Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Dueling Divas Smackdown: Jean Brodie vs. Sandy: Teacher Gets Schooled!

This is my entry in the Dueling Divas Blogathon, hosted by Lara at Backlots. Click Here for more delicious diva behavior.
And now, let the battle begin. Ladies, try to keep it clean.

In this corner, Jean Brodie
Jean Brodie is a teacher at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Edinburg. Assembling a group of impressionable admirers, the Brodie Set, who she calls the creme de la creme of her students, she proceeds to influence them with her views on learning, life, love and global politics. Miss Brodie dallies with the married music teacher, but allows herself to be courted by the very ordinary, but very eligible music teacher. She encourages her girls to experience the beauties of life in the forms of art, nature and the flesh.

Strengths: Utterly charismatic, stunning in fashionable clothes, enthusiastic and a woman of elevated taste.
Weaknesses: Arrogance, pride, narcissistic and morally dangerous. Worst of all, a phony. She does not have the courage of her convictions.

In this corner, Sandy
Sandy is one of Miss Brodie's inner circle - and her confidant and spy. She is not the prettiest, but Miss Brodie praised her for her insight. She had no idea how right she was. 

Strengths:Clear-eyed, clear-thinking, exceedingly smart, morally straight
Weaknesses: Her youth, her sneakiness, her seeming coldness

The Brodie vs. Sandy duel has 2 outcomes for me, each dependent on my age at the time I viewed their story.

As a young, impressionable girl, I adored Miss Brodie. Her artistic flair, her liberal view of love and bravery seemed brave. I loved that she took on the headmistress, Miss Mackay, tweaking her nose at every turn. I viewed Sandy's "betrayal" as one borne of jealously - a peahen's envy of the peacock's brilliance. A bright and shiny object, Miss Brodie decries the ordinariness of Sandy and her ilk. Her sacking by the headmistress seemed another example of those without imagination crushing the artistic soul.

Now that I am older and wiser, I see the mortal danger of Miss Brodie. She is a fraud. She encourages her protege, Jenny, to have an affair, but she keeps the art instructor at arms length all the while cultivating a respectable relationship with a most ordinary man. She encourages poor Mary McGregor to  follow her brother and fight with Franco. This sends Mary to her death. All the while Miss Brodie stays put in the safety of her tenure.

It is the ordinary, unextraordinary Sandy who sees, step by step, the danger of this teacher. The lives and the futures of the Brodie girls were entrusted to Jean Brodie. Instead, she played out her foolish, selfish fantasies and used her girls as props. She cared not for their future in the real world. Mary's death was the last straw for Sandy. Via the very willing Mrs. Mackay, she put a stop to Jean Brodie's influence. 

Watch the great confrontation between these 2 heavyweights:

Maybe Sandy's motives were not so pure. Maybe she was jealous of the art teacher's unending devotion to Jean Brodie even though he bedded young Sandy (a crime in itself) and maybe she was hurt because Miss Brodie preferred the lovely Jenny. It could never be black and white between those two and Sandy could never forget the great joys of being part of the Brodie Set, but in the end she did the right thing. She was ready to face the world as a responsible, if much less glamorous, adult.* 

Therefore, the winner, ultimately, must be: Sandy

Jean Brodie ignored the cardinal rule of the fight: "Protect yourself at all times." She let the person of her undoing into her inner circle.

Maggie Smith won a well-deserved Oscar for her towering and compelling performance. However, Pamela Franklin as Sandy was her equal every step of the way. When compiling the names of those who were overlooked by Oscar, Pamela Franklin's name belongs on that list.

* in Muriel Spark's novel of the same name, Sandy eventually becomes a nun.


Richard Bellush said...

Great climactic scene in a great multi-layered movie -- one layer being the romantic appeal of fascism to the most surprising people.

I can't agree more about Pamela Franklin's spot-on presentation of Sandy, a character much more complex than she seems on the surface.

Sandy's alliance of convenience with Miss Mackay, who wants to fire Miss Brodie for all the wrong reasons, was hard-headed practical politics. She knows that Mackay, with her 19th century values, is "wrong" too, but ultimately she is less dangerously wrong than Brodie.

FlickChick said...

Hi Richard. I so love this film and the great performances. I agree about Sandy's use of Miss Mackay - she did what she had to do and used the tools at her disposal. Such a brilliant little girl.

Elizabeth Boyde said...

In one part of the movie, Sandy, eavesdropping on Miss Brodie teaching her class, says she will not learn to fight and kill and do all the things 'her times will demand of her', yet at the end she does eliminate a menace to society.

I've often thought that in just a few years, Sandy probably did do a great deal during WWII.

