Monday, February 09, 2009

Comments I Made at Sites You Don't Read, With Added Borzage Link Bonus


The Siren is giving up on commenting at Big Hollywood. She likes to pounce occasionally on threads about movies she likes, but as noted by one critic who also quit commenting (because he kept getting deleted, bless him), "aw, nobody wants to play with Campaspe." Not a creature was stirring--nothing, no action. Dullsville.

So anyway, Mildred Pierce. Great movie that prompted a commenter to recall an alleged feminist interpretation wherein Mildred is "punished" for daring to step outside her assigned gender role and pursuing a career. The idea that Mildred is punished doesn't jibe with the Siren's viewing; instead, the "happy" ending where Mildred goes off with the drip she was married to at the beginning of the movie just indicates that in Hollywood at the time, if you wanted a happy ending you had to have the heroine go off with someone. Anyway, the marriage roles are a sidelight in the movie, as the Siren pointed out in the following comment. Maybe one of her patient readers would like to respond.


I don’t think Mildred Pierce has much to do with marriage and wifehood at all. James Agee was one of the critics who pointed out that the movie is much more focused on class, social climbing and attitudes toward money. Mildred’s moral unraveling becomes worse even as she gets richer. The really subversive part isn’t Mildred going to work, which she does out of necessity and abandons when she’s able, after finding a rich partner and a higher station. It’s the movie’s fisheyed look at maternal sacrifice. Instead of being beatific and ennobling, as in Stella Dallas, mother love is perceived as unhealthy, obsessive and narcissistic in the fullest sense of that word. Veda is a sociopath, but it’s Veda whom Mildred really loves, more so than any man in the movie and more even than the angelic Kay. “Don’t tell anyone what Mildred Pierce did!” could mean covering up a murder, but in the end it’s the unanswerable question of whether Mildred’s love “did” something to Veda and created this monster, or whether Veda (with the very name and spelling connoting “venal”) was what she was from birth. Mildred’s independence at the end, such as it is, results from her having taken Eve Arden’s joking advice and “eaten her young”–finally (and reluctantly) leaving Veda to her fate. Although, so tied to her dreadful offspring is Mildred that I’ve always wondered if Veda was able to work more machinations on her mother even from behind prison bars. Veda would fit in well in Caged.

And...Jack Carson is pure joy in this movie, as is Arden, who is the movie’s example of a woman happy and secure in herself–and single.


(The above photo is from Legendary Joan Crawford, a beautifully maintained site which has the most awesome collection of Joan Crawford photographs on the Web, bar none. You could spend hours there--I have.)

P.S. Please run over to The Auteurs, where Glenn Kenny has a weekly column about Foreign-Region DVDs. This week's item was requested by the Siren, and he delivers: a write-up of the Frank Borzage-directed, Ernst Lubitsch-produced Desire, which has been released in the U.K. Go, read and see if the screen-caps alone don't explain why the Siren mentions this every time the subject of "not out on Region 1" comes up.

64 comments:

Karen said...

Siren, I had just gotten past this sentence: "James Agee was one of the critics who pointed out that the movie is much more focused on class, social climbing and attitudes toward money" when I said to myself, "Well, no, it's really about mother love."

Needless to say, I was pretty much in agreement with the rest of the paragraph. The mother whose suffocating love creates a monster--there were a lot of movies like that, weren't there? This is just one of the best of them.

Lou Lumenick said...

Campaspe, what I treasure about Jack Carson is his utter fearlessness as an actor, which was not so common in Hollywood's Golden Age -- I think the closest comparison today is, don't laugh, Philip Seymour Hoffman. He pulls out all stops as the sap in Mildred Pierce, he's really touching as Joan Leslie's doomed husband in The Hard Way and chilling as most cynical of press agents in the remake of A Star is Born.

He's a hoot sending "himself" up as a talentless egomaniac in It's A Great Feeling, where he has to direct his own movie when Mike Curtiz refuses to work with him again, and Crawford, also as herself, throws a hissy fit.

Campaspe said...

I don't know, were there? Mostly I remember Mom Sacrifices All movies, with the child indifferent or (more frequent) unknowing. Madame X, To Each His Own, My Foolish Heart, Stella Dallas, The Old Maid ... I am having a hard time thinking of other Vedas in that era, she's surely not unique but for 1945 she's unusual. Viperous offspring became more common later on, like The Bad Seed a decade later.

