3.1.20 References to books, films, TV and Hollywood

Were the girls keen on films?

[jp] Absolutely. All the Saints mentioned by name had a connection with films. There were film magazines in Pauline's bedrooms (both), in Juliet's bedroom, in Juliet's room in the sanatorium and the pictures of the Saints used at the Ilam shrine came from film magazines.

In real life, the girls didn't burn records on their last night together at Ilam, but all their film books. See 7.4.3.

Who was the recording artist Steve admired?

[jp] Doris Day.

Did James Mason ever make a religious picture?

[MDB,jp] Pauline wished James Mason would make a religious picture because "He'd be perfect as Jesus!" But was he ever in one?

Well, James Mason was in two 'religious pictures'--but not until late in his career:

"Jesus of Nazareth" (1977, TV) [Joseph of Arimathea]

"Anno Domini" (1985, TV miniseries) [Tiberius].

He never did play Jesus, though he was a Roman in a couple of late 50s historical epics.

In real life, James Mason was actually the girls' principal Saint and the object of most of their fantasies and much of their writing.

Who was Biggles? [jp,u,hb,csh,hu,das,e,cc]

'Biggles' was the fictional British flying ace, Major James Bigglesworth, DSO (his rank in "Biggles Goes to War"). He was featured in a prolific series of books written by Captain W.E. Johns (William Earl Johns). Peter Berred Ellis wrote a biography of Johns, "By Jove, Biggles" published in 1981. The "Biggles" books had names like "Biggles of the Camel Squadron," "Biggles Goes South" etc. We actually see the girls reading "Biggles of the Camel Squadron" and "Biggles of 266" in "Heavenly Creatures."

Biggles joined the Royal Flying Corps, or R.F.C. (later the Royal Air Force, R.A.F.) at the age of 17 in 1916. The adventures spanned both world wars and on into the Cold War, and Biggles flew everything from Grumman Goslings and Catalinas to SE 2's and the latest experimental aircraft.

The Biggles books were immensely popular among schoolboys in Britain and throughout the more British parts of the Commonwealth. In fact, Biggles was virtually a British cultural icon, representing all things decent, upstanding, and Imperial, and Biggles is used in "Heavenly Creatures" as yet another clue to the close cultural ties between England and Christchurch. Biggles' faithful sidekick was Algy, the Right Honorable Algernon Lacy, and red-haired Ginger was the 'kid' who tagged along and completed the trio in their ripping tales of adventure and danger. The lads' nemesis was the evil Erich von Stahlhein, who they were eventually forced to liberate from Sakhalin after the Soviet expansion in the 50s.

According to "The Maniac's Guide to the Biggles Books" by Rowland Smith (1993), there were no Biggles stories set in New Zealand, but several were set in other parts of Australasia. At least 21 titles were exported to New Zealand over the years and the famous Australian 'Biggles' radio series was broadcast in New Zealand. I was told of a copy of "Biggles in Australia" printed in 1955. So, Biggles is culturally correct, not an anachronism, and may well have been encountered by the girls.

Biggles is probably also a little inside joke from Jackson, a known "Monty Python's Flying Circus" devotee. One famous and popular episode of that British TV series was a spoof of 'The Adventures of Biggles.' Biggles, as played by the late Graham Chapman (we miss ya, Graham) was adamant--rabid, even--about not tolerating 'pooftas' since there was no place for 'nancy-boys' in the R.A.F. Algy was played very gung-ho, cheery and straight down the line by Michael Palin, while Ginger was played by Terry Gilliam as a mincing, flaming drag queen dressed in pink. The comic crescendo arrives when Biggles makes his belated discovery, after many adventurous years together, of Algy's sexual orientation:

BIGGLES- Algy, I have to see you.
ALGY- Right ho. (he enters) What ho everyone.
BIGGLES- Are you gay?
ALGY- I should bally well say, old fruit.

...at which point Biggles shoots Algy dead.

Python logic at its most sublime, and a closed circle back to Biggles being an oblique reference to homosexuality in "Heavenly Creatures" (see

I don't know if Peter Jackson is a Jethro Tull fan or not-- he is approximately the right vintage to be--but Ian Anderson and the band also made a prominent pop-culture reference to Biggles as a redoubtable British cultural icon in what is perhaps their best-known 'concept' album from the mid-70s, about adolescence, growing up, school, and cultural identity: "Thick as a Brick."

So where the hell was Biggles When you needed him last Saturday? And where were all the sportsmen Who always pull you through? They're all resting down in Cornwall, Writing up their memoirs For a paperback edition Of the Boy Scout Manual. (...) And your wise men don't know how it feels To be thick As a brick.

Where was the reference to Busby Berkeley musicals?

[jp] What???

Oh, that's an easy one. The overhead shot of the schoolgirls lying on the pavement outside, doing synchronized leg-lifts. They were arranged very neatly in a radial star pattern. A star with six-fold symmetry, not that it matters. Or does it? See 3.1.14.

