1810s Costumes in Movies and Television

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Below are images of fashion from the decade of the 1810s, found in movies and television productions over the years:

 

 

1810s COSTUMES IN MOVIES AND TELEVISION

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“War and Peace” (1956)

 

 

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“The Buccaneer” (1958)

 

 

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“Princess Caraboo” (1994)

 

 

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“Pride and Prejudice” (1995)

 

 

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“Poldark” (1996)

 

 

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“Emma” (1996-97 TV)

 

 

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“Vanity Fair” (1998)

 

 

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“Emma” (2009)

 

“THE LADY EVE” (1941) Review

Below is my review of the classic 1941 comedy, “THE LADY EVE”, which was was written and directed by Preston Sturges:

“THE LADY EVE” (1941) Review

I must admit that I have never been a diehard fan of Preston Sturges. I realize that he is the one Hollywood director and screenwriter credited for taking the screwball comedy format to a more mature level. And this is certainly apparent in his films. But of all of his movies, I can only think of two that I consider personal favorites of mine. And one of those two happen to be his 1941 comedy classic, “THE LADY EVE”.

Starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, ”THE LADY EVE” told the story about a mismatched romance between a beautiful con artist (Stanwyck) named Jean Harrington and Charles Pike (Fonda), the naïve heir to the Pike Ale fortune and a reptile expert. The pair met aboard an ocean liner bound from South America to the United States. Jean and her father, Colonel Harrington (Charles Coburn) decided to fleece Charles at cards, but she fell in love with him and ruined her father’s plans for a quick score. But Charles broke up the romance after learning that Jean and Colonel Harrington were gamblers and con artists, thanks to his ever vigilant valet/minder, Mugsy (William Demerest). Furious at being scorned, Jean re-entered Charles’ life, while masquerading as the posh “Lady Eve Sidwich” – niece of Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith (Eric Blore), another con man who’s been swindling the rich folk of Connecticut.

What can I say about ”THE LADY EVE”? It is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. Period. And that is quite an achievement for a film that is seventy-three (73) years old. Do not get me wrong. I can think of other comedies made during this period that were just as funny. Unfortunately, a good number of them tend to lose steam by the film’s last fifteen minutes or so. A good example of this would be the two comedies that Cary Grant and Irene Dunne made together – ”THE AWFUL TRUTH” and ”MY FAVORITE WIFE”. But thanks to Sturges and Monckton Hoffe, who wrote the movie’s original story, allowed Jean’s deception and torment of Charles in order to keep the laughs going . It began with that first moment when Jean and Colonel Harrington spotted Charles boarding the ocean liner and ended right up to the film’s last flickering moment when a reconciled Charles and Jean kicked Mugsy out of her stateroom.

Some of my favorite scenes from the movie included the following:

*Jean’s criticisms of many other female passengers, determined to seduce poor Charles in some of the most hilarious and awkward ways ever conceived;

*Jean’s seduction of Charles inside her stateroom;

*Mr. Pike’s (Eugene Pallette) frustration at the lack of a breakfast prepared for him;

*Mugsy’s attempts to determine whether Lady Eve Sidwich and Jean Harrington are ”the same dame”, during the Pikes’ dinner party for their aristocratic guests;

*Charles’ many pratfalls that threatened to ruin the dinner party;

*Lady Eve’s revelation of her less than virginal past with a score of men to a very stunned Charles during their honeymoon aboard a train.

Naturally, I have to speak about the cast. Sturges filled it with some first-rate performers – whether they were character actors with minor roles that did not require any lines (think of the numerous shipboard females that attempted and failed to woo Charles Pike), or the two leads – Stanwyck and Fonda. There were certain performances that caught my eye. William Demarest was a hoot as Mugsy, Charles’ paranoid and very faithful retainer, whose suspicions of Jean as the Lady Eve provided some of the funniest moments in the film’s second half. Eugene Pallette was equally funny as the gruff Horace Pike, who seemed incapable of understanding his shy and scholarly son. And Charles Coburn made a cool Colonel Harrington, a card sharp who is also shrewd enough to gauge his daughter Jean’s feelings for Charles. And Eric Blore portrayed a deliciously over-the-top Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith, a fellow con artist of the Harringtons, who is recruited by Jean to portray her relative during her Lady Eve impersonation.

