Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ten Books From a Cinephile's Past: The Final Chapter

And here, the final three of the Siren's Books from a Cinephile's Past. The Siren has written before of her stint babysitting a toddler by the name of P.D. His parents were movie buffs and in addition to Mary Astor's novel A Place Called Saturday, on their shelves was a treasure trove called The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years, by English critic David Shipman. In later years the Siren came to disagree with Shipman on certain stars (one notable example: Joan Crawford), but she returns to this book again and again. Shipman's research is amazing--pithy lines about each major film for each star, this in the days when he was writing without benefit of VHS or IMDB. How often the Siren has sought out a little-known movie that Shipman loves, such as The Young in Heart, and discovered it is indeed a gem. Observe the love he gives the undeservedly forgotten, such as Aline McMahon. But most of all, relish his wit, as dry as a perfect glass of sherry. No film book in the Siren's extensive collection has more delicious picture captions:

[on a still of Barbara Stanwyck from The Locked Door] They think she's just murdered her husband; she hasn't, but in typical Stanwyck fashion, she sure looks guilty.

[on a still of Lew Ayres and James Stewart--not this one, even worse if you can imagine] Joan Crawford is known to look back on Ice Follies of 1939 with much despondency: it would be strange if James and Stewart and Lew Ayres didn't feel the same way.

Hearts Divided (36) was a lavish historical romance directed by Frank Borzage...Marion Davies was effective in that part, but whoever cast [Dick] Powell as one of the Bonaparte boys deserved a prize for imagination.

Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard in Henry Hathaway's Now and Forever (34). Shirley Temple is not in this still but she was much in evidence in the film.

Speaking of Gary Cooper, here is a bit of Shipman's essay:

The strange thing is that Cooper (as his TV interviews showed) had in life a number of rather effeminate mannerism. However, on screen he was virility personified, all that was required of a hero: honest, courageous and determined--determined to do what must be done at whatever the cost.

Sometimes Shipman is eye-poppingly wrong

Future historians of the art of film will probably pause at the name of John Wayne only because he appeared in some of John Ford's best Westerns, but it is a name which gives pause to everyone interested in the industry.

...but then again, when he's right, he takes your breath away.

[on Irene Dunne] Few actresses could play comedy as she did: there is a brief sequence in The Awful Truth where, her back to the camera, she is contemplating the antics of Cary Grant--her gurgling, smothered laugh is more eloquent than many another's close-up.

Highly recommended. Beloved Siren commenter Yojimboen is a Shipman fan as well. You can find this book easily on Abebooks and if you're in the city the Strand bookstore usually has a few copies lying around. (Probably three-quarters of the Siren's film books come from the Strand. There, now you are privy to one of the Siren's closest secrets.) If you're lucky the Strand will also have the almost-as-wonderful companion book, The Great Stars: The International Years.

Now for a book the Siren doesn't like very much, but it had an undeniable influence on her. Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon was a hand grenade hurled at nostalgia, and it remains a salutary reminder that while Joseph Breen may have been busy keeping the screen safe for the tender minds of his fellow Americans, no amount of Ivory soap could scrub some Hollywood business clean. This compendium of years of scuttlebutt is lavishly illustrated with extremely well-chosen, frequently horrifying stills and news photos. Hollywood Babylon mixes historical truth, leering slant and outright errors. It's witty in parts, but after you devour it (and the Siren did, her book is split in two at the spine) you feel as you do after knocking back one too many drinks with the nastiest gossip in the office. You're in the know, but you hate yourself.

The real problem with Anger is one of tone. Where does all this hatred and seething resentment come from? Take this description of Fatty Arbuckle, whom Anger paints as guilty of rape and manslaughter despite considerable evidence to the contrary:

As headlines screamed, the rumors flew of a hideously unnatural rape. Arbuckle, enraged at his drunken impotence, had ravaged Virginia [Rappe] with a Coca-Cola bottle, or a champagne bottle, then had repeated the act with a jagged of piece of ice...or, wasn't it common knowledge that Arbuckle was exceptionally well endowed?...or, was it just a question of 266-pounds-too-much of Fatty flattening Virginia in a flying leap?

Or, in a discussion of the William Desmond Taylor murder, this acid description of poor tragic Mabel Normand:

It was soon revealed that Taylor's good friend Mabel Normand, whose antic clowning for Sennett gained her fans by the millions, owed her effervescence at at least in part to Cocaine & Co. Mabel's monthly expenditure for "cokey" was in the neighborhood of $2000, blackmail included.

From Anger, the Siren learned that you can certainly look at Hollywood celebrities as spoiled, hateful children and smirk at their comeuppance. God knows that's fun sometimes. Hollywood Babylon is one of the most imitated books about Hollywood ever written--it plays to our sense that the stars have too much and deserve it too little.

But you also can take the angle of Adela Rogers St. Johns, the Hearst columnist whose memoir The Honeycomb is the Siren's final selection for this series. St. John knew the people she wrote about, knew their secrets and their nastiest flaws. But she understood the magic. And she understood that being a star takes, as a friend of the Siren wrote to her, "superhuman effort, talent and grit."

They'd never been to New York. They had never been anywhere including school, except Joan Crawford, who washed dishes at Stephens College for Girls to get a half a freshman year and Jean Harlow, who eloped from a fashionable Chicago finishing school at sixteen to get married. Unless they came over steerage--Chaplin and Valentino--they'd never been to Europe. Garbo was applying lather in a Stockholm barbershop until a Swedish director refused to come to America without her. Finances got frightfully tangled because half of them didn't know what to do with checks. Judy Garland was singing at Elks' Club smokers and Lon Chaney was a kid hoofer in the cheapest musical tourist companies, half-medicine shows and half-circus...

Do not believe for one second that they were ordinary citizens from Emporia and Little Rock.

No, the Siren doesn't believe it. That's why they still matter to her.


gmoke said...

Buster, Roscoe, and Al St John, back in the day. Roscoe Arbuckle was a beautiful performer and as graceful as the day is long. Sorry that Anger gave him a raw deal the same way Hearst did.

Good to remember Adela Rogers St Johns too. I don't believe I've read _The Honeycomb_ but I did read her biography of her father, Earl Rogers, _Final Verdict_. Still remember her description of one of her father's suitors who "ate like a bird" until little Adela discovered in the kitchen late one night wolfing down the grub. Adela Rogers St Johns was always an astute observer.

Yojimboen said...

