Monday, November 09, 2009

Anecdote of the Week: An Admirable Vocabulary


She regarded Gable as lazy, not too bright, and an unresponsive performer (though she was always laudatory about his kindness and good manners to her). She could not understand how he could leave the set promptly each day at six p.m. as though he held an office job. She seldom left the studio until eight or nine at night and worked six, often seven days a week. "What are you fucking about for?" she would complain to Gable and Fleming when Gable took time out to rest. Gable admired his leading lady's vocabulary, as did Fleming, but otherwise he was a bit put off by her intellect and her dedication to work. Nonetheless he took it upon himself to teach her the game of backgammon. She proceeded to beat him each time they played.

--from Vivien Leigh by Anne Edwards

The Siren was interviewed by Lou Lumenick for an article in Sunday's New York Post, about the 70th Anniversary Blu-Ray Edition of Sex Kittens Go to College. No? You say you don't remember Clark Gable's smokin' rendition of "I Got a Gal, Miss Mamie Is Her Name"?

Oh all right, I'll stop now. Here's the link to interviews goddess Eva Marie Saint. At length. About movies and acting--not gossip. Drop everything for this one.

Glenn Kenny continues his series on Manny Farber's Top Ten Films of 1951 with The Thing from Another World.

Sheila O'Malley, never a woman to shirk a challenge, goes after The Birth of a Nation.

T. Sutpen at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger posts a series of World War II Red Army photographs. Posed or not, some of them are extraordinary.

Peter Nelhaus on 5 Against the House, part of the Film Noir boxed set from Sony that everyone, in diabolical concert, is trying to force the Siren to buy. And check out Peter's nifty bit of screen-grab detective work.

Finally, David Cairns' epic post on the very, very great Vertigo, complete with beautiful screen caps, clips and a fine discussion in comments.

Update: As promised in comments, Sam Wood shoots Belle's bosom, but it's a Breen Office bust:



The scene became something of a jinx, requiring multiple tries, like the opening scene with the Tarleton boys (Selznick sent out several memos reminding everybody that they weren't the Tarleton twins, as in the novel). One of those failures came when the boys' hair photographed bright orange, like a couple of Heat Misers went courtin' Miss Scarlett. Unfortunately I don't have a shot of that one.

Finally, jokes aside, Anagramsci is promising a King Vidor series, which gladdens the Siren's heart.

Hat tip for new banner: Mrs. Thalberg.

85 comments:

DavidEhrenstein said...

Cukor was fired from GWTW because Gable was a hustler in his youth and Cukor was once a customer.

The Siren said...

I knew you were going to say that. And it may even be true. But it's also true (and documented) that Selznick and Cukor were having major fights about creative matters on and off set. In the end Cukor still had a major influence via the weekend coaching sessions he gave Leigh and De Havilland.

The Siren said...

Just realized my first line may sound off, tone-wise -- it IS a joke. And you probably knew that I knew you were going to say that ... :D

Flickhead said...

Let's see: what do I do with my unemployment check this month? Feed the kids or buy Gone With the Wind on Blu-ray for $85...?

Decision, decisions...

Doniphon said...

I saw Molly Haskell at a screening of Gone With The Wind, and according to her Gable forced Selznick to fire Cukor because he felt uncomfortable around him. He wanted to have a "real man" (i.e. not homosexual) directing him.

Doniphon said...

Or I read that in Sarris' You Ain't Heard Nothing Yet. I'm having trouble remembering where I heard that now, but it was definitely one of the two.

DavidEhrenstein said...

It be true. Mr. Cukor told Gore Vidal all about it.

Sure Cukor and Selznick had a long history of workign together, and obviously had disagreements before. Moreover Cukor knew full well this was Selznick's show. But he worked for YEARS on the project -- researching in Atlanta (going to countless teas with Daughters of the Confederacy) screen testing every single actress who tired out for the part -- you name it. Leave us not also forget outside of Hollywood no one knew George Cukor from a hole in the ground. Sleznick they knew. He had a oress agent (Henry Willson -- you may have heard of him) to make sure of that.

