Tag Archives: Movies

Dear Reader #40

Dear Reader,

My personal top ten this week with Mind Games making the biggest leap up the charts.

The proof copy of Snow in August, which arrived this week.

Authors take two basic approaches to long-running series. 1. The lead characters remain exactly the same (Columbo is a good example of this). 2. The lead characters develop over time. My Sam Smith Mystery Series slots into the second category.

Looking for Rosanna Mee, book seventeen in the series, will see a development of Faye’s character. Sam will narrate, but Faye will lead the investigation. This will also be an ‘Alan story’ with the psychological aspect well to the fore.

Looking for Rosanna Mee will be available for pre-order shortly and the book will be published later this year.

I’m writing The Olive Tree, A Spanish Civil War Saga. In book one, Roots, Prince Nicolas Esteban invites author Naomi Parker to dinner. What should she wear? She decides on this dress by Madeleine Vionnet.

Recently, I enjoyed Dangerous Crossing, a 1953 film noir mystery, on DVD. Directed by Joseph M. Newman and starring Jeanne Crain and Michael Rennie, the movie was based on the 1943 play Cabin B-13 by John Dickson Carr.

The plot centres on the gaslighting of Jeanne Crain’s character as she embarks upon a honeymoon cruise.

A low-budget movie devoid of special effects, Dangerous Crossing relies on strong characterisation and a genuinely suspenseful plot.

Jeanne Crain is an attractive heroine who features in almost every scene while Michael Rennie lends solid support. To see the best of Jeanne Crain, however, I recommend Leave Her to Heaven where she excels in her trademark ‘girl next door’ role.

Research Makes Writing Easier

In Eve’s War, Guy Samson, my male SOE agent, is loosely based on three people. Guy has a Welsh mother and French father, but these people did not have that background.

While researching the area where my SOE agents will operate, Brittany, I discovered another agent, Andre Hue, who had a Welsh mother and French father. This coincidence completes the circle and makes Guy’s character much stronger. And strong characters make the task of writing so much easier.

Pictured: the ancient links between Brittany and Wales.

I completed the storyboarding for Operation Locksmith this week, fifteen A3 pages of squiggles. In Operation Locksmith, Eve, Guy and Mimi train to become SOE agents, but is there a traitor in the camp?

Meanwhile, it’s lovely to see that Operation Zigzag is keeping company with Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series 🙂

https://books2read.com/u/mKDDyv

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

Maureen Patricia ‘Paddy’ O’Sullivan was born in Dublin on 3 January 1918 the daughter of journalist John Aloysius O’Sullivan (1873–1949) and Johanna Repen (1889–1919), who died when Paddy was only 15 months old.

At the age of seven Paddy was sent to live with an aunt in Belgium where she attended a convent school in Cortrai. At the beginning of the war she worked as a nurse in Highgate Hospital, London. She joined the WAAF on 7 July 1941 as an Aircraft Handler General Duties, and was later promoted to Section Officer. Her SOE report lists that her hobbies included reading, psychology and walking.

Paddy’s trainers had mixed views of her. She could be stubborn and prone to temper. However, others regarded her as kind-hearted and able.

As a member of the SOE, Paddy parachuted into Limoges on 23 March 1944. Falling through the fog, she landed heavily, sustaining a concussion. She awoke to find a cow breathing on her face. Later, she said that the two million francs strapped to her back, money to fund SOE and Resistance activities, saved her life.

As Micheline Marcelle Simonet, Paddy’s cover story revealed that she was a ‘dame de compagnie’ of a doctor in Paris. She was taking  one month’s leave to look for a lost Belgian parent in Creuse. Her documents, including a letter from the doctor, were good. However, the month-long limitation was a strange decision by the SOE because the intention was for Paddy to remain in the area for considerably longer than that. In the event, she changed her cover story and became the friend of a school-teacher’s wife – the school-teacher was a leader of the local Resistance.

On one occasion, Paddy was stopped by the Gestapo while transporting her wireless, which was hidden in a suitcase. In passable German, she flirted with the officer, made a ‘date’ for the following evening, then escaped, the suitcase forgotten by the lusting officer.

After noble and brave service, Paddy returned to Britain on 5 October 1944. 

