Tuesday 20 December 2016

Vale Michele Morgan - Noel Bjorndahl remembers a star (UPDATED)

Noel Bjorndahl writes: Quai des Brumes (1937) is the film that first brought her to prominence and established her credentials. It proved to be a key role for Jean Gabin, too. They worked together with stromg chemistry. She worked very successfully in English speaking films, too, notably in Joan of Paris(1942), Higher and Higher (1943) with a young Frank Sinatra, Passage to Marseille with Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains, The Chase with Robert Cummings, directed by Arthur Ripley, and, notably, the British film The Fallen Idol, directed by Carol Reed at the top of his form, with Ralph Richardson and child actor Bobby Henry. The outstanding script was by Grahame Greene.

Vale Michele Morgan (thanks Noel Bjorndahl). A certain icy temperament but astonishing beauty and appeared in a lot of fine films. I''m heading for the dictionary to check on a few things right now but contributions to an obituary column for assembly on the Film Alert blog most welcome. 

An Editor's hasty update: OK, here’s the short Wikipedia version "Michèle Morgan (French: [miʃɛl mɔʁɡan]; 29 February 1920 – 20 December 2016) was a French film actress, who was a leading lady for three decades in both French cinema and Hollywood features. She is considered to have been one of the great French actresses of the twentieth century.[1] Morgan was the inaugural winner of the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1992, she was given an honorary César Award for her contributions to French cinema. There’s much more if you click here."

But these moments are for memories of where and when. Why did it take me decades to finally see The Fallen Idol, notwithstanding having seen the Carol Reed/Graham Greene The Third Man  maybe half a dozen times and thrilled to its cadences, those electrifying speeches, unlike any other movie, delivered at length yet so effortlessly by the ensemble. A mystery but one that eventually was resolved by viewing a superb disc (not sure whether it was Blu-ray). Morgan had a seemingly emotionless face, glacial, but containing the tension of mistrust and doubt.

Jean-Marc Bory & Michele Morgan
Le Bien-Aimee
Given the lifetime chronology I would imagine that the first time I saw her was in one of only a couple of films she made for the New Wave directors of the late 50s and early 60s. Claude Chabrol’s Landru (France 1961) arrived a couple of years late. She was also in an unseen Jacques Doniol-Valcroze TV movie Le Bien-aimee (France, 1967).

The best of her work was in two films for Marcel Carne and two films for Jean Gremillon, Remorques (1940) and The Strange Madame X (1950). Around these few, and the years spent in America during WW2, there were fifty or more French films made over five decades. She kept herself before her fans.

David Hare writes: When she played the "woman" in Carne's masterpiece Quai des Brumes she was 18. By the time she played the "woman" in Arthur Ripley's masterpiece The Chase she was playing to the icon she had already become as the "dream" and the "nightmare" in that fantastic surreal Noir. And when she played the "other woman" in Gremillon's otherwise meaningless Remorques, she was the sole reason for the film's existence and it's entire meaning. She was almost an axiom of cinema. And those three directors saw it in her.

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