Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, July 31, 2023

The Hunchback of Norte Dame - A 1923 Silent Film - Starring Lon Chaney and Patsy Miller- Run Time One Hour 57 minutes

On YouTube

This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023 Hosted by Words and Peace

Set in 15th-century Paris, Jehan (Brandon Hurst), the evil brother of the archdeacon, lusts after a Gypsy named Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller) and commands the hunchback Quasimodo (Lon Chaney) to capture her. Military captain Phoebus (Norman Kerry) also loves Esmeralda and rescues her, but the Gypsy is not unsympathetic to Quasimodo's condition, and an unlikely bond forms between them. After vengeful Jehan frames Esmeralda for the attempted murder of Phoebus, Quasimodo's feelings are put to the test.

Quasimodo is initially repulsed by Esmeralda's beauty, but he soon comes to care for her. When Esmeralda is framed for the attempted murder of Phoebus, a captain of the guard, Quasimodo risks his own life to save her. In the end, Quasimodo is rewarded for his kindness and courage, and he finds acceptance and love among the people of Paris.

The 1923 film The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a classic of silent cinema. Lon Chaney's performance as Quasimodo is one of the most memorable in film history, and the film's sets and costumes are lavish and impressive. The film is a powerful and moving adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel, and it remains a popular and critically acclaimed film today.

The scenes in the streets of Paris among the extreme poor are very striking.  The make up for Lon Chaney took two hours to apply . The film strongly portrays the extreme contrast of the lives of the common people to those at court,  Patsy Ruth Miller's dancing is very sensuous,

The  movie was a big success for Universal Studios. They reconstructed Norte Dame Cathedral on their lot in great detail.  There are explanations of the action to help the audience follow.

In July of 2011 I posted on the novel for Paris in July 2011:

Victor Hugo (1802-1885-France-you can read more about him here) created in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, characters known by millions world wide who have never heard of his novel.   

Quasimodo has rung the bells of Norte-Dame Cathedral millions of times in Saturday morning cartoons and old movies on TV.    The Gypsy girl he loves, Esmeralda, is a stock Disney character now.  His work has influenced countless novelists from Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoevsky on down.     He is buried in the Pantheon in Paris in a crypt shared by Emile Zola and Alexander Dumas.    Two million people lined the streets of Paris for his funeral possession.    He is among the towering giants of world literature.


The Hunch Back of Notre-Dame probably violates many rules taught in creative writing classes around the world today.    Hugo loves to  stop the flow of the narrative and talk about something that he thinks his readers should know about.     He is very much given to the use of the "Dear reader" device to move the plot along.     His characters seem a little one dimensional (with one or two exceptions) and he does more or less force the reader into sentimental emotional attitudes by telling us what to feel.    All that being said, it is a great novel loved by millions, including me now.    

I offer my great thanks to Emma of Words and Peace for hosting Paris in July 2023. I was provided with the motivation to discover 24 films set in Paris.

I guess this will be my final movie post. I plan to do an overall post.

Mel Ulm 


Sunday, July 30, 2023

An American in Paris - A 1951 Film Directed by Vincente Minnelli - Starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron


This is part of   my Participation in Paris in July 2023 - Hosted  by Words and Peace

The film tells the story of Jerry Mulligan, Gene Kelly, an American ex-GI who stays in post-war Paris to become a painter, and falls for the charms of Lise Bouvier. However, his paintings come to the attention of Milo Roberts, a rich American heiress, who is interested in more than just art.

The film is interspersed with dance numbers choreographed by Gene Kelly and set to Gershwin's music. The most famous of these numbers is "The American in Paris", a 17-minute ballet that takes place in the streets of Paris. The ballet is considered one of the greatest dance sequences ever filmed.

An American in Paris was an enormous success, garnering eight Academy Award nominations and winning six (including Best Picture), as well as earning other industry honors. It is considered one of the greatest musicals ever made, and is often ranked alongside Singin' in the Rain and The Wizard of Oz.

An American in Paris is a great movie. The minor characters are perfect, it ie so much fun to see the old cars.

My  thanks to Emma of Words and Peace for hosting Paris in July 2023

Mel Ulm 

Paris Blues- A 1961 Movie - Directed by Martin Ritt- Starring Sidney Portier, Paul Newman, Diane Carroll and Joanne Woodward


This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023 - Hosted by Words and Peace

Available on YouTube 

Running Time One Hour and 39 minutes 

Combine the amazing music of Duke Ellington played by Louis Armstrong with two beautiful men along with two handsome women, throw in Paris nightclubs
 artistic black and white cinematography and what's not to love about Paris Blues.

