Friday, May 15, 2009

Anecdote of the Week: "Oh God, This Is a Dirty Picture"



The Siren has no particular reason for posting this anecdote, other than the way it consistently cracks her up. It concerns Samuel Goldwyn, whose fate it was to figure prominently in many anecdotes that simply never happened. His occasionally fractured English was irresistible to Hollywood wags, and eventually publicity folks just started making stuff up. This story, however, is from A. Scott Berg's excellent biography of the mogul.

Sexual liberation in the sixties turned the motion picture screen into an orgiastic playground, and most of Hollywood's latest product turned Goldwyn off. His private screening of Blow-Up in 1966 was going just fine until the scene in which David Hemmings cavorts with a couple of young girls. "Oh God," Goldwyn cried out, calling a stop to the screening; "this is a goddamned dirty picture!" Not long after that, Goldwyn complained to Billy Wilder that he had seen an even more disgusting disply--Hello, Dolly! Wilder was puzzled--not only because he could not imagine anything scurrilous in that harmless musical but also because Darryl Zanuck had not released it yet. Goldwyn insisted he knew what he saw, and it was one of the filthiest pictures he had ever seen. Wilder asked him to recite the plot. "Sam," he interrupted upon hearing about the drug-taking and sex lives of three aspiring actresses, "I think you're referring to Valley of the Dolls." "That's just what I said," Goldwyn insisted. "Valley of the Hello Dollies."


As the Siren flips to the notes of Berg's books she sees that the source for this bit of utter hilarity is Billy Wilder himself, which may, may mind you make it a teensy bit suspect. Like John McElwee the Siren has never bought the old story of Wilder telling L.B. Mayer--Mayer!--"go fuck yourself" after the first screening of Sunset Boulevard.

But it's a great story, isn't it?

The Siren will be mostly off-line today but she invites you to catch up with the following, as she has been.

Speaking of old dark houses: Six Martinis and the Seventh Art brings you The Bat Whispers.


Film in Focus's Behind the Blog interviews fine film writer and all-around good guy Peter Nelhaus, one of the Siren's first friends in the blogosphere.



The Siren has been tracking Gareth's Watching Movies in Africa project and finally read his entry on Captain Blood, a feast for any admirer of red-blooded 1930s screen manhood.

Gloria uses a splendid photo of Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester as a jumping-off point for...well, go read it, I won't spoil it. And Elsa looks quite pretty.

Brian at Bubblegum Aestheticswrites a lengthy and utterly absorbing post on the intertwined, but not-so-parallel lives of two film legends who shared a birthday.

Raquelle at Out of the Past is writing up a storm about TCM's Latino Images in Film (did anyone else catch the original And Now Miguel? lovely film), and she endeared herself to the Siren no end by putting in a good word for George Stevens' great widescreen epic Giant. On a related note, last month Allure ran a post full of scans from Latin American movie magazines.

Another way to get on the Siren's good side: praise Charlie Chaplin.

This also goes back to March, but the Siren has to point out Greenbriar Picture Shows' beautiful elegy for Wallace Reid.

Not classic-era, but kudos anyway: Stinky Lulu issues a defense (albeit somewhat qualified) of Marisa Tomei's unjustly maligned Oscar-winning turn in My Cousin Vinny. Why does everyone complain, year after year, that the Academy snubs comedy, and then pitch a hissy fit when an extremely funny performance wins over actresses doing Important Drama? Yeah, Miranda Richardson was great in Damage. The movie was a mess, and the Siren says this as a longtime Louis Malle lover. The Siren's own pick that year would have been Judy Davis for Husbands and Wives, but all the same, if you fired up Vinny on the DVD player right now, the Siren would happily watch just for the part where Mona Lisa Vito gets out of the car and says, "I bet this place has lousy Chinese food." As an Alabama native, the Siren has to tell you truer words are seldom spoken on screen.

68 comments:

Ryan Kelly said...