There was a great interview Mr. Cukor gave to Interview a few years before he passed. "These young directors who complain all the time 'They did this to my film. They did that to my film.' Well I was fired from the biggest movie ever made in this town, and my career went right on afterwards! I even spoke at David Selznick's funeral!"

Yojimboen said...

Thank you so much, chère Madame for the EMS interview link; every detail learned only increases the adoration. I have seen Miss Saint ten or twenty times at industry screenings – actually sat a few feet from her - and each time I have almost approached her to offer my compliments. But I lacked, and still lack the courage. I fear I’d turn into a babbling idiot and she’d call for Security.
Someday perhaps.

Re 5 Against the House, inasmuch as one generation of cineastes pointed at Return of the Secaucus Seven as the likely inspiration/source for The Big Chill, my generation pointed at Phil Karlson’s 5 Against the House as almost certainly the inspiration for Milestone’s Ocean’s Eleven.
Today it would be called a terrific indie – well worth the purchase price.

Re Gable and Cukor, I’d trust David E’s take on the affair more than I’d trust K. Anger’s, but in this case they agree. The delightful irony is that Victor Fleming (besides being a speed-freak) may not have been quite as macho as he pretended.

Dan Leo said...

I dunno, I just find it a little hard to believe that a man who'd been working on the stage and in movies for over fifteen years wouldn't be well accustomed to working with gay colleagues. (Unless -- big maybe -- George really was a former trick...)

The Siren said...

Oh, I didn't say I don't believe it. I actually kind of do. I just don't tend to completely trust rumors unless they're proved. And anyway I don't need to bring up these things because David E. does it better. (I mean that.) As I recall there were several people on set who claimed to have heard Gable make an anti-gay slur against Cukor in full earshot of everyone. That would tend to support the Haskell/Sarris argument that Doniphon brings up (welcome, by the by!) but by no means rules out the Ehrenstein/Anger theory either.

Dan, I would think the same but perhaps Gable, whatever his past, was used to or preferred men who were less overt?

Yojimboen, isn't the Saint interview wonderful? I love to hear from actors who were really alive to the whole moviemaking process. There are certain stars who don't give that much in an interview but Ms Saint, like Michael Caine, seems to have taken it all in.

Flickhead, you know how I feel about Blu-Ray so I wasn't exactly thrilled either. But I also know you share my Haskell regard and I have to tell you, as much as I have read about GWTW, the book is **good.** She managed to bring up new thoughts for me, quite a feat with this movie. And of course it's very well written.

X. Trapnel said...

Sarris scoffed at the idea that Gable had the power to get Cukor fired. In any case it always seemed implausible to me that Gable would want to antagonize Cukor if the latter was in possession of such vital secret knowledge. G. Vidal's word cuts no cane with me and I never believed this story (as if that mattered).

Turning to more pleasant topics, I read the Eva Marie Saint interview bit by bit, not wanting it to end. I don't doubt if Y (or I) managed to gurgle his adoration she would respond with grace, warmth, and humor. There's none quite like her.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Thanks for the mention. And too bad Sex Kittens isn't even on DVD. At least I did get to see it on the biggish screen at the Rugoff Art Theater on 8th Street as part of a Tuesday Weld retrospective, playing in a double feature with The Private Lives of Adam and Eve.

Arthur S. said...

The interview with Eva Marie Saint was excellent. Her performance in Exodus is one of her best and Chris Fujiwara wrote extensively about it in his book on Preminger, which I recently finished reading(and highly recommend to all - Premingerians and non-Premingerians alike).

Practically anything interesting that remains in Gone With The Wind is down to Cukor, Vivien Leigh, Menzies and DeHavilland.

Arthur S. said...

The interview with Eva Marie Saint was excellent. Her performance in Exodus is one of her best and Chris Fujiwara wrote extensively about it in his book on Preminger, which I recently finished reading(and highly recommend to all - Premingerians and non-Premingerians alike).

Practically anything interesting that remains in Gone With The Wind is down to Cukor, Vivien Leigh, Menzies and DeHavilland.

Arthur S. said...

Sorry for the repeat.

Interesting info about Gable.

The Siren said...

Exodus is not one of Preminger's...

Despite the presence of charismatic performers I find Exodus...