Ah, the old familiar song: “You’re nobody till someblogger beloves you…”
Praise indeed.
(No pressure! No pressure!)

Yes, Madame, I confess freely to my David Shipmania. There were better stylists, Agee, Bazin, Ferguson, but no one knew more about cinema and/or conveyed it as well as David Shipman.

The most startling thing about reading him is the apparent ease of his analytical recollections, the limitless flow of his anecdotal stream.

You read him in disbelief at first – a tiny bit fearful, wondering how the hell this guy got inside your head (not 100% perfect in his analyses, but a razor’s width away). C’mon! Nobody could’ve seen ALL these movies! And then, little by little you realize, yes he has.
He’s seen every movie ever made.
Twice, probably.
Henri Langlois? Who he?

His obituary shows a fraction of the man.
His books complete him.

gmoke said...

Another Adela Rogers St John book you might like - _Love, Laughter and Tears : My Hollywood Story_

DavidEhrenstein said...

Rumohasit that Gary was a rent boy.

When asked why he wanted to visit Hollywood, Luchino Visconti replied "Gary Cooper!"

Little Kenny Agerim is a very entertaining fellow but his words should be taken with more than a grain of salt.

Peter Nellhaus said...

I met Anger briefly at Telluride in 1975. He hosted a midnight show of his personal collection of films. The only thing I remember from that is watching footage of Valentino's funeral with The Doors' L.A. Woman providing the soundtrack. The dozen or so of us who stayed the night, Anger treated us to breakfast the next morning.

Arthur S. said...

Buster Keaton had a wonderful smile didn't he?

However, on screen he was virility personified, all that was required of a hero: honest, courageous and determined--determined to do what must be done at whatever the cost.

That's true of THE FOUNTAINHEAD but that isn't true of MOROCCO or A FAREWELL TO ARMS and not true of GOOD SAM which actually subverts and deconstructs the Cooper image, it's to Cooper what IN A LONELY PLACE is to Bogart and he's great in that role.

I don't think Kenneth Anger's books was ever meant as serious historical work but was meant as a parody of the lurid sensationalism that Hollywood inevitably attracts. Anger's attitude to Roscoe Arbuckle is tame compared to the number Hearst did on him. The one that's really offensive is his bit about Murnau's death. And I think that the book is meant to give you a sickening feeling of really reading that gossip. One thing's for sure it cures you of that fixation.

I personally get upset when people use gossip in serious work like McGilligan's book about Lang which uses erroneous sources to suggest that Lang killed his first wife with the help of Thea von Harbou and then the mendacity by trying to cover it up by claiming that the sources are unreliable(and still putting it in the final draft), even worse is Donald Spoto's books on Hitchcock. Kenneth Anger's book is too over-the-top to be taken seriously by anyone who isn't a psychotic puritan.

As for Kenneth Anger's grudge, he was a former child star who never got to be a star because he wasn't the studio's idea of what a child star should be. So that resentment may have given fodder to him.

The Siren said...

Arthur, I do believe I have read that the Hearst press was hard on Arbuckle, which is interesting because Rogers St. John is unequivocal in supporting his innocence in The Honeycomb, calling Virginia Rappe a third-rate call girl who made a habit of tearing her clothes off after one drink and who hadn't been invited to the party. RSJ supported the theory that is often accepted now, that Arbuckle was the target of a shakedown artist who got vengeful when she didn't get her cut.

Haven't seen Good Sam. You've whetted my appetite, and how. And yes, the Murnau description is really something in HB. I never did think it was serious history but it's amazing how much of what Anger says has become the accepted version of history--the false story that Jayne Mansfield's accident decapitated her, for example. I don't blame him for other writers' lazy sourcing but his lack of empathy is hard to take after a while.

I do love the idea of people having breakfast with him though, Peter. I bet Anger is amazing company.

As for Cooper, I can't agree - in the Fountainhead I find him too butch to read as entirely straight. In Beau Geste, High Noon, Sergeant York, his Westerns, he is all Shipman says though. Morocco and Farewell to Arms are more in tune with the period's smaller emphasis on ruggedness and roughness as essential components of masculinity.

Yojimboen, I didn't even realize Shipman was dead. His books are an essential part of my library and often a starting point for an essay.

Gmoke, thanks for the ARSJ recs -- those both go on my next ABEbooks list.

David, somehow I had this feeling you knew Anger personally. :D I've heard that Cooper rumor and don't know if I believe it or not. I do love Lubitsch's mischievous suggestion that he and Garbo were the same person, though.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I've dealt with hi over the years in many different contexts. Back when Scorpio Rising premiered -- and became an instant sensation, I had my hands full dealing with its star Bruce Byron, at various screenings. (I worked for the Filmmkaers' Cinematheque) Quite the rowdy chappie.

As for Murnau, in light of his considerable height there's no way he could have given his chauffeur a blow-job while the car was in motion.

X. Trapnel said...

I've always admired Shipman (The great movie Stars was the first film book I ever owned), but after I discovered David Thomson Shipman seemed like beer to Thomson's whiskey (cf. Harold Russell trying to order same in Best Years and getting an admonitory "beer" from Hoagy C.), pleasant, intelligent but mild stuff, an excellent introduction to film writing, but I find I rarely return to him these days. Still, his swipe at John Wayne is right on the money (excuse me while I duck for cover).

What is that object floating over the HOLLYWOOD sign? Must be Yojimboen.

Vanwall said...

I always wondered who had seen the most movies, and Shipman would be a prime candidate. I'll have to finally break down and buy my own copies, I suppose. He sometimes got my view tangled up with his, or maybe it was the other way 'round, 'cause he seemed to know everything, too - I'm also of the his Duke opinion, BTW M.X, if only because Shipman most likely will be mostly proven right as time gets further away from a certain sentimentality that persists, eye-popping or not, but not wholly, as Wayne played ambiguous SOBs best of all, and was pretty good at it.

I wasn't aware of how precarious his particular manner of pursuing his choice of profession was, the most extreme example of living by one's wits I can imagine, and he succeeded because of the quality of his work, something that doesn't always mean having the shekels for the next meal, let alone a career of distinction. And he was highly readable, accessible, and interesting, and the default baseline for film writing, I think.

