Deborah Kerr, 1921–2007

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The Innocents.

A great British actress died this week. She was also something of a movie star in the Fifties, rolling in the surf with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity (1953) and standing up to Yul Brynner in The King and I (1956). Prior to that she starred in two films for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) (where she played three roles) and Black Narcissus (1947). But for me she’ll always be the (literally) haunted Miss Giddens in The Innocents (1961), Jack Clayton’s superb adaptation of The Turn of the Screw. Still one of the most effective screen ghost stories; try and see it this Halloween.

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Freddie Francis, 1917–2007

Arnold Böcklin and The Isle of the Dead

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Another favourite painting for many years and Böcklin’s most well-known work.

Arnold Böcklin (1827–1901) produced several different versions of the painting. All versions depict an oarsman and a standing white-clad figure in a small boat crossing an expanse of dark water towards a rocky island. In the boat is an object usually taken to be a coffin. The white-clad figure is often taken to be Charon, and the water analogous to the Acheron. Böcklin himself provided neither public explanation as to the meaning of the painting nor the title, which was conferred upon it by the art dealer Fritz Gurlitt in 1883. The first version of the painting, which is currently at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, was created in 1880 on a request by Marie Berna, whose husband had recently died.

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