Friday, October 23, 2009

Rising Above the Times


Manohla Dargis is a good writer and a fine critic. The Siren wants to get that out front where it belongs. That is why the Siren was disturbed to open her New York Times this morning and read this passage in Ms. Dargis's review of Amelia:

Romance is in the air in “Amelia,” or at least in the score, which works hard to inject some emotional coloring into the proceedings. The music screams (sobs) 1940s big-screen melodramatic excess and beautiful suffering.

Alas, excesses of any pleasurable kind are absent from this exasperatingly dull production.


The Siren hasn't seen Amelia so she has no Pomeranian in that fight. Her beef is the same she expressed somewhat less forcefully here. It distresses the Siren no end to see a comparison to 1940s melodrama used as a perjorative, even when those films are faintly praised in the next sentence as pleasurably excessive.

Please, Ms. Dargis, please. Each time you do that from your perch atop 8th Avenue, you contribute to most people's notion that old black-and-white movies are fusty relics, enjoyable mostly as camp. Your excellent prose style no doubt has many other equivalents for "cheap sentiment." The Siren asks you, politely but as firmly as she knows how, to cease and desist.

This is the second offense; the Siren devoutly hopes there will not be a third. Otherwise, like Peter Lawford in Cluny Brown, "I won't relax. I'm going to write another letter to the Times."

119 comments:

Marilyn said...

What happens when she makes the inevitable third strike. Must we send her a note asking her to cease and desist accompanied by a reel of Bette Davis saying "Is that too much to ask?"

Tucker said...

I must say that "1940s big-screen melodramatic excess and beautiful suffering" plays out more like real life to me than not. Maybe that fine NY critic merely was trying to express that lack in our modern, realistic approaches. Or maybe I'm just a sentimentalist in need of an aesthetic.

Emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan Kelly said...

Beautiful and pointed, Siren, though Dargis is far from the only critic who uses such critical shorthand on a consistent basis. If we were to pick the sentence apart, is she implying that no drama from the '40s is subtle?

But the era is almost always painted that way, as a more care-free and simpler time, so it's no wonder that the films from the era are portrayed in the same light. It's just disappointing to see such a wonderful writer fall in line with such a mentality so blatantly false.

One thing I really like about Dargis, though, is that she has a unique insight into what's fresh and new. Unfortunately, this seems to come at the expense of understanding what came before.

Gloria said...

A letter to the Times? Dear Ms. Siren: Ms. Dargis should realize this means war. So I'm here ready to volunteer and take part in a raid against her positions.

I'm currently engaged in the Umpteenth Servile war, so I've got my fighting skills in top form, and I know my Clausewitz, too.

Vanwall said...

Sic transit gloria mundi - everything new is better, don'tcha know? Just look at those 100 best lists, and all the great recent films that are so much better than that old, creaky stuff. Where's your head at? Get with the program, Siren, gotta hype the latest hand-held, shaky-cammed, meaningless, overhyped, realeased-in-a-few-thousand-theaters-for-a huge-opening-weekend, Dogme-dogs**t, blowhard blockbuster, FX-excessed REAL movie. None of that romantic stuff, now.

Yojimboen said...

Dunno the last time I saw “fusty” in print; lovely; thanks.

I also dunno what the fuss is about, we all know that Hillary Swank is a much better actress than say, Myrna Loy – I mean Hillary has won two Oscars® and Myrna never won any.
So there you are.

panavia999 said...

I think the truth is simply that Dargis does not really appreciate the old movies except as artifacts. Do you think she checks the TCM schedule every day to see what goodies are coming up, especially at 2AM ? (Like I do :-) Then she isn't really interested in old movies.

Marilyn said...

Don't diss Swank to elevate Loy. There's room for both fine actresses.

Tonio Kruger said...

I would have thought that Stud Terkel's book The Good War put paid to all the hype about the 1940s being a more carefree and simpler time but apparently I was wrong.

As it is, I'll take the cynicism of 1940s political satires over the nihilism of today's political comedies.

Come to think of it, I Married a Witch is way more watchable than Nora Epron's take on Bewitched.

But those aren't melodramas so my apologies for the digression.

Lou Lumenick said...

I have seen Amelia, Siren, as well as Lothar Mendes' ersatz-Earhart melodrama Flight for Freedom(1943) with Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray, which is far more entertaining in its own wacky way. Amelia fails miserably on its own terms without gratuitous attacks on '40s melodrama.

Flickhead said...

"The music screams (sobs) 1940s big-screen melodramatic excess and beautiful suffering."

To my eyes, Dargis is not dissing 1940s melodrama, but rather the Max Steiner school of scoring.

I can hum a few bars of several Steiner scores (and Waxman scores, and Herrmann scores, and Miklós [God] Rózsa scores, and David Raksin scores, and Alex North scores)... and I keep up with current film, but I can't seem to recall any bars from any scores composed over the last ten or fifteen years.

John Barry's music from Out of Africa (1985) 'screams (sobs) 1940s big-screen melodramatic excess and beautiful suffering,' but I'll be damned if it doesn't make my eyes all misty.

surly hack said...

Gee, "1940s big-screen melodramatic excess and beautiful suffering" sounds like a high recommendation to this filmgoer.

Karen said...

I agree with Surly Hack on this.

When I think of the composers who were working on those 1940s melodramas, I wonder how many of today's crop will be as memorable--known by name to a large group of devotees, for example.

But mostly I just hate that kind of sloppy allusion. This medievalist is frustrated to the point of madness, for example, when "medieval" is used as shorthand for "filthy, violent, prejudiced, superstitious," etc., which displays actual ignorance, not just lack of nuance.

Kevyn Knox said...

Hail hail to your defense of classic cinema!!

Kevin Deany said...

Totally agree with Flickhead and Karen on this.

As a huge fan of film scores, I think the use of music is severely misunderstood by many contemporary critics. For myself, I often don't see the music as "telling you what you should be feeling" but rather heightening the emotions being portrayed.

If a contemporary critic complains about the obtrusiveness of a score, to my mind it's likely pretty good. Not always, but most of the time.

For years the Best Score Oscar was, for me, one of the highlights of the show. For the last 15 years or so its the time to fill up the dip bowl and put some fresh chips out.

DavidEhrenstein said...

And then there's Woody Allen being dragged before the firing squad in the 1967 Casino Royale: "You relaize this means an angry letter to the New York Times."

