Friday, 30 October 2015



Bliss ... a morning in the cinema watching Brief Encounter. It gets better every time you see it - for the umpteenth time, as it's my favourite film of all time, but until today I'd only ever seen it on television. It looked splendid, high-def or digitally-restored or whatever it is they do to old movies these days - that stunning black and white photography so crisp and clear in time for its 70th anniversary next month.
And no matter how many times I see it, and though I know the script almost off by heart - there's always something I've never noticed before. Heavens, there's a goldfish bowl on the mantelpiece in that chilly service flat belonging to Alec's friend ... fancy never noticing that before!
I don't know why I love it so much. Laura's a terrible drip and I wouldn't fancy Trevor Howard in a month of Sundays. And I've never been convinced that he wasn't really the most awful cad, because he doesn't half chat her up quick in the Kardomah; bit too practised, don't you think? And he's got sticky-out ears. On the other hand, there's Fred ... licking his pencil and struggling over the Times crossword (such easy clues!) and calling her 'old girl' ... no wonder poor Laura is gagging for tea and buns with another man. (She wasn't exactly high maintenance, was she?)
As for noticing things for the first time, oh dear, has anybody ever noticed Celia Johnson's false teeth? I read a biography by one of her daughters recently, and apparently she lost her front teeth in her teens. And now every time she smiles, I think ... Celia's dentures! Just as well the romance came to nothing. You can only keep your teeth in a glass by the bed when you're married to Fred.
But it was a delight. I loved being able to see all the detail of her clothes - those ladylike tweeds, the fur collar on her coat and her crocodile handbag. (Celia Johnson, in 1945, was simply longing to keep her costumes, after all those years of coupons, but wasn't allowed to.) And then there's the book jackets in the shop window. (Walter Greenwood. Karen Blixen. But this is what Laura had from Boots' library.) And the railway posters to Llandudno and Gloucester Cathedral. Yes, it was bliss.
I could have watched it all again as soon as it ended. Looking on YouTube I found it in Spanish. Which just seems wrong.

14 comments:

elaine said...

I'm with you all the way on this one. I watch is regularly when I need a fix of British Rail, specks of dust in the eye, stale buns and a swift brandy, changing her books in Boots, and the o so very posh accents. Unlike you I do fancy Trevor Howard - my Mum had a bit of a crush on him too. Sadly I have never seen it on the big screen - what a treat that must have been.

Audrey said...

Oh, now it's going to be much more fun to watch this the next time, even on television. :)

mary said...

Now is your chance, Elaine. It's back in cinemas next week. Although I shouldn't think for very long.

I really need to watch it with my sister, Audrey!

elegancemaison said...

I quite like it but mostly for the nostalgia of the railway station and the fashion. Amazed to hear about Celia Johnson's false teeth. She also appeared in another classic 1940s film' This Happy Breed' this time with her RADA cockney accent. For me the most interesting thing about her is that she married the author and 'adventurer' Peter Fleming brother of the more famous Ian. In fact they both served in some version of the secret service. But Peter Fleming's book "News from Tartary" remains my favourite travel book of all time.

mary said...

He sounds very dashing, doesn't he, EleganceMaison? Reading that biography made me want to look out his travel books.

lyn said...

Lovely post. BE is one of my favourite movies but I've never seen it at the cinema. But WHICH Kate O'Brien was Laura reading? It depends when the movie is set. Even though it was made in 1945, it feels pre-war, doesn't it? Even though Laura's clothes must have been contemporary if Celia wanted to keep them. Noel Coward's Still Life was 1935-6 so that would make the O'Brien The Ante-Room (1934) or Mary Lavelle (1936). Your post makes me want to watch the movie again & reread Nicola Beauman's A Very Great Profession. Did you know that NB wrote the book to answer her own question about the other books Laura would have been reading? I do have a soft spot for Fred, though...

Gina said...

One of my favourites too and how lovely to see it in the cinema. I totally agree with what you have said but it still remains totally captivating... And those fabulous clipped accents. I must watch out for it.

Sue said...

Well I quite fancy Trevor Howard, lovely voice. It's the details I love so much about this film; the sugar in the spoon at the station tea rooms (presumably to stop people taking too much),the dreadful clock Laura buys Fred, the children's very clipped accents 'oh but mummy I want to go the pantomime, my birthday's in June and there aren't any pantomimes in June', but I think my favourite bits are whenever Joyce Carey and stanley Holloway are on the screen. But, I say, I do wish you hadn't told me about Celia Johnson's teeth.

callmemadam said...

Oh, who doesn't find Trevor Howard sexy in that scene where he's explaining something scientific to Laura? The sexual tension is extraordinary.

I have seen the film in the cinema, see here.

mary said...

I reckon Mary Lavelle, Lyn, because it was such a best-seller and the timing is right. I'm sure I had an idea that it was Mary Lavelle and that you could glimpse it in Laura's basket - but, if so, I blinked at the wrong moment yesterday and missed it!

It's definitely on at BFI, Gina - apart from that, just says 'in cinemas.'

Sorry, Sue - now I know about the teeth I can't stop noticing every time she opens her mouth! But, oh, that awful clock - how could it have been dreadfully expensive and could anybody have wanted it! Can you imagine having children who spoke like that? I'd have had to lock them in the cupboard when it all got too much. The little girl was Celia's niece.

That scene is wonderful, Callmemadam. You can feel the tension crackling ... and the only thing she's taken off is her gloves!

mary said...

Oh, I've just followed your link - how wonderful to meet Berril. I wonder if she's still alive?

Lucille said...

Yes we saw it at the Kino in Rye in February. It was brilliant. I don't think I'd ever seen it all the way through. I noticed Celia's terrible teeth but didn't know they were false. I'd certainly go again armed with your observations.

Toffeeapple said...

And I have never seen it at all...

mary said...

Oh, you must, Toffeeapple - it's a classic! Don't suppose it will be on TV for a while now they've re-released it.