Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tending Banked Coals

The John Ehle Collection

At Southern Sources a posting about revised/new finding aids has information about the John Ehle collection within the UNC Southern Historical Collection.
[...]The collection documents both the literary career and public service activities of John Ehle. Literary materials include correspondence, clippings, and financial items relating to Ehle’s novels and other works, as well as notes, drafts, and galleys. Family items include correspondence of Ehle’s parents and a few items relating to Rosemary Harris. Other materials relate to Ehle’s work with various public and private institutions. These include files generated in the course of Ehle’s work in the Governor’s Office, especially his efforts on behalf of the North Carolina School of the Arts and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. There are also files relating to the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Federation for the Arts and Humanities, Duke University, and the Penland School of Crafts. Photographs and audiovisual materials include family photographs and photographs used as book illustrations, including some of activists protesting segregation in Chapel Hill, N.C., that were taken for use in The Free Men (1965); audiodiscs of radio shows that Ehle wrote or acted in; tapes of interviews done for various books; and filmstrips, chiefly on North Carolina history, which Ehle produced, sometimes in collaboration with others. A few items relate to Rosemary Harris. [...]

The Rosemary Harris Collection

Ms Harris was Among the glitterati in NYC on Monday May 18 at an event on Michelle Obama's schedule.
"[...]the first lady changed into evening clothes and headed to American Ballet Theatre's spring gala at the Metropolitan Opera House, a highlight of the city's social calendar. Among the glitterati: Actresses Sigourney Weaver, Kim Raver, and Rosemary Harris[...]"
(I wasn't able to find photos of Ms Harris at the event. Perhaps a reader out there is a better photo-miner than I & will share?)

And, some more reviews of Is Anybody There.
Ken Eisner liked the supporting cast who "constitute a who's who of great English character actors"

LIZ BRAUN In The Toronto Sun found the film charming saying "the cast is superb" and "an extraordinary collection of respected British actors as the residents of the old-folks home".

California Chronicle's John Beifuss had his cynic's armor pierced by the movie "thanks to the pictorial tastefulness of director John Crowley and, especially, a brace of fine performances." Whether or not he was thinking of things like leg braces or other aids isn't clear but he does go on to write "Other seniors are played by such welcome British character actors as Peter Vaughan, Leslie Phillips and Rosemary Harris (Aunt May in "Spider-Man"), as an ex-dancer with a plastic replacement leg."

(Bonus information from the Beifuss article: the soundtrack includes Dexy's Midnight Runners. I mean, does a movie set in the 1980's get any better than that?)

MICHAEL SMITH at tulsaworld found the glass half full/empty saying "The acting is first-rate among a talented cast saddled with a third-rate piece of material" but also that "Actors like Rosemary Harris and Peter Vaughn shine in portraying their many pains and their tiny moments of joy when the spotlight is taken off of Caine for a moment."

From The Wichita Eagle's Rod Pocowatchit's musings on the screen scene "Acting legend Rosemary Harris ("Spider-Man") particularly stands out as a kind woman trying to lure an aging drinker into sobriety." (You know, don't you, that I'm tempted to make some comment about whether the author intended "stands out" to relate to any prior mentions of the character's restrictions.)

And speaking of Spidey, here's a charming clip of Ms Harris discussing Aunt May in a featurette of the 2007 movie Spider-Man 3.

Fashion, Fun, & Games with Liz and Darce

More pictures of Regency fashion can be seen at this article about the National Gallery of Victoria’s Fashion in the Age of Jane Austen and at and also Jane Austen Today Blog . The insights into changing fashion are interesting especially in that the period during which women's clothes were "streamlined into relatively unadorned gowns of diaphanous white muslin that fell close to the body’s natural contours." was of a relatively short duration.

Blogger Tia Nevitt read and reviewed Marvel Comic's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and "was all over the comic book like the younger Bennet girls on men in red coats." She found it well worth the price but warns "Contrary to the cover image, Lizzy does not look like Jennifer Ehle from the A&E Adaptation of Pride and Prejudice."

Check out these Signs that you have watched Pride and Prejudice too many times and you may find that far too many of them apply! I found them excessively diverting.

Need a break from those boring hours of computer solitaire while filling time at work? Try these, also fashion related.