I remember the first time I watched Husbands and Wives, I don't remember if I've ever been quite so disturbed by the spoken word. I've seen plenty of disturbing imagery in my time (not that I gravitate towards these things), but that movie is the first one I can remember just being disturbed by actions and words so deeply. And yes, Davis is great in that and deserves more credit for being... absolutely wonderful. The only time I can really remember her getting raves in her career is when she played Judy Garland in that TV movie!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here it is! THE most sublimely camp moment of 60's cinema. (And the inspriation for a zillion drag queens.)

Lyrics by Dory Previn, music by Andre.

The Bat Whispers is a masterpiece. The 70mm version that is. Saw it a number of years back at the Academy on a ginat screen. Overwhelming. Far more inveventive an effects film than anything being made today -- and I'm look at you Steven Spielberg.

Alas he murdered Thelma Todd and even though he got away with it, that spelled the end of Roland West's career.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Ann Hathaway is set to play Judy in an upcoming biopic. In light of her performance in Rachel Getting Married it's a good choice.

The Big Question: Who's going to play Kay Thompson?

Raquelle said...

Thank you for your kind words and for commenting on my post about Giant. I was truly honored!

I hope this weekend gives me a little time to watch The Sign of the Ram which I taped off TCM. I have bookmarked your post, to read after I see the film.

Campaspe said...

*EYES POP*

Okay David, you have to tell me RIGHT NOW why you think Roland West killed Thelma Todd. This theory I had never heard, although admittedly I only know the case from Hollywood Babylon.

(I share your admiration of The Bat Whispers, btw.)

DavidEhrenstein said...

Why he did it is lost to history. Apparently Thelma Todd was just as tumultuous off-screen as she was on. A very great loss.

But frankly after the production code came in Thelma -- or anyone even remotely like her -- would become verboten.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's the wiki on Roland -- and Thelma.

Gareth said...

I'm also a fan of Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives, or Judy Davis, full stop, but part of me has to hand it to Marisa for beating out the Commonwealth quartet.

Thanks for the linkage; now that the semester is finally over and my reading obligations are behind me, I really have to get moving on some movie-watching. There are Netflix sitting at home waiting for me!

Gloria said...

""Valley of the Hello Dollies"Ouch (=I just fell from my chair laughing).

And Elsa was a very pretty woman: I bet Charlie also had a good eye for women if we get the nicest (hum, read "only") girl he ever married as an example. And he was beautiful not for having ot the Grace Kelly type of purtiness, rather because of the contrary.

And well, I was battling over a big, fat post on lost scenes of Spartacus (hum, yes... still!) when I got the picture by mail... and everything just started to fall and come into place.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Charles and Elsa had quite the complicated marriage. They were great friends and collaborators but every so often she got very demanding and he'd rush off to see Chris and Don, vowing he was going to leave her for good for his boyfriend du jour. As these du jours never lasted that wasn't in the cards. Besides Elsa wasn't about to be given the bum's rush by anyone -- Charles included.

They're exceptionally adorable together in Billy Wilder's Witness For the Prosecution.

mndean said...

David,
I don't think Thelma's career was necessarily done if she managed to stay alive. It depended on how much the studios could/would hide about incidents involving her. The incidents seemed personal in nature, and if they were willing to do a cretin like Wallace Beery a solid, Thelma's peccadilloes might not have been so difficult to cover up. My only question is, was she a good enough actress to merit covering up every scrape with another man?

Gloria said...

David, I have often thought to write a detailed post on the matter (considering mostly that the majority of the intimations about thire marriage are sourced from her, Isherwood & Bachardy's views being among the few external points of view to contrast her staments).

"Complicated" and "difficult" may be well suited to describe aspects, and stages, of their relationship, but then there was also accompliceship and, indeed mutual fondness to be found there. When you see them playing together, they have such a great chemistry that it is obvious that at the deep end, there was there something more than a mere front.

I suppose that in a better world and time they might have not married each other, but their respective beaus, and kept with each other a "Best Friend" status free from contractual requirements, so to say.

