by Peter Cates
starring Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross, etc.; directed by Stephen Daldry; the Weinstein Company, 2008, 124 minutes, DVD.
Based on the 1995 novel by Bernhard Schlink – which I have on my shelves but haven’t read, The Reader is a depiction of two people, Hanna and Michael, whose lives intersect at very crucial points during the 50 years, after World War II, in Germany. From the 1950s, when the two have an intense romance (there is an R rating here; thus a resulting advisory similar to that of Schindler’s List), to the ‘60s and ‘80s, when a very tragic legal situation results from the cowardice of one and the stubborn pride of the other, the story is a gripping one that is impossible to summarize in two paragraphs.
Kate Winslet as Hannah and David Kross and Ralph Fiennes as, respectively, the younger and older David, give exceptional performances. My copy of the DVD will bear repeated viewings and is very fairly labelled a masterpiece by a long time favorite critic of mine, the very colorful and delightfully opinionated Rex Reed.
Columbia CL 691, 12-inch LP, recorded 1955.
Jo Stafford (1917-2008) was one of the most accomplished singers in history, earning the admiration of Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins for her phrasing, breathing – she could sing 18 or more bars without exhaling, and all around musicality. I own many of her records and have derived hours of listening pleasure. She was also married to the phenomenally gifted arranger and composer Paul Weston (1913-1996), with whom she collaborated on most of her records, live concerts and TV and radio appearances.
The 1955 Happy Holiday featured the usual high quality vibrant singing and instrumentation of the Stafford/Weston team, with the voice of the couple’s then three-year-old son, Timothy, and the exquisite backup harmonies of the Starlighters. They provided a varied selection of the well known — Silent Night, Toyland, Let It Snow, O Little Town of Bethlehem, etc.; a musical recitation by Jo of ‘Twas the Night before Christmas with Timothy’s help; and, finally, the unfamiliar Winter Weather. This was not the usual boring Christmas platter but one of newly minted freshness.
It is available as a CD reissue on Amazon but watch out for Stafford’s 1968 Xmas collection, with the title adding an S on Holiday. Scroll on each entry for info on recording date. Finally the CD has several extra tracks!
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