I do think the movie has a lot to do with social class and aspirations, and the corrupting nature of both. It's Veda's grasping nature that helps drive Mildred, and partly the knowledge that it will give Veda a more glam background that makes Mildred marry Monte.

Campaspe said...

Lou, it's true. You could say Carson wasn't trying to maintain leading-man status and that gave him freedom, but a lot of character actors also kept and treasured images and didn't step outside of them. Carson really binds MP together though, both plot wise but also as a sort of Greek chorus in tandem with Arden. They're the two who have a clear grasp of what's going on and comment on it; or, Carson does as long as his lust for Mildred isn't getting in the way of his being "smart."

Vanwall said...

Why in God's Name would you waste time commenting at such an, in the end, hateful place? I'd rather slash my eye with a razor. Then pour lemon juice in it. There's places that simply enjoy films and the discussion of them, and then there are places with overt agendas that really have no interest advancing anything about film other than those agendas. I daresay the mirror image is somewhere in a Wobblie website, which would be no more credible or insulting than that farrago.

That said, your comment was spot-on, and much more closely reasoned than the other comments I read there - if it's like that all the time, which it no doubt is, I can understand your reluctance to keep up the bother. You know that pursuit of filthy lucre is hallowed ground there, and I like your chutzpah for being so nakedly honest about it's overarching theme in Mildred Pierce - mother love may be mistaken here, it's always been a kind of displaced narcissism to my interpretation, like Munchausen-by-proxy, or something of the sort.

I could watch Jack Carson in this film forever, he's absolutely indispensable here - he's part and parcel of making Mildred Pierce the excellent movie it is, and no one could've replaced him; I'd go further and say the film would've been irreparably weakened by using anyone else. I wish he'd gotten more roles like this one or even harder edged - he had a great shark smile and an expressive face that could sell a used car to the Devil. I also noticed that like a lot of big men onscreen, he moved really well, with a smoothness that masked what was coming. Yeah, he stole every scene he was in, too, not so easy a grift.

And I must put in a word for Ann Blyth: as I posted over on StinkyLuLu's Supporting Actress Smackdown, "I think Blyth's work was more vital to the movie she was in, and nobody did a better job of emptying a .38 revolver and then kept on pulling the trigger - I don't know where she got that face so full of psychosis in that scene, but still waters run deep, so there must've been something nasty running around in that pretty head of hers. The scene where she calmly and maliciously makes sure Mildred sees the waitress uniform is also pretty good work, and her easy manipulation of the little sister is chilling."

A crackerjack cast all around.

The Derelict said...

Frankly, your comments over there are the only ones worth reading; I should've backed you up with some comments of my own, but everytime I got ready to post something I figured, "What's the point?" I keep going back to Big Hollywood (why, I'm sure I don't know) and everytime I do I have to seriously reconsider my membership in the Conservative Film Lovers Club. The people who comment over there don't seem to actually like movies; old ones, new ones, it doesn't matter they either hate them or they just want to use them to make some flimsy -- and uninteresting -- political point. Frankly, I'm sick of seeing every piece of art in the world being reduced to a political talking point by either the right or the left. Bleh.

I recently watched Mildred Pierce for the very first time last week and I'm still processing it. Your comments have given me a lot to think about. One thing that haunted me during the film was the way that Mildred was so much more focused on Veda than on her younger daughter Kay. Everything for Veda, Veda deserves the best, Veda, Veda, Veda. I loved Crawford's performance in the film, and I was kind of sympathetic to Mildred in all her struggles, but her almost demented and obsessive drive to do everything for Veda (while poor Kay was an afterthought) was really creepy to me. What a subversive movie, daring to show such a dark side to motherly love and sacrifice!

And I'll give some love to Jack Carson too. Love him. I'm not ashamed to say he makes my top 5 all-time favorite actors list. Everytime I see him he's great, but I'll give another shout-out to his performance in The Hard Way. Gut-wrenching.

Yojimboen said...

My interest in Mildred Pierce - in truth never that high - was recently piqued when I came across Raymond Chandler's congratulatory letter to James M. Cain on Warners' acquisition of the property. It is up there with the most intriguing "If Only" episodes of H'wood history:

"Very glad to hear Warners bought Mildred Pierce. It seems I may have a chance to work on it for them, but Paramount was not too keen about loaning me."

