One of Great Britain's most popular film stars during the 1930s and a major figure in the history of English popular culture. Beginning as a music hall entertainer, Fields had already achieved conside...
English singer/actress Dame Gracie Fields is set to be posthumously honoured with a statue in her home town of Rochdale in Greater Manchester. A life-sized sculpture of Fields will be erected on The Butts, near Smith Street, and will include eight blue plaques commemorating important points in her life to create a Gracie heritage trail.
Meanwhile, an existing memorial on Molesworth Street will be refurbished.
The Paris Underground star died in 1979.
You must be dying to know what happened to FBI Agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) after she successfully squashed an attempt to blow up the Miss United States Pageant. I know I was. She's become an overnight media sensation--and is none too happy about it. She's frustrated that her newfound fame is jeopardizing the undercover work that she loves and that she's been rejected by her boyfriend which quickly explains away Benjamin Bratt's character from the original. So Gracie goes right back into the frying pan when she reluctantly lets her boss (Ernie Hudson) talk her into being the new "face of the FBI." This time however Gracie takes the task of coifed spokeswoman a little too zealously turning into a Gucci-carrying Prada-wearing prima donna. But when Gracie's friend Cheryl (Heather Burns) the crowned Miss United States and pageant host Stan Fields (William Shatner) are kidnapped it forces Gracie to take action and finally realize who she really is: a snorting hard-ass FBI agent who just wants to hit someone. Welcome back Gracie!
Sandra Bullock is just too darn cute regardless of the highly contrived messes she finds herself in. Remember Two If By Sea and Forces of Nature? Yeah we try to forget them too but not because Sandy is in them. At least she tries to make the stinkers more palatable. And while Miss Congeniality 2 seems to be another oops! Bullock is perfect as Gracie Hart. Either klutzy and uncouth or perfectly manicured the actress shows off an uncanny knack for physical comedy and moments of poignancy. This time around Bullock also gets a sparring partner in the form of an even harder-ass FBI agent named Sam Fuller played by the always-good Regina King. The two actresses have a nice female buddy-movie rapport whether Sam is "reminding" Gracie as to why she became an FBI agent while the two lock each other in choke holds or watching them on stage at a drag club performing Tina Turner's "Proud Mary." Still after her tour-de-force performance as Ray Charles' tortured mistress in Ray King has proven she is good enough to move beyond the throwaway supporting parts. Other than these two however the rest of the cast falls flat. Miss Congeniality's Michael Caine and Candice Bergen are sorely missed.
There really is no need for a second Miss Congeniality. The first one was enough. Sweet and unexpectedly engaging it followed a tried-and-true fish-out-of-water formula sold by Sandra Bullock's hilarious performance. It also wrapped up neatly and concisely. But when the film grossed $106 million the greedy studio execs figured they just had to do a sequel because that's what they do. They probably lured producer-star Bullock and her longtime producing collaborator Marc Lawrence in telling then how tremendous they are and how they are going to make even MORE money the second time around. "Don't worry that people aren't clamoring for more Gracie Hart " they might have said. "Let's just make a sequel!" Well guess what? They were wrong. Again. Helmed by comedic director John Pasquin (The Santa Clause) Miss Congeniality 2 simply beats the original's charm humor and originality to death while straining to find a worthwhile plot--and audiences are going to know that. It feels slapped together a contrivance to let Bullock shine again. She does what she can but unfortunately she can't carry the film past its banality. You'd think these people would learn.
Rabbit-Proof Fence is not fiction. It is the true story of three Aborigine children--Molly and Daisy Craig and their cousin Gracie Fields--who in 1931 were taken forcibly from their mothers and their home in Jigalong in the north of Australia and moved to the Moore River Native Settlement over a thousand miles away. This travesty is carried out in the film on the orders of A.O. Neville Chief Protector of the Aborigines (played by Kenneth Branagh) who believes the best way to solve Australia's "coloured problem" is to breed the aboriginal blood out of mixed-race children. According to his pseudo-scientific rationale for racism the way to do that is to make sure so-called "half castes" don't marry full-blooded Aborigines (that would dilute the white blood you see). Neville is not alone in his sentiments. This popular racial philosophy meant that from 1905 to 1971 (no that's not a typo) it was government policy to remove children from their homes against their will. Molly Daisy and Gracie were three such children and Rabbit-Proof Fence is the story of their remarkable escape from the settlement and their adventures on the journey home to Jigalong--as told by Molly's daughter Doris Pilkington Garimara in a book released on Nov. 27 two days before the film opened in New York and Los Angeles.