But this movie obviously belonged Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda as the two lovers – Jean Harrington and Charles Pike. Her Jean is so deliciously manipulative, yet passionate when she first falls for Charles. And Charles Pike has to be one of Fonda’s funniest roles in his long career. Watching him struggle and fail to resist Jean’s charms filled me with a lot of laughs, along with his series of pratfalls during the sequence that featured the Pikes’ dinner party. Stanwyck and Fonda first worked together in the 1938 comedy mystery, ”THE MAD MISS MENTON”. In both ”MISS MENTON” and ”THE LADY EVE”, it seemed quite apparent that they truly enjoyed working together.

Monckton Hoffe had received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Story. This is the only Academy Award nomination that the film had ever received, I find that a criminal oversight on the part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The New York Times had voted “THE LADY EVE” as one of the “10 Best Films of 1941”. The movie industry and the media in 1941 had vastly underrated the quality of this film, as far as I am concerned. Personally, I believe that it is one of the best movie comedies ever made. Period.

 

“Marie” [PG-13] – Chapter Five

Civil War nurse Charlotte Evans uncovers a mystery at a Mississippi plantation during the middle of the war.

* * * *

“MARIE”

Chapter Five

The following day proved to be very busy. A calvary company had a brief skirmish with some rebel renegades that refused to accept the news of the Vicksburg surrender. They had been plaguing the countryside for the past two months. Because of this latest military action, Green Willows received new patients for its hospital.

My second shift ended around midnight. I felt extremely tired and anxious to crawl into bed. Miriam and I were downstairs helping Doctor Henson with the patients. Soon, it would be time for Alma, Alice and Doctor Anders to relieve us, thank God.

Doctor Henson decided he could not go on any further and retired to his quarters. I volunteered to make one last round of the patients and advised Miriam to follow the doctor’s example. By four minutes after midnight, the relief team had not arrived, but I was too tired to wait for them any longer. I wanted to get some sleep.

A moonbeam streaked through one of the foyer’s windows and lit up the staircase. Exhausted, I struggled to climb the winding staircase, one step at a time. As I reached the top, I heard the voice whisper in my ear again. “Garde,” it said. Beware. I swerved around. No one seemed to be nearby. Dear God, not only was I tired, but I was hearing things as well. I had not taken three steps when I felt a pair of hands on my back as they shoved me forward. Terrified, I cried aloud and gripped the railing. Thankfully, I did the latter or I would have sailed right over the banister.

Breathless, I turned around and there stood Mrs. Scott, her narrow, pale face contorted with rage. She shrieked loudly and attacked me again. She grabbed my throat and arm and attempted to force me over. I was young, but I was also tired and she was in a state of rage and insanity.

“I won’t let you take him away from me again! I won’t, you hear!” Mrs. Scott screeched as her claws forced my body to arch over dangerously. My right foot was already off the floor and I my strength was ebbing away. Exhaustion and panic began to set in my mind as we continued to struggle. This is it, I thought. It was just a matter of time before I would fall to my death. I was in serious trouble.

“Mother!” It was Major Scott. Thank goodness! I felt Mrs. Scott’s hands being forced away from my body. “What in God’s name do you think you’re doing?”

Free from Mrs. Scott’s grip, I slid to the floor, weak with exhaustion. Green Willow’s matriarch now fought her son with maddened frenzy. “Let go of me! Let go! I’ve got to stop her before she takes you away from me!”

“Mother! Mother, stop it!” Mother and son continued to struggle. Then to my surprise, Mrs. Scott caught Green Willow’s owner off guard and shoved him against the wall. Her eyes red with rage, she rushed me for the second time that night. Unfortunately, I was in no condition to fight her. Realizing I was in danger of being attacked again, I quickly stepped aside, as she made a grab for me. Finding no one to shove, Mrs. Scott fell over the banister with a shriek and slammed unto the floor.

Major Scott rushed downstairs. Ignoring my exhaustion, I quickly followed. Tears streamed down his cheeks, Major Scott knelt beside his mother’s body as he murmured, “Mother” repeatedly. Marie’s killer was dead.

* * * *

As it turned out, it was Miriam who had alerted Major Scott about his mother, not my screams. She had spot Mrs. Scott walking along the hall with a strange expression and rushed to the major’s room.

The following afternoon, Doctors Anders and Henson helped Major Scott bury his mother next to her husband . . . the man she had loathed for so many years. The major informed the local sheriff that she had been sleepwalking, when she fell to her death. Everyone knew Deborah Raymond Scott had not been in her right mind since the war began. Perhaps even before.