X. Trapnel said...

Just took a whiff of the mephitic swamp that calls itself Big Hollywood and recalled that some peanut there recently compared John Updike unfavorably to Stephen King (with an uneasy acknowledgement though that there might be something to the Big Guy, Tolstoyevsky). It all fits.

Mildred Pierce was the occasion of my Jack Carson epiphany several years back. As he was toting up some real estate figures, it suddenly struck me: "He's a great actor." i would love to know something about the man himself.

I haven't seen too many of the [s}mother love films and am curious as to (1) how often they involve an only child and (2) whether the child is more often male or female. A forgotten item called The Silver Cord from a play by Sidney Howard might be the progenitor of the genre

Flickhead said...

What's Big Hollywood?

Karen said...

Well, I don't know that it's always as overt in other films: I'm thinking of films like The Mating Season or Make Way for Tomorrow, just to mention a couple that come to mind offhand. You don't necessarily see HOW the mother love created these callous, selfish kids in these films, but it's definitely something I find myself thinking about--how did these sweet old women raise these horrible children?

Jonathan Lapper said...

What's Big Hollywood?

The Conservapedia of Movie Blogs.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's a little bit of Absolute Heaven for you: Carol Burnett's Mildred Fierce

Part 1

Part 2

Anagramsci said...

Big Hollywood is the quintessence of wrongness.

quite agree with the comments about class and motherhood in MP--in fact, I think the movie provides a very interesting forecast of postwar America, with all of those young adults emerging from the Depression so determined to give their kids the absolute best things in life, creating a culture of materialist entitlement that led, after an idealistic interregnum, to the Reagan Eighties...

it's a tribute to Crawford that you (or, at least, I) don't start to question Mildred's behaviour until after the credits roll...

and that supporting cast is most definitely one of the best--Carson (a favourite of mine as well), Eve Arden (ditto), Ann Blyth (still, to me, the absolute personification of the spoiled brat), Zachary Scott (could anyone possibly be oilier or more weaselly?), Moroni Olsen as the flashback-enabler, Lee Patrick as Maggie Biederhof, and even crusty ol' Bruce Benedict...

the girl who played Kay is great too!

Dave

Peter Nellhaus said...

My problem with "Big Hollywood" is that the guys there are more interested in getting their political points across than actually discussing what is on the screen. A previous time I looked, one of their writers was discussing that the criticism directed towards Rush Limbaugh was evidence that dissent had gone out of style in the age of Obama, forgetting so quickly what was said of anyone who disagreed with W. the past eight years.

They love Elia Kazan because he named names and didn't apologize, but seem unaware that in other ways he was still an FDR Democrat who made Wild River.

Campaspe said...

Ah, this is so much nicer. People popping up to discuss the movie, not just beat up on present-day Hollywood. XT, I commented in that Updike thread (with more than a touch of indignation) and later heard from a blogger I adore, wanting to know why I bothered over there. And I wrote back that, um, "I have no rational explanation for why I look at that site, any more than I can really explain why I occasionally feel compelled to watch David Caruso take his sunglasses on and off for an hour on CSI: Miami." Although I do enjoy John's TCM picks--he really wants to get people watching the classics and for that I say bless him and just skip his political points (as I have no doubt he skips mine). And Avrech's silent-movie posts. But of the other stuff, let us draw the veil...

The Derelict (hey you, welcome back!) nails it in a beautifully bipartisan way, I so agree:

The people who comment over there don't seem to actually like movies; old ones, new ones, it doesn't matter they either hate them or they just want to use them to make some flimsy -- and uninteresting -- political point. Frankly, I'm sick of seeing every piece of art in the world being reduced to a political talking point by either the right or the left. Bleh.

I have to be honest, you can get some real hotheaded political stuff at more liberal film websites, but there is also a fundamental core of knowledge and discussion that so far BH just ain't cutting, which is why Jonathan's pithy summary isn't altogether unfair.

Anyway, that disposes of my BH response, on to Mildred.

Campaspe said...

Vanwall and Anagramsci, y'all are making me realize that Ann Blyth really deserves a higher place in MP discussions than she usually gets. She really was superb. One that strikes me is how physically tiny she is, a fact that Curtiz doesn't try to cover up in any way. On TCM she has a Joan Crawford tribute where she remarks on how Crawford was small -- so then you look at how Crawford hulks over Blyth and realize you've played with Barbie dolls the same size as Veda. And somehow it's really effective. Blyth is so cool and venomous, like a tiny but deadly garden snake.