A. Regency dress up dolls

B. Lizzy and Darcy paper dolls

A. lizzydressupdoll B. lizzypaperdoll That wig looks familiar. I think it deserves a BAFTA.

Or, perhaps you'd enjoy the challenge of a Pride and Prejudice jigsaw puzzle


Whenever possible, of course, this will turn back into a Ms Awesome Jennifer Ehle blog. In the meantime, there is gratitude that she has such admirable relatives and that because of the greatest mini-series of all time an Austen reference is never out of line.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hitchhiker's Guide

Many thanks to LTC for discovering and sharing the link to this delightful automobile ad featuring Calypso Grant Jennifer Ehle early in her career!

Catching some Rays

M&C P&P review
"A combination of good actors such as Colin Firth playing the proud Mr. Darcy, and Jennifer Ehle as the feisty Elizabeth Bennet and careful attention to scenery, costume and daily living details of Regency England, make this production a stunning complement to Jane Austen’s words."

Chance to win a copy at An Island Life blog or at Blissful Buzz blog and/or take a who-are-you-like test. (And to commiserate with the commenters who turned out to be most like Mrs. Bennet!)

Et Al

Blogger shepster recently watched The Russell Girl for the first time for at least one very good reason "a/ it was on and b/ it had Ehle in it". Other insights: "she's absolutely superb in it " (note too the often seen reference to her "twin") and finally "Very nicely shot and a good soundtrack, far better than this kind of thing usually is and that's mainly down to Ehle."

George Street blogged about acting genes including an Ehle+Harris=Ehle equation.

Here and There

Many new reviews of the Rosemary Harris film (called Michael Caine's film in most places, but not here of course) Is Anybody There? are available
JAMES VERNIERE writes of the "insufficiently exploited supporting cast "
MICHAEL DWYER says "The film adeptly avoids the easy pitfalls of patronising or sentimentalising the many older people who populate it, opting instead to celebrate their long lives as they are drawing to an end. These disparate personalities are played with wit and dignity by a splendid ensemble cast of veterans"
Philip French in a review at The Observer mentions the excellent supporting veterans who "do their largely comic turns in the background"
KRISTIAN LIN enjoyed the film but thought director and write may have overstepped with Ms Harris's character, although a further peek into one of her scenes is given.
Sean P. Means' 5-Minute Movie Review recognizes the "talented group of veteran actors (including the great Rosemary Harris)"
Barbara Vancheri, considered the film a bumpy ride but adds "excellent actors such as Rosemary Harris get too little screen time" (Maybe it would have been less bumpy had that been taken care of?)
Roger Moore of The Orlando Sentinel found the movie "often melancholy but always charming" and observed "The great Rosemary Harris stands out as a dance teacher who has lost a leg and pretty much everything she ever loved, but who hasn't given up."
JOAN E. VADEBONCOEUR thinks Caine is Oscar-worthy but that "... the sweetness turns overly sentimental in the last quarter. More extensive use of the residents would have been wise. However, Leslie Phillips as the one who tells slightly raunchy anecdotes and has an awkward romance with the sensitive one, played by the wonderful Rosemary Harris, scores amusingly and touchingly. "

Meanwhile, back at the Palace ...

Further casting for this autumn's production of MTC's The Royal Family is being reported at and at Back Stage Expresso and theatemania and Variety and by bbbblogger

Rehearsals begin Aug. 11 as reported at Production Listings at Back Stage


For a mere £3,000 (about U.S. $5,000) you can dance and otherwise cavort at a Regency Ball at Chawton House At the link you can read about the inspiration and funding for Chawton House and all about the delights planned for the Ball. Enjoy the idea of a modern Lady Catherine de Bourgh arriving at Longbourn in a Learjet. Be tantalized by the revelation that "There will be celebrity guests who starred in the most memorable BBC TV series from Jane’s oeuvre: Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility." (Oh, please let us know ... which ones? who? who?)

If you need help in choosing your attire for the ball, pop over (or is that under ?) to Australia (some of you are already there, of course) and check out the exhibition of Fashion in the Age of Jane Austen at the National Gallery of Victoria. Also covered at Artdaily (which includes a great HQ photo of one of the dresses). And that's all I'm going to say about it since the first link points out that in Austen "The characters who do talk at length about clothes are always the most idiotic."
From there, take the first right turn (or would that be left?) and travel to Jane Austen's House Museum, Chawton where you can indulge your footwear choices with "An exhibition of fantasy shoe designs inspired by the character of Marianne in the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility" (I long to know what "fantasy" shoes in the Regency era look like).

For those who don't have the time to read Austen's novels (surely it would be a time constraint only, for the inclination must be there), and for whom even Cliff's Notes are too detailed, help is here. Great works of literature, including Pride and Prejudice have been shortened into tweets as described Here and Here too. "Woman meets man called Darcy who seems horrible. He turns out to be nice really. They get together." (The efficiency of a tweet is evidenced by using the same for both P&P and Bridget Jones’s Diary).

