Friday, May 22, 2009

Aside: William Wellman on Actors' Psyches


Further to our discussion of Mae Clarke and which was better for an actress--being directed by William Wellman, or poked in the eye with a stick:


As far as the actors are concerned, the stars, I haven't been too fortunate with them. I've made pictures with most of them, but I don't think I'd win any popularity awards. An actor is a peculiar sort of a guy. He's not like you or me. I'm not downgrading them particularly, but they are a different breed. They look in the mirrors all the time. They have to. They have to see what they look like and say lines to themselves. They look at their faces to see which is the best side to be photographed. You know, one of two things has to happen: You've got to fall in love with that guy you're looking at, or you've got to hate the son of a bitch.

(from Mike Steen's Hollywood Speaks.)

Above, from left to right, Wellman, Joel McCrea and film editor James B. Clark on the set of 1944's Buffalo Bill. Looks like it was hot that day. More photos of Wellman films and Wellman at work can be found at the indispensable If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger.

Just one more link today but it will keep you very busy indeed. Girish takes on She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and the great John Ford. He shares his own thoughts--he has an especially good take on the recurring motif of, of all things, army reports--and Girish links to an essay roundup at Undercurrent magazine, organized by Chris Fujiwara. There are 18 articles by 18 different writers, so you have plenty of reading here.

281 comments:

1 – 200 of 281   Newer›   Newest»
Alex said...

Ah, good old McCrea, Pomona class of '27. Go Sagehens! (no, seriously, I do love McCrea for many additional reasons beyond his being a fellow Sagehen).

Laura said...

As I've delved into the career of (the very underrated, IMHO) Robert Taylor in recent months, I was interested to note that Wellman called Taylor "one of the finest men I've ever known in my whole life."

Wellman goes on to note, with some apparent amazement (grin), as "I have not been very fond of actors," "And he was an actor. And he was probably the handsomest one of them all." (From THE MEN WHO MADE THE MOVIES.)

Wellman & Taylor's WESTWARD THE WOMEN is a real favorite of mine.

The only other actor Wellman singled out in this interview as an actor he was fond of was Joel McCrea, featured in your marvelous photo.

Best wishes,
Laura

Gerard Jones said...

Good heavens...I disappear into work for a few days and miss two entire Siren posts and entire threads on Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery, among others. I have my weekend reading cut out for me.

I don't doubt that there's truth in what Wellman says about, but there also seems to have been a fashion in old Hollywood for directors to make condescending remarks about stars. I suspect much of it was a pose, to make themselves look like the hardboiled guys who weren't intimidated or awestruck by glamor. And some of it was probably strategic, a persona to give them an edge in authority from the moment they first stepped onto the set.

Joel McCrea was great. Although I like his work for Sturges best. I've seen two of the movies he did for Wellman and wasn't thrilled.

Vanwall said...

Wellman must've gone down the self-hating road - he didn't like being an actor. Self-hate could explain a lot about Wellman's approach to actors.

McCrea was a pretty genuine guy, what you saw was pretty much what he was, I gather. A lot of directors liked him, and in "Ramrod", which was just on the telly, you could see what it was about McCrea's natural manner onscreen that just had to be in his real-life persona.

Alex said...

"As I've delved into the career of (the very underrated, IMHO) Robert Taylor in recent months"

Taylor was Pomona class of '33, by the way.

Laura said...

I've read a couple books on Taylor in the last year and the Pomona connection had completely slipped my mind...there must have been something in the water out there. :)

Best wishes,
Laura

Laura said...

P.S. I'm a Univ. of Redlands Bulldog...located not all that far from Pomona.

Best wishes,
Laura

Karen said...

Laura, I will defend to the death your right to salute Robert Taylor, but you will do so without me by your side.

Remember when Siren had her post a few months back about actors/actresses who were dealbreakers for her in watching films? Robert Taylor is on my list. I just can't abide him. I don't think I could even put my finger on what it is--I just can't even stand to look at him. The notion of him as "the handsomest of them all" is, well, just insupportable to me.

I realize I've taken a negative tone of late--can't stand Norma Shearer, can't stand Robert Taylor...please don't let the next post be about June Allyson or I will explode with bile.

There really are so many things to love about old Hollywood, I must be allowed to have my peeves, right?

Gerard Jones said...

June Allyson! Now THERE was a STAR!

*ahem*

Robert Taylor and Norma Shearer both fall into the "if it's exactly the right role" category. Juliet Capulet, for instance, was not the right role for the 34-year-old Norma. But for the Divorcee, where her usual respectable married woman gets huffy and sins to prove a point, she had just the right balance of smugness, self-consciousness, and nervous energy.

I find Taylor too oily and creepy to like in the roles they usually gave him, the handsome heroes, but when he was allowed to exploit the oiliness and creepiness, as in Undercurrent, he had something. It's too bad that he was too successful in his hero roles to get many chances to play villains.

Campaspe said...

Gareth, excellent point about Taylor. I also cite Party Girl and Johnny Eager as examples of him doing weakness and sleaze better than nobility (both characters are more interesting before they get religion, so to speak).

Laura, I did notice that in the interview, and also the citing of McCrea. In Hollywood Speaks he singles out Henry Fonda, saying Fonda's role in the Ox-Bow incident was the best acting in any of his movies. Why do I think it probably depended on what day you caught him on?

Alex, Sagehen is a singularly unintimidating team nickname, I gotta say, with or without the handsome, strong McCrea. However, let it be noted that I have zero room to talk as the nickname of my school was "the Violets."

Laura said...

Karen, we've all got people we don't like to watch...don't get me started on Marlene Dietrich, for example. :) I used to put Joan Crawford in this category, but I've actually gotten to tolerate her over the years, at least up through her mid-'40s roles. I confess a longstanding fondness for Ms. Allyson, but we won't go there today (grin).

Gerard, I actually find Taylor least interesting in his very earliest "handsome" hero roles. I prefer the more "weathered" Taylor, starting in the '40s, and especially some of the more ambiguous roles he played from the late '40s on: HIGH WALL, ROGUE COP, PARTY GIRL, and SADDLE THE WIND come to mind, as well as the conflicted but dedicated hero of ABOVE AND BEYOND. (Moirafinnie just did a good post on SADDLE THE WIND at SADDLE THE WIND at the TCM blog.) Just my two cents, of course --

Best wishes,
Laura

Arthur S. said...

Joel McCrea is a highly underrated actor. He's wonderful in films by Hitchcock, Sturges and Tourneur. A real auteurist axiom.

Robert Taylor has never done anything for me, the sole exception being PARTY GIRL(where I'd argue his interest is largely due to his scenes with Cyd Charisse and Lee J. Cobb). I recently saw THREE COMRADES which is highly regarded by Borzageans but Margaret Sullavan aside, the film was ruined by Taylor and Franchot Tone.

Wild Bill Wellmann is not a very reliable source and his pontifications about actors are not necessarily illuminating. Unlike say, Raoul Walsh who had a sensibility for actors.

The performances that have most impressed me in Wellmann films from the ones I have seen are Stanwyck in NIGHT NURSE, Cagney in THE PUBLIC ENEMY and Richard Barthellmess in HEROES FOR SALE(which is not very respected but one I love a lot).

Campaspe said...

Laura, you're making a good case here, and I just remembered one I forgot: The Last Hunt. Excellent. Stewart Granger, who also has his detractors here (although the Siren likes him just fine) also is very good in it. As I read over this thread I am realizing that I don't buy Taylor as a romantic lead, mostly.

Vanwall said...

What? No love for Taylor in "Savage Pampas"?!?

It's funny, he does well enough for me to tolerate, but again, in "Ramrod", Don DeFore did so well as a heel-with-a-heart, I would've plugged him into any of Taylor's similar roles, if he would've acted that consistantly well - and that says more about Taylor's weakness than DeFore's strengths.

X. Trapnel said...

For years I had put off reading the uber-bleak American poet Weldon Kees because of his faint resemblance to S.A. Brugh. Once past this, I was seriously hooked; a poet who makes Philip Larkin seem like Andrea Leeds' Miss Humanity turn in the Goldwyn Follies. Imagine my surprise then in reading Kees' biography to discover that he and Spangy Brugh were boyhood chums in Beatrice, Nebraska. Sadly, he was later cold shouldered by Brugh (perhaps suspecting communist sympathies or a touch up for a loan) when he attempted to get into screenwriting. He did, however become friends (almost inevitably) with James Agee, and the two whiled away their drinking time discussing film projects that never came to anything. Kees vanished 1955, his Plymouth found, keys in the ignition, on the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge.
S.A. Brugh continues to vanish to this day.

For My Daughter

Looking into my daughter’s eyes I read
Beneath the innocence of morning flesh
Concealed, hintings of death she does not heed.
Coldest of winds have blown this hair, and mesh
Of seaweed snarled these miniatures of hands;
The night’s slow poison, tolerant and bland,
Has moved her blood. Parched years that I have seen
That may be hers appear: foul, lingering
Death in certain war, the slim legs green.
Or, fed on hate, she relishes the sting
Of others’ agony; perhaps the cruel
Bride of a syphilitic or a fool.
These speculations sour in the sun.
I have no daughter. I desire none.

Weldon Kees

X. Trapnel said...

Three Comrades should have been great: Borzage, Scott Fitzgerald, and Margaret Sullavan. The strength of Remarque's novel (his best, except for the unfilmed The Black Obelisk) is its casually lyric evocation of day to day postwar life, the ups and downs of disillusionment, hope, and anxiety. I've never read (though I must one day) Fitzgerald's rejected screenplay (thanks Mank), but, yes, the main problem with the film, apart from S.A. Brugh, is the script: too choppy, rushed here, slowed there, sentimental and humorless (the novel is neither). Tone (awful) and R. Young as best friend-eunuchs don't help; Brugh is a stiff. The scene where he is putting on the tuxedo shows that he might have made a fine store mannequin. Margaret Sullavan is luminous and transcendent.

