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Vanity Fair is such a complex story with so many relationship issues that 90 minutes could never do it justice. This movie tried to cover it all and missed everyhting. Also the first attempts at colour now look dreadful.
This is a film that is only remembered for its contribution to colour cinematography. Without that link it would have long since have disappeared into obscurity. The script is pedestrian and the plot is plodding. The actors try to breathe some life into this film, but fall horribly short. Becky Sharp is fully dominated by colour with the palette taking all of the attention and focus, not just of the viewer, but also of the filmmakers, negating all other substance of the film.
Puts the B back in subtle.
Stale and plodding adaptation of Thackeray's "Vanity Fair" does not fare well in spite of a strong cast (Nigel Bruce comes off best as - well, Nigel Bruce) . The script is a little too florid and overwrought, and one gets the feeling it struck audiences as too old-fashioned even in 1935, as it spins yet another seemingly cautionary tale of a scheming adventuress (Hopkins, playing to the back rows) who weathers several come-uppances in the Scarlett O' Hara vein. Oh, the scandalous behavior of that hussy! Groan. Of course, the film is really only known nowadays as a technical curiosity, being the first to be shot in 3 color technicolor. But sadly the color serves only to highlight the fancy costumes and interiors and underscores the enormous demands the Technicolor process makes on sufficient lighting - there are almost no outdoor scenes at all.
1935 becky sharp feels just like a faithful archetypical representation of one piece of classic literature. the naturalistic vibrancy of miriam hopkins is un-canny, and she makes me wonder whether method acting has any influence over actors of 1930s tinsell hollywood where theatrically histronic acting style is what most actors apply. how could miriam be so fluent and natural even in a story with 19th century britain as background.
i believe everyone knows the sketchy lines of the story of vanity fair, the protagonist becky sharp is the social climber whose grits of life are admirable even she does have some despicable moments as she would do anything for survival. i love the beginning when becky throws the book at her spinster chaperon, and the movie ends with becky tossing the book toward her hypocritie relative. she feigns weeping to deceive her beau's straight-laced auntie and eavasdrops complacently outside the door with a cookie chewing in her mouth mischievously.(marvellous!) she does it so smoothly that you don't feel it's acting....really i cannot picture anyone who possesses enough chearful light-heartedness and snickering cynicism simultaneously to do justice of a character like becky sharp as miriam hopkins does. when actresses are bright and light-hearted, they tend to whitewash and lighten the picture without enough sarcasm, for example: audrey hepburn or shirley maclaine, or the picture turns out to be screwball comedy with carole lombard or katherine hepburn....or when they're great deliverer of mockery and sarcasm, there seems to be too much hard-boiled bitterness in them then the picture ends up something like noir comedy, for example: bette davis, joan crawford and lots of 40s noir icons like jane greer....my point is, only miriam hopkins could pull off these two contrary qualities and let this dichotomy co-exist harmoniously. only miriam hopkins could! i suppose that makes her unique! she makes you feel she IS becky sharp when you finish watching this movie, and you cannot picture anyone else in the same shoes.
(my minor complaint is..reese witherspoon's adaption of vanity fair is the worst adaption i've ever seen even she's no bad actress...but it feels like some american girl fakes to be a character in 19th century britain and tries to turn this character into a sultry vamp like american film noir...it doesn't feel like comedy and far far far from noir)
as for the technical level, what lessens the picture a little would be its over-saturation of colors, yes, i realize it's after all a vanity fair, and it's supposed to be "colorful" and glamourous, but to some point, you feel the nuance on the palette has been blurred into a slight mess. the backset stereo does sound jarringly coarse in some parts of the movie. i suppose, it's 1930s, there're still lots of technical issues to work on in a time when audience found color picture still a daring deed like today's 3D.
big budget high drama!
oh dear. it was the first feature length film to be shot in three strip technicolor.. as a film, it's not well regarded, but there are some good reasons to see it: 1) it reminds you that no era was ever immune to producing crap. 2) it's a terrific example of how a bad actress in the lead can utterly destroy a film. 3) the costumes are.. bright.
I really didn't think this movie was as bad as everyone says it is. Yes, the plot is a little strange because it's such a highly condensed adaptation but Miriam Hopkins is great as Becky and I generally enjoyed it. And the color - oh the color. A restored print is the only way to see it.
Miriam Hopkins is beyond naughty in this adaptation of Vanity Fair. The writing is tight and very funny, and Rouben Mamoulian's direction is beyond compare. This is the first three-strip technicolor feature film released in the United States, and Mamoulian freely explored the sumptuous colours. He did not spare the performances and story in order to give our eyes a treat, however, and this film is a gem from beginning to end.
Mamoulian + Hopkins should be a homerun. This is more like a ground rule double where some stupid fan reaches out and grabs a ball that's in play.