolution Old Movie Challenge, The African Queen (1951) with Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart is a film I’d never seen. I knew the basics that Hepburn played Rose Sayer, a straight-laced missionary and Bogart, a salty, undomesticated sailor, but I had no idea why they’d be on a journey together.

So it was news to me that Hepburn was a missionary, working in Africa with her brother who dies as a result of an attack by the Germans in WWI. The Germans burn the village down and her missionary brother goes crazy and dies from the effect. Bogart plays Mr. Allnut, who travels in a rusty boat known ironically as the African Queen, bringing mail and supplies to miners and the mission. Mr. Allnut is rough around the edges, but always polite to Rose, whom he always addresses as “Miss.” (It isn’t till halfway through the film that they find out each other’s first names.)

When Allnut sees that Miss is all alone, and vulnerable when the Germans invariably return, he takes her on to his rust bucket, the African Queen. He expects to take her to safety somehow and is shocked by her cockamamie idea that they should go along an impossibly dangerous route till they come to the lake where a German war ship is. Then she figures they can rig up some DIY torpedoes and ram the African Queen into the German ship to fight for her country, Great Britain. They’ll jump overboard at just the right moment and swim to safety.

Allnut has the sense to see the lunacy of her plan, but lacks the rhetorical skills to convince her of the futility. Has any Hepburn character ever been convinced to follow someone else’s plan?

Thus onward they go, and along the way they get drenched, barely survive the rapids and, as you’d expect, fall in love.

The film pulled me in, though at first I thought this particular pair of opposites might not attract. What I liked is that Allnut really respected Rose and that the film wasn’t a mere series of scenes where the opposites bicker. Once they’d overcome the initial obstacles, and saw each others’ strengths, they formed a real team. The main conflict was the arduous journey and finally the Germans. At times luck, rather than pluck got them through, but as Rose was a missionary, the Hand of God ought to be a force in the story.


  • Hepburn insisted the film be shot in Africa and as a result the crew endured hardship after hardship just like the characters did. See this post.
  • Someone’s bought and restored the African Queen used in the movie and you can arrange a canal or dinner cruise on it.




Casque D’Or

casque d'or

I didn’t know what to expect when I borrowed Casque D’or (1952) from the library. One surprise was that the heroine, Marie, was played by Simone Signoret, who gave a forceful performance in Army of Shadows. Marie is a a gangster’s moll and outshines her friends, not only with her cascading blonde hair, but with her vivacious spirit. The film opens with scenes that come right out of a Renoir painting. A party of young lovers rowing along a river followed by a lively dance hall scene. Marie stands out as she is the only woman who’s rowing a boat and she stands up to her boorish, abusive boyfriend.

(It was hard to believe that Marie, who’s so self-assured, would give such a churl the time of day, but the plot requires that.)

In the dance hall we first see a dozen or so upper class men and women enter to take a good look at their “inferiors.” From their comments it’s clear that they’re hear for the entertainment of watching how people who aren’t dripping in diamonds behave.

Soon the attention turns to Marie’s friends, the gangsters and their girls. Ever petulant, Marie’s boyfriend Roland takes an immediate dislike to Manda a carpenter who catches Marie’s eye. Manda is a friend of one of the gangsters and introduces himself to Marie’s set and holds his head high as they mock him because he’s a carpenter. He is confident enough to let their jokes roll of his back and he accepts Marie’s offer of a dance.

Hothead, Roland is furious and a fight with Manda ensues. Overseen by the gang’s boss, Felix, who also has a thing for Marie, Roland and Manda fight in a way I’ve never seen in a film. First both men are searched and any weapons are confiscated. The two men are spit far apart and Felix tosses a knife to the ground and the first man to get it,can use it on his opponent. Roland gets the knife. The fight is deftly shot with many close ups and felt realer than any I’ve seen. In the end Manda kills Roland, which sets up the story.

Banda must flee, but Marie pursues him and while Manda hides out Marie is with him and their romance grows. Smitten with spunky Marie, Felix plots to get Felix arrested and sacrifices one of his own men to lure Manda into captivity. The ending is bold and theme of loyalty and Marie’s life-giving spirit make this a must-see.

