Friday, 3 March 2017

Their Finest – Great Book Becomes Great Film


 
 
Their Finest poster
 
Clothes in Books is a massive fan of Lissa Evans, and also loves books about the WW2 Homefront. So her  book Their Finest Hour and a Half is a great favourite of mine – one of the best novels of this century, and certainly one of the most under-appreciated.  I love the idea that a film would make more people read the book, but as it happens, the film is fabulous too. I got the chance to see an advance screening, and talk to Lissa:

Lissa Evans
 
(I completely messed up my photo-taking at the event, so this pic is taken from her Twitter account)

Their Finest still
Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy
Their Finest 3


The film will come to UK cinemas from April 21st, and I hope will have the success it deserves. It has an amazing cast: Gemma Arterton is terrific, but Bill Nighy just about steals the show as the aging actor Ambrose.

Above are the poster and some stills from the film. Below is part of my 2015 blogpost on the book, with some pictures of wartime film-making I found at the Imperial War Museum. Note the reference to the forthcoming film...



Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans



published 2009, set in the early years of WW2



D 1080




[It's 1941. Arthur, a shy bachelor, is enjoying his visit to the set of a film being made about the Dunkirk evacuation.]


Nothing happened for a good hour. The tide began to creep in. Chopper the bull-terrier passed by, busily sniffing, and one of the young lady actresses stepped on a jelly-fish and screamed a great deal… Round about ten o’clock, a light wind began to pluck a the water and the young lady actresses were helped into a rowing-boat and taken across to a thirty-foot white-painted tub anchored a few yards off-shore. Both actresses were wearing trousers, which was just as well since they had to climb a fixed ladder and swing themselves over the gunwhales.


The director shouted something through cupped hands, and one of the young ladies positioned herself in the bows, a hand shading her eyes, while the other took the tiller. The director gave a ‘thumbs up’ sign and strolled away to speak to the cameraman. A few minutes later, a boy holding a bucket and brush waded out to the boat and started to daub the side with what looked like muddy water. The tide crept in still further.


D 1076A



commentary: This was the first book by Lissa Evans that I read, back in 2009, and I was knocked out by it. Their Finest Hour and a Half is very funny, and readable, and entertaining, but also a proper novel, literary and serious, with an excellent and carefully worked-out plot, and a great theme in the making of a wartime action adventure film that will also serve propaganda purposes. The book follows several characters: Catrin, a young writer, and Edith, who will work on the costumes. There’s Ambrose, a fading and egocentric actor whose every appearance is filled with achingly funny lines; and Arthur, above, a military adviser – fair enough, because he was at Dunkirk, but inexplicable because he has little to offer the film crew.

If you look below my recent homefront blogpost, you will see Lissa Evans coming into the comments with a list of other books about the era. She is a frequent visitor to the blog, and has become a friend via our online interactions. But that doesn’t stop me objectively recommending her as a wonderful and undervalued author: I don’t know why this book didn’t win every award going. I am very glad to say that it looks as though a film is going to be made of 1.5 hrs [© CiB]: it should be wonderful. Get ahead of the game by reading this, and all her other books….

The book is full of potentially illustratable outfits, but I decided to go with these pictures of film-making, from the Imperial War Museum. They show the making of a film called Channel Incident, definitely in the same area as the film in the book (and actually briefly namechecked: Channel Incident comes up as a possible title, but ‘already a film called this, last year’). I love Peggy Ashcroft’s trousers, and the continuity girl looks pretty good too - and looks like my idea of Catrin.

Used with kind permission of the IWM:
top one is © IWM (D 1080). It has this caption:
Anthony Asquith (centre) directs Peggy Ashcroft and Gordon Harker (left) in 'Channel Incident', a film about the evacuation of Dunkirk made by Denham and Pinewood Studios for the Ministry of Information in 1940. The stars are standing on board a motor yacht, named the 'Wanderer' in the film. The microphone boom can be seen over their heads and a large light is also visible to the right of the photograph. Just right of centre, actor Kenneth Griffith can be seen, sitting in a rowing boat.
Lower one is © IWM (D 1076A): ‘The stars are standing on board a motor yacht, named the 'Wanderer' in the film. The continuity girl, two other members of the production crew and the microphone boom are also in picture.’