Oh hell, I will just say it. Exodus was one of the dullest movies I have ever seen. I would ten times rather sit through Once Upon a Time in the West again and I am so not a Leone fan.

Sorry, Arthur! I know Glenn likes it too. What can I say.

The Siren said...

And somehow my mother's training compels me to come back and say something nice: The theme music for Exodus is pretty.

X. Trapnel said...

Is Arthur S. suggesting that Rand Brooks DOESN'T make the screen ignite? Speaking of pretty theme music, Max Steiner's score surely remains of interest.

The Siren said...

One of the many things that pleased me about Lou's piece was the due credit given to Menzies, who spent more than a year of his life carefully laying out storyboards and other preparations for GWTW. When you see some of his prep work you realize just how much the movie owes to him. Apparently the Blu-Ray goes into Menzies' contribution in some detail and that would be one strong reason to buy it.

XT, ignite, er, no, but Brooks is very good as Charles Hamilton. It's a truly thankless role--I mean, even Ashley gets to be more manly than he does. But his puppy-love for Scarlett is wholly believable as is his small-boy challenge to Rhett.

The Siren said...

And yes to Steiner. Not many composers who can be identified with just four notes. (Beethoven would be another.)

X. Trapnel said...

Actually those very four notes can be heard in Beethoven's 5th Cello Sonata, 2nd movement.

I didn't mean to knock Rand Brooks; I've always been interested in some of the largish roles in GWTW filled by people you don't see elsewhere: Alicia Rhett, Carroll Nye, etc. I exempt Mary Anderson, a long-time crush of mine.

The Siren said...

Really? Wait, I have heard that sonata too. Well, I guess everyone steals from Beethoven sooner or later.

It's okay to knock Rand Brooks, he isn't "Citizen Kane." IMDB says he went on to found a paramedic service. There's a wide variety of fates among the cast. Brooks' outcome was pretty good considering Leigh's madness, Howard's premature end, McDaniels dead of breast cancer in her 50s and at least two suicides (Ona Munson and George Reeves, although anyone who wants to dispute Reeves can do so).

Of course, a lot of the cast did perfectly well for themselves. And Ann Rutherford is still alive; she must be one of the last, along with de Havilland of course.

Arthur S. said...

I was talking of Eva Marie Saint more than the film as a whole. I certainly find it interesting although not as special as other Preminger institutional anatomies like Advise and Consent and The Cardinal. It's certainly an ambiguous film to make about Israel at that time.

As for Leone, I'm not a Leone fan though I don't care for OUTIW either. I only like entirely his last film and the final part of GBU is one of the great music videos of all time. My favourite EuroWestern is Luc Moullet's Une Aventure de Billy le Kid/A Girl is A Gun starring Jean-Pierre Leaud as a stringy William H. Bonney. It's a one-joke concept on paper but the use of colour and landscape is really striking as is the sexual power-play between the two leads.

William Cameron Menzies' production design is one of the great triumphs of film history but even he's made better films like The Thief of Bagdad(also a super-production by an auteur-producer Alexander Korda but feels less jumbled and incoherent somehow).

I feel GWTW's main weakness is the fact that it's saddled by an obsession with being faithful to the book's plot. That's why you have this unbelievable length and many scenes in the second half shot just to be faithful. Selznick continued this obsession with Rebecca though Hitchcock resisted and made it a great film despite his influence.

Victor Fleming also took credit for directing The Wizard of Oz the same year despite the fact that King Vidor and others shot a lot of the stuff that ended up in the final cut. That was also a multi-collaborative effort and Cukor had an influence there too.

The Siren said...

Hmm, I must strongly disagree with you here Arthur. GWTW is a movie that gives the *impression* of great fidelity to the story but of necessity it changed many things. I don't want to bore anyone (although I could off-line if someone wishes) but the changes include wholesale removal of important characters, subplots jettisoned, a very different take on Gerald's fate, Scarlett's other kids disappearing, Rhett's murder charge...and in the book there is a lot of time that comes between the final tragedies of the last act, when in the movie it's one thing quickly after another. If the main events are adhered to, well that strikes me as wise. The book was the all-time bestseller, it was (and is) widely loved, and people would not have cottoned to a version that didn't retain the majority of what they had fallen in love with. And I don't think that detracts; in fact it's a model of adaptation in a lot of ways. The flaws of the movie are present in the book to either greater or lesser degree. I don't see how larger changes would have helped anyone.