The Rules of the Game


I had to watch The Rules of the Game under strange circumstances. My DVD only would play the film with the commentary going. Thus I read the subtitles and once in a while got a snippet of dialog without English commentary. I prefer first viewings without the expert’s take, but perhaps in this complex film the commentary was best.

Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game depicts two parallel classes, the upper middle class and the servant class. From the bourgeois Christine, Robert’s Austrian wife has disappointed her would-be lover Andre, an aviator who’s just completed a round the world journey. Andre gets no satisfaction from the clamoring crowd or the inquisitive press. Christine didn’t come so the whole flight was for nought.

Christine’s been in her Parisian home with her husband Robert and her maid Lisette. Robert’s tiring of his lover Genevieve and Lisette’s tired of her husband Schumacher. All are leaving for the countryside where a web of relationships will tangle creating a fine mess pulling the film from farce to tragedy with a surprise ending.

Renoir saw WWII coming. He also saw his society drunk on frivolity, careening over an edge. The Rules of the Game is a rare film that begins with light-hearted, harmless fun, but ends with broken hearts and a tragic death. The characters who all play at love see the consequence of their erroneous worldview.

The film is beautiful and many scenes are complex dances. Renoir was ambitious to offer such sophistication and it wasn’t till decades after it was made that The Rules of the Game was considered a masterpiece, one of the finest movies of all time.

If you think you’ve seen the actor playing Robert before, you have. He was ran the roulette table at Rick’s Café in Casablanca.

I’ll definitely watch this one again.



Based on a novel, Brooklyn tells the story of an Irish woman, Eilis, who leaves the Emerald Isle where there are no jobs or eligible young men, to make a life in Brooklyn. While fitting in isn’t easy, she does find a boyfriend and succeed in bookkeeping at night school so that she puts down roots. She soon marries her Italian boyfriend in secret.

Life takes a turn when her sister suddenly dies. Eilis returns to Ireland to help her mother who’s all alone. It’s intended to be a short trip, but then Eilis decides to stay for her good friend’s wedding and then someone finds her a temporary accounting job that she excels at and then she meets terrific young man. It seems that Eilis has found the life she always wanted in Ireland.


Continue reading “Brooklyn”

On Poldark, Season 2, Ep 1

I’ll be sharing my own thoughts on episodes 1 and 2 soon. Till then, here’s some insightful comments.

Episode 1 of season 2, and we start as we mean to go on, with Capt Poldark pulling his head out of the sand just long enough to stick his tongue out at the powers that be. Oh yes, our hero, in trouble once again, decides the way forward is to alternate between pretending it […]

via Poldark s2 ep 1 — UNPOPCULT

Downton Abbey, 6.6


My reactions to the sixth episode of the final season of Downton Abbey. I’d say this was my favourite episode of the season due to all the humour.

  • As is true for the whole season, I find the clothing sumptuous and it made me want to work on my triceps.
  • Robert is out of the hospital and on the mend, but confined to bed all week.
  • This week the hoi poloi was allowed to trample through the Abbey to make money for the Hospital Trust. What a situation ripe for dissension and humour! Of course, Violet, Carson and Robert believed this was the end of civilisation and they did have a point. Even Edith (I think) later said having them come through made her feel like there was something strange so that people were willing to pay to gape at them so that their home was a bit like a zoo. What was most funny was how when Cora, Mary and Edith gave their tours they knew so little about the house’s history. It makes sense because they’ve grown so used to it. It’s just home. Still since they fight to keep it you’d expect them to know more.

Don’t you just love these clothes?

