Brian Aherne

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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Dean Thompson
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Brian Aherne

Unread post by Dean Thompson » Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:05 am

I've just finished Aherne's autobiography, A Proper Job (1969), which I picked up at a library sale for a quarter. It's really quite a good read: intelligent, self-effacing, and free of pretense. I've seen him only in the two silents he made for Anthony Asquith, Shooting Stars and Underground, and he's a handsome and sensitive presence in both.

In a recent review of Song of Songs, Bob Lipton mentioned that Aherne was "okay"; and though Aherne was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Juarez, he doesn't seem to have made that much of a critical impression at any point in his film career once he came over from the UK. My question for those of you who have seen his sound films is this: did he ever rise above the level of okay?

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Re: Brian Aherne

Unread post by boblipton » Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:52 am

In his American career he seems to have fulfilled the role of male lead for strong female stars -- Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Jeanette MacDonald... even his leading role in Juarez was scuppered from him because Muni had it in his contract that if a character was named in the title, it was his character.

But when Davis, Hepburn or MacDonald is the star, unless you're Claude Raines, Spencer Tracy ("It's a movie, not a lifeboat") or Cary Grant, you fade into the background. It's the nature the beast. Or rather the beastess.

You might look on these comments of mine as a knock. Nothing could be further from the truth. Think of those many supporting actors and actresses you've seen in hundreds of movies, old friends, like Charles Lane and William Demarest, who were my native guides into old movies, familiar, reliable, sturdy, and a sure sign I cold trust this strange creature looming before me. That with Dietrich around, I could notice Aherne enough to say he was "okay" is like saying you can see the moon when the sun is shining.

Life's too short to sit on our rears watching other people's work.
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R Michael Pyle
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Re: Brian Aherne

Unread post by R Michael Pyle » Wed Dec 20, 2017 12:25 pm

Though I prefer the silent version of "The Constant Nymph" (1928) with Ivor Novello, I think Aherne is quite good in the first sound re-make in 1933. I prefer him to Charles Boyer in the 1946 later version, a version I find grating, though the critics seem to love it best. Frankly, I think his version is far better and more enjoyable than the later one. I also think Aherne is wonderful in "A Night to Remember" with Loretta Young, and I enjoyed him in "Vigil in the Night" (1940), although the movie belongs almost single-handedly to Carole Lombard who gave perhaps her best serious role in a film, and I also enjoyed Aherne in "Smart Woman" with Constance Bennett. He's the best thing about "Merrily We Live", though the film is slightly innocuous. I think he was extremely good at playing to his leading ladies, though he knew that his part, though not ancillary, would be next-to and not in-front-of.

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Re: Brian Aherne

Unread post by irwin drobny » Fri Dec 22, 2017 11:43 am

Recently saw him on TCM in James Whale's The Great Carrick in which he was lively and amusing in the title role, opposite Olivia De Havillan, beautiful in her first role and great comic support from Edward Everett Horton, Melville Cooper, and yes Marie Wilson.

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Re: Brian Aherne

Unread post by bobfells » Sat Dec 23, 2017 9:52 am

Aherne wrote a touching book on George Sanders called A DREADFUL MAN. Sanders is at the center but it's much more: the British colony in Hollywood, during the Golden Age and after WWII when they were no longer young. Ronald Colman and Benita Hume letters to Aherne are published and as narrator Aherne knows he should take the back seat in this book. Try to find Aherne's turn in TWIGHT ZONE "The Trouble With Templeton" from Season One, Ep 9 I think.
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Re: Brian Aherne

Unread post by maliejandra » Sat Dec 23, 2017 10:04 am

Oooh, I didn't know he wrote a book so I'll have to add it to my list. I have always liked him although he is very mellow on the screen. He grows on you though. I remember noticing him the most when reading about Marlene Dietrich because her daughter remembered him so fondly (of Dietrich's many lovers).

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