Alex said...

"Alex, Sagehen is a singularly unintimidating team nickname, I gotta say, with or without the handsome, strong McCrea."

Our mascot's FIRST name is actually even more milquetoast: He's Cecil Sagehen!

Our fight song includes such immortal lines as:

“Our foes are filled with dread / Whenever Cecil Sagehen flies overhead!"

...sagehens can't fly, by the way, making the fight song even more amusing.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Hey everbody stand back -- KAREN'S GONNA EXPLODE!

DavidEhrenstein said...

When she won her Oscar for Reds Maureen Stapletoon made a point of thanking Joel McCrea. The camera cut to Warren and Jack who were sitting next to one another, both looking straight ahead and mouthing in incredulity "JOEL MCCREA???!!!!"

In the green room Maureen simply said "I've always loved his work."

X. Trapnel said...

ohmigod. that voice. peter lawford (intimations of Skidoo).

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

> a poet who makes Philip Larkin
> seem like Andrea Leeds' Miss
> Humanity

LOL! Bravo, X.Trapnel!

As for Robert Taylor and "Party Girl" ... I seem to remember a quote from Norman Krasna about how Olivia de Havilland's career as comic, in the '40s, came to a halt when "Government Girl" placed two Stone Faces (de Havilland and Sonny Tufts) side-by-side. I have much the same reaction to the pairing of Charisse, whom I love, and Taylor, for whom I have somewhat less affection. Neither one is exactly notable for animated acting ...

Oh, yes, and I went to U.C. Santa Cruz, where the totem animal was the Banana Slug. (See sweatshirt in "Pulp Fiction.") Heroic, *nicht wahr*?

X. Trapnel said...

Sonny Tufts!!??

mndean said...

I like the tag of Robert Young as "best-friend eunuch". In The Kid From Spain, Eddie Cantor was sexier (wrap your mind around that one). Young got better as he got older, though. He was a damn good cop in Crossfire, but unfortunately he hit TV and he turned into "father eunuch" or "doctor eunuch". I guess the money was good.

Exiled in NJ said...

Her range goes from A to B, but it's a stretch.

Poetic that Taylor ended with Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows. I thought our Siren made a comment earlier comparing him to Keanu Reeves?

After Ribbentrop flew to Moscow to sign the pact, Young was able to surface as a Nazi and give up his leftist ways.

McCrea had everything that yesterday's Roastee, Montgomery, lacked. An easy charm and a believability that a woman would want to spend the night, or her life, with him.

X. Trapnel said...

It's one of the dopier conventions of old (and for all I know contemporary) Hollywood that friends, sidekicks, male and female, have to be de-sexed out deference to the star. Even when deference is due: Helen Broderick at the end of The Rage of Paris isn't even allowed to get Mischa Auer.

X. Trapnel said...

Brugh in his later, "tired" films had an unpleasant crankiness signalled by an oily curl of forelock creeping down his forehead like a small Edward Gorey creature.

I'm told that The Law and Jake Wade is a feast for Brughophobes with S.A. being gleefully tormented by Richard Widmark.

Gerard Jones said...

I think it was a stage convention to make the male lead not only sexless but nearly without personality in a play conceived as a vehicle for a forceful female star. I believe it was already standard in the days of Bernhardt and Langtree, and "prestige" movies were still stuck in the rut in the early '30s. Pretty soon studios and actresses caught on that they made better connections with audiences and sold more tickets if there was a real chemistry between potent male and female leads, even some on-screen power struggle. There's an open competition between Gable and most of his leading ladies, even a subtle jockeying between Powell and Loy, that's fun to watch. But before that came all those showpieces for Norma Shearer, Ruth Chatterton, Ann Harding, et al in which the male lead is utterly forgettable.

(P.G. Wodehouse was great a making fun of that sort of character and the actors who played them. I'm sure he had to write far more of them than he wanted in his musical comedy days.)

That was part of Robert Montgomery's problem: he was brought in mostly to play that role, and it took him a long time to shake it off. He was a lot more distinctive and memorable in such roles than most of the other actors doing the same sort of thing. I can't even remember who played the various straying husbands in all those Ruth Chatterton movies.

Gerard Jones said...

David, you are the master of the YouTube assault. To click unsuspectingly on a link and be assaulted by June and Peter doing the Varsity Drag...it's enough to give a person PTSD.

X. Trapnel said...

Gerard, the theatrical convention you describe is pertinant in varying degrees to most of Katherine Hepburn's work in the thirties. Although her persona is usually considerd to be that of a "modern woman" she often seems to me more like an "emancipated woman" circa 1890-1910, her acting style suggestive of what Julia Marlowe, Maude Addams, Jane Cowl etc. might have been like. I don't mean this as denigration; it's part of her fascination.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Soory Gerad, but Good News is one of my favorite musicals. In fact Comden and Green who write the screenplay famously remarked "We always say the three greatest pictures are The Birth of a Nation, Battleship Potemkin and Good News."

1947 was a very important year: HUAC came to Hollywood (destroying countless lives), a major blizzard paralyzed the northeast of the U.S., Lizabeth Scott made Desert Fury, Yasujiro Ozu made The Record of a Tenement Gentleman, Chuck Walters made Good News, and I was born.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Last night the Academy had a tribute to Joseph L. Mankiewicz. His widow Rose was there along with his son Tom (the James Bond screenwriter), Martin Landau, C.O. "Doc" Erikson, and Sidney Poitier.

Sidney -- who still looks as if you could eat him with a spoon -- recalled how he was working as a dishwasher (!) when he got the call, came to Hollywood and STARRED in No Way Out (still one of best films ever made about racism.)

A new print of Suddenly Last Summer was shown ( good grief Taylor was Beyond Fabulous. She's one of the few people who really knows the poetic cadences of Tennessee Williams dialogue)

Hepburn's famous spitting in Mankiewic'z face at the end of the shoot was discussed and Tom Mankiewicz said that it was likely inspired by an interview Mankiewicz gave to the British press during production in which he called Hepburn "one of our greates amateur actresses."

He was of course right on the money.

Laura said...

Here's a second vote for GOOD NEWS. Watching that colorful movie never fails to cheer me up. And my kids absolutely love it.

"Pass That Peace Pipe!"

Best wishes,
Laura

Gerard Jones said...

I agree completely with Laura: Good News is...colorful.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's the trailer. Patricia Marshall, BTW, is Mrs. Larry Gelbart.

Gerard Jones said...

I also agree with David, as well as Betty and Adolph: I enjoy Good News every bit as much as I enjoy The Birth of a Nation.

Gerard Jones said...

Nice to see praise for Heroes for Sale. Neither it nor Barthelmess fits well with our aesthetics now, but beyond some antique stylistics there's some real power there. I recommend reading the Barthelmess chapter in Mick LaSalle's Dangerous Men. It's an inconsistent book, especially when dealing with the usual suspects, but he did some real archaeology on Barthelmess and makes a good argument for him as the driving force behind his political and social movies getting made. You might even call him the "author"...or something similar.

Peter Nellhaus said...
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Peter Nellhaus said...

And then there is the side of an actor as filmed by William Wellman that almost made me rip my eyes out: a rear view of Andy Devine in a bathing suit in Island in the Sky. John Wayne was quite good in this film, though.

mndean said...

Gerard,
Those women's pictures of the early thirties didn't always have terribly anonymous male leads, but the men were usually written weakly. Look at the Wellman film The Conquerors. Poor Richard Dix wouldn't have had the moxie to go out west if Harding hadn't been metaphorically dressed as the Statue of Liberty, urging hubby to "go West, young man" in a scene that made me call her Miss Manifest Destiny. She was the center of the film, and Dix more the lummox she married so she could become successful. It may sound like a two-fisted tale of the west from the title, but it's really a women's picture in chaps. Dix was a fairly popular star at RKO at the time, so he was hardly anonymous. I could go on with others, but the point is that the women's trials and tribulations were what was important and the men were not written strongly. Heck, Baby Face is a women's picture when you come down to it.

mndean said...

Peter, how about Andy Devine in the shower in Man Wanted? ;)

Gerard Jones said...

mndean, I didn't say that the male leads in those women's pictures were anonymous, I said they were forgettable. Dix had his moments, as did George Brent and many other such guys, but in those movies they didn't leave much impression.

I don't think that style of the women's star vehicle was very good for the lead actresses, either. They had to carry too much of the movie and had too many big dramatic moments, which encouraged stilted performances. Having a forceful male lead to push against gave them room to play. It was Norma Shearer's curse to be put in that role nearly all the time. In The Women, every other actress gets to play like she's part of an ensemble, but Norma was isolated in her own metaphorical baby spotlight.

Of course she may just have been an actress who didn't flow easily into by-play. You can see them trying to work some chemistry out of Norma and Clark in Idiot's Delight, but it just wasn't there. And it was a rare actress Gable could set off sparks with.

Gerard Jones said...

Oh, but I did like Andy Devine in Man Wanted! In fact, I like Man Wanted in general.

Gerard Jones said...

The Shearer movie I like best for her chemistry with another actor is Riptide, with Robert Montgomery at his most charming (especially contrasted with Herbert Marshall, wasted in one of his stiffest roles). The scenes on the Riviera really got me in the heart.

Unfortunately, there are also scenes of Norma wrestling with terrible decisions and making noble sacrifices. But I've mostly forgotten them, and I still remember Montgomery climbing around on the balconies.

Karen said...

Oh my god, David, you Junerolled me!

