Search results

You are looking at 1 - 9 of 9 items for

  • Author: Melanie Williams x
  • Refine by access: All content x
Clear All Modify Search
Abstract only

David Lean has been characterised as a director of highly romantic disposition whose films offer a vision of 'the romantic sensibility attempting to reach beyond the restraints and constrictions of everyday life'. This book proposes new perspectives on the work of David Lean and offers a fuller and more varied appreciation of his manifold achievements as a filmmaker. In so doing, the book makes interventions in wider academic debates around authorship, gender, genre and aesthetics in relation to the British cinema and transnational cinema of British cultural inheritance of which Lean was such a remarkable exponent. It first deals with Lean's early career, covering his entry into the film industry and flourishing formative years as an editor, honing skills, and his official entry into direction. It then examines Lean's four forays into the nineteenth century, encompassing his two Dickens adaptations as well as his two later Victorian dramas, both centred on rebellious females. Each film presents a vivid instance of the twentieth century in the process of 'inventing the Victorians'; put together, the quartet of films show how perceptions began to change during the pivotal postwar year. The book also focuses on the gender by focusing on a trio of films about women in love and three films centred on male visionaries.

Open Access (free)
Melanie Williams

Jean-Luc Godard remarked that all you need to make a film is 'a girl and a gun' and the opening sequence of Yield to the Night looks like a textbook illustration of his axiom. Yield to the Night is often mentioned in connection with the contemporary case of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. The film is far from being a straightforward statement of social protest on the part of its makers, which is partly due to the casting of Diana Dors, a notorious and flamboyant British film personality of the 1950s, in the role of Mary Hilton. The realism of the film is a subjective, psychological realism, suggesting the strange and fearful state of mind of the person who knows she will die in a matter of days.

in British cinema of the 1950s
Open Access (free)
Woman in a Dressing Gown
Melanie Williams

Stephen Frears's response to Woman in a Dressing Gown seems laughably inappropriate. Woman in a Dressing Gown is a drama that counterpoints two different kinds of women: if Georgie is the ideal of 1950s femininity, serene, sexually attractive and 'mature', then Amy Preston is its unacceptable face, scatty, scruffy and loud. The most useful touchstone for approaching Woman in a Dressing Gown as a 'proto-feminist' film is Betty Friedan's groundbreaking study of the disparity between the happy housewife image and the malaise and misery that lies beneath it, The Feminine Mystique. The Feminine Mystique often discusses and illuminates exactly the same problems that Woman in a Dressing Gown indirectly hints at or alludes to, through its presentation of the character of Amy. Throughout Woman in a Dressing Gown melodramatic tropes such as the use of lachrymose music are important.

in British cinema of the 1950s
Abstract only
Melanie Williams

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book deals with David Lean's early career, covering his entry into the film industry and flourishing formative years as an editor, honing skills he would continue to apply through his filmmaking career. It also deals with his official entry into the direction in collaboration with Noel Coward on the war film In Which We Serve, an incredibly prestigious and successful directorial debut. The book focuses on a trio of films about women in love, Brief Encounter, The Passionate Friends and Summer Madness. It also focuses on three films centred on male visionaries, The Sound Barrier, The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. The book looks at the three concluding productions of Lean's career, Doctor Zhivago, Ryan's Daughter and A Passage to India.

in David Lean
Abstract only
David Lean’s early career and In Which We Serve (1942), This Happy Breed (1944) and Blithe Spirit (1945)
Melanie Williams

The opening credits for In Which We Serve, and the story behind them, raise pertinent questions about this particular film as a product of David Lean's authorship. Although the invitation to work on In Which We Serve would mark the official credited beginning of Lean's career as a director, Lean never forgot his grounding in cutting. The moments that dwell on ordinary domesticity in In Which We Serve would be expanded to occupy the entirety of Lean's next film, This Happy Breed. This Happy Breed is an adaptation of Noel Coward's play about a lower middle-class London family, the Gibbonses. This Happy Breed was one of a number of texts of the period that seemed to quench a widespread thirst for national self-explication. Having hitherto cleaved to Coward's more homely side, Blithe Spirit would be the closest Lean came to the playwright's world of upper-crust wit and sophistication.

