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Friday Film Review: Genevieve

Friday Film Review: Genevieve

Genevieve (1953)

Genre: Comedy

Grade: B

Originally I had another film lined up for today but yesterday I was reading that this coming weekend is the annual London to Brighton Rally. “That’s it,” I said. “Genevieve is on.” From a little film that the studio heads didn’t think much of and didn’t want to release, it’s become a classic. After a quick look around the web, I couldn’t find where anyone has loaded it to watch but there are DVDs from several regions available and it shouldn’t be hard to track one down should you care to check it out.

It’s 1953 and the annual veteran car run from London to Brighton, organized by the Royal Automobile Club, is under way. Two old chums, Alan McKim (John Gregson) and Ambrose Claverhouse (Kenneth More), aren’t letting their friendship stand in the way of trying to outdo and one up each other all the way there and back. Their long suffering WAGs Wendy (Dinah Sheridan) and Rosalind Peters (Kay Kendall) – plus Rosalind’s dog Susie – are along for the ride and often wondering just what’s gotten into the mens’ heads over these silly cars. Will the relationships survive the challenges and male nonsense? More importantly, will the cars make it there? And then back?

On the surface it’s a car rally – though not actually a race, at least not until the run back – with lovely veteran automobiles to look at. Though I agree with the women in that it’s probably more fun to watch than to actually take part as – at least in the film – a tremendous amount of time seems to be spent on the side of the road while repairs are undertaken. The actual start of the race near Hyde Park was filmed for the movie and it’s obviously great fun for the participants and rally watchers alike. I might could manage wearing vintage, Edwardian clothes and cheering the start with a chilled glass of bubbly.

Scratch a bit deeper – well, alright not that much deeper – and the film is all about gender relations and the obsession of boys for their toys and of making bets regarding them. Several times while I was taking notes about “Genevieve” I’ve written things to the effect of “those poor women!” Wendy’s done the run with her husband a number of years after traveling down once with Ambrose -which serves to fuel the bet between the two men – and she’s had it. This news comes as a complete shock – a shock I say! – to Alan who obtusely imagines Wendy is delighted at the thought of spending another two cold days motoring down to Brighton and back. Meanwhile chic model Rosalind has no idea what she’s gotten herself into when she agrees to accompany new beau Ambrose. The women do come around and actually get into the spirit of the final push back to Westminster Bridge that will mark the finish line of the bet but their initial attitudes are just so typical of the women of the world who endure their menfolks’ foibles for love of them. All I can say is that Wendy must really love Alan to put up with what she does year after year and it’s obvious by film end why Ambrose – the arse – still hasn’t found a woman to marry him. Yet there’s a scene near the end of the movie where an elderly gentleman stops them to admire Genevieve and reminisce about how he proposed to his wife in a Darracq, that brings tears not only to my eyes but to Wendy’s as well. Alan’s reaction, all while falling farther behind in the race, finally shows us the real man and why Wendy loves him.

The four stars are wonderful in their roles. Gregarious Moore plays the “bit of an oaf” Ambrose – who has no compunctions about yelling to women who are pushing his car into starting to “put your shoulder into it! – so well I want to smack him a few times. His laugh alone is enough to set off his friend’s competitive spirit. He makes Ambrose the vivid, cheeky charmer who’s always got a stunning new girl on his arm. Gregson plays the quieter, brooding Alan who hopefully will have a better appreciation for Wendy after this run. He makes his character come alive with joy at the prospect of first the run and then the race home. According to Dinah Sheridan, getting the shot of him looking sexily at her character near the beginning of the film was almost hopeless since he was such a reserved man.

But it’s the two actresses who shine here. Sheridan is just a darling and actually looks smashing in her plaid trousers. Gorgeous Kay Kendall lights up the screen and has fun hamming up a scene where her – at that point slightly inebriated – character displays her talent in “traying the plumpet.” Throughout the movie, I find my attention centers mainly on the women and their exasperation, humor, acceptance and, finally, enthusiasm. I enjoy the fact that – in 1953 – their characters were allowed to be less than happy little women who are 100% in support of whatever their men want.

“Genevieve” along with another Kay Kendall piece called “Fast and Loose” (can be watched at Neflix) are great period films that show 1950s post war England. For its time, I’m not sure if the quirky, little flat the McKims live in is a bit of post-war “make do” or rather delightful. And that encounters with sheep who crowd the road in the country are probably few and far between today. The perfectly dreadful hotel room that the McKims are forced to take for the night in Brighton is awful – hot water only for 2 hours a day, peeling paint and a great, clanging tower clock just outside their window – and it reminds me a bit of the description given by Bill Bryson of a place he stayed at in 1970s (I think) Dover. I was also amused that the dig against Americans included in a script written by an American. Be sure to look for Joyce Grenfell in the bit part of the hotel proprietress. She’s hilariously funny.

The movie is also slightly risque for the age with its hints of Ambrose’s hanky panky weekends and the possibility that Wendy had a bit of sexual experience before her wedding. One exchange between Wendy and Rosalind says a lot. Rosalind says to Wendy, “Ambrose only seems to think about two things. That silly old car – and the other thing.” Wendy replies to Rosalind, “What other thing? Oh. My husband only thinks about the car.”