As for Rebecca being great despite Selznick--let me interject that Hitchcock wanted, among other things, to resurrect the dead wife onscreen and make the "I" of the novel more sexy and charming. Hitchcock's original treatment kept only about 1/5 of the scenes from the book. If you compare Rebecca with Jamaica Inn I think it's pretty easy to tell which approach worked better with Du Maurier. Hitchcock liked to pooh-pooh Rebecca but it's a great, unforgettable movie with the director's brilliance stamped all over it. But I don't think it would have been as good without Selznick.

(On the other hand, I remember your comments about Suspicion a while ago at David Cairns' place and I agree with the majority of your thoughts about that movie, save a slim preference for Our Joan in Rebecca and the film Rebecca as a whole.)

DavidEhrenstein said...

Actually Gable had enormous pwoer of GWTW, X. Mitchell wirte the role with him in mind and when Sleznuick bought the property there was no question whatsoever that he would play Rhett Butler. That's one of the reasons why the fabled 'search for Scarlett O'Hara" because such a publicity machine for the movie. Every other element was in place -- who would play this end-all heroine?

And boy did they ever luck out.

One of the most remarkable things about GWTW is the way that while everythign else in movies has changed, Leigh's performance is as fresh as if the movie were made yesterday. She got EVERYTHING: the spoiled bratty teenager, the deluded southern bele, the woman with enormous reserves of courage and strength in spite of herself all adding up to a heroine that broke every known rule for "getting audinece sympathy." Scarlett defies us to like her, and so does Leigh.

I'll never forget seeing GWTW one rainy afternoon in New York with a theater full of black teenage girls playing hookey. MAN did they ever love Scarlett!

X. Trapnel said...

"I think so little of Beethoven that I wouldn't even steal from him. I write modern tone poems."--Jeffrey Lynn, Four Daughters


not to be contentious, but "I" in Rebecca (movie) is sexier and more charming than "R" could ever hope to be. That's what "I" think.

X. Trapnel said...

David, I'm not suggesting that Gable (or any star) had no clout; I just find the story implausible and the other reasons for Cukor's dismissal quite convincing, considering how much was riding on the film's success.

But, I certainly do agree with you about Vivien Leigh relative to the rest of the film which just shrivels around her. It's one of THE great performances, but I just can't watch GWTW anymore, especially the second half.

The Siren said...

David, that must have been some viewing. And my personal experience has also been that a lot of black women love Scarlett's moxie, too. I certainly did; I tried to convince myself I liked Melanie better but in my heart I knew it was Scarlett forever.

The Siren said...

X, Joan is very sexy and lovable in the movie but I think Hitch originally wanted the second Mrs. de Winter to be more, well, Hitchcockian.

David Cairns' piece at Shadowplay is very well worth reading, as he always is on Hitchcock. He says Selznick's memos to the director are quite respectful, just occasionally squashing suggestions he found out of bounds. I haven't read as many of the memos as David probably did but that jibes with my recollection too.

X. Trapnel said...

Since the things that constitute sexiness in movies tend to be far removed from cliche (the essence of my kvetch with "Marilyn") I posit Joan's awkwardness in the slinky black dress with those absurd pom poms at her breast one of the sexiest moments in film.

Daivd Cairns Vertigo post was superb; one small correction, though: The orchestration of the score is certainly Herrmann's own. Muir Mattheson was the conductor.

The Siren said...

Aha, did you leave a comment to tell Cairns? He's a meticulous guy and would want to correct any errors.

The Siren said...

Oh, and I was referring to his Rebecca post with the Selznick memos, here is the link, in case I confused anyone.

X. Trapnel said...

I will post it; Herrmann created some of the most astonishing orchestral sonorities (never mind music) in Vertigo in modern music. Poor Muir M. couldn't have conceived of these in his wildest nightmares. Two in particular: the antiphonal woodwind choirs we hear when Scottie is poking around the McKittrick Hotel and most amazing of all the redwood forest scene. One of the great things about Herrmann's music is that no matter how strange or dissonant it becomes harmonically you still retain a powerful sense of the tonal center. Thi

Yojimboen said...

