Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Devotion (1946)


Ever see a movie that was bad, that announced itself as bad from the opening moments and never really got any better, and yet you could not bring yourself to miss a single moment? Such was the Siren's reaction to Devotion, the Brontë Old Dark Moors fantasia that TCM showed last week on a double bill with Wyler's Wuthering Heights. Devotion is a survey course in everything that ever goes wrong with Hollywood biopics.

Inscrutable casting? Check. The very American Arthur Kennedy as Branwell Brontë, the worldly, wised-up Ida Lupino as reclusive Emily, the beautiful man-magnet Olivia de Havilland as plain, yearning Charlotte, the extremely Continental Paul Henreid as the Reverend Arthur Nicholls.

Appalling liberties taken with the facts? Check. Emily conceives a hopeless passion for Nicholls and spends the rest of the movie mooning over him, in a perfect example of Hollywood's prosaic approach to the interior lives of artists. Never mind Emily Dickinson or Robert Herrick--fiercely sensual writing must have its origin not in the imagination, but rather in some sort of literal love affair. For years some people would try to prove that Branwell wrote Wuthering Heights, due mostly to the immensely irritating notion that a woman living a circumscribed life couldn't conceive of such tormented, passionate lovers. Devotion's screenwriters at least attribute the novel to the right author, but attach an "explanation" for Heathcliff and Cathy that is almost as insulting to Emily.

De Havilland, an exquisite beauty who seems to have bowled over male directors and costars like so many ninepins, had the odd fate of frequently playing the plain (Gone With the Wind), the spinsterish (To Each His Own, Hold Back the Dawn) or both (The Heiress). Her talent could usually make you believe in the character, if not her lack of beauty, but here she's obviously having a lousy time. (You can read about this movie's checkered production history, and its connection with de Havilland's famous contract-busting suit, here at TCM.) She's third-billed and it shows, but the Siren cannot blame de Havilland. The character of Charlotte as written and conceived is a simpering, self-centered blight, a "ninnyhammer" as the Siren's beloved Georgette Heyer would have put it. That Henreid is anywhere close to believable when he falls for her demonstrates his gift for conveying men who make lousy romantic choices, something his characters do in almost every film.

Inconvenient details summarily dispensed with? Check. Anne Brontë, a talented writer, is a cipher here and if it weren't for a throwaway line toward the end of the movie you'd never realize she could hold a pen, let alone write The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. There is barely a hint of the Brontës' poverty and isolation, as they all attend a ball at one point in drop-dead gowns that probably cost some Warner Brothers seamstress several weeks of her life and a good deal of her eyesight.

So why did the Siren enjoy herself? Well, after a while she watches some movies the same way she tunes into a particularly unhinged political commentator--the waves of crazy just wash her out into the sea of batshit and she starts to have a great time. Favorite moments include Henreid blandly explaining away his Austrian accent by saying he had spent a lot of time on the Continent, as though one could send Wallace Beery over there and he'd come back sounding like S.Z. Sakall. Emily bounds around the moors with an enormous sheepdog whose magnificent coat flaps in the breeze like he's doing an Alpo commercial. She takes Nicholls on a walk, points up a hill to a perfect Old Dark House and remarks helpfully, "I call it Wuthering Heights!" The rest of the time she pulls Branwell out of gutters and tells Charlotte to think of someone else for a change. The complicated, cerebral professor who became the object of Charlotte's affections turns into Victor Francen, tilting his head at everybody and doing a nonlethal version of his bad guy from San Antonio. Tuberculosis manifests itself as a couple of concertgoer coughs before you go out in a rainstorm to pull Branwell out of gutter No. 3 (or was it 4?) and catch your death.

But some things are genuinely good. Curtis Bernhardt keeps things moving and manages some nicely angled shots, such as the black-clad horseman who shows up in Emily's dreams from time to time. You don't know what he's doing there--she wrote Wuthering Heights, not "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"--but he looks great. Erich Korngold's score is omnipresent, underlining each beat in that vintage studio way (here comes the love theme! here's the "Branwell is drunk again" music!) but it's gorgeous to the ears, as Korngold always was. Arthur Kennedy sounds like he always does (did Branwell spend a lot of time in Massachusetts?) but he does a hell of a job as an alcoholic wastrel, turning Branwell into an intriguing dry run for his equally drunken and indolent pseudo-intellectual in A Summer Place.

And then there's Sydney Greenstreet, and oh how the Siren loves him in anything. Greenstreet shows up as William Makepeace Thackeray about 3/4 into the movie but he is worth the wait and then some. As the great satirist, Greenstreet looks so right and he sounds so right that it doesn't matter that Signor Ferrari somehow landed in London and started squiring around lady novelists. And Greenstreet gets the best dialogue, complete with hat-tip: "Good morning, Mr. Thackeray." "Good morning, Mr. Dickens," as the other gentleman takes his frock coat and fright beard into the publishing house.

But finally, the real reason to watch Devotion is the extraordinary cinematography by Ernest Haller, who lensed Gone with the Wind, Jezebel, The Roaring Twenties and many others. It's simply gorgeous, the interiors of this fantasy Haworth flickering with shadows and suggestiveness. The look of the picture suggests more Brontë than all the sisters' flutterings together.

126 comments:

Sarah said...

Dear Siren,
Thank you for the phrase "sea of batshit." And for the lovely film blog, which I've been enjoying for six months now. But especially for the image of a spluttering sea of batshit.

The Siren said...

Sarah, I suspect, suspect only mind you, that perhaps you are not entirely grateful for the batshit image. But you are most welcome anyway. :)

Kate Gabrielle said...

I love this!! So true!

"Favorite moments include Henreid blandly explaining away his Austrian accent by saying he had spent a lot of time on the Continent, as though one could send Wallace Beery over there and he'd come back sounding like S.Z. Sakall."

Vanwall said...

I, too, watched it compulsively - I was waiting for Greenstreet and Co. to appear, but in a bemused fashion - at one point the ladies and Kennedy are on a windswept hill, and it's the classic H'wood character refining set-piece - it could've been "All my Darling Daughters" for all I could tell, or any of the other Little-Women-ish films with lottsa sisters, it was so humorously didactic and typical of the whole genre. I always was confused as to who's who in those sisters, anyway, and the curious world in which they inhabit in the movies makes no real sense as a biography that would help figure the real persons worth a damn. None of the actresses matched the billings, for sure - inscrutable is a brilliant analysis.

Kennedy seemed to do boozers pretty damn well, as "Peyton Place" was another tour-de-vino for him.

I think it's best to view this and most other "biopics" as a kind of dream, or nightmare as the case may be, that spring alluringly in a half-shell on the spume from creative minds and eyes in the former case, or spring fully formed from the foreheads of bean-counters and production heads in the latter; "Devotion" was washed up with the flotsam amd jetsam near Hollywood, and tripped over countless times by us beachcombers looking for better, but at least it gets our attention, prolly by the Korngold Experience it tosses up in my way the most.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"Circumscribed" my ass! The REAL Bronte sisters story is about incest -- as is obvious from Wuthering Heights (Heathcliff is Bramwell, Well, DUH!)

