“The Girl with Green Eyes,” (1964), a brisk 92 minute bittersweet romantic drama, plays itself out in Dublin, Ireland, and vicinity, where it was filmed, oddly enough in black and white. Considering that it makes rather a lot of its titular character, a girl with green eyes – which we cannot see. And that viewers are always conscious of the film’s setting in Ireland, a land that’s widely known to be green. The movie was a production of the British Woodfell Films, the makers of SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, TASTE OF HONEY, and TOM JONES, and was supported by the Irish Film Board. It’s a coming of age story, based on THE LONELY GIRL, a novel by prize- winning Irish author Edna O’Brien, who also wrote the screenplay. It won a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. It was directed – it was his first feature --by Desmond Davis, (THE CLASH OF THE TITANS), a protégé of acclaimed British director Tony Richardson, who gave us A TASTE, and THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER. And Richardson was yet to become the brother-in-law of one of its young stars, Lynn Redgrave, when he married her sister Vanessa. We meet, in 1960’s Dublin, Kate Brady, an awkward and naïve, young country girl, just coming off the farm. She’s played by waifish Rita Tushingham, that not quite pretty, green-eyed favorite of the 1960s, (A TASTE, THE GIRL WITH GREEN HAIR). Kate has just moved in with her best friend, the much livelier, funnier, more outgoing and sophisticated Baba Brennan, played by a young, fresh Lynn Redgrave (GEORGY GIRL). Together they meet Eugene Gaillard, a middle-aged, well-to-do, land-owning, sophisticated writer, played by Peter Finch (an Oscar and Golden Globe winner for NETWORK). However, Gaillard, who happens to be already married, with a child, although separated – by the Atlantic Ocean, as well as other issues-- is immediately attracted to shy Kate, and ignores the apparently more knowing Baba. And Kate is attracted right back to Gaillard. The two quickly become entangled in an intense love affair, which doesn’t play well with Kate’s rural family when they get word of it. But Kate does emerge older and wiser. Other well-known players inhabiting parts here include Julian Glover, T.P. McKenna, Marie Kean and David Kelly. In this picture, Davis’s work strongly resembles his mentor’s, perhaps in part because composer John Addison, who scored GIRL, also scored Richardson’s TASTE, and LONELINESS. It gives the viewer a very close, black and white look at the Dublin, and the Irish countryside, of the early 1960s. Tushingham was perhaps at the height of her popularity at this time: her piquant, though not pretty face seemed to fascinate filmmakers and to embody the ‘kitchen sink’ working class dramas so emblematic of the rebellious era. There’s no question but that the picture hangs on Tushingham’s appealing, deeply felt performance, though both Finch and Redgrave turn in strong performances as well. Worth seeing, though it should have been made in color.
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