For the next two days, I suspected that my friendly relations with Major Scott had ended with his mother’s death. He spent the next two days in his room, in solitude. On the third morning, he finally came out and found me in a wicker chair on the second-floor piazza. He sat down in a chair beside me. I gave him the letter I had found a few days ago. He read it and looked completely stunned. “Uncle Brent and Marie?”

“Yes,” I said with a nod.

“Considering how much you look like Marie, no wonder Mother went after you. And Uncle Brent . . . is my real father? I cannot believe it.” He paused for a moment. “On second thought, perhaps I can. Mama and Daddy could barely tolerate each other. I used to see him heading for the slave quarters all the time.”

Realizing that the good major may be revealing some very private matters about his family, I gave the impression that his words had not shocked or embarrassed me. The circumstances surrounding his mother’s death, along with these new revelations, seemed to have made him less discreet than he would usually have been. “Have you ever seen your mother and . . . uncle together?”

“No,” Major Scott replied with a shake of his head. “But Uncle Brent used to hang around Marie and me a lot. I even remember Mama being upset that day when he got engaged to that Miss Spaulding.” He paused dramatically, before adding in a small voice, “Uncle Brent died the next day.”

“You don’t think she had . . . shot him, do you?”

The major’s eyes widened with the shock of a possible revelation. “You know, I would not be surprised.” We were both silent after that.

* * * *

Our makeshift hospital remained at Green Willows for another three weeks. By then, the patients who had survived, were transferred to a hospital steamboat that would take them to Memphis. We had received word from the Sanitary Commission of General Rosecrans’s defeat at Chickamunga and entrapment in Chattanooga. The War Department had ordered General Grant to relieve them. So, Doctors Henson and Anders, Miriam, Alma, Alice and I were ordered back to Vicksburg to prepare for a trip to Bridgeport, Alabama and join Grant’s troops.

The remaining Scott household stood on the veranda out front, to bid us good-bye. The cavalry company stationed with us were mounted and waiting. I was the last one to say good-bye. I kissed Maum Janey on the cheek. “Take care of yourself honey,” she said. “I don’t know how long this war will last but you make sure you get home safely.”

“I’ll do my best,” I answered. I leaned down to hug Shelby. He gave me a quick peck on the cheek and whispered good-bye. I finally turned to Major Scott and extended my hand for him to shake. It seemed strange that I would miss him, considering my first misconception of him. “I am sorry about what happened to your . . .” I started to say.

He waved it aside. “Please. You really should not apologize, Miss Evans. After all, Mo . . . she was trying to kill you. I am just relieved that you managed to come out of this safe.” He still had not taken my hand. “Listen, I doubt if we’ll ever see each other again, but I was wondering if you would mind us writing to each other now and then.” His dark eyes expressed hope.

I stared back and thought of the differences that would keep us apart. But we had a few things in common. Mutual attraction, dislike of slavery and strong personalities. Frankly, I saw no harm in corresponding with him occasionally. “Of course,” I replied. Major Scott took hold of my outstretched hand, and kissed it instead, taking me completely by surprise.

I entered the carriage blushing fiercely. As the carriage started down the driveway, everyone stared at me, but remained silent about the kiss. If someone had, I would have gladly helped that person out of the carriage – the hard way.

I turned in my seat for one last look at Green Willows. Major Scott, Shelby and Maum Janey remained on the veranda, waving. I waved back. My eyes raised to the second-floor piazza. There stood a female figure, her skirt billowing about her. She waved slightly and I murmured under my breath, “Au revoir, Marie.” And the figure disappeared from sight.

THE END

Favorite Episodes of “A NERO WOLFE MYSTERY” (2000-2002)

Below is a list of my favorite episodes from the A&E series, “A NERO WOLFE MYSTERY”. Based upon the detective stories and novels written by Rex Stout, the series starred Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin as Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe:

FAVORITE EPISODES OF “A NERO WOLFE MYSTERY” (2000-2002)

1. (1.02) “Champagne For Two” – In this adaptation of Stout’s 1958 novel, detective Nero Wolfe investigates the death of a young unwed mother at a charity dance attended by his assistant, Archie Goodwin. The latter had been standing in for an acquaintance, who was related to the wealthy hostess.

2. (2.08) “Before I Die” – A notorious gangster hires Wolfe to protect his real daughter, who is unaware of her father’s identity, and stop the woman impersonating her from blackmailing him in this adaptation of Stout’s 1947 novella.

3. (2.05) “The Mother Hunt” – In this adaptation of Stout’s 1963 novel, a wealthy young widow hires Wolfe and Archie to identify and locate the birth mother of the baby left in the vestibule of her townhouse.