St. John was a pretty good columnist, and as a de-facto flack of sorts, she helped the myths disseminate - altho I wish she had been more honest in real-time - the wretched "Star" system we're stuck with today, pop-tarts and radio hate-spouters alike, perpetuates not only the myths, but the lack of intelligent control or, seemingly, even intelligent thought, that may have been avoidable if we had no reason to repeat the past with newer costumery- "They have forgotten nothing, and learned nothing."

Anger, I think, wasted a fine career as an avant-guard indy film maker, because he will remembered for HB and nothing else. This may be sad, it may be unfair - mercy is what most people deserve, but justice is what they usually get.

X. Trapnel said...

HB is merely the obverse of the Hollywood publicity machine, an instance in which the adversarial stance is as shallow, sentimental, and false as what it purorts to expose. The lack of empathy, as the Siren notes is fatal as is the lack of critical intelligence. Idiot minds are as susceptible to scurrilous rumor as they are to slick idealization (its the essential method of political tyranny). HB is junk.

V, no argument about Wayne's greatness and irreplacability in certain roles. I can see the real quality and talent in most of my filmic aversions (Wayne, post-50 Huston, Cukor, Tracy+Hepburn, B. Davis, even James Dean);the excptions are Lucille Ball, D. Tiomkin, S.A. Brugh.

The Siren said...

By the way, the obvious objection to Shipman's Wayne comment, and the reason I said it was eye-poppingly wrong, is that surely Wayne did a few movies for Howard Hawks that will be remembered down the road as well, not to mention a couple of Henry Hathaways with their fans (including the Siren)...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Vanwall you vastly underestimeate the importance -- and influence -- of Scorpio Rising. THAT'S what Kenneth Anger will truly be remembered for.

Gloria said...

"From Anger, the Siren learned that you can certainly look at Hollywood celebrities as spoiled, hateful children and smirk at their comeuppance"
The terrible thing is, we've been having decades of bad Anger imitations (and as reliable, don't tell certain writers to spend a second doing *actual research*). The worse about it, is that further writers just take what is written without bothering to check facts. Fortunately, every then and now there shall be a corageous soul who will go to the sources and demolish stringly-stablished (but largely debatable, if not untrue) myths as Walls of Jericho.

If Karmic balance exists, one day, sometime in the future, we shall have a biography of Anger as colourful as his own portraits of other people.

Yojimboen said...

Like you, X, I never quite saw the point of S.A.Brugh. What was he finally; a prettier version of Johnny Mack Brown? A black hole of acting ability, he managed to make even a Nick Ray movie uninteresting.
Lucy was an acquired taste, which I luckily never have; coming as I did to this lovely land well after the golden age of teevee, I escaped her and Desi and Gleason and some others I’m happy not to mention.

But Dimitri… Well, we’re never going to agree on Dimitri. Back in the old country I managed to dodge the clutches of the Jesuits (my father’s fatal fate) by hiding behind the gravestones till they left.
(They tried to warn me against Calvinism but I knew better. Right.)

Then I saw and heard this; and I was lost. Dimitri had me before I was seven, so I guess I’m his forever. Pray for me.

X. Trapnel said...

Well, Red River is probably DT's best (and how 'bout that whoopee cushion blat 17 seconds in! Who else but our Mitya!) and it is a good tune (I'll use it to flush out "Boot Hill, Boot Hill/So cold, so still" next time it comes to mind.)
Regarding the Selznick/Tiomkin dust up over f*ck*ng music, I'm trying to recall how T musicated the moaning/writhing ardor of the honeymoon couple in The High and the Mighty.

A story not included in Hollywood Babylon: Tiomkin pulled strings to get Miklos Rozsa drafted during WWII.

Alex said...

Anger is already far better known as the director of Scorpio Rising, Fireworks, and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome rather than HB - especially now that the Fantoma DVD's have been released. Scorpio Rising is very commonly assigned viewing in film schools now (as it very certainly should be).

Hollywood Babylon can be viewed as part of Anger's mytical re-imagining / deconstruction / re-building of Hollywood, something which is a primary driver behind Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Mouse Heaven and Lucifer Rising.

Alex said...

"They had never been anywhere including school, except Joan Crawford, who washed dishes at Stephens College for Girls to get a half a freshman year and Jean Harlow, who eloped from a fashionable Chicago finishing school at sixteen to get married. Unless they came over steerage--Chaplin and Valentino--they'd never been to Europe."

It's not really accurate to depict the silent stars as a bunch of hayseeds. Some of them did come from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds, but many didn't (Myrna Loy's father was a state congressman as was DW Griffith's and Will Rogers', for just some examples). It's also easy to view people's backgrounds as particularly deprived now, but weren't abnormally so for the historic moment (graduating from high school was a high degree of academic achievement at that time, and very few people wanting to become actors would have gone to university even voluntarily).

And we shouldn't overly disparage the education that vaudeville touring provided. Both Buster Keaton and WC Fields toured England as vaudeville players. Chaplin and Laurel were with Fred Karno's company, the most popular act in England (Fred Karno was a miserly bastard, but his troupe toured all of the UK and US many times). Far from not having visited New York, Fred Karno's company (with Chaplin) played there for three years straight. When movie stars did get to direct movies, those movies are often more sophisticated than normal.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

I blush to say that Shipman's writing was unknown to me until now.

What's quoted here has a gnomic quality that's (1) delightful; and (2) palpably Of An Era Other Than Our Own. I wonder where we would look for models of Shipman's style. Capsule reviews in the front of The New Yorker? Some of Agee's one-liner reviews?

gmoke said...

"Both Buster Keaton and WC Fields toured England as vaudeville players."

Fields toured around the world and would tell a story about how he met Will Rogers in South Africa although it may be that they actually met in Australia, at least that's what I glean from a google search that led me to Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W. C. Fields By Simon Louvish.

The Siren said...

Alex, I don't think ARSJ was saying they were hayseeds at all--she was remarking on their [initial] lack of advantages and worldliness in contrast to the image on screen. And while vaudeville was certainly its own sort of education, in the lower eschelons it was hard going indeed, and horrifyingly so for a child. She goes on to describe Lon Chaney's background in vaudeville and his first marriage. ARSJ was certainly prone to sentimental exaggeration but still I much prefer her empathy and admiration to Anger's bile.

Yojimboen said...

"...Anger's bile."

Hmm... Shelley, Wordsworth and Keats all wish they'd said that.

Sheer poésie, Madame. It's true, Paris brings out the best.

X. Trapnel said...

Or Bunyan: "Prithee, m'ladye, I am Anger from Bile. It is a verrie fyne citie."