And Blyth also calibrates her sneakiness for whomever she's dealing with. Notice that with Mildred, Veda barely bothers to put on the acting, so sure is she of having Mom wrapped around her pinky: "Of course not, Mother," in a completely unconvincing voice. Zachary Scott, however, gets the full Fake-Out.

And Dave, yes to Zachary Scott, he's a perfect oily creep in this movie, and it bookends his wonderful turn in The Mask of Dimitrios very nicely. It also makes me want to re-view "The Southerner." Scott did NOT impress me much in that movie, although the film itself was great, but I wonder if I need to look again.

Campaspe said...

Karen, what an interesting point about seeing the results and wondering about the mothers. I do think Mildred Pierce is one of the first movies to really have a cynical take on motherhood, although its punches are pulled in certain key ways. In "Live Fast, Die Young" (which I highly recommend), about the making of Rebel Without a Cause, writers Al Weisel and Lawrence Frascella talk about the influence of Philip Wylie's Generation of Vipers on that movie and its horrific mother. Now THERE was an emasculating woman. By that point in the 50s you go could go after Mom if she wasn't letting Men Be Men.

Campaspe said...

Peter, the BH obsession with turning the blacklist into a noble and necessary crusade is something I've just thrown up my hands over. I don't bother with those threads ever since getting into a down-the-rabbit-hole discussion with a man who was maintaining that HUAC didn't go after anyone who was innocent (flatly contradicted by the historical record, but what the hell) and that yes, as a matter of fact, John Garfield WAS a threat to national security.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Live Fast Die Young phenomenal. It gets EVERYTHING about Rebel, on screen and off. My favorite anecdote in the book is the night James Dean and his S&M boyfriend/slave tried to pick Jack Larson up for a three-way, Jack freaked out and said no, and Jack's old friend poet Frank O'Hara was outraged that Jack turned down an opportunity to have sex with James Dean.

Campaspe said...

XT, as for the mother-love movies and the gender of the offspring -- it is almost always a single child, the better to make things an all-or-nothing proposition. And the gender is pretty evenly split, with maybe slightly more sons. I will have to check out The Silver Cord. It is a pity Sidney Howard died so young (and so bizarrely, in a tractor accident), because he had a way with dramatic hooks.

Campaspe said...

HA! yes David, the gossip is encyclopedic in Live Fast Die Young, and some of it was eye-popping too. But the added and more important attraction for me was the detail on filming. It's unusual to encounter a book that gives you such a wealth of information about life on set and the day-to-day work there.

X. Trapnel said...

Dalton Trumbo's oft quoted assertion re the blacklist (no heroes, no villains, only victims) is large souled and ought to be the last word.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Kazan was an FDR Democrat like Norman Podhoretz.

Wild River is a love story with "socially conscious" trimmings. It's a teriffic movie but far from political. As for On the Waterfront it's a defense of ratfinks and an atack on unions, portrayed as being identical to organized crime.

In the end the workers lose the bosses win and we're supposed to cheer over that as the great Bernstein score rises in triumph.

X. Trapnel said...

It's possible to the mother-son dynamic in The Awful Truth as a send up of this convention, just as I'm sure Norman Bates was Hitchcock's smack at the Wm. Inge-type "sensitive youth on the brink of manhood" shtick.

DavidEhrenstein said...

And speaking os "sensitive Youth," X Robert Anderson bought the farm.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Jack Larson

X. Trapnel said...

Tea and Symp directed (on stage)by E. Kazan, D. Kerr/J.Kerr Jack Larson/Jack Carson. Is something encrypted in these posts?

Campaspe said...

David, for whatever reason I have always seen On the Waterfront's politics as coming more from Schulberg. Kazan's movies are usually more nuanced than Waterfront, which completely stacks the deck so that the only possible heroic decision is to inform. The result is that the analogy between HUAC, where the purpose was the naming itself, not uprooting Communism, is so weak I've always been able to dismiss it.

And XT, it is a bit spooky, yes? Although despite my love for Deborah Kerr I have to say Tea and Sympathy does nothing for me, never has.

Vanwall said...