Maybe Manohla pushed it a bit, but Amelia is a genuine disappoint. A big floppy "woman's picture" in the worst sense of the term. That an actual woman made it makes it worse. As we know the ending one would hope for a new take on who Earhardt was or something. The film provides us with nothing but pretty pictures suggestive of Out of Africa II

DavidEhrenstein said...

Flight For Freedom indeed. Pretty wet that one.

I much prefer Dorothy Arzner's Christopher Strong with Kate as an avaiatrix.

And that in turn brings The Drowsey Chaperone to mind.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's a link that works.

Lou Lumenick said...

The one where Kate gets knocked up by Dr. Frankenstein? I like that one a whole lot David, especially the bit with the statue at the end.

mndean said...

That quote of hers does touch on one of my bugbears of '40s (and later) cinema: The far more widespread use of music for emotional manipulation. We can make jokes about Selznick & Tiomkin's discussions re: Duel in the Sun, but there are plenty of other examples of ladling a melodramatic score on to do for audiences what the film hasn't. To limit it to the '40s shows she really isn't paying attention.

X. Trapnel said...

I've been trying for years to fathom what is meant by people (not usually critics who generally know better) that contemporary films are "more realistic," hence better. This is what I've come up with. Most "good" contemporary film is of the nature of "good" contemporary fiction; that is, decently well wrought, observant, veristic, intelligent, and unmemorable. You're glad you saw/read it; You'll never do either again, though you may see the director's/author's next work.
Such films are "cool" in M. McLuhan's sense. Stendhal once said a person incapable of making of making a fool of himself for love will never understand art. People who are automatically dismissive of the emotionally heightened quality of 40s film represent the Higher Crowtherism, a preference for verisimilitude over beauty (which to some of us is truth), no-risk "intelligence," "important" subject matter, freeze-dried good taste.

If Ms. Dargis was just taking a smack at 40's film scoring she either has a tin ear or never bothered listen past cliches about "movie music." Most of those written for "intelligent" films these days are merely functional and as Flickhead rightly said, unmemorable, as though instead of looking back to Korngold, Herrmann, and Rozsa, they took Herbert Stothart, Cyril Mockridge, and "Dr." William T. Axt (MGM's answer to Korngold and Steiner) as exemplary figures.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Maybe Gabriel Yared was composing a score in the mode of Max Steiner. And maybe that's what Mira Nair wanted.

X. Trapnel said...

Gabriel Yared is one of the best composers in film today. His score for The Lives of Others is superb.

The Siren said...

I am enjoying the banter, as always (welcome, Tucker and panavia999 and all my old virtual pals). However, I got very confused somewhere in the middle of the thread, and I no longer completely understand who is agreeing with whom. I think X Trapnel puts things very nicely, but to recap:

1. Ms Dargis did not like Amelia (and David, I have no doubt she's right)
2. Ms Dargis felt the score was sappy
3. Ms Dargis went on to compare the score and, by extension, the movie to "1940s big-screen melodramatic excess and beautiful suffering."

She isn't paying a compliment to Amelia, 1940s melos or the musical scores of those movies, although I am touched by the few valiant efforts here to take it that way.

Personally, and I know I am repeating myself, I love (most) old-movie scores. I don't mind that Max Steiner went up the staircase with Bette Davis in Dark Victory. There are worse companions you could have on a journey into eternity. And, as Flickhead points out, sometimes even a score trying to underline things that aren't in the movie (as with Korngold and Devotion) is glowingly beautiful anyway.

VP81955 said...

Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. By slighting 1940s melodramas, she wasn't indicting all black-and-white classic cinema, not by a long shot. True, there were many excellent films made during the decade (you could make a valid argument that 1940 or 1941 is the cinematic equal of 1939), but on the whole, forties cinema doesn't seem quite as interesting as its thirties equivalent.

Much of that may have been due to the war and its aftermath as well as the full-fledged imposition of the Code, to be sure, but there's a sanctimoniousness in so much '40s film it can be difficult to watch. Louis B. Mayer finally had firm artistic control over MGM, now that Irving Thalberg and his acolytes were gone...and proceeded to run the studio into the ground.

wv: "coughtu" -- heck, even computers are catching the H1N1.

mndean said...

VP81955,
In a way I agree with you, but the stodginess of MGM fare was there even before Thalberg's demise. Just take a look at Arsene Lupin. It's nothing more than a typical precode without much content from Leblanc outside the character names and a gentleman-thief. Things just got worse after Thalberg was gone. Dare I say that the Marx Bros. just made the same film over and over again at MGM with diminishing creativity? The anarchistic nature of comedy (even entertainment itself) was processed, packaged, and tamed by Metro. They were never as bad as Warner was at screwball, but Warner never spent much energy on screwball, either. MGM romantic comedies are such that I sit and wait to see how they can blow the ending. Mayer's studio was a colossus for the same reason Hearst's newspaper empire was - money and influence. When they both lost it, some finally noticed the emperor was naked.

X. Trapnel said...

I've very little knowledge of the front office/production side of things so I've no idea how Ninotchka and The Shop Around the Corner happened to happen at MGM, but happen they did. Was L.B. blindsided by Lubitsch's association with Jeanette MacDonald? Things went back to normal with Two-Faced Woman.

mndean said...

Trapnel,
I think you asked and answered your own question there.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

One of my favorite complaints to make about [with gritted teeth] My Beloved is that he seems unwilling to acknowledge any work of art made five minutes before five minute ago. Perhaps Ms. Dargis suffers from much the same temperament?

I do think, though, that one comment to be made about the difference between '40s movie scoring and that of the present day -- questions of competence notwithstanding -- is that much of the '40s scoring was front-and-center. Nowadays films often feature pop songs and scoring, side-by-side. When Steiner, however, wrote stuff like this ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-KGiwGn1d8&feature=related

... it was a pop song unto itself, even *before* the guy was brought in to add words. One was supposed to pay attention to it, just as one was supposed to pay attention to a Korngold theme or three.

X. Trapnel said...

Just to spite Ms. Dargis, I treated myself to Intermezzo. Wonderful, with a melting Max Steiner love theme (no, not the title piece, which is by one Heinz Provost, otherwise unknown to history). Miss Ingrid really seems to be playing the Grieg concerto.

There comes a moment in life of each of us when we realize we DO NOT have to read the New York Times, and walk out liberated into the golden afternoon sun.