Perhaps in the French Resistance, as a spy? lol

(Unusual idea for a Dueling Divas post btw :) )

FlickChick said...

Yes, Elizabeth, Miss Brodie made many fatal errors concerning Sandy. She underestimated her and never really saw her for the person she was.

Anonymous said...

I liked the book a lot, but I've never seen the film adaptation - I had no idea that Maggie Smith was in it! I like your writeup and I tend to agree with your analysis, Miss Brodie is quite a bit darker than she initially seems.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Silentsplease. Dark is a good for for Miss Brodie - deceptively so. A great character.

Rick29 said...

Quite a pair of dueling divas you picked! It's funny that most people associate Maggie Smith with DOWNTON ABBEY now. For decades, MISS JEAN BRODIE was her pivotal performance (well, it still is--though she's quite fun on DOWNTON). I agree that Pamela Franklin's fine performance wasn't fully appreciated. She was also excellent opposite Bette Davis in THE NANNY.

Silver Screenings said...

Wonderful review! Very insightful. I have not seen this film, but I need to find it ASAP!

I can only imagine how terrific Maggie Smith is as this deceptive character. Excellent choice for the blogathon. :)

Leah Williams said...

I've always wanted to see this film (as a fan of Smith's), and your review reminds me why. How true that every diva needs to protect herself from her enemy's skills:) Leah

FlickChick said...

Hi Rick! This is one of m favorite movie battles of will and it fit perfectly with Lara's event.

FlickChick said...

Ruth - I love Maggie Smith's performance in this film (well, love her most everywhere), but she is unforgettable here.

FlickChick said...

Leah - yes - Miss Brodie made a big boo-boo by not seeing Sandy clearly. Thanks goodness Sandy had her wits about her.

Christian Esquevin said...

Great post FlickChick and very clever take on the Fuelling Diva theme. I never watched this movie when it came out, and of course viewed it from a male viewpoint. Still I took your youthful viewpoint and sympathized with Miss Jean. That probably comes from my chronic "teenage" rebellion view of the world I never seem to have outgrown.

Anonymous said...

Agree that reaction to characters is so often dependent on the age you watched a film. Maggie Smith is just wonderful, and I can't believe she wasn't nominated for an oscar for this performance. The final confrontation between Brodie and Sandy - a battle of wills - is, for me, the highlight, aided by the contrasting styles of the two actresses.


Lady, now I say I MUST watch this movie as soon as possible! I love Maggie Smith, and looking quickly I think Sandy looks a little like me (that hair!!!).
Very good and creative post, I loved how you presented them as prizefighters!
Thanks for the always kind comments!

The Lady Eve said...

My reactions to Miss Brodie and Sandy at different times in my life is exactly as yours. I was actually sort of taken aback, once I was older and saw Sandy's side of things, how enamored I'd been of arrogant/clueless Miss Brodie in my impressionable youth.

Pamela Franklin is wonderful as Sandy and, indeed, does more than hold her own in here scenes with the formidable Maggie Smith.

Great review, Marsha, you have once again nailed it.

Inge Gregusch said...

A fabulous review of a riveting, devastating film. Maggie Smith and Pamela Franklin tear up the screen.

The Metzinger Sisters said...

A great summary of a great battle. Pamela Franklin was indeed overlooked for the Oscar - and not just in this film. She was/is a superb actress. The fact that Spark kept the character's motives a secret adds depth to the story and makes it an intriguing puzzle. It's interesting how as you aged your viewpoints on the characters changed as well. I think Brodie had some fine notions as a teacher ( along with her warped ones ), but she didn't realize the power of influence she had over her "gaihrls"...which oddly enough is true of most teachers.

FlickChick said...

Hi Christian: Yes, I fear being young and foolish has a lot to do with your point of view However, Miss Brodie was adult and foolish - not a good combo.

FlickChick said...

Girlsdofilm - the powerhouse performances of these 2 is unforgettable. One would expect it from Dame Maggie, but Pamela is a revelation. So sad that she did not do more.

FlickChick said...

Le - you will love it. One of my all time favorites.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Lady Eve. It would be fun to think of more films that you viewed differently as a the years pass.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Inge. Tear it up they do!

FlickChick said...

Constance - thank you for stopping by. Teachers do have a captive audience don't they?

ClassicBecky said...

No wonder Sandy became a nun at the end of the book. I'm sure she had had enough of Miss Brodie's hypocritical sexual romps and the hurt and betrayal. I haven't seen this movie for years, since I was in my 20s, and I too would be interested in what I think of it now, in my maturity (that's a polite way of saying I'm an old broad).