I find the fact that a curious result of the diaspora is that Curtiz, whose surviving Hungarian silent is a stark pean to workers of the world, had such a run of films on the class wars that Western societies indulged in. He's always pegged as a visualist as opposed to movie maker, but he gets wonderful performances about desire, greed, prejudice and death from the actors in his films.

Ann Blyth should've gotten more serious roles, IMO. She was cute as a button and could sing, that was her downfall - stuck into a round hole and no chance to be a peg with edges. She had a nice singing voice, I gotta say. She would've fit right into noir-ville, tho - she had the right cheekbones for that kind of shadowy work; hell, her "bone structchah" was right for any kind of lighting.

X. Trapnel said...

Siren,

Yes, I agree T&S is more than a little creepy. On the other hand, I wouldn't have minded being on the receiving end of Deborah Kerr's ministrations when I was a sensitive youth.

X. Trapnel said...

IMDB tells us that Jack Carson "liked nothing more than a good philosophical discussion." Substituting Ludwig Wittgenstein for Dennis Morgan we might get something like this:

LW: "The world is everything that is the case."
JC: "Just what I was sayin' to my pal Marty Heidegger the other day! I sez 'Marty...'"
LW: "The limits of my language mark the limits of my world."
JC: (double take) "Whatzat?"
LW: "Whereof one cannot speak thereof one must remain silent."
JC: Say, Lud! Yah tellin' me to shuddup or somethin'?"

Campaspe said...

HA! Carson's voice was one of his best features, that wonderfully nasal voice. He sounds so incredibly American that I somehow never believe that he was born in Manitoba, no matter how many times I am confronted with this fact. Well, he did grow up in Milwaukee. Do people from Milwaukee sound like him?

Campaspe said...

Another odd bit of trivia I discovered the last time Carson came up: He died on the same day as Dick Powell. (Did one of my commenters mention that? I think so.)

Yojimboen said...

"Tea and Symp directed (on stage)by E. Kazan, D. Kerr/J.Kerr Jack Larson/Jack Carson. Is something encrypted in these posts?"

And D. Kerr, J. Kerr, Leif Erickson and Del Erickson in the film version?? Be afraid, be very afraid...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Jack Carsonis a wildly underated acotr. I love him as a leading man in Romance on the High Seas Doris Day's debut. She never acted in her life before and she's a star right out of the gate.) His press agent in A Star is Born is incredibly powerful. Carson evokes a an entire universe of bitterness and professional hatred in "Libby." Mason responds to his final tirade as if he were being beaten by fists rather than words.

Yojimboen said...

"...I have to say Tea and Sympathy does nothing for me, never has..."

I would agree, except that it gave the world this immortal line of dialogue:

"Years from now when you talk about this - and you will - be kind."

Alex said...

"There's places that simply enjoy films and the discussion of them, and then there are places with overt agendas that really have no interest advancing anything about film other than those agendas. I daresay the mirror image is somewhere in a Wobblie website, which would be no more credible or insulting than that farrago."

I don't know, VanWall, I'm not so sure I agree. I mean, my own site really wasn't intended to do much beyond discussing politics in movies. Of course, anybody looking at my site would wonder what if any connections between politics and many of my obsessions like late Gothic architecture, early Northern Renaissance painting, ancient Greek philosophy and obscure libraries actually exist (actually, I do think there are such connections, but I'm not surprised if people don't get them).

No, what I think is the problem is not reading politics in movies, but whether the political (and cinematic) understanding of the person doing so is shallow or deep.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's the IMBD listing for James Dena's S&m slave/boyfriend. After Dean's death he left acting and became quite successful in real estate. He owned a number of properties in L.A. including "The Castle" -- a huge mansion that at one time belonged to Errol Flynn. He rented it to Andy Warhol and the gang when they came to L.A. in the 60's and 70's. Imitation of Christ and Heat were shot there.

Simmons refused to discuss Dean after his death and when anyone would mention his name Simmons would burst out crying and collapse in a heap. He was the love of his life.

Vanwall said...

M. X - Bril! Carson must've been a charter member of the International Association of Smart Guys.

Anagramsci said...

I never want to shy away from placing films in their political context (as I see it--and I've taught courses entitled "American Radical Thought," so that makes it clear where I'm coming from) either, but there ought to be a way to do it without alienating everyone that feels differently about these things.

I'd be lying if I said that I could ever take the political party line at Big Hollywood seriously, but I do know that I've had many edifying discussions with intelligent conservatives over the years--but I don't see many of those people at BH.