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Above Suspicion

Currently, I’m reading Above Suspicion and Assignment in Brittany, the first two novels written by espionage novelist Helen MacInnes, pictured. These novels about the Second World War were written during the war, so they carried the stamp of authenticity. Furthermore, Helen MacInnes was married to Gilbert Highet who served in MI6 as a British intelligence agent. It is believed that Highet provided espionage details for many of MacInnes’ books and that their experiences formed the basis for Above Suspicion.

Directed by Richard Thorpe, Above Suspicion was released as a movie in 1943. Joan Crawford and Fred MacMurray took the lead roles in a plot that followed two newlyweds as they spied on the Nazis during their honeymoon in Europe.

The production standards for the movie were good. The back projection and background paintings, standard practice in movie making for decades, were largely unobtrusive. On first viewing, I thought Joan Crawford was miscast. However, on second viewing, I agreed with the New York Times who said, “Joan Crawford is a very convincing heroine.”

The plot lent itself to a noir treatment. However, the producer and director went for a lighter touch, including humour and musical numbers whenever possible. This was justified because a musical score was central to the plot.

Given that the movie was released in 1943, it contained some racy banter between Joan Crawford and Fred MacMurray whose innuendos and desire to have sex whenever possible realistically portrayed them as newlyweds.

Above Suspicion marked the end of Joan Crawford’s eighteen year career with MGM before she signed with Warner Bros. Sadly, the movie served as the final role for character actor Conrad Veidt, who died of a heart attack shortly after the final scenes were shot. 

If you are a fan of vintage movies, then Above Suspicion is certainly worth ninety minutes of your time.

Dear Reader #18

Dear Reader,

I rediscovered Twitter this week. Like all of social media, Twitter is mainly a talking platform, not a listening platform. That said, I have found it useful for accessing information from experts who have greater knowledge about certain subjects than I have. Twitter, like all of social media, is not a good book promoting platform so I’m not sure if I will use it to any great extent. However, if you would like to connect there my Twitter link is on the sidebar.

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This week, we started work on the audiobook version of Victory. This will complete the Ann’s War series. The series is also available in a number of languages, with more to follow. I wrote the books as an experiment, which has turned into a great success. This has encouraged me to follow a similar pattern with my forthcoming Spanish Civil War series, The Olive Tree.

VICTORY AUDIOBOOK

The audiobook version of Escape is nearly ready for publication. It’s been a while since I wrote the story so I’ve managed to listen to it with fresh ears. I love the story. This has nothing to do with the quality of my writing, but is based on the remarkable series of true events that make up the story.

ESCAPE AUDIOBOOK

Many thanks to Graciela for her excellent translation of Boston, which will be available soon 🙂

BOSTON SPANISH

From my research… In 1939, there were more movie theatres in America – 15,115 – than banks – 14,952. More than 50 million Americans went to the movies every week and there were 400 new movies a year to watch. Annually, the movies were the nation’s eleventh-biggest business in terms of assets netting $529,950,444. Although synonymous with Hollywood, the financial aspect of the movies was controlled by New York.

Movie executives were amongst the richest rewarded, ranked second in terms of percentage sales and profits while leading actors and directors, on short-term contracts, could earn $40,000 a week. In comparison leading writers earned $350 – $1,000 a week.

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Bogart and Bacall

My appreciation of the classic movie North by Northwest https://hannah-howe.com/2019/10/09/north-by-northwest/

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Eva Marie Saint with Cary Grant in North by Northwest, 1959

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

North by Northwest

North by Northwest is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s finest films. Released in 1959, the movie tells the story of advertising executive Roger Thornhill, a man mistaken for a non-existent spy.

The story, written by Ernest Lehman, is breezy entertainment, a series of stylish set-pieces. The central plot revolves around a roll of microfilm. However, that microfilm – a McGuffin in the words of Ernest Lehman – is largely irrelevant to the enjoyment of the movie.

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Ernest Lehman made the story up as he went along and he freely admitted that occasionally he painted himself into a corner. However, he always managed to extricate himself, and his characters. The finest example of this is the scene where Eve Kendall, Eva Marie Saint, pulls a gun on Roger Thornhill, Cary Grant. If you look closely, in the background you will see a young boy, one of the extras, as he places his fingers into his ears before the gun goes off. Clearly, this was not the first take and the boy was anticipating the noise. Nevertheless, Hitchcock selected this take for the final cut of his movie.