Paul Newman and Sidney Portier play jazz musicians who left America believing Paris would give them a much greater opportunity to develop as musicians.  Diane Carroll and Joanne Woodward play American women just arriving in Paris for a two week vacation.

As did James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison, Sidney Portier's character wanted to leave behind the pervasive racism of America.  They two pairs meet and quickly fall in love,

Sidney Portier's and Diane Carroll's characters argue over whether or not as an African American man it is his obligation to go back home, work for racial justice. He tells her that in Paris he feels much none of the prejudices of America.  She replies that in the five years since he left things have gotten better.

Both of the women want the men to go back with them to the USA when their two week vacation is over,

The scenes in the nightclubs are delightful, there is an implicit comparison of the attitude of a French woman in love with Paul Newman's character to that of Joanne Woodward. 

Paris Blues is a marvelous work.

I will next post on An American in Paris starring Gene Kelly 

I give my great thanks to Emma of Words and Peace for hosting Paris in July 2023

Mel Ulm

Saturday, July 29, 2023

The Arch of Triumph- A 1948 Film - directed by Lewis Milestone and starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Charles Laughton. Set in Paris just before World War Two Starts

This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023 - Hosted by Words and Peace.

The film is on YouTube 

It is based on the 1945 novel Arch of Triumph by Erich Maria Remarque, which he wrote during his nine-year exile in the United States.

To be the best things about the movie are the Preformance by Ingrid Bergman and the cinematography 


The film is set in Paris in the winter of 1938, one year before the beginning of the second World War. It tells the story of Ravic (Boyer), an Austrian political refugee and doctor who practices medicine illegally under a false name. He saves Joan Madou (Bergman) from committing suicide after the sudden death of her lover. They become involved, but he is deported and she becomes the mistress of Alex (Laughton), a very wealthy man. Ravic eventually returns, still seeking revenge against the Nazi officer, von Haake (Laughton), who tortured Ravic's beloved to death. Von Haake is in Paris, in civilian dress, for some unknown, sinister purpose.

The film was a critical and commercial failure upon its release. It was criticized for its meandering plot and for its failure to capture the spirit of Remarque's novel. However, the film has since been re-evaluated by critics, who now praise its cinematography and its performances by Bergman, Boyer, and Laughton.

 The cinematography is by James Wong Howe, who won an Academy Award for his work on the film. The film's use of chiaroscuro lighting creates a dark and oppressive atmosphere that reflects the mood of the times.

• The performances by the three leads are all excellent. Bergman gives a heartbreaking performance as Joan, a woman who is struggling to cope with the loss of her lover and the harsh realities of life as a refugee. Boyer is also excellent as Ravic, a complex and troubled character who is driven by revenge and a desire to find redemption. Laughton is suitably villainous as von Haake, a sadistic Nazi officer who is determined to get away with his crimes.

 The film's score by Franz Waxman is also notable. The score is both haunting and beautiful, and it perfectly complements the film's visuals and story.

Overall, Arch of Triumph is a flawed but well-made film that is worth watching for its cinematography, performances, and score. It depicts a time and place where no-one can be fully trusted. In one shocking scene a 21 year old girl dies after a self endured abortion in spite of efforts by Charles Boyer to save her

The Bergman character flips from being a lost soul in need of help to a seemingly Sinister woman who causes death wherever she goes.

To me this is a Noir classic.

I will next post on Paris Blues starring Sidney Portier and Paul Newman 

I am very grateful to Emma for hosting Paris in July 2023

Mel Ulm 


Friday, July 28, 2023

A Scandal in Paris - A 1946 Film Directed by Douglas Sirk - based on the Life of Eugène François Vidocq - director of France's first criminal investigative agency, the Sûreté nationale,


This is part of  my Participation in Paris in July 2023  Hosted by Words and Peace

"Eugène François Vidocq
24 July 1775 – 11 May 1857) was a French criminal turned criminalist, whose life story inspired several writers, including Victor Hugo, Edgar Allan Poe and Honoré de Balzac. The former criminal became the founder and first director of France's first criminal investigative agency, the Sûreté nationale, as well as the head of the first known private detective agency. Vidocq is considered to be the father of modern criminology and of the French national police force. He is also regarded as the first private detective." Bard

Scandal in Paris is on YouTube. It has a run time of one hour and forty  minutes.  It was shot in Paris.

