November 12, 2011

Parker and Hulme go to the pictures


So Brilliantly Clever, Peter Graham's book about the 1954 Parker-Hulme murder, its build-up and its aftermath, is published this week and the book is pretty much essential reading for anyone interested in this unendingly fascinating murder case. Graham got hold of a copy of Pauline Parker's diary and scattered within it were the titles of some of the films she and Juliet Hulme saw. Central Christchurch at that time was packed with cinemas, and the girls were obsessed with Hollywood in general and some male movie stars in particular, so you can imagine that there were quite a few titles. At some point I started taking down page numbers every time one turned up in the text ...

All the Brothers Were Valiant (Richard Thorpe, 1953). They saw it at the Majestic on Manchester St when it was still a cinema (in the 70s, it became a nightclub called Moby Dick's and then a church).
Beat the Devil (John Huston, 1953). Possible source of Pauline's "Gina" nickname -- Gina Lollobrigida is in it.
Dangerous Crossing (Joseph M Newman, 1953). They saw it on April 29, 1954.
The Desert Fox (Henry Hathaway, 1951) and The Desert Rats (Robert Wise, 1953). Juliet liked James Mason as dashing Nazi Erwin von Rommel.
The Great Caruso (Richard Thorpe, 1951). With Mario Lanza as Caruso.
Hans Christian Andersen (Charles Vidor, 1952).
The Highwayman (Lesley Selander, 1951). A swashbuckler that Peter Graham suspects influenced Pauline's short story, which featured "bedroom scenes ... highway robberies" and "more than one violent death a day".
Ivanhoe (Richard Thorpe, 1952). Because of actor Guy Rolfe.
Julius Caesar (Richard L Mankiewicz, 1953). With James Mason as Brutus. Mason was "almost too wonderful to be true ... I was much pleased to see how young [he] looks ... superb physique", Pauline wrote.
King of the Khyber Rifles (Henry King, 1953). Guy Rolfe and Michael Rennie were "utterly divine", thought Pauline.
Mogambo (John Ford, 1953). Apparently they hated Clark Gable but loved Ava Gardner.
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Albert Lewin, 1951). Pauline saw it with her mother about six months before she killed her. "It is the most perfect story I have ever known," Pauline wrote afterwards, and James Mason was "far too wonderful to attempt to describe".
Prince Valiant (Henry Hathaway, 1954). With James Mason sporting a beard (they approved). Pauline thought the picture was dreadful but Mason "was wonderful". 
The Prisoner of Zenda (Richard Thorpe, 1952). Opened at the Majestic in April, 1953. Said to be the beginning of the girls' James Mason obsession and influential on their imaginative world.
A Queen is Crowned (Christopher Fry, 1953). A QEII coronation doco that was shown at school. "Rather boring as a picture," Pauline thought but she liked the pageantry.
The Robe (Henry Koster, 1953). Pauline saw it at the Savoy on the Square in January 1954; in this Biblical epic, she observed that "Caligula was exactly like the Devil".
Scaramouche (George Sidney, 1952). Because of actor Mel Ferrer. Pauline: "Absolutely superb ... thoroughly divine." It's unclear whether she means the film or Ferrer. Or both.
Secret Mission (Harold French, 1942). More James Mason.
The Spider and the Fly (Robert Hamer, 1949). More Guy Rolfe.
Trent's Last Case (Herbert Wilcox, 1954). The beginning of a short-lived obsession with Orson Welles. "He is dreadful ... but I adore him." -- Pauline.
The Wicked Lady (Leslie Arliss, 1945) More James Mason.

Inevitable caption to the above picture -- Twentieth Century Fox: James Mason as Rommel.