Wednesday, May 8, 2013

1961 - Fanny

How is it already May? And while we're at it, how is it already 2013? I actually watched this next movie over a month ago, but once again, other things got in the way. One of those other things was a short film that I wrote and directed called Homesick. It's the story of an Australian couple who moves to New York with their six-year-old daughter, Molly. When Molly stops talking due to a serious bout of homesickness, her father takes her on a day trip around New York City, pretending they're back home in Sydney. Kat and I played the Aussie couple, and it was quite a surreal experience having auditions for our daughter. But we found a girl with enough red hair and freckles to pass as our progeny. The film is complete now, post production and all, and has already been entered into its first film festival, so I'll keep you all updated on its progress.

We now begin our look at the nominees from the Academy's 1961 Best Picture contest. First off...

Joshua Logan
Julius J. Epstein
(based on the play by S.N. Behrman and Joshua Logan, and the Marseilles Trilogy by Marcel Pagnol)
Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Boyer, Horst Buccholz, Georgette Anys, Salvatore Baccaloni, Lionel Jeffries, Raymond Bussieres, Joel Flateau
Academy Awards:
5 nominations
0 wins

It's the early 1920s in the port town of Marseilles, France. Young French girl Fanny (Caron) finds herself rejected once again by her long-lasting crush Marius (Buccholz), who has his heart set on a life at sea. When Fanny's mother (Anys) promises her daughter to the much older, but incredibly wealthy, Panisse (Chevalier), Fanny resists, but the news seems to do the trick for Marius, who confesses his love for her, and the two spend a night together, even though the next day he is setting sail for five years.

Once Marius is gone, Fanny discovers she is pregnant. Worried that she will never be able to escape the shame of being an unmarried mother, she is relieved to hear that Panisse still wants to marry her, and indeed, is excited at the prospect of having a son to carry on his family name. Fanny and Panisse get married, but upon Marius' return, things get truly complicated.

The irony of Fanny is that, even though it removed all the songs from its Broadway musical source material, it is as hammy and theatrical as anything you're likely to see on the Great White Way. The drama is mostly heavy-handed, and in a further irony, the one place the picture could have milked its sentiment is the one place it is avoided. The story could have concluded with sweeping romantic music as Fanny and Marius fall into each other's arms. Instead, we are given the albeit touching, but far less romantic, scene of a dry letter being dictated to our heroine. On the other hand, Marius is particularly broody, and often comes across as selfish, which hinders our desire for him to win the girl anyway.

The performances are over the top across the board, especially the supporting characters. Georgette Anys, in particular, is giving it all she has, so it is unfortunate that her entire performance has been dubbed - rather badly, I might add - because her own voice might actually have been a more humorous fit for her expressive face. The usually subdued Charles Boyer even succumbs to some play-acting at times. Nonetheless, his was the only performance from the film to receive an Oscar nomination. Maurice Chevalier is borderline creepy at first (there's over four decades between him and Caron - I mean, come on!), but he eventually grows on you and is genuinely funny. Finally, the star of the film, Leslie Caron, manages to retain her loveliness and charm. Thankfully, considering she has to carry the movie, hers is probably the most subtle performance in the film.


  1. I enjoyed this sentimental charmer more than I expected. I actually saw this theatrically in 1961, but not since, so it was virtually a new viewing. I had to settle for a youtube presentation, not the best way to see it, but at least it was available.

    I think the on location shooting helped to tone down the theatricality. Still, it was obviously played quite broadly. The young actors were serviceable, with Caron a bit old for the part, but I must say those two heavy-accented French icons made the movie for me. I read that it was the first and only time they performed together. Boyer got the nomination, but it could have easily been Chevalier, although neither were quite award worthy. I'm sort of surprised that Joshua Logan did not want a musical treatment, but it probably would have had a talking-singing style not I'm not overly fond of.

    Best of success with your short film. Now lets, see - at end, Molly gets her voice back, but it's with a heavy New Yawk accent - fuggedaboutit, mate:)

  2. Hi Matt! I have really enjoyed reading your blog. Glad to have stumbled upon it! I'm trying to find an email address to contact you on to ask if you would please consider adding a link. Thanks and have a great day!