4. (1.08) “Over My Dead Body” – A Montenegro woman claiming to know Wolfe’s adopted daughter is suspected of theft and murder at a prestigious fencing club in this adaptation of Stout’s 1940 novel.

5. (2.09) “Help Wanted, Male” – In this adaptation of Stout’s 1945 novella, Wolfe receives a death threat regarding a past case and hires a look-a-like double to temporarily impersonate him until he can identify the perpetrator.

Honorable Mentioned: (2.06) “Poison à la Carte” – When Wolfe and Archie attend the annual Ten for Aristology, a gourmet society, one of the members is poisoned. Wolfe suspects one of the female servers of the crime.

“THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL” (1982) Review

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“THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL” (1982) Review

I suspect that many fans of the DC Comics character “Batman” and the “Zorro” character would be nonplussed at the idea that a novel written by a Hungary-born aristocrat had served as an inspiration for their creations. Yet, many believe that Baroness Emmuska Orczy de Orczi’s 1905 novel, “The Scarlet Pimpernel” provided Western literature with its first “hero with a secret identity”, Sir Percy Blakeney aka the Scarlet Pimpernel.

There have been at least nineteen stage, movie or television adaptations of Orczy’s novel. Some consider the 1934 movie adaptation with Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon and Raymond Massey as the most definitive adaptation. However, there are others who are more inclined to bestow that honor on the 1982 television adaptation with Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour and Ian McKellen. I have seen both versions and if I must be honest, I am inclined to agree with those who prefer the 1982 television movie.

“THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL” – namely its 1982 re-incarnation – is based upon the 1905 novel and its 1913 sequel, “Eldorado”. Set during the early period of the French Revolution, a masked man and his band of followers rescues French aristocrats from becoming victims of the Reign of Terror under France’s new leader, Maximilien de Robespierre. The man behind the Scarlet Pimpernel’s mask – or disguises – is a foppish English baronet named Sir Percy Blakeney. For reasons never explained in the movie, Sir Percy has managed to gather a group of upper-class friends to assist him in smuggling French aristocrats out of France and sending them to the safety of England. During a visit to France, Sir Percy meets a young French government aide and the latter’s actress sister, Armand and Marguerite St. Just. He eventually befriends the brother and courts the sister.

Sir Percy also becomes aware of Armand’s superior and Marguerite’s friend, Robespierre’s agent Paul Chauvelin. Angered over Marguerite’s marriage to Sir Percy, Chauvelin has the Marquis de St. Cyr – an old enemy of Armand’s – executed in her name. After being sent to England to learn the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Chauvelin discovers that Armand has become part of the vigilante’s band. He blackmails Marguerite – now Lady Blakeney – into learning the identity the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Meanwhile, the Blakeney marriage has chilled, due to the news of the Marquis de St. Cyr’s execution and Marguerite’s alleged connection. But a chance for a marital reconciliation materializes for Marguerite, when she discovers the Scarlet Pimpernel’s true identity.

Thirty years have passed since CBS first aired “THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL”. In many ways, it has not lost its bite. Thanks to Tony Curtis’ production designs, late 18th century England and France (England and Wales in reality) glowed with elegance and style. Not even the questionable transfer of the film to DVD could completely erode the movie’s beauty. The movie’s visual style was aided by Carolyn Scott’s set decorations, Dennis C. Lewiston’s sharp and colorful photography, and especially Phyllis Dalton’s gorgeous costume designs, as shown in the following photographs:

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I feel that screenwriter William Bast made the very wise choice of adapting Baroness Orczy’s two novels about the Scarlet Pimpernel. In doing so, he managed to create a very clear and concise tale filled with plenty of drama and action. He also did an excellent job in mapping out the development of the story’s main characters – especially Sir Percy Blakeney, Marguerite St. Just, Paul Chauvelin and Armand St. Just. I was especially impressed by his handling of Sir Percy and Marguerite’s relationship – before and after marriage. Sir Percy’s easy willingness to believe the worst about his bride provided a few chinks into Sir Percy’s character, which could have easily morphed into a too perfect personality. More importantly, Bast’s script gave Paul Chauvelin’s character more depth by revealing the latter’s feelings for Marguerite and jealousy over her marriage to Sir Percy. Bast’s re-creation of the early years of the French Revolution and Reign of Terror struck me as well done. However, I wish he had not faithfully adapted Orczy’s decision to allow the Scarlet Pimpernel and his men to rescue the Daupin of France (heir apparent to the French throne), Louis-Charles (who became Louis XVII, upon his father’s death). In reality, Louis-Charles died in prison from tuberculosis and ill treatment at the age of ten. Surely, Bast could have created someone else important for the Scarlet Pimpernel to rescue.

“THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL” received a few Emmy nominations. But they were for technical awards – Costume Designs for Phyllis Dalton, Art Direction for Tony Curtis and even one for Outstanding Drama Special for producers David Conroy and Mark Shelmerdine. And yet . . . there were no nominations for Clive Donner and his lively direction, and no nominations for the cast. I am especially astounded by the lack of nominations for Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour and Ian McKellen. In fact, I find this criminal. All three gave superb performances as Sir Percy Blakeney; Marguerite, Lady Blakeney; and Paul Chauvelin respectively. Andrews was all over the map in his portrayal of the fop by day/hero by night Sir Percy. And yet, it was a very controlled and disciplined performance. Jane Seymour did a beautiful job of re-creating the intelligent, yet emotional Marguerite. At times, she seemed to be the heart and soul of the story. This was the first production in which I became aware of Ian McKellen as an actor and after his performance as Paul Chauvelin, I never forgot him. Not only was his portrayal of Chauvelin’s villainy subtle, but also filled with deep pathos over his feelings for Marguerite Blakeney. He also had the luck to utter one of my favorite lines in the movie in the face of his character’s defeat:

“Oh, the English, and their STU-U-U-UPID sense of fair play!”

The movie also featured some first-rate performances by the supporting cast. Malcolm Jamieson did an excellent job in portraying Marguerite’s older brother, Armand. I was also impressed by Ann Firbank, who was first-rate as the embittered Countess de Tournay; James Villiers as the opportunistic Baron de Batz; Tracey Childs as the lovesick Suzanne de Tournay; and Christopher Villiers as Sir Percy’s most stalwart assistant, Lord Anthony Dewhurst. Julian Fellowes made a very colorful and entertaining Prince of Wales. And Richard Morant proved to be even more subtle and sinister than McKellen’s Chauvelin as Maximilien de Robespierre.

After my latest viewing of “THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL”, I found myself surprisingly less supportive of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s efforts than I used to be. Perhaps I have not only become more older, but even less enthusiastic about the aristocratic elite. It was then I realized that despite the presence of Marguerite and Armand St. Just, “THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL” is based on two novels written by an aristocrat, with views that were probably as liberal as Barry Goldwater. Oh well. I still managed to garner a good deal of entertainment from a movie that has held up remarkable well after thirty years, thanks to some lively direction by Clive Donner, a first-rate script by William Bast and superb performances by the likes of Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour and Ian McKellen.

“RIVER LADY” (1948) Review

“RIVER LADY” (1948) Review

While perusing the Internet on the career of actress Yvonne De Carlo, I noticed that she made a handful of conventional costume pictures for Universal Pictures, after she had signed a long-term contract with them in 1946. One of those films was the 1948 movie, “RIVER LADY”.

Set in the upper Mississippi River Valley during the decade after the Civil War, “RIVER LADY” is an adaptation of Frank Waters and Houston Branch’s 1942 novel. It told the story of a conflict between the citizens of a Minnesota mill town, the loggers who worked downstream and the lumber mill owners. The representative of a local lumber syndicate named Bauvais wants to purchase a struggling lumber mill from its owner, H.L. Morrison. But the latter refuses to sell. However, the owner of a gambling riverboat owner named Sequin manages to purchase the mill in order to provide a reputable job for her boyfriend, Dan Corrigan, a lumberjack whom she loves. However, Sequin has a rival in Morrison’s only daughter, Stephanie. When the latter learns about Dan and Sequin’s engagement, she exposes Sequin’s purchase of the Morrison mill. Dan becomes enraged when he realizes that his fiancee has manipulated his life and in a drunken fit, rejects the riverboat owner and marries Stephanie. Business sparks eventually ignite between a vengeful Dan and an angry Sequin, who has aligned herself with the mercenary Bauvais.

What can I say about “RIVER LADY”? I have seen my share of minor period dramas from “Golden Age of Hollywood” over the years. Some of them have been decent. Some of them have been surprisingly pretty good. Others have been . . . well, a waste of my time. “RIVER LADY” was a waste of my time.