North by Northwest developed from a series of conversations between Alfred Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman. Hitchcock wanted to make a movie that included a chase scene across the famous faces at Mount Rushmore, an idea Lehman liked. Another scene that developed from Hitchcock’s fertile imagination was the aeroplane chase scene across a barren landscape. For the best part of eight minutes nothing happens in this scene, but it is gripping nonetheless.

The casting is excellent with James Mason and Martin Landau suitability menacing as the villains. However, it’s interesting to note that Jessie Royce Landis, who played Roger Thornhill’s mother, was only one year older than Cary Grant at the time (!)

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Eva Marie Saint with Cary Grant in North by Northwest, 1959

The star of the movie, in my eyes, is Eva Marie Saint. She doesn’t appear until a third of the way into the movie, but from then on her combination of beauty, elegance and vulnerability is enchanting. One of her first lines is, “I never make love on an empty stomach.” However, the censors changed this to, “I never discuss love on an empty stomach.” Watch her lips in this scene and you will notice the subtle difference.

While directing Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest, Alfred Hitchcock offered the following advice, “Lower your voice, don’t wave your hands around, and when you speak always look into Cary Grant’s eyes.” Advice that, in the movie, works to stunning effect.

North by Northwest was the working title for the movie. At one stage the title of The Man in Lincoln’s Nose was suggested, but thankfully that was rejected.

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Alfred Hitchcock

The movie includes many of Hitchcock’s trademarks, including a cameo appearance by the director at the very start of the film and his generous use of subtle lighting and overhead shots.

The film isn’t perfect, and the Studio worried that it went on for too long. The drunk driver scene at the start was inserted for humour, but it isn’t funny and it does go on for too long. The dramatic cliffhanger at the end, classic Hitchcock, is spoiled in my opinion by an abrupt ending and a cut that placed the characters on a train. That train then disappears into a tunnel in a metaphor for sex that was a cliché even in the 1950s.

Overall though North by Northwest is fine entertainment, and if you haven’t seen it you are in for a treat.

Dear Reader #17

Dear Reader,

This week, I completed the first draft of Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen. Snow in August is set in a small coastal village in wild West Wales, a new location for Sam.

Readers of the series might be in for a surprise when they start this story. I won‘t give the details away now, but the book will be available for pre-order later this month.

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Over the past year I have had the honour of being editor-in-chief of Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine. With twelve magazines published I would like to thank our talented group of contributors and the skill and dedication of our editorial staff. I’m very proud of our achievements with Mom’s Favorite Reads and look forward to scaling even great heights in our second year.

Here’s the blurb for the latest issue.

The September issue of our popular eMagazine!

In this Back to School issue:

Young Writers, Humour, Poetry, Travel, Short Stories, Puzzles and Articles including:

What is Adoption?

Power Animals

What is Happiness and How Can We Find It?

Read or download your copy FREE!

https://issuu.com/momsfavoritereads/docs/vol-2_iss-9_momsfavoritereads

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Delighted that Sandra, who translated the five books in my Ann’s War series, has offered to translate Saving Grace into German 🙂

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A lovely quote from screenwriter Ernest Lehman when discussing writing the script for North By Northwest. I am sure most authors will identify with this.

”Typical of a writer, I was stalling, losing myself in yet more research.”

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Sam’s Song is moving towards the top of the Amazon charts again this weekend , but I have mixed feelings about that in light of continued reports of workers being mistreated by the company. There is a brutally about Amazon that makes me feel increasingly uneasy about contributing to its profits.

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Photo by Tobias Dziuba on Pexels.com

“Clear as the dew it kindles on the spray

Across the shadows of each shelving lawn,

The rising sun, with low and level ray

Scatters the cold, grey phantoms of the dawn.

Like ghosts, they flee, like dreams expire

Within the elemental fire

Of our first calm October day.”

John Jay Chapman

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As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #16

Dear Reader,

This week, I made good progress with the first draft of Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen. I write the first draft of every story at a fast pace before slowing down with the second draft. The second draft is basically the story you read, after minor adjustments during two rounds of editing. Once the second draft is complete I never make radical changes. When I write, the book is about word selection, not story building. The story building takes place during the planning and storyboarding stages. Watching a documentary this week I noticed that Alfred Hitchcock used to meticulously storyboard his movies. Personally, I think it’s a great way of storytelling, whether through the medium of movies or books.