But we're not ready for that yet, are we kiddies?

While the Wyler's quite nice be sure to seek out the Jacques Rivette AND the Robert Fuest renditions.

DavidEhrenstein said...

And don't forget the Luis Bunuel!

The Siren said...

Kate, that fabulous moment comes fairly early and it was then I knew I had to stick with this thing to the end.

Vanwall, I can't believe you were watching it, too, and for the same reason-- Mr. G. Yes, Kennedy did self-pitying drunks to a T, although he could do a lot more as Some Came Running, Bend of the River and many others testified. Never seen Bright Victory, which was his only Best Actor nomination. And your point about the sisters is excellent; I kept thinking if they had jettisoned the Bronte angle and just made it "Little Women in an English Parsonage" it might have worked, or at been coherent.

Yojimboen said...

I protest, dear lady, that your generosity of spirit endangers your point: to equate the effluence of any “unhinged political commentator” to a ‘sea of batshit’ is, I submit, larding these creatures with over-praise. Bat guano is an enormously valuable commodity in farming communities around the world; the so-called commentators to whom you refer are not one thousandth part as worthwhile.

That said, damn, I’m sorry I missed Devotion! Might I toss something into the electronic suggestion box? Perhaps a banner-head listing of (or link to) the upcoming monthly feast on TCM would help us all avoid a heap of frenzied Monday-morning teeth-gnashing and forehead-smiting? Just a thought.

The Siren said...

Come on David, you may like that theory but where's the evidence? Other than an interpretive stretch for Heathcliff.

The Siren said...

Y., I have often thought of calling out my viewing choices for TCM but then I thought others do that sort of thing better. And I am afraid that if I brightly recommended something like "Devotion" I might suffer a backlash; since I have seen most of the warhorse classics I tend to pick things off the schedule that are occasionally, well, batshit. But if there is a great outcry I would certainly take it under advisement.

DavidEhrenstein said...

It's scarcely a stretch. It's all there in the text. The notion of this brother and sisters act living "circumscribed" lives while writing heavy-breathing tales of l'amour fou may have "slipped one past the goalie" in high school but I graduated in 1964. The text itself is another story -- as the surrealists immediately recognized.

The Siren said...

David, with respect, I think you are doing the same thing the screenwriters were doing--rejecting the role of imagination and genius in favor of the idea that one can't conceive of things that one hasn't experienced. Mind you, I can't prove she wasn't banging Branwell. But there just isn't one bit of evidence--not one letter, not one contemporary account--to support the idea that Emily had any romantic attachments at all, let alone an incestuous passion for Branwell (or Anne, I have encountered that theory too). I don't find the notion that she made up Heathcliff any harder to comprehend than the idea that she wrote an enduring classic of English literature with less than two years of formal education.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"But there just isn't one bit of evidence--not one letter, not one contemporary account--to support the idea that Emily had any romantic attachments at all, let alone an incestuous passion for Branwell (or Anne, I have encountered that theory too)."

Nope. Just one of the greatest romantic novels ever written.

Not enough for you? What do want? A blue semen-stained dress from the GAP?

Oh Prunella!

The Siren said...

But that's just what I am saying! An artist doesn't have to experience something to write about it. You read Wuthering Heights and think Emily had to be shtupping someone. I read it and think that a woman's fantasy lovers are so often far different from the men in her life, even assuming she has any. And the book is hardly pure sex. There's a spiritual dimension to Wuthering Heights that I would not associate with the guilt and sordid details of hiding a sexual affair with your brother.

DavidEhrenstein said...

She left the guilt (assuming there was any) and sordidness (ditto)out. That's why she's a great writer.

Your point?

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Sorry I missed this one the other night -- sounds like a gas!

The Siren said...

Okay, "Your point?" is a little too snarky for me to continue here. Up to that one I was enjoying the back and forth.

Yojimboen said...

Not to take sides, but the André Téchiné 1978 version of Les Soeurs Brontë seems to be shoving its nose into the tent; Téchiné paints Isabelle Adjani (as Emily) as if by Rossetti (not hard, she is Adjani), and about half-way through Téchiné has her plant a lingering, non-sisterly smacker on Branwell’s unresisting lips. There’s some mischief to it, in a Madonna/Britney Spears kind of way, but it’s a serious kiss, and Téchiné was insinuating something.

To confuse matters further, early on when the housekeeper berates Emily for striding the moors “indecently” dressed like a boy, Emily shoots back that she can travel “…plus vite et plus loin…” (faster and further) in men’s clothing.

I’m just sayin’…

DavidEhrenstein said...

Plus Techine gave his boyfriend Roland Barthes a part -- as Thackerey!

Alex said...

David,

Come on. First, a major point of the novel is sublimation or repression. Second, it's written precisely in the historic moment when everyone (well, lots of people) is writing similar tales of wild passion - Dostoyevsky's Netochka was written a couple years later, Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter a few more years later, and many less well known works right around that time.

Yojimboen said...

But I’m also sayin’… the notion that an author - or authoress – must personally experience the richesse of life (be it tragic, romantic or, especially, sexual) to be able to write about it, is simply daft.

Three words: Verne; Proust; Pynchon.

DavidEhrenstein said...

So? She wrote it in a different style. Your point?

Sublimated passion is a Big Deal in great literature. See also the ever-popular (save for Sarko) La Princesse de Cleves, not to mention Le Soulier de Satin (filmed so memorably by Manoel de Oliveira.)

SteveHL said...

I've missed a lot of Arthur Kennedy's work but my favorite performance of his is as a Mexican criminal in The Naked Dawn. Kennedy was known on stage primarily for his work in Arthur Miller dramas; his part in The Naked Dawn is so different from most of his roles that you might not even realize at first that it is Kennedy. And besides, it's nice seeing him get to play a lead for a change.

The Siren said...

Steve, Kennedy was very good at bringing layers to underwritten characters; in Devotion he manages to suggest all the self-pity and thwarted ambition of Branwell with not that much help from the script. I've resolved to pay more attention to him from now on.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Be sure to check him out in The Lusty Men, Rancho Notorious and Some Came Running

The Siren said...

David: seen them. :) I meant more that I need to be more alert to what he's doing. He was great in Some Came Running although he's almost never mentioned in the same breath as the leads (despite an Oscar nod if I recall).

Tonio Kruger said...

Re: David Ehrenstein's interpretation of Wuthering Heights

Wow! After viewing Howard Hawks' Scarface and Paul Schrader's Cat People, you'd think I be clever enough to pick up on such an interpretation like that...but no, I didn't.