Yojimboen said...

“Regarding the Selznick/Tiomkin dust up over f*ck*ng music, I'm trying to recall how T musicated the moaning/writhing ardor of the honeymoon couple in The High and the Mighty.”

Re your above rumination, X: it took me a day or so to check. The lovers in question do their connubial squirming under the disapproving gaze of fellow passenger Paul Kelly, but to no musical accompaniment. Apparently Wellman opted to still Dimitri’s ever-eager baton.

Coincidentally the following night TCM graced us with the subject of the Selznick/Tiomkin dust up, Duel in the Sun. Again, I looked for the wrestling match-up between Mr. Peck and the soon-to-be Mrs. O’Selznick (the first clinch at least, I didn’t stick around for the climax so to speak); again, Dimitri had no input, music came there none. Instead, the congress is served up to the off-screen sound of a massive thunderclap.
(Very nice, David. Very subtle…)

So all in all I thought you had a pretty good week, until last night at a screening in a small fictitious village on the left coast of America; the lights dimmed and the curtains parted to the strains of “The Green Leaves of Summer” – Tiomkin’s main theme from The Alamo grafted in toto on to the opening credits of Inglourious Basterds.

Call it Dimitri’s revenge. (Trust me, even you’ll agree it’s the high point of the film.)

X. Trapnel said...

Damn, I'd forgotten Paul Kelly was in The High and the Mighty! That gaze would still anybody's baton. Still, nothing tops S. Blackmer as Humphrey Agnew and his bulky silver-haired rival (no Vittorio di Sica he). With all that avoir du pois it's a wonder the plane stayed up at all.

X. Trapnel said...

Re: Ingluourious Basturdes (whatever). It sounds awful (I'm sure Tiomkin IS the highlight), like Spielberg's finger-wagging Munich. Verhoeven's Black Book went for unapologetic, full-throttle movieness and struck the right moral note.

Yojimboen said...

Impelled as I am by a simple love of human decency, coupled with a firm belief in, and incurable dependency upon the kindness of strangers, I must do what I can to help sink Tarantino’s Bismarck.
Herein, the Guardian review.
I can’t top this.

Karen said...

"Tiomkin’s main theme from The Alamo"

I actually tried to watch The Alamo two nights ago. It defeated me. I fell asleep twice and was disinclined to rewind, so I just deleted it from the DVR. Such a cast--but everyone sounded like they were members of the cast of the South Succotash High School senior class play. Or maybe robots.

X. Trapnel said...

Y, thanks for the thankfully non-moralizing review; bad is bad. Being Jewish myself I don't want to be held accountable for anyone else's idea of kosher porn. I'm in the middle of watching Axel Corti's Welcome in Vienna in which a Viennese Jew returns post WWII as a US army sergeant and hooks up with a gorgeous, Schnitzler-quoting susse madel (O for an umlaut or two). Living well is the best revenge.

X. Trapnel said...

Y, Tarantino's Bismarck may be more like the Tirpitz which never left port and was most uncinematically sunk there (Somehow the thought of Sink the Tirpitz suggests depressing items like The Miniver Story, The Fortunes of Captain Blood, or song of the Thin Man. Even the friggin' "pocket" battleship Graf Spee got a good movie out of the Archers).

Vanwall said...

Actually, M.X, the Tirpitz, (which really did set sail, and led to the disastrous decision to abandon Convoy PQ-17 to the U-Boats), was the subject of "Above Us the Waves", specifically the attack by British midget X-Class submarines on the Tirpitz, and then somewhat tangentially in another film, "Attack on the Iron Coast" about Operation Chariot, the Raid on St. Nazaire by British commandos who blew up the only drydock on the French coast large enough for the repairs to the Tirpitz. Like the real Tirpitz, the film version was hiding in the shadows and fog, and I do believe the phrase "Sink the Tirpitz" was actually uttered in the former film.

X. Trapnel said...

V, thanks for the info and the corrections! I must see this. Maybe there's some grade z movie called Sink the Gniesenau (or the Scharnhorst) done with Revell/Aurora models in someone's bathtub.

Vanwall said...

I was in the Paramount tank, drained of course, so I looked around, and said to myself, "Damn! I could recreate Jutland on a freakin' massive scale!" Sadly, no bathtub toys handy.

Yojimboen said...

…Even the friggin' "pocket" battleship Graf Spee got a good movie out of the Archers… [The Battle of the River Plate].

Powell and Pressburger’s last film together and though not well-regarded critically it was, surprisingly, their biggest money-maker; even bigger than The Red Shoes. But they conveniently (or charitably) omitted the part where the German commander – after scuttling the Graf Spee rather then let her be captured – two days later in Buenos Aires put a bullet in his head.

(Quentin T would have included that sequence – shot in slo-mo.)

X. Trapnel said...

Kenneth More (who else?) as Beatty, Ralph Richardson (for contrast) as Jellicoe.

Whenever I see a photo of HMS Hood I always think of Leslie Howard going up against Wallace Beery (in his Grand Hotel character) as the Bismarck

The Siren said...

I haven't seen Inglourious Basterds yet, so despite the shudder I get typing that name (similar to the way my molars hurt when I have to type e*Bay or some other sub-e.e. cummings corporate logo) I am reserving judgment. Unlike Yojimboen I find QT to have an amazing sense of cinema ... but in the service of what? that's the question that always pulls the telephone cord out of the wall and hangs up the Siren. Glenn Kenny thinks it's brilliant. That Guardian review singed my monitor, though.

Vanwall said...

Whoever gets the Beatty part also gets the best line, after the loss of two huge battle cruisers in quick succession: "Chatfield, there seems to something wrong with our bloody ships today." in classic British Stiff Upper fashion. It's up there with the classic Waterloo exchange: Uxbridge: "By God, sir, I've lost my leg!" Wellington: "By God, sir, so you have!"

I can't really watch any QT since "Jackie Brown", the least rip-off of all his efforts - they are not homages or clever pastiches in my book - and this one looks to be the worst of all. I'd rather watch "Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane" with a cold Yngling and a brat.

X. Trapnel said...

V, I've mentally assigned the Wellington-Uxbridge exchange to a number of actors, Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne being my favorites.

Are you aware of the revisionist scholarship that says "Kiss me, Hardy" was actually "Kismet, Hardy"?

Yojimboen said...

Yeah, like Hendrix's Purple Rain: "S'cuse me while I kiss this guy."