Uh-oh, all that's missing from XT's last post is the pen scratch trailing off the page as the body sinks to the plush carpet. Yikes!

Are you in trouble, X.?
Should we call the police??

X. Trapnel said...

No, I'm ok; I had lopped off (cue up shower music) a chunk of further Herrmann gush that I realized was drifting farther and farther from the tonal center, the remaining syllable staring out mutely like Marion Crane's eye.

Goose said...

I’ve never bought the idea that Cukor was fired from GWTW because of Gable having a past sexual encounter with him. It just seems too pat. And as X. Trapnel suggests, it makes no sense. I did not know that Gore Vidal was a source – that only makes it less believable, IMHO.

It seems plain that Selznick himself was dissatisfied with Cukor’s work. In fact, the handling of the Melanie childbirth scene was the decisive disagreement, with Cukor directing Scarlett to be more violent against Prissy than what Davis O wanted. (So much for Cukor’s sensitivity vs. Fleming’s crudity). Also, many scenes already filmed by Cukor were then re-shot, so perhaps Cukor was off his best form from the beginning (at least in Selznick’s eyes).

Like it or not, Fleming shot most of this enormously long movie. And he shot most of the Wizard of Oz, although certainly King Vidor deserves credit for the Kansas scenes. I never have come across info saying that Fleming did not shoot the color footage. Does anyone know?

Yojimboen said...

Richard Thorpe started Wizard of Oz, two weeks later he was replaced by George Cukor; three days later Cukor left to start prep on GWTW, he was replaced by Victor Fleming who was on it for four months; when Fleming left to take over GWTW from Cukor, Thalberg put King Vidor on Oz to finish it. Vidor shot some of the B&W sequence, Sam Wood came in to finish it and (possibly) some of the unfinished Emerald City sequences.

(Later, Sam Wood would also shoot some sequences on GWTW.)

The Siren said...

According to Pratt and Bridges, scenes shot by Wood include Scarlett and Ashley at the lumber mill, the carriage scene between Belle Watling and Melanie, Scarlett shooting the Yankee deserter and Scarlett collapsing with grief at the sight of her mother's coffin, a scene that alarmed some crew members because of the shattering emotion that Leigh showed. He also shot Belle Watling on the steps of the hospital trying to donate to the Cause, but her bosom was too heavily padded for the Breen office to approve. It took them two more tries and I think it was Fleming who finally finished the scene.

Sometime Siren commenter and fine blogger Anagramsci is starting a King Vidor series, btw, and I need to update my post to reflect it.

X. Trapnel said...

Goose's comment jibes with the opinion of a friend of mine who believes Cukor's real gift was for gothic violence.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"Too pat"?

Hat to go off topic but "Pat" is everywhere.

DavidEhrenstein said...

And you can dismiss Gore Vidal all you want to, but as film critic and Hollywood hiostorian I've followed every lead hes ever given, double-checked them with the late great Gavin Lambert (who I miss somethin' awful) and found them ALL to be true.

The Siren said...

I love Gavin Lambert's bio of Norma Shearer. I do believe he knew more than he put in his books.

I should post the profile still from Sam Wood's first try with Belle's bozzooms. It's pretty hilarious. They're almost blocking her face. I would have to scan it in though. give me a minute or twenty...

The Siren said...

All righty, there ya go. Never say I don't do anything for you, guys...

Arthur S. said...

I am sorry to say that Muir Matheson is indeed the conductor who orchestrated Herrmann's music. It's documented in Dan Aulier's book. The reason was that there was a strike at that time and Herrmann couldn't do the orchestra work at that time. So the music was orchestrated and recorded in England under Muir Matheson who was considered one of the great conductors of his time.

