Blog Archives

OT Book corner: A favorite coming-of-age story

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Dodie Smith

One of my favorite books, and one I discovered only a few years ago,  is I Capture the Castle. The author, Dodie Smith, is best known for her children’s novel, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, later made into a delightful animated feature by Disney (the live-action version? Skip it).

Set in 1930’s England, the book is narrated by 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, who is growing up with her eccentric bohemian family in a crumbling castle. Her father, once expected to be a literary luminary, has had a prolonged and severe case of writer’s block, putting the family’s finances into peril as the royalty checks become smaller and smaller.

Cassandra is a writer herself, filling notebook after notebook with her observations about life in the castle, observations that are funny, pithy and sometimes quite poignant.  Cassandra, unlike her beautiful older sister Rose, scorns romance.  Yet, she finds herself falling in love for the first time, and experiencing the euphoria and the pain that goes with it.

I Capture the Castle is charming and witty and very touching. Cassandra is a marvelous storyteller as she “captures the castle” and its occupants, and Smith crafted a classic to be enjoyed not just by young adults but adults of every age.

Ramola Garai as Cassandra Mortmain in the film version of "I Capture the Castle."

In 2003, it was made into a film starring Romala Garai as Cassandra, Bill Nighy, Rose Byrne and Henry Cavill. I also enjoyed and can recommend the film (although, as with many film adaptations of books, it makes some departures from the source material). The film is good but the book is even better.  (art courtesy of filmsourcecode and wikipedia)

Mulligan for Monday: A Smooth Criminal?

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John invites Ellie out to dinner. It's an invitation she just can't refuse.

John Mulligan, the character Richard played in Drowning, Not Waving in the first series of Moving On is one of my favorite “bad boy” characters of RA’s. Perhaps my very favorite, as I can’t really think of Guy as bad, just–misunderstood. 😉 And the “evil henchman” is redeemed in the end. With John, it isn’t that simple . . .

John is the boy who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, in and out of trouble as a youth. Nobody expected much out of little Johnnie Mulligan when he grew up.

Years later, he shows up on the doorstep of an old schoolmate who is mired in serious debt due to living beyond her means. She has been sacked and is now doing her best to avoid the bill collectors. Ellie is the smart girl who came from a stable home and always did the right thing back in the day. Now it seems she has made a thorough mess of things.

So, when this gorgeous, successful man from her past–tall, dark and handsome with a disarming manner, seductive voice and charm to spare–asks her out to dinner and offers to take the house off her hands, Ellie is tempted. Can we blame her? But is John Mulligan all he appears to be? Here are some photos and a Mulligan video, “Hypnotize Me.”

“Could you be an angel? Could you be the devil? . . .”

(photos courtesy of RAC Gallery)

Paper doll Armitage? I wish . . .

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Twiggy paper dolls offered lots of mod outfits to little girls of the '60s.

Little girls enjoyed their mom's McCalls--the Betsy paper dolls were the draw.

A Norma Shearer paper doll with one of the gorgeous Adrian gowns--and anachronistic "Knickers". Ladies would not wear any form of underpants for decades to come.

So, I was watching the 1938 version of Marie Antoinette this morning, the one with Norma Shearer, and I have to say the costumes were absolutely to die for. Designer Adrian really did outdo himself creating the magnificent gowns featured in the film. It was originally supposed to be shot in color, but it was decided the cost was just too high.
Even in black and white, it’s breathtaking. And if you need color, you can add it to B&W paper dolls of Shearer’s costumes.

Do children of today even know what paper dolls are? I certainly enjoyed them as a child. I fondly remember my Twiggy, a magnetic figure with mod outfits, and Betsy McCall from the old McCall’s Magazine.

The paper dolls I see now are all geared towards adults who love fashion and/or film and have a nostalgic yearning for the playtime of the past.

Suddenly, I find myself yearning for a Richard Armitage paper doll set. Of course, it would also need to have the accessories: his military berets, and those to-die-for scarves of John Porter’s and cool sunglasses, Thornton’s top hat, Guy’s sword and gloves and so forth. And changeable hairstyles and degrees of facial hair, too. And removable tattoos for Lucas!
Hmmm. Maybe the figure should be made of that wipe-off material and you could use a dry erase marker to add as much or as little “hair” as you wished.

Of course, Richard Armitage paper dolls wouldn’t be as good as having the real thing to dress and uhm—undress, but I think I would quite enjoy it.

Strike Back Saturday # 1: Sgt. John Porter

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Porter comforts Katie and gives her encouragement. "Trust me."

John Porter. Katie's hero, and mine, too.

Richard Armitage and Andrew Lincoln with fellow cast members and crew rehearsing a scene from the first ep of Strike Back. Richard trained heavily to be able to undertake the physicality of the role, pushing himself to be as authentic as possible.

When you look up the definition of “hero” in the dictionary, there should be a photo of Sgt. John Porter right there front and center.

John Porter as we came to know him in those six hours of the original SB, earned my respect, my admiration and my compassion. Here is a man who is a good soldier, competent, reliable, resourceful, intelligent and brave. When a mission he is leading in Iraq goes awry and one of his men ends up dead and another critically injured, Porter goes into a sort of tailspin. He leaves behind his military career, separates from his family, struggles to find work and to come to terms with what happened during the disastrous extraction.

Working in a dead-end job as a security guard, Porter never completely gives up on regaining his reputation and his honor. He still keeps fit; he wants to be as ready as he can be just in case that opportunity comes . . .

Richard, a self-described pacifist, said he initially was not interested in playing this type of role. But he decided to go back and take a second look; to see if he could craft a dimensional character and not just a killing machine. Richard sought to find the soft center in the tough-as-nails soldier. And that is just what he did. If I ever ended up in the same sort of desperate situation as Katie, the kidnapped journalist, I would want a man like John Porter–relentless and sometimes ruthless, a real bad-ass when needed, but also capable of tenderness and kindness–to come to my rescue. And yes, he is glorious to behold. Strong, handsome, commanding.

At some point in our lives, we all need a hero we can believe in. And Richard Armitage gave us just that.
I have made several SB videos; this was the first, based on the first two eps of the series and set to a song by Enya.
“Katie’s Hero” is our hero, too.

(screencaps and promos courtesy of RANet)

Early Career Spotlight: RA in the Scottish Play

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Our Richard has had a variety of venues in which to perfect his acting chops. Before his success on television and after studying at LAMDA, RA appeared on various stages in a number of different plays, both contemporary works and the classics.

In 1999 and 2000, Richard performed as Angus in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Macbeth.
The play debuted in November 1999 at the Swan in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The production toured Britain and Japan before moving to the Young Vic in London in April 2000. That June the cast traveled to the US to perform. Because the RSC production was filmed for TV, I have the opportunity to share screencaps with you (alas, I don’t know how to get access to the original video or if it is even available.)

The information on the production comes courtesy of Annette at RichardArmitageOnline and the screencaps are from RANet. During this tour, Richard was also photographed for a layout in a Japanese magazine. As you can see, he was also showing off his trademark smoulder. He reminds me of Guy in some of the Macbeth screencaps–the intensity of his gaze. As you can see, he was in more modern military gear for this version of the Scottish play, gear that included that very flattering beret. And all the stage dirt can’t really diminish his masculine beauty.