Madame Sirene - I'm not a QT hater, honest; he's done some interesting work.

More when the coffee kicks in.

X. Trapnel said...

or did Sir William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp say to the butler, "Shut the door" or "Je t'adore"? More likely the latter.

Vanwall said...

For screwed up lyrics in the movies, see Nuke and Crash's exchange on the bus in the bush-league classic, "Bull Durham".

Yojimboen said...

I say Deck ‘em all with Boston Charlie and I say the hell with it!

For the ABC/FAQ of the Mondegreen phenomenon, go here, or here.

Vanwall said...

Nora's freezin' on the trolley!

X. Trapnel said...

Let's not forget that old patriotic standby: "one naked individual for Richard stands"

Yojimboen said...

Chère Madame Sirène, I didn’t intend to go off on a rant against Quentin Tarantino, and I won’t; I only brought up his name in response to our learnèd colleague’s constant razzing of D. Tiomkin.
(It was XT, Ma, he started it, I swear!)
And in hindsight it’s probably unfair of me, not to mention impolite, to trash a film before it opens.

If it seems I’m anti-QT, it seems wrong. I’m quite fond of Reservoir Dogs, enormously fond of Pulp Fiction & Jackie Brown and almost adore Kill Bill: Vols. 1 & 2.
It’s just that I found the myriad missteps of Inglourious Basterds too awful to ignore or condone.

As to the filmmaker himself, I think he is very clever. But if, as some would maintain, he is some sort of genius, then so was Grandma Moses and J. Fred Muggs, for Tarantino possesses the same brand of primitive ability to entertain.

A little-recognized truism in arts and letters is that cleverness is light years away from intelligence, and Mr. Q.T. strikes me as among the least intelligent of successful American artists.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Quentin Tarantino is the death of cinema. Instead of artistic seriousness we are asked to treat seriously a mouthy video store clerk with no taste and no imagination. I depsise him with every fiber of my being.

I trust you all know that Reservoir Dogs got its title from a customer request for a certain "ferrin film" supposedly so named. After duly considering the matter QT relaized the customer was referring to Au Revoir les Enfants.

More Louis Malle, please.

Alas, he's dead.

Gareth said...

I can understand disliking Tarantino and his films (I have not seen the last two), on many different grounds, but the fact that he was once a video store clerk seems to me pretty irrelevant in terms of considering the seriousness of his contributions, though it pops up constantly as a smackdown, such as in Daniel Mendelsohn's recent Newsweek piece on the new film. I don't really see how that job is evidence of anything one way or the other (except, perhaps, as a means to see lots of films more cheaply).

DavidEhrenstein said...

It's evidence of a second-rate sensibility everywhere apparent in his work.

Edward said...

Siren, back to David Shipman -- his Great Movie Stars came out in 1970, and I got a copy as a gift. Coming at that time, it was an amazing window into a world that was largely unavailable. Tantalizing. My lifelong love of old movies came from reading that book, and over the last 40 years I've systematically hunted down films just because he praised them.

And yet.

He published two major revisions of the book, around 1980 and 1990. And something had happened to him. The first revision, especially, contains some really nasty and vulgar rewriting. He seems to have developed highly personal vendettas against certain stars and other critics. His original essay on Chaplin was almost poetry; the rewrite is a hatchet job.

He also published two sequels, the second of which ("The Independent Years") is unreadable dreck. And a book of quotes from the stars that seemed to only exist in order to rehash his antagonisms.

And then in his 1982 book "The Story of Cinema" (?!) he not only poured the same stale wine into a new bottle, he actually admitted that he hadn't seen many of the movies he'd written about in the first edition -- he had relied on research and assistants. (His point was that now he HAD seen them, and had revised his opinions accordingly.)

At that point I realized that in addition to having become a sour pompous windbag, Mr. Shipman was a pretty untrustworthy character. It's a strange feeling to have about an author who once gave you something so important and life-changing.

Yojimboen said...

Since this stream clearly seems to be channeling Buñuel’s El Angel Exterminador with everybody reluctant to step over the threshold, let’s try this: did anyone catch (and/or TIVO please please!) Paddy Chayefsky’s Middle of the Night on TCM last night? I missed it and am kicking myself for my inattention; it is one of those seriously rare movies – Chayefsky kept the rights and AFAIK it isn’t distributed in any medium - and I’m doubly pissed because I used to have a shitty VHS of it but loaned it out and like an idiot forgot who to.

It’s an oddly disquieting film, a May/September romance between Freddy March and (an obviously nervous, still neophyte-ish) Kim Novak, but finally quite touching, as Chayefsky is wont to be.

2 clips here.

The good news is TCM will re-broadcast on Nov 22 next – one can ask them for an email reminder.

2nd observation: Who the hell does Ang Lee think he is?? Jane Austen, Connecticut wife-swappers, gay cowboys, Marvel Comics, Chinese porn and now 60s hippy iconography! I mean why can’t the guy pick a genre and stick to it!

(Because of course, we’d be the poorer if he did.)
Taking Woodstock I’m happy to report, is an absolute delight.
Don’t walk, my friends. Run.

X. Trapnel said...

Aaaarrrgghh! Missed Middle of the Night again! ("nervous and finally quite touching" is what Kim Novak did best; see Vertigo for details).

We don't talk much about Fredric March around here. I think he was a magnificent actor.

Y, I would love to hear your opinion of The Bachelor Party. (Mine: a little too episodic [dissipating the drama somewhat] and contrived in giving each actor a solo, but still very real and treats the characters with great respect and sympathy. One of the few American films that immerses itself in tedium and low-level anxiety in "average" lives--no preaching or condescension.)

DavidEhrenstein said...

So glad you liked it, Yojim! I was feeling rather lonely.

Notices have been tepid at best.

I recall the 60's quite well (It took the GOOD acid) and as this film shows "Hippie" and "Gay" overlapped quite bit.

And Liev Schreiber is wonderful.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Middle of the Night is excellent Kim. She was always trapped in desperate romances with the wrong guy.

Yojimboen said...

Hear, hear! It’s best thing Liev Schreiber has done since Welles.

M. X, re the other Chayefsky, The Bachelor Party, I was always a little disappointed by it. I suspect Delbert Mann may have been somewhat reluctant to attempt to transfer another TV directing job on to the big screen. He had done it with Marty and perhaps knew he couldn’t hope to match the world-wide impact. But Harold Hecht had Mann under contract and opted to have him repeat with TBP.

