One of my very favorite films is Brief Encounter (1945), from Noel
Coward's play Still Life. Directed by the legendary filmmaker David
Lean, this film is about a chance meeting in a train station of a
married doctor (the dashing Trevor Howard) and a suburban
housewife (Celia Johnson), who begin a quietly passionate, yet
doomed love affair. These two brilliant stars are perfectly paired, as
Lean leads his viewers through the emotions of delight, tenderness
and ultimate pain, all to the haunting strains of Rachmaninoff's
second piano concerto. This film is achingly poignant, simple and
beautiful. I think it may just possibly be THE most romantic movie
ever made. It is now a luminous part of the wonderfully restored
At the library, I had the good fortune to stumble onto another film in
which these two stars are paired together, nearly 35 years later.
Staying On (HBO,1980) is from the award winning novel The
Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott. It's about the withered marital
relationship of a retired British Indian Army colonel and his wife,
who stay on in India after the British withdrew in 1947. It was
thrilling to see Howard and Johnson perform together again. An
exceptional and timeless performance, especially by Celia Johnson.
She was marvelous in this role, just two years before her death at
the age of 75.
And hey, did you know that Brief Encounter, the opera, just
premiered last month at Houston Grand Opera, starring Elizabeth
Futral and Nathan Gunn? The music is by Andre Previn and the
libretto by John Caird. I would have LOVED to have seen it!!
Futral and Gunn in Brief Encounter, photo by Felix Sanchez