Thursday, December 3, 2009

Vintage Novels {Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day}

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (published 1938) is about a middle-aged governess sent by accident to work for the madcap Delysia LaFosse (don't you just love that name!) and the screwball-like day which ensues will forever changed Miss Pettigrew's life.
I'm so happy that the novel's been reissued after being neglected for so long. It really is one of the most delightful books I've ever read. Not only is it hilarious, but it also offers a genuine portrayal of single well-off (or at least pretending to be) women just before the war. The descriptions of the characters' wardrobe and process of putting on make-up is just heavenly. One can really picture Delysia's black and silver cocktail dress. It's also a terribly witty book, filled with important musings from the female perspective, for example: "The psychology of silk underclothes has not yet been fully considered".

Also in the novel are illustrations by Mary Thomson, which are just so cute and funny and really add to the frivolity of the novel. It's also a terribly naughty (but still cheeky) book, filled with cocaine, sex, drinking in the morning, adultery, a revolving door of boyfriends and lots of silk underclothes.

I was disappointed by last year's adaptation. I felt that it didn't retain the novel's hilarity and charm. Not only did they change the events of the story, but they also changed the characters in order to add drama to the movie, which is silly because the novel is meant to be a screwball comedy.
I also found the sets and costumes to be wonderful but not quite right. They are quite toned down in the movie. The clothes used are too much like real life outfits and not like to over the top, but still elegant, costumes that would have been seen in screwballs and are described in the book.

The book is also better than the film, because it tells us of Miss Pettigrew's thoughts and how her actions are the opposite of her thoughts. The book also shows the growth of the chracters' and how Miss Pettigrew has changed them, but I felt that the characters in the movie are rather flat until the end of the movie. However, I was a bit confused as to why three Americans were chosen as the leads.
Trivia: The film rights were sold to Universal just after publication and they were going to make a musical starring Billie Burke but the production was cancelled when Pearl Harbour happened.

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