Did “RIVER LADY” have the potential to be a pretty good movie? I do not think so. Frankly, I found it difficult to summon the energy to get excited over a messy rivalry involving the lumber business in 1870s Minnesota. And I am confused over Sequin’s role in this story. She purchased part of the Morrison lumber mill for lumberjack Dan Corrigan. But once he had dumped her, why was there no conflict between her and Morrison over Dan’s role in the business? Instead, she sat back and watched him use the business to engage in a conflict with her other business partner, Bauvais. Would it have not been easier if the writers could have found another reason for Sequin and Dan’s breakup? And why would Dan be so upset over Sequin manipulating him into a major position with the Morrison lumber mill . . . and not express any anger over the ugly manner in which Stephanie Morrison had interfered in his upcoming marriage? Odd.

Then again, I also realized that I did not really like most of the characters in this movie. To be honest, I just did not find them that interesting. Except for two . . . namely Sequin and Bauvais. I would never regard either of them as nice, but Yvonne De Carlo and Dan Duryea did such excellent jobs in making both of them interesting and dynamic that it seemed a pity that neither ended the movie on a happy note. Rod Cameron and Helena Carter gave solid performances as lumberjack-turned-businessman Dan Corrigan and his bride, Stephanie Morrison. But to be honest, their performances seemed like a walk in the park in compare to DeCarlo and Duryea. And as a leading man, Cameron did not exactly rock my world . . . if you know what I mean. The movie also featured solid performances from John McIntire, Lloyd Gough, Florence Bates and Anita Turner. Only Turner really impressed me, for I found her portrayal of the Morrisons’ maid Esther rather witty. However, none of the cast members were not helped by D.D. Beauchamp and William Bowers’ dialogue, which seemed more appropriate for a 1940s crime melodrama, instead of a film set in the mid-to-late 1800s.

I have no idea on whether “RIVER LADY” was a “B” movie or not. It feels like a “B” movie, despite having a cast that featured the likes of De Carlo, Duryea, Cameron and McIntire. As a frequent visitor of the Universal Studios Hollywood Theme Park, it is pretty obvious that a good deal of the movie was filmed on that studio’s back lot. And although the costumes designed by Yvonne Wood struck me as pretty colorful, a bit too much of late 1940s fashion seemed to have crept into some of De Carlo and Carter’s 1870s costumes.

What else can I say about “RIVER LADY”? Despite first-rate performances from Yvonne De Carlo and Dan Duryea, along with the colorful production; this is a movie that I doubt I would be interested in watching again. Once was enough.

“CENTENNIAL” (1978-79) – Episode Two “The Yellow Apron” Commentary

“CENTENNIAL” (1978-79) – Episode Two “The Yellow Apron” Commentary

Set during the 1810s and 1820s, the second episode of the NBC miniseries, “CENTENNIAL”, continued the story of French-Canadian trapper, Pasquinel; his Scottish-born partner, Alexander McKeag; and their relationship with Clay Basket, the daughter of an Arapaho warrior. “The Yellow Apron” explored how jealousies, resentments and desire nearly broke apart their tenuous relationship.

”The Yellow Apron” began in 1809, with Clay Basket giving birth to the first of hers and Pasquinel’s three children, Jacques. The story quickly jumped to 1811, with the birth of their second child, Marcel. By the time the story begins in earnest in 1816, Pasquinel is still obsessed in finding the gold that Lame Beaver had stumbled upon in the last episode. Because of his obsession, he asks McKeag to make the visit to the Bockweiss household in St. Louis for more goods to trade with the Plains tribes. Upon his arrival in St. Louis, McKeag learns that Bockweiss is anxious over his son-in-law’s failure to make the trip. He also learns that Lise Bockweiss Pasquinel has given birth to Pasquinel’s daughter, Lisette. And all of this happened within the episode’s first nine to ten minutes.

So much occurred in ”The Yellow Apron”. The episode saw the birth of Pasquinel’s four children – his children by Clay Basket (Jacques, Marcel and Lucinda) and his daughter by Lise (Lisette). McKeag has to deal with Jacques’ dislike of the Scots trapper and suspicion of Clay Basket’s love for him. Clashes with both the Native American world and the white world leave scars on Jacques, deepening his dislike of McKeag and leaving a mark on his psyche. Both McKeag and Clay Basket continue their struggle to keep their feelings for one another in check. And both have to contend with Pasquinel’s desire for gold and his penchant for leaving them all behind in order to be with his St. Louis wife, Lise. And Lise has to struggle between her own love for the French-Canadian trapper and her growing jealousy for his love of the West and a suspicion that he may have Native American wife. And although he seems very fond of Clay Basket, it is obvious that he is more divided by his feelings for Lise, the West and his desire for gold.