Ann Blyth--I love her! (and not merely because she could be the twin of a woman that I lived with for 6 years) She's always as good as the role allows her to be (I really like her, for instance, in Sirk's Thunder on the Hill and the excellent I'll Never Forget You).

Tea and Sympathy is quite hard to watch...

Dave

Karen said...

X.Trapnel, bless you for mentioning The Silver Cord, which is indeed the mother lode (so to speak) of the smother-love genre. Laura Hope Crews is so stunning in that role that you begin to forget that surely no mother has ever been quite so devious and twisted. Sheesh. (You really have to see it, Siren; it buggers description.)

Where it differs from The Mating Season and Make Way for Tomorrow, however, is that the pathology is clearly all on the mother's side (although Joel McCrea's splendid obliviousness and passivity ain't healthy, either), whereas in the latter two the parents are presented as victims of the horrible children.

Yojimboen, thank you for at least a little defense of Tea and Sympathy. When I was a young girl, my parents had a 4-volume box set called The 100 Best Plays of the American Theater, which is where I first discovered the script for the original production. I found it very powerful--still do--and the rather anodyne movie that was made from it can't diminish the poignance of that final line.

And, boy howdy, I've said it before, but count me in on the Jack Carson love! Whether he's playing blustery good guys, blustery bad guys, blustery ambiguous guys (Destry Rides Again) or just wonderful, unique roles that let him stretch his chops and sometimes actually get the girl (the marvelous Roughly Speaking), he never fails. What a marvelous, marvelous actor!

Campaspe said...

Karen, I think the big flaw in Tea and Sympathy is the same in other social-problem movies from the period, like Pinky or Gentleman's Agreement -- you are made to sympathize with the plight of the minority by having to watch someone suffer even though they are NOT part of that minority (yes, Jeanne Crain is supposed to be mixed-race but you watch her knowing she's not). It's a cheap, synthetic way to go about things. There are some poignant moments in T&S, though, I have to say that. Lawrence Quirk has a nice write-up of it in The Great Romantic Films.

X. Trapnel said...

Karen, I've never actually seen The Silver Cord. I had thought the mother was played by the baleful Louise Closser Hale (she of the out-of-a-spiggot coiffure). An interesting point of comparison is the way all the "guilt" in Leave Her to Heaven is shifted posthumously away from the father and dumped on poor Gene T. (Thus another near-great film that lacks the courage of its own perversity: Portrait of Jenny, Sunset Blvd.)

Yojimboen said...

Madame Sirène - call this a mea culpa or perhaps a thank-you to the group for the mini Road to Damascus trip I’m undergoing. I suppose I’m going to have to screen Mildred again – not for Ms Crawford (now and forever a lost cause for me), but for Mr. Carson, of whom I am a lately-arriving admirer. For most of my life, Carson impressed me only with his size (and the size of his double-take). I suppose one could blame Ann Sheridan – for a while there as a kid it seemed every third movie I saw had Carson or Sheridan or Dennis Morgan (or all three) vaude-villing their way from Schenectady to Saskatoon.
The problem for me was when Ann Sheridan was on screen, she tended to turn her leading men into ciphers (she almost pulls it off in I Was a Male War Bride) and Messrs Carson and Morgan might as well not have been there.
I see now the error of my ways.

Actually I saw it in in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; when Carson’s ‘Gooper’ explodes in pitiful rage, I remember thinking, “Jesus, that’s Jack Carson? Where has he been hiding all these years? Who knew this great lummox had talent?”
But then I remembered Norman Maine’s comeuppance scene in Star - which I had seen, appreciated, but not really absorbed. It is in hindsight an astonishing piece of acting by Carson. Not, I believe, because of what’s on the surface – the fury of the worm turned – but because in my memory of it (and I haven’t seen it in 20 years) Jack Carson shades his tirade with an overarching sense of loss at the tragedy of it all, as in the old adage: ‘whoever said revenge is sweet, has obviously never tasted it’.

I also agree, David – having seen it recently – that Romance on the High Seas is Carson’s film; he ‘leads from behind’ throughout and is, for good or bad, the architect of Doris Day’s success.