A Scandal in Paris (1946) is a biographical film directed by Douglas Sirk and starring George Sanders, Signe Hasso, and Carole Landis. It loosely depicts the life of Eugène François Vidocq, a French criminal who reformed and became a famous French Prefect of Police during the Napoleonic era.

The film begins with Vidocq (Sanders) as a petty criminal and lothario. He escapes from prison with his cellmate, Emile Vernet (Akim Tamiroff), and they travel to Marseilles where they meet the attractive young singer Loretta (Landis). Vidocq then meets a marquise and plots to steal her stash of jewels.

With the help of the minister of police's daughter, Therese (Hasso), Vidocq finds himself unexpectedly replacing the police chief. He uses his knowledge of the criminal underworld to help solve crimes, but he is also tempted to return to his old ways.

In the end, Vidocq chooses to reform and become a force for good in Paris. He creates a new kind of police force, one that uses criminals to catch criminals. He also helps to bring about the downfall of the corrupt minister of police.

A Scandal in Paris is a stylish and entertaining film that tells a fascinating story. It is also a thoughtful exploration of the nature of good and evil. Sanders gives a superb performance as Vidocq, and the supporting cast is also excellent.

The film was a critical and commercial success, and it has been praised by critics for its wit, suspense, and social commentary. It is a classic of the film noir genre, and it is still considered to be one of Sirk's best films.

I will next post on The Arch of Triumph,1948, starring Ingrid Bergman.

I offer my thanks to Emma of Words and Peace for hosting Paris in July 2023

Mel Ulm

Assignment Paris - A 1952 Film Set in Paris and Budapest- Starring Dana Andrews, Marta Toren -An American journalist in Paris- A very exciting film

This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023 - Hosted by Words and Peace

Assignment Paris is on YouTube 

Assignment: Paris is a suspenseful and exciting film that explores the dangers of Cold War espionage. The film is well-acted, with Dana Andrews and Märta Torén giving particularly strong performances. The film's cinematography is also impressive, capturing the beauty of Budapest and the atmosphere of Cold War tension.

it was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. Assignment: Paris is a classic Cold War film noir that is still worth watching today.

I was   very drawn into the plot, I worried about those in danger and I hated the Hungarians.  We also get an inside look at an American Newspaper office in Paris.

In the older films you can see how people dressed, the cool old cars and o,k every body smoked.

I will next post on A Scandal in Paris.

 My great thanks to Emma for Hosting Paris in July 2023

Mel Ulm 

Thursday, July 27, 2023

So This is Paris-A 1926 Silent film directed by Ernst Lubitsch - 107 Minutes

 This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023 - Hosted by Words and Peace 

Available on YouTube 

I have so far loved the films by Ernst Lubitsch 

Born: January 29, 1892, Berlin, Germany
Died: November 30, 1947, Los Angeles, California, United States

This is my first venture into silent films.  

So this is Paris was shot in Paris, and it captures the city's atmosphere and glamour of the 1920s.

The film tells the story of two couples who live in neighboring apartments in Paris. Dr. Giraud is married to Suzanne, but he is having an affair with Georgette Lalle, a dancer. Suzanne is also having an affair, with Maurice  a neighbour.

The two couples' affairs are kept secret from each other, but they eventually start to unravel. Suzanne finds out about Giraud's affair when she hears on the radio that he and Georgette have won a Charleston dance contest. Maurice finds out about Suzanne's affair when he sees her with her lover.

The film ends with the two couples confronting each other, and with each of them realizing that they have been betrayed.

I found the plot easy to follow. As was normal in silent films people’s emotions are strongly displayed.

I will post on more films  by Ernst Lubitsch in the next few months.

I have two more set in Paris films in que for Paris in July 2023.

