The Magnificent Ambersons

The Magnificent Ambersons
After reading the novel, I had to watch the film directed by Orson Welles. The Magnificent Ambersons is considered a classic film though not up to the level of Welles’ Citizen Kane. The film is quite faithful to the book, but I wished it included George with his rival redhead Fred Kinney, the part when Eugene falls over laughing when he sees how similar George and Fred’s conflict is to his own foolishness and how Lucy was not exclusive to George, how she would go dancing and socialize with other young men and how that made George feel so insecure.

The film was good, but not as full as the book, which is so often the case.

Welles had the actors in dark settings. I wished the mansions had more light. Buy some candles! Or get electricity!

The film was enjoyable and a classic. Reading the essay on Criterion, I learned how much Welles’ vision was altered:

But in Welles’ absence, RKO Studios recut the original version of the film mercilessly—Welles said it looked like it had been “edited with a lawn mower”—reducing its running time from 131 to the present 88 minutes. Nevertheless, what survives is still one of the most strikingly beautiful and technically innovative films ever to come out of Hollywood. It also tells a good story—about the decline of a once powerful and wealthy turn-of-the-century Midwestern family—with a conviction and maturity that are rare for the old Hollywood system.

I wish I could see the 133 minutes, but I’m glad I saw this.

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Poldark Season 3 Finale

Poldark Season 3 went out with a bang making viewers wish for September 2018, which can’t come soon enough for me. From start to finish his episode was amazing.

George returned from London and when he saw that Drake had set up his smithy near his land, he hit the ceiling. Elizabeth tried to make him see reason and not interpret this as a provocation from Ross. As usual, George ignored sense and set his yeoman to vandalize Drake’s blacksmith shop.

Meanwhile the unctuous vicar has taken to drugging his young wife Morwenna while he indulges his foot fetish and whatever else with her even younger sister Rowenna. Rowenna’s hard to figure out. Of course, she’s manipulating Ossie, but where did she learn to be so conniving. How can she stand Ossie, who makes most viewers skin crawl if tweets are to be believed? Rowenna announces she’s with child and Ossie’s expression was priceless. Call it schadenfreude, but seeing Ossie, who’s ruined Morwenna’s life, getting taken down was so satisfying.

Since three French ships were spotted on the horizon, Ross and others are instructed to prepare local men for a possible attack. This is right around the time of the French Revolution, which was so violent and the English of the day were very nervous.

George’s henchman sets fire to Drake’s smithy, totally destroying his work, which compels Drake to humbly tell Elizabeth all about this. Finally, Elizabeth is getting to a point where she takes action rather than just staying in the background letting everyone around her, like Morwenna, suffer.

When George interrupts Drake and rudely sends him packing, Elizabeth realized Drake was right and she stands up to George. Finally! This episode Elizabeth wasn’t imbibing her “little helper” and seemed to have waken up. She tries to make him see reason and stop speculating and obsessing over what Ross was doing.

But Elizabeth’s action was too little, too late. Tom Harry with two thugs found Drake leaving Trenwith and beat him till he was near death. Tom kicked him into the edge of a river and left him for dead. Such humanity. Demelza happened to find him and got Dwight.

Dwight prescribed abstinence for Morwenna for another few weeks and Ossie would have nothing of it. Why he’s not content with one sister is beyond me. Rowella has told Ossie she’s pregnant and offers a solution to the problem by bringing a very wimpy librarian in as a possible husband. The librarian, no doubt coached by Rowella, asks Ossie for £1000, which makes Ossie the Slime-bag turn beet red. Rowella’s probably 16 and she’s got this middle-aged lecherous hypocrite tied up in knots. Morwenna overheard the conversation and acts. When Ossie creeps into her room, she draws a line in the sand and tells him he’s never to touch her. Shocked that the once mousy Morwenna is forceful, he demands she do her wifely duties. She responds that if he takes one more step she’ll kill their son, which makes Ossie back off. He now thinks she’s crazy.

The townspeople hear of George’s thug’s attack on Drake. This on top of George’s increasing the price of grain and doing nothing in Parliament to help the poor makes people’s blood boil. They’d lay siege to Trenwith if it weren’t for Ross’ rousing speech. As we all know, he should be in Parliament.

Hugh’s poetry and attentive ways melt Demelza’s heart. Ross has taken her for granted and gives everyone else in his life more attention. Hugh reveals to Demelza that he’s going blind. Though she struggles with the choice, Demelza grants Hugh’s wish to give themselves to each other before he goes blind. (He put that more poetically.)

Meanwhile Ross leads the militia to Trenwith where the peasants are about to lay siege to George’s property. It’s a tense scene interspersed with flashbacks of the French Revolution.  In the end, Ross gets the people to lay down their arms by promising to take a seat in Parliament when asked.

There were a few scenes not in the 1970s series that I don’t think worked or seeing the DVDs of the 1970s series made me not like this series’ treatment of those parts as much. When Elizabeth turns the tables on George making him swear on the Bible that he wouldn’t suspect her of loving Ross or question Valentine’s lineage, George well apart emotionally. It humanized him as much as anything could, but I felt he was too weak. Also, the melancholy in Demelza’s return and the end of the episode showed more doubt in the marriage’s future. It was sadder and I think that’s partly because while both are fine, this Demelza isn’t as spunky or humorous. She’s got spirit, but of a different sort. I did wish the peasants had burned down Trenwith.

I’ll add that I miss Jud’s character and I think casting went overboard with stereotyping the librarian as a complete wet noodle. He wasn’t so weak and pasty in 1976.

But all in all, the show was gripping. I admit I watched it twice since we’re in for a Masterpiece drought till Victoria returns.

I’m going to miss Ross, Demelza, Caroline, Dwight, Geoffrey Charles, Prudie, the guy with the scar, Elizabeth, Drake, Morwenna & Co. They return in the summer of 2018 in the U.K. I may need to get a VPN.

Elizabeth’s Secret, George’s Paranoia

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Demelza and Hugh

Poldark, Season 3, Episode 8

What a season we’ve had. This week George grew more and more suspicious of Elizabeth. He refused to have anything to do with baby Valentine. He interrogated Dwight about the differences between 8 month old premies and full term 9 month olds. Dwight stayed true to his ethics and kept mum not playing into George’s hands.

Inadvertently, Ross irked George in one of their exchanges he mentioned “blood.” Ross is clueless about Valentines paternity, but later found out that most likely he’s the father. When he met Elizabeth, by chance, in the church she filled him in and they deduced that Aunt Agatha’s death was tied to George’s curiosity. This storyline shows tight, Aristotelian writing. What could be a more perfect problem for George than Ross being Valentine’s father? Nothing.

George is focusing on his political career. Angry with Elizabeth, he intends to spend most of his time in London at Parliament. This just reminds us all how much better it would be for everyone if Ross had stepped into politics. George has reduced the wages for miners by 30%. Imagine how you’d get by if your salary went down 30%. George sure is loathsome.

Hugh Armitage, who’s new this season, is sweet on Demelza. He’s sending her portraits and poetry, while Ross takes her for granted and is back to dreaming about Elizabeth. To her great credit, Demelza really wants to stay true to Ross. Boy, does he make that hard as he is so ho hum about his beautiful, kind, strong wife.

Poor Morwenna gave birth to a son. Yet Osborne, a despicable vicar, despite Dwight, her doctor’s instruction, continues to demand his clumsy, painful conjugal rights. Luckily, Elizabeth spoke to Osborne, who ignored her. The race for most selfish devil is neck and neck between George and Rev. Osborne.

Rowenna, Morwenna’s young subtly flirtatious sister, is enticing Osborne by undressing and bathing in front of a peep hole that I think she’s aware of. She makes a point of mentioning that she’s going to take a bath or that she’s got a problem with her toes. She’s well aware of Osborne’s foot fetish. I’ve seen the 1970s production so I know what’s coming, I’m just not sure when or how. Will Osborne get his comeuppance next week? I hope so, but it may take awhile.

What Circle of Hell does George Belong in?

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Wedding Bliss? Not for Morwenna

This week’s Poldark was full of action; many events were sad or troubling. We saw George slink lower and lower as he worried about not rising politically. When things didn’t go his way, he made sure others suffered.

Aunt Agatha was happily planning her 100th birthday party. Simultaneously, George was worrying about getting invited to the right parties and the social notice that would assure his rise in politics. While fussing about invitations he and Agatha exchanged pointed dialog that makes Violet of Downton Abbey sound demure.

When George and Elizabeth are invited to Sir Falmouth’s party, he is ecstatic to get offered the candidacy for Parliament though he’s unaware that he was Falmouth’s second choice. Ross was the first, but he foolishly refused, because he didn’t want to be Falmouth’s puppet. So Ross learned nothing from Drake’s narrow escape from the hangman’s noose, which Ross would have ruled against if he were the magistrate rather than George. Ross’ problem is he thinks there’s some perfect world out there. Not so. He still isn’t learning that if good men don’t participate in government evil ones like George will. Besides, if you’re not keen on government, you have nothing to lose. Vote as you like and if Falmouth plots to get you out after one term, so be it, Ross. To no avail, Demelza tried to convince Ross to accept the offer.

Seems I forgot about George, when the last paragraph should have been all about him. I’m afraid that’s the story of his life. Once Ross appears, all eyes are on him and George is neglected.

Dwight and Caroline made their marriage official by getting married publicly.  The reception was more about everyone else’s intrigues than the couple’s bliss. Since they eloped that’s fine. Hugh Armitage doted on Demelza as Ross, like an old married man, feels it’s no big deal. She’s just imagining Hugh’s adoration. I will say that since Ross saved Hugh’s life pursuing his wife is in poor taste and judgment. This doesn’t stop him from writing Demelza poetry. Another red flag that Ross dismisses.

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Back at Trenwith, George gets even with Aunt Agatha, for unknown reasons, he gets a feeling she’s not 99. So he has his servants turn the house upside down looking for evidence. In the end he finds a family Bible that proves she’s only 98. Agatha begs him to keep quiet. It was sad to see this strong woman weaken and beg George. He won’t have it. He cancels the party and for once must be “perfectly honest.”

She’s devastated not to have a party. She begs George, but he enjoys inflicting pain. To get revenge, she tells George that Valentine certainly wasn’t born early. He does not look like a preemie. How could that be? He knows he and Elizabeth waited till the honeymoon so . . . if Aunt Agatha’s right? Who’s the father? A seed has been planted, just before Aunt Agatha dies. She’ll be sorely missed. (Here’s a good interview with the actress who played Aunt Agatha.)

Morwenna lives the life of a sex slave with Osborne whose fetishes turn her stomach and all viewers too, no doubt. Demelza gets a glimpse of Morwenna’s displeasure when the newlywed tells her that Osborne is a monster and runs away. Elizabeth also understands that something’s wrong with Morwenna, but she’s too wound up in herself to get involved. Morwenna dreads going to bed with Osborne, which is a requirement. Praying with his daughters takes a back seat to doing her marital duties. Off with your shoes, my pretty! Ugh.

Post coitus Morwenna looks terribly sad. Osborne has a new idea of getting another woman in the house to “help” Morwenna so he announces he’s written to her mother and asked that her sister Rowenna come. Then he is off to sleep, while Morwenna just looks like her soul’s dead. She repeated says to herself, “I love Drake Carne.” This was the one part of the show that seemed extraneous. We know she’s miserable. We know she loves Drake. No need to repeat it.

Rowenna does come to town and she’s Morwenna’s opposite. She gets the scoop on Osborne quickly and then starts flirting with her brother-in-law. A breakfast she stoops down so he can see her decolletage and then she takes off her shoe and chat about her pinched toes to a man with a foot fetish. Where did she learn all this? It’s quite uncommon in the landed gentry. What is Rowenna going to be up to?

So it was a lively episode. With this series you can’t leave for a minute as you’ll miss three new plot points.

Weeping for Morwenna

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This week Morwenna was a pawn in George Warleggan’s cruel machinations. At first he was clueless and thought His cousin-in-law Morwenna must be bored in Nampara. Far with from it. She was having the time of her life with Dwight and their young chaperone, Geoffrey Charles.

George goes nuts when he hears toads on his property. We later learn that as a boy, Ross terrorized George by putting toads down his trousers. (A tad contrived, but okay.) He makes his servant Tom get rid of every toad in his pond. It’s an impossible task since Dwight and Geoffrey Charles have such fun filling the pond with toads as Morwenna looks on forgetting that she may be wed to an odious toad. The writing was such that I continually thought I was watching a train wreck.

Ross received a letter from Aunt Agatha and raced to see her. Unaware that George and Elizabeth came back to Cornwall and were upstairs in bed eating strawberries, Ross snuck in Trenwith and checked in on Aunt Agatha who’s looking forward to her birthday. She will soon be the Poldark to live the longest . . . if George doesn’t kill her.

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Such a favorite, Aunt Agatha

Dwight suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after his time imprisoned in France. It’s no wonder after all the suffering and violence he’s seen. Yet Caroline expects him to be as happy to be back as she’s happy to have him. So there’s a growing divide. Hugh Armitage seems to be coping much better and Ross brought him to talk to Dwight. It seems that Ross could have talked to Dwight, but I suppose Hugh needed to be introduced into the story. By the end of the episode, Dwight opened up to Caroline so hopefully they’ll be fine.

Tom, George’s servant, spies Morwenna swooning around Dwight when he tries to apprehend Dwight, but fails. Afraid to report back to George, Tom tattles on Morwenna so she can take the heat. George, who’s married up, won’t hear of his in-law marrying down or even fraternizing down. Just by spending time with Drake, Morwenna seems to have become “damaged goods.” She acts like she’s upset, but we can tell she’s relieved not to have to marry sleazy Osborne, whom Ross and Demelza saw exiting a brothel in the Red Light District of town.

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Morwenna

George is all about vengeance and spite. A pettier character, I’ve never seen. He wants to punish Geoffrey Charles, for his wise remarks and even more for his part in the toad episode, so he’s sending him off to Harrow, a boarding school. Then they won’t need Morwenna, whom they’re going to send back home.

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Ross & Co. to the Rescue

On this week’s Poldark Demelza pleads with Ross not to rush off to save Dwight because perhaps the plan Caroline told her about the Royalists defeating the Jacobins will work out. The look on Ross’ face says he highly doubted that, but he did listen.

George hit the ceiling when he heard that his son Valentine has rickets. The possibility of his heir having a common disease appalled him. I expect if the baby isn’t perfect George would ship him off to an orphanage.

Morwenna’s trying George’s patience by not agreeing to the match with the slithering Rev. Whitworth. Who can blame her? Elizabeth, why don’t you find her someone less slimy? Morwenna’s returned to Trenwith where she’s happily catching toads with Geoffrey Charles and her true love Drake. Aunt Agatha spies them and figures everything out. She then has a tete-a-tete with Morwenna letting the lass know that there’s no future with Drake so she ought to break things off right away. In the end Morwenna realizes that’s true. She ends it with Drake.

Nothing works out across the channel so Ross decides he must go to save Dwight. Drake joins the gang to numb the pain of his broken heart.

George is in a snit about not getting an invitation to a big party. If he were born 240 some years later he could be a regular Mark Zuckerberg, who’s reaction to social rejection was to start a billion dollar internet service. But alas Poldark’s in the late 18th century so George will just grumble and snipe and drive Elizabeth to distraction. Eventually he is invited, but that’s not sufficient because Demelza was invited. He wants to be included and he wants the host to only invite those he wants to see. Demelza gets the better of George in their exchange of cutting remarks.

George thinks trashing Ross will garner social points so he scoffs at what he considers Ross’ foolishness in leading a group of brave men over to France to save Dwight.

Over in France the men fight fiercely to save not only Dwight but a slew of men who’re imprisoned. They party has a casualty, Mr. Henshaw, Ross’ right hand man in the mines. His loss is great and he’ll be mourned for years to come. It makes Dwight’s rescue bittersweet for all but Caroline. Dwight is likely to feel survivor’s guilt for quite some time.

Drake was shot and he’ll need to be tended to, but will probably have PTSD. Morwenna has no one to help her and she’s headed for a terrible marriage.

As usual, this episode was the best thing I saw all week. The drama was pitch perfect as it closely follows the book, included stunning cinematography, and every scene was compelling. Every actor delivered a four star performance.

Poor Dwight and Morwenna

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Sunday’s Poldark episode began by showing the villagers poorer and starving. Yet, and this should come as no surprise, George had no mercy or compassion for them. He rounded up those he could and sentenced them to 15 years in prison.

Also, the program included the fastest, no fuss, birth I’ve ever seen on television. In one scene Demelza’s digging potatoes and a bit later she’s got her new daughter Clowance  in her hands.  I didn’t actually mind the abbreviated birth because the episode was packed with other events.

Dwight is stuck in a dank, dark, decrepit prison which rivaled the Les Misérables Paris sewers for hygiene. Yet despite the starvation and mental anguish of his imprisonment, heroic Dwight manages to perform surgery in his cell.

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Carpe diem, Morwenna

Morwenna and Drake, both reserved by nature, tentatively get closer. Yet as Morwenna’s charge Geoffrey speaks up to George and is found to have gone to Clowance’s baptism on the sly, George and Elizabeth feel it’s time for her to marry. Poor Morwenna. The Warleggan’s don’t bother to find anyone at all suitable. They settle for the first slimy widower to come along, a much older and very greasy Rev. Osborne Whitworth. Morwenna should run for the hills! But there’s no one who can rescue her. It’s out of the question socially that she could marry Dwight who lives in a dark, old building with a dirt floor with his brother. Even Demelza thinks Morwenna could never marry down.

George doesn’t brook opposition, no matter how wise or how true. Thus he’s exiling Aunt Agatha to the dungeon of the coldest, darkest part of the house. He makes sure that she gets no letters, including Ross’ invitation to Clowance’s christening.

As so many people are starving Caroline and Demelza team up to get them grain. Ross finds a way to trick George so that he’s fooled into thinking the villages stole when in fact they were given grain through donations. Ross’ trick backfires as it prompts George to get even by closing his mine, which was once a Poldark mine just out of spite. The result is 70 breadwinners will be out of work and their families may starve, but George has no compassion and he doesn’t care. Be careful George, look what the French did to their upper class.

The episode was brisk and moved a long with lots of emotion and action. The hour whipped by and I didn’t want the show to end. We’re left hanging to see what will become of Dwight, Morwenna and all the others in this splendid cast. I find I like Geoffrey Charles more and more.