Campaspe said...

Okay, I feel like I'm at a dinner table where there's excellent gossip, but I need to be filled in. Why do we think Roland West did it? what's the evidence? I had always heard it was the mob, ticked off over whatever club gripe they had with her.

And btw I love Witness for the Prosecution. Indeed they are completely adorable in that one.

Raquelle, thanks so much for the kind words! I like your post of this morning too but need some time to think it over before commenting over there.

Ryan, it's true, Judy Davis is one of those actresses who never seems to get her whole due, either because she's good so often she's taken for granted, or because her laser-lock intensity puts off people who think the highest praise you can give an actor is "subtle." I like subtle as much as the next person, but there's something to be said for "big" as well.

Campaspe said...

Gareth, you are welcome and do keep up the Africa posts, it's an amazing topic. There is an old legend, possibly apocryphal, about a "British Empire" movie that had a moment where an African messenger comes in, gasps out a message in his native language to the General, and then collapses in a heap. The audience in the African theater roars with laughter. Turns out the actor had gasped "They are not paying me enough for this role!"

Another "hope it's true" tale.

David, "I'll Plant My Own Tree" is the camp pinnacle. I just don't see how it can be topped. And the best bit is the guy saying "Offstage I can't stand her, but onstage I'm madly in love with her." The line might have made sense with Garland up there, but dearly as I love Susan, with her posing around in bugle beads you're like, "what the hell?"

Greg said...

There is little to no evidence for any foul play with Thelma Todd but if you go here you can see the three prevailing theories mapped out. It was most likely an accident, running the car in the garage after a party, passing out and then dying from carbon monoxide inhalation. However, if West's confession to Chester Morris is to be believed, it would still be an accident. In the alleged confession West locked the garage door to keep her from going back out but certainly didn't intend for her to die. Of course, anyone locked in a garage against their will with a car at their disposal and more than enough money to pay for damages would simply start ramming the car against the door until it gave way. Another reason I think she just passed out in the garage.

Gareth said...

I have this very vague memory of a story like that one; I can't quite get my brain to recall the movie. I'm always trying to understand the snatches of Swahili in movies like Hatari! and King Solomon's Mines, but sadly it all seems above board!

David Cairns had a very amusing story about Stewart Granger that he put in the comments to my King Solomon's Mines post.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I think the best evidence against Roland West is The Bat Whispers it;sef. Yes it's "citcumstantial," but the man who thought up tis dark delight could easily have killed his mistress and arranged to make it look like an 'accident."

As for Thelma's career, I wasn't referring to her personal life but rather her screen persona. Smart sexy women were what made the 30's zing -- and she was one of the zingiest. After the Production Code came in a damper was put on that sort fo thign -- until Marilyn Monrie arrievs to loosen things up sexually for one and all. The difference is that Mariolyn played a "dumb blinde." There was nothing dumb about Thelma. I especially love her sparring with Groucho in Monkey Business (where he tells her "come we'll lodge with my fleas in the hills!") and Horse Feathers ("I haven't been in a canoe since I read 'An American Tragedy' ")

Greg said...

The thing is, if she wasn't killed in the car in the garage, how was she killed? The autopsy did not produced gunshot wounds, ligature marks around the neck, arsenic poisoning, etc. It showed she died from carbon monoxide inhalation with no bruises or marks to indicate a struggle. So if it was made to look like an accident, then the evidence would indicate the actual murder must have been done the same way. In other words, he kills her in a car in a garage and then moves her to a car in a garage? That's a little silly. I think she just passed out or he accidentally locked her in and she was too tipsy to do anything at that point but pass out. Either way, I don't see intentional murder.

Brian Doan said...

Thanks for the kind words, Campaspe! And I love that story about Goldwyn!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Or he locked her in "accidentally."

Greg said...