I offer my thanks to Emma of Words and Peace for hosting Paris in July 2023

Mel Ulm

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Seventh Heaven- A 1937 Film Directed by Harry King- Set in the Slums of Paris during WW One-Starring Simone Simon and James Stewart

This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023 - Hosted by Words and Peace 

Available on YouTube 

Running time 1 hour and 42 minutes 

I found Seventh Heaven a wonderful deeply moving work.  Set in the Slums of Paris during WW One, the lead character, played perfectly by Jimmy Stewart, works as a sewar cleaner, he is an atheist, openly mocking religious beliefs, he has no family. Because of his extremely low status job, everyone looks down on him.  His biggest hope is to be promoted to a street cleaner. 

It is an antiwar movie, as one would expect in 1937, Germans are cast in an evil light.

Chico, Jimmy Stewart, rescues Diane (Simon), a young woman being beaten by her sister. Chico and Diane fall in love and move into a small apartment on the seventh floor, which Diane describes as heaven. However, their happiness is short-lived when Chico is called away to fight in World War I. At first Chico just takes her in out of a sense of duty. We see Diane is afraid of the heights of the seven story apartment and is terrified of the many cats in the building. Soon she is feeding the cats and thinks nothing of the height.

Diane has a strong religious faith, praying for the safe return of Chico.

Diane is left alone to fend for herself, and she eventually gives birth to a son. She struggles to survive, but she is helped by Father Chevillon (Hersholt), a priest who befriends her.

At the ending the war is over, the men of the building are returning. The close of the film is emotionally complex, deeply moving.

I extend my thanks to Emma of Words and Peace for hosting Paris in July

I will next post on So This is Paris, a silent film by Ernst Lubitsch

Mel Ulm

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The Three Musketeers- A 1948 Film -directed by George Sidney and stars Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, Van Heflin, and Vincent Price.

 This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023 - Hosted by Words and Peace

Available on YouTube 

Based on the 1844 novel by Alexander Dunas, the movie is set in France circa 1640.  Louis
The XIii was king, Cardinal Richelieu was his prime minister.  As played to perfection by Vincent Price, the Cardinal is plotting to take the place of the young king.

The movie is nonstop action with some of the greatest sword fights ever filmed.

The film tells the story of D'Artagnan, played by Gene Kelly,a Gascon youth who travels to Paris to join the elite King's Musketeers. On his way, he encounters a mysterious lady at a roadside inn. When he picks a fight with one of her escorts, she becomes suspicious and has him knocked unconscious. His letter of introduction from his father to de Treville, the commander of the Musketeers, is burned. When he awakens, he continues on to the city.

In Paris, D'Artagnan meets the three Musketeers: Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. The four men become friends and allies, and they soon find themselves caught up in a web of intrigue and danger. The villainous Cardinal Richelieu is plotting to overthrow the King, and he has hired the beautiful Lady de Winter to help him. D'Artagnan and the Musketeers must use all of their skills and courage to thwart Richelieu's plans and save the King.

There is romance, lots of sword fights, beautiful women. The Technicolor is vivid, stunning. Just a really fun movie.

The Three Musketeers was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography. 

I will next post on Seventh Heaven, set in the slums of Paris during World War One.

I am very grateful for Emma of Words and Peace for hosting Paris in July 2023

Mel Ulm


 This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023 - Hosted by Words and Peace

The German military administration in France ended with the Liberation of France after the Normandy and Provence landings. It formally existed from May 1940 to December 1944, though most of its territory had been liberated by the Allies by the end of summer 1944.

When anti-Jewish measures intensified under the Nazi Occupation of France, a group of doctors formed a clandestine group to treat and shelter resistants, to deter deportation and to protect victims of terror. Led by the grandson of the great Louis Pasteur, the Resistance Health Service included the son of a rabbi, the son of a Protestant pastor, and the first woman to direct a French hospital department. They joined forces in Paris to outwit the Nazis, despite terrible danger. The physician founders of another resistance group, Vengeance, were among hundreds of French doctors deported to concentration camps. They went to work in camp clinics, treating and healing ill and starving prisoners with little more than their hands and their knowledge. In the final phase of the war, doctors joined the hidden forest camps of maquisards in combat, operating under parachute tents with car headlights, patching up injuries incurred in guerrilla attacks on German troops. Throughout the dark night of Nazi domination, doctors risked their lives to save others and ease the suffering of their nation. Sworn to aid and assist, most of them felt they could not have acted otherwise.           

