This piece originally appears as a sidebar with my article “Scotland on the Silver Screen” in the May 2014 issue of Scottish Memories.
Here, I highlight three films from three eras that feature courageous women as central characters.
The Pride of the Clan (1917)
When was the last time you sat down and watched a complete silent film? Maybe it was 2012’s The Artist or an original silent film. Maybe the idea of watching a movie with no sound has you running for the door! Mary Pickford adds zest to this 1917 movie as Marget MacTavish, a young Scottish woman who is forced to assume leadership of the clan after her father is killed in a shipwreck. Expert direction and groundbreaking cinematography combine to make this film ten years ahead of its time and certainly worth the 88 minutes it will cost to watch it. If you like, put on some piano or classical music in the background and enjoy a piece of cinema history. Or, try watching it with a friend and compare the cinema of yesteryear to the stuff they put out today!
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)
Considered by the Modern Library as one of the top 100 English-language novels of the 20th century, Muriel Spark’s book brought her international fame. It tells the story of a bold, headstrong young teacher in a private school in 1930s Edinburgh. The novel became a stage play with a successful run in London and New York. The movie adaption features Maggie Smith in the title role, a performance that earned her an Academy Award. In one pivotal scene, Brodie lets loose on her scheming, prejudiced headmistress: “If scandal is to your taste, Ms. Mackay, I shall give you a feast! I am a teacher, first, last, always. Do you imagine that for one instant I will let that be taken from me without a fight?”
A mother and daughter story at heart, Disney/Pixar’s Brave is a feast for the eyes, featuring state-of-the-art digital animation. The filmmakers did their homework, taking in the Braemar Gathering and visiting Scottish landmarks such as Dunnottar Castle and the Callanish Standing Stones. Set in medieval Scotland, Brave tells the story of a willful Scottish princess who upsets the balance of forces in her father’s kingdom and has to find a way to make things right. The film boasts a largely Scottish voice cast, including Kelly MacDonald, Billy Connolly, Robbie Coltrane, and Kevin McKidd. Scottish composer Patrick Doyle produced the film’s score, and successful Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis recorded original songs for the project. VisitScotland partnered with Disney to promote Scottish tourism with the film, which went on to win Best Animated Film at the Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTA Awards. See it with the kids and celebrate the themes of family and forgiveness.