By the way, being a huge fan of Judy Davis myself and reading about the Ann Hathaway part mentioned by David, I just wanted to say that I thought Davis did a great job as Garland in the tv movie although I didn't care for the movie itself.

Arthur S. said...

Great anecdote. Goes to show how perennially clueless these studio chiefs were.

Billy Wilder was a scamp but I don't think he'd make this kind of stuff up, it's too funny to make up. If it was Hawks(an incorrigible fabulist who hunted imaginary elephants and boasted of fights everywhere and everyplace) then it's 99.99% blarney but this seems accurate.

So any leads as to who killed William Desmond Taylor? Peter Bogdanovich made it clear that Hearst had Thomas Ince wacked because he couldn't off Charlie Chaplin off the yacht and away from Marion Davie. These two along with Thelma Todd are the three big unsolved murder cases in tinseltown.

Alonzo said...

It's actually easy enough to see Thelma Todd doing fine in the post-code era. She was beloved at Hal Roach Studios, where she made most of her movies, and had an ongoing series of shorts. Imagine Thelma, for example, in Topper.

Also, Todd was not a bad dramatic actress. Though she strikes out in Roland West's Corsair, she is great as the bad girl in an otherwise dreary Columbia programmer called After the Dance. In that one, she plays a kind of film noir bad girl with an indefinable brittleness that's more frightening than the sex-crazed sleazy malevolence anyone else would have given the role.

Corsair, by the way, is much more fun to watch than The Bat Whisperer. The comedy is of the Frank McHugh variety, and very muted. Plus Mayo Methot gets a great scene. And, for once, Chester Morris (who I put in the same category as Robert Cummings) puts in an acceptable lead performance

DavidEhrenstein said...

Thelma and Mayo Methot show up together in Wyler's great Counselor at Law. They're goddiggers consulting with John Barrymore's swank society lawyer about their respective divorces. Ther;es a great scene where they come into the enormous plush waiting room and are mobbed (separately) by the press hordes who hang out there. Once again a thirties movie gets at things far more directly that you'd see today.

Of course today the press would be hovering over Britney, Paris and other creatures infinitely less fascinating that Thelma or Mayo.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Had she lived Roach would surely have given her work, but the work he;d offer would change. The ind of babe she played didn't surive the 40's.

Rather startling to see in Losey's great remake of M Karen Morley as a distraught mother. She burnt up the screen in Hawks' Scarface and Vidor's Our Daily Bread. The M remake was close to the end of the line. What's wonderful is she still has all the intensity she ever had. She's playing a mother, but as it's a lower class woman she has penty of bite to her.

Beveridge D. Spenser said...

Speaking of Old Dark House movies (like you were yesterday...), Larry Blamire's "Dark and Stormy Night" is premiering in LA at the end of the month:

http://www.americancinematheque.com/archive1999/2009/Egyptian/specialevent_MAY_ET_2009.htm#DARK%20AND%20STORMY%20NIGHT

Larry Blamire made "Lost Skeleton of Cadavera", a spot-on parody of a 50's low-budget Sci-Fi horror movie - filmed authentically in Branson Canyon. "Dark and Stormy Night" is his Old Dark House parody.

I haven't seen it, but I expect it to be a scream. Warning! Not for the squeamish, or those who expect movies to be, you know, good.

Yojimboen said...

Madame Sirène, Thanks for the link to Raquelle’s piece on Giant; some very nice comments in her thread.

One tiny carp, it’s not in CinemaScope, it’s standard ‘wide-screen’, ratio 1:66 to 1. It’s a forgivable error, easy to imagine it larger-than-life; the film has such sweep and scope, not least because of Tiomkin’s magnificent score.

Smash Cut to INT Corridor - Day

LOW-ANGLE TRACKING: A man’s feet seen hurrying along towards a big door; he stops; hammers fists on the door…

Cut to inside the room, the door bursts open to reveal the man:
XTrapnel. He speaks:

“Tiomkin!! Magnificent??
Who SAID that??”

Campaspe said...