I confess, when I read that highly personalized link, I thought it was going to be a clip combining Robert Taylor, Norma Shearer, June Allyson, Stewart Granger and Michael Douglas. So you can imagine my relief to find it was merely Good News, which is so delightful a film that even June can't completely ruin it for me. Far worse if that link had been to a clip from The Opposite Sex, that misbegotten remake of The Women.

I will add to the love for Joel McCrea, who stars in one of my three favorite films of all time, Sullivan's Travels. One of the many things I love about McCrea (besides how damn handsome he was: Bird of Paradise, anyone?) was how completely clean and unmannered his acting was. You never actually see him acting at all. It's quite extraordinary.

I'll also cast my vote, with enthusiasm, for Heroes for Sale, which I find quite extraordinary in its power and honesty. I very much like Barthelmess, myself (I love him in The Last Flight, which I think is just an amazing film on all points), and I'm sorry the talkies didn't find a better place for him.

Meanwhile, Peter, I may never forgive you for re-awakening my memory of Andy Devine in his trunks in Island in the Sky, which is the sort of thing that can scar a girl for life.

DavidEhrenstein said...

That's the key to McCrea, Karen. You never catch him acting. He just glides through the films behaving in a perfectly appropriate manner for whatever scene he's thrust into. And Boy Howdy was he ever Sex On A Stick!

I'm sure everyone here is familiar with that great scene in The More the Merrier where he walsk back to the aprtment with Jean Arthur. And he's incredibly hot in The Palm Beach Story, particularly when Mary Astor (playing me as a teenager) cuddles up to him and purrs "Oh Captain and thou!"

mndean said...

Gerard,
There was a reason those films were made, though. They were called women's pictures, and the whole point was to make the woman the center of the film. Her drives, ambitions, fears, peril, etc. were what counted. There was usually a hunk o' man for the woman to be attracted to or fear, and there were times he'd even give a strong, engaging performance, but he was mostly a trigger for the drama or an appendage to the woman, not an equal character. Insofar as that goes, you are absolutely right. It was a genre that faded somewhat after the code was enforced, since sex couldn't be mentioned much longer. I actually find the woman's picture fascinating and there are plenty of good ones. I don't need to have a strong man in the picture to make me want to watch it. There's a whole weekend of war pictures on TCM, which usually have weak women characters, when they have any at all.

Oh, and Gerard, I was trying to scare Peter with that Devine shower scene. I don't mind it at all. When you see Leon Errol scantily dressed, or Vernon Dent in a towel, nothing scares you anymore.

mndean said...

David,
Sex on a stick, but when you hear the stories of how he was scared to death of Veronica Lake when they were shooting Sullivan's Travels (she was ready to jump him at a moment's opportunity, even though she was already pregnant), there's a bit of humor in how sexy he was on screen. You also missed the lines in ST that Esther Howard and Almira Sessions had: "Did you notice his torso?", "I noticed you noticed it".

Exiled in NJ said...

For the male actor in the early part of the last century, the roles that offered a chance to chew scenery were Shakespearean, with some Ibsen thrown in. Barrymore vaulted to fame that way. I get the feeling that the studios avoided filming such fare like the plague. Oscar Jaffe is heading east toward Broadway, not west to Hollywood.

DavidEhrenstein said...

The Opposite Sex is indeed awful, despite a cast featuring Ann Miller, Agnes Moorehead, and my beloved Dolores Gray. Joan Collins (who turns 76 today) was a good choice for Crystal Allen, but Junie isn't Norma, the musical numbers are terrible and including men in the cast a very bad idea.

Fighting over who gets Leslie Nielsen makes no sense at all.

Gerard Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerard Jones said...

mndean, please tell me the movie in which Vernon Dent appears in a towel. So I can avoid it.

And Karen: I'd completely forgotten about Stewart Granger!

Talk to me five minutes from now and I'm sure I'll have completely forgotten about him again...

mndean said...

Oh, dear. I can't remember which it was, except I'm pretty sure it was a short.

Gerard Jones said...

I also find those early '30s women's pictures fascinating, especially the Warner and Columbia approaches, because they so often dealt with issues of class and money--and they were likely to star Kay Francis, Barbara Stanwyck or the strangely interesting Ruth Chatterton. But it's still generally my feeling that actresses can turn in more complex, natural and entertaining performances when they have a dynamic male lead to work against.

The same goes for male actors. One reason I find war movies mostly uninteresting is the lack of interesting women to force the male leads into a wider range of emotions.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Quite true. What can one do with the likes of John Payne and John Lund? Wayne's stolidity is the ley to his legendary status but it's also why he's such a bore. My favorite Wayne performances give him a woman to play against: Claire Trevor in Stagecoah, Natalie Wood in The Searchers (yes it's only in the last few minutes of the film but they pack a wallop) and Gerry Page in Hondo.

DavidEhrenstein said...

And speaking of women, my friend Jeff Weinstein has the REAL inside scoop on "American Idol"

X. Trapnel said...

John Wayne epitomizes the distance between "a real man" and a realistic man. One has the sense that his masculinity is so absolute that he never thinks about women until one crosses his path. And when he marries after the Fordian he spanks/she tames bit and sires a brood, he stops thinking about women and sex altogether. All very American this idea of sex as feminizing and its corrolary that femininity must be controlled by strong male hands.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Because if it's NOT controlled. . .

DavidEhrenstein said...

Or worse still, This!

DavidEhrenstein said...

The next step is of course This.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Which lead sinevitably to This.

DavidEhrenstein said...

And last but not least THIS.

DavidEhrenstein said...

But let's look on the bright side.

Gerard Jones said...

X, I hope you don't think I'm advocating that femininity must be "controlled by strong male" hands. I don't see William Powell's characters controlling Myrna Loy's or Clark Gable's controlling Jean Harlow's (although much of the humor comes in watching him try) or Cary Grant's controlling Katherine Hepburn's or Irene Dunne's or anyone else. It's the interplay of equals that makes the great Hollywood duos work.

Gerard Jones said...

There are, of course, movies about male control of the female, like Philadelphia Story. But having a strong male actor doesn't require such a story, by any means.

Gerard Jones said...

David, thank you for the photoessay on the dangerous of runaway feminity. But I'm embarrassed to admit I don't recognize the second one--the black and white shot of the 1970-ish boy and girl--although I suspect I should.

Karen said...

I thought those were two girls....

gmoke said...

Whatever you say about John Payne's acting, if memory serves, he was one of the producers of "Miracle on 34th Street."

I liked him in "Kansas City Confidential" (which IMDB says he helped write) and the Tyrone Power "The Razor's Edge."

X. Trapnel said...

Gerard, no I thoroughly agree with you about the need for a strong male presence in these films if only to maintain dramatic interest. Strength and control are not the same thing, the latter being if anything a sign of fear and weakness. By contrast, I would see masculinity and femininity as complementary strengths, of course refracted through the individual personalities of the actors. For what it's worth I loathe The Philadelphia Story for its snobbery ("My, she was yar." YAAARRRRGGGHHH) its reactionary attitude toward women, its theatricality and Tradition of Quality complacency, its alleged appeal to "intelligent" viewers (faugh). I'll take Bringing Up Baby, thanks.

I must confess though that I do like Franz Waxman's music for TPS.

X. Trapnel said...

Gerard and Karen, I believe the 70s pair are Susan Sontag and her son David Rieff

DavidEhrenstein said...

You win 500 points on "Gay Jeopardy," X. Trapnel!

mndean said...

Damn, I woulda won nothing. I kept thinking "Who's the kid with Sontag?", forgetting all about her son. Ah, well. I get the parting gifts I suppose. With Art Fleming and Don Pardo snickering as I left.

Karen said...

Oh, dear. I think I don't even win the conciliatory home version of "Gay Jeopardy"...

X. Trapnel said...

David, how does 500 points translate into Valuable Cash Prizes?

DavidEhrenstein said...

500 points gives you enough scratch to date Steve Antin.

Provided of course you're interested in David Geffen's hand-me-downs.

X. Trapnel said...

Can I take the lovely set of patio furniture from the Spiegel Catalogue of Chicago, Illinois instead?

Vanwall said...

Do I get anything special if I decide whether to hit this Jew over the head with a bag of sugar, or beat out that rhythm on a drum?

DavidEhrenstein said...

But it's good shit Mrs. Preski.

X. Trapnel said...

You forgot about the snake knives!

mndean said...

In honor of Memorial Day -

Pico: We been shootin' reds and yellows all day.

Alvarado: Oh, man, I'm sleepy.

DavidEhrenstein said...

It's Communist Martyys High that's responsible!

I know cause I'm a graduate.

X. Trapnel said...

mnd, mnd you're a white man; you've got to tell us what to do!

Campaspe said...

Whoa. I go offline for a couple of days and the whole dang thread spins out of control. All kinds of things that, were I not such a dedicated First Amendment absolutist, might incur my wrath. Kind words for Good News, which is playing in my personal Hell Plaza Octoplex (with that damn Varsity Drag on a loop). Dissing women's pictures, my favorite genre. Dissing BORZAGE. Dissing Greed AND Heaven's Gate. Okay, that was the last thread, but still. And the last few posts I just don't get. Although at least I did recognize Susan Sontag. Worst of all, people reminding me of Andy Devine in his shorts.

Okay, can we all agree on Joel McCrea's incredible dishyness? He was a really versatile actor, able to be extremely funny or strong and stoic as the case demanded. And his marriage -- 57 years!

Also loved the bulletin from the Mankiewicz tribute. It's funny, I think Suddenly Last Summer is an interesting failure but the last time I saw it I did think Taylor was the best thing in it, which surprised me. She did have a feel for Williams dialogue, I agree there.

Also glad to see the Heroes for Sale love.

Vanwall said...

My secretary was asleep on the floor, her long, beautiful gams pinioned by the couch.