But then part of me is still embarrassed by how long it took me to make a connection between Wuthering Heights and a certain much-covered Kate Bush song...

Vanwall said...

Kennedy was a supporting player, dare I say ubiquitous, in so many films that showed up on TV in my younger days - he was in so many successful films, films that drew an audience even on the downhill side on an indy station that showed a lot of chaff, that it's a measure of his abilities. Few actors had the range he did, and he was very recognizably himself, which was actually kinda interesting, such as in "Lawrence of Arabia", "Bend of the River", and "Elmer Gantry" - there's an innate naturalness to his playing that projects as believability. In "Devotion", indifferent as it is, he's still got that little bit of real about him, possibly the only element of that in the entire film.

gmoke said...

Caught a little of this with Sydney squiring Olivia around to the East End. He looked very arch in his Thackeray curls.

I'd seen the film once when I was a child planted in front of the TV, eager for most any movie. I could see it was bunk then even before I had any knowledge of _Wuthering_ or _Jane_. This time I also marveled at the crispness of the b&w images and that studio gloss even for dirty London streets. Didn't stay long but enjoyed my few moments of viewing of the great Sydney and a playful Olivia.

Sometimes what you want is cheese, even batshit cheese.

Arthur S. said...

On the new UK DVD of ODD MAN OUT, they show clips from a long interview James Mason did for the BBC(these clips are all that survive from the masters which have been lost). Mason mentions that he got some interest with the producers in the making of of a film on the Brontes with himself in the Branwell role. But the project fell through because DEVOTION got made and Mason is elegantly dismissive of that film.

My disagreements with the incest theory is simply that it doesn't add anything to a reading of what makes WUTHERING HEIGHTS so scary. Sublimated passion is a hard thing to put into a book that takes a while to write.

I've been wanting to see that Techine film for a while.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

"Anne Brontë, a talented writer, is a cipher here..."

She's always been given short shrift in the world of literature, but when your big sisters are Ida Lupino and Olivia de Haviland, there you are.

Excellent discussion, and I agree Arthur Kennedy is the one to watch in any scene he's in. I believe I saw the film years ago, but I'm sorry I missed it recently. I never thought about the ironic casting, but you're right.

The Siren said...

Gmoke, it draws you in, doesn't it? There's a reason almost all my guilty pleasure movies are from the High Studio era.

Arthur, I can just imagine Mason talking about Devotion. And yes, that was my point--insisting that actual sex must be behind Wuthering Heights is reductive.

Jacqueline, have you read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall? It's excellent. If Anne had been from another family she might be a much bigger name. Charlotte later said she thought Anne based Huntington on Branwell.

DavidEhrenstein said...

What makes you think the passion was "sublimated," Arthur S.?

Look people, here we are in 2009 and the major news story of the day is whether or not a world-class film master should be dragged back to the U.S. and thrown into the slammer for skipping out on being sentenced for drugging and raping a 13 year-old 30 years ago, and you chock at the notion that the Bronte sister were boinking Bramwell?

OH PRUNELLA!!!

The Siren said...

David, I do not have a problem with your advocating an interpretation of Wuthering Heights. As I said, I've heard it before and failed to dive for the fainting couch.

What I do have a problem is your repeated and none-too-subtle implication that those who disagree, even in part, must be doing so out of prudishness.

There are plenty of legitimate objections to the idea that Heathcliff and Cathy are proxies for Emily's incestuous affair. And I am happy to hear you counter them, as I was a bit higher in the thread. But "Oh Prunella" is not a contribution to the discussion. It's a taunt.

Also, after a mere handful of posts in other forums I am Polanski-d out. I request that if my readers want to discuss that one, they go to one of the many forums that have threads running about it. I don't want to wade into that particular mud puddle here.

Arthur S. said...

-------------------
OH PRUNELLA!!!
-------------------

[In my best Elmer Fudd voice]
"I reawwy dwon't see the cwonnection between the two!"

--------------------------
What makes you think the passion was "sublimated," Arthur S.?
--------------------------

Simply that the book is written by a woman and the character whose grand passion is evoked is the male's. Cathy's love for Heathcliff does not compare with the latter's obsession for her. And this obsession is palpable and vividly realized and available for the reader's inference through the reminscences of Heathcliff's behaviour by the two narrators. If it wasn't sublimated than Emily would show a woman's all devouring passion for a man.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Oh I see. It's the "women don't think that way" bit. How quaint.

Tell it to Madame Recamier!

DavidEhrenstein said...

BTW, Siren, Betty Draper bought a fainting couch on this week's episode of Mad Men -- against the advice of her decorator.

Sorry you've taken my Bronte posts as "taunts." That was not the spirit in whcih they were composed.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"Cathy's love for Heathcliff does not compare with the latter's obsession for her. And this obsession is palpable and vividly realized and available for the reader's inference through the reminscences of Heathcliff's behaviour by the two narrators. If it wasn't sublimated than Emily would show a woman's all devouring passion for a man."

Has it ever occurred to you that Emily was living through Bramwell in writing the book?

X. Trapnel said...

Wonderful piece, Siren! Brilliant! I've been trying to see Devotion for years and though you've dashed any hopes that it might be good, my desire remains unabated. It sounds bad in the same way as the 40's Of Human Bondage, with Henreid again miscast [no explanation given for the trans-unlikely accent], great Korngold music keeping things afloat if drifitng, beautiful photography and London mise-en-scene, boring Alexis Smith, Eleanor Parker brilliant as Ida Lupino.
Actually, I think the casting of the sisters makes Hollywood sense. In terms of personality The Real Charlotte combined romanticism with an Olivia-like common sense (Darling Joan is the Compleat Romantic, and let us not forget the Brontes were not Gothick; they were realists). Ida Lupino (who was actually English) in my view Would have been the ideal Cathy (if not Geraldine Fitzgerald) is an actress who could add colors to the chameleon; she could be strange, brooding, visionary (I've always felt that Emily is the spiritual sister of Rimbaud). As for Anne (Chico to Branwell's Zeppo) well, I'm a big Nancy Coleman fan and am always happy to see her.
I had always assumed that Henried played Constantin Heger. Wrong again. The boot-faced Nicholls should have been played by Henry Daniell.

The Siren said...

David, I am glad to hear it.

"Simply that the book is written by a woman and the character whose grand passion is evoked is the male's. Cathy's love for Heathcliff does not compare with the latter's obsession for her. And this obsession is palpable and vividly realized and available for the reader's inference through the reminscences of Heathcliff's behaviour by the two narrators. If it wasn't sublimated than Emily would show a woman's all devouring passion for a man."

That is the best argument you have made so far. Thank you. It doesn't convince me but it's intriguing, for sure. How does it fit into the second half, however, where the young girl's love becomes the focus?

Personally, I like fainting couches, although I've never had one. Great reading spots, right up there with window seats. Decorators are always rejecting the fun stuff.

The Siren said...