Y., not tiny at all--it's a wide carp. Thanks, I have fixed.

Oddly, The Diary of Anne Frank IS in Cinemascope...and I remembered it standard widescreen.

DavidEhrenstein said...

It also premiered as a "hard ticket roadshow" item. Beautiful movie and Millie Perkins is lovely in it.

BTW, have I mentioned the Michael John LaChuisa -- the most celebrated of the Sondheim-worshipping new crop of musical composers -- has wirtten a musical version of Giant?

It's four hours long!

DavidEhrenstein said...

More Camp Heaven from VOTD!

gmoke said...

My uncle's ashes were placed in the same cemetery where Billy Wilder is buried. His headstone reads, "Billy Wilder
I'm a writer
but then
Nobody's Perfect."

My photo is at http://s84.photobucket.com/albums/k18/gmoke/?action=view&current=WilderGrave.jpg

Campaspe said...

David, I watched Diary not too long ago thinking it would be earnest and dull, and I was actually blown away. The subject of the Holocaust has been done so often and so explicitly since that movie, and its restraint helped make it very, very moving. The last scene was shattering, even Mr. C was tearing up; and it isn't as though you don't know how it ends.

Campaspe said...

And btw, that catfight scene is definitely camp to the nth degree, but it's also genuinely great to watch Hayward tear into it. She was often derided for that Brooklyn accent that never completely went away (actually, neither did Stanwyck's) but there Susie lets the Brooklyn rip and I love it. The wig moment is genuinely kind of harrowing too.

Wasn't the Hayward character supposed to be Ethel Merman?

Gmoke, great photo! I had never seen Wilder's headstone. I love it.

gmoke said...

Fanny Brice and her daughter are in the same cemetery and, if memory serves, so is Jack Lemmon with a headstone that reads, "Now Appearing."

X. Trapnel said...

Y, you forgot to note the elephant gun he was wielding:

BLAM!!!

X. Trapnel said...

And saunters off whistling the theme from The High and the Mighty

I just watched While I Live.

Oy

mndean said...

The locking-a-drunk-in-a-garage-with-the-motor-running gag has shown up a few times in movies, most notably in They Drive At Night, but it showed up earlier in Bordertown.

X. Trapnel said...

Not to step into this moral minefield, but I've always felt the treatment of the Vandamms in Diary of Anne Frank to be a disgraceful caricature of the way they appear in the actual diary (I'm fairly certain there was no incident of Mr. Vandamm filching food, for example). There are certain things you don't do for dramatic effect.

MikeT said...

Amen to your post on MY COUSIN VINNY, a film that never fails to crack me up. Tomei was indeed marvelous in that one, and has nothing to apologize for in beating out four other (admittedly talented) actresses.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

It may not be as universally acknowledged as the Patty Duke/Susan Hayward scene in VOTD, but I believe that attention should *also* be paid to this Kim Novak/Coral Browne encounter in "Legend of Lylah Clare."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgbNF7buCRA

Peter Nellhaus said...

Thank you again for the mention! Many of your other links remind me that I need to mix my queue a bit more to see something made before 1970.

rudyfan1926 said...

Siren regarding Diary, I 100% agree how moving it is and how beautiful the restraint. I credit the wonderful George Stevens, who is to me a nearly perfect director, rarely made a bad film.

Regarding Thelma Todd, how novel, it makes 100% sense, no foul play at all, never once did that cross my mind, how silly of me.

Exiled in NJ said...

The garage theme was used in Shadow of a Doubt when Uncle Charley tries to rid himself of Charley. Ten years later Wilder turns the idea on its head by having our Audrey attempting to take her young life through monoxide poisoning, but Bogart comes along to save her. Wilder plays the scene for humor, with the belching jeep shaking away, and young Sabrina opening the window a crack.

I love the give and take with Laughton and Lanchester at the beginning of Witness. She tells him she almost married a lawyer, but he died as a result of peritonitis. "He was a lucky lawyer" is his retort; almost straight from their breakfast table, I bet.