X. Trapnel said...

I knew it was only a matter of time before Miss Campaspe returned to the room to discipline klass klowns Vanwall, mnd, David E, and, uh, myself. But I did NOT diss Borzage, whom I admire enormously.

mndean said...

Hey, I didn't diss Borzage, only Robert Montgomery, Robert Young and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I didn't really diss Greed, either, I just don't see how it could have ever been released in its original cut back in the day. All I can say about Heaven's Gate is it sure was shot pretty.

mndean said...

The funny thing about Joel McCrea is that I've only seen a few films with Frances Dee in them. It's sort of like seeing every Harpo Marx film and only seeing Susan Fleming in Million Dollar Legs and Gold Diggers of 1937.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Just remember, Campaspe Don't Crush that Dwarf -- Hand Me the Pliers.

Vanwall said...

Siren - It's not that there are and aren't appropriate times for interjecting the Firesign Theater, (ANY time is appropriate for that, AFAIC) but here is a place I knew without being told there would be Bozos on the Bus, Nick Danger olde-time radio listeners, and a general contempt for that certain kind of propriety, and that was FT's raison d'être. They made a few movies, too.

This thread must be like heavy grit sandpaper suddenly appearing on the wrong roll and Con-Ed lets the lights go out just at the wrong moment. I have assiduously avoided dissing anything but the Other Taylor, and only softly at that; meanwhile Borzage - who wouldn't get any slanging from me, and Heaven's Gate - I won't go there, I just won't - both should be on their own posts. For different reasons. I'm with ya on the "Good News" Circle of Hell, tho.

I will recommend Kobal's McCrea piece in "People Will Talk" - it speaks with his voice.

mndean said...

Siren, BTW (and I'm not sucking up) I LOVE '30s precode women's pictures. I find them fascinating, if not always very good. Plenty of them are good, though.

Karen said...

You'll never hear me diss a women's picture. I love both the genre and writing about the genre--especially Jeanine Basinger's book.

Which is why this passage in a New Yorker "DVD Notes" piece particularly drew my ire, as I'm sure it will my fellow Sirenites:

"A 1980 feature-length interview with Sirk, 'From UFA to Hollywood,' a splendid extra on a 2-disk set of his 'Magnificent Obsession" (Criterion), from 1954--the film that made Rock Hudson a star and brought new life to the soppy genre of 'women's pictures'--distills the director's artistry and offers a lesson in moviemaking."

Italics most certainly and outragedly mine. Soppy genre, INDEED.

mndean said...

Karen,
In a sense, Basinger has a point (though a thin one). In the '30s, the typical women's picture was a lot more hard-nosed than in the '40s. I don't think Sirk merely removed (or soft-pedaled) the sappiness but also made the drama more complex. The late '30s and '40s women's picture did include a lot of "Quit bitchin' and get back in the kitchen" examples that weren't so much sappy as insulting. We don't remember those pictures so much since they weren't artistically successful, but there were a lot of them. In many ways, TCM is a great lie detector. They show a lot of films that are plain embarrassing today, and at least made me reassess a lot of what I assumed were common attitudes back in the Depression and during (and post) WWII. The independent female was a lot more common in the '30s, faded by the '40s and didn't really reappear strongly until the '60s.

DavidEhrenstein said...

You're quite right about the 30's mndean. I've become aare of that recently in looking at Dorothy Arzner's work. Craig's Wife centers ona middle-class "perfectionist" housewife in an extrmely complex way. The control she exterts over her house is what she feels she got in exchange for her search for a place in the world, What obsesses her is a driving desire to keep outsiders at a distance and brush away all probllmes by constantly declaring that "everything's alright."

The 50's were the boom time of suburbia -- and the assumed paradise of postwar "perfection." Sirk's heroines find themselves unable to assume Harriet Craig's steely shell by force of circumstance. The films are full of "home decorating tips." But their stories show how much said decor costs in terms of human life.

Exiled in NJ said...

Once again, I will blow the horn for No Down Payment being the definitive film of 50's life. I saw it in 1958 at a 9 cent third run house. Friend and I went in expecting a Tony Randall comedy and came out very disturbed teens.

To discuss 50's attitudes without it is, to paraphrase Kenneth Clark, like calling 17th Century Dutch painting bourgeois sentimental by forgetting about a certain Rembrandt.

Dan Leo said...

Wow, these comment threads are getting intimidating! I only want to add one tidbit:

Robert Taylor was one of the actors that Peckinpah considered for the role of Pike Bishop in "The Wild Bunch".

DavidEhrenstein said...

Funny, I was just posting about that Male Weepie on another forum.

Karen said...

MND, that quote's not from Basinger, it's from someone named Rochard Brody, writing in The New Yorker. Basinger, in her book A Woman's View, takes the position that, even after the enforcement of the Code, and the flood of films in which no bad behavior went unpunished, Hollywood still at least provided model after model of that bad behavior.

The '30s films definitely had a harder edge, and less of a tendency towards euphemism, than the '40s films, but I'm not sure I would call them "soppy"--not even Dark Victory or (sob!) Now, Voyager.

Campaspe said...

Karen, I agree. The 1940s was the high-water mark for Bette Davis's career and that alone would distinguish the women's pictures of the era. But there was also everything from Mildred Pierce to Rebecca to what I consider the greatest women's picture of them all, Letter from an Unknown Woman. Not to mention Caught and The Reckless Moment, as well as the best version of Back Street, Random Harvest, The Enchanted Cottage, Portrait of Jennie, To Each His Own...I would defend all of those against charges of soppiness. They're the movies I cut my old-movie-loving teeth on.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Especially The Reckless Moment. Extremely tough stuff, and Ophuls' last American masterpiece.

Are you familiar with The Deep End -- the remake made a few years back with Tilda Swinton? Really something.

Campaspe said...

The Reckless Moment is marvelous. I had heard that the Deep End didn't live up to it so I had not bothered but will on your say-so.

I also saw The Woman on the Beach recently and was most impressed. Not a great Renoir, but a good one, much better than its reputation. And Bennett was marvelous.

X. Trapnel said...

Siren, I shall risk your wrath by insisting that Letter From an Unknown Woman (a film I watch with a rapt, religious devotion) is no sort of woman's picture, first, becuase it is utterly unique, a genre buster as sure as its (not identical) twin Vertigo, and second I beleive there is a distinction to be made between a woman's film and a film in which the point of view/dramatic situation/emotional situation is a woman's (which may be a way of saying LFAUW is a European film).
Letter is not a weepie, but like Vertigo a drama of obsessive passion that ultimately destroys the lover and the beloved. Weep, if you will for poor Louis Jourdan going to his scarcely merited execution at the end. Like Kim N. he is a predator/victim paying a terrible price for his weakness. (Personally, since this is Vienna, I'd send him to Freud for observation; who could forget Lovely Joan at her most ravishing? Definitely a man badly in need of treatment). A woman's film is often as not built around the social rules and restrictions that block her way to happiness/fulfillment, but Lisa not only rejects them utterly, we don't really see the social consequences (everyone treats her rather kindly; I will point out here that Stefan Zweig's novella is much tougher in this regard; the scene in the maternity ward is scarifying, prefiguring Auschwitz). In fact, the film divides like Vertigo into first encounter/second encounter and in the second part both Lisa and Scotty are hell-bent on self-destruction, amour fou, all moral coordinates ditched in the ecstatic agonizing struggle with Eros. This is not Greer Garson stuff.

Meanwhile, we do no harm, for they,
That with a god have strive,
Not hearing much of what we say,
Take what the god has given;
Though like waves breaking it may be,
Or like a changed familiar tree,
Or like a stairway to the sea
Where down the blind are driven.

--Edwin Arlington Robinson, "Eros Turranos"

X. Trapnel said...

Cry of agony: "they that with a god have STRIVEN." Sorry, EAR

mndean said...

Karen,
I mistook your phrasing to mean Basinger wrote the DVD notes (she often appears ubiquitous - about a quarter of the women's movies I have seem to have comments from her), and it seemed inexplicable to me.

I'm not getting into a '30s vs. '40s argument. Both have some excellent women's films. What bothers me is how technical limitations of early '30s filmmaking are held against the films even when they're good in all other respects. Some of those limitations I am grateful for, such as having a minimal score over a bad, syrupy one.

Campaspe said...

"What bothers me is how technical limitations of early '30s filmmaking are held against the films even when they're good in all other respects."

That bothers me for pretty much all pre-1960 cinema, actually. An excellent point.

I have to say, though, that I *like* a lot of obtrusive old scores.

Campaspe said...

"...a drama of obsessive passion that ultimately destroys the lover and the beloved."

That describes a lot of women's pictures. And the whole premise behind a lot of women's pictures, whether they end happily or tragically, lies in the main character's collision with social convention. Lisa is definitely more headstrong than many but it is still a women's picture. Moral and social complexity may elevate a movie within its genre but don't turn it into something else.

For the (admittedly not that many) people who went to see Letter on its first release, the movie could be viewed as a study of unrequited love, cousin to a film like The Old Maid. I think its resemblance to Vertigo isn't that deep, as the Hitchcock is a far more cynical and fundamentally carnal view of male-female relations. Scotty's passion is selfish and cruel, and has none of the spiritual or artistic dimension of Lisa's yearnings. Remember, it is Stefan's piano playing that she first falls in love with.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Tilda is truly marvelous in The Deep End. She gets to do a lot of scary things -- like dispose of a body.

X. Trapnel said...

I strongly disagree that Vertigo is cynical or that Scotty's love is merely carnal (or put another way, would Lisa have fallen in love had the pianist been Art Smith and the manservant Louis Jourdan). Scotty is drawn to Madeleine's emotional fragility; yes, she's beautiful, but he wants to protect and save her; Hitchcock is being honest rather than cynical in showing how the nobler or spiritual emotions coexist and can barely be extricated from the carnal.

DavidEhrenstein said...