Herrmann regretted it since he absolutely insisted on always orchestrating his music and he felt the music for Vertigo was his best composition. That said, he had some odd beliefs. He felt that the film should not have been set in San Francisco(!) and that Jimmy Stewart was miscast and that it should have been a Charles Boyer type playing that role. He probably felt it should be floridly romantic instead of being subversive of the same romanticism that the film is. That was one of his reasons for doing Obsession by DePalma since he thought New Orleans fit that story better than Frisco.

Vanwall said...

A veritable smorgasbord, I like the links - strange, I say that same thing at Paula's Pancake House in Solvang when the Danish pancakes and sausages appear.

The Saint interview comes across with her voice, it was a good one. She was so good on film right out of gate, it was amazing - I'll watch any film she's in, even "Exodus".

I won't go into the GWTW's many deficiencies as a social mirror, but the aspect of real versus effects was at a high point there, the sets being wonderfully apposite for the subtle manner in which they make you look at the film as a place that almost was, rather than a lot of overdone FX wire-drawings.

I was watching "The Duellists" on TV, marveling at how scaldingly real it was - with 900 Gs for the budget, no sets could be afforded and none were constructed, it was all real places - and I thought about the burning of Atlanta on GWTW, and how it was a real goddam fire, not some gimcrack rotoscoping of the latest ham-on-rye prancing with no horses in front of blue-screen. Menzies worked miracles for the time, an unsung master to most.

"5 Against the House" - give in Siren, it's calling you; how apropos.

X. Trapnel said...

Arthur S,

Whyever would a musicians' strike prevent Herrmann from orchestrating his own work. All he would need is full-score music paper, a pen, and a quiet room to work in.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Herrmann's closest childhood friend was Abraham Polonsky.

That fact speak volumes.

X. Trapnel said...

Sorry, but I still think Gore Vidal nothing but a self-enamored/self-serving fabulator and find his "I'm the only grownup in the room" bit tiresome.

The only thing that makes his Gable/Cukor story believable is that for once he doesn't blame the Jews.

X. Trapnel said...

Herrmann studiously avoided politics all his life though. In his early years Herrmann also palled around with Oscar Levant and Johnny Green, the latter a sort of Polonsky connection via Body and Soul

Arthur S. said...

Just to get this discussion back on topic, for me the real reason why GWTW still deserves to be seen is Vivien Leigh's performance. I feel cinema is unfortunate in that she didn't get to appear in too many great films. However, when Bogdanovich made the same argument about Garbo to Orson Welles, the latter said with a twinkle in his eye, "you only need one!". Vivien is way more gorgeous than Garbo and she also has A Streetcar Named Desire which is one of the great performances in film history and I recently saw That Hamilton Woman for the first time and that's a great film, better than Casablanca for preaching the precise opposite message - monogamy doesn't amount to a hill of beans during wartime. And she and Olivier are fantastic in that film. Are there any other Leigh treasures?

Now to X-Trapnel,

Herrmann might have supported the strike because he agreed to better pay, he might have done it out of solidarity with his colleagues and not come off as a strike-breaker or it may be that it wasn't just him, but the musicians who were also striking and he didn't fancy being a one-man-band. Whatever the reasons, the fact remains he couldn't conduct the score at that time and he regretted it, he kept putting down Matheson and said that he didn't understand his music. Let it never be forgotten that Herrmann was a man of great ego and had a foul temper, genius that he was. Vertigo is still a classic, the music is still incredible and Herrmann did plenty of other great self-orchestrated scores.

Regarding Gore Vidal, I do disagree with him on certain issues but I'll never forget his presence on The Celluloid Closet, pretty much the only interesting part on that otherwise boring documentary and his dead-on parody of Charlton Heston. He's also one of the great essayists in the language.

X. Trapnel said...

Arthur S,

Are we even talking about the same thing? "To orchestrate" and "to conduct" are two entirely separate things. Of course, Mathieson conducted and recorded the music we hear in the film. He had before him a full-stave score in which Herrmann had written the music assigning the parts, that is the orchestration, to various combinations of strings, winds, brass, percussion. Do you think that when we hear the vibraphone and celesta in the prelude that Mathieson put them there? Of course not; he merely followed Herrmann's fully orchestrated score as any conductor would. (this gives me a chance to correct a stupid mistake I made earlier today: I meant antiphonal brass choirs, not woodwinds--I'm listening to James Conlon's superb recording of the complete score as I write.) To repeat, everything, EVERYTHING we hear in the score is Herrmann's.