in David Lean
Great Expectations (1946), Oliver Twist (1948), Madeleine (1950) and Hobson’s Choice (1954)
Melanie Williams

It has become customary to look at David Lean's two consecutive Dickens adaptations together, often in semi-isolation from his other work around this time. Great Expectations and Oliver Twist offer a clearly demarcated sub-section of the director's career, his Dickens period and moreover one with considerable prestige. Lean's two Dickens films depict London and the South of England but Madeleine and Hobson's Choice add the very different nineteenth-century worlds of bourgeois Glasgow and lower middle class Salford. Perceptions of the Victorians would change again in the 1960s and the decades beyond it. But the late 1940s and early 1950s were to prove a particularly formative moment of reappraisal to which Lean's four variations on the theme of 'nineteenth-century blues' made a significant contribution. Of Lean's four films set in the nineteenth century, Madeleine is arguably the film most directly concerned with anatomising the spirit of the Victorian age.

in David Lean
Abstract only
Brief Encounter (1945), The Passionate Friends (1949) and Summer Madness (1955)
Melanie Williams

The American title for David Lean's romance The Passionate Friends and One Woman's Story could have been applied to several of the films the director made during the course of his career. In re-examining three of Lean's films and bracketing them together as women's pictures, this chapter aims to foreground the absolute centrality of women and women-centred narratives to much of Lean's filmmaking. Brief Encounter was the first of Lean's films to provide a sustained focus on the inner life of a heroine, detailing an ordinary middle-class woman's experience of unexpectedly falling in love. The Passionate Friends provided a more psychologically opaque and socially upscale variation on the theme of illicit romance with a compelling central performance from Ann Todd. The trilogy was completed by Summer Madness, Lean's first Hollywood co-production, first film to be shot entirely on location overseas and the director's favourite among his own films.

in David Lean
Abstract only
The Sound Barrier (1952), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Melanie Williams

The Sound Barrier marked the beginning of a new strain of epic-scale adventure to David Lean's cinema that would eventually see him dubbed 'the poet of the far horizon'. The Sound Barrier's aerophilia reflected the zeitgeist of postwar Britain. David Lean's working relationship with Sam Spiegel, simultaneously highly productive and highly antagonistic, began with their large-scale war film The Bridge on the River Kwai. Pre-empting Lawrence of Arabia, Lean wanted to show the human presence as tiny in comparison with the immensity and sublimity of his environment. Apollo, the sun god, has an additional pertinence in relation to Lawrence of Arabia which often shows its hero framed against the sun and depicted as a kind of solar deity. What is interesting about Lean's three films centred on 'men of vision' is the extent to which they show the limitations and strains of trying to fulfill Apollonian destiny.

in David Lean
Abstract only
Doctor Zhivago (1965), Ryan’s Daughter (1970) and A Passage to India (1984)
Melanie Williams

Doctor Zhivago, Ryan's Daughter and A Passage to India are assuredly epic in their monumental scale and expansive themes and yet they eschew the usual masculine epic hero. Films such as Ben-Hur, Spartacus, El Cid and indeed David Lean's own Lawrence of Arabia provided lengthy mediations on male identity and heroism. In Doctor Zhivago, women's allotted role is very traditionally conceived as inspiring love and poetry never writing it themselves and bearing children. E. Butler Cullingford and Fidelma Farley suggest that Ryan's Daughter presents a partial critique of colonial occupation. By the time it came to Lean's next epic production, Ryan's Daughter, the Oscar nominations had slunk down to four, the wins to two, and the critical knives were being sharpened. A Passage to India presents old age as a nihilistic state, a position helped enormously by an unsentimental performance from Peggy Ashcroft.

in David Lean