What movie starring Mario Lanza was seen by the girls?

[jp] "The Great Caruso" (1951). Note that the girls saw the movie two years after its North American release. Despite the delay, it looked as if the film was on its first run in Christchurch. Jackson is using pop culture as a clock, and is saying it took a while for things to get to Christchurch.

What was the poster for the next film in the lobby?

[jp] "Jamaica Run." The girls ran right past it.

Where were the girls going to run away to and why?

[jp] Jackson has Juliet come up with the germ of the idea in the second "bathtub" scene: "It's soooo obvious!" They would run off the Hollywood. They would become film stars. According to Juliet to her mother and Mr Perry: "They're desperately keen to sign us up!" Desperate was probably the right word, it's just the rest that was all mixed up.

Who was Juliet trying mimic in her 'bathroom photos?'

[jp] When Henry Hulme (and we) eavesdropped on the girls' photo session in the bathroom, Juliet said she was going to arrange her hair and show a bit more cleavage. Then she would look just like Veronica Lake.

Who was Veronica Lake?

[jp] She was a diminutive film star with an hourglass figure, very popular in the forties and especially as a 'film noir' leading lady. Some of her best work was opposite Alan Ladd. Veronica Lake had a very sexy voice, an extremely dangerous and irresistable attitude in most of her films and a trademark hairstyle--she wore her blonde hair brushed to a sheen, parted on the side and swept down and across her face, hiding one of her eyes. Sometimes this was referred to as a "peek-a-boo" hair style but she made it her own.

Ms Lake had a rather tragic life. She died not long ago.

What movie starring Orson Welles was seen by the girls?

[jp] "The Third Man," commissioned by Alexander Korda, and directed by Carol Reed (winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, 1949) from the story and screenplay by Graham Greene. The film is a moody, dark classic and a milestone in British cinema (the first British film to be shot predominantly on foreign location) [and also my favorite film. jp]. It is set in divided, post-war Vienna and tells the story of a gullible writer of pulp fiction (Joseph Cotten [Holly Martins]) who tries to solve a mystery surrounding the death of his shady friend (Orson Welles [Harry Lime]). Martins falls in love with Harry's girlfriend (Alida Valli [Anna]--"Holly. What a silly name." And what an incredible, world-weary performance.) and crosses paths with a sharp, jaded and cynical military policeman (Trevor Howard [Col. Calloway]).

"The Third Man" is full of oft-quoted dialog, famous scenes and plot twists, wonderful cinematography and famous shots, and it has an unforgettable soundtrack, written and performed by one artist, Anton Karas, on a zither.

Note that "The Third Man" also made a belated debut in Christchurch. Jackson is, again, using popular culture as a clock to tell the audience that this community was isolated from the mainstream.

What was unusual about the clips from "The Third Man?"

[jp] The audience for "Heavenly Creatures" is also treated to clips from "The Third Man" as we join Pauline and Juliet in the cinema. But, in the famous clips of the chase scene in the Vienna sewers, all shots of Harry Lime have been replaced by "Heavenly Creatures'" own 'most hideous man alive'... played by E. Jean Guerin.

What references were made to "The Third Man?"

[jp] Jackson has real fun with "The Third Man" in "Heavenly Creatures." The soundtrack after the girls leave the cinema mimics Anton Karas' famous zither music. Harry Lime (still in black & white, of course) appears as startling visions in several recreations of famous shots in "The Third Man," particularly the sublime 'first view of Harry by the light of a window' shot in which Orson Welles smiles slyly under the brim of his hat, only to disappear into the night, and Harry's famous "Boo!" shot, of course. Harry Lime appears in several places at once in "Heavenly Creatures," a reference to Harry's ability to pop into and out of a scene almost at will in "The Third Man." And the unforgetable projected images of Harry Lime running in nightime Vienna are parodied mercilessly by 'the most hideous man alive' when the girls duck into the Ilam front hallway. Peter Jackson obviously loves "The Third Man" as much as I do...

Why did Jackson use "The Third Man?"

[jp] In real life, Pauline never referred to Orson Welles in her diary quotations about "It," but to "Harry Lime," his character name in "The Third Man." On that night they went to see "Trent's Last Case" (1954- British Lion Films). However, Welles makeup in that film makes him unrecogniseable. Peter decided to use "The Third Man" because that was the film where Welles first appeared without any makeup and therefore would be more recogniseable.

Jackson's original idea was to digitally "cut" Orson out of the footage of "The Third Man" and "paste" him onto "Heavenly Creatures". That, however caused some technical limitations (they would be resticted to moves Orson did in the original film). He decided on using a lookalike instead. See 7.4.3 for diary quotes and 4.4 for more about this intriguing aspect of "Heavenly Creatures". And you'll find Jean Guerin's firsthand account of how he landed the role in the Best of the HC Mailing List section.

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