X. Trapnel said...

Vanwall,

It's a Great Feeling brought JC together with a charter member of the International Association of Dumb Guys. It was recorded in the Reago of the Carsonic Dialogues:

JC: Say, Ronnie, don'tcha think that freedom understood as letting beings be, is the consumation of the essence of truth in the sense of the disclosure of beings? Hah? Whaddya say?
RC: Well, uhhhh, errr, uhhhh, wellll, uhhhh, noooooooo...

X. Trapnel said...

erratum: RR for RC

Campaspe said...

Y., one of the great pleasures of the great character actors is how they can take a nothing picture and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile. I dunno, Sheridan was always sultry and pleasant and occasionally quite funny but she never once blew anyone off the screen for me. I can't say that for Carson, however.

I just saw him recently in Phfffft (<---dadgum it, how many "f"s in that stupid title?) and he even holds his own with Jack Lemmon and Judy Holliday, two performers whom I HAVE seen walking off with scenes, indeed entire movies.

I agree with you about the scene with Mason in A Star Is Born, it's a superb piece of two-handed acting, both of them as fine as they ever were and Mason was frequently brilliant indeed.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Ann Blythis a perfect example of a gorgeous starlet who can actually act not getting the career she deserved because everyone just thought of her gorgeousness -- and nother else.

Jean Simmons career was similarly hobbled. She's an Immortal Goddess right from the start in Great Expectations and Black Narcissus. later on in adult roles like Elmer Gantry she got to tear down the house -- literally. But I'm not sure how many were actually paying attention.

Michelle Pfeiffer should get more big roles for the same reason. How can these people ignore a woman who can do THIS?

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

I think it's both hilarious and wonderful that this discussion of "Mildred Pierce" and class should emerge on Bertolt Brecht's birthday. "Denn wovon lebt der Mensch?" On Jack Carson, Eve Arden, and "Mildred Pierce"!

Is this the point where I should describe how, over the family dinner table, my sainted mother and I would get into arguments about whether Mildred Pierce was noble or a self-deluding fool? Probably not. (See under: "Family Pathology.")

I have faint memories of Blyth being decent in "A Woman's Vengence," and I'm curious about her "Another Part of The Forest" performance.

X. Trapnel said...

Now here's an interesting find (Karen, take note). 1933, same year as The Silver Cord, also gave us Another Language, a film about an overbearing mother (L. Closser Hale, yes indeed) trying to break up the recent marriage of her mamma's boy son Victor (Robert Montgomery) who's called (I kid you not) "Vicki" throughout the film. There's also a "weak" younger brother, same as in the Silver Cord. Differnt source material (a play by one Rose Franken), same bloody plot!

Karen said...

Oh, well done, X.! I was trying to figure out why, when I looked up The Silver Cord, I was surprised to see the son wasn't Robert Montgomery. I was conflating it with Another Language which, in fact, I have seen (as anyone who has read my comments over these many months know, I never miss a 1930s Robert Montgomery film).

I might have to resort to the AFI Catalog to work out all the differences between the two, but these are definitely two of the films that informed my original comment about toxic mother love. Thanks!!

Last_of_the_Dames said...

Love reading your blog SSS.

Must add my two cents about BH. I too think Nolte is tremendous around the TCM and promoting older movies in general.

However, I ended up running screaming from that BH website ... Swirling images in my head of the classic movie scene: stupid angry villagers holding high burning fuel soaked rags on pitchforks as they run through the village in search of their victim. An angry stupid mob. That's the type that hang out in the comments section (A sub genre hangs out in the YouTube comments section.)

I lost the will to live reading the vitriol and sheer stupidity in a Bruce Springsteen thread. I gave up, left and have never returned. If that is the voice of conservatives. If that's the best they can do (And never mind the public face of them: Rush and Bill). Well I give up. They'll disappear in their anger, vitriol, bitterness and ignorance - I wish - when we throw water on them.

X. Trapnel said...

Karen, can you confirm that both films contain a shipboard honeymoon scene?

DavidEhrenstein said...

What's so compelling about Mildred is that she's brave, wise, careless and foolish -- often all at the same time. She's a touchstone for the plight of women -- both for her own time and right now.

MovieMan0283 said...

The problem with many of those conservative websites is you get two types: the intelligent, thoughtful conservatives (often former liberals or, at any rate, highly conscious of the liberal point of view on everything, which they are obsessed with refuting rather than ignoring) and mindless conservatives who exist in an ideological bubble and have never struggled with their own views. The former kind show exasperation with liberal points of view, often come off as defensive and borderline paranoid, but are extremely interesting to read. The latter are useless.