He and Chayefsky worked hard on the script throughout the shooting; they were never satisfied with the Carolyn Jones character (not her fault but theirs, they kept reassuring her); they couldn’t even decide on a character name for her and finally settled on “The Existentialist”.

Jones and Don Murray were the only actors Mann didn’t import from his TV version (he even imported most of his Marty film crew). The climactic scene between them – the furtive Greenwich Village party ‘quickie’ where Murray betrays his marital vows was, reportedly, the most difficult scene to make believable. Mann and Chayefsky and the two actors rehearsed for hours and hours… But nothing. (Imagine, a writer and a director and actors collaborating on the set! Ah, the good old days!)
In the morning Chayefsky solved it.

To Carolyn Jones’s desperate plea during the frantic embrace, “Just say you love me… Just say you love me…!” Paddy Chayefsky added the single line, “…You don’t have to mean it!” And the scene worked.

Though I was never a great Don Murray fan (I think he was overrated by the same amount Carolyn Jones was underrated) I have to admit that scene still tears me up.

Finally Mann and Chayefsky both expressed dissatisfaction with the piece – they felt the ending was too easy, too pat. Critics weren’t kind; but to be fair much of that had to do with the inevitable expectations after Marty; and there was only room for one Marty.

X. Trapnel said...

Fair enough, Y. I probably like it more than you do, though I have no burning desire to see it again. Has anyone ever rated Don Murray one way or t'other? I haven't heard. His blandness works here in the interest of realism though making for a hole at the dramatic center. Still, I remeber the sweaty boredom of the "stag" film, the way the reluctant bridegroom is not treated as "a case" (this in the fifties!), and yes Carolyn Jones best of all. What an unusual actress.

Yojimboen said...

P.S. on Middle of the Night - the March/Novak version was the third incarnation; the dread Josh Logan had produced and directed a B’Way play of it starring Edward G. Robinson and Gena Rowlands. But the original, the original which Mann did for Philco Playhouse starred E.G. Marshall and… wait for it… our beloved Eva Marie Saint. If only there was a kinescope somewhere… If only.

Mann and Chayevsky rejoiced when March – their first choice – agreed to do the film. They both desperately wanted Eva Marie to repeat the role but she was busy shooting some nonsense called North By Something or Other; and since Harry Cohn (Columbia was producing) had her under contract, Kim got the nod.

X. Trapnel said...

Now, I like Kim Novak, who had the kind of appeal falsely attributed to so-called Marilyn, But just imagine Eva-Marie St. as Madeleine/Judy! We'd feel incalculable multiples of enchantment and unease, pity and terror. Kim N. made Judy very human and touching (there's that word again), but I think E-M St. would have brought out Madeleine's fragility more affectingly.

It's our loss that Eva-Marie Saint had so few films that were worthy of her.

Vanwall said...

"Middle of the Night" has been on TCM before, and it used show often late at nite in the early 70s - it was clipped some to satisfy cranky people when I saw it then, and the restored parts aren't anything to shout about, but were nice realistic touches. Novak is really quite good in it as a round-heel who finds the right guy, and March was only limited by some of enforced macho of the script, otherwise it was the usual sincere and believable portrayal he came to represent as he got older. The photography is marvelous, with outdoor winter shots that set a bleak tone for that part of the story, and the script steps out of the believable path only a few tiny steps once in a while. Lee Philips was actually one of the best parts about it as Novak's semi-sleezeball ex, who still exerts a sexual power over her character, and she pays a little for that in the plotline. Wonder why he never had bigger, better parts?

"The Lodger" was on tonite - Cregar, Oberon, and Sanders, how can ya beat that?

Yojimboen said...

“It's our loss that Eva-Marie Saint had so few films that were worthy of her.”

You just know I’m going to argue that into the ground (snap! snap!). Whatever the lady appeared in – even unalloyed shite like Cancel My Reservation – she made worthy by her presence.

I mean just look at this… and this. We’re lucky she made a single film. There are maybe half a dozen people in the history of cinema who can turn me into a (more than normally) drooling, babbling idiot.
M. Loy; D. Darrieux; D. Seyrig…
But EMS was my first love.

X. Trapnel said...

Y, I'm watching the clips you thoughtfully provided with my morning (flea infested, I'm told)coffee (the exterminators are on the way, but it does have an interesting tang).

Where DID that nice Catholic girl learn to kiss that way? This has got to be the sexiest Hyperventilating Woman In A Slip scene of the 50s-early 60s (though I still insist that Mme. Thorwald is HOT). As for the rest? Eva-Marie Saint, Grant, Hitchcock, Herrmann, the 20th Century Ltd. Where did the world that made this possible go? I say nothing, except we reach out to it across a chasm.

Needless to add (but I am) I fervently endorse your list.

Karen said...

I've DVRed Middle of the Night, but haven't watched it yet. I'm not sure when I will, actually, as I finally dipped my toe into my box-set of the complete series of The Wire and am now fully immersed. It's all I can do to leave the house for work.

I'm happy to see some love for Fredric March, who was just a terrific actor with seemingly unlimited range. When I first saw his (well, and Mamoulian's) Jekyll and Hyde, and got how thoroughly they'd explored the sexual nature of the doctor's torment, I was blown away. For a guy who wasn't particularly handsome, March managed to keep that pumping right through the decades--you can see it when he first comes upon Myrna Loy in The Best Years of Our Lives and beyond.

Kim Novak--I confess I love her best in Bell, Book and Candle. It's not that I think it's a better movie than Vertigo--perish forbid!--and there's more depth and vulnerability to Madeline/Judy than to Gillian, but she's just such a delight to watch in it. It actually breaks my heart to see her in her conventional, yellow, Mary Sunshine persona at the end--I know she's supposed to have gotten her heart's desire, but she's like a broken mustang to me.

Yojimboen, I share your passion for Eva Marie Saint, but I have to say that even she couldn't save the abysmal Loving which I suffered through this weekend (and to think! I could have been watching The Wire!)--mostly by judicious and heavy use of the fast-forward button.

X. Trapnel said...

Loving (which shares a title and nothing else with one of the greatest English novels of the 20th century. Hitchcock wanted to film it. Otherwise the movies have steadfastly ignored Henry Green) is one in that endless and awful series of 70s male self-pity films that finally bottomed out with Save the Tiger (Duke--sob--Snyder; Al Gionfrido; Waahh!). Tears, idle tears.