As is Jonatha Tucker who plays her gay son (in The Reckless Moment it was Geraldine Brooks as Joan Bennett's straight daughter) who gets involved with an evil nightclub owner.

DavidEhrenstein said...

And as James Mason Goran Visnjic!

DavidEhrenstein said...

You;re right, X. Scottie is given an opportunity to jump the bones of a naked and semi-comatose Madeleine -- and he doens't take it.

mndean said...

I don't find technical limitations too serious from about 1935-36 on. Pretty much all the sound techniques were fairly well conquered by then. Scores were improved in the '40s, but I'm not at a film to listen to the score, at least not as long as I have eyes. I might enjoy it, but it's not as important as the film. In scores, I don't like obtrusive or excessively manipulative ones. I can't think of a pre-1960 limitation other than widespread use of color.

X. Trapnel said...

Good point, David. Vertigo has strong roots in several Western erotic myths: Tristan and Isolde, Orpheus and Eurydice--and ultimately Platonic ideas of love; in the case of the latter that physical desire for beauty is a step on the way to a deire for the moral. At least until the advent of Darwinism and sociobiology told us otherwise, these myths were held to embody certain truths about love (I think they still do), but the business of art is to complicate myths and ideals by dramatizing them on the stage of the real with all its irrationality and mixed motives.

DavidEhrenstein said...

This played perfectly into 50's movie mores. Kim could be hotter than hell, but Jimmy wasn't about to do anything "vulgar." Thus sexual desire is both aroused and delayed.

X. Trapnel said...

Arousal and delay is the psychosexual dynamic at the heart of the Tristan myth (underscored literally by harmonic irresolution in Wagner and Herrmann). For the moral dimension see Denis de Rougement, Love in the Western World.

Frank Conniff said...

Right after the end of Vertigo, does Jimmy Stewart jump to his death or does he just go mad for good? I've always thought it was one or the other. Scotty was looking for "closure," and he found it, poor guy.

X. Trapnel said...

Utterly unknowable; we're left at the ultimate moment of irresolution. Is it possible that the shock drives him sane? A bit like Alec Guinness (another obsessive) at the end of Bridge on the River Kwai: "What have I done?"

Campaspe said...

Scotty neither knows nor cares the first thing about Madeleine's interior life or anything that is driving her. If he doesn't stoop to raping her when she's unconscious, that merely indicates a set of somewhat functioning scruples, not a higher love. When he transforms Judy later in the movie, it's all surface and appearance; he hasn't the slightest interest in what's going on inside her and Judy knows it. As long as she looks like his lost blonde it doesn't matter if she snaps her gum and sounds like Patsy Kelly on a bad day. Mind you, I like Vertigo because of its harshness, but the message it sends to women is as bleak as any in American cinema.

Contrast with Lisa, rapt and deliriously happy as she gets to sit inside a mock railway carriage and just talk to Stefan. Her love has a non-corporeal element that is very clearly delineated. She's falling in love with his music as much as him and the movie is definitely about the yearning for art as much as for a physical man.

DavidEhrenstein said...

She's also in love with his romantic rakishness. As a young girl she saw all his comings and goings and knows full well what he's up to. That's why she puts herself out there for him to "seduce." (Quotes are necessary because her "innocence" is something of an act.)

Scottie's "It couldn't matter to you" to Judy before she makes the fina;l adjustments to turn herslef into Madeleine have frequently provoked laughter at screenings I've atended.

I chalk it up to male guilt trying desperately to hide itself as the truth of the brutality of male privolege is revealed.

Hitchcock spoke of Scottie's dressing Judy as madeleine as a kind of striptease in reverse.

It is also a rape.

Campaspe said...

I seem to remember that line getting a laugh at the Ziegfeld years ago but yeah, that last transformation scene is harrowing and I think your take on the laughter is right on the money.

I agree, Lisa is also in love with Stefan's rakishness, but I would argue it ties in with the freedom she senses in music.

X. Trapnel said...

I'm not suggesting that Scottie's treatment of Judy is anything but cruel and insane, but is it possible to sit down and have a conversation with Madeleine? Her inner life? She's playing a role (at the behest of Elster), being deliberately elusive and leading him in vertiginous circles. What he "knows" of her innerlife is incipient madness which he naively imagines he can cure through love.

By comparison, Lisa's love for Stefan is "normal" but after his betrayal she still sees him in terms of an aestheticized dream to which she remains fiercely loyal unto death taking him down with her (recall her husband's threats with duelling swords visible [Ophuls uses a similar shot in Madame de]).

DavidEhrenstein said...

It would be possible to sit down and have a conversation with Judy. In fact the whole last part of the film is her begging Scottie to do just that.

X. Trapnel said...

Yes, of course. She is achingly human; Scottie is in love with a dream. We often wonder why the artists we love were so often dreadful human beings. Vertigo is among other things a dramatization of how a commitment to an ideal of beauty can sever the idealist from imperfect reality and the moral debacle that may follow from it.

Vanwall said...

I would posit Judy is not much different than Lisa - not leaving town is curious behaviour for a con-woman, professional or not, and when the inevitablity of discovery is played, she willingly goes along, because she wants to - the depth of any compelling of her by Scottie is only unknown on his part, as she is fully aware of every move that has happened before. She certainly goes in desiring it.

The two are dealing from different motives and deceptions but with a common aim - she knows he's a little unhinged, and he, as a predatory figure, knows when blood is in the water, but they both want the same thing, a relationship based on a kind of domination, and I'm not sure actual sex is even involved, or only peripherally at best.

Karen said...

Siren, I was at the Vertigo re-release at the Ziegfeld lo, these many years ago (as I recall, the Yankees won the World Series that night--although I guess, for a while, that wouldn't exactly have dated it), and yes, the "But it couldn't possibly matter to you!" line DID get a big laugh from the audience. It struck me at the time as stemming from a falsely superior "We've come a long way, baby!" attitude, but I think "male guilt trying desperately to hide itself as the truth of the brutality of male privilege is revealed" sounds far smarter and more accurate to me.

We've talked before in these fora about how wonderfully Hitchcock drew out the damaged lunatic hiding within Stewart's folksy persona. Rear Window is bad enough, but in Vertigo he's practically psychotic.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Stewart always had a psychotic edge. It's quite apparent in It's a Womnderful Life. And in one of the Thin Man films he plays the killer.

Vanwall said...

In Winchester 76, Stewart's scene where he beats the shit outta Dan Dureay's character - it was one of the most frightening moments of my young life when I caught it on TV as a kid. I watch that film half the time just for that scene.

X. Trapnel said...

Vanwall's comment is one possible interpretation. I'm not sure though what the nature of Scottie's "domination" might be. both characters had been drifting aimlessly before being caught in Elster's web. Scottie came to believe in the unfolding drama and I think Madeleine/Judy longed to believe in it ("It wasn't supposed to happen this way!"). Both hoped to recreate a dream of passion that might paradoxically end their "wandering." I might not call this domesticity, but isn't it a magnified, if distorted, image of what we want from romantic love?
Karen, thanks for the reminder of past Yankee glory (sigh). They were probably chuckling so hard that they missed Novak's wounded reaction.
Another link between Vertigo and Letter From an Unkonwn Woman is the city as silent witness and the way each film begins in realism and moves into a dreamscape (daytime in Vertigo, nighttime in Letter).

X. Trapnel said...

Something like Gary Cooper beating the shit outta Jack Lord in Man of the West. As with any Anthony Mann western I watch Winchester 73 for all the coffee drinking; particularly felicitous is Dan Duryea suggesting a coffee break while his gang is being shot to bits.

Apropos of absolutely nothing, once when riding the subway I saw a man reading a newspaper with the screaming headline: JACK LORD HAS HAD ENOUGH

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

Frabnk Coniff
> Does Jimmy Stewart jump to
> his death or does he just
> go mad for good?

I would say "Depends on which ending you watch." The "European ending," with Stewart and Bel Geddes, would confirm the madness assessment. The standard one, though, I would call "bittersweet triumph," though I'm not fond of the phrase itself. It's a triumph, in that he's able to look at the depths without collapsing, and yet it's tragic in that he's lost the woman he's convinced -- in however exploitative a fashion -- is his One True Love.

As for Scotty's mistreatment of Judy ... I would say that, *as presented*, it's a result of his having been blinded to her by his obsession with Madeleine. Given what we see, at least, we have no evidence as to Scotty's cruelty or lack thereof prior to encounting Les Elsters.

Counter-Argument: there's always the shape of the story, as James McCourt pointed out in his fine "Queer Street," which could be said to imply that "Vertigo" is the story of two murders, Gavin Elster murdering Madeline in Part One and Scotty murdering Judy in Part Two.

X. Trapnel said...

I'm not sure any court, apart from one presided over by the Honorable Henry Jones would find Scottie guilty of murder.

Campaspe said...

Karen, I remember nothing of the Yankees or their winnings but I am sure it was the same re-release. Lines around the block, a happy sight for a classic-film lover. It also makes me quite happy to imagine us in the same theater, two women unknowingly united in hearing the laugh on that line and thinking "oh for pete's sake."

There are some fascinating insights into Vertigo here, but for me it is only marginally more romantic than Frenzy. It is a harsh, harsh view of men and women and our lousy attempts to connect. As David points out, Judy spends the second half of the movie begging Scottie to talk to her. There aren't that many movies with the nerve to question whether we ever fall in love with a real person, or just an image we have constructed for ourselves, or depict so plainly how the sexes are fated to hurt each other. Bel Geddes is one of the saddest things in the movie, a real, vibrant woman in love with a man who barely perceives she's in the room.

Yojimboen said...

