Monthly Archives: March 2011
Philip French remembers the child star turned Oscar-winning actress, who was as celebrated as much for her tempestuous relationships as her movies
For people like myself, born in Britain in the inter-war years and growing up during the second world war, Elizabeth Taylor will always be thought of as the youngest of four British evacuees who brought their immaculate English accents to Hollywood and became an essential part of a corner of Tinseltown that was forever England. She and Peter Lawford were transported across the Atlantic by their parents as war clouds gathered over Europe and were put under contract by MGM in the early 1940s. Roddy McDowall followed when bombs began to fall on Britain, as did Angela Lansbury who was also signed by MGM. McDowall was the first to attain stardom, playing the Welsh miner’s son in How Green Was My Valley and then appearing in MGM’s children’s classic, Lassie Come Home, in which Taylor had her first significant role. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and McDowall became her closest confidant.
Taylor, Lawford and McDowall were all in the tribute to British fortitude, The White Cliffs of Dover (1944), and the 12-year-old Taylor became a star as the farmer’s daughter who triumphed at Aintree in National Velvet, with Lansbury as her elder sister. Lawford gave Taylor her first screen kiss at 16, an innocent enough peck, and although it’s said that Taylor’s mother rather fancied the idea of a courtship between the two, an order went out from MGM’s boss Louis B Mayer that a romance should be discouraged. Taylor later said of Lawford: “Peter, to me, is the last word in sophistication and so terribly handsome.” They did work together again on the glossy 1949 version of Little Women, in which Taylor played Amy March, and they remained close friends until his death.
A classy, darkly menacingly horror film set in Ireland, Wake Wood transcends its low budget, says Peter Bradshaw. Timothy Spall is the local grandeeThe awful significance of the title’s first word dawns gradually. This macabre, black-comic horror, set … Continue reading
Oscar winner Christopher Corbould found not guilty of failing to ensure safety of cameraman killed while filming Batman movieAn Oscar-winning special effects expert has been cleared of health and safety breaches over the death of a cameraman who was ki… Continue reading
The second film by British director Joanna Hogg is subtle, mysterious, murky and utterly distinctive. By Peter Bradshaw
Like unhappy little islands, entire of themselves, some lonely people cluster together for an unsuccessful family reunion in this deeply intelligent new film from British director Joanna Hogg. There is something exacting and audacious in it, something superbly controlled in its composition and technique. The clarity of her film-making diction is a marvel – even, or perhaps especially, when the nature of the story itself remains murkily unrevealed.
Hogg works with a series of static “tableau” camera positions. There is no musical soundtrack, just the ambient sound of birdsong or distant aeroplane buzz, only really apparent when it cuts out into silence for the next scene. Closeups are rare, and when the camera does move – just once in the entire film – it is to reflect something calamitous. Perhaps what emerges primarily is Hogg’s sense of light: her screen is alternately washed with cold, clear daylight, then suddenly plunged into a dusky gloom for another outdoor scene and into a different, disorientating kind of twilight for an interior sequence. Hogg and her director of photography, Ed Rutherford, appear to rely simply on the available light from the window, but will consciously direct the camera towards this light source so that the human figures are in semi-darkness or silhouette: they appear masked, or blinded, feeling their way.