One of my favorite March performances is his Nixonian operator in Executive Suite adding a nice drop of acid to the film's bland high-mindedness (June Allyson as the noble wife keeping Wm. Holden on the beam)

Yojimboen said...

I’ve never spoken about my admiration for Frederic March. I always thought I was alone in believing him the best actor America has ever produced. (In Europe it’s Thommy Bergren, but nobody here has ever heard of him.) Whether it’s the old man’s shivering collapse in Middle of the Night or the sustained, carefully measured support of Lombard in Nothing Sacred, he never put a foot wrong. I can even watch Mary of Scotland; that’s how good Frederic March was.

X. Trapnel said...

Thommy Bergren? Is that the guy from Elvira Madigan? Has any sentient being--human, cat, rotifer--actually perceived this film via eyes, antennae, or cillia? I only know that this mysterious monniker has been slapped on to every K.467 since my mental eyes first peeped open.

I think it was Stanley Kaufmann (who also thinks March the greatest american actor) should have had the Jack Benny part in To Be Or Not To Be.

Vanwall said...

March was tougher as he got older -as he matured from the kind of pretty-boy roles, his characters had a subtle menace that came across as competence and a kind of sure courage, like he could kick your ass if you got out of line, but he was smart enough to put you in your place by a look or few words. It was very deliberately apparent in "The Best Years of Our Lives", but especially subtle in "The Desperate Hours" and "Seven Days in May", and it was unnecessarily macho in "Middle of the Night" - he came across as too strident a coupla times, not his fault; no one, though, was better at reading out quick and fast lines with a kind of bear-trap clip at the end, that kinda seals the deal.

X. Trapnel said...

I know it's the obvious choice (Trapnel's First Principle: never be afraid of the obvious), but Best Years is March's richest performance, so beautifully detailed and all details linked to a thoroughly rounded and real characterization. Everything in this film is perfect but March dominates it playing a strong man utterly unsure of himself.

Karen said...

I saw him the other night in a film called Bedtime Story, an average screwball comedy with March and Loretta Young as a playwright-actress married couple who split up over her desire to retire and his passion for continuing to write. March's character dreams up increasingly elaborate stratagems to get his wife back on stage into the best play he's ever written. Young is already past her dewy innocence and edging towards her overbited archness of the '40s and beyond, but March is a fair treat to watch.

It IS impossible to talk about him without returning to The Best Years of Our Lives, which is such a nearly perfect movie to begin with. It fires on so many cylinders, and is full of such remarkable performances. X, "a strong man utterly unsure of himself" is a beautiful way to describe March's character. I'm very fond, too, of his performance in Anthony Adverse, which allows him to display an enormous amount of range in a single character--as opposed to the range of serious, dramatic, humorous, playful, cynical, etc that he displayed over a number of characters.

It's funny that his isn't generally one of the names that trips first off the tongue when thinking of Golden Age Hollywood movie stars, but damn he was good. I don't know if Stanley Kaufman is right about March being the greatest American actor, but he's sure as hell in the top ten.

X. Trapnel said...

March is also the ONLY other actor who could have played Charles Foster Kane. He might have been better. Think about it.

The Siren said...

Karen, I love you all over again for throwing kind words at Anthony Adverse, one of those sweeping romantic adventures that gladdened the Siren's girlhood.

March is wonderful in many, many things. In addition to his superb dramatic chops he had exquisite comic timing.

Edward, you make me very glad I have the original Great Stars edition and not the revision. I agree with you about the original Chaplin entry, it is lovely and I would hate to see it revised for the worse. Many critics go rather sour with age, due I assume to the pressure of many years of watching bad movies that begin to overwhelm memories and love for the good.

Goose said...

Second to Karen on Bedtime Story.

March's scene where he assumes different identities to cause an invasion of Loretta Young's and Allyn Joslyn's hotel room was priceless. It called to mind Cary Grant and John Barrymore at their best.

His range was as wide as anyone's in film. Maybe that is the reason that he tends to be forgotten when we too often search for our film heroes' iconic roles.

Karen said...

Siren (welcome back!!!), I actually didn't see Anthony Adverse for the first time until about a year ago, which is inexplicable to me, but I can only imagine how I would have taken to it in my youth. Yes, that's a good movie to teethe on.

Goose, I think you make a good point about March's range. While Cary, Gary, Bogie, and the Jimmys could absolutely play both straight and comic, their personae were so strong that it's almost that one remembers most. March was more of a chameleon, perhaps?

X. Trapnel said...

It's also possible that March, though a "star" is not starry; he can submerge (not the same thing as effacing) his personality in the character. This is one reason he can play an average person so effectively. Try to imagine,say, Spencer Tracy as Al Stephenson. The result would be a catastrophe. And yet March holds the picture together, dominates it in fact, because he convinces us despite the characters unease, that he is more experienced, has seen more, and felt more than anyone else in the film (not only war, but a long marriage, fatherhood, a career he doesn't really like etc.)

Yojimboen said...

To round things out, here’s Shipman on March:

“…March was good, but he was stilted on Warners’ big-budgeted and long-winded version of Hervey Allen’s best-seller, Anthony Adverse, which, though enjoyable, often seemed as if [Damon] Runyon had written the dialogue.”

“…After a two-year absence [on Broadway] March returned to the screen as the senior of the three returning war veterans in Wyler’s
The Best Years of Our Lives (46): the press reception was rapturous and helped to make this by far the biggest money-making film in which March had appeared. It also won seven Oscars, including a second Best Actor for March; but it did not lead to anything big, partly because in the flood of postwar leading men, he was considered a veteran.”

[NY critics’ Best Actor Award for “O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night”];

“…its run kept him off the screen until 1958 when he played a middle-aged man prepared to sacrifice everything for Kim Novak in Paddy Chayefsky’s
Middle of the Night. Said ‘Time’ magazine: ‘What most strikingly meets the eye is the profound performance of Frederic March. Seldom have youth and crabbed age lived together in one face with so much suffering and meaning.’
The film failed pitiably – and sadly, because his next performance was knots below, in
Inherit the Wind with Spencer Tracy. ‘Newsweek’ having commented on Tracy’s almost motionless performance, kindly said that March ‘by contrast achieves a magnificence of over-acting’.”

X. Trapnel said...

ferchrissakes, he was playing Wm. bloody Jennings bleeding Bryan! Whadda they want? Paul Scofield?