Karen said...

mndean, I confess I love Arsène Lupin and am completely responsible for loading up the memorable quotes section at IMDb. John Barrymore is absolutely delicious in it (and none of those quotes land properly, really, without John's delivery animating them), and it's quite well constructed, which I think makes it better than the average pre-Code.

But I take your point that it doesn't do much with the original Lupin story.

Exiled in NJ said...

The best scores in films of this modern era end up in television commercials. And every high school band learns John Williams. Maybe it was last month that I heard the haunting theme from Last of the Mohicans advertising something.

Take pop music away from Ephron and she would be a mute.

For every Tiomkin, there is a Max Steiner giving us an effective, brooding score to The Big Sleep, complete with what seemed a theme for Marlowe. I never noticed it until I watched it again last night.

The Siren said...

XT, I also love Intermezzo. And I saw It's Love I've After the other night and it made me contemplate how underrated Leslie Howard is, and all because of Ashley.

I should see Arsene Lupin; if Karen says Barrymore gets good lines then I am so there.

VP, you're right, she was only sideswiping 1940s melodrama but that was enough to raise my hackles. I can never pick between decades--I just did the "Mad Men melos" post and prompted one off-blog correspondent to confess to me that the late 50s and early 60s was his least favorite movie period. I love the 30s, love that decade, but I also find the 1940s to be the peak of the high studio style. (I'd also argue that the war really splits the decade.) But if these films, which I am just listing off the top of my head, represent excess and "beautiful suffering" and overblown scores, sign me up baby:
All This, and Heaven Too
The Letter
The Hard Way
Hold Back the Dawn
Remember the Night
That Hamilton Woman
Kings Row
Now, Voyager
The Enchanted Cottage
Random Harvest
Leave Her to Heaven
The Reckless Moment
Letter from an Unknown Woman
Caught
The Spiral Staircase
Madeleine
The Heiress
Mr. Skeffington
In This Our Life
Deception

Mrs HWV, your clip reminds me of how the Hollywood composers would not only steal from the Romantic greats, but also from each other and even themselves. The first time I realized Steiner had recycled Now, Voyager into parts of Mildred Pierce I got a chuckle.

mndean said...

Karen,
I don't mind Arsene Lupin as a typical 1932 precode movie (and a fairly witty one), but when they adapt a movie and they're not being too faithful, studios usually change the title. The big problem with Lupin is it ain't Leblanc in any way, shape, or form, and that's where my problem lies. The only actor in it who seems to have a whisper of Leblanc is Lionel Barrymore's obsessed Guerchard - and MGM gives him a devoted daughter! Bah. I've read the books, they could've done far better. The stunt casting doesn't help, either. Barrymore perhaps could be as cold as Lupin is supposed to be, but he never shows it here, and there were actors around who could show that resident cold arrogance that is a part of Lupin.

Trish said...

Dunno if Dargis intended this, but her comments about big-screen melodrama kind of heightens my interest in Amelia (although I bow to all the negative comments about it here and elsewhere). As for Dargis, could she be not as well versed in older movies as she would like us to believe?

Siren, add to your list of beloved melodramatic excesses the excruciating but very watchable "Tomorrow is Forever". Max Steiner goes everywhere in that one too - up (and down) the stairs with Claudette Colbert, and consistently drowns out the quieter moments with Orson Welles. No matter, whenever it's on, I watch.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Yared is a very good movie composer (love his score for The Talented Mr. Ripley) but he strikes out with Amelia

There's very little full-bloodied score-writing these days. It's very tellig that when Warren Beatty asked Sondheim to score Reds he quickly relaized " He doesn't wan a musical there. He wants a theme song." So he wrote him one and led Davis Grusin score "bumps" to connect scenes. Sondheim and Beatty were on firmer footing with Dick Tracy where he was asked to write songs and wrote some truly great ones. I love "Nothing to Lose."

DavidEhrenstein said...

"Sooner or Later"

The Siren said...

Trish, when Steiner goes up the staircase with Davis in Dark Victory he does it quite subtly and beautifully. When I saw Tomorrow Is Forever about a decade ago I was not impressed, but maybe I should give it another try. Orson Welles, after all. John Nolte liked that one a lot too.

The Reds score is great!

VP81955 said...

They were never as bad as Warner was at screwball, but Warner never spent much energy on screwball, either.

As was evident in "Fools For Scandal," which merely took Carole Lombard's career at its absolute peak and derailed it to the point where she escaped to dramas for nearly three years.

MGM romantic comedies are such that I sit and wait to see how they can blow the ending.

I'm not much for the ending of "Libeled Lady," either, but the rest of it is just so superb you don't mind. And with Powell and Loy, Metro had a one-two punch no one else did.

Mayer's studio was a colossus for the same reason Hearst's newspaper empire was - money and influence.

For the most part, Mayer used his money well. MGM was the industry standard for polish and technical aplomb, and while one may wish it had also possessed Warners' social consciousness or Paramount's sophistication and directors-first policy, there is no doubt that MGM in the '30s was a special place. Only when Rooney and Garland, rather than Garbo and Gable, became the face of the studio did it start to become less interesting (nothing against Mickey and Judy personally, by the way).

The Siren said...

MGM had a great run in the 1940s. Two words: Freed unit. (Adding: even before Mayer left.) Two more: Vincente Minnelli. And it wasn't all musicals either; there was also Bataan, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Battleground, The Postman Always Rings Twice...It was a different style and MGM definitely had its own take on, for want of a better word, reality. But there were still great things going on at that studio.

Whenever discussions like this come up--decade vs decade, studio vs studio-- I always remember an art history prof I liked. We were talking about Matisse and he allowed as how there was a perennial debate over "Who Was Greater, Picasso or Matisse?" And the prof said he always responded, "Why choose when I can have them both?"

X. Trapnel said...

One of the things i love about Leslie Howard is the way his native humor always seems to be brimming over even in serious scenes. As much as i love Intermezzo (which is in so many ways proto-Bergman [LH anticipates many of Max von S's wavering artist characters; Edna Best's suffering isn't beautiful--it's painful) I sense that Howard would have preferred to court Ingrid with humor, a lesson for the rest of us.

When I write my Alternative History of the Jews of Hollywood, there will be a chapter on Leslie Howard (who the hell cares abt Adolph Zukor).

Vertigo's Psycho said...

Thanks for the Cluny Brown mention. I keep waiting for some company like Criterion to finally release this on DVD. Jennifer Jones, Charles Boyer and that supporting cast from heaven in Lubitsch's most out-of-left-field (plotwise) romantic comedy.

