Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sense and Sensibility

Year 8, Day 48 - 2/17/16 - Movie #2,249

BEFORE:  Kate Winslet carries over from "The Holiday" as I finally start to tackle the works of Jane Austen.  It's a little strange, perhaps, that I decided to clear things off the list like the James Bond series, Hitchcock films and the work of the Marx Brothers before getting to Ms. Austen, but things are what they are. She's just going to have to be content with her place in my pecking order.

Here's the TCM line-up of Oscar-nominated films for tomorrow, February 18:

Elijah Cook, Jr. carries over from "Trial" to:
"Dillinger" with Anne Jeffreys carrying over to:
"Sing Your Way Home" with Jack Haley carrying over to:
"Higher and Higher" with Frank Sinatra carrying over to:
"On the Town" with Florence Bates carrying over to:
"Kismet" with Edward Arnold carrying over to:
"The War Against Mrs. Hadley" with Van Johnson carrying over to:
"Too Young to Kiss" with June Allyson carrying over to:
"Executive Suite" with Nina Foch carrying over to:
"An American in Paris" with Oscar Levant carrying over to:
"The Band Wagon" with Robert Gist carrying over to:
"Strangers on a Train" with Robert Walker carrying over to:
"Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" with Robert Mitchum carrying over to:

I've only seen three of these before - "On the Town", "An American in Paris", and "Strangers on a Train".  I thought maybe I'd seen "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo", but no, last year I watched "Destination Tokyo", which is not the same film.  I'm not sure how they can justify not putting the two Gene Kelly films next to each other, but then, I'm not seeing the big picture.  Sometimes when you need to link everything together in a chain, you have to separate some of the more obvious connections.  I'm up to 64 films seen, 141 unseen, with 4 added to the list.  Decisions need to be made tomorrow.  

THE PLOT:  Rich Mr. Dashwood dies, leaving his second wife and her three daughters poor by the rules of inheritance. The two eldest daughters are the titular opposites.

AFTER: I guess I never really thought about it, that the words "Sense" and "Sensibility" are opposites - since they seem to have the same root word, I always assumed that there was only a slight difference between them.  But the dictionary definition for "sensibility" equates it with "sensitivity", saying that it refers to someone's delicate nature, making them easily offended or shocked.  Now I'm starting to understand the meaning of the title, one sister is sensiBLE and the other is overly sensiTIVE.  

Elinor, the sensible one, takes it in stride when the man she loves turns out to be engaged to someone else.  It makes sense, she's older, maybe she's been through something like this before, had her heart broken once or twice.  Marianne is the sensitive one, and when the man she loves suddenly stops calling (and by calling I mean stopping by, not calling on the phone...) she takes it hard, really hard.  She starts wandering aimlessly around the country estate in the rain, and considering the state of medicine in the early 1800's, that's not a great idea.  Back then if you came down with a cold they'd break out the leeches or the bloodletting, and before you know it, you're more sick from the cure than you were from the disease.  

Officially the first "soap opera" aired in 1930, but unless I'm way off base here, it seems to me that Jane Austen wrote some of the pioneering work in the form.  Consider what happens in this story: a woman falls in love only to find out her man is secretly engaged - to someone else!  Another woman falls in love only to find her man got another woman pregnant - out of wedlock!   That guy who was secretly engaged gets left at the altar - so his fiancée can marry his brother!   Then that brings me to that girl who went walking around in the rain - and comes very close to dying!  But Austen really should have saved that storyline for sweeps week, it's too bad that hadn't been invented yet.

Kids, here's what you have to consider.  In the early 1800's, I know this sounds a bit strange, but legally women had about the same status as animals or other property.  We've come a long way since then - but at the time, if a man with children died, his estate became the property of his oldest son, and not his daughter.  That's where this Austen story starts, with the three daughters of one man left out in the cold because they were sisters born to one wife, and their father's inheritance going to their half-brother, the son from another wife.  And even though the son, John, agrees to "take care" of his half-sisters, his wife Fanny talks him out of it. Thus the three sisters need to move, so that John can take possession of the house.

And as women of the early 1800's, it's now important for them to marry well, because it's not like they can get jobs or anything like that (again, different time, don't blame me...) and they don't have a dowry, so there's less incentive for men to marry them.  If you're not familiar with the term, a dowry was money paid by a father to the man who marries his daughter.  I know, it seems so archaic.  But also, bear in mind a few things - these rich women who didn't work, well, let's just say they were pleasingly plump (unlike most of the women seen in this film) and that was also culturally acceptable at the time.  In addition, things like deodorant, toothpaste and modern showers hadn't been invented yet, so maybe you sort of get an idea why someone would need to be paid to marry somebody.  Plus, people back then just didn't live as long as they do now, so asking someone to give up 10 or 20 years of their life to be married to someone was a huge deal.  On top of all that, a lot of people were very religious, so divorce wasn't an acceptable option like it is now.  

(Really, this is all a-grade material for your next book report, I don't know why I give this stuff out for free, I really should be charging for this...) 

Also starring Emma Thompson (last seen in "Saving Mr. Banks"), Hugh Grant (last seen in "About a Boy"), Alan Rickman (last seen in "CBGB"), Greg Wise (last seen in "Johnny English"), Gemma Jones (last seen in "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"), Imelda Staunton (last seen in "Malificent"), Hugh Laurie (last seen in "The Man in the Iron Mask"), Robert Hardy, Elizabeth Spriggs, Tom Wilkinson (last seen in "The Conspirator"), Imogen Stubbs, Harriet Walter (last seen in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"), James Fleet, Emilie Francois, Richard Lumsden, Oliver Ford Davies. 
RATING: 6 out of 10 unanswered letters

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