XT, Coleman is so criminally underused in Devotion you will be gnawing your wrist. She's fine in what she's got, but it's a vapid part.

I completely agree that Lupino would have made a great Cathy, certainly better than the much too refined Oberon. (Was ever a movie so flawed and yet so lovable as the Wyler Wuthering Heights? I maintain that aside from the movie's looks, it's Olivier.) And Lupino might have made a good Emily if they had written her as something more than a lovelorn "caretaker" in a classic alcoholic family.

And Henreid would have been a much better Heger, but they play that whole segment for comedy, I guess because of (ha) Hollywood prudishness about Charlotte's infatuation with a married man. I quite like Victor Francen in La Fin du Jour, for example, but here he's so obvious a cad and so physically old and unappealing that Charlotte's crush seems like pure madness.

Karen said...

Yikes, sorry to have come in late on this one.

Siren, the excuse for Henreid's accent was even better than "a lot of time on the Continent." It was that he'd been SCHOOLED on the Continent. I'm not sure how many years he was supposed to have spent there--I was imagining his university years, although I suppose it could have been boarding school on--but I found it hilarious that this was supposed to explain the clipped Germanic syllables of a man named Arthur Nicholls.

You're right: none of the casting choices made much sense (although SG's Thackeray was DELICIOUS--close enough, right?). When I saw Coleman was Anne, it was clear that Anne was going to be marginalized. de Havilland did get the chance to be spitfire-y, but her passion for Francen was....a stretch. And after Nicholls and Emily had formed such a tight friendship, it seemed implausible that he would fall for Charlotte at first sight. Especially when she was so unpleasant.

About Kennedy as Branwell, probably the less said the better, although he was a very convincing mean drunk.

I don't know and don't much care whether the sisters and their brother were all participating in orgies together (remember, I'm the one who doesn't care for star bios, either), but the notion that repressed women couldn't break out in believably passionate emotions seems to belie most of human history. Regrettably, that repressed passion rarely is matched with literary talent, but I see no reason to believe the Brontes didn't buck that trend.

Kevin Deany said...

I forget who it was but someone once said about Paul Henreid, "He looks as though his idea of fun would be to find a nice cold damp grave and sit in it."

I have a vague feeling that came from a review of "Devotion", but maybe it was another title.

The Siren said...

Karen, you're right! I was paraphrasing because I was too mesmerized to jot down the line. I am a Thackeray fan, and Greenstreet was so physically and vocally right for Thackeray it made me wish the whole movie was about him. (A fat, sharp-tongued satirist with chronic urethitis and a crazy wife, that'll get filmed soon--not.)

I didn't find de Havilland spitfire-y anywhere, though. Mostly she just complained a lot. It was such a waste. I couldn't understand what they had against poor Charlotte. If they needed a whiner in the mix, well, there was Anne right there. She doesn't deserve it either (am I the only one who's read her two novels?) but her ghost is probably used to it by now.

And I honestly thought Kennedy was a pretty good Branwell, despite the script and his own Yankee accent.

But tell me, didn't you like the looks of the thing? The cinematography was no more true to life than anything else but the black-and-white was beautiful on this one. TCM found a good print, apparently.

The Siren said...

Kevin, I seem to spend a lot of time on here defending Henreid--to generalize, men do not dig him--but that line is hilarious and it could definitely have come from someone who just saw Devotion.

DavidEhrenstein said...

De Havilland's pretty spitfire-y in The Great Garrick. And quite luscious there too.

X. Trapnel said...

I've always liked Paul Henried, but Casablanca turned him into the thinking man's Ralph Bellamy (something of the same sort happened to Leslie Howard re Ashley W.) He's fine (as I recall) in Joan of Paris and well matched with the sublime Michele Morgan (the real and only MM).

Karen said...

Oh, it was beautiful! No question. And I couldn't turn away. And I didn't dislike Kennedy, although I wonder if Branwell was really THAT big a jerk.

I thought Charlotte was more angry than whiny. And she was a little spitfire-y when she stood up to Mme. Heger. But she wasn't pleasant, and I was hard-pressed to see Nicholls attraction to her.

I rather love Henreid, even with his silly accent and thin lips. Between Now, Voyager and Night Train to Munich he made a big impression on me early, and nothing I've seen since has dimmed the glow.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Paul Henreid makes impotence sexy.

X. Trapnel said...

Karen,

Branwell was more pathetic than jerky. I share your dislike of star biographies and loathe the ascendancy of psychobiography, hatchet jobs, and what Joyce Carol Oates termed "pathography" (reducing a life's achievement to a set of symptoms), but there is a magnificent biographical literature on the Brontes. Rebecca Fraser's composite bio, The Brontes is a good place to start.

The Siren said...

Night Train to Munich! I would looove to see that one again. Some day I will write an Old Dark Train post, because I love train movies too.

XT, I read the Fraser and still have it around here somewhere if it survived my many moves.

And David, I bought The Great Garrick with a WB store code and it awaits my viewing pleasure. Also got It's Love I'm After which I haven't seen in yonks.

X. Trapnel said...

Siren, a train post from you is something devoutly to be wished. I hope it will include La Bete Humaine where the tempermental mismatch of Renoir (classical realism) and Zola (romantic realism) yields some very interesting results.

Karen said...

Mmmmmm--train movies! I'll go one further: I tend to love any movie that simply opens with a scene of a speeding train.

Paul Henreid makes impotence sexy

David, I think I'm going to sew that on a sampler. Beautiful.

XT: I have an incredibly low tolerance for drunks in movies. I hated--HATED!--Arthur, and have never sat through all of either Lost Weekend or The Country Girl. I know it stems from my 15 [non-drinking] years as a bartender, but there it is. So when Branwell would lash out at his sisters, or barge into a ballroom soused to the gills, I just see him as a jerk. I get that he can be a pathetic creature--not as talented as his sisters nor likely to find it acceptable to stay in hick-town Haworth--but I just don't have patience for it.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Keep an eye peeled for a very young and lovely Lana Turner in The Great Grrick, plus the always wonderful Brian Aherne and the incredibly graceful and imaginative moving camera shots for which Whale should be even more famous than he already is.

X. Trapnel said...

Siren, I'm sure Jack Norton just toppled from his Elysian barstool. I hold no brief for Branwell and if you say he's a jerk so be it.

One of the assumptions of those early sixties "comedies" was that drunkeness was, in and of itself funny; I suppose Arthur (never saw it but hate it anyway) was conceived on the same dire premise.

But not see The Lost Weekend? And miss Mother Fontaine's screen debut? (she has Joan's left eyebrow).

Karen said...

Ah, now, don't blame the Siren--you know she's seen Lost Weekend! It's all me. And, yes, I know, I know. I love Ray Milland with a passion, as well. I just can't stand movies about drunks. I'm fine with the occasional drunken character, but once they start taking over, I'm OUT.