Sidney Kirkpatrick's A Cast of Killers gave King Vidor's Vidor's theory of the William Desmond Morris murder. The book was well received in its time [40 years ago] and is still a good read.

Guy Budziak said...

Re. Old Dark Houses in films: The Story of Temple Drake features one that is utterly delicious in its seediness. Take one saucy Southern belle (Miriam Hopkins), mix in one oily menacing gangster (Jack Larue), then fill out the rest with an array of poor white trash, moonshiners, most of which have lewd designs on the vanilla ice cream cone that is Temple . Watching this bunch interact inside a ramshackle mansion with wind, lightning and thunder clamoring above and around them is great good fun. Seems the early Thirties was a peak period for shadowy, antiquated real estate in cinema.

Campaspe said...

Exiled, the Kirkpatrick is indeed a good read, and manages some real pathos at the end, with the fat, lonely, half-crazed Mary Miles Minter half-admitting the real story to the elderly Vidor. I loved the portrait of Vidor's friendship with Colleen Moore, as well. And it didn't veer into completely patronizing the old silent stars--Claire Windsor, for example, comes across very well, still dignified and beautiful, painting her pictures. As does Adela Rogers St. John, sharp as a tack and ready to offer her extremely plausible take on the murder. I bought her memoir The Honeycomb after reading a A Cast of Killers, and it remains great fun as well, with poignant portraits of Mabel Normand, Valentino and Fatty Arbuckle.

The catch is that Kirkpatrick isn't much of a prose stylist, but such is the plot's construction that it doesn't matter as much as it might have. I think it would have made a good movie, and I could have sworn it was optioned at one point, but nothing ever came of it. In an industry so geared to the tastes of the very young, the fact that most of the protagonists were old probably doomed it.

Arthur, there is a whole Net subculture of "Taylorology" and I believe that many of them disdain Kirkpatrick and St. John's conclusions, but the books are pretty persuasive in that the conclusion is simple and doesn't involve much more in the way of elaborate conspiracy than the machinations of a corrupt L.A. DA. And Buron Fitts being corrupt seems to be the historical consensus.

I never thought about the Hitchcock connection, but that scene in Shadow of a Doubt is quite frightening. Trust Wilder to turn around and play suicide for laughs. Sabrina is more acid than some people realize.

What I love about Witness is that I believe Lanchester's nurse understands the barbs sent her way--she isn't Dumont, playing oblivious--but she is choosing to ignore them, as long as she wins her way with the patient.

Gary, welcome. I have always wanted to see The Story of Temple Drake but so far have not. I am a Miriam Hopkins fan and it always sounded like Miriam at her best.

Campaspe said...

P.S. A Cast of Killers actually came out in the 80s, but I believe Vidor's quest to solve the murder dated back about 20 years before that. So if you filmed it, you'd have two periods to cover, the late 60s and the mid-20s. I think the contrast between the two Hollywoods would be awesome, but you would need someone who could do that without embalming. Peter Bogdanovich is an obvious choice, with his amazing feel for old Hollywood and his actual experience of the late 60s, but perhaps he would think he'd been there, done that with The Cat's Meow.

Gloria said...

Re Sir Wilfrid & Miss Plimsoll dynamics, I bet she's well aware of the lawyer's insults, but she knows she's got her chances of comeuppance... One imagines her giving Sir Wilfrid his eventual injections with a wicked smile. Also, one has only to see the satisfaction she gets in discovering Wilfrid's smuggled cigars in front of everyone else: she not only deprives him of his stash, but also is publicly stating that she's not one to be outsmarted, even by Wilfrid the Fox.

However, my favourite moment is at the end of the picture when **SPOILER** she lets him know she knew about the brandy all the time!

What, the heck, in the deep end "Witness..." is a film where you couldn't care less about the whodunit bits of business, but about how Wilfrid will get his next dose of forbidden pleasures under the nose of Miss Plimsoll

DavidEhrenstein said...