I said a few weeks ago on the same topic that I’ve always considered Bel Geddes’s Midge the real victim here. Maybe it’s seeing the film first in Europe through European eyes. Yes, Kim is a stunner, super-glamorous, but in the grand H’Wood tradition, pursuing such a creature is almost always a fool’s errand which ends in grief.
On the other hand Midge is honest, clear-eyed, corn-fed pretty; a haven. And thus, perhaps the most important word for the provincial teenager, attainable.

Boileau and Narcejac were not generous to their women (D'entre les morts [Vertigo]; Les Victimes; Les Diaboliques etc.). In my ending, Scotty climbs down from the tower, makes it home, where Midge, loving, ever-patient jewel that she is, begins again to rebuild her Scotty.



"caningsp"?
I got nothing.

X. Trapnel said...

Y, in our cynical age we're not allowed to believe in or hope for happy endings (e.g., i've read several times, based on no argument that Laura and Mark McPh will not be happy. At worst I see them becoming the parents in Hot Rods to Hell [with the bratty kids, perhaps, sick to death of hearing "the story"]). Vertigo was to have ended in Midge's apartment with her and Scottie hearing about the arrest of Gavin Elster on the radio

Yojimboen said...

I dunno; Scotty and Midge; Laura and Mark; Monty Clift and Eva Marie Saint; David Wayne and Celeste Holm; Alvy S. and Annie H.; Kristen Scott Thomas and anybody, even (god help me) Hughie-boy.

There are 100s of ‘em; 1000s of boy meets girl (but dumps other girl in the process) stories which might one day make a Favorite Movie Meme about ‘romantic roads not taken’ and how if you’d been at the Underwood you’d’a done it different.

I want everybody to have a happy ending. Especially Eva Marie.

Campaspe said...

Y., Raintree County is a flawed movie (well hell, how could it not be?) but there are some wonderful scenes (Lee Marvin!) and I find the ending very tender and beautiful. I always assumed Monty and Eva got together after the end -- you didn't?

X. Trapnel said...

Yes, Kristen S-T deserves better. Eva Marie did pretty well, becoming the third Mrs. ROT

Raintree County, gorgeous score by Johnny Green, him as wrote "Body and Soul." Also palled around in the early 30s with Bernard Herrmann and Oscar Levant.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Liz ended up with Monty -- what was left of him.

The Monty of his greatest moments of beauty (The Heiress, A Place in the Sun0 belinged to . . .Jack Larson.

Yojimboen said...

Ere I forget the most earnestly, passionately wished-for post-end-title resolution in all of cinema: Holly Martins had better be waiting outside the cemetery gate for Anna.
He'd just better be.

Campaspe said...

XT, the Raintree County score is exquisite and adds greatly to the movie.

Exiled in NJ said...

Mark would drive Laura nuts, spending all his time playing games on his iPhone.

Someone would have to rub out Graham Greene, and have Calloway defect to the Russians, for Holly and Anna to go off into the sunset.

Think of all the great Gillis-Schaefer collaborations that weren't written because Norma offed Joe.

X. Trapnel said...

Y, Holly M and Anna A. This is a painful subject because the ending is so very right. We are all Holly Martins; every gaffe, stumble, well-intentioned blunder, misplaced joke and I think (ruefully, making a sour, crumpled Cotten face), "that's what I would have done."

Dumbest thing ever said to a woman: "If I put my head between my legs and made funny faces I wouldn't stand a chance, would I?"

I like to imagine Anna going off with Mr. Crabbin.

Yojimboen said...

Nous sommes d’accords, Madame, I think Johnny Green’s score for Raintree County is as near as dammit perfect; heart-breaking in its redemptive beauty. Like relaxing in a safe, warm bath after a day out in the sleet. (I never studied musicology, so forgive the lame description – X? help?) It’s almost as good as Herrmann’s Scene d’Amour, and in the same league as, though better than, Rosenman’s East of Eden climax.

But there is such an overwhelming poignancy attached to Raintree County, isn’t there? And not solely because of the twin tragedies suffered by Monty Clift and Ross Lockridge Jr.
The phenomenology of the film itself as I now appreciate it puts it in an odd category, it has become much bigger than the sum of its parts.

(Though I believe I enjoyed a certain advantage seeing it first as a kid in the provinces and knowing nothing of the back-story; I didn’t know about the pre- and post-accident faces of Monty Clift, so I never looked for the differences. If I noticed anything at all, it was unconscious, and maybe even worked to better convey the passage of time and the ravages of the war. Seeing it today I have to work hard not to look for the facial changes from shot to shot – I’d almost prefer not to know.)

Why is Raintree so good and so bad at the same time? Was Lee Marvin ever more winning and loveable throughout the rest of his career? I’d truly love to know how Nigel Patrick got cast? He was a brilliant actor, but never more brilliant than here. He almost takes the whole movie and strolls off with it tucked securely his waistcoat pocket. Clift was agonizingly wonderful in parts and just as terrible in others, (and not because of the accident).

ET was… I don’t know, just pretty awful throughout. Her ‘southern’ accent was abominable, and she could do accents better than most – she nailed her Virginia-belle in Giant just before this, so why not here? Was it all the script’s fault? Or is it that Stevens was just that much better a director than Dmytryk? Or is here a clear-cut demonstration of ET’s lifelong difficulty (for some people, not for all) of letting her beauty get in the way of – or compensate for - her acting. Certainly Stevens knew better than Dmytryk how to recognize the shelf-life of this or that piece of business without having to check the sell-by date.

A Place in the Sun (Stevens again) is the exact opposite of Raintree. There ET uses her beauty to buttress and enhance her performance. Though both films probably contain equal measures of mawkishness and believable drama, ET makes Angela Vickers a character for the ages. So why is her Susanna Drake such a wash-out?
I wish I knew why. I so want ET to be better in this film than she is.

As for Eva-Marie Saint? The longer I live on this planet, the more films and actresses I see, the higher Eva-Marie Saint climbs in the pantheon of American actresses.

Campaspe said...

Yojimboen, what a great analysis of Raintree. I actually knew about Lockridge because I took classes with his son. He told me a little bit about having the film crew around. I haven't read the book he wrote, Shadow of the Raintree -- I guess I was afraid it would be too sad. I have a lovely copy of the novel that I have yet to read. It is pretty dense.

Agree on all points. ET was SO freaking lovely she scarcely seems human but she doesn't seem to be in control of her performance at all. She has some good moments but they flicker on and off. My guess (and that's all it is) is that it wasn't Dmytryk, or at least mostly not him. She was undoubtedly worried sick about Clift, her character is the most difficult of all, she got sick during filming and the costumes were so heavy she fainted a number of times. (Isn't it odd how Taylor has been ill with one thing or another all her life, and yet she battles on and has outlived a number of more robust contemporaries? It is part of why I love her, as a star if not always as an actress.)

Nigel Patrick IS great and I could watch Lee Marvin's final scene again and again. Oddly, in his memoirs Dmytryk maintains, with a great deal of conviction, that there wasn't a lot of scarring for Clift. Dmytryk claims that the difference was in the damage to the muscles and Clift's ability to move his face, if I recall correctly. He says that people exaggerate the damage from the accident and he implies that later on, the audience conflated the damage from Clift's drinking and drugs with what the accident did to his face.

However, like you, I haven't the heart for the "before and after" parlor game with Raintree. Clift isn't bad but he was such a physical actor and at times his physical pain is very palpable.

By the way, I am trying to do a "real" post but have been snowed under. Mr. C is out of town on a must-go trip and the twins turned 6 today. So I have been sole ringmaster of the Campaspe Family Three-Ring Circus.

Campaspe said...

For Yojimboen.

X. Trapnel said...

Y, I couldn't better your description of the Raintree music: achingly nostalgic yet hinting at some beauty yet to be lived (music can evoke feelings so intense and subtle they have no corrolary in words.) Along with Best Years, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Magnificent 7 it's one of the great "in the American grain" scores.
Oddly, I've read Shadow of the Raintree(yes, Siren, too sad for words) but not the novel, which I'm intensely curious to read (I'm always on the lookout for lost American masterpieces; I keep hoping there's a great novel of NYC yet to be discovered). As with the memoir and the novel, I know the score backwards and forwards (pity Johnny Mercer wasn't around to write better lyrics for the song) but haven't seen the movie which I think of with trepidation. I never thought Clift looked all that awful after the accident (frankly I've never noticed much difference) so I'm hoping I can put that knowledge aside. I realize I'm aslant the world on this, but I can't imagine how Elizabeth Taylor could be anything but utterly eclipsed by Eva Marie Saint in talent, beauty, and personality.

mndean said...

Just to throw this in, muscular or nerve damage or even paralysis can change a person's face enough to be easily noticeable. Clift didn't have to be scarred badly to have the difference show on camera. Sort of a sad voice of experience talking here. It's one of the reasons I didn't have a nerve operation, the chance of facial nerve damage and I saw what damage to facial nerves did to a friend of mine.

Karen said...

Happy birthday to the twins!!

DavidEhrenstein said...

MGM was hoping for another GWTW, and they didn't get it.

One can argue for days about whether Monty's accident "shows" in one scene or another, but the fact of the matter is it threw the shooting off and the production never really recovered.

Taylor is quite good but the part is much too simply concieved to sustain interest. It's one long slow descent into madness. Saint has the more compelling character to play. And Lee Marvin, as has been noted, is more interesting than Monty.

Another tragedy, it must be noted, took place duing the shooting: James Whale committed suicide.

The producer of Raintree County was David Lewis -- Whales's longtime lover. They had actually broken up a few years before as Whale had fallen for his chauffeur, Pierre Gorgel. But when a series of strokes brought him low, Lewis stepped in to take care of him. He also covered up the fact that it was a suicide -- complete with explanatory note -- for many years. Whale was in great pain and simply felt he couldn't go on.

This is a cue to pop in your DVDs of Gods and Monsters.

