Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

In this sequel, Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty, played by Jared Harris, below.

Stephen Fry is Mycroft Holmes, elder brother of Sherlock.

And then, of course, there are Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law –

This cast alone should be more than enough encouragement to see the film, but should you be the odd man out and need even more incentive, Wikipedia offers this plot synopsis: “Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) has always been the smartest man in the room…until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at large—Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris)—and not only is he Holmes’ intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may actually give him an advantage over the renowned detective. When the Crown Prince of Austria is found dead, the evidence, as construed by Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan), points to suicide. But Sherlock Holmes deduces that the prince has been the victim of murder—a murder that is only one piece of a larger and much more portentous puzzle, designed by one Professor Moriarty. Mixing business with pleasure, Holmes tracks the clues to an underground gentlemen’s club, where he and his brother, Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry) are toasting Dr. Watson (Jude Law) on his last night of bachelorhood. It is there that Holmes encounters Sim (Noomi Rapace), a Gypsy fortune teller, who sees more than she is telling and whose unwitting involvement in the prince’s murder makes her the killer’s next target. Holmes barely manages to save her life and, in return, she reluctantly agrees to help him. The investigation becomes ever more dangerous as it leads Holmes, Watson and Sim across the continent, from England to France to Germany and finally to Switzerland. But the cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead as he spins a web of death and destruction—all part of a greater plan that, if he succeeds, will change the course of history.” Yowza!

Watch the trailer here.

That Woman is Coming to the US

I wonder how many of us can add a guilty fascination with Wallis Simpson to our list of insignificant transgressions?  Admire her or hate her, she remains one of those figures who continues to fascinate.  Last summer, Wiedenfeld & Nicolson published That Woman by Anne Sebba in the UK — and it will be out in March 2012 in the US from St. Martin’s.  The New York Times recently carried an article about the book, which is here.

Above, Anne Sebba, author of That Woman.  Sebba is a lecturer and tv presenter as well as the author of a number of books. According to her website (here), she particularly likes to write about strong women.  Other subjects she has written of include such disparate personages as Jennie Jerome Churchill, Mother Teresa, and Laura Ashley. Of course, the most scandalous aspect of the Duchess of Windsor book was eagerly received by newspapers. Here is an article from the Daily Mail.

Above, the wedding, in 1937, in France.  Bessie Wallis Warfield was born in Pennsylvania in 1896. The story of how she became the woman who made a king abdicate, one of the most hated women ever, yet a style trend setter and source of endless public attention has been told over and over. Nevertheless, it will be told many more times I am sure.

In many ways, I think the Duke and Duchess led a lonely life of wandering, early in their marriage accused (with some justification it seems) of being Nazi sympathizers, and later of being only too eager to accept whatever largesse came their way from social climbers, publicity seeking hangs-on, and celebrity wannabes.

The Duke had a lifelong obsession with the fact his wife could not be correctly addressed as Her
Royal Highness, and he insisted on everyone calling her by that title — which to me would only have made it worse, as every time she heard it, the phrase must have grated.  She was known for some witty phrases — “a woman can never be too rich or too thin.”  Her clothing and jewels were much admired.

The famous jeweled flamingo clip, above in an auction promotional shot, was sold for a record price. It was made by Cartier in 1940 —  costume jewelry replicas are not hard to find.

Madonna’s film about That Woman — titled W.E. — is set to open in February in the U.S. It got some good reviews from film festivals. And the trailer, below, looks interesting.

In the meantime, while we wait for the book That Woman and the movie W.E., you might take a look at the 1978 television series Edward and Mrs. Simpson, which I recall with pleasure. Though just how guilty a pleasure it was, I shall have to reassess!

It originally ran in seven parts, and it starred Edward Fox as Edward and Cynthia Harris as Wallis.  Just the thing for an evening when the snow begins to fall and you have a nice bowl of popcorn on hand.  Or make that a couple of evenings!

Like the topic of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, the story has everything — romance, scandal, royalty, and a dysfunctional family. What more could we ask?

In Praise of Alan Rickman

Here in the US, Masterpiece on PBS recently presented The Song of Lunch  starring Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson.  A BBC dramatization of Christopher Reid’s poem, the program was unique, in my (Victoria, here) view.  Poetry.  On tv.  Brilliant acting. Emma.  And Alan. Sigh.

I consider myself a charter member of the Alan-Rickman-can-do-no-wrong Club. Though he has been cast in some unsavory roles, to me he is always a hero.  As “he” in The Song of Lunch, Rickman portrays a self-pitying character who meets a former lover (Thompson) in an unsuccessful encounter for which he had some unrealistic expectations.

By the way, Alan, I am available for lunch in Soho almost any time — just e-mail me right here. And figure in enough time for me to fly across the pond — and have my hair done.

Sad to say, I haven’t kept up with the character development of Severus Snape, the role that most young people will associate most with Rickman.  He was a villain early on, but I believe he evolved into a very good guy in Harry Potter’s world. 

Villain-wise, however, I choose the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1991 film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.  There’s a dastardly fellow we can all love.  If we can stop laughing long enough.

And just about my favorite of Rickman’s many film roles is that of Col. Brandon in the 1996 version of Sense & Sensibility, a role that forever altered my view of Jane Austen’s first published novel. Until I saw — and heard — Rickman wooing Marianne and confessing to Elinor, I had felt only moderate interest in and compassion for Brandon.  But now I can never think of Brandon without seeing and hearing Alan Rickman.  Which makes Marianne’s obsession with the shallow Willoughby even more foolish — and her reluctance to immediately adore Brandon almost impossible to accept. That’s one of the drawbacks to watching filmed versdions of favorite novels, isn’t it?  Can anyone think of Darcy again without seeing Colin Firth?

I think I read that Rickman is bound for Broadway soon — so Alan, maybe we could have that luncheon in New York?  Just name that date!! 

I am expecting to have to arm-wrestle a few of our regular readers to win this encounter.  I’m ready!!

But wait, there’s  more!  Gambit will be coming out soon (?).  A remake of the 1966 Michael Caine/Shirley MacLaine caper film, this new version stars Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci and Cameron Diaz, among others.  The Coen Brothers are involved — but I couldn’t find a set release date. 2012 is all I found. Let’s hope it is as soon as possible!!