Jaqueline Suzanne worked as Ethel Merman's go-fer. "Helen Lawson" was indeed inspired by Merman (though of course Hayward doesn't play her as Merman) and the bit about her throwing "Neely O'Hara" out of her show comes directly from Merman tossing Betty Grable out of one of DuBarry Was a Lady when Betty started to get noticed.

The upside is a Hollywood "talent scout" took notice and Betty became the biggest star for 20th Century-Fox since Shirley Temple.

In her one-woman show Elaine Stritch ahs a great story about Merman in Call Me Madam throwing a heckler out of the theater by herself, and going back on stage to finish her number without missing a beat.

Yojimboen said...

Oh dear, Madame Sirène, where to begin? In 1987 I believe the late producer Edgar Scherick (his Taking of Pelham One Two Three has just been remade) took an option on the Kirkpatrick book “A Cast of Killers”. In an initial conversation with a writer to discuss a possible adaptation, the problems began to surface: there was no payoff, no clearly established killer; it could have been Charlotte Shelby or Margaret Gibson or god help us even ‘the butler did it’.

Kirkpatrick’s discovery of the proverbial “trunk in the garage” containing the fruits of Vidor’s investigation made for an exciting scene, but the prospect of making the author a character in what would be a TV Movie raised other problems. Mainly that the drama would have to cover not two, but three distinct periods: Kirkpatrick’s investigation in the 80s of Vidor’s investigation in the 60s of a murder in the 20s. Added to that was the uncomfortable reality that the deeper one dug into the story, as both Vidor and Kirkpatrick made obvious, the more impossibly complex it became.

The writer made the observation that it was a ‘challenge’ to contemplate a script that might demand flashbacks within flashbacks, but it could be accomplished. At that point in the conversation Scherick said, in so many words, “Not in 96 pages. And not on TV. The audience would never be able to follow it.” Then he grinned and added, “That’s it, you’ve talked me out of it. I’m not going to do it.”

At that moment the writer felt like a complete a-hole; he had just talked himself out of a job.
No prize for guessing who that writer was.

Guy Budziak said...

Madame Siren,
It's Guy not Gary, but I appreciate the welcome nonetheless. I'm also a fan of Miriam's, even more so knowing that she preferred the company of literary types to Hollywood types. And it doesn't hurt that she was quite the dish.

Campaspe said...

Guy, I am so sorry. My youngest has been waking up a lot of nights and in my sleep-deprived befuddlement I am messing up names all over the place.

Charles Noland said...

Siren - cinema aficionado that you are you may already know this, I saw it at Ann Thompson's site, anyway, a new print of The Red Shoes is available. Someday I'll learn how to embed links, but here it is -

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/may/14/scorsese-michael-powell-red-shoes

Tomorrow, Scorsese will take the stage in Cannes to introduce a new restored print of The Red Shoes - a culmination, of sorts, to Scorsese's ongoing mission to rehabilitate his hero. Scorsese was instrumental not just in initiating the physical restoration of Powell and Pressburger's deteriorating back catalogue, but in restoring Powell's career and reputation when they were at their lowest ebb. He even, inadvertently, found him a wife.

Karen said...

Oh, The Story of Temple Drake is a must! I was fortunate enough to see it on the big [-ish] screen, at the Film Forum during one of their pre-Code festivals. I adore Miriam Hopkins (I'm always surprised to learn others find her an...acquired taste) and LaRue is truly menacing. A great bit of work.

Thanks for the treasure of links, Siren! I particularly liked the bit on Astaire and Selznick, which was a beautifully written and thoughtful piece.

And I'll sit down and watch My Cousin Vinny with you any day of the week. Both for Marisa Tomei (my favorite line delivery: the dry, "Yeah; you blend.") and the marvellous Fred Gwynne ("'Yoots'?").

Noel Vera said...