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Alfred Hitchcock

Delighted that Sam has found new readers, in Sweden 🙂

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Pictured, a view of the Stora Sjöfallet National Park

Suzan is recording audiobook versions of Escape and Victory, to complete the series. I just listened to chapter one of Escape and Suzan’s narration is excellent. Normally, I don’t like rereading or listening to my words, but Suzan‘s narration drew me into the story.

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Here’s an example of Suzan’s narration https://hannah-howe.com/audio-books/

My latest translation, the Spanish version of Victory. Irene translated all five books in this series and it was a great pleasure working with her.

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Earlier this week, I watched North By Northwest for the first time. I will write a review of the movie on another occasion, but for now would like to mention Eva Marie Saint who, in her nineties, I am pleased to say is still with us. Eva Marie Saint offered an elegant performance in North By Northwest and is the main reason for watching this movie. She also excelled in 36 Hours, a James Garner World War Two noir movie. That movie relied on a simple, but highly effective, plot device to knit the drama together. Without giving the plot away, it relied on fingers and thumbs. I love old movies and, in all truth, the old stars were a mixed bunch. Some of the stories about them would make your toes curl. But I’ve read no such stories about Eva Marie Saint. On and off screen, she exuded class.

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Eva Marie Saint with Cary Grant in North by Northwest, 1959

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Dear Reader #12

Dear Reader,

Books sixteen, seventeen and eighteen in the Sam Smith Mystery Series will be Snow in August, a story about childhood trauma; Looking For Rosanna Mee, a story about how the Powers That Be abuse vulnerable people; Stormy Weather, a story about climate change. The storyboarding of Snow in August is progressing well and I intend to finish it next week.

Another busy week with my translators with three books published, all in Spanish. We also started two new translations taking the total to forty-three books in ten languages.

This week, my Spanish Civil War research focused on Lily Margaret Powell, a remarkable woman, a true heroine who volunteered to nurse in Spain during the war and was the last International Brigades nurse to leave the conflict. You can read Margaret’s remarkable story here

Margaret Powell, second left, and her medical team in Spain

My film of the week is Fallen Angel, a noir movie made in 1945. The movie reunites director Otto Preminger with Dana Andrews, who had worked together on Laura the previous year. The movie also features Alice Faye, Linda Darnell and a host of fine character actors.

While the movie doesn’t quite touch the heights of Laura – few movies do – it’s still an excellent story. Like Laura, it’s a film of two halves. In Laura, the title character didn’t appear until the second half of the film while in Fallen Angel Linda Darnell dominates the first half with a sultry performance as the femme fatale and Alice Faye blossoms in the second half; Dana Andrews links the whole piece together.

Playing a bookish, reserved woman, Alice Faye had the toughest role – noir movies are basically designed around the femme fatale and Linda Darnell shone in this part. Initially, Fallen Angel was intended to showcase Alice Faye’s talents. However, many of her scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. Some suggest that film producer Darryl F. Zanuck decided to use the film to promote Linda Darnell, his new protégé, instead of Alice Faye. Certainly, Alice Faye’s characterisation suffers from the cuts and she wasn’t pleased about it. Indeed, she retired from movies until 1962 when she made State Fair.

Alice Faye

In 1987, Alice Faye told an interviewer, “When I stopped making pictures, it didn’t bother me because there were so many things I hadn’t done. I had never learned to run a house. I didn’t know how to cook. I didn’t know how to shop. So all these things filled all those gaps.”

Linda Darnell

As a mystery author, usually I unravel a movie plot early on. And while I identified the murderer during the early scenes of Fallen Angel the movie is well crafted and until the closing scenes all the principal characters remain in the frame.

Dana Andrews

Fallen Angel is also worth watching for Alice Faye reciting the following poetic lines:

We are born to tread the Earth as angels 

to seek out Heaven this side of the sky.

But they who race alone shall stumble,

in the dark and fall from grace.

Then love alone can make the fallen angel rise,

for only two together can enter paradise.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx