Bisset, De Havilland & Kerr Feted by French Legion & BFI/TCM Festival to Open With Caron Classic

Bisset, De Havilland & Kerr Feted by French Legion & BFI/TCM Festival to Open With Caron Classic
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As late summer transformed into autumn, milestones in classic film, which focused primarily on iconic leading ladies, dominated the news and will be remembered as bittersweet. Some of international cinema's most important figures such as Patricia Neal, Claude Chabrol, Arthur Penn, Tony Curtis, and Jill Clayburgh passed away, while others were honored and celebrated.

O'Hara Turns 90
The indomitable Maureen O'Hara turned 90 on August 17, 2010. Like her contemporary Olivia de Havilland, 94, she appears to have sipped from the fountain of youth given the festive, birthday photos published in the Irish press.

The versatile actress has appeared in classics (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, How Green Was My Valley, The Quiet Man), cults (Our Man in Havana, Dance, Girl Dance) and comedies (The Parent Trap). Although never nominated for an Oscar, O'Hara's talents delighted directors such as John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Carol Reed, and William Dieterle. And among fellow actors, she wasn't just a favorite of John Wayne, but also, discovered and adored by the finicky genius Charles Laughton.

The incomparable Patricia Neal died in August and was honored less than a month later on September 13th with a retrospective of six of her seminal films as well as a too short interview with Robert Osborne: Private Screenings: Patricia Neal (2004) thanks to an almost flawless programming ethos by TCM, which last week found critic and national treasure Roger Ebert falling for Barbara Stanwyck who falls for Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve (1941).

De Havilland & Bisset: Chevaliers in France's Legion of Honor
Actor Nick Nolte's comments about Jacqueline Bisset in Nick Nolte: No Exit were prescient. In the 2008 documentary, he discusses his deep affection for Bisset as well as his frustration that her talents have been misunderstood and squandered in America, while in Europe, she is appreciated and celebrated. Two years later, Bisset, 65, and fellow British actress Olivia de Havilland, 94, would become Chevaliers, or Knights, of the Order of the French Legion of Honor.

The British film icons, who forged acting careers in Europe and America, looked luminous during the ceremony in which President Nicolas Sarkozy presented them with the medals that dangle from the bright red ribbons that signify one of France's highest honors. Both actresses have known the limitations of Hollywood typecasting. De Havilland took Warner Bros's to court to break a contract forcing her to play roles beneath her talents. She won, leading her to other studios, better roles, and two Academy Awards for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949). Bisset found more interesting roles in the French classics Day for Night (1971) and La cérémonie (1995) and the U.S. independent films The Sleepy Time Gal (2001) and Swing (2003). The Last Film Festival, a movie in which she co-stars with the late Dennis Hopper, is currently in post-production.

The Subject Was Deborah
The late Scottish actress Deborah Kerr is the subject of a new biography by Michelangelo Capua (McFarland & Company) and a British Film Institute tribute and festival of her brilliant career that began with the Powell & Pressburger, Technicolor masterpieces The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) and Black Narcissus (1947) through her iconic roles in dozens of Hollywood classics.

The two-month event was curated by BFI's National Archive curator, Josephine Botting. An exhibit of film posters and designs by BFI's collections was enhanced by personal photos and letters on loan from Deborah Kerr's family and were on display through October 31... more...

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