Gary Cooper

Beautiful Bergman…For Whom the Bell Tolls

Here’s where I, very quietly so nobody hears, admit (and am very embarrassed) that I had never seen Ingrid Bergman in…well…anything. Yes. It’s true. I’m sorry. And…I’m so sorry it took so long. She’s on my list of favourites now. Beautiful. Sweet. Strong. And just comes across so…wonderful.

My reasons for first watching her are shallow. Very, veeeeery shallow. As you may know, I’m a Gregory Peck fan (that young, handsome Gregory Peck). Told you I was shallow :-p But yes, I watched Spellbound for the first time a few months back (here) and thought Bergman was great. Not knowing what to watch next, the 3rd Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon conveniently came along. Totally in the dark, I did one of those eenie meenie miney mo things…For Whom the Bell Tolls (1942) was it. Just so. Well…kind of. Gary Cooper. Ingrid Bergman. Romance. Adventure. Just so. Oh, and even Oscar nominated (not that this really makes a difference to me). Yes. 9 nominations in total with one being a win.

3 ingrid bergman 6And, one of those nominations was for Ingrid Bergman as Best Actress in a Leading Role. Well deserved in my opinion. Based on Ernest Hemingway‘s novel of the same name, apparently he specifically wanted the two leads to feature in the adaptation. A good choice I think – they really do ‘gel’. I also believe this box office hit was the first Technicolor role of Ms Bergman.

She’s María, with a traumatic past, who was rescued by some guerillas living in the hills. Roberto/Robert (Grego…sorry, Gary Cooper – see now, I’m thinking of Ingrid in the role I first ‘met’ her) is the expert sent to blow up a strategic bridge during the Spanish Civil War. So, fate has it, they meet. And oh what a meeting it is….

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And here…a few seconds later…

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Talk about a bold woman. She’s not shy to show what’s overcome her and changed what she thought she believed in the blink of an eye. More than just a pretty face her influence on Roberto is profound. But, For Whom the Bell Tolls isn’t only about this romance. It is about questioning how far duty goes. If one would kill people one knows for the sake of a cause. Making the life changing decisions. And about personal sacrifices. Not having known the story until today, I was taken by surprise by the ending…but, that’s refreshing. Keeps me on my toes.

So, take the time to watch this wonderful movie directed by Sam Wood. It really is worth it. And also head on over to The Wonderful World of Cinema’s Blogathon page (here) for some more wonderful Ingrid Bergman posts.

I also couldn’t resist this image…so beautiful. And no…it isn’t Gary Cooper holding up her chin. It’s another wonderful character who has so much depth. You’ll need to find out who…someone with great insight.

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Vera Cruz (1954) – Super Western

As part of finding the Grandeur-worthy Westerns for Movie Rob‘s Genre Grandeur series (head on over to his page if you want to join), I’ve pulled out a whole pile of DVDs from my collection, hoping I’ll get through a fair number of them.

Vera Cruz is one of the westerns my parents had in their Super 8 collection. I always enjoyed watching it and must admit, haven’t seen it for years (10 years, according to my geeky little movie/DVD database I have). Re-watching movies after such a period of time always leaves me feeling a little like it is a new one – purely because I forget some of the scenes and dialogue.

Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster star in this one, together with Ernest Borgnine and Charles Bronson, amongst others, in smaller roles. Two drifters, Ben Trane (Cooper) and Joe Erin (Lancaster) form an uneasy friendship as they hire on to serve Mexican Emperor Maximilian‘s (George Macready) soldiers, lead by Marquis Henri de Labordere (Cesar Romero), to escort Countess Duvarre (Denise Darcel) to the city of Veracruz. Naturally, things are not so straightforward with lots of back-stabbing and ulterior motives all around. Plenty of good shootouts ensue.

Having been filmed and set in its entirety in Mexico (as per the closing credits), it brings across a different feel from the “typical” Western in having lots of music and fiestas. This is wonderfully juxtaposed with the elegant ball held by Emperor Maximilian.

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Likewise, the two ladies of the story, the Countess and Nina (Sarita / Sara Montiel) contrast each other. I absolutely love the scene with Nina driving the supply wagon out of the ambush. I suppose this is to be expected as our leading men likewise are not similar at all: Ben Trane is the former Confederate soldier who appears to be calm and collected whereas gunslinger Joe Erin is the dirty scoundrel with his bunch of just as dirty scoundrels. Oh, the scenes that show these differences…just fantastic.

