The first edition of Complete Idiot's Guide to Bridge by H. Anthony Medley was the fastest selling beginning bridge book, going through more than 10 printings. This updated Second Edition includes some modern advanced bidding systems and conventions, like Two over One, a system used by many modern tournament players, Roman Key Card Blackwood, New Minor Forcing, Reverse Drury, Forcing No Trump, and others. Also included is a detailed Guide to Bids and Responses, along with the most detailed, 12-page Glossary ever published, as well as examples to make learning the game even easier. Click book to order.  

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (9/10)

by Tony Medley

This dual-Cinderella story is, very simply, movie-making at its zenith. A story about how goodness can triumph in a hard world, in 1939 London, Miss Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is an unsuccessful governess who continues to get dismissed from her positions because of her strict feeling of right and wrong. After her last dismissal, despite her strict opinion of right and wrong, she realizes that she must seize the day, so she purloins a card of a client who wants a social secretary off the desk of her employment agent. With trepidation, she goes to a flat where she meets Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams; and Adams is, indeed, delicious), a fledgling American actress who is faced with an immediate serious problem; a man in her bed with one of her boy friends en route back to the flat, which happens to belong to him. Thus starts a movie so charming that the way it is made is even better than the story. But, don’t get me wrong, the story is a rewarding fairy tale.

Brilliantly directed by Bharat Nalluri, with a screenplay credited to David Magee and Simon Beaufoy, it is from a 1938 novel by Winifred Watson. Watson told her son that she wrote it in six weeks, that she would go over dialogue in her mind while she was washing dishes, and then write after finishing the dishes.

After she enters Delysia’s flat, Miss Pettigrew is immediately aswim in a social swirl apparently beyond her ken as Delysia is involved with not two, but three men; devoted but destitute pianist Michael (Lee Pace), who loves and adores her, intimidating nightclub owner Nick (Mark Strong), who manipulates her, and the young producer casting his first show, Phil (Tom Payne), whom she is trying to manipulate in order to get the part.

Thrown into the mix is the fact that Miss Pettigrew herself is shyly attracted to the Joe (Ciarán Hinds), a successful designer who is tenuously engaged to haughty fashion maven Edythe (Shirley Henderson) – the one person who senses that the new “social secretary” may be out of her element, and schemes to undermine her.

One of the many things I liked about the film is that the least person in the room generally becomes the most important. McDormand says, “The one major script change I made was to get away from the idea that Miss Pettigrew’s rhythm was one of reticence and shyness, and that she was incapable of finishing a sentence. My change was that she complete every sentence; Miss Pettigrew knows exactly what she thinks and what she wants to say – it’s that people just don’t hear her finish her sentence, because they don’t realize she’s there.” This is a moral that can teach an important lesson to lots of people who don’t listen today.

It’s a treat to see two wonderful actresses like McDormand and Adams play off one another. I don’t know who is the star here and who is the supporting actress, but both should get Oscar® nominations. When Adams is onscreen, I can’t imagine anyone giving a better performance, a spot on barely-disguised imitation of Marilyn Monroe. Whenever she is onscreen, she sparkles. She has such a wide range of emotions to portray, and she carries them off with aplomb, never forgetting the comedic roots of the film.

As always, McDormand is perfectly low-key, conveying her convictions but discomfiture in her unfamiliar role of social secretary. The rest of the cast is equally adept in portraying the world of high-society London just before the outbreak of World War II. In fact, producer Stephen Garrett admits, “There could have been no other Miss Pettigrew. It was inconceivable that anyone else could have played the role. Had we lost her for any reason, the project would have collapsed.”

What adds immeasurably to the filmmaking is the innovative cinematography of John de Borman. I loved looking at the gorgeous Adams, but what really stole the film for me were the camera angles and the way the camera and the sets moved. Pay attention to this cinematography and it will make an enjoyable movie even better.

March 8, 2008