A Movie A Day #44: Let Him Have It (1991, directed by Peter Medak)

The year is 1953.  The place is Croydon.  Derek Bentley (Christopher Eccleston) is 19 years old but has the mental capability of an 11 year-old.  Unable to hold down a job and judged unfit for the national service, Derek drifts into a gang led by 16 year-old Christopher Craig (Paul Reynolds).  When Derek and Craig are caught burglarizing a warehouse, it leads to a tense rooftop confrontation between Craig and the police.  Derek has already been captured by the time that the police demand that Craig hand over his gun.  Bentley shouts, “Let him have it, Chris!”  Craig opens fire, killing one officer.

Because he’s a minor, Craig is only facing a prison sentence for killing the police officer.  But, as a legal (if not mental) adult, Derek will be hung if he’s found guilty.  Under the common purpose doctrine, it doesn’t matter that Derek didn’t actually shoot the gun.  The only thing that matters is what Derek meant when he said, “Let him have it, Chris!”  Derek says that he was telling Craig to hand over his gun.  The Crown says that Derek was ordering Craig to open fire.

Let Him Have It is based on a true story.  The case of Derek Bentley was one of the many cases that eventually led to the death penalty being abolished in the UK.  Let Him Have It was released at the height of a long campaign to secure a pardon for Derek.  That pardon was finally issued in 1998, though it was too late to help Derek Bentley.

Let Him Have It is a powerful and angry docudrama, one that reveals in searing detail how Derek was railroaded by the British legal system.  In his film debut, Eccleston gives a powerful performance as Derek and he is ably supported by both Paul Reynolds and, in the role of Derek’s father, Tom Courtenay.  Let Him Have It leaves little doubt as to why the case of Derek Bentley remained a cause célèbre for 45 years after his initial trial.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: The Divorcee (dir by Robert Z. Leonard)

Before I get into reviewing the 1930 best picture nominee, The Divorcee, I want to share something that I recently posted on twitter:

I’m not just sharing this because it’s one of the best things that I’ve ever tweeted.  I’m also sharing it because it’s a beyond perfect description of Jerry (played, in an Oscar-winning performance, by Norma Shearer), the lead character in The Divorcee.  (Whenever you tweet something that is beyond perfect, you’ve earned the right to make sure everyone else knows it.)  The Divorcee came out in 1930 so, needless to say, it’s a bit dated but I totally related to the character of Jerry and that’s perhaps the main reason why I enjoyed this film.

The Divorcee tells the type of story that, today, would probably make for a memorable Lifetime film.  It’s a film that follows four friends over several years.  They are the idle rich, the type who go to parties, dance on tables, and cheerfully ignore the ban on liquor.  Jerry (Norma Shearer) loves Ted (Chester Morris).  Dorothy (Helen Johnson) loves Paul (Conrad Nagel).  However, Paul loves Jerry and when Jerry announces that she and Ted are engaged to be married, Paul doesn’t handle it well.  In fact, Paul gets drunk, Paul drives a car with Dorothy in the passenger’s seat, and eventually Paul crashes the car, leaving Dorothy so disfigured that she spends the rest of the movie wearing a black veil.

The years pass.  In order to make up for horribly disfiguring her, Paul agrees to marry Dorothy.  Jerry marries Ted.  They’re happy until they’re not.  On the day of their third anniversary, Jerry discovers that Ted has been cheating on her.  So, Jerry cheats on Ted.  When Ted gets upset, they file for divorce.

Suddenly, Jerry is …. (dramatic music cue) … THE DIVORCEE!

Ted becomes an alcoholic, the type who makes scenes at parties and destroys ornate wedding cakes.  In the past, I assume Jerry would have been forced to wear a scarlet D and she would have made it work because there’s nothing that Jerry can’t do.  However, since this film takes place in the 1920s, Jerry spends her time flirting and plotting to steal Paul away from Dorothy.

And it would have worked too if not for the fact that Dorothy is a complete and total saint…

Drinking, sex, adultery, disfigurement, and Norma Shearer!?  That’s right, this is a pre-code film!  The Divorcee is actually a pretty typical example of a type of film that was very popular during the 1930s and actually remains rather popular today.  This is a film where rich people do stupid things but look good doing it.  When an audience watches a film like this, they can both look down on the rich and vicariously experience their lifestyle.  No wonder these movies are so popular!