What always amuses is the big toothy grin provided by a dust covered Joe Erin. He’s introduced to us in another great scene where he sells someone else’s horse to Ben Trane. Perfect character summary I’d say. But, make no mistake, Ben Trane isn’t totally good guy either. As to be expected, all involved have a reason for their supposed support of the Marquis and Countess.veracruz2

So…super Western directed by Robert Aldrich, despite the sometimes “clipped” dialogue. Almost, almost Grandeur-worthy. A whole lot of fun with great one-liners and/or more comical scenes. Ernest Borgnine also has a knack of bringing fun to the screen. And even Charles Bronson makes me smile as he convinces the band to play on at gunpoint.

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Grace Kelly’s Mrs Kane in High Noon

High Noon (1952). A masterpiece western which I must admit, I appreciate more on viewing this time round than the first. It may be one of two reasons: 1) the fact that I know what it is about and so can concentrate on other aspects or 2) the fact that I viewed it with a focus on Grace Kelly for the Grace Kelly Blogathon. Either way, it is still a brilliant movie that has more to it than first meets the eye. But, that’s a topic for another time. Grace Kelly is the star for now (minus all the gossip that surrounds this movie).

Beautiful Grace Kelly plays devout Quaker Amy Fowler Kane, newly wed to Will Kane (Gary Cooper). And I mean newly, newly wed…as in the wedding takes place in the first few minutes of the movie. It is at this point that Will Kane hands in his marshal badge and intends to live quietly with his new bride. However, it is not meant to be…you see, the noon train is expected to bring Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) to town. The problem? Will Kane had put this dangerous outlaw behind bars. Waiting at the station are Miller‘s gang (played by Lee Van Cleef, Robert J. Wilke and Sheb Wooley) setting up wonderful tension by simply “hanging around”. Kane feels responsible for the situation that will undoubtedly arise and cannot just ride away.

Amy, is expecting a quiet, peaceful life with her new husband so desperately wants Kane to get out of town, leaving it all to the new marshal (who is only due to arrive the next morning). She can’t understand why Kane won’t run. At one point she tells Kane “Don’t try to be a hero! You don’t have to be a hero, not for me!”. The thing is, if he does back down, he won’t be able to live with himself and there will probably always be some sort of animosity towards Amy. It really is a tricky situation but personally, he has to do what he does. It is at this time that one already wonders why these two are together. They seem so different. I just don’t understand why Amy doesn’t support her husband. Surely, being married, they are now a team? Instead, she takes the easy option out and buys a ticket on that very same dreaded noon train that is bringing in Miller. To me, Amy becomes as much an antagonist as Miller. She’s a problem (among others) that Kane shouldn’t have to deal with at this perilous time. I’m not sure Amy is quite convinced about her actions. Yes, she decides to wait in the town hotel because she’s nervous of the gang waiting at the station. But, I think her heart isn’t totally in it. She’s hoping he will change his mind but also, giving her the benefit of the doubt, she’s not ready to abandon Kane just yet.

There’s a part of her that is intrigued by her husband hence she keeps asking the hotel clerk about him, hoping for more information than he gives. Clearly she doesn’t really know Kane as well as we’d expect (and we never get any insight into their relationship before the wedding). This is also confirmed when she goes to see Kane‘s former girlfriend Helen Ramírez (Katy Jurado) who tells Amy that if she doesn’t know Kane, she doesn’t know her husband. That she asks around confirms that she does care about him. If she didn’t ask at all, I’d say she was indifferent and probably not worth Kane‘s hand. It also shows that she isn’t just the helpless damsel. That she does actually have some oomph as it must take quite some courage to face your husband’s former lover on your own.

This courage shows itself when she finally helps her husband (and so, in my opinion, she redeems herself). In fact, she’s the only one in the entire town who comes to his aid. She does the unexpected (I won’t reveal) which symbolises to me that she is, after all, committed to the relationship which one questions during the rest of the movie, especially when she steps onto the that dreaded noon train.

I’m not big on finding hidden meaning in movies but it seems fitting to me that Grace Kelly is always in her white dress when everyone else is darkly dressed (Kane has a mix of white and black and I think this shows his inner torment).  It is very interesting how at the end, as the show-down is about to begin, both Amy and Helen, one dressed in white, the other in black are side-by-side in the carriage going to the station. It is almost like good and bad, right and wrong being represented. The angel and the devil sitting on Kane‘s shoulder. In the same way we have both Amy and the outlaws waiting for the same train.

Directed by Fred Zinnemann, High Noon was nominated for 7 Oscars and won 4 (Best Actor in Leading Role, Best Film Editing, Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture), Best Music (Song)).

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