Raintree County is David Lewis's very last credit. He died in poverty.

The Rush Blog said...

I also agree with David, as well as Betty and Adolph: I enjoy Good News every bit as much as I enjoy The Birth of a Nation.I didn't enjoy BIRTH OF A NATION. All it did was piss me off.

mndean said...

Today, I watched a Fred Astaire vehicle made out of a P.G. Wodehouse story called A Damsel in Distress (same title as the book it's from). What I found most interesting is how nearly every piece of plot was contorted to fit the principal players (Wodehouse hadn't much room to complain, he was one of three credited scriptwriters), Astaire, and Burns and Allen. If you didn't know the book, you still wouldn't after watching the film. Only two chunks of plot made it through in mildly recognizable form.

The other film I watched was one I recorded a while back. Carnival in Flanders, which has to be one of the funniest French comedies of the '30s. I watched Knight Without Armor and had no clue Feyder had this much of a sense of humor. He was helped immensely by the Louis Jouvet, who is a scream in his usual deadpan way.

mndean said...

I lost the phrase "assistance of" somewhere in there. Please find it for me.

Pete Lawson said...

I've not seen the film of A Damsel in Distress, but does anyone else think that Astaire around that time would have made a perfect Bertie Wooster?

DavidEhrenstein said...

He would have made a much better Jeeves.

Edward Everett Horton is closer to Bertie.

mndean said...

Physically, Astaire would be a perfect Bertie. thin (I think Wodehouse uses the word "lithe"), graceful, dances well, enjoys life, etc. It's just the rest of him that's not Bertie. I don't remember Fred ever playing a Brit. Bertie's cold fear of marriage doesn't fit Fred's persona, either. Nor does Fred seem "mentally negligible", as Jeeves would put it. You know who could swing it if he could play dumb enough - Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. He did play a Brit a couple of times, but I fear he couldn't be enough of a twit. For Jeeves, you can't go for the obvious butler like Robert Greig (okay, you can, but I think it's a mistake - Greig belongs with Aunt Dahlia's menagerie), but the best Jeeves I can think of is - hold on to your hat- Herbert Marshall. He could handle the intellectual part of Jeeves and be more grave and serious (which he should be) than Bertie. Jeeves need not be much older than Bertie.

If you gave me time, I could do a cast of thirties actors for each of the major characters, though why anyone would want me to is beyond me.

mndean said...

David,
Edward Everett Horton? I don't see that at all. Bertie is supposed to be handsome, well-dressed, lithe, frivolous (a party animal), idly rich, and available. He has a terrible fear of marriage, and he finds every woman he's involved with undesirable. We see them through Bertie's eyes, so we get how they're not up to his standard, but he manages to find fault with every single woman he's involved with. It all screams "closet case", but it can't be played that way. Not if we're thinking '30s or '40s.

Pete Lawson said...

Oh, it would be a departure from Astaire's usual persona certainly, but whatever RKO's estimation of his acting talents, I think he definitely had it in him to stretch to "Mentally negligible" (a wonderful phrase, but one I rather wish I didn't have such frequent cause to use in daily life.)

I don't want to trouble you with a whole list, MN, but out of curiosity, who's your Madeline Bassett?

X. Trapnel said...

A non-English Bertie Wooster is unthinkable; the problem is though, none of the leading English actors of the thirties or forties was a BW type. Maybe, just maybe Ray Milland. A non-star possibility might be David Tree who played Freddie Eynsford-Hill in Pygmalion.

X. Trapnel said...

Or Rex O'Malley as BW?

mndean said...

Madeline Bassett? How about Margaret Lockwood? If anyone here has seen the Warner British film Man of the Moment, she played a young woman who went into a crying jag at the drop of a hat. Sentimental as hell, but wanting to change her fiancee's life after the wedding. My idea for Fairbanks came from that film, actually. He had a bachelor's party that would do the Drones proud, with everyone drunk on the floor. Lockwood seemed the type who could do Bassett. Florence Craye would be a harder choice. Maybe Madeline Carroll. I have to think about it some more. Aunt Dahlia could maybe be done by Alison Skipworth (I would pay money to see her blackjack Spode), and Anatole could be done by (okay I'm typecasting) Luis Alberni. Tom Travers needs to be a complainer who can't rein in Dahlia, hmm. Aunt Agatha is another that requires thought, as she is little seen but much feared. Agatha's second husband, Lord Worplesdon could be done by C. Aubrey Smith.

mndean said...

Ray Milland could be a superficial twit early in his career. That's an idea, there.

mndean said...

The one I hit a wall on is Honoria Glossop. There weren't many women who were the hearty back-slapping type then and still be uppercrust British. You could hardly put Patsy Kelly in a British-themed comedy.

X. Trapnel said...

This is a bit of a stretch for Honoria Glossop, but what about Edna Best?

DavidEhrenstein said...

The Jeeves and Bertie ant Fry and Laurie played on TV is about to come out on DVD, and to me they are perfection.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's Hugh Laurie's Bertie trying to get Stphen Fry's Jeeeves to sing "Minnie the Moocher" with him.

Campaspe said...

M., where do you get that Bertie is handsome? I always figured he was somewhat attractive and very presentable (when he listens to Jeeves) but the books are full of people mocking Bertie's looks one way or another. I think Fairbanks Jr. would be much too sexy for him. Laurie's slightly goofball looks are a better fit with the books.

Vanwall said...

Fry and Laurie hit the nail on the head.

mndean said...

Bertie's been described as handsome in a couple of the books (I've read all but three, I think), and considering his friends and competition (Roderick Spode, Stilton Cheesewright "beefy, head like a pumpkin", Boko Fittleworth "looks like an educated parrot", Tuppy Glossop was similarly derided but I forgot if it was for his looks, demeanor or both), it is somewhat telling that the women chase him rather than the other way around. They must consider him good looking enough. The reason most families don't want Bertie as a member is that they think he's dumb, nuts or both (you'll notice it's often Jeeves' job to make him unacceptable to the parents of the intended if they already don't consider him certifiable - he does that with Sir Roderick Glossop). Also, Wodehouse tends to remark on character's looks if they're odd or unattractive, like with Freddie Threepwood. And besides, in casting such a central character, he'd have to be at least handsome enough for the audience to believe women are chasing him. We're talking Old Hollywood here. The women have to be pretty, especially Florence Craye.

BTW, as much as I like Fry and Laurie's take, the writers did take massive liberties with the stories after the first season, such that some really irritated me.

X. Trapnel said...

I've often thought the best way to film Evelyn Waugh would be animation (cf. A Handful of Dust, not a bad film, but EW's humor is lost). The same might be true for Wodehouse.

Yojimboen said...

You missed your calling, X., David Tree (he enters at 2:40m) might just be the best casting suggestion in history.

I've seen all the Fry and Lauries and while, yes, they take liberties which no doubt offend purists, each episode is more adorable than the last.

X. Trapnel said...

He also plays Charles Lomax, upper-class twit, in Major Barbara (I imagine, Y, that you must have encountered many such in your days as a public school lad). I wonder if British cinema or wiser heads in Whitehall ever thought it might be best keep this type hidden from an uneasy world in the thirties.

Karen said...

Yes, David Tree IS Bertie Wooster.

Although I might also suggest George K Arthur.

No, I never thought of Bertie as being particularly handsome. I always imagined he was considered such a catch because he was a man of means without too many difficult relations (most brides-to-be don't think about the aunts).

While Stephen Fry's demeanor seemed perfect for Jeeves, I never thought he was much of a physical match. I seem to recall Wodehouse describing Jeeves as medium build and dark hair, and reasonably attractive himself--which is what made him so good at charming all that info out of cooks and chambermaids and the like.

But, despite the liberties they took with the stories, I tend to agree that, for all their physical quirks, Fry and Laurie made just about as brilliant a Jeeves and Wooster as could be imagined.

X. Trapnel said...

Thanks for the clip, Y! God, he's perfect! And Carol Reed would be his illegitimate uncle (?) and Max Beerbohm his legitimate great uncle.

mndean said...

I seem to recall Wodehouse describing Jeeves as medium build and dark hair, and reasonably attractive himselfKaren,
Why do you think I mentioned Herbert Marshall? As for Bertie, unless you wish to make Jeeves the center of the film and Bertie as a supporting character (like that would work), he'd have to be a star of some sort. I was working on the premise that it was a Hollywood film of the '30s or '40s, and besides, I do remember him being termed handsome and he was enough so to evoke jealousy from other men as well.

Yojimboen,
When they hack out the funniest parts of the book they're adapting, I wouldn't call it being a purist to cry foul. The first season was by far the best in my viewing. I call it screenwriters disease - they think they can improve a story instead of just adapting it, and they stick their oar in and add things that the author would often be revolted by. A screenwriter's best friend is a dead author.

X. Trapnel said...

I've never seen any Wodehouse adaptations, but mnd is right on the money when it comes to the most recent adaptation of Lucky Jim, an Age of Blair travesty.

Yojimboen said...

And the first actor to play Lucky Jim brings me full-circle to the abject confession that I had completely forgotten (my only excuse the natural loss of brain cells) what may be the definitive Jeeves and Wooster, i.e. Ian Carmichael and the miraculous Dennis Price.They did 3 seasons back in the 60s (on the Beeb) but they don't seem to be readily available on tape or disc (we'll see about that).

P.S. to mnd: Writers work for producers. I'll bet the ranch that virtually every offensive decision made in a book- (or play) to-film adaptation was made, not by the writer, but by the producer.
Take it to the bank.

Yojimboen said...

On the other hand (if it's not by Wilson Mizner it damn-well should be):

"There exists no passion in letters like the passion to redo anther man's draft."

mndean said...