The cars are fabulous and, should you wish to, you can see them on display at the Louwman Museum in The Hague. I think both still actually take part in the Rally. Genevieve is a Darracq while Ambrose’s car is a Spyker. Check out the horn on the Spyker. Isn’t it grand? For that alone I’d come close to riding in her. All the cars that take part in the rally must have been made no later than the year 1904 so these are some stylish, wonderful automobiles.

The film is more a gentle, whimsical, character comedy rather than a film with roll-on-the-floor moments. It’s sweet with nary a swear word in it but it’s also got some pointed things to say about women vs men and their cars. The women are no-nonsense while the men lose their common sense a little but all in all, it’s all in fun. It’s also got a webpage that I’m going to have fun poking around in. B


REVIEW:  Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells by Lisa Cach

REVIEW: Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells by Lisa Cach

Ever dream of being transformed into a bombshell?

Grace Cavanaugh thinks she’s in for an easy, lazy summer when she takes a job as companion to her great aunt Sophia in Pebble Beach. She’ll dab spittle from her aunt’s chin, watch ‘Animal Planet’, and work on her dissertation for her PhD in Women’s Studies.

But Sophia has other plans. With a tart tongue that would put Bette Davis to shame, Sophia sets about transforming her dumpy great-niece into a copy of the B-movie bombshell Sophia once was, and in the process teaches her a thing or two about men, sexual liberation, and power.

Caught in Sophia’s web along with Grace are Declan O’Brien, the college football star turned financial advisor, and Dr. Andrew Pritchard, Sophia’s dewy-cheeked personal physician. Declan makes Grace’s body melt, but it’s Andrew who seems to be on her same mental wavelength.

By the time the summer’s over, though, Grace isn’t going to know whether she’s a scholar or a bombshell, or maybe a little bit of both

Dear Ms. Cach,

Several of your books reside on my “I love these books!” shelf. So when I hear that you’ve got a new addition to your oeuvre, I tend to get excited. After reading “Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells,” I was more confused and “meh” than excited. Let me explain. I just wasn’t sure what this book was supposed to be and be saying. Was it Chick Lit? Or a romance? Or an erotic romance? It didn’t really end up being any of those for me and thus could be labeled – for me at least – as a disappointment. I did, however, come up with some alternate titles.

“What Not to Wear – The Bombshell Version”

“How to Win Friends and Sexily Influence People”

bombshellFirst let me say it’s hard to like a lot of the characters. There are lots of disagreeable characters and I almost quit after chapters 2 and 3. The feelings and thoughts initially revealed by Aunt Sophia will dismay or upset so many. It disparages both lesbians and feminists plus makes men seem to be cads. Aunt Sophia reveals herself as a master manipulator and she definitely has an agenda with Grace so some of this could be said just to pull Grace’s strings but I was aghast. Other characters, such as Darlene, appear and conveniently disappear at random. Andrew is cardboard cutout only there for plot reasons and turned into mess at end. Sophia didn’t see the real man? I find that hard to believe so again maybe she was using him to achieve her ultimate ends. Grace’s friend Cat is another problem child. Is she Grace’s friend who will tell it like it is when Grace needs to hear it or is she a whiney bitch out to cut Grace down? I never was sure but I was glad Cat doesn’t have a large role in the book.

The story also feels choppy as it lurches back and forth. Parts are slow, crawlingly slow, and parts whiplash especially both Declan’s realization of his feelings and the final HEA. Grace does a whirlwind turnaround at end as well – from “it’s over!” to agreeing to marry Declan. The sexing is hawt, frequent (at least by Grace’s journal entries, though we don’t actually see all of it by a long shot) but it’s more erotic than romantic. Well, maybe not much of that either since we only actually see two hawt scenes and the rest are just recorded in her journal as having occurred. So in retrospect, it’s not really that erotic overall. And there’s precious little romance to make up for the lack of erotic.

As for the “ILY” – I can see that these two have fallen (separately) in love with each other but they don’t know it until almost the very last little tippy tip of the book. In the end, I’m left wondering about Declan and Grace’s HEA. Both have changed but I’m still not entirely sure I like all the changes. At the end, Grace says love should make you want to be better – should make you better. Is she? I don’t know. Is Declan? Probably but the final change in him is too fast for me. I think I would have been happier with a HFN and “let’s see what happens” ending.

Sophia isn’t lying about how the world is full of people who manipulate to get what they want. And Grace becoming more confident, rather than truly nothing but a bombshell, and using her feminine power of allure isn’t necessarily bad. All Sophia’s lessons seem fairly cold but there are nuggets of truth there as well. I’ll have to think about this. Was Sophia acting and arranging the whole thing? I was pretty sure over course of book and this was proved at end. It was a bold move to make her so crabby and manipulating. Everything Sophia does did achieve her goal of getting Grace married off, if that was the goal – but she’s still a disagreeable old bat. I give her credit though – she is still firm in her beliefs.

The book works more as a discussion and exploration of changes/evolutions – or not – in male/female relations as seen through Sophia’s lessons vs Grace’s female studies and modern thoughts. Is either right or wrong? Have people changed that much or is it only surface stuff? Will inter/intra gender issues ever really change? And not just about sex and love but about getting what you want and how to interact with others in all social situations? By the time I’d finished I still didn’t know. But notice I didn’t say it works well as a romance or an erotic romance. D