I'll just agree to disagree on the merits of Mr. Vidal.

Yojimboen said...

Perhaps now is not the best time to talk about how little I think of GWTW or indeed Ms Leigh’s performance in it. But to answer your question Arthur, V. Leigh is magnificent in Duvivier’s Anna Karenine - eight years older, much more beautiful to my eye, and infinitely more assured as an actress.
You did ask.

X. Trapnel said...

I ALWAYS visualize Vivien Leigh when I read Anna Karenina.

Terrific score by the legendary Constant Lambert.

Vanwall said...

M.X - I always visualize Tatiana Samojlova when I read Anna Karenina, or even think about it. I recommend the '67 Soviet version highly.

X. Trapnel said...

I've never seen TS in a "glamour" part, but my interest is piqued. I disliked the Bondarchuk War and Peace. The actors seemd to be taking their cues from the awful illustrations you find in Soviet school editions (Soviet paper, by the way, has a very distinctive aroma).

Vanwall said...

Yes, I noticed that in school. It often 'feels' strange as well. Nowadays, I wonder what went into it. Older British comics do that as well, in different smell and feel. I won't even go into ceratin French TP from the early 70s.

X. Trapnel said...

V, we're going way off subject but you're the only person I've encountered whoever noticed it. Yes, tha paper felt slightly furry or smooth in an un-American way. (Incidently, I'm alerting my friends so we can have a My Son John party in January). Do you remember as well that weird substance that Soviet book covers were made of, sort of foamy and leathery, almost fleshy. Soviet glossy paper stank to the heavens.

Playboys that had been lying around in the basement had a special bouquet.

Vanwall said...

The Soviets usually stole everything commercially they could, (I'm not kidding or exaggerating - their industrial espionage was legendary) but it would always turn out slightly different or off - paints and colors, and film stock, and I don't specifically remember the covers feeling foamy, just cheap and split easily, but I daresay it was as bad as the boots they made, which just kept getting worse as the years rolled on, I've heard. I'm very sensitive to petroleum-like smells, and they have a bit of that, 'specially in the slicks, along with some other chemical waft.

X. Trapnel said...

One of my Russian teachers once brought in a bottle of Lenin No. 5 perfume. It smelled like watery shampoo.

Arthur S. said...

My mistake X., in all my posts by orchestration, I am referring to the work of the conductor and not to the composer. Herrmann didn't conduct the score and for him it was a serious issue and a regret. He always insisted on conducting the music recorded for the film's soundtrack.

Arthur S. said...

Well the Soviets were pretty damn good stealing the Agfa colour film stock during the invasion of Germany, the contraband was used by Eisenstein in Ivan the Terrible, Part II. The Americans also got into the action and used the stock to record newsreel footage for evidence of the Nuremberg trials.

X. Trapnel said...

Arthur S,

Composers generally did do the conducting when the score was recorded for the film, but because of scheduling they rarely had the chance to orchestrate their own music. This gave rise to the stupid myth that film composers were musically illiterate tunesmiths. Most were highly trained (Dmitri Tiomkin actually studied with Ferruccio Busoni; the equivalent would be Frank Tashlin studying with Carl Dreyer [sorry Y, couldn't resist. And I was going to write Bud Yorkin for FT]); some like Korngold, Herrmann, Rozsa were masters of late romantic technique, a very demanding style.

Vanwall said...

Meanwhile, tying up the Commies and the Confederates, I've heard the Bondarchuk "War and Peace" referred to as the Soviet GWTW, but with a thousand times the people - this was back in my school daze, and the specter of Hollywood, and especially GWTW, seemed to follow Mosfilm around like a fatal mistake waiting to happen. They wanted a break-out historical drama that would cross cultures and be the biggest thing since sliced GWTW, er blackbread. The freaking amount of money spent, (bribes, apparatchiki walkin'-around rubles, and such) on unbelievably densely staged Soviet period war films and costume dramas owe their very existence to the attempt to on-up the Hollywood mega-romances, like GWTW. They