X. Trapnel said...

Karen, I also like Ray Milland and his LW performance is towering (in the small details as well as the big moments). Now, normally I can't stand Jack Lemmon, but I think Days of Wine and Roses far and away his best, most unmannered performance.

X. Trapnel said...

Yikes! I was a bit baffled by your post, Karen, till i looked back and saw that YOU had written the anti-drunk declaration. Sorry, I was distracted by the bat circling over my head.

Sheila O'Malley said...

"as though one could send Wallace Beery over there and he'd come back sounding like S.Z. Sakall"

This made me laugh out loud.

I have not seen Devotion, and now clearly I must. I've been a Bronte fan from way back (I'm more of a Charlotte than an Emily girl myself) - and went through a pretty serious FANATICAL phase in high school. I have read "Mrs. Gaskell's" biography of Charlotte Bronte, for example, 5 times. So I am clearly biased.

This was a wonderfully funny piece of writing, Siren. I have to see the film now.

Sydney Greenstreet. Even seeing him in a tiny walk-on part makes me feel like everything is going to be okay.

DavidEhrenstein said...

The best movie I've ever seen about alcoholism is Chabrol's Betty.

Yojimboen said...

And the worst would have to be Leaving Las Vegas. But since it stars Nicolas Cage let's just call that the Tautology of the Week.

The Siren said...

I'm not the world's biggest fan of big, broad drunk acts either, although I have two words for Karen to call her bluff:

William Powell.

Mind you, he was one of the few men who could play drunk and make it seem like the most charming thing in the world. Need I mention Myrna as well?

And Ninotchka! I mean hell, half the characters in 30s comedies spend most of the movie drunk. You could make a game of forwarding the DVD and counting when they're drunk and when they're sober. A drinking game even! Okay, maybe not. Definitely not.

I liked Arthur, mostly for Gielgud but Moore had some very funny moments.

The Lost Weekend is good but on my list of "thank goodness I don't have to do THAT again" movies, along with Days of Wine and Roses and a few others.

I saw Leaving Las Vegas with an epic binge-drinking alcoholic--the kind who would go four days on the bottle, two weeks off--and I still don't know if that was a huge mistake or pretty much the only audience worth taking to the film. He isn't drinking anymore but all the movie did at the time was exacerbate the dry-drunk he had going.

Finally, Karen, did you see James Wolcott's post about a bartender blog he has discovered? Extremely hilarious.

The Siren said...

P.S. What I did hate about Arthur, aside from its admitted mawkishness at times, was that effing Chris Cross song which makes me want to go out and stomp through flower beds.

Yojimboen said...

For grins, herein a half-dozen stills from Devotion.
(scroll down)

That next to last shot, I’d swear is an out-take from The Harvey Girls.

SteveHL said...

A good but pretty much forgotten film about alcoholism is D.W. Griffith's last film, The Struggle. It is much better than most film books claim, with an excellent lead performance by an actor named Hal Skelly, who died not long after The Struggle came out. I think it is a better film than Griffith's other talking picture, Abraham Lincoln, which is much more highly regarded (and which I think is pretty good in its own right).

Vanwall said...

I always thought "The Verdict", with Newman and Rampling playing high-functioning alcoholics, hit a certain nail on the head regarding that kind of hard drinker. Not a fan of H'wood drunks, generally. tho. The previously mentioned Wallace Beery always seemed like a naturally drunk person in most of his roles, including Sweedie, and as a kid I assumed he was supposed to be projecting that - go figure.

Iris said...

Siren, an Old Dark Train post sounds great! I've seen Night Train to Munich on the Fox Movie Channel -- IIRC the print wasn't great, but still watchable. It's supposed to be shown again on October 20.

The Siren said...

Steve, you shame me -- I have not seen The Struggle. Its reputation meant I always found something else to watch. I hope to rectify that.

Y., thanks for the link! Unfortunately those stills don't do much to convey Haller's work, which really was good. I love the shot of Greenstreet and de Havilland though. She looks deeply suspicious of him. And you get a shot of Lupino's ball gown -- look at those roses! Can you imagine the real Emily getting anywhere near such a dress?

Sheila, thanks so much for stopping by, I was hoping you would. I figured you for a Bronte person. The Brontes are a big deal for a certain type of bookish girl; I was one of those and I had you pegged for one as well. I also read Gaskell's biography, though not five times!

Karen said...

I have two words for Karen to call her bluff:

William Powell.


And I would submit that the drunks of The Lost Weekend, The Country Girl, Days of Wine and Roses, Arthur, and Leaving Las Vegas have as much to do with a William Powell drunk as chalk to cheese. In fact, I would submit that Powell, as the gentleman he could not help but be, was never really drunk, in the way the stars of those other films were--buzzed, lit, tipsy, but never drunk. He was a man who could hold his liquor. And who could really never be anything but charming.

Let me tell you, after watching drunks in this fair city for 15 years, I never saw any drunk like William Powell.

Ad for the characters in Ninotchka--well, I'll have to watch it again. I honestly don't think of them as drunk. I mean, Ninotchka gets famously drunk, but hardly sloppily so. Again, I'd go with buzzed. Charmingly buzzed.

It's the mean, sloppy, desperate drunks I find so distasteful. The ones who take over a film. Even the Ale & Quail Club, whom I mostly adore, tend to linger just a touch too long for my taste.

The Siren said...

Let me tell you, after watching drunks in this fair city for 15 years, I never saw any drunk like William Powell.


I can't argue. I never have, either, to my regret. The dirty little secret about drunks is how boring most of them are. Powell gets quite seriously drunk in My Man Godfrey! He's still charming though. David Niven in the mostly appalling remake does all right with that scene too. With Ninotchka, I was thinking of Garbo mostly although as I recall Douglas is half seas over in that scene as well.

Iris, thanks for the tip! Years ago 60 Minutes did a piece on the end (at that time) of the Orient Express that had a wonderful train-movie montage with a lot of people popping their heads out of compartments. Ah, compartments. Staterooms are almost as much fun but not quite.

Yojimboen said...

Hey, Mad Men and booze - when else will I have the opportunity to plug in Dan Jenkins’s vaguely on topic, but adorable
Mankind's Ten Stages of Drunkenness:

0). Sober
1). Witty and Charming
2). Rich and Powerful
3). Benevolent
4). Clairvoyant
5). Fuck Dinner
6). Patriotic
7). Crank Up the Enola Gay
8). Witty and Charming, Part II
9). Invisible
10). Bulletproof

gmoke said...

Once upon a time I got gloriously drunk on champagne on a train. It was NYC to Boston just before they took the dining cars away and the liquor was bought by a free-lance writer (he'd written a UFO abduction story for Rolling Stone that I'd read) who was trying very, very hard to seduce a young married woman from NH who insisted I join them. We drank all the champagne on the train (Amtrak!) and were starting in on the Cold Duck when the train pulled into Back Bay Station.

