Friday, 23 March 2012

Up to the Screen – Mr. Skeffington

This new series will feature books which became films. I'd like to read all those old bestsellers which at some point of their "career" became sparkling pictures on the big silver screen.. And maybe one or two of you like also to know a bit more about the persons who delieverd the stories which became classics - or maybe "just" movies ..  

I am going to start with a book which became not only one of my favourite books this year but also one of my favourite films ever – and which perfectly fits into the Mirror, Mirror series at this blog: 

MR. SKEFFINGTON (1939/40) by Elizabeth von Arnim.

In a nut-shell: 

Lady Frances “Fanny” Skeffington is going to be 50 years old in a few days. After a heavy illness she lost all her beauty which she once was so famous for. But what’s even worse: She starts to see her ex-husband Hiob Skeffington everywhere. In the few days until her birthday she will meet some of her old admirers again – but time changed many things not solely her beauty.. 

 The author - also just in a nut-shell

Elizabeth von Arnim was born as Mary Annette Beauchamp August 31, 1866. 

In 1891 she married Henning August von Arnim-Schlagenthin which made her a  German citizen - because her husband was German. They lived for some time in Berlin, Germany - and later moved with their children to a manor in Pomerania (which would by now be an area in East Germany/ West Poland). 

Her first novel was published anonymous in 1898. Later she changed her nom de plume into Elizabeth - and she also liked to be called by that name privately. 1908 the family had financial troubles - and private one, too: Elizabeth divorced her husband and moved with her five children to London. 

~ H. G. Wells ~
She and author H.G. Wells (You might know one or two films based on one of his books: - THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) or THE TIME MACHINE (1960) or maybe WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005) .. - he will be featured in this series too - that's for sure!) became lovers for some years in which she for some times lived with her cousin - author Katharine Mansfield - until she left H.G. Wells in 1913 for Frank Russell - a British politician. 

When WWI broke out Elizabeth changed her citizenship back into a British one. She and Frank Russell married in 1916 - the same year (in which also died one of her daughters..) she run away from her husband which caused a scandal in London's high society - though she came back to him in 1917 and tried to save their marriage - not with much success though they stayed married until Frank Russell died in 1931. 1939 Elizabeth emigrated to the United States. She died February 9, 1945 in Charleston, South Carolina - her ashes were brought back to England in the autumn of that year.

Elizabeth von Arnim is one of my favourite authors - which is based mainly in her very ironical style..

Wanna see more of Elizabeth von Arnim's works?

Besides MR. SKEFFINGTON which was brought to the big screen in 1945 with Bette Davis and Claude Rains in the leading parts - there is only one other of her novels adapted for film - but that two times: THE ENCHANTED APRIL (1922). In 1935 with Ann Harding and my beloved Frank Morgan (and I really would love to see this film some day.. )

~ isn't he adorable??  She is too - yes.. but he IS Frank Morgan!! ~

and in 1992 with another actor I love: Alfred Molina. Besides him Joan Plowright,  Jim Broadbent and Miranda Richardson were also part of the cast - another one I am yet to see.. - That cast really sounds amazing!  

Besides those films there was a Television play in 1958 based on THE ENCHANTED APRIL.

About the book MR. SKEFFINGTON:

Unlike the film the book is set just on these few days until Fanny’s birthday - and in London, England. The famous end scene is pretty much the same like in the film – and though you know what will happen: It’s amazingly exciting! 

The tone of the book is - as almost always when it comes to Elizabeth von Arnim's books - quite ironical. And I just love that!

~ Any questions left WHY I love this film? ~

Another thing which is in my opinion a bit different from the film: Fanny is a much sweeter and loveable person in the novel – which does not mean that Bette Davis didn’t do a good job in the film – she certainly did. As I said before it's one of my favourite films..

The German title of the book is DIE SIEBEN SPIEGEL DER LADY FRANCES (= The seven mirrors of Lady Frances) – and I had the lucky opportunity to read this book in a 1958 print – and this one issue was even never read before: I actually had to cut some of the pages! That was a bit sad - but somehow pretty marvellous, too. 

~ just a little side note: Fanny Skeffington's birthday is March 12 .. ~

I really can relate to Fanny in the book - and I guess aging and loosing your atractivity was always a problem the female part of the world population had to deal with.. Nevertheless this book left me very positive - and I think I might re-read it some day..

I certainly both recommend the book and the film - no matter how old and/or (un-)attractive you might be..




  1. That was a great post Irene! Loved learning all those facts and backstory behind Mr. Skeffington. Learning about the author Elizabeth and finding out she also wrote Enchanted April. Just very cool to learn all that and so much more. This is a series I will be looking forward to following.

  2. You know I adore Bette Davis, so it will be no surprise to you that I love MR. SKEFFINGTON. It's a 5-star film for me.

    But I had no idea it was based on a novel. See, you have enlightened me.

    Don't you just love the end of the movie. The tears are flowing for me. Very touching.

    Thanks for an informative post.

    Blessings on your weekend,

  3. Thank you, Monty for this very kind comment.

    Yes, Patti I am aware of your love for Bette Davis and this film. Have a nice weekend.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this post.. I may pick up a copy of, MR. SKEFFINGTON. I'm in the mood to read good book.

  5. Thank you very, very much, Dawn - I hope you're going to enjoy the book!

  6. What a great idea for a blog series! I'm looking forward to reading more. I've always enjoyed Skeffington but I've never given a thought about its origins. Now you've got me thinking about all sorts of movies! Bring it on!

  7. Aww.. Thank you, Martin! Great that you like it!! Thank you very much for leaving such a nice comment!

  8. I got the book, now I just need to find time to read it :-)

  9. Hej, Sari! Hope you'll like it as much as I do - if you might get the time to read it at one lovely day.. ;")


I really appreciate your comments - I'll read them all and if I can think of an answer I'll post it. :")