  • Daisy continues to get on my nerves. Lately, Mr. Mason is growing sweet on Mrs. Patmore, who seems to return his feelings. Daisy does whatever she can to keep them apart. In this episode she throws a letter to Mrs. Patmore from Mr. Mason in the trash. Luckily, Mrs. Patmore finds it, but Daisy’s acting so oddly and there’s no reason for it–especially since Daisy hasn’t taken up Mr. Mason’s offer for her to live in his house, which would be a lot more more comfortable and pretty than the servants’ quarters. She’d still be able to work at the Abbey.
  • The storyline with the hospital progressed. The York Royal Hospital will take over the local hospital. What’s worse was that they’ve made Cora president of the hospital, and they’re sidelining Violet. Everyone kept that a secret from Violet till she discovered the truth via the grapevine. She was livid! The climax was Violet storming into the Abbey during the charity tour and blowing off steam with the acerbic wit we love her for.
  • Mary’s love life is moving along. With Tom as an escort, she met Henry Talbot at a dinner party in London. Afterwards, Tom disappeared and Henry and Mary got caught in the rain and shared a romantic kiss. She’s still concerned about his lack of status and his car racing, which reminds her of Matthew’s death.
  • Edith invited Bertie, the man who helped her get the magazine out in one night, for dinner at the Abbey. She even showed him her “ward” Marigold. Finally Mary is on to the truth that Marigold is Edith’s daughter. Rather than directly asking Edith, which she really can’t go since she’s got such a rotten relationship with her sister or asking her parents, she’s trying to get the truth out of Anna and Tom. I really applaud their loyalty to Edith as neither spilled the beans.
  • Poor Thomas. He’s teaching Andy, who’s illiterate, to read. Yet Mrs. Patmore and Carson have seen Andy coming out of Thomas’ room so they’ve reached the conclusion that Thomas is corrupting Andy. Well, Thomas has been cold and conniving so people don’t expect him to be kind so in part, you reap what you sow, but it’s still too bad. He’s being pushed out the door. It’s understandable because the family has to make cut backs, but now it seems, that he’s getting pushed out because  Thomas has been misunderstood. He promised Andy he’d keep his illiteracy a secret so out of honour he can’t tell. What a dilemma.
  • Mr Carson continues to nitpick his new bride Mrs Hughes over her cleaning and cooking skills. She must have known how to make a bed to have progressed in her early career, yet it’s not good enough for Mr Carson, who has no tact. Unfortunately, rather than raising the issue, Mrs Hughes has been stewing. I predict she’ll explode next week. We’ll see.
  • Dexter, who deserves to be out of a job at the Dowager’s, coerced Spratt into pleading her case with Violet. He succeeded, but as is the case with blackmail, he’s still on the hook. Dexter will tell the world that he hid his nephew, who was fleeing the law. Yes, Spratt broke the law, but Dexter is so manipulative it’s dangerous.

Downton Abbey, 5.3

Three weeks into Downton Abbey and the story is moving slowly along. We still get Edith pining for her daughter, some more conflict over the WWI memorial and just a bit of Thomas making a suspicious phone call. (He’s probably looking for a new job.)

The biggest event for me was that Violet’s butler saw Mary and Lord Gillingham coming out of the Grand Hotel in Liverpool. She called Mary in for a chastising tete-a-tete. As always, Violet was hard to out-reason. Cora wouldn’t have been as frank or strong. In fact, as a mother Cora just goes along with her daughters. They are adults now, but no one turns to her though she’s far from domineering. You’d think she’d be perceived as the approachable mother.

As for Cora, she went up to London to look at paintings with Simon Bricker, the art historian with the not so hidden agenda. They strolled through the galleries and Cora poured out her heart as Simon complimented and almost swooned over her. Cora seemed to enjoy the freshness of an admirer. When she got back to Rosamond’s apartment, Robert was waiting for her all dressed up in his tuxedo. He’d planned a surprise for her and was (rightly) suspicious of Bricker’s time with Cora. Cora was annoyed. They had a little spat since no one in Britain has ugly “Who’s Afraid of Virgina Wolf?”-type fights. Thank God.

Cora’s feeling restless wishing she had more purpose in her life. She’s just bored. Find a hobby and make some friends, Cora. You do need a life, but you don’t need an affair.

Mary seems tired of Lord Gillingham already. I wonder if he’ll gossip about her if she ends the relationship. She certainly isn’t excited about marrying him.

The police came by to question Bates, who made up a story about his day in York. If the screenwriter, Julian Fellows is gutsy, he’ll make Bates guilty, but I think we’ll go through a trial and then find out Bates is innocent. Sometimes I feel like a pawn in Fellows’ hands. He comes up with about half as many ideas as needed for a series and spreads them thin.

Will next week be more eventful? No spoilers, but a yes or no would be welcome.