Friday, May 21, 2021

I Know Where I'm Going! a Black & White Jewel from Powell & Pressburger

Rich, vivid Technicolor is one of the hallmarks of the most well-known and celebrated of the gorgeous, masterful films from the production team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, The Archers. From the mid-1940s into the early '50s, almost all of their films were shot in striking 3-strip Technicolor, often by cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Cardiff had been a camera operator for Denham Studios when the American Technicolor Company recruited him as their first technician in Great Britain. He would shoot England's first color film and initially work with Powell and Pressburger as a second unit camera operator on their first Technicolor film, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). He would graduate to cinematographer on their second color outing, A Matter of Life and Death/Stairway to Heaven (1946). But there would be a delay in the production of the second film due to the limited availability of Technicolor cameras and film stock in England at that time and the shoot would be delayed for months because of the  shortage. 

In the meantime, producer/screenwriter Emeric Pressburger mentioned to his partner, producer/director Michael Powell, an idea he'd had for a story about a woman who is trying to get to an island but never does. This fragment of a concept evolved to become I Know Where I'm Going! (1945), a black and white beauty that in time got lost in the shuffle among The Archers' more colorful epics and grand scale dramas. But this outwardly "smaller" film is no less artful or engaging than the more prominent entries on Powell and Pressburger's filmography. 

The title, taken from an old Scottish folk song, makes no secret of a central theme and an entertaining opening credits sequence provides ample exposition:


Wendy Hiller, flashing her nobly sculpted cheekbones and upturned nose, strides across the screen as all-grown-up Joan Webster. Now a stylishly suited 25-year-old bright young thing in a jaunty leopard skin hat with matching purse, she's about to have drinks and dinner with her bank manager father and is all wound up over the good news she's about to share with him. She's on the verge of getting everything she's ever wanted for as long as she could want anything; tomorrow she will wed Sir Robert Bellinger, her employer, an industrialist who is her father's age and "one of the wealthiest men in England." She will be rich! At dinner, her father stifles her sudden flash of pretense toward the waitstaff with the admonition, "Stop acting, you're not Lady Bellinger yet!"

That evening Joan sets off on the first leg of her many-legged journey to her fiance, for Lord Bellinger is staying on the Island of Kiloran in Scotland's Western Isles. Boarding a train out of Manchester, Joan is on her way, but later that night she has an unusual dream...

En route to the tiny fishing village of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, her last stop before she sails for Kiloran, Joan travels a winding road over a stone bridge, around a secluded cove and beside an ancestral castle dating from ancient times.  As she draws nearer to her destination, the weather shifts from promising ("It's a sublime day!") to foggy and wet and windy. She is leaving the modern industrial world where she has been very comfortable and entering into a primeval landscape and "old ways" that will have an unsettling effect on her.

Joan sits on her suitcase at the dock waiting for Sir Robert's boat

The best laid plans begin to fall apart. A gust of wind blows Joan's cherished itinerary into the sea and stormy weather prevents Sir Robert's boat from crossing to Tobermory to pick her up that evening as scheduled. Through Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), a Naval officer home on shore leave, she finds shelter with his old friend Catriona Potts (Pamela Brown). Mrs. Potts arrives home toting a rifle, accompanied by a pack of howling Irish Wolfhounds. Windblown and down to earth with a gaze that misses nothing, Catriona is the antithesis of Joan.

Catriona Potts and her Wolfhounds

Sunday, May 16, 2021

For National Classic Movie Day: 6 Films - 6 Decades

May 16 is here and it's National Classic Movie Day. Hooray! Happily, Rick over at the Classic Film & TV Cafe is once more hosting his annual blogathon in honor of this special day. The theme this year is "6 films - 6 decades," with each participant focusing on a favorite classic from each of six decades. Selecting just a few films from hundreds of favorites is never easy so I came up with a secondary theme of my own to simplify the task. I'll be spotlighting a film of each decade from the '20s through the '70s that also features a favorite pairing of lead actors.