I'd actuall visited Anne Frank's hiding place in Amsterdam. Her diary is a surprisingly small book, at least one of several on display there. And her room's all papered over with stars, Dutch and Hollywood both.

I suspect Stevens was channeling The More the Merrier when he blocked the different characters moving into and past each other in that cramped apartment.

DavidEhrenstein said...

That was my first thought too, Noel.

Vertigo's Psycho said...

Valley of the Hello Dollies- now THAT's a movie! How about "No Parade Passes These Girls By" for a tagline (or maybe "Put on Your Sunday Clothes, Then Take Them Right Off!")?

Yes, yes a thousand times yes in agreement of your take on Marisa Tomei's awesome Vinnie work. It's not easy to nail a comedy role with flair and originality, yet the majority seems to have no trouble pooh-poohing a Tomei or Goldie Hawn victory. I don't see too many other actresses matching their work in their "Golden" performances, though.

Frank Conniff said...

"I'll Plant My Own Tree?" What an incredibly weird idea for a song lyric! The metaphor that people can come into your backyard and sit in your shade is, uh, I...I'm sorry, I'm at a loss.

Also, I have a question: was it really ever common for people to refer to pills as "dolls?" The movie VOTD is the only place I've ever heard that expression used. Was it really something people said or did Jackie Suzanne just make it up? I have been known to tell people that "I'm going to the pharmacy to pick up my dolls," but it's just a spicy way to refer to my gout medication.

mndean said...

Frank,
I believe that barbiturates were once known as "dollies", for what reason I haven't a clue.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"It's my yard

so I will try hard

to welcome friends that

I've yet to know"
is the weirdest piece of lyric-writing I've ever come across.

mndean said...

My only carp about the Oscars is that they're actually taken seriously by anyone who knows enough about movies. My view is their value is minimal for any other reason than for Hollywood to honor Hollywood. They don't honor talent or risk taking or advancing the art of film, except by accident. I consider them an amusing sideshow run by a group of self-important windbags, and that's the spirit in which I watch the show (when I do).

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

As for the "I'll Plant My Own Tree" lyric ...

My knowledge of lyricist Dory Langdon/Previn, to the extent that I have any, comes from her early years working with other composers. Based on that, I'd say that "weird" (to use David's adjective) is a fairly constant factor in her style. And yet, and yet.

The lines David quotes do work for me as a way of expressing (1) that this is a prickly person for whom amiability does not come easy; and (2) this is someone whose life involves dealing with strangers. (Because she travels? Because all people, wherever she is, are strange to her? Take your choice.)

Johnny Mercer, who had a much greater gift for accessibility, had a line with similar attitude in one '40s song: "Hello, Stranger! So 'long, Friend!"

DavidEhrenstein said...

Well Dory had quite a ride. I love her work for MGM with Andre, and I love the songs they wrote togehter for Inside Daisy Clover.

But then he dumped her for (wait for it) Mia Farrow.

In retaliation Dory became a solo artist.

I'll try and scare up a clip.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's Dory's response to Mia's theft of AndreBitter?

Well DUH!

As far as I know she hasn't written a song about Little Miss Payback (ie. Soon-Yi)

DavidEhrenstein said...

And here's one of the best numbers from Inside Daisy Clover. That's Jackie Ward ghosting for Natalie.

Karen said...

Wow! David, I've known that song for years, but never knew the story behind it. Holy camoly!

Campaspe said...

Karen, I had never even heard the song. Wow, bitter don't begin to describe it. More like hydrochloric acid.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

Maybe it's because of knowledge of that (SPOILERS) famous scene later in "Daisy Clover" where the Wood character falls apart while post-dubbing the song in question, but ... somehow "The Circus Is A Wacky World" seems, to me, to be a nervous breakdown waiting to happen. And not just because of the annoying "wacky" adjective.

(You can resume reading here.)

It also seems, in any case. that director Mulligan et cie were influenced by this ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpN3pzhPrz8

shahn said...

Thanks for the referral and for all the other links to explore!