Anyway, I liked The Divorcee.  It’s an incredibly silly little film but it’s hard for me not to enjoy something this melodramatic.  Chester Morris and Conrad Nagel are stuck playing heels and Helen Johnson is a bit to saintly but it doesn’t matter because the film is pretty much designed to be a showcase for Norma Shearer, the most underrated of all of the Golden Age actresses.  (Far too often, Shearer is dismissed as simply being Irving Thalberg’s wife.)  Shearer gives a great performance.  She seems to be having the time of her life and it’s fun to watch.

The Divorcee was nominated for best picture but it lost to a far different picture, All Quiet On The Western Front.


Artist Profile: Harry Lemon Parkhurst (1876 — 1962)

Often credited as either “H.L. Parkhurst” or “H.L.V. Parkhurst,” the Minnesota-born Harry Lemon Parkhurst studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and worked as an illustrator for 52 years.  No matter which name he used, his work and style is always easy to spot.  Parkhurst is perhaps best remembered for the covers that he painted for Spicy Adventure Stories.  Sadly, this talented artist eventually lost his eyesight and spent his final years in the Burrwood Home For The Blind.

A small sampling of his work can be found below:


Twin Blasts From The Past: What To Do On A Date and Dating Do’s and Don’ts (dir by Ted Peshak)

It’s been a while since I’ve shared any old educational films here on the Shattered Lens but I figured now might be the perfect time to share an old movie from 1951, What To Do On A Date.  Produced by the good (or so I assume) people at Coronet Films, What To Do On A Date is … well, the plot is pretty much in the title.

Now, to be honest, this could have just as easily been called What To Do On A Date If You Want To Make Sure That Lisa Never Agrees To A Second Date.  Seriously, this is totally squaresville.  Like real Melvin.  But you know what?  I’m notoriously hard to please and, with Valentine’s Day coming up, this may be helpful to someone.

I don’t know who, exactly.  But hey, it’s on YouTube and that’s the important thing.

(I’m all about helping.  You know that.)

If you still need help after What To Do On A Date, you can watch 1949’s Dating Do’s and Don’ts.  It was directed by the same guy who did What To Do On A Date.  People in the 1940s were notorious for knowing what to do on dates.  The Baby Boom didn’t just happen, y’know.

(Apparently, the version of Dating Do’s and Don’ts uploaded to YouTube is incomplete.  But you’ll get the general point.)


Music Video of the Day: Heart by Neneh Cherry (1990, dir. David Fincher)

When I was a kid, Neneh Cherry was that artist they always broke out when talking about one-hit wonders. That one-hit being Buffalo Stance. What I didn’t know is that she not only had other songs, but worked with two well-known music video directors. This time around it was David Fincher.

According to the book, I Want My MTV, he was well-known in music video circles for getting female artists to do rather interesting things in his videos. Of course one of the best examples is Madonna crawling on all-fours to lick milk from a dish like a cat in Express Yourself. You can also see that touch in Paula Abdul’s S&M dance for Cold Hearted. This video shares the onscreen text thing with Cold Hearted. One of the most interesting videos of David Fincher’s is the one for She’s A Mystery To Me by Roy Orbison. He did it mainly with the remnants people leave behind, or clues if you will about the mystery of the title. You get the gritty stuff in videos like Janie’s Got A Gun by Aerosmith. This one sits halfway between Express Yourself and Billy Idol’s cover of The Doors’ L.A. Woman.

Take special notice at a minute and twenty-two seconds when the guy looks towards the stage and the dummy turns its head on its own. I wonder what that represents…said no one who has seen any of David Fincher’s music videos, or watched this one to about the two minute and fifty-five second mark.

There is a whole chapter in the book I Want My MTV devoted solely to David Fincher. I’ll probably do a whole retrospective of his videos at some point. If you haven’t watched them, then you’ve only seen some of Fincher’s work. He made over fifty music videos–one as recent as 2013.

Oh, and this being a music post, I did catch a tiny bit of the Grammys. I am not a big fan of award shows in general, and certainly not one that thought it was a good idea a couple of years ago to stop dead in order to tell people they were going to go to Congress to manipulate copyright law which had people in the audience nodding in agreement. Still, I did catch some of the Beyoncé number where she was Lady Liberty with African neck rings sitting on a chair on a table that went from the Ben-Hur slave ship to The Last Supper with people’s faces bisected to go with the lyrics that also included a little Busby Berkeley. That was nice.