And finally in the last Austen news, new versions of Emma are planned at The BBC and Bollywood

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Mother's Day, especially anyone who had a 2 month old baby to cuddle.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Ray-views and more

Rayning P&P

The amazing popularity of the miniseries continues fifteen years on from its filming. Just consider that around this time fifteen years ago 24-year-old Jennifer Ehle was possibly being fitted for a dark-hued wig of curls, or learning the steps to Mr Beveridge's Maggot, or rehearsing "TLMINTWICEBPOTM".

GLENN MCDONALD in the NC Triangle area News & Observer shows excellent observation skills himself when he notes:
[...] The BBC series manages what so many previous (and subsequent) adaptations have not: To effectively balance the period melodrama with Austen's exceedingly subtle wit and feminine (if not quite feminist) point of view. The casting of Ehle and Firth proves critical in this regard. Both are really quite brilliant in their ability to deliver Austen's multivalent dialogue -- communicating volumes with the airiest of bon mots. The highly mannered wordplay is an epic poem of passive-aggressive euphemism, and it takes serious acting chops to convey the depth of emotion underneath. [... ]

(my own underlining added in the above)

Svet Atanasov has an in-depth review at the blu-ray page which is worth reading if only for his almost apologetic disclaimer of writing from an man's point of view. This piece is accompanied by some really lovely and HQ photos which can be seen enlarged by clicking on those provided within the article. He concludes that he can "comfortably state that Pride and Prejudice will become a “poster-child” for the Blu-ray format" and also saying;
[...] I think that one of the key reasons why Pride and Prejudice won the hearts of many Jane Austin fans is the terrific emphasis on detail, which Simon Langdon and his team achieved; and I don’t necessarily mean the excellent decors and costumes. Rather, I believe that it was the ability of the actors to express accurately the complex emotions and feelings Jane Austen’s characters struggle with.[...]

Michael Giltz at huffingtonpost agrees with me when he says "this is one of the greatest miniseries of all times [...] Absolutely essential."

Doug Nye of McClatchy-Tribune News Service calls it "The best film adaptation ever of Jane Austen’s 'Pride and Prejudice'" and adds "Particularly impressive are Colin Firth as Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet."

Lex Walker writes a wide-ranging review also worth reading, another self-admitted strictly man's point of view, in which he humorously but gently muses on the Firth-Feenom. He begins by calling it "... the stereotypical woman's holy grail of films". But he ultimately admits to the right way of thinking :"Most of the women out there openly profess their love for this series - and that's fair. It is a well-crafted story (Jane Austen, I mean come on) and the lead performers excel in every way."

It isn't a ray-view nor is it P&P, but this interesting P&G review trickled in recently. It has more to say about Ms Ehle than most coverage of this film. I don't really understand the "metaphorical bird" allusion though, so any illumination from readers who do would be appreciated.

The Doan Scale

Blogger Brian Doan responded to a challenge to "Name 10 film characters that are your favorite and explain why. " He's now my top favorite blogger, I think. But not surprising, right?, with a name like that !
[...]Everyone talks about Colin Firth (who is excellent) and Andrew Davies' adaptation (ditto), but for me it's Ehle who holds the whole thing together. She is expert at delivering Austen's witticisms, but so much of the film rests on her face and her movements. I don't mean that in prurient way (although she is quite beautiful), but rather want to suggest how hard it is to look right, in period garb, while sometimes doing nothing.
How many actors can't escape modernity and create a feeling of anachronism, or clutter the space with too many tics or gestures? It takes a lot of courage to remain still, and still seem in character. Ehle does this expertly, and it's her responses to things-- the look of warmth or humor or sadness that can flash in her eyes, as her face quickly rearranges itself into a mask of propriety-- that I remember. They give her Lizzie a weight and texture that other performances in the role simply can't match.

This recaps some of the discussion we've had at the forum about stillness-in-acting and distilled-emotion and I heartily concur with his insights. Is he just brilliant on his own ... or is it everyone with that name?

What a Waste and Missing Limbs

A ton (that's 2000 lbs) of reviews are available for Is Anybody There? which co-stars Rosemary Harris. Most are of the cookie-cutter variety, but a few are original enough and relevant enough to be worth linking here. The overall theme, regarding the subject who is of interest here, seems to be on the lines of, "Too bad her talents are wasted, under-used", A sampler:

Rex Reed in The New York Observer writes, "In fairness, Is Anybody There?, like all British films, boasts a splendid cast of character actors, including Anne-Marie Duff, Leslie Phillips and the sadly wasted, still-radiant Rosemary Harris."