As one might imagine the success of this film hinges on the abilities of its very young stars Molly (Everlyn Sampi) Daisy (Tianna Sansbury) and Gracie (Laura Monaghan). The three girls come off very well; they're believable in the roles and they truly make you feel the hardship of their journey. They're very mature especially Sampi who carries most of the scenes as the girls' leader helping them to get food find shelter and above all avoid being captured by the Aborigine tracker who follows in their wake Moodoo (David Gulpilil). They don't play the parts too sweetly or innocently which is quite an achievement especially since they still manage to create some pretty intense emotional impact. That being said however something is missing from Rabbit-Proof Fence. Despite the narrative's focus on children of mixed races nearly everything in this film is well black and white. Strong main characters are sacrificed in favor of the social issues the film wants to address so the girls serve as allegorical figures for the hopes of every mixed-race child and Branagh stands for every nasty white racist who ever walked on Australian soil. While there's nothing wrong with allegory per se and while there's no question who was right and who was wrong in the historical situation it doesn't necessarily make for a compelling or thought-provoking film.
Thanks to director Phillip Noyce (The Quiet American The Bone Collector) and director of photography Christopher Doyle (The Quiet American In the Mood for Love) you hardly notice while you're watching the movie that you're being pounded 'bout the head with moral pronouncements. This is one gorgeous-looking film. The fence that guides the girls home (ironically enough built by their white fathers who've moved on to build elsewhere) runs on for miles; heat shimmers over a vast empty desert that somehow still seems beautiful. Moments like these enhanced by a fascinating soundtrack from world music maestro Peter Gabriel make it easier to overlook the weaknesses of the story. But there's no question that the film's symbols serve as little more than that: The fence which could have been used to great effect as a metaphor instead serves merely as a symbol of the racial separation already depicted in the story. A soaring "spirit bird" that Molly watches wide-eyed with wonder is such an obvious symbol of freedom it's almost painful; there are no layers of meaning here. Everything is cut and dried which seems to be becoming a habit for Noyce whose The Quiet American was similarly lacking in subtlety.
When the Miss United States Pageant is threatened by the "Citizen " one of the
country's most infamous criminals the FBI decides to infiltrate the pageant with
an undercover agent as a contestant. Searching for the ideal candidate special
agent Eric Matthews (Benjamin Bratt) recruits fellow agent Gracie Hart (Bullock)
who might look good in a bathing suit but is decidedly anything but ladylike.
With only 48 hours to prepare pageant co-hosts Kathy Morningside (Candice Bergen)
and Stan Fields (William Shatner) bring in beauty consultant Victor Melling (Michael
Caine) to transform this "Dirty Harriet" into a credible beauty queen so she can
nab the killer.
No stranger to ugly duckling fables (see "Love Potion #9") the always
winning Bullock (who also produced the film) makes a believable
transformation and works double-time to fill the light story with smirky
moments. "Law & Order's" Bratt turns up the testosterone a notch for his FBI
boy's club role
but comes across as a little too brutish and seems an unlikely love interest
for Bullock. Academy Award winner Caine enjoys himself and has the best
lines of the bunch as the aging fashion fruitcake advisor. Shatner and
Bergen are amusing but underused as the Martha Stewart/Bert Parks-like
Phoning in this Pygmalian update with by-the-numbers storytelling and uninspired
direction Donald Petrie ("Grumpy Old Men " "Mystic Pizza") fails to mine the
comic gold here instead opting for easy laughs and predictable motions with such
an obvious target. The formulaic screenplay (credited to Marc "Forces of Nature"
Lawrence Katie "Mary & Rhoda" Ford and Caryn "The Nanny" Lucas) has some inspired
moments like Gracie's water glass act and her emergency Starbucks run but the
bulk of the writing and set pieces need serious bathing suit padding.
Reunited with "Matrimony" co-star Monty Woolley for "Molly and Me"
Created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Debut as music hall entertainer
Last film, "Paris Underground"
First starring role in a Hollywood film, "Holy Matrimony"
Appeared in a cameo role as herself (along with many other stars) in the fund-raising revue film, "Stage Door Canteen"
First film, "Sally in Our Alley"
One of Great Britain's most popular film stars during the 1930s and a major figure in the history of English popular culture. Beginning as a music hall entertainer, Fields had already achieved considerable popularity when she entered films in 1931. With her boundless optimism, hearty Lancashire humor and inimitable singing voice, Fields practically became a national heroine as her proletariat "Miss Fix-it" persona kept an entire nation cheerful through the worst days of the Depression. Her first film, "Sally in Our Alley" (1931), and particularly "Sing as We Go" (1934), which would later become the title of her autobiography, are her best-known films, but such other films as "Looking on the Bright Side" (1932), "The Show Goes On" (1937) and "Shipyard Sally" (1939) have more than their fair share of delightful and amusing moments.<p> Fields moved to Hollywood in the middle of WWII and made several films for Twentieth Century-Fox. More matronly than before, she was also somewhat prettified by the Hollywood system, which lightened her hair and glamorized her photography. Although some critics preferred her more plain-Jane days, Fields' first US film in particular, "Holy Matrimony" (1943), basked in the warmth which had made her best British efforts so special. She continued performing the many rousing songs associated with her career for some years after WWII, and was created a Dame Commander of the British Empire shortly before her death.