Walking home, the sidewalk came up to meet me like waves on the ocean. It was most disconcerting but I struggled home and fell into bed. I don't think I've been as drunk since. And true, the hangover was brutal.

If you want to read about prodigious drinking as a normal course of events, try Dawn Powell's _Angels on Toast_ sometime. Lovely little acid writer but I can't believe people actually drank like that and functioned at all.

Siren, "Devotion" did pull at me but I resisted. Those East End streets were just too gorgeously clean for me to get sucked in along with Sydney's snuff in the carriage. If memory serves, Ida Lupino (and my first memory of her was the TV show she did with her then husband Howard Duff) has a mad scene in "Devotion" that might be worth viewing again. But then the younger Ida was really something.

Yes to "Night Train to Munich" with the skinniest Rex Harrison I ever saw and a very lovely Margaret Lockwood. Maybe in a double feature with "Journey into Fear" to broaden the transportation theme to boats as well.

horoki said...

Thanks for this; the movie sounds like a hoot. I also appreciate the love for "Tenant of Wildfell Hall", easily my favorite Bronte novel after "Villette". I'm going to latch on to a throwaway line and ask if you have any recommendations for where to begin with Heyer? I'm intrigued by her but was never sure where to start in that big bibliography, and haven't found any reliable, intelligent guides to her work aside from the rabid fansites.

Karen said...

I believe my favorite Heyer would have to be Arabella.

Exiled in NJ said...

Was he really Paul von Henreid, as IMDB's says? A Prussian?

Rather than being impotent, he reminds me of one of those Middle Ages knights, chaste but fighting for his lady, at least as Victor or Jerry (perhaps the most ridiculous male character ever, with that God-awful kid Tina). I'm not sure we should blame Casey Robinson but rather the book's author). And it always baffled me that Davis shot Claude Rains and ran back to von Henreid in Deception.

Night Train is another that was once out on tape, and one I am sorry I returned to the rental store. And there was Radford and Wayne again, doing their part to defeat the Nazis.

And when you do your train entry, do not forget that poor waiter trying to serve Donat tea in 39 Steps.

I am surprised a 70th Anniversary edition of Wuthering Heights has not come out on DVD.

siobhan said...

Siren, this essay is one of your gems - so many perfect images and metaphors, and so many irresistible nail-on-the-head phrases. I too am a fan of ridiculous biopics. "Rhapsody in Blue," for instance: Robert Alda stands at the window of his Paris hotel room, looking out at the Eiffel Tower. He's suffering from composer's block, but then hears some Parisian taxis honking in the street below. You see the light of inspiration begin to glow within him: "taxi horns," he is clearly thinking; "of course." He plops right down at the piano and writes "American in Paris." Ah, the life of a Hollywood-ized artist...

Arthur S. said...

THE GREAT GARRICK is indeed a great film. And it's the only really great film about a cinematically neglected period - 18th Century England. Even if it's not particularly historical. The only other major film is BARRY LYNDON, Kubrick's adaptation of the Thackeray novel(to which he made numerous changes and surprisingly improved upon).

WUTHERING HEIGHTS would have been a good film if Samuel Goldwyn didn't produce it. He actually liked the ending which he installed against everybody's wishes(showing Heathcliff and Cathy side-by-side in the Beyond). Merle Oberon is just not Catherine Linton. In fact, Geraldine Fitzgerald is way more beautiful and effective than she is as Heathcliff's wife.

Olivier claimed that the film was a turning point for him because Wyler drilled him into film acting through his repeated takes of putting up with Olivier playing to the back row of the film crew. And he's perfect as Heathcliff.

DavidEhrenstein said...

You know, gsmpoke, people actually DID. One of the most interesting books I've read in recent time sis The Lost Years -- Christopher Isherwood's diaries and notebooks from his arrival in the U.S. to just before he met Don Bachardy. He had several boyfriends before Don and ALL of them drank like fish. Entry after entry recounts the hangover from the night before. And this from a man who never became an alcoholic.

In the Thin Man movies Powell and Loy treat cocktails as if they were some sort of magic exlixer, aiding their overall joie de vivre. IOW its not like real drinking at all.

X. Trapnel said...

I also recall Cary Grant at the piano receiving inspiration from the tick, tick, tock of the stately clock.

In that spirit, a film bio of Dmitri Tiomkin could immortalize the moment of inspiration for the Duel in the Sun music.

Buttermilk Sky said...

In an essay collection called "Is Heathcliff a Murderer?" John Sutherland suggests that he is the illegitimate son of Mr. Earnshaw, by way of explaining why Cathy's father brings the boy home. Their relationship would thus be as incestuous as that of Byron and his half-sister Augusta Leigh, a scandal that must have been known even in remotest Yorkshire. The book could not have been published had the incest theme been explicit, but readers could interpret lines like "Nelly, I AM Heathcliff!" any way they liked. Only our prurient age needs to make it both obvious and autobiographical.

The Siren said...

"It always baffled me that Davis shot Claude Rains and ran back to von Henreid in Deception." I agree! This month on TCM they have an interview with Rains' daughter (who resembles him greatly even in late middle age) and she remarks on how Davis was attracted to Rains, but he did not reciprocate. Their working relationship was excellent though, and it shows. Henreid was Austrian but apparently a wholly genuine "von", unlike Sternberg. He had a peculiar quality on screen of sexual nonthreat (so I see David E.'s point) combined with cerebral lust. Henreid really really wanted to, but honor, ah yes honor...

Siobhan, delightful to see you here. Musical composition in the movies is a never-ending source of delight. There was a whole spate of songwriter and composer bios and fictionalizations and each one is funnier on that score than the last. Who can forget Ann Sothern and Robert Young composing "Lady Be Good" by noodling around the living room piano and waiting for the inspiration to hit? Sothern comes up with "I've been so awfully misunderstood" in the same amount of time it would take to say "Let's have a drink." And I adore the "Tales from the Vienna Woods" scene in The Great Waltz, with the lady swinging her hat around as the waltz tempo kicks in.

To bring that back to Devotion, an added piece of insanity is a late-period Strauss waltz playing in the background as Branwell is hauled out of the aforementioned ball--in 1840-something.

Horoki, I am very glad you also like Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I would like to see that one gain a higher profile as it is really very good. Charlotte thought Huntington was a portrait of Branwell, which says a lot about her brother.

As for Heyer, gosh I love (almost) all of them and Karen is right, Arabella is very good. If you are one of those people who likes to do things chronologically, you could start with Regency Buck which is generally supposed to be the book that inaugurated her great period of novel-writing. Otherwise, my favorites (in no order because I love them equally) would be The Reluctant Widow, The Talisman Ring, Venetia, The Grand Sophy, Cotillion and The Nonesuch.

(The Reluctant Widow was filmed in England in the 1940s but I have never seen it. Karen? Ever search that one out?)