"  History tells us where we’re going and literature tells us where we’ve been. In between lies the journey, the transitory space between experience and hope, the stories I love most. I am a PhD historian, author, editor, former professor and occasional journalist. After two non-fiction books on World War II, both born of absolute awe for those who found their way through that dark night, I am reaching back in time to the drama and romance of a historical fiction series based in medieval France, Castle and the Cross." From the author's website 

The book provides lots of data on the individual Doctors, many lost their lives.  

This is a valuable addition to the history of WW Two in France.

I was given a review copy of this book

Mel Ulm 

Monday, July 24, 2023

Monsieur Beaucaire is a 1946 American historical comedy film set in Paris in the Reign of Louis the 15-directed by George Marshall and starring Bob Hope, Joan Caulfield and Patric Knowles.

 Available on YouTube 

The setting is the royal courts of France and Spain around 1750.

This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023 - Hosted by Words and Peace

Bob Hope portrays the title character, the barber of King Louis XV of France. It is loosely based on the novel of the same name by Booth Tarkington. It is a remake of the 1924 Rudolph Valentino silent film of the same name Monsieur Beaucaire.

The film follows Beaucaire, a barber who is mistaken for a nobleman and sent to Spain to marry Princess Maria. Beaucaire must use his wits to survive in the court of King Philip V and avoid being discovered as a fraud. Along the way, he falls in love with Mimi, a servant girl.

The fun of the novel is in the fast paced responses of Beaucaire to others at Court. There ars beautiful Court ladies and evil figures out to kill Beaucaire not knowing he is a fraud 

I see the movie as kind of making fun of  serious historical dramas while restoring the spirits of War weary Americans.  

Mel Ulm 

The Ruble: A Political History by Ekaterina Anatolʹevna Pravilova -2023- 435 pages

 I highly recommend The Ruble: A Political History to anyone with a serious interest in Pre-revoluntunary Russian History.

The Ruble is a political history of Russian money from Catherine the Great to Vladimir Lenin. It traces the evolution of the Russian state and society through the analysis of monetary reforms. The Ruble argues that currency constituted an important element of Russian political organization - first, autocratic, and then socialist, while monetary reforms were considered as the means of enabling or preventing political transformations. The Ruble shows how politics affected finance and explains why Russia's financial system remained unstable for many decades. Russian imperial government considered certain financial models, such as the independence of the bank of issue, to be incompatible with the principles of autocratic monarchy. The ruble represented a projection of monarchal power and a tool of imperial expansion. Russian government used emission to finance imperial wars and prioritized geopolitical successes over economic development. Russia was the last European empire to join the gold standard system, and the gold ruble differed from other gold-based currencies of the world. The Ruble analyzes the phenomena of the "autocratic" and "Soviet" gold standards and argues that the gold-based ruble differed from other currencies of the gold-standard system. Despite the preponderance of the conservative trend in monetary policy, Russian economists, liberal politicians and intellectuals argued for a radical reform of Russian money and wanted to liberate the ruble from the tutelage of the state. From Catherine the Great's reform until the 1920s, the ruble remained an object of many political programs, utopian projects, and economic ideologies"--

The Table of Contents 

Introduction: the ruble's stories
Assignats: from paper substitutes to paper money
Autocracy or representation? the political philosophy of money in the age of Napoleon and after
The end of Assignats
Paper money in the era of the "great reforms"
Ruble's wars
Witte's rollercoaster
The autocratic standard
Practicing the gold standard
The gold syndrome
War and the end of the gold ruble
A revolution that did not happen
Epilogue: The ruble that cannot be spent

"She is the Rosengarten Chair of Modern and Contemporary History; Professor of History; Acting Director, Program in Russian, East European, and Eurasian 

A native of St. Petersburg (Russia), Professor Ekaterina Pravilova received her Ph.D. from the Russian Academy of Sciences. She was a research scholar at the Academy of Sciences, and taught history at the European University at St. Petersburg from 2002 to 2006. She joined the faculty at Princeton in the fall of 2006. Her research interests vary greatly, ranging from the development of Russian law, economy and governance, to the study of imperial art and historiography". From The Department of History of Princeton University 

In the interest of full disclosure I was given a review copy of this book.

Mel Ulm

Sunday, July 23, 2023

The Last Time I Saw Paris -1954 -directed by Richard Brooks- starring Elizabeth Taylor and Van Johnson

This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023
Hosted by Words and Peace

 The Last Time I Saw Paris -1954 -directed by Richard Brooks- starring Elizabeth Taylor and Van Johnson is loosely based on a set in Paris Story by F. Scott Fitzgerald "Babylon Revisted".  Donna Reed and Eva Gabor, looking beautiful and portrays the other woman to Elizabeth Taylor perfectly.  (I still watch her in the classic camp TV show Green Acres.)