The episode’s last half hour spirals into a series of heartbreaking and bittersweet events. Jacques tries to kill McKeag in a fit of anger over a dispute regarding beaver traps. After the attack, McKeag leaves Pasquinel and the latter’s Arapaho family. After spending a winter inside a hut encased by a snowdrift, McKeag hooks up with a group of trappers that include Jim Bridger and James Beckwourth. They travel to a rendezvous for other mountain men. There, McKeag has an emotional reunion with Pasquinel. But McKeag’s lingering resentment toward his former partner makes the reunion short-lived. After one last trip to St. Louis, Lise convinces McKeag to reconcile with Pasquinel. Unfortunately, McKeag’s efforts to reconcile with his former partner come too late. Minutes earlier, Pasquinel is attacked and killed by a band of Ute warriors after finding the gold he had sought for so long. Despite the tragedy, McKeag and Clay Basket are now free to be together. And the Scots trapper agrees to claim Lucinda as his own. The episode ended with a shot of the gold nuggets that Pasquinel finally discovered, but failed to claim as his own due to his death. However, that final shot struck an ominous note . . . as conveying to the audience that not only will the nuggets be discovered again, but also bring havoc to the region. Especially for Pasquinel’s Arapaho family and other Native Americans.

I must admit that I found ”The Yellow Apron” is probably one of the most bittersweet episodes in this miniseries. And possibly one of the most epic. The latter is not surprising, considering that most of the episode spans nearly fifteen years. But what I really enjoyed about it was that it touched upon an era of the Old West that is rarely covered in Hollywood films or television. I say . . . rarely. There have been movies about trappers and mountain men of the early 19th century, but most Hollywood productions tend to focus upon the West between the 1840s and the 1880s. The episode featured the growing conflict between the Native Americans and whites (both mountain men and the military) that set foot on their lands. This conflict was apparent in an effective scene in which McKeag, Pasquinel and the latter’s Arapaho family visited a fort along the Missouri River, where they clash with a group of hostile American soldiers. Viewers also had an opportunity to enjoy a scene that featured a rendezvous between trappers and traders from many nations and Native Americans. Thanks to some detailed and colorful direction by Virgil W. Vogel, the scene not only went into detail over what transpired at a rendezvous – trading, horse and foot racing, target shooting, singing, dancing, gambling and other activities.

A yellow apron figured into a session of dancing, initiated by a mountain man playing a bag pipe. This incident led to an emotional reunion between Pasquinel and McKeag. Considering the acrimony (at least on McKeag’s part) that led to their separation, watching the two former friends dance away the bitterness proved to be one of the most poignant moments in the entire miniseries. The scene also proved to be one of the finest moments on screen for both Richard Chamberlain and Robert Conrad. In fact, this particular episode provided some of the best acting in the entire miniseries. Not only did Chamberlain and Conrad did some of their best work, so did Barbara Carrera and Sally Kellerman, who both did excellent jobs in conveying the emotional difficulties in being Pasquinel’s wife. I also have to commend the late Vincent Roberts’ portrayal of Jacques Pasquinel in his early teens. I thought he did a top notch job of conveying the young Jacques’ dislike and resentment toward McKeag without resorting to any over-the-top acting.

Directed by Virgil Vogel, ”The Yellow Apron” is without a doubt, one of my favorite episodes in the miniseries. Personally, I thought it conveyed the complex friendship between Pasquinel and Alexander McKeag with more depth than even ”Only the Rocks Live Forever”. Not only did it boast some first-rate performances, especially from Richard Chamberlain and Robert Conrad, but also provided one of the most memorable scenes in the entire miniseries.

“Marie” [PG-13] – Chapter Four

Civil War nurse Charlotte Evans uncovers a mystery at a Mississippi plantation during the middle of the war.

* * * *

“MARIE”

Chapter Four

Several days later, Major Scott and the few remaining plantation hands took a large wooden cart deep into the south fields. When they returned, the cart was filled with expensive furnishings – valuables hidden from Union troops. Since the war was practically over in this neighborhood, the major deemed it safe to bring it out in the open again.

One of the furnishings turned out to be a heavy, walnut bureau that was placed in the room I shared with Alma. We decided to use it to put some of our clothing and other belongings in it.