Philip at atomipopcorn said "The supporting cast does some fine work, but I feel for actors like Rosemary Harris; she feels underused."

At Spectator Deborah Ross has a humorous review (and, for whatever reason, semi-vicious digs at Peter O'Toole), maintaining a criminal wasting of top-notch talent.

Kelly Jane Torrance at The Washington Times offers a nice review with very good things to say about the incredible talent of the supporting actors.

Several reviews have hinted at some features of the character Ms Harris plays in the film.
At hollywoodand fine "Rosemary Harris, as a woman with one leg who wants to convince a male resident to dance with her"

James Christopher in The Times mentions pawing and plucking "in a fruitless search for romance"

John Walsh
at The Independent notes "Rosemary Harris, despite her prosthetic leg, tries to appear alluring to the tippling lothario, without success. "

JONATHAN L. FISCHER in Philadelphia's The Bulletin says "[...] the comedy — mostly typical geriatric sight gags — stays in the hands of a retinue of veteran British character actors, like Rosemary Harris [...] "

Listen up!
A Streetcar Named Desire available on audio. "[...]Rosemary Harris embodies Blanche with all the flare, attitude and Southern drawl commonly associated with the cultural icon. [...] This recording captures the cast of the 1973 Broadway revival (which won Harris a Drama Desk award and Farentino a Theatre World award)."

Wanna take me to Lunch on May 15th?

We could chow down at The 75th Annual Drama League Awards Ceremony and Luncheon where, among other things, "[...] nine past recipients of the Distinguished Performance Award -- Norbert Leo Butz, Stockard Channing, Christine Ebersole, Rosemary Harris, Frank Langella, John Lithgow, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephen Rea, and Sam Waterston -- will be honored on this dais for their work this season. "

It would seem we'd have every right to be there since Everyone On Earth Nominated For A Drama League Award

Okay then, How about Carnegie Hall on June 15?

We could go to see Theodore Bikel: The First 85 Years "The 7:30 PM concert in the Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage will boast the talents of Alan Alda, Arlo Guthrie, Rosemary Harris, David Amram, Beyond the Pale, Artie Butler, Patricia Conolly, Judy Kaye, David Krakauer, Tom Paxton, Serendipity 4 (Shura Lipovsky, Merima Kljuco, Tamara Brooks and Bikel), Noel Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow, Susan Werner and Michael Wex. "

Event also announced at broadwayworld
and Sing Out! News Service

Or a Play from Sep 15th on?
The Royal Family Tickets and Information

Canada's Greatest, and it's not Gretzky

Variety reports that "Canuck film distributor E1 Entertainment has inked a deal with Senator Distribution to pick-up Canuck rights to rights to five pics [...] "The Greatest," written and directed by Shana Feste, stars Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon as a couple who learn their son's girlfriend is pregnant after he dies in a car crash. Pic will be released next spring."

Also reported at hollywoodreporter

Down to Earth with Colin Firth
Blogger Nikki shared a firthhand experience worthy of Bridget Jones herself. Enjoy! (evidently he is very very tall).

Terminating Time and Producing Purses

Mark Bostridge reviews Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World By Claire Harman.
" [...] a major factor in Jane Austen's longevity as a novelist must be the apparent timelessness of her work. To a large extent, her books are unattached to specific times and places. 'She stopped the clock', writes Harman, and now is always her time."

Need to open up some bookshelf space, make good use of those extra copies of Pride & Prejudice, and at the same time feed your handbag hankering? Meet Caitlin Phillips who "[...] goes through 500 to 750 books every year. But not because she's a speed reader. Instead, she cuts out all the pages and replaces them with beautiful fabric, to transform old books into stylish purses. [...] The most requested book is Pride and Prejudice — overwhelmingly so, Phillips says. "It's a great book, but I did not realize truly just how popular it was." [...]"

In the category: too late to do you any good at all, but I'll post it anyway

BBC 'Pride and Prejudice' writer to speak at UT

Through my own procrastination, I just missed letting you know of this chance to hear Andrew Davies being grateful to Jane Austen. Though if anyone out there did attend, we'd love to hear about it if you want to share.

Today's footnote. Never again will I allow myself to wait this long between blogs under the misapprehension that there is not enough information available. I severely underestimated the sheer human ability to fill a blank panel with words.

(Still mourning the lovely Kate's exit but confident the bear took second place.)