The Van Johnson character moved from New York City to Paris after World War One, hoping it would inspire him to continue his success as an author.  He is suffering from writer's block so he gets a job interviewing celebrities. This is how he meets Eva. He becomes an alcoholic, getting in bar fights, never at home with his wife and daughter.

The plot becomes very emotional bordering on melodrama at times

The Last Time I Saw Paris is on YouTube 

I am very grateful to Emma of Words and Peace for hosting Paris in July 2023 

I will next post on a very funny Bob Hope movie set in Paris in the late 1700s.

Mel Ulm

The French They Are a Funny Race - 1956 • A Set in Paris Movie Wtitten and Directed by Preston Sturges - Released in England as The Diary of Major Thompson

 The French They Are a Funny Race - 1956 • A Set in Paris Movie Wtitten and Directed by Preston Sturges - 

This is part of my Participation in Paris in July hosted by Words and Peace

The film is based on the 1954 novel Les Carnets du Major Thompson by Pierre Daninos, The stars ars Martine Carol and Jack Buchanan.

The film follows the misadventures of an English major, Marmaduke Thompson (Buchanan), who is stationed in Paris with his wife, Sybil (Carol). Thompson is constantly baffled by the French way of life, from their love of food and wine to their casual attitude towards work. He also finds himself at odds with his wife, who is more accepting of French culture. It is a gentle satire of French culture. 

I hope to watch lots more films  from Preston Sturges- a bigger than life super star of the American Film world.  I highly reccomend the documentary below to all 
 Interested in the history of cinema.

Mel Ulm

Saturday, July 22, 2023

If I Were King- A 1938 Movis Directed by Frank Lloyd - Starring Ronald Coleman, Francis Dee and Basil Rathbone - Set in Paris in 1429 -141 minutes

 This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023 -Hosted by Words and Peace

If I Were King is loosely based on the actions of François Villon in 1429, in Paris, during the siege of the city by the Duke of Burgundy.

François Villon is the best known French poet of the Late Middle Ages. He was involved in criminal behavior and had multiple encounters with law enforcement authorities. Villon wrote about some of these experiences in his poems. 

Born: April 1, 1431

Died: after 1463 

I recently completed an online course in the history of the cinema presented by The University of Pennsylvania.  The instructor explains that in the 1930s films about "lovable rougues." were popular. (A prime example is the role of Earl Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood.) If I Were King perfectly exemplifies this sort of movie.

Villon has contacts at Court through his poetry. The people of Paris have severe food shortages while those at court have huge reserves for their use. Of course a beautiful young lady at Court falls in love with Villon.

We also see Villon among the people.  Perhaps the film, released in the midst of a decade long economic depression in the United States, might have had political implications.  

My Next set in Paris Film will probably be The French, They Are a Funny People directed by Preston Surges.

Mel Ulm

Friday, July 21, 2023

Charade- A 1963 Film Starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant - Directed by Stanley Dolan - Set in Paris


Charade is Available on YouTube 

This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023- Hosted  by Words and Peace

This is my second post on a set in Paris Film Starring Audrey Hepburn. My first was The gorgeous Funny Face.

Charade follows Regina Lampert (Hepburn), a young woman who discovers upon her return to Paris that her husband has been murdered. She soon learns that he was involved in a theft of a quarter of a million dollars during World War II, and that three of his former associates are now after the money. Regina teams up with Peter Joshua (Grant), a mysterious stranger who may or may not be involved in the theft, to try to find the money and stay alive.

Charade is kind of a combination of a romance, a murder mystery, with some scary elements set against iconic Parisisn scenes. There are numerous surprises,  for sure I did not see the gratifying ending coming.

My next Audrey Hepburn in Paris  movie will be Sabrina.