20 comments:

  1. Isn't it wonderful when a much-loved books comes to film, Moira? It's an opportunity to experience the story all over again. And I do love the stills you share. It all looks great. So much the better, too, since the film is actually well-made and really reflects the story.

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    1. Indeed Margot - we are always a little nervous, in case the film-makers vision of the book is not ours. But in this case, no need for fears!

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  2. Not really a fan of behind the scenes movie making, but this one sounds very different. And high praise from you is enough for me. I'm adding this to my later month's reading. Will be looking for the movie, too. We usually get these UK indie productions later in the year, but imdb.com tells me it will open in limited release over here on April 7. Woo hoo! :^D

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    1. I think they are hoping the film might catch some American attention and it might be a winner. I hope you enjoy it! It is very well-researched, and the author has considerable experience behind the camera in modern times.

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  3. Moira, the WWII setting was enough to prick my ears about this book, not to mention your positive verdict — "funny, and readable, and entertaining..." which got me even more interested. And then there's the film that I will most certainly watch, as much for Bill Nighy, a wonderful actor.

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    1. I don't know how anyone could not like Bill Nighy, Prashant, he's a wonderful actor. And I'm sure you would enjoy either film or book!

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  4. I love Bill Nighy in everything I have seen him in, so definitely will be looking for this movie whenever it is available here. I would like to read the book too, but I am not happy that the title here is THEIR FINEST.

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    1. I know Tracy - I wish they had changed the title completely, I think that one just sounds weird, and tell you nothing about the film. But the combination of Bill N and WW2 Homefront should otherwise make it perfect for you.

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    2. I agree, the title of the film should either be the same as the book or something more descriptive. But I was talking about the title of the US edition (which was not clear in my comment). Lissa Evan's book in the US edition is THEIR FINEST. I have already ordered a copy and I am just hoping that the book hasn't been edited to use US English terms vs. UK English terms, which happens a lot.

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    3. Oh I didn't know that - they've obviously taken a fancy to that phrase, but I really don't think it works.

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    4. I don't either, at all. However, my copy has arrived. I have not decided whether to read this one or Crooked Heart first (sometime in April).

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    5. Either would be good, and they aren't in a series so no problems there.

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  5. It sounds excellent, and I look forward to reading the book. Hollywood behind the scenes has been covered fairly extensively, but the British equivalent hasn't had quite the same exposure (AND SO TO MURDER by Carter Dickson springs to mind, but not a lot else). Have you ever read SHEPPERTON BABYLON by Matthew Sweet? Fascinating factual book about the 'lost world' of British movie making.

    Gemma Arterton is someone that I have a lot of respect for. She is dazzlingly gorgeous, and could quite easily have carved out a career based on her looks alone, but she decided to take the harder route and establish herself as a respected actress. And she is an absolute knockout, too.

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    1. Oh I LOVED Shepperton Babylon - so much that I did 2 blog entries on it http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Shepperton%20Babylon

      I thought it was the perfect combo of proper research and wonderful gossip.

      And yes, I love Gemma Arterton, she's built up a great body of work already, and I hope will delight us for years.

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    2. Totally agree re Shepperton Babylon, which I read for research on Ambrose's background: 'proper research and wonderful gossip' sums it up perfectly. Do you listen to Matthew Sweet's 'Sound of Cinema' on R3, Saturday afternoons? Witty and v enjoyable, it's inextricably linked in my mind, with standing in the kitchen, chopping onions...

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    3. Such a great book. And no, haven't listened to this, but obviously must start doing so...

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  6. Any movie with Bill Nighy must be good, and I like the theme of this movie and book. Although I'm not likely to read the book, I will be quite glad to see the dvds when they arrive at my library or Netflix.

    I so much liked Nighy in that terrific serial political thriller, "State of Play," and in the wonderful film about the Gay Pride Movement and the Welsh miners in "Pride."

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    1. Bill Nighy can do no wrong in my view, he lights up any film he is in - and this role is perfect for him.

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  7. I'll keep an eye out for the film and see if it grabs me. I do like Bill Nighy whenever I see him on screen. Lucky you going to an advance screening!

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    1. I know, it was terrific fun, it was in a little screening cinema, just like in the movies. And the film is excellent, and would make ideal watching for the family. Bill Nighy is irresistible.

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