WOW! I love it when I stumble upon
something old when I thought I was looking for something new–especially when it comes to the movies. Then the old becomes new at least to me.
Fun to wander around the web on a Sunday afternoon. Why not drop in to visit me on my website and at my Facebook page The Trilogy of Remembrance to talk with me about art, life, literature, love and liberation. So please drop in and like us if you do.
I was reading a review of an old film, The Farmer’s Wife, by Shain E. Thomas in the Medium Digest. What caught my eye was that ALFRED HITCHCOCK was the director of the movie and yet I had never heard of it. As a great fan of Hitchcock I was surprised and had to track it down.
Hitchcock and his films:
Thinking of Hitchcock, we all remember Psycho, North by Northwest and Rear Window–all high suspense dramas. Since The Farmer’s Wife was a romantic comedy, it seemed an unlikely topic. Also, it was a silent film. I had not known Hitchcock had made films in the pre-talkie era. Nonetheless, Hitchcock stands tall with his reputation for combining crime, murder and fraud with art. A very prolific career!
The art, of course, is the film itself. You can see a clip of the film right here
Where did the story come from? The British playwright, Eden Phillpotts wrote the play of the same name, which was performed on the London stage with Laurence Olivier in the lead role as Farmer Sweetland in 1926.
Phillpotts really sounds like my kind of guy! Any one who can proclaim,,,
“The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”
…is someone with great, creative imagination and a fine way with words [that is a wordsmith].
From the review of the film, I learned that, not only had Farmer Sweetland’s wife died but now, his daughter was about to marry and leave him. Such an elderly man needed much looking after and he decided to follow his deceased wife’s advice and find a new wife.
As he tried to meet possible wives the comedy develops when we learn his housekeeper is in love with him. Of course the farmer is blind to her interest. He cannot see what is right under his nose. The play was performed 1300 times on the London stage and then Olivier took it on the road.
Let’s escape the noise and excitement of the London stage and find the quiet of some short stories. Perhaps that will give us more time to think–both in the writing and the reading. Let’s escape the noise and excitement of the London stage and find the quiet of some short stories. Perhaps that will give us more time to think–both in the writing and the reading.
When I learned more about the play, for reasons unknown to me, I began to think of one my favourite Russian writers,
What linked did the two writers, Chekhov and Phillpotts, have? Both writers were born within a few years of each other–Chekhov in 1860 and Phillpotts in 1862, but Phillpotts lived twice as long as Chekhov [Phillpotts 1862 to 1960 and Chekhov 1869 to 1904]. Time or age? Does that improve our judgment or creation of works of art? Before Phillpotts studied for the stage [acting and writing] he worked as an insurance officer. Chekhov always practiced medicine.
Because of the demands of his profession, Chekhov learned a great deal about human nature.–that we are all really dealing with the most important matters in life–the survial of us and our families. Because he was attentive to these “ordinary people” living in difficult circumstances of great poverty, he helped by trying to heal them or ease their pain and by giving their lives some meaning and dignity.
I ceratinly understand how such practice could inform him deeply of the pain of the lives of his patients. I practised law for thirty years and felt that everyone of my clients had something to teach me about life. Or at least he or she had a good story. In fact, I came to realize that my practice was really research for the writing of The Osgoode Trilogy. [murder, suspense]
And so, picture Chekhov in his carriage traversing the barren and bleak winter countryside to extend his skill, knowledge and empathy. All of this provided material for his stories and gave his patients comfort and care.
Farmer Sweetland, as a character, reminded me of a number of characters Chekhov drew. Phillpotts’ character suffers from being an ‘old fool’ just like the quintissetial old ‘Fool’ in Shakespeare’s King Lear. Sweetland, played by Olivier, can be counted on to provide the comedy with a touch of pathos for his foolishness.
One favourite Chekhov story of mine is “The Lady with the Dog.” in which a married man meets up with a nd there is a sadness which goes with that. The old man young woman. This behaviour is not new to him and he regards it not very seriously. However, when she leaves and returns to Moscow, he is stricken and realizes how much he misses her. This “love” business is anoying at first, but later becomes extrmely painful. I think his characters are so enticing because they are so human. Even after so many years, we strongly identify with them. I sit at my computer in 2020 and I can empathize with these sorts of characters because– they are just like us! The writer has created a character who has all the usual faults and fobiles of any human being whether alive in Chekhov’s time or ours.
Chekhov’s stories are about “ordinary people”. They impress me as almost “universal” or “timeless”. They speak of the basic need all humans must have for dignity and meaning in their lives. They are all coping with the troublesome problems of being human. Life was different back then. People lived further apart in the Russian country side. And yet they were more dependent upon one another than we are today side by side.
We come back to Hitchcock! Interesting that he would shoot such a film as The Farmer’s Wife. I very much like the idea of his working in comedy.
Apparently, Hitchock only made five romantic comedies and those play to the darker side of romace and love.
It is often said that a true artist whether a musician, a painter [in whatver style] a sculptor, or a film maker relies on being able to create a good story to fit his mode of expression.
But I want to finish off with several quotes from these two artists just because they illustrate their different personalities.
Anton Chekhov: “Do silly things. Foolishness is a great deal more vital than our straining and striving after a meaningful life.”
“The role of the artist is to ask questions not to answer them.”
Hitchcock: “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.”
Eden Phillpotts: “The people sensible enough to give advice are usually sensible to give none.”
By the way did you ever find Hitchock in the picture at the beginning? I’d love to hear from you so please leave your thoughts in the commentary box below.
Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies and one additional novel. The Wondrous Apothecary.
All seven novels may be purchased online including Amazon
THE TRILOGY OF REMEMBRANCE, The Drawing Lesson, The Fate of Pryde and Night Crossing.
THE OSGOODE TRILOGY