Mel Ulm

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Funny Face- A 1957 Film - Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire in Paris - A Beautiful Movie directed by Stanley Dolen


This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023- Hosted by Words and Peace

The music is by George Gerswin, the customes by Edith Head

The movie is on YouTube 

The film tells the story of Jo Stockton (Hepburn), a shy bookstore employee who is discovered by fashion photographer Dick Avery (Astaire). Avery believes that Jo has the potential to be a successful model, and he convinces her to go to Paris with him to shoot a fashion campaign. In Paris, Jo blossoms into a confident and stylish woman, and she falls in love with Avery. However, their relationship is tested when Jo's intellectual side clashes with Avery's commercialism.

The opening in the office of a famous fashion magazine, it brought to my mind The Devil Wears Prada,  it begins with a delightful musical number when the magazine editor, who sees her job as telling the women of America what to wear decides the next issue will feature all pink outfits. The movie explodes in color, dance, marvelous clothing.

For the next issue she decides to feature women into arts and books, intellectuals. Of course no professional model can fit that role.  Being in New York City, the whole crew, including Fred Astaire as the photographer winds up in a Greenwich City bookstore being managed by Jo Stockton.  Chaos results and Jo is horrified by what she sees as the shallow values embodied by viewing women only for their looks. Jo is a follower of a French philosopher who expounds "Emphaticalism", a satire of the pretensions of French Existentialism.

A don't want to reveal to much of the plot other than to say Jo ends up as a lead model for the magazine's big fashion show issue in Paris. There are lots of iconic Paris scenes. Audrey even does an Apace dance and cracks an expensive vase over the head of the famous philosopher.  

This was Hepburn's first musical. She and Astaire make great dance partners.

I have loved Audrey Hepburn since I saw her way back when My Fair Lady premiered

I have found two other Audrey Hepburn movies with Parisian connections, Charade and Sabrina and hope to watch them both this month

Mel Ulm

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Design for Living - A Film Directed by Ernst Lubitsch -1933 - Starring Fredric March, Gary Cooper and Mariam Hopkins- Set in Paris

Design for Living - A Film Directed by Ernst Lubitsch -1933 - Starring Fredric March, Gary Cooper and Mariam Hopkins- Set in Paris - based loosely on a 1932 play by Noel Coward - script by Ben Hecht - 128 Minutes

This post is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023 - Hosted by Words and Peace

The film is on YouTube.

 The quality of the video is grainy and the top portion of the actors heads are cut off. I know much better copies are available based on the the trailer and commentaries. The copyright holder NBC has blocked it for viewers in America but a VPN will help.
If you know of a better quality video on line please post the link in a comment.

I have no formal training in the cinema. I just enrolled in a promising history course at the University of Pennsylvania. I am researching online classes at major California universities, Harvard, Yale, and Oxford.  

Design for Life was made a year before Hollywood imposed a morals code on films in 1934.
It centers on the relationship of two American men, one a playwright the other an artist and a woman, played wonderfully by Mariam Hopkins, one of Ernst Lubitsch favourite actresses. She is a commercial artist.
The two men are sleeping in a train compartment traveling through France. Gilda enters the compartment and decides to sketch them. In the delightful open sequence the men think Gilda, an American, is French as she does them. They talk in French until they realise the situation.
Both of the men are infatuated with Gilda and she with them. They realize they are all struggling to get by in Paris and decide to live together.

Gilda: "Boys, it's the only thing we can do. Let's forget sex."
What Gilda tells the men when they set up their arrangements, telling them it is a "gentleman's agreement". Their apartment is shabby, Gilda pushes the men to work. She has been working for a wealthy man for five years who has unsuccessfully pursued a romance with her.

When Gilda starts having sex with both men she uttered a pure Lubitsch line.
"It's true we had a gentleman's agreement, but unfortunately, I am no gentleman." 
Gary Cooper is kind of caste against type. In Design for Living he is fast talking and has a bad temper.

I don't want to reveal more of the plot. (Bard has a summary.)
The next film by Ernst Lubitsch I will post on is A Royal Scandal.
The next set in Paris movie will be Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn.

Mel Ulm

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

The Tales of Hoffmmann- A 1951 Film directed and written by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

After watching The Red Shoes by the Archers, William Powell and Emeric Pressburger I was very eager to experience their 1951 work, Tales of Hoffmann 

You can watch Tales of Hoffmann on the link below

"The Tales of Hoffmann is a 1951 British Technicolor comic opera film written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger working under the umbrella of their production company The Archers. It is an adaptation of Jacques Offenbach's 1881 opera The Tales of Hoffmann, itself based on three short stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann.