Karen said...

I don't think he was even remotely stilted in Anthony Adverse.

Goose said...

I think Newsweek was complimenting March for his magnificence of over-acting. As you say, he was playing Wm. Jennings Bryan, who many people in 1960 had seen personally not too long ago.

The Siren said...

I've often seen March derided for hamminess in Inherit the Wind but I never understood why; as XT so brilliantly puts it, "ferchrissakes, he was playing Wm. bloody Jennings bleeding Bryan!" Bryan was celebrated as a blowhard's blowhard; I imagine him orating over the breakfast marmalade. When the part demands it, March does pull back, as in his best scene, when Bryan rebukes the Reverend for his harsh treatment of his daughter.

X. Trapnel said...

Another point to keep in mind is that Tracy is playing the consummate lawyer, working small scale at the mind and conscience of the individual juror. March is playing the (for that time) the consummate politician adressing that part of the mind that wants lose itself in the crowd or mob. Both actors do brilliantly. I also like the scene in which March/Bryan (his private self in bathrobe) is rebuked by the preacher's daughter, a very human and painful moment. By this time we've forgotten it's march under all that make up. A terrific performance.

Yojimboen said...

If we don’t examine Inherit the Wind too closely it’s sort of enjoyable to watch a couple of old pros at work – Tracy of course has all the best lines – but March does okay with what he’s given. Over all of it unfortunately hangs the heavily unsubtle hand of the dread Stanley Kramer.

My own first interest in seeing ITW was as a student/admirer of H.L. Mencken, the ‘Sage of Baltimore’, who covered the Scopes trial for the Sun Papers (and syndicated to America at large) and I wanted to see how Gene Kelly played the ersatz Mencken role.
I was somewhat disappointed.

(When I was young and idealistic, Stanley Kramer seemed like the great humanist filmmaker – a champion of noble causes – then I grew up and recognized just how ham-fisted he really was. I look back on his films with the same faint embarrassment with which I view disco.)

The main scene between Tracy/March (Drummond/Brady - Darrow/Bryan) is here.

The entire film (with “limited commercial interruption”) can be found here .

Like most commenters here probably, I came to Fredric March late. By the time I started watching ‘cinema’ seriously, March was already into his ‘major supporting roles’ period in things like Grey Flannel Suit; Toko-Ri; Executive Suite etc., so I had to work backwards to see his leading roles in classics like Jekyll; A. Adverse; TBYOOL etc. It became clear pretty quick that the more one sees of him, the shinier he becomes. He was an astonishingly talented actor.

Edward said...

Shipman's entry on March accuses him of being a "ham" on more than one occasion -- another opinion which got in the way of my being able to appreciate him until I was older. But if there are better, less hammy performances than the ones he gave in "A Star is Born" or "Middle of the Night" or "Best Years," I haven't seen them.

All this March madness led me to watch him in three movies over the past week. What struck me as always was the absence of vanity in his performances. In "Nothing Sacred," he's the leading man as a patsy and a boob. In "Design For Living," he's the intellectual (i.e. least interesting) member of a menage a trois, and yet still subtly sexy. And in "Merrily We Go to Hell" he's a weak-willed alcoholic who's only slightly more lovable than despicable.

I think I enjoy him most playing weasels -- the maneuvering office swine in "Executive Suite" and the completely untrustworthy Dr. Favor in "Hombre." Whether playing villain or flawed hero, he was always smart enough (and brave enough) to make you aware of the deep-seated fear that drives most bad behavior.

X. Trapnel said...

Y, I made a point of not expressing my opinion of ItW as a film, but now that you've opened the sluice gate marked Gene Kelly I'll try to keep things down to a trickle. I hate this mostly arch performance especially (this may be the play which I haven't read since high school) he crumples under Drummond's having-it-both ways rebuke (just imagine Mencken doing likewise, ha!). He's CYNICAL, you see, so he must be LONELY. This is typical of Stanley K's (the thinking man's Josh Logan)so-called idealism. Liberalism never needed this sort of smugness.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I really love him in Design For Living and Nothing Sacred. He has a certain dry spare style to him that's very becoming when the plot forces him to pursue the leading lady relentlessly.

And the ending of Design For Living is my idea of Heaven.

Vanwall said...

Actually, ItW is full of outsize performances, all around - if not bombastic, arch, numbingly humble, or stalwartly valiant, it wouldn't exist as a film onscreen, there would naught but vapor. Even as a kid, I recognized the Hillerich & Bradsby that was being used to cudgel rather than cozen, and I liked that aspect - in a Chautauqua-land of come-to-Jesus foolery and stupidity, it was like a greatest hits collection of eye-popping expressions and simpering obsequiousness that cried out for Macy's-balloon-out-sized performances. Kelly and Tracy were perfect parts of that kind of make-believe fairy tale aspect, and if ham was being served, it was with all the trimmings. Was there ever a less subtle film? That was its strength as much as its weakness, maybe even more so. It was one step from a cartoon, but more fun, for me, Kelly, Tracy, March, et al, - especially March - being perfectly cast for the parade down the Broadway of a lot of towns that couldn't afford the helium. I certainly enjoy every moment of the Show.

Edward said...

David, I agree the ending of DfL is fantastic. Check out Gregg Araki's "Splendor" for a nice modern update. The wit is visual rather than verbal but it still works.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Adolphas Mekas' Hallelujah the Hills is in many ways a feature-length tribute to Design For living.

Goose said...

WRT Inherit the Wind, the movie improves the play in inserting the scene when Brady/Bryan in rebuked by the minister's daughter and in establishing a dramatically stronger past bond between Brady and Drummond/Darrow, also in beefing up the part of Mrs. Brady, played by Florence Eldridge (Mrs. F. March).

Although I agree with the charge of ham-handedness, Kramer here does good work in holding the camera in tight and letting free rein to Tracy and March, although is a negative skill. The circular camera moves were at least ambitious in attempting to give 3-dimensionality to the set.

The supporting cast (Gene Kelly excepted) was generally good also.

The biggest hurdle the movie and the play face is its misreading of the subsequent history, in asserting that this was the victory of modernity over the Dayton/Hillsboros of this world.

Incidentally, to bring this thread full circle, Clarence Darrow faced charges of bribery and jury (or witness?) tampering in 1912 or so in California. He was acquitted and his lawyer was Earl Rogers, the father of Adela Rogers St. John, mentioneded at the beginning of this thread.