Too bad Jones didn't exercise her comedy chops more often, as she sure showed she had some in this and in Beat the Devil. Maybe she needed directors strong enough to tell Selznick to stay the hell at home, and let her loosen up and be funny.

And Boyer's such a charming, classy, bemused romantic figure, I think I'd rather be him in this movie than Cary Grant in anything else.

mndean said...

Fools For Scandal is only one. You must try Four's A Crowd, too. Warner's tries at screwball were desultory at best, while they could knock out a comedy like A Slight Case of Murder easily. As for Lombard screwball, Hitchcock did no better by her, either.

While I was thinking of Libeled Lady also (didn't anyone notice that not only did Jean Harlow have the other three by the short and curlies, but also how patronizing Myrna was to Jean? It was the only time in my film watching days when I wished Jean had slugged another woman), I was also thinking of more minor fare like the recently shown Three Loves Has Nancy, where an obvious and uproarious capper joke (Cuthbert! Oleanna!) was dumped just so it would fit in the Robert Montgomery formula.

I certainly hope nobody here is crediting the success of the Freed unit on Mayer.

The Siren said...

MNDean, you can't leave Mayer out of the equation either. He was, for example, the one who said they could keep the ballet in American in Paris no matter what the cost and personally strong-armed Judy Garland into taking the role in Meet Me in St. Louis. Myrna Loy herself once remarked that while she got plenty mad at him on occasion, she thought Mayer did know what was best for his stars.

He was personally not very likable, to say the least, and he was often a pain in the neck for the artists, but to suggest that the glories of MGM had nothing, or even little, to do with him is rewriting the facts in a big way.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Quite true, Siren. As much of a control freak as he was, he did trust Freed to run things the way he wanted, for Freed's pictures made money. The fact that Freed was a genius with (pace Yolanda and the Thief) exquisite taste was a mitzvah for us all.

The Siren said...

Aw David, you don't like Yolanda? Though I admit, "exquisite taste" is perhaps not the first phrase I would apply to that movie.

mndean said...

Well, what he did for Judy Garland goes way beyond casting, considering how MGM croakers fed her speed for the day's shooting and barbiturates for the night's sleep. There's also that lovely quote about how Mayer considered Judy "property" of MGM. I'm sure it wasn't necessary to force Myrna into drug regimens to keep her bankable, as I never saw her with a weight issue from the silents through the '50s.

Freed could do what he liked as long as he made money, and I doubt there was much interference (Freed was old-line Hollywood and had been producing at MGM since 1940), but that's beside the point. Look at what MGM was producing outside the glittering few big productions. We get Andy Hardy, Maisie, Dr. Kildare, Dr. Gillespie, Whistling. Outside of a very occasional entry there, they're all rather nada. Safe as being with a boring old friend. Those series make Columbia's series look good, or at least interesting. To ignore the rest of the studio output to laud just certain films is to veer towards hagiography. I freely admit that a lot of Warner and Paramount's lesser product was crap, but it was at least more interesting crap. I just don't see MGM's crap as being interesting at all, and a lot of it ties into Mayer's worldview of a phony America that didn't exist.

Trish said...

Siren, I would recommend at least one more viewing of "Tomorrow is Forever". The first time I saw it, I was appalled. All that loud, intrusive music which was obviously meant to cloud the film's many shortcomings. But after watching it a few more times, I am more appreciative of the performance of Orson Welles. Some call him a ham, but I really like him in this movie -- hell, I love him in "The Long Hot Summer" and "The VIPS"...

Sob! I'm watching "Peggy Sue Got Married". Siren, I don't understand your comment about the Reds. The Red Sox? The Cincinnati Reds?

Lou Lumenick said...

Some other MGM gems of the '40s: Waterloo Bridge, Random Harvest, The Human Comedy, Lassie, Bathing Beauty, National Velvet, Lady in the Lake, Bewitched, The Yearling, The Search.

The Siren said...

Trish, I mean Reds, the Warren Beatty film!

Thanks, Lou. I am sorry I forgot The Search in particular; a lovely movie with a touching late-career performance by Aline MacMahon.

"To ignore the rest of the studio output to laud just certain films is to veer towards hagiography."

No, picking out the films that we like is pretty much what we all do when we discuss the studio era. The hagiography reference is not well taken; I have never tried to whitewash Mayer or anyone else. I just give credit where credit is due.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Yolanda and the Thief is the ne plus ultra of film maudit.

Back in the late 60's a film buff pal used to dare people to see it on acid.

mndean said...

Veering towards and falling into the morass of hagiography are two very different things. MGM made some very good movies. So did every other studio.

I've known one person (not a poster here) who claimed Mayer was a wonderful human being since he treated his children well. Where I come from, that's the absolute least required of you.

P.S. I prefer the less glitzy Universal 1931 Waterloo Bridge.

Siren, we've had this discussion before. You prefer '40s gloss, I prefer '30s rowdiness, and never the twain shall meet.

Trish said...

Yikes. I'm sorry to say that I've never seen "Reds". Warren Beatty is not one of my favourites, and I like older movies, doncha know... :D

gmoke said...

Speaking of film composers, the last few days I've had Georges Delerue's "Charlie" from "Shoot the Piano Player" running through my head.

DavidEhrenstein said...

In my high school days it was always runnign through my head as Shoot the Piano Player and Breathless were the two most popular films at my aold alma mater Communist Martyrs High (aka. The High School of Music and Art.)

Re. Yolanda and the Thief, here's a link to an on-line book you can purchase (at a mere pittance) by my boyfriend Bill Reed, whihc contains a chapter we co-wrote on the making, unmaking and re-making of Lucille Bremer. It discusses Yolanda at length -- and its aftermath. Which was not as personally dire as you might imagine. It's a Hollywood story with a relatively happy ending.

For an UNhappy ending seek out the documentary Girl 27. To say that L.B. doesn't come off very well in it is putting it mildly.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Girl 27

The Siren said...

No M., that is precisely the point I have made before, in this thread and others. I do not prefer 40s gloss to the 1930s. I like them both.

David, I will definitely order that -- Lucille Bremer is one of my most favorite "what if?" obsessions. She was a fine dancer and quite charming on screen.

Trish said...

David, I watched "Girl 27" last week, and read the Vanity Fair piece on which it was based a few years ago. Very disturbing, and a persistent reminder that the men who made so many wonderful films were vile monsters.

mndean said...

