SUtS: Olivia de Havilland

Brandie’s choice: The Heiress (1949)

Airing at 8:00PM EST

Since time has gotten away from me this week, I won’t be able to write a full recommendation for my second choice for today, 1946’s To Each His Own. So I will refer you to a review I wrote earlier this summer for my very favorite de Havilland flick (after Gone With the Wind, of course), The Heiress. Make sure you watch both of these movies: there’s a reason de Havilland won two well-deserved Oscars for these roles.

Carrie’s choice: The Snake Pit (1948)

Airing at 12:15AM EST

Why am I recommending this movie? Because Brandie said so.

Kidding. Mostly.

It’s pretty much a natural one for me, and I do completely intend to watch it. The psych geek in me can’t help herself. Yes, I’m a psychology geek, in case the perspectives in many (okay, okay, most) of my posts haven’t given it away by now.

Olivia de Havilland plays the sympathetic character in a semi-popular (at least in classic film) type of film where a woman endures a mental institution in some way. I’m not going to elaborate much more on the plot. I’m waiting, too.  However, I say a popular plot structure, because it is (was). Consider Bedlam, actually classified as a horror, but even though I’m not a big fan of modern horror, I liked this pretty well. A woman, hoping to help those in an asylum gets committed herself. Cold, I know. Suddenly, Last Summer, based on the play by Tennessee Williams has a young woman declared insane and the rantings of her story- actually shows the use of lobotomy and the environment of the hospital, something typically not done in the stage productions.  Hitchcock was unique with Spellbound because the “crazy” person was not actually the woman, although she began to feel she was. And other films, such as Gaslight capitalize on women feeling or being interpreted as insane, irrational, or otherwise mentally incompetent.

Interesting, isn’t it? Why did they do  this? Because they were telling a truth. For years, and even now some people still insist on an irrationality specific to women. It has a long history- since the Enlightenment era, in fact. It worked itself into the great mysteries and revolutions in mental health understanding and treatment. Insanity and the insanity of women became simultaneously romanticized and demonized. The prolific themes of these movies, even subtle ones speak to a culture and era and writers and artists trying to explore it. Some of them do so beautifully, while others may miss their marks a bit. But that is exploration.

These films demand something rather special of the actresses who perform in them, and it is my experience that many of these actresses do quite a job of it. It’s a very particular style that takes quite a lot to sell, and even more to draw in the audience and become demonized or sympathetic, as the scene or film may require. It’s unlike any other form of acting in much the same way, even in such films today. If it doesn’t work, it simply doesn’t work. So I say, extra kudos to these actors and actresses for making this work and expressing such a hidden part of human nature. It’s certainly not an easy thing to dig up and find.

That said, I’m looking forward to seeing this contribution to the film theme, era, and almost genre. Like the last post, I wouldn’t expect it to be so much feel-good as interesting, and hopefully very honest.

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