film

Film: Mermaid Double Feature

Monday, June 06, 2011

Saturday night found me inspired and waxing poetic (with the help of T.S. Eliot) about mermaids and Sunday found me in the mood for a fun film or two. So, I'd like to continue my mermaid theme with this post about a couple great old mermaid films I had the pleasure of watching this weekend.

          My last post featured a picture from a 1948 film, Miranda, and being so smitten with the image, I figured I just had to watch the movie.

          Starring the lovely Glynis Johns as the mermaid, the film tells the classic story of a half fish, half lady, who longs to visit the wonders of dry land. Disguised as an invalid and with her tail hidden by beautiful gowns, Miranda the mermaid ventures into London under the care of Paul Martin, a physician that met Miranda while fishing. As you can imagine, a mermaids first trip to dry land is quite humorous. Miranda's wide-eyed nature and unearthly beauty has men simply tripping over themselves and in no time various comedic "romantic entanglements" ensue.


          This is a really cute film; It's short, sweet and overflowing with every fish pun you can think of. Miss Johns is simply lovely and some of the sets and costumes are divine.

               For a film of its age, I was quite impressed with the look of the mermaid costume and the underwater swimming shots that were used throughout the film. Miranda was actually less hokey than I had anticipated! While predictably predictable, the film was a fun treat and just the thing for a Sunday evening sans beau.





             The second film in my lady of the sea line up is Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, also from 1948, starring William Powell and Ann Blyth. Apparently this film was rushed to production after the success of Miranda which had been released in England earlier in the year.
            Mr. Peabody's mermaid is a different sort- she doesn't speak a word and she bites! This film is a bit more involved than Miranda: the story is deeper, it takes time to develop and there is some question to whether or not the mermaid even exists or if she is part of some mid-life crisis hallucination.

Mermaid in the garden pond
           As in Miranda, a beautiful mermaid is caught while fishing and the fisherman, Mr. Peabody, can't resist keeping her. Instead of disguising her, the mermaid is smuggled into the garden pond where Mr. Peabody can visit her whenever he wants. Mr. Peabody's mermaid, like any obsession, causes tension in his marriage and chaos ensues.
Ann Blyth and William Powell
           The underwater scenes in Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, which are gorgeous, were shot at the Weeki Wachee Spring in Florida and while the Weeki Wachee mermaids did stand in for Blyth during some scenes, Blyth also learned to swim in costume, remarking in an interview with Life that swimming with a tail was the most difficult part of the film.

          While I enjoyed Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, I was less charmed by this film than by Miranda, largely do to the silent mermaid and the psychological struggles of Mr. Peabody. While the story is more developed and Ann Blyth looks fantastic, I prefer Glynis Johns innocent yet intelligent mermaid- she's just so sweet and the story is just so simple and fun.



So if you're ever in a mermaid mood, both films are a real hoot and both are available to watch instantly through the miracle that is Netflix.

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