The film stars Robert Rounseville as Hoffmann, Moira Shearer as Olympia, Ludmilla Tchérina as Antonia, and Robert Helpmann as Lindorf/Coppélius/Dapertutto. It also features Pamela Brown, Ann Ayars, and Léonide Massine. Only Rounseville and Ayars sang their own roles.

The film is a visual feast, with stunning sets and costumes designed by Hein Heckroth. The opera's music is beautifully performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham.

The film tells the story of Hoffmann, a poet who falls in love with three women: Olympia, a mechanical doll; Antonia, a singer who is dying of consumption; and Giulietta, a courtesan. Hoffmann's love for these women is doomed, as they are all under the spell of the evil sorcerer Dapertutto.

The Tales of Hoffmann is a complex and multilayered film, with elements of fantasy, romance, and tragedy. It is a visually stunning and musically beautiful film that is a must-see for fans of opera and classic cinema.
The film was a critical and commercial success, winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and two Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color and Best Costume Design, Color. It is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and is ranked #12 on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list.

Here are some of the things that make The Tales of Hoffmann a great film:

• The stunning visuals: The film is a feast for the eyes, with gorgeous sets and costumes designed by Hein Heckroth.

• The beautiful music: The opera's music is beautifully performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham.

• The complex and multilayered story: The film is a complex and multilayered story, with elements of fantasy, romance, and tragedy.

• The performances: The performances by the cast are all top-notch, especially Robert Rounseville as Hoffmann and Moira Shearer." From Bard

I have watched Tales of Hoffmann several times.  In times when my spirits are low the sheer beauty of the film helps me.

Soon I will post on The Black Narrcisus, followed by as many other William and Powell films as I can find online.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Perestroika in Paris:A Novel by Jane Smiley- 2020

 Perestroika in Paris : A Novel by Jane Smiley - 2020 - 267 Pages- A Fable of a Horse, a Dog, a Raven and a Rat in Paris in 2004

This is part of my Participation in Paris in July 2023

"captivating, brilliantly imaginative story of three extraordinary animals—and a young boy—whose lives intersect in Paris in this "feel-good escape” (The New York Times).

Paras, short for "Perestroika," is a spirited racehorse at a racetrack west of Paris. One afternoon at dusk, she finds the door of her stall open and—she's a curious filly—wanders all the way to the City of Light. She's dazzled and often mystified by the sights, sounds, and smells around her, but she isn't afraid.

Soon she meets an elegant dog, a German shorthaired pointer named Frida, who knows how to get by without attracting the attention of suspicious Parisians. Paras and Frida coexist for a time in the city's lush green spaces, nourished by Frida's strategic trips to the vegetable market. They keep company with two irrepressible ducks and an opinionated raven. But then Paras meets a human boy, Etienne, and discovers a new, otherworldly part of Paris: the ivy-walled house where the boy and his nearly-one-hundred-year-old great-grandmother live in seclusion.

As the cold weather nears, the unlikeliest of friendships bloom. But how long can a runaway horse stay undiscovered in Paris? How long can a boy keep her hidden and all to himself? Jane Smiley's beguiling new novel is itself an adventure that celebrates curiosity, ingenuity, and the desire of all creatures for true love and freedom" - from the Publisher

In April I read a short story by Jane Smiley, "The Hillside"

Here are a portion of my remarks:

The Hillside" is kind of like a post apocalyptic fairy tale in which humans have been reduced to an uncivilised states supervised by intelligent animals. The setting is far in the future."Many younger horses refused to believe that there had ever been all-knowing and all-powerful humans who could rule horses, or cats, or fly through the air or destroy everything around them. They laughed at the old believers.

When I saw that her best selling novel Perestroika in Paris, also a Fable focusing on animals was for sale for $2.95 I acquired it. (The sale is over, it is now $13.95)

I found this work entertaining and gave me a feel for Paris from an animals point of view. (Cat lovers like me will not like how cats are treated,ok we do see them from a rat's point of view.)

Some Parisians are nice to the dog, kind of the brains of the group, others are potentially dangerous. 

I enjoyed this book.  

Jane Smiley is the author of numerous novels, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and, most recently, The Last Hundred Years Trilogy: Some Luck, Early Warning, and Golden Age. She is also the author of several works of nonfiction and books for young adults. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has also received the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. She lives in Northern California 

Mel Ulm