Friday, July 30, 2010

Emily Brontë and Claudette Colbert

On this day in 1818, English novelist, Emily Brontë, was born in Thornton, near Bradford in Yorkshire, to Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell. From Wikipedia: "She was the younger sister of Charlotte Brontë and the fifth of six children. In 1824, the family moved to Haworth, where Emily's father was perpetual curate, and it was in these surroundings that their literary oddities flourished. In 1847, she published her only novel, Wuthering Heights, as two volumes of a three volume set (the last volume being Agnes Grey by her sister Anne). Although it received mixed reviews when it first came out, the book subsequently became an English literary classic. In 1850, Charlotte edited and published Wuthering Heights as a stand-alone novel and under Emily's real name.

Emily's health, like her sisters', had been weakened by the harsh local climate at home and at school. She caught a cold during the funeral of her brother in September, which led to tuberculosis. Refusing medical help, she died on 19 December 1848 and was interred in the Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Haworth, West Yorkshire.

I will probably be ordered to the stocks for writing this, but I didn't care for Wuthering Heights. I found the story depressing and the atmosphere oppresive. I prefer Jane Austen's lighter touch. You may now throw eggs at your computer. But remember, it is your computer, and you will have to clean up the mess.

On this day in 1996, at the age of 93, Claudette Colbert passed away. From Wikipedia: Émilie Chauchoin was born in Saint-Mandé, Seine, France. After some financial reversals, her family emigrated to New York City in 1906, and Colbert eventually became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. Colbert was reluctant to appear as the runaway heiress, Ellie Andrews, in the Frank Capra romantic comedy, It Happened One Night (1934), opposite Clark Gable. Behind schedule after several actresses had refused the role, the studio accepted Colbert's demand that she be paid $50,000 and that filming was to be completed within four weeks to allow her to take a planned vacation. Colbert felt that the script was weak, and Capra recalled her dissatisfaction, commenting, "Claudette fretted, pouted and argued about her part... she was a tartar, but a cute one."

The film was the first to sweep all five major Academy Awards: including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress,  Best Actor, and Best Screenplay, and was a resounding box-office success.

More on It Happened One Night:

From Wikipedia: Filming began in a tense atmosphere as Gable and Colbert were dissatisfied with the quality of the script. Although Gable and Capra enjoyed making the movie, Colbert continued to show her displeasure on the set. She also initially balked at pulling up her skirt to entice a passing driver to provide a ride, complaining that it was unladylike. However, upon seeing the chorus girl who was brought in as her body double, an outraged Colbert told the director, "Get her out of here. I'll do it. That's not my leg!" After her acceptance speech at the Oscars ceremony, she went back on stage and thanked Capra for making the film.

Neither Gable nor Colbert were the first choices to play the lead roles. Miriam Hopkins first rejected the part of Ellie. Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy were then offered the roles, but each turned the script down, though Loy later noted that the final story as filmed bore little resemblance to the script that she and Montgomery and been offered for their perusal. Margaret Sullavan and Loretta Young also rejected the part. Constance Bennett was willing to play the role if she could produce the film herself; however, Columbia Pictures would not allow this. Then Bette Davis wanted the role, but was under contract with Warner Brothers and Jack Warner refused to loan her. Carole Lombard was unable to accept because the filming schedule conflicted with that of Bolero.

I love It Happened One Night. It was a screwball comedy with two terrific stars: the petite, sophisticated Colbert and the husky, masculine Clark Gable. The dialog is clever, and it gives you an idea of what it was like to live in America during the Depression without bringing you down. The conclusion is brilliant, and Colbert's wedding gown is a classic.


  1. Yay, Emily Bronte's anniversary! I am a fan of the Brontes and although my favourite one is Charlotte, Emily sure left a lasting impression on the world of literature. It is so sad that after Emily's death, Charlotte burned the manuscript of Emily's second novel, as she did not wish her sister to be mocked posthumously. I say, stupid Charlotte, you!;) One can only wonder what Emily's second story was like...

    I am ashamed to say I did not know Claudette Colbert existed. *blush* Now I do. Thanks for the info, Mary!

  2. One of my favorite classics is Jane Eyre, even though the wife in the attic is hard to swallow. As for Claudette Colbert and It Happened One Night, I love classic movies, especially from the 1930s and '40s. When I was young, these movies were being re-released to TV for the first time, and you could watch the same movie three times in a row--which I very often did.