There are distinctions on the left too, but not quite as sharp, at least not in this particular regard.

I enjoyed my discussions at Dirty Harry's for a week or two after the election but haven't returned since because I get sucked in too easily and it eats up too much time; I have enough trouble keeping up with my blogroll as is.

mndean said...

Since I once participated on a site where there were a lot of social conservatives, I know what some of you are talking about. I never understood how someone could cavil about today's immorality while enjoying rather racy silent and precode films. The cognitive dissonance is frightening. I would occasionally bring up the point that the 1920s/early '30s were a very wild time in America, but their nostalgia for a time they did not live through was stronger than their logic. As a group, they were very nice people (until the election), but hopeless.

Karen said...

Karen, can you confirm that both films contain a shipboard honeymoon scene?

Alas, not definitely, X. I went to the AFI Catalog to check their summary for The Silver Chord, and it begins only " When budding architect Dave Phelps receives word about a post in New York, he and his new wife Christina, a research biologist who has been offered a job at the Rockefeller Institute, leave Heidelberg and return to the United States."

I have no idea if this return consisted of a honeymoon boat ride or not. I just can't remember. I've now got the two films inextricably entwined in my brain and can barely distinguish between the two. Although I do see that The Silver Cord has the mother ruining the lives of her other son and his fiancee as well (Eric Linden and Frances Dee, who would soon after marry leading man Joel McCrea), whereas in Another Language it's the entire family who drives more Helen Hayes to the brink of madness.

Belvoir said...

About Jack Carson.. I found him quite sexy in Mildred Pierce! At first I thought he was that 1940's type, a jocular bluff fellow. And he was, but there was definitely more there.

His big frame looked great in a suit.. someone mentioned his physical grace. That football player/war veteran type popular then. Just an uncomplicated masculinity I found appealing in this film.

Edward Copeland said...

Deleting comments is ridiculous. If they don't want to run something, that's why you have moderating function. On my site, the only comments I don't post are Anonymous ones, no matter how good they are, unless they are included in the text, and those automated things that are really selling things. Of course, it goes without saying that The Siren is always welcome.

Campaspe said...

Hi all -- I think the basic distinction is between art and political blogs. I can't read comments threads on most of the big liberal blogs either. So many of the people are textbook examples of the "embarrassing advocate" to me. BH is tilting toward being just a conservative site with the occasional movie review, which is probably good in terms of red-meat traffic but not so good for my reading pleasure. That said, Robert Avrech has a nice post on Alma Rubens at the mo and I just left a comment on a Bette Davis thread so clearly sometimes I can't help myself.

Wrapping up the Ann Blyth love -- I went back to my David Shipman and discovered that shortly after Mildred Pierce, she broke her back (!!!) in a tobogganing accident, and for a while it seemed she might be a permanent invalid. It took her two years to recover and by then I guess they had forgotten what a marvelous bitch she could play. She did mostly musicals afterward. I would like to see her in The Helen Morgan Story. Despite her lovely voice, according to Shipman they dubbed her in that!

Anagramsci said...

yes indeed--I've got Helen Morgan Story on order (the new Warner DVD)--and I'm really looking forward to it, despite the dubbing

Dave

The Derelict said...

Campaspe,
Can I steal your line about BH being a "conservative site with the occasional movie review"? I'm writing a post about the problems I'm having with that place and I think you've summed up what I was thinking very nicely.

Also, re: BH, the Bette Davis conversation has been interesting but what happened to everybody's comments??? And I'd like to second the Robert Avrech recommendation.

Samson said...

Wait, has nobody commented on "Desire" yet? It's a prize, with everyone involved in top form, plus the immortal line, "Waiter, disarm that fricassee!"

And all this time I thought "Mildred Pierce" was about outfits. Silly moi.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I agree with your analysis except for the part about Mildred abandoning work when she finds "a rich partner and a higher station." She marries the penniless, feckless Monty (a purely commercial transaction, clearly) and the final scene at the beach house follows her struggle to hold on to the restaurant chain he and Wally are trying to take away. You're right, a 1945 heroine had to leave with somebody, but I don't see her getting back with Pierce. I see a future for her with Ida.

I know I've seen a movie where Jack Carson danced. Was he an ex-vaudevillean? Love the guy anyway.