Trapnel,
I've never seen a great Wodehouse adaptation on film, so you haven't missed much. I see the problem as being too damn much happens in the stories and you end up having to throw out large pieces to fit the film in an acceptable length. Take a look at Jill, The Reckless which is sort of a companion piece to A Damsel In Distress. In the first few chapters, we have a young woman who's engaged to marry an MP, then meets her soon-to-be future mother-in-law (who is none too impressed). She then meets an old childhood friend at a theater that catches fire and burns down. She gets jailed the next day for attacking a dog, loses all her money because her uncle gambles in the market with her inheritance, gets dumped by said MP, and she then sets sail for America, penniless. That's enough for an entire film right there and we've barely got through a third of the book. Some of the books can be compressed, like Leave It To Psmith, but most of them aren't so amenable to that. Which is why I thought the only Wodehouse that really can be filmed are his short stories.

X. Trapnel said...

Yes, what's fast and funny on the page often translates into a slow and cumbersome literalness on the screen. The funny-horrible (in the case of Waugh) becomes merely horrible.

Pete Lawson said...

It's not just the multi-strand plots that make Wodehouse adaptations hard; so much of the pleasure in the books comes from the narrator's (be it Bertie, Mulliner or Plum's generic voice-of-God) florid exposition and editorial liberties: his referring to Shakespeare as "My brother author", cramming in that evergreen bit of his about the male codfish loving his three million children equally, et al.

Some classic Fry and Laurie:

http://www.sadena.com/BBC-Radio/-index.html

mndean said...

Oh, for laughs, I have a Saturday Evening Post issue Apr. 22, 1916 with a Wodehouse/Bertie Wooster story, and not only does the illustrator depict Bertie as fortyish, bloated and jowly, but he also wears glasses.

mndean said...

I do have to say that some of his stories like the two I previously mentioned do not have a narrator and they are pretty much all plot. A Damsel In Distress is about a songwriter who is smitten with a woman he meets in a cab in London who ran away from home and he chases her all the way to her father's castle only to find she's in love with another man. Jill the Reckless is about a woman who after her life falls apart in England comes to New York and becomes a chorus girl. As with all Wodehouse, things work out but not quite in the way you think. Both books have way too much plot and incident to compress easily.

If it matters, both are available on Project Gutenberg.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Good grief! We started out with William Wellman and now we're posting about P.G. Wodehouse!

mndean said...

I did forget the punchline about the SatEvePost illustrations - In the story (one of the ones where Bertie's in America, hiding from Agatha), Bertie's friend (Rockmetteller Todd, drawn as very thin) gets the use of Bertie's apartment, contents and Jeeves. Bertie agonizes over Rocky wearing his clothes because he's a few sizes bigger than Bertie. It's a glaring, yet funny mistake.

X. Trapnel said...

David, film is part of the great ecosystem of civilization. Everything is connected. Max Steiner knew Gustav Mahler and may well have met Troy Donahue and maybe even Bob Cummings.

mndean said...

At first, I only brought up Wodehouse in passing because of seeing the Astaire movie allegedly made from the book. I was much more interested in Carnival in Flanders, which I posted on at the same time, but apparently I was the only one who was. Thread drift, embrace it.

Vanwall said...

Speaking of connected, and disconnected, I was watching "Violent Saturday", a sunlit noir, and stunning-looking, this aft on Fox, trying again to solve the mystery of Richard Egan. Sometimes he seems like he's part of the film, and other times he seems disconnected from the other actors. Someone mentioned once they had problems with his performances because he was seen as a mumbler, and maybe better sound equipment or set ups might've made a difference, at least in this one.

Egan at his best here seems like he's rehearsing for the better and more interesting "View From Pompey's Head" that was filmed a little later the same year. He had some nice moments here, tho, especially with the other stunning aspect of this film - Virginia Leith, one of saddest of the lost chances in film. Her voice was certainly distinctive enough, and she was a knock-out - whatever happened to that gal? She never gave an un-intelligent performance, IMHO, altho later as a smart head on a pan, it wasn't the best career move except for ensuring your name in cult-land.

At any rate, this film is gorgeous, the CinemaScope panoramas of Bisbee, AZ and the sharp shadows from the Arizona sun really provide beautiful contrasts, contrasts that highlight the rather seamy underbelly of the fictional town. Perhaps seamy worked best for Egan's style - he worked well in films set with wounded lives and hidden gashes. The hunt for the mysterious Egan attraction goes on, I s'pose. I won't go into details on the other parts, just a nod to Lee Marvin's shoe, and how natural it looked crushing a child's hand on the sidewalk - he really did project well - and the mirror-image characters played by Victor Mature and Ernie Borgnine: I wanted eggs-over-easy with those ham slices. Mature redeemed himself for a tiny moment tho, crawling into the camera lens from under a burning car, and he looked fiercely real. Then the rest of the movie came 'round and swept that bit out of the way.

But in the end, everybody was lusting secretly, or overtly, and the bad get theirs according to Code in Glorious DeLuxe Color, how can you go wrong?

DavidEhrenstein said...

"Mad" magazine called him "Richard Egad." He's very much a transitional 50's figure. Obviously Fox thought they had a Jeff Chandler in him, but that was not to be as the entire studio sytem was collapsing. I like him very much in The Revolt of Mamie Stover -- with Jane Russell at her most butch-alluring.

Gerard Jones said...

The closest Hollywood came to capturing Wodehouse was when they were not doing Wodehouse but appropriating him for other purposes. Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore's by-play in Top Hat is very Wodehousian (that's the one with the butterfly knot on the necktie, isn't it?) but because it doesn't ask us to compare it to the Master it's pretty enjoyable.

I haven't seen the '60s BBC Jeeveses (though now I want to), but the only Wodehouse adaptations I've liked have been Frye & Laurie. They wisely built entire episodes out of short stories.

Still, even those do a lot less for me than the books. It's about the narration: not just the astonishing turns of phrase but Bertie's inadequacy to grasp the world in which he lives. The omniscience of the camera deprives us of much of Bertie's asininity. I've liked the few I've watched, but if I have an hour and want to spend it in PGW's world I'll reread "The Purity of the Turf."

Gerard Jones said...

X: If there's any dirt on Max Steiner, Troy Donahue and Bob Cummings, David would be the one to tell us. Probably too much to hope for...but what a menage that would have been!

mndean said...

The Purity of the Turf? The one with the Egg-and-Spoon race? I like Jeeves and the Song of Songs. Who can resist one act after another singing "Sonny Boy" to an increasingly irritated crowd?

BTW, the Fry/Laurie series didn't always stay to the short stories - they made a hash of Joy In The Morning, which was one of my favorite books and earned my enmity thereafter. There was even no Boko Fittleworth there!

Yojimboen said...

Ah, merci, M VW - Virginia Leith! Another gong stikes. Mad for her as a pre-teen… Saw her first as the big sister solving the kid sister’s murder in A Kiss Before Dying, she plays Vera Miles to Joanne Woodward’s Janet Leigh – (Woodward’s first or second film role). Years later people said the casting should’ve been reversed, since JW became the star. I disagreed then as now, Ms Leith was a cutie from the same stable as another boyhood pash, Suzy Parker (both ex-models).
I may be wrong but I think Kubrick discovered her and put her in his first feature Fear and Desire. Where she went, I know not, but she is missed.

Vanwall said...

M Yo - yes, she was a Kubrick starter. I sure liked her, too - ever notice in the remake of AKBD, how much Sean Young looked and sounded like her? I used to speculate she was a victim of the blonde syndrome in Studio prejudices.

Gerard Jones said...

And speaking of annoying stage performances, don't forget "The Metropolitan Touch." What ho, Twing!

mndean said...

The film world comes up in The Love That Purifies, where both Greta Garbo and Clara Bow are the objects of the ardor of a couple of the foulest little kids in England.

X. Trapnel said...

Gerard I wasn't suggeting anything remotely scandalous re Max Steiner, just his knowing both Mahler and Troy Donahue as a measure of Hollywood's hypertrophic organicism. Virginia Leith is a new name to me and Google supplied the rest; the image of "Jan in the Pan" had the Popular Mechanics look of something Ward Cleaver might be puttering around with in the basement.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

At first, when I read "M VW," I thought the reference was to "MWV". Oh well.

I do think it's necessary, however, to mention Virginia Leith's performance in the ridiculous-yet-wonderful "Brain That Wouldn't Die." It's not every actress who can play a deranged torso-less head, sitting in a dish for 9/10ths of the picture, and yet still hold our interest.

The film itself is a must-be-seen-to-be-disbelieved oddity. An acquired taste, to be sure. Those who aren't up to the task can still, however, watch the clip of Leith included in the Nichols-directed "Heartburn."

mndean said...

The Brain That Wouldn't Die, along with other cheesy sci-fi/horror like The H-Man and X, The Unknown were staples of my early childhood. There were a group of us neighborhood kids who would stay over, watching whatever creature feature they had on TV Saturday afternoons. There are still a few films I can't ID that I saw back then. Usually it was a horrifying death scene that stuck in my mind, but it isn't enough to find out what film it was. No, I'm not looking very hard for them.

Vanwall said...

I loved X the Unknown, and Caltiki.

DavidEhrenstein said...

It's Clint's Birthday. He's 79.

mndean said...

I was surprised when I saw The H-Man on TCM just a month or two ago. I remembered a great deal of the movie, too. Except for me, our group didn't watch movies that much after we turned 10 or so, we all got our own hobbies. I was the only one who really cared to watch movies.

I remember when I was 13 or so, I faked an illness (easy when you have chronic bronchitis) because the local UHF station was finally showing the Paramount Marx Brothers films during the early afternoon. I'd seen the MGM's at least a couple of times by then.

surly hack said...

Some matinée idols make dough
in spite of their acting, so-so
But as they grow older
they no longer smolder
Just ask Spangler Arlington Brough

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