“Look what I found!” Alma declared. She held up a stack of letters tied together by a blue ribbon. “Wonder who they belong to?” She started to untie the package.

Outraged, I cried, “Alma!”

“What?”

“That is someone’s private letters! You shouldn’t be prying into someone’s affair!”

“So what? I already know who they belong to. Someone named Brent. And there’s nobody name Brent living in this house.”

“That’s because he is dead! Brent was Major Scott’s brother,” I retorted sharply. I took the pack of letters from her hands. Waving them in front of Alma’s face, I added, “And if anyone had ever dared to poke into any of my correspondence or those belonging to my family, they’d wish to God they hadn’t been born.” I threw the letters back into the bureau.

Pouting, Alma went back to her packing and later left the room, mumbling. After I put the last of my clothes into the bureau, I spotted one letter lying on the floor. I picked it up and started to return it to the bureau when I heard a whisper in my ear. “Read it.” I glanced around the room and peeked outside the door. No one was around. “Read it,”the voice repeated.

Slowly I unfolded the letter. It read:

April 2, 1842

Dear Brent,

Darling. Why haven’t you answered any of my letters? Ever since you returned from Texas three years ago, I have tried repeatedly to regain the love we once had. Yet you continued to spurn my efforts. What have I done to deserve this? Don’t you realize that I have never stopped loving you?

When you had informed me we were through that night at the Dickersons’ ball, a fire inside had extinguished. I thank God I had our son Richard as a reminder of you during all those years living here alone with Matthew. I knew that Matthew always went to the slave wenches to warm his bed. A brute like him would prefer savages. But I never thought you would be the same. And yet, I saw you kiss that woman at Walker’s Pond, two days ago. I nearly died right then and there. That creature who is Richard’s mammy. I could not believe that for the past three years, you had prefer her to me, a woman who loves you heart and soul!

Please come back into my arms, my darling! I’m so unhappy and I need you so much. I know that deep in my heart, we belong to each other. Nothing, not even HER, can ever change that.

Yours forever,

D.

I stared at the initials below. D. I believe that Maum Janey once call Mrs. Scott, Miss Deborah. Now I knew why Richard’s mother hated me so much. I reminded her of a woman – a colored woman – who had took away the affections of the only man she had ever loved. And history was in danger of repeating itself twenty years later.

Did Richard ever suspect his mother of murder? Did he ever discover that his uncle Brent, not Matthew, was his father? Part of me wanted to reveal what I knew. But something else inside me said to keep my mouth shut. There was no need to reopen that can of worms. Without realizing what I was doing, I tucked the letter in my skirt pocket and went downstairs.

* * * *

Once more, Major Scott invited the hospital staff to dine with his family. Only this time, Mrs. Scott was present. Her presence brought a pall upon suppertime. The fried chicken, potatoes, okra and bread were delicious, but the mood was tense. It was hard to feel jolly with Lady Medusa at the table not speaking but staring at everyone. And when Mrs. Scott spoke, she was cold, polite and short.

After the strained meal, Doctor Anders quickly excused himself to look after the patients. The coward. I asked for Major Scott’s permission to play the beautiful Steinway piano in the parlor. It had returned with the other furniture. Everyone gathered inside the parlor and I started to play “Lorena”. Somewhere in the middle of the song, Alma asked Richard if someone named Brent was an uncle of his.

“Why yes,” Major Scott replied. “Brent was my father’s younger brother. Why do you ask?”

“Miss Charlotte and me found this pile of letters in the bureau that was put in our room. On the top someone had wrote, ‘To Brent’. Your uncle must have been a popular man. I ain’t never seen so many letters to one man in my life.”

Major Scott smiled cheerfully, unaware that his mother’s face had suddenly paled. “Uncle Brent was always a popular one with the ladies. Best looking man in the county. Wouldn’t you say so Mother?”

Mrs. Scott merely nodded.

“Unfortunately, after he became engaged to the daughter of a Natchez merchant, someone accidentally shot him during a deer hunt, twenty years ago. No one really knew who pulled the trigger.”

Suddenly I hit the wrong note on the piano and everyone glanced at me. I waved it aside and started playing again. However, there was no mistaking the suspicion in the eyes of the mistress of the house.

“How sad,” Alice commented. “I saw the portraits of him and your father. They were both handsome.”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Mrs. Scott tremble with emotion as she got up and excused herself. So, more than one ghost resided at Green Willows. I found myself wondering about the “accidental” nature of Brent Scott’s death.

End of Chapter Four