The Siren just got through reading about the hard times ahead for critics. She also read this piece at Jim Emerson's place and that pointed her to this piece, about how critics are irrelevant in the first place but super-duper-extra-tall-grande irrelevant if they don't like The Dark Knight (got that, Keith)? The Siren must be worse than irrelevant because she never saw the blasted thing and, let's face it, The Dark Knight is not a film she is likely to clutch to her bosom.
However, two can play at this game, damn it. In tune with Jim's first commenter, the Siren plans to start an "Ignore Max Ophuls at Your Own Peril" campaign right after, well, right after she gets done with some other stuff.
However, let it not be said that the Siren refuses all opportunities to expand her viewing horizons. The Siren watched Profondo Rosso some time back. Yes, she did. And she kind of liked it. She didn't like it in the way that might, for example, prompt her to watch it again--ever--but you could say she respected it. So, pending the last of the Constance Bennett thoughts, from another era and continent altogether, the Siren is bringing Profondo Rosso star David Hemmings onstage to cheer us up as we contemplate a world where film critics must love Batman, or suffer the consequences. This one is for Glenn Kenny, who wrote a splendid piece that touched on an encounter with the indefatigable Hemmings in Toronto on 9/11, for Kimberly Lindbergs, who has written of her liking for this unconventional 60s sex symbol, and for Belvoir, because redheads ARE sex symbols, too. Here, in his posthumously published Blow-Up and Other Exaggerations, Hemmings discusses the ways in which actors whiled away their free time in Swingin' London.
...I was invited to join the Bang Club, which involved most of Alvaro's regulars of a Saturday lunchtime and whose principal purpose, as devised by Ian [McShane], was to make friends look foolish.
Once a month, a person was elected 'victim,' and the remainder had to hunt him down, preferably in circumstances that would cause maximum embarrassment. The hunters would then point their index finger with thumb raised and three fingers curled and say, or mouth, 'Bang!', at which point the 'victim' had to die in the most atrocious way possible--in a second. No hesitation was allowed, or procrastination. They had to die on the spot, no matter who the witness or how great the damage. [Screenwriter Ian] La Frenais took out an entire dessert trolley at the White Elephant, having been 'Banged,' and several tables along with it. Few have topped this, and there can't be much more stimulating than to destroy someone's lunch by careering into their table, sprawled across a desert trolley like one of Clint Eastwood's victims across the back of his trusty steed. Of this you can be sure. Trust me--I'm an actor.
McShane suffered an invidious fate, though, at the hands of the Bang Club. As he was being presented, almost on bended knee, to Princess Margaret at the Empire, Leicester Square, at some premiere or other, from behind the silken ropes the rest of us stood up and, over a rampart of black-tied shoulders, as one we pointed fingers and mouthed 'Bang!'
Ian was caught, dead to rights, between the eyes. Eastwood would have been proud. Theoretically Ian should have fallen on the hapless princess, rolled her down a couple of staircases, taken Richard Attenborough and Judi Dench out with him and generally put the proceedings in peril and confusion. But he chickened out and disaster was, sadly, averted. There is, however, a sort of satisfactory conclusion to this short story. At the far end of the line, waiting patiently, was Vanessa Redgrave. She had not an inkling of the Bang Club, but being sightless, assumed the guns--merely fingers, you realize--were the real thing. She clutched the person next to her...and fainted dead away on the podium. All guns were then turned on Vanessa, as if she had been the target all along. But she revived in moments, as Redgraves will, to curtsy elegantly in front of HRH.
"As Redgraves will"--love it. At one point in his book the actor remarks, "They say Hemmings gives good yarn," and he certainly does. Highly recommended, if you can locate a copy. Hemmings has much to say about location work and the vagaries of an actor's career. Also contains the priceless story of how Michelangelo Antonioni kept shaking his head from side to side during each take on Blow-Up. Hemmings was almost prostrate from performance anxiety until he realized that what he thought were emphatic "no good" signals were in fact Antonioni's tremors from a physical condition.
The links to the 20 Actress meme are piling up even as we speak:
David Cairns eschews mere physical beauty and gives Spring Byington her due. (By the by, David, who is this alleged MP who usurps your rightful place at the top of a "David Cairns" Google search?)
Feta at Terminal Sigma comes up with splendid photos of some silent actresses.
Operator_99 of Allure gives some love to number 21 and has a great picture of a very young Ida Lupino.
Marilyn of Ferdy on Film picks Wendy Hiller. Will the Siren's omissions never cease to haunt her?
Flickhead does indeed get very Continental on us.
Laura plumps for the ravishing Hedy Lamarr.
J.C. Loophole demonstrates impeccable taste.
Jacqueline had an equally hard time as the Siren but all is forgiven because she named Teresa Wright.
Sheila O'Malley ties one hand behind her back and picks favorite performances as well. Show-off.
Cinebeats grooves it, baby. I have seen nothing with Meiko Kaji but she is turning up more places than Marilyn.
Brad Wrolsted wins a link by naming Harriet Andersson.
Hazel at Let's Fold Scarves impressed the Siren no end by also naming performances, and including a Bette Davis film that the Siren actually hasn't seen. Well played, ma'am. Careful, you may get tagged next time. Just ask J.C.
MovieMan0283 does a version with clips.
Jon Swift identifies an important new school of film criticism, derrièrism. Surely criticism cannot be dead when brilliant new schools of thought keep emerging. Take that, Cahiers.
And John McElwee at Greenbriar Picture Shows also does his bit for the critical lexicon, writing up the non-Sirk thrillers of Ross Hunter as Fashion Noir, an inspired term the Siren is adopting as of this very minute. Part one, on Portrait in Black, ends with a touching tribute to the Siren's beloved, doomed Sandra Dee. Part two, on Midnight Lace, ends with a vignette of a Hollywood-dream contest in Texas that will haunt you for days.
Roy Edroso of Alicublog evidently moonlights as some sort of medium, achieving whole-mind psychic melding with Jonah Goldberg. Don't take these sorts of risks for us, Roy. It's only blogging.
Tonio, who has been saying Easy Living is fluff? Send 'em to the Siren, she'll straighten them out. Easy Living is manna from heaven, that's what it is.
(Top, David Hemmings demonstrates the apparent future of critics who do not worship The Dark Knight. Middle picture of David Hemmings on set with Dario Argento is blatantly lifted from Cinebeats. Third picture of David Hemmings with Jane Birkin in background chosen as a lagniappe for David Ehrenstein and Yojimboen. Bottom picture of Lana Turner and Lloyd Nolan in Portrait in Black chosen by the Siren for her own amusement.)