The Siren said...

Buttermilk Sky, I have encountered that theory too but had never made the Byron connection. Has anyone ever tried to film an Augusta/George story? Now that would be interesting. I nominate Catherine Breillat to direct. :D

X. Trapnel said...

No one has yet gone near When George Met Augusta (though I dimly recall a movie about Ada Lovelace, B's legitimate daughter).

Has anyone here seen the Keats movie? Does he stumble on a Grecian urn while wandering through misty, mellow Hampstead Heath as a nightingale twitters in the sky?

I thought Jane Campion's Portrait of a Lady horrific.

Karen said...

It never even occurred to me that Heyer had been filmed, which is shocking, because they're eminently filmable stories. No, I've never seen The Reluctant Widow, alas, and I'm not even sure I recognize the names of the actors.

IMDb further reveals a 1959 German production called Bezaubernde Arabella, or Enchantress Arabella, which may now become my Holy Grail. A post-war German version of a Regency-era romance novel: the mind REELS.

Thank you for reminding me of The Nonesuch, by the way, Siren. On one of my many, many household moves I divested myself of all my Heyers save for Arabella, and now I'm feeling a little bit of a craving coming on...

I do still love the Heyers, but after I discovered Austen I felt a little bit like I'd been on training wheels.

Yojimboen said...

Yes, X., of course I’ve seen the Keats movie. I actually pondered a post when I saw it at an H’Wood screening three days ago but feared it might be too far off-topic. Speaking as someone who didn’t particularly care for The Piano (it’s personal, things presented as Scottish seldom, if ever, come even close); but I am delighted to report an odd event:

At the end of the film, there was the usual polite smattering of applause, then something very, very strange happened – the tail credits started to roll and no one moved.
No one.

I’ve been to hundreds of screenings; normally, when the picture fades to black and the first tail credit appears, people are up and running to a) beat the parking lot rush, or b) feed the cat or c) release the baby-sitter; but three days ago in an H’Wood theater filled with professional cynics, every single member of the audience sat absolutely still and silent throughout the entire tail crawl; and applauded again when it ended and the lights came up.
I’ve never seen that.

As they exited, they tended to gather in the lobby, talking quietly as if after some profound event; the overhead snatches: “What’d you think?” were answered by shrugs – it seemed no one knew what to say. (I remember thinking several times while watching it, “Jesus CHRIST this woman knows how to direct!”)

For what it’s worth, I think Bright Star is as close to flawless a film as I've seen in years.

horoki said...

Thanks for the Heyer recommendations Karen and Siren! I'll give them a shot. I don't know if there's been a movie on Byron/Augusta, but I would like to see "The Bad Lord Byron", with Dennis Price and Joan Greenwood as Byron and Caroline. Judging by imdb historical accuracy is not exactly its primary concern, but with those two who cares?

X. Trapnel said...

Your word is as gold, Y. I shall see this as surely as I shall skip Ingloughrioughs Bhaghstarrrghds.

Word verification: tryste. Perfect

Spirit here that reignest!
Spirit here that painest!
Spirit here that burnest!
Spirit here that mournest!
Spirit, I bow
My forehead low,
Enshaded with thy pinions.
Spirit, I look
All passion-struck
Into thy pale dominions.
--John Keats

The Siren said...

I love Keats so much.

Yojimboen said...

Then run, dear lady, do not walk, to Bright Star.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Day at Dennis Cooper's

Buttermilk Sky said...

Siren, I'm not sure I find Sutherland's theory all that convincing. What's undeniable is that two sisters in the same house at roughly the same time created the original "Byronic" heroes, Heathcliff and Edward Rochester. I'm sure they were reading each other's work -- they had since childhood.

My verification word is "coxicat," a soon-to-be-discovered relative of the leopard.

Trish said...

You all make me feel ashamed. I've got a degree in english literature, but my Bronte is a bit rusty. I DO want to see the Keats movie, however.

pvitari said...

Bright Star is exquisite. Though I do think the reason no one moves from the theater during the credits is because on the soundtrack actor Ben Wishaw (who plays Keats) recites, beautifully, Ode to a Nightingale. It is not to be missed. (Nobody budged during the final credits at the screening I went to.)

Dan Oliver said...

Two comments about different parts of this thread. First, I want to add to the accolades for Bright Star. Yojimboen nailed it with the comment, "Jesus Christ, this woman knows how to direct." So beautifully put together and so very moving. Go see it.

Second, about alcoholism in films.
When I was in 5th grade I watched Days of Wine and Roses on The CBS Thursday Night Movie, or some such thing. (Yes, they had movies on network TV back in the '60s.) It scared the living shit out of me. To this day I don't drink, and it is directly related to that film. I watched Jack Lemmon rolling around in Charles Bickford's greenhouse begging for a drink and thought, 'I don't EVER want something like that to happen to me.' So years later when I was in high school and my friends wanted to get drunk, I would just pass. And it was directly because of that film. Now I know this is a rather extreme reaction, but it's true. I mean, it's weird to think that Blake Edwards (a director I usually can't stand) has so much control over my life, but apparently he does.

Chris Cagle said...

Funny, I have gotten interested in examining cinematographers' work more systematically and recorded this one to watch as part of a Haller binge!

I love your write-up on the film.

Yojimboen said...

Before this thread wraps, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t toss into the ring a couple more versions for the Wuthering Stakes.

Viz: Jacques Rivette’s (1985) Hurlevent and Yoshishige Yoshida’s (1988) Arashi ga oka.

Rivette makes the protagonists 20 years younger and moves the locale (150 years later) closer to Pagnol country; nibbling, as it were, at the edges of Manon des Sources. Speaking of Emanuelle Beart, Hurlevent came in a Rivette box set with La Belle Noiseuse (the film about which Mlle Beart famously begged the French press to judge her performance as well as “mon cul”).

This Rivette interview does it more justice than I ever could.

The Yoshida is quite another kettle of sashimi. Lavish, set in medieval Japan, it’s a strange admixture of Ran; Rashomon; Onibaba and a dozen others (not excluding Yojimbo).

It’s violent, sometimes Kabuki-flavored, sometimes chop-socky; it’s also sexually raw and very frank. It’s an odd, surprisingly uncomfortable feeling to observe Cathy and Heathcliff having sex; erotic though the nudity is, it clashes somewhat with the established weight (in Western eyes) and iconography of their characters.

But it's very definitely a film to see.

X. Trapnel said...

A brief addendum to Y's post.

Bernard Herrmann wrote a brilliant opera based on Wuthering Hights (it uses some of the Ghost and Mrs. Muir music for C and H frolicking in the heather).

Vanwall said...

Jeez! Nice banner change, Siren! Julie was a 6-tool player - hit, hit for power, run, throw, and field - plus the secret 6th tool. Hard to slide in silk stockings, tho.

Yojimboen said...

Stupefyin'!!


(Go Yankees!)

The Siren said...

Thanks guys. I was looking for a Halloween-theme banner but Julie's batter-up, rarin'-to-go posture there suited my mood. She probably couldn't get a hit with that pose but I'm sure she'd have no trouble making it to whatever base she desired. I have no idea what this picture was for, nor what made the photographer decide a cornfield was the perfect place to pose Ms Newmar in her lingerie, but I love it anyway.

X. Trapnel said...

Weary, bleary, numb, dumb, and vague, I sat down to my morning office coffee (old shoe blend), clicked on Self-Styled Siren first thing as I always do--and Glory! Glory! Glory! Thanks, Siren, for gladdening our eyes.

Yankees forever.

X. Trapnel said...

Actually Mel Ott (NY Giants 1926-47or thereabouts) hit 511 hrs with a similar stance though probably not dressed like that.

The Siren said...

XT, some quick googling shows you have a point, although Ott doesn't exactly have Julie's extension.

http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/59/112559-004-CD3FB87C.jpg

X. Trapnel said...

There are many significant things that Julie has that Ott lacked, but it doesn't make him a bad person.

Vanwall said...

She was in production of "Damn Yankees" as Lola.

Yojimboen said...

Good eye, VW, and here’s Miss Gwen Verdon in (almost) the same costume.

The Siren said...

VW, aha! thanks for the mystery-solving. So this is a Broadway publicity still. Oh well. I will leave it up, in honor of her unforgettable role as "specialty dancer" in Demetrius and the Gladiators.

Vanwall said...

She was the main sex object in "Slaves of Babylon" from '53 and the "gilded girl" in "Serpent of the Nile" - she was wearin' only a coat of gold paint!

Yojimboen said...

My reference three posts back was evidently too subtle: Ms Newmar's signature role for me was as Stupefyin' Jones in Li'l Abner.

Vanwall said...

M Yo - I'm shocked, shocked that you would underestimate us so! Why, it's absolutely Stupifyin'! To imply we're just robots, or some sort of Dorcuses, that's just catty, and you wong us terribly!

The verification word is "proop", and oh so appropriate.

Yojimboen said...

M. VW - Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa. Mea Maxissima Culpa! As recompense, a
link to some alternative views of the lovely lady. (Warning: The damsel is less than completely clad.)

(If our hostess deems this post inappropriate, I fully understand.)

X. Trapnel said...

Y, God will forgive (c'est son metier), but we will accept your offering in the meantime.

Yojimboen said...

1) Here’s a companion photo to the masthead shot, and

2) Julie’s back and (Omigod!) look who’s got her!

Karen said...

But of course it's Bob Cummings, my friend: My Living Doll.

He was always better-suited to the small screen.

The Siren said...

Y., thanks very much for the links. If I looked like Julie in her heyday or possibly even like Julie did last week I would take up nudism in a very big way. With lingerie as an option for formal occasions.

That Bob Cummings photo is a stitch.

Mike Rice said...

Batshit? You idiot, for the Bramwell performance of Arthur Kennedy alone, its one of the most important pieces of idiotic wonder H'wood has ever produced. Poor dissipated Bramwell! Thanks to Kennedy, he's the only Bronte I care about anymore and I've read all the books, even the bad ones. Do you suppose it was the mist that hung low over the heather that finished all the Brontes early but left their indigent father still standing?

The Siren said...

All right Mike, I am leaving your comment up because it's fairly substantive, though rude. But please be warned--calling me, or anyone else, an idiot on this blog will get you the heave-ho in one quick hurry.

Trish said...

Disappointing considering the civility on this blog. But also understandable: the poster's nom de plume is the same as that of the cynical character played by Stephen Boyd in The Best of Everything.

Mike Rice said...

You know, I used to think my name was extraordinary, but using spokeo.com the other day to trace a keener lost person, I found it is rather common. Old man Bronte clearly had a motive for offing these literary damsels. He'd been feeding them for fifty years and may have had his fill of it. Listen to Kennedy do the voice-over at the end of the 1947 Glass Menagerie. Its the best version I've heard. The worst is from John Malkovich who played Tom in the Paul Newman directed version of the Glass Menagerie. I like Kennedy best as Tom. Sam Waterston wasn't bad against Katherine Hepburn's Amanda.

Mike Rice said...

I have a lawyer acqaintance whose father is a minister. Laurence Olvier's father was a minister. He admitted in his biography something I've gathered in my experience: these vicars and sermoners are beggars, totally dependent on miserly church boards. No wonder the Brontes were so imaginative. They probably had to imagine their next meal!

Mike Rice said...

Wasn't being uncivil. The Bramwell remark is a joke. I think I saw the Best of Everything in a theater and didn't notice Stephen Boyd's name was the same as mine. Years later, recently really, I saw it on TV and realized the name was the same. Joan Crawford was very awkward in Best of Everything.

Neil said...

Olivia de Havilland actually had top billing in DEVOTION when the film was made (in 1943) before her law suit against Warner Bros. which lasted a few years.

By 1946, when the film was released, she was no longer under contract to the studio. Jack Warner had lost the legal suit she waged against them. He dropped her to third place in the billing, just one spot ahead of Sydney Greenstreet who had a small role in the film. He was also cashing in on her new popularity with the release of Paramount's TO EACH HIS OWN which won her a Best Actress Oscar.

This explains some of the casting questions raised in the previous posts. Arthur Kennedy, in my opinion, should have been the actor given fourth billing instead of Greenstreet since he had a larger role but was relegated to a supporting player.

Certainly it was a romanticized version of the Bronte story, but I found it fascinating to watch because of the cast, the moody atmosphere and the great score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

Revanchist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revanchist said...

Dear Siren,

This is my very first post, and what better way than to pick a movie about one of my favourites - the Bronte family.

I have to see "Devotion" sometime, since it's one of the few works on the Brontes that I haven't seen yet.

Techine's version has so many wonderful points about it. The direction is on the slower side, but the acting is excellent. As a Huppert fan, I particularly enjoyed her work. The cinematography, the use of landscapes, etc is all fabulous. The only divisive thing is the script - some will find it too abstract, but I enjoyed it, since it represents, to my mind, the creative and mystic side of the family.

In terms of historical accuracy, I don't think one has to look beyond the 1973 miniseries "The Brontes of Haworth". A virtually unknown cast, poor sets, pedestrian direction, etc. And yet, a fab series that achieves real emotional depth towards the end.

Spirit Rhythms said...

This is a very excellent review. I enjoyed Siren's observations and expressive style as among the best I've seen. (rating on a par with some of the better NYT critics) As a fellow writer, quite frankly, I'm jealous, but thank you :)

Mike Rice said...

If someone has a copy of The Brontes of Haworth miniseries (1973), I would appreciate getting a copy from you. Thanks.

Mike Rice
mr1111@charter.net
608-301-5227