Sunday, January 16, 2011

1930/31 - East Lynne

The last few days in Los Angeles have been both relaxing and energetic. While I've managed to get in a fair amount of lounging around, I've also taken in a couple of racquetball games as well as a hike in Temescal Canyon. Add a poker night and a games night to the mix and you've got yourself quite an eventful vacation. To cap it all off before I head back to New York and the cold weather, the Golden Globe Awards, which are occurring just a few miles away in Beverly Hills, are just about to begin as I write this.

Earlier this week, while at the UCLA Film & TV Archive, I got the chance to watch a hard-to-find nominee from the 1930/31 Best Picture race...

East Lynne
Frank Lloyd
Tom Barry and Bradley King
(based on the novel by Mrs. Henry Wood)
Ann Harding, Clive Brook, Conrad Nagel, Cecilia Loftus, Beryl Mercer
Academy Awards:
1 nomination
0 wins

Pretty young social butterfly Isabella (Harding) is initially excited to marry wealthy politician Robert Carlyle (Nagel), no relation to the well-known Scottish actor. He brings his new bride to live with him at his estate, East Lynne, where his sister Cornelia (Loftus) takes an immediate disliking to her. After a few years, Isabella feels bored in the stifling house, her only stimulation derived from playing with her new son.

Yearning for some fun and excitement while Robert is away, Isabella sneaks off to a fancy ball with an old suitor Captain Levison (Brook). The two share an illicit kiss before Isabella rejects his further advances. But the damage is already done. Cornelia witnessed the indiscretion and blabs to Robert, who, believing Isabella has been unfaithful, throws her out of the house, vowing never to allow her to see their son again.

East Lynne begins as an occasionally bland melodrama, but manages to avoid being completely boring. Its characters are relatively clichéd - the fun-loving wife, the conservative husband, the protective older sister who passive-aggressively makes life miserable for the newcomer. The story, too, is a tad tired - new girl, not accepted by husband's family, tries to deal with stuffy upper class rules and etiquette. It's definitely soap opera material.

However, it does become engrossing towards the climax of the film. Once the stakes are raised, things start to get tense, and the picture is much more watchable. Unfortunately, though, the climax itself is a bit laughable. Isabella goes suddenly blind, but rather than stay put and wait for help, she inexplicably attempts to find her way home on her own and walks straight off a cliff.

Ann Harding (pictured) is possibly the finest part of East Lynne. Her natural performance as the party girl without a party is truly engaging and helps to alleviate the film's flaws. Conrad Nagel as the staid husband also offers an accomplished portrayal if you can get past the heavy lipstick and eyeliner. And Clive Brook as the other man is compelling if only for his unusual cadence. None of the performances received Oscar nominations. Nor did any of the technical or creative elements. In fact, East Lynne's sole nomination was for Best Picture.


  1. Hope to one day see East Lynne, if only for those concluding scenes you describe. I've seen Ann Harding in a few pictures, but the only performer I can place is Clive Brook. That's because he played the Marquis of Gleneyre in The List of Adrian Messenger. One of my guilty pleasure movies that I've seen at least 20 times.

    Switching gears, the Golden Globes offered no surprises in this year's Oscar race. BAFTA, however, released their final nominations today, and there were a few surprises. For their awards, Hailee Steinfeld is competing as lead actress. They also snubbed Melissa Leo for Supporting Actress (but not Amy Adams, her co-star).

  2. Off topic, but here are my Academy Award Nomination Predictions on the eve of the announcement. I'll just predict the top 6 categories. These will look quite similar to many of the other prediction lists floating around the Oscar sites, although I've yet to find any to come within three of matching my picks. Hope to get 30 out of 35 correct, but that is probably wishful thinking.

    Best Picture
    1. The Social Network
    2. The King's Speech
    3. Inception
    4. Black Swan
    5. Winter's Bone
    6. The Fighter
    7. The Kids Are All Right
    8. 127 Hours
    9. Toy Story 3
    10. True Grit
    Alternate: The Town
    Dark Horse: Another Year

    Best Director
    1. David Fincher
    2. Christopher Nolan
    3. Darren Aronofsky
    4. Tom Hooper
    5. Danny Boyle
    Alternate: David O. Russell
    Dark Horse: Coen Brothers

    Best Actor
    1. Colin Firth
    2. Jesse Eisenberg
    3. James Franco
    4. Jeff Bridges
    5. Ryan Gosling
    Alternate: Robert Duvall
    Dark Horse: Javier Bardem

    Best Actress
    1. Natalie Portmen
    2. Annette Bening
    3. Jennifer Lawrence
    4. Nicole Kidman
    5. Michelle Williams
    Alternate: Hailee Steinfeld (Category uncertainty)
    Dark Horse: Julianne Moore

    Best Supporting Actor
    1. Christian Bale
    2. Geoffrey Rush
    3. Mark Ruffalo
    4. John Hawkes
    5. Andrew Garfield
    Alternate: Jeremy Renner
    Dark Horse: Matt Damon

    Best Supporting Actress
    1. Melissa Leo
    2. Hailee Steinfeld
    3. Amy Adams
    4. Helena Bonham-Carter
    5. Jackie Weaver
    Alternate: Mila Kunis
    Dark Horse: Leslie Manville

  3. I just linked to my picks on the most recent post. Looks like you've found someone who is within three of matching your picks :)

    The only two differences you and I have are with Actress and Supporting Actress. I'd love for Williams to be nominated for Best Actress, actually. Not sure why I went with Moore. Neither seem like the right choice, though. That fifth slot in that category may end up being the one "where did that come from?" nomination.

    And I've stuck with Kunis instead of fellow Aussie Weaver for Best Supporting Actress. Unpatriotic, I know.

  4. I began my quest to see all nominees in Jan. 09, and three and a half years later I was down to just four, East Lynne, The White Parade '34, One Night of Love '34, and, of course, The Patriot. Frustrating that I'll never be able to complete the quest. Surely someone could carefully turn East Lynne digital. Or am I just being naive?

  5. Ferg, congrats on getting through so many nominees. Clearly you're more disciplined than I am. I started later the same year that you did and I'm not even halfway through.

    East Lynne and The White Parade are available at the UCLA Film Archive. You have to make an appointment in advance to see them, but it's the perfect excuse for a trip to LA. And I believe they are the only surviving prints of those two films, which would explain why nobody's digitized them yet.

    As for the other nominee you mentioned, this might help :-)