Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Devotion (1946)

“All our lives there has been too much left unsaid between us. Loving is the only thing that really matters, Charlotte. It's worthwhile being hurt a bit to find that out.”

            Last summer my brother Anthony had to read Wuthering Heights for his AP English class. My mom read it too so she could help him out with the story and he could have someone to talk it over with. By the time Anthony finished the book and watching a BBC production of the story I was so sick of hearing about Heathcliff and Cathy I wanted to scream. I seriously never want to read the book the story annoyed the hell out of me. Then I realized since the book was published how many other great literary novels and films (Gone with the Wind in particular in both mediums) were based off Emily Brontë’s literary masterpiece. I have seen the 1939 film version with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in a film class and wanted to scream my head off.
            I love to read but I tended to stay away from literature with my preferences leaning towards mysteries, history books, biographies, and film books. But after reading Gone with the Wind I now have an interest in reading literature masterpieces… well ones I know I will understand, I do not have the patience to sit and try to decipher the meaning.
            Now you may be wondering why on earth I am ranting about Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, and reading literature. Well two weeks ago when I was home by myself for the weekend I got to peacefully watch Devotion that I had recorded off of TCM. Devotion tells the (dramatized and romanticized) story of Branwell (Arthur Kennedy), Charlotte (Olivia de Havilland), and Emily Brontë (Ida Lupino) (as well as a little bit of their sister Anne). Branwell is like the black sheep of the family; he drinks too much and causes scenes when he is drunk. Charlotte wants to see the world in order to write her stories while Emily is very content to stay home on the moor near their Yorkshire home.
            Charlotte, Anne, and Branwell get the opportunity to travel to London for a few months. While away a new priest named Reverend Arthur Nichols (Paul Henreid) comes to help their father at his church. He and Emily spend an awful lot of time together. They even fall in love a bit but there is no sharing of feelings between them. In time the three traveling Brontë siblings return home. The first time Arthur lays eyes on Charlotte he falls in love with her but she does not like him.
            Branwell has not been behaving himself and feels awful he wants to do something nice for Emily and Charlotte. He sells one of his paintings and sends his sisters to school in Brussels to further their education as well as to teach. Charlotte is loving the experience and she is falling in love with the married school master. Emily misses the moor and England. She repeatedly has dreams of Death on a horse where she cannot see his face. She dreams of Death while in Brussels and she finally sees his face and to her this means she does not have time left and must go home.
            Both sisters return home. Charlotte begins to see Arthur loves her and begins to fall for him. Emily is upset because now she will never be with him. She pours all her feelings about Arthur and her lost love into Wuthering Heights. Charlotte finishes writing Jane Eyre and has it published along with Wuthering Heights. Both books are huge successes. Charlotte lives it up in London with all the attention on her. But yet again she finds herself returning home and this time it is because Emily is very sick.
Ida Lupino in 'Devotion'
            I know this is a very short description with not too much detail but I do not want to give away too much detail and the film was long. If you really want to know what happens to the sisters and brother look them up online.
            I really, really liked the cast. I have never seen Ida Lupino in a film before and I found myself liking her a lot. Her best scene is when Emily was walking in the moors with Arthur. There is a house on the hill of the moor and she tells Arthur that she calls the abandoned house Wuthering Heights. Just then her vision of Death on his horse appears in the distance. The description was incredible and Lupino’s acting was superb. That scene I now count as one of my favorite scenes from a film it was just acted, filmed, and written so well. Lupino may have gotten top billing but the film definitely belonged to Olivia de Havilland. De Havilland was in the film the most and she was, as always, so amazing. She was adorable in one scene where Charlotte goes on a date with the married head master of the school in Brussels. They go on the Tunnel of Love ride and she wonders why they named the ride so. Well when they emerge they definitely found the reason! Their hair is a mess and their hats are out of place and de Havilland has the best look of bliss on her face. This was the first time I have ever seen Paul Henreid outside of his role of Victor Laszlo in Casablanca. I liked him as the reverend and I now see that he was a very good actor.
            The film was finished filming in 1943 but was not released until 1946. At this time Olivia de Havilland was fighting Warner Bros. for adding extra time to the end of her contract with a suspension. Jack Warner held the film back for three years and gave the actress third billing in an attempt to damage her career. This is when she sued the studio going all the way to the Supreme Court and winning her case. After winning her case and leaving the studio de Havilland went on to win two Academy Awards. The de Havilland Decision is the reason why TV actors are only contractually obligated to a show for six years and no actor can sign a contract for longer than six years.
            The score was created by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. I like Korngold’s scores they were always dramatic and fit perfectly with the stories of the films. He created a great score for Devotion especially in the scene where Emily is in the moor with Arthur looking at Wuthering Heights and sees Death on his horse.
            Devotion, although a highly dramatized story based off the Brontë family, is very well done. The acting by all the actors is amazing, the writing is excellent, and the direction and cinematography are perfect. After seeing this film I am now thinking about giving Wuthering Heights a chance and I now would really like to read Jane Eyre (I find it funny that Olivia de Havilland played Charlotte who wrote the novel and her sister, Joan Fontaine was in the first film version of the story playing the main character). My brother liked Wuthering Heights, he likes anything with a tragic ending (except for Gone with the Wind he was so upset that Rhett and Scarlett did not get back together). I can always ask him if I am confused with the story. I do plan on getting Devotion on DVD and will be showing it to my brother.
            Definitely see Devotion it is a very well made film but just remember it is a film telling of the Brontë family it is not going to be completely accurate.  

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