Siren,
You may like them both, but the amount you write about them differs quite a lot since I've been here. I only know you from your work, and your tags confirm what I see. Not many purely '30s stars, and those posts were usually written long ago. Case in point - Miriam Hopkins. Her downward career slide in the '30s is fascinating (if you want to know what horror is, watch one of her screwball comedies). Barbara Stanwyck, who was huge in the '30s and '40s (only one of your listed favorite Stanwycks in your 2007 post is from the '30s - see where I'm going?). So if I'm wrong, it's a pardonable error. I really can't go through all your posts to confirm what I'm seeing now. I've only been here for around a year and a half,

Moira Finnie said...

What an interesting point you make and how thought-provoking. My trepidation seeing any movie made today about Amelia Earhart probably stems largely from a desire to see female role models depicted on film, other than the aviation pioneer, (Victoria Woodhull, anyone? She definitely had her share of romance and controversy).

Still, having watched Now, Voyager recently after reading the book by Olive Higgins Prouty, I find Dargis' comments about '40s women's films an indication that she is still unaware of the power and the artistry of certain filmmakers who often subverted what seemed "the norm" for millions in the audience with little cant or pretension, but considerable skill.

The part of the audience whose movie-going experience transcended any triteness of the script thanks to the nuanced efforts of individual talents such as Bette Davis,Barbara Stanwyck, Rosalind Russell, Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper, directors Irving Rapper, Edmund Goulding and composers Max Steiner and Erich Maria Korngold in the 1940s is still given short shrift by critics and movie-makers.

I suspect that Ms. Dargis suffers from the intellectual snobbery described by Richard Corliss, in Philip Nobile's book "Favorite Movies: Critics' Choice" this way: "For far too long, respectable film critics approached the challenge of preparing a 'ten best' list with Kierkegaardian fear and Caligariesque trembling. The interior monologue went something like this: 'What will my colleagues think? What will my intellectual readers think? How can I defend film as an art if I include any Hollywood produce among the perceived masterpieces? After all, Potemkin (which I admire but don't really like) is the very stuff of cinema—but Now, Voyager (which I love but am afraid to admire) is only a movie!' As a result, the typical ten best list wound up looking like screening selections for an undergraduate course in Seminal Cinema 101. And the Now, Voyagers of the film world were relegated to a mind-closet containing all the critic's secret sins."

The Siren said...

MNDean, my patience is wearing thin here. If I say I like them both, then I cannot understand why you must imply that I'm lying by continue to press the point that I do not. You might as well insist that I don't really like Jean Gabin, Naruse, Jaws, Dickens, silk scarves or chocolate ganache since I've never written about them here either.

The Siren said...

Moira, welcome and thanks so much for coming by to give such a detailed and thoughtful response. I am often here beating the drum for the much-maligned women's picture in all its permutations, so I get weary when I see critics using them as a shorthand for schmaltz. They were, as you say, a great deal more than that. If Dargis weren't such a talented critic it probably would have bothered me much less or even not at all.

And I love the Corliss quote. (Now I'll have to seek that book out.) It sums up why, when I started the blog a long while ago and started to focus on film, I decided I wasn't going to write about anything sheepishly or bang on about "guilty pleasures." I was going to start from the premise that if I love it, it's probably pretty goddamn good. (And if it isn't, it's still worth discussing.)

X. Trapnel said...

Last night I went out with some friends to a local threatrical event. Because of torrential rain we were late; no seats left. what to do? We decided to go back and watch a movie. As the designated cineaste with Langlois-like DVD holdings, I was charged with the responsibility of choosing. I brought a selection of about 12 films: Lubitsch, Ophuls, Renoir, Reed, a few "contemporary" items. One among us picked up and then dropped The Shop Around the Corner and gasped in horror "1940!" as though we were talking about The Great Train Robbery or perhaps Fred Ott's Sneeze. I asked what the trouble with 1940 was (the fall of France?, Lou Gehrig's retirement?). "Movies then were so CREAKY and the music is so OVERBLOWN and OBTRUSIVE."

I wondered for a moment whether this was staged, part of a plot to drive me mad. Putting that aside, I quizzed her more closely and again the idea of "realism" came up. I gave her to understand that "realism" is a style, like any other. It is not reality, but like all styles a way of illuminating reality. But I return to my previously stated belief that behind objections to the "exaggerations" of old movies lies a distrust of beauty and a non understanding that art must include artifice.

We ended up watching The Fallen Idol. During the miraculous hide & seek sequence I asked my friend, "Is this creaky?" Hope she got the point.

Vanwall said...

As a side note, TCM just showed "Invitation", the '52 "woman's film" with Van Johnson in a role-stretcher for him, and Dorothy McGuire in a plain-jane lead - something that may have an impossibility in the scheme of the universe for her - which altho late in the game, was as melo and rich in crescendos as they get in any '40s drama. Not that doesn't mean it's not an enjoyable film, and that's the real point. Bronislau Kaper scored it, and he seemed to specialize in this sort score, altho he had a nice range in other films, and I liked a lot of his work, even in this film. There were moments when the classic Hollywood pacing of the score can seem intrusive, and this may be the kind of film, if not specifically this one, that Dargis has a problem connecting with. I always liked this film, tho, and even if it's not as downbeat as the short story author's rather bleak intentions - and part of that is the score's doing - it strikes me as the easy target a lot of unknowing modern critics might reject out of hand, and probably never even see before condemning.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Mr.Cukor wanted to make a film about Victoria Woodhull, and James Toback wrote a script for him. (like virtually everyone else, Toback adored Mr. Cukor and loved hanging out with him just to chat)But alas they were unable to get Hollywood to go for it, even with Faye Dunaway attached to star.

(This was back when Faye was still red-hot and less of the Norma-Desmond-in-the-making that she is today.)

Vanwall said...

And yes, BTW, I realize the score to "Invitation" is recycled from "A Life of Her Own", the Lana Turner vehicle, but I actually think it works as well or better in "Invitation".

The Siren said...

XT, if you are feeling impish, then send your friend this link to David Bordwell, where he dissects the "restaurant recognition" scene in Shop Around the Corner by comparing it to the hopelessly horrid You've Got Mail, and demonstrates that the earlier film is the more subtle in the way it's shot -- AND in the scoring, because Lubitsch uses no non-diegetic music and Ephron does.

She better have liked The Fallen Idol. Ah, talk about a deep personal favorite...

X. Trapnel said...

Siren,

Just read the superb David Bordwell piece and will indeed send it along. Looking at Sullavan (sigh)/Stewart and Ryan/Hanks I had to remind myself that Darwin has not been refuted, that regression is CULTURAL; it does not exist in nature. People speak, rightly, of the charm of TSATC, but as we who adore this film know, there is a deeper poignance and humanity at work beneath the Lubitsch touch. Bordwell was right to emphasize the crassness and nastiness of YGM. We accept it as normal. And realistic.

My friend (who is not stupid; she's got an Oxford degree) thought The Fallen Idol "sweet." I suppose that's getting somewhere. Regarding the hide and seek scene, I asked her whether she noted that the exuberant joy is undercut by the unobtrusive, sad irony that Richardson, Morgan (sigh), and young Master Henry are not a real family, though their emotional bonds are authentic in miniworld of false relations. I don't remember whether Greene's The Basement Room was set in an embassy, but what a brilliant metaphor of mise en scene!

X. Trapnel said...

By gad! Is that young Myrna?

Karen said...

The new Myrna banner is spectacular! But what is it from? The feeling is 13 Women, even though the fact of it isn't, yes?

mndean, I've not read the Lupin novels, so I can't speak to how well the Brothers Barrymore conveyed them. I know how irritated I get when filmizations of novels I've read don't get it right, so I respect your reaction completely. But for those of us who've not read Lupins, I have to say the film was much better than a run-of-the-mill pre-Code. The Barrymores and the lovely Karen Morley sparkled.

As for our lovely hostess and her preferences, I confess I've always suspected a special warmth for the 1930s on her part. It's not the quantity of the posts, it's the quality of affection. That might be because of my own preference for the 1930s, of course; I've simply found the Siren simpatico. Not that I don't like the 1940s--oh, I do! and I also agree that the decade can absolutely be split into pre- and post- (and probably during-) war. In fact, speaking of swelling and emotionally-evocative scores, I will happily fight to the death anyone who dares mock Bernard Herrmann's score for the 1947 The Ghost and Mrs Muir...

X. Trapnel said...

Karen is evidently a more aggressive sort than I; I would merely (mentally) cast such a person as she mentions into a turbid river, swiftly pursued by a task force of famished lampreys while a ten-thousand-head herd of heat-maddened zebras assemble along either shore.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir perhaps (perhaps? Nay, it is. I know not perhaps) the most sheerly beautiful film score ever written is a good test case. Most people these days simply haven't the aesthetic receptors for symphonic music; it's an aural blur for them. Herrmann and Tiomkin are the same, both "corny" movie music. These are the same people (the majority, I fear) who believe that pre-rock popular music is hokey, stodgy, sentimental.

mndean said...

Sorry Siren, but I'm not going to become another bête noire like David Ehrenstein was last month. That's just too gruesome. Adieu.

The Siren said...

I have no idea where the banner photo comes from; it's clearly pretty early Myrna, although certainly not silent era. I suspect, though do not know for sure, that the upper star ranks didn't have to do "holiday theme" stills because I find these only for very young stars or starlets. The pic was lifted from Amy-Jeanne of It'll Take the Snap Out of Your Garters. She still does still collections but is branching out. I asked her a long time ago if she wanted links back or credit and she said no, she got the pics off Ebay mostly and didn't care about links. She's a free spirit, that one. Her blog is always a joy.

Arthur S. said...

That banner post is great...

I changed the banner for my blog too(though I wish I had a decent print to hawk it off)...I talk about Minnelli's Cobweb in my newly made blog(and I have stills) and this might be my contribution to Halloween. It's my kind of horror film.
http://thispigsalley.blogspot.com/

DavidEhrenstein said...

How Noir Was My Bete ?

I'm surprised that for The Cobweb MGM didn't go with "When Glora Grahame changed the drapes it's curtains for everyone!"

I love the shot of Oscar Levant (my role model) singing "Mother" in a hydrotherapy vat.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

To an earlier topic, i.e. Warners and comedy ...

Perhaps the best comedy at Warners, outside of the occasional filmed stage hit ("Man Who Came To Dinner," "No Time For Comedy") came from their cartoon unit. They didn't have McCarey or Lubitsch, but they *did* have Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese. Whom I value greatly.

Yojimboen said...

Ah, I’m not alone…
I've always believed that Michael Maltese and his partner Tedd Pierce, by the sheer volume of their work, were consistently, probably the two best comedy writers who ever worked in H’Wood.

Yojimboen said...

Dear me, take a day off and see what happens? My hard-won rep as class curmudgeon is clearly at risk; I’m in danger of being demoted to bête grise. Where to begin? X.? Get new friends. I’m sure she’s lovely, but an Oxbridge sheepskin only forgives a sin or two. “Sweet” I’m afraid, is a multitude unto itself.

I’ve been waiting to comment on the original topic until I saw the movie in discussion (Amelia)? It’s not horrible, but I am afraid it’s everything Ms Dargis says it is, and less.

Re Ms Dargis, being slightly older, chère Madame Sirène, I am perhaps more forgiving (not to say fatalistic). So a NYT film critic is guilty of lazy journalism – hardly news, or worth bestirring oneself over? In any case I suspect she is by this time cognizant of your upbraiding and will no doubt try harder in the future; she is, after all, as you graciously point out, a good writer and a fine critic. If we look at Mr. Obama’s Nobel Prize – one school has it that he won it simply for not being George W Bush - in that light, surely Ms Dargis merits some slack for not being (shudder) Bosley Crowther, or even worse (shudder-shudder) Renata Adler.

Amelia: Ms Swank tries hard, but as usual, to my eye, seems uncertain and very surprised to find herself playing Amelia Earhart. Appearances to the contrary, I don’t dislike Ms Swank, I think she gave a strong, sensitive and intelligent performance in Insomnia, but that role was, tellingly, in support of Al Pacino. I just don’t think she’s a leading actress quite yet.

Granted she’s a lucky actress (in the right-place/right-time context), and who’s to say that these days luck is not a perfectly serviceable substitute for talent?
Not I.

X. Trapnel said...

Y, the other lady who made up a quarter of our rainy evening's company is the object of my intense romantic concern. We have arranged to watch La Ronde together, either a brilliant or a foolish choice on my part.

The Siren said...

No no, not noir. Not grise. Mauve, perhaps!

Y., I am quite certain that Ms Dargis does not know I or this blog exists, so the post was more of a way of getting that off my chest.

Swank is a good actress who often makes interesting, subtle choices; I know that many people really hated Million Dollar Baby but I liked her in the first third of the movie, where she played an undereducated, working-class character without a hint of caricature or condescension.

Also, Dargis's follow-up piece in the Sunday Times points out the real problem, the fact that the plodding biopic genre is practically the only place to find full-bodied, meaty women's roles these days, at least in a full-scale Hollywood movie. Earhart was such a missed opportunity; so famous, but quite mysterious, and yet everyone says the movie treatment is very conventional.

David E.: who was going to play Tennessee Claflin? She was my favorite!

The Siren said...

Arthur, I loved your post on The Cobweb and the screen caps are stunning -- any Gloria Grahame fans here should definitely click through. I haven't seen this one!

X. Trapnel said...

Mr. Whistler said: "Mauve? Mauve is just pink trying to be purple."

Arthur S. said...

To David. E,
I'm guessing the bosses thought that it didn't gel well with the seriousness of the movie. The idea that all these people are going nuts over library drapes is absurd but Minnelli shows how all of them attach everything they think is important to them and so treats it seriously.

But I will say the feeling of violence in that action of Gloria Grahame's in that film is very palpable. It is "curtains" for everyone.

To The Siren,
It's one of her best performances. Along with IN A LONELY PLACE, the only time she played a complex, adult role and held her own. But the cast is stunning - Widmark, Gish(who have this amazing scene together), Boyer, Grahame...even Olive Carey as the nurse O'Brien who mothers poor Oscar.

Yojimboen said...

"Mauve? Mauve is just pink trying to be purple."

I wish I'd said that.

Yojimboen said...

Not really on-topic, call it an advisory:

On the same day as Ms Dargis’s review, the Times’s A.O. Scott also reviewed Lars von Trier’s Antichrist.

Suffice to say seeing it is perhaps one of the most horrid experiences of my film-going life. I had promised myself never to watch another von Trier film after I learned of his animal abuse, but I gave him one more chance. I shouldn’t have.

This film is about as ugly and violent as it gets. Unless of course you like seeing people drilling holes in other people’s limbs… Unless you’re hungry to witness Charlotte Gainsbourg in a masturbation scene that makes the pool scene in Showgirls look sedate and restrained by comparison, give it a wide berth.

The 2nd paragraph of Mr. Scott’s review begins: “Mr. von Trier has said that making the movie helped him overcome a crippling depression. I’m glad he feels better…”

And so say all of us.

X. Trapnel said...

"You will, Yojimboen, you will"
(hearty chuckles all around).

The Siren said...

Y., lately Scott has been writing some really enjoyable pans--dry, to the point and funny without straining. I will watch Antichrist right around the day Mephistopheles serves mint juleps in hell, so I imagine that Scott must have been truly tempted to, um, hack away. Instead he takes out the scalpel.

I'm quite impressed that you went to see Antichrist, but at the same time I can't imagine why--I'll give Von Trier another chance when he makes something like "Old Yeller: The Dogme Version." One of my pleasures in getting older is that I no longer feel obligated to subject myself to something like this, no matter who says I should. Although I do suspect Charlotte's pa would have approved...

Flickhead said...

"One of my pleasures in getting older is that I no longer feel obligated to subject myself to something like this, no matter who says I should."

I'm with you there, dollface.

VP81955 said...

Also, Dargis's follow-up piece in the Sunday Times points out the real problem, the fact that the plodding biopic genre is practically the only place to find full-bodied, meaty women's roles these days, at least in a full-scale Hollywood movie. Earhart was such a missed opportunity; so famous, but quite mysterious, and yet everyone says the movie treatment is very conventional.

Sorry to hear "Amelia" is such a disappointment. I was hoping it would do well, if only to boost the viability of other potential biopics. (For example, a Carole Lombard bio, done right -- which "Gable And Lombard" clearly wasn't -- could have plenty of things to say to today's women, if only because Carole herself was so timeless.)

DavidEhrenstein said...

I think some in here are under the impression that Manohla is on the "mature" side. She's quite young and lively. In fact several years back when Warren Beatty was awarded Best Screenplay for Bulworth she gave the award to which he replied "Wow If I know that I'd be gettign an award from someone like Manohla I would come to these things more often!"

Annette Benning chuckled knowingly -- as well she should considering that she's the one who finally bagged the world's most notorious heterosexual.

Afterwards we at the critics circle referred to Dargis as "Manohla you slut!"

Loveingly of course.

The Siren said...

David, I am not sure where you got that impression, but not from me I hope! I know better; I have been told that Dargis is very attractive and on the young side. I also think her name came up in Glenn Kenny's "name some 'suave' film critics" joke thread the other week.

The Siren said...

VP, I agree that Lombard would make a good subject. The trouble with a Lombard biopic is casting. Who on earth could do her? The ones who have the acting don't have the looks and vice versa, so far as I can tell. If anyone has a suggestion fire away. I guess it couldn't be much worse than "Gable and Lombard"--oh man that was one big-breasted butterball turkey of a film.

If I were going to do a Lombard film I think I'd do a movie about the making of They Knew What They Wanted. In any even, just one episode from her life, as opposed to trying to do the whole thing...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Doing an episode from the life is always the best way to go with a biopic. And I agree -- I can't imagine anyone with Lombard's special magic. There are some very chic and sophisticated actreses out there but Lombard remains without peer.

Yojimboen said...

At a publicity conference years ago when Universal was running pre-release test screenings of E.T., the word was it tested through the roof; the second-best numbers ever recorded.

When the publicist was asked which film had tested better, he avoided the question.

When asked again, he was forced to mumble… Gable and Lombard.

The Siren said...

*agape* Y, how is that possible? Where did they test G&L, the producers' poolhouse? Did they get everybody drunk? or is it just William Goldman's maxim at work ("nobody knows anything")?

Yojimboen said...

Goldman.

VP81955 said...

If I were going to do a Lombard film I think I'd do a movie about the making of They Knew What They Wanted. In any even, just one episode from her life, as opposed to trying to do the whole thing...

Doing an episode from the life is always the best way to go with a biopic.


The concept I've tinkered with is to focus on Lombard's trip east to the war bond rally, traveling with her mother and Otto Winkler (the MGM publcist who accompanied them). En route she'd meet people who would trigger a few flashbacks in her life (working with Gable on "No Man Of Her Own," having ex William Powell ask her to co-star with him in "My Man Godfrey," her ill-fated affair with Russ Columbo). We'd see her get instructions for the rally during a stopover in Chicago, then see her sell bonds in Indianapolis, culminating in the rally at Cadle Tabernacle. This angle would reflect on Lombard the patriot, showing this lady was more than just a screwball with a salty vocabulary.

Incidentally, a film about the Lombard-Columbo relationship was on the drawing board in the early '90s, though I don't know if a script was ever written. Michelle Pfeiffer -- perhaps the one actress of recent times with Lombard's luminosity -- would have played Carole, with Tom Cruise(!) as Columbo. For more in this, see http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/48480.html

Trish said...

The Cobweb! I saw it years ago in the massive laserdisc format. Unfortunately my only television at the time was limited to a 12" screen. So you can imagine how tiny it looked in letterbox... It has everything I love in a movie: CinemaScope, Gloria Grahame, mental illness and Oscar Levant to name a few. When will this one show up on dvd?

DavidEhrenstein said...

This undoubtedly never left the drawing boards because Russ Columbo was gay.

(Waiting for someone to say "That would have made Tom Cruise perfect casting.")

Trish said...

Michelle Pfeiffer and Tom Cruise?!?! Oh, God - that's blasphemy.

Flickhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VP81955 said...

Michelle Pfeiffer and Tom Cruise?!?! Oh, God - that's blasphemy.

I hope you're saying that about Cruise more than Pfeiffer, because in 1992 or so, Michelle would have been just about perfect as Lombard. Was she as inspired a comedic actress as Carole? No, not quite, but the lady radiated sincerity to complement her beauty.

Trish said...

Mais non - Michelle is a goddess! The Fabulous Baker Boys - need I say more?

But Cruise. I've never been fooled by his grin. I had high hopes that his hapless take on Lestat would kill his career, but had to wait a few years until he jumped on Oprah's couch. To paraphrase the tempermental but very observant Christian Bale, there's an emptiness behind the smile.

cinetrix said...

Dear Siren,

I feel you are misreading Ms. Dargis. Or at least placing the stresses on the wrong syllables.

Dargis is not suggesting that 1940s melodramas/their scores = bad. If anything she is taking the notion of "melodrama" back to its Greek roots. I'd argue that the passage you quoted is all about the "emotional coloring" (in the classical or pastiche-classical sense of "color") otherwise absent from "Amelia." The "melōidía," in this case the soundtrack's "screams" and "sobs," tells us that what's happening on screen is "melodramatic excess and beautiful suffering," but the "drama," the action, doesn't. Simply put, these musical emotions are unearned by the narrative.

Today you're more likely to encounter this cheating/emotional shorthand with pop songs' lyrics telling you how characters feel. In "Amelia," it sounds like the score is not only telegraphing "romance" that's not there, it also has the temerity to suggest, musically, that it is in the same league with the experts when it comes to "emotional color" on the soundtrack: the best 1940s melodramas.

So I don't agree that Dargis is being lazy, but it sounds like "Ameila" sure as hell is. Nair & Swank et al. are letting the music do the heavy lifting emotionally without backing it up on screen.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Michelle Ma Belle!

The Siren said...

Cinetrix, your appearance in my comments gives me great joy. Wish you would stop by more often. As for the content of your remarks -- hmm, maybe. It's a nicer interpretation than mine, for sure. But Dargis then goes on to point out that Earhart's story doesn't need the (sobbing) screaming romantic treatment, so I don't think so. Anyway, I genuinely admire her reviews for the most part so I hope at some point she'll write about a full-out women's picture from the 1940s (or 30s) and we can see her real views on full display.

Ah, Pfeiffer. She could have done Lombard. As David points out, she was sexy AND funny in The Fabulous Baker Boys.

Karen said...

Don't forget Married to the Mob!

Yojimboen said...

To paraphrase our gracious hostess, I'll go see a biopic of Carole Lombard - no matter who's starring - right after I buy a DVD of the colorized version of Citizen Kane.

Gordon said...

I feel the same way about disparaging one form or era to elevate another. I consider it sloppy and lazy to have to resort to such comparisons. My own pet peeve is when bad dialog is referred to as "cartoony".

X. Trapnel said...

With the Herrmann score replaced by a James Horner.

There's simply no point; nobody could "be" Carole Lombard for one convincing second. Nor, given the current cultural climate, could I see even a successful biopic sending anyone to her films. Their loss, of course.

Anagramsci said...

wow--fascinating thread... no interest in Amelia, really... but fascinated by the range of attitudes displayed toward 1940s cinema, MGM and Mayer...

the Siren's list of great forties melodramas should be posted somewhere for the edification of those just dipping into the period--you absolutely cannot go wrong with ANY of those

re: 1930s vs 1940s Hollywood--there's really no way to compare them... during the Depression, the films (with exceptions such as the works of James Whale, Borzage & Fritz Lang) operate primarily on the sociological register... while psychology rules during the 1940s... I cherish both approaches (and both decades)

I also want to cast a vote in favor of 1940s MGM... man, I LOVE Mickey and Judy movies! There's A LOT going on in a thing like Strike Up the Band (I once considered writing a piece of the Mickey-and-Judyness of Cassavetes)... ditto the Andy Hardy movies--take a look beneath the surface moralism and you'll find an amazing premonition of the 1950s rock/youth zeitgeist...

as others have pointed out, there are a lot of fascinating non-Freed films (most of them gloriously out of step with the generic trends elsewhere)... stuff like Lady in the Lake, Killer McCoy, Random Harvest, Postman Always Rings Twice, the Human Comedy, Tortilla Flat, Strange Cargo (STRANGE indeed!) and even uncategorizably wacky stuff like The Hoodlum Saint...

like him or not (and of course I don't like his politics--or his treatment of stars like Judy Garland), the Mayer era is worth paying attention to

and Yolanda and the Thief is one of the greatest musicals ever made

Dave

DavidEhrenstein said...

Ya think?

Anagramsci said...

I do!

DavidEhrenstein said...

THennI trust you'll apprectiate THIS!

The Rush Blog said...

I just recently saw "AMELIA". A bit on the boring side.

DavidEhrenstein said...

A huge flying yawn, IMO.

Anagramsci said...

thanks for the Bernhard David, fascinating! Someone oughtta splice Fred Astaire into that routine, for maximum postmodern fun

DavidEhrenstein said...

Sandra would have been great in the Frank Morgan role -- which was at one point going to go to Lucille Ball.