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Posts Tagged ‘Marlene Dietrich’

For the second time since I started writing blind spot posts I really was blindsided by a movie. I recently purchased a box set of Billy Wilder movies, all of which I had seen before, or so I thought. As I started watching Witness for the Prosecution (1957) I quickly realised I had never seen it before. To be honest I think I had had mixed it up with Double Indemnity (1944 – also directed by Billy Wilder) or Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder (1959).witness for the prosecution charles laughton

On release from hospital barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton) is ordered to take it easy by doctors and his overpowering private nurse Miss Plimsoll (Elsa – Bride of Frankenstein – Lanchester, Laughton‘s real life spouse). Despite this, he agrees to take the case of Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power). Vole has been charged with the murder of Mrs. Emily French (Norma Varden), a rich, older widow who he stands to inherit a fortune from. Things are complicated when it is revealed that Voles wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich) is going to be a witness for the prosecution.witness for the prosecution marlene dietrich

Starting life as a play by Agatha Christie, Witness for the Prosecution had already clocked up more than a thousand performances in the West End and on Broadway. With the help of screenwriters Harry Kurnitz and Larry Marcus , Wilder manages to concoct a mystery that Hitchcock would have bee proud of. The announcement at the end: “The management of this theatre suggests that for the greater entertainment of your friends who have not yet seen the picture, you will not divulge, to anyone, the secret of the ending of Witness for the Prosecution.” And the tagline on the poster: “You’ll talk about it, but please don’t tell the ending.” Aren’t that far removed from Hitchcock stunts.Witness for the Prosecution Tyrone Power

A courtroom dram with lots of twists and turns is nothing new, you have probably seen countless times before, but this movie is over fifty years old, so many of the other movies we have seen have been influenced by this. Like so many Wilder movies, one of the keys to its success is the perfect casting. Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich and Elsa Lanchester are all brilliant but Charles Laughton is in a different world, I would go as far as to say I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. The sublime performances coupled with the measured direction allow for the near impossible task of making the twists interesting even if you see them coming. The result of this despite the pleas marketing people, viewers who know the plot aren’t disadvantaged by knowing the plot making me keen to see the movie again. And thanks to Laughton and Wilder, although far from a comedy the movie is full of funny moments.witness for the prosecution Elsa Lanchester

Full of all the twists and turns you would expect from Christie coupled with the perfect pacing and brilliance of Wilder. The ending is as brilliant and perfect as you would expect of Wilder.

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Have you ever noticed the number of actors and actresses who advertise aftershave and perfume? If you haven’t take a look at your TV as we approach Christmas and you may be surprised. The thing I didn’t realise until recently is how many of them are directed by big A list directors. This isn’t a new thing, David Lynch made an advert for Opium by Yves Saint Laurent in the early 90’s, he has since gone on to direct one for Gucci and a bag commercial for Dior starring Marion Cotillard.

Dior’s Midnight Poison Commercial starring Eva Green was made by In the Mood for Love director Kar Wai Wong. Sofia Coppola has made two adverts for Dior, the most recent feats “brand ambassador” Natalie Portman. With the help of CGI Charlize Theron’s second Dior, Jadore advert also feature Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Marlene Dietrich it is directed by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud. The inclusion of Marilyn Monroe is an interesting and potentially risky one as the actress is generally associated with Chanel.

On the subject of Chanel, they have really embraced the idea of using movie directors: The Bleu de Chanel advert featuring French actor Gaspard Ulliel (Hannibal Rising) was directed by Martin Scorsese. The Chanel #5 advert from a few years ago featuring the song Sea of love (the one that ends with an aerial shot of a swimming poor that looks like a perfume bottle) was directed by Ridley Scott. Do you remember Estella Warren as the Little Red Riding Hood? (also a Chanel No. 5 commercial) That one was directed by Luc Besson. Its no surprise that the Paris set Chanel No. 5 commercial had echoes of Moulin Rouge! Not only does it star Nicole Kidman but it was directed by Baz Luhrmann. The current Chanel No. 5 advert stars Audrey Tautou and is set on the Orient Express, it reunites the actress with the Amelie/A Very Long Engagement director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Keira Knightley has made two Chanel, Coco Mademoiselle adverts the most recent one was directed by Pride & Prejudice and Atonement director Joe Wright.

The commercial that has been getting a lot of airtime recently is the Gucci Guilty advert featuring Evan Rachel Wood and Chris Evans and directed by comic book writer turned film maker Frank Miller. With an over stylised look and heavy use of green screen it is very reminiscent of Sin City.

A recurring trend in fragrance commercials is directors reuniting with actors they have made films with. Maybe one day Tom Tykwer will make a perfume commercial with Ben Whishaw and Rachel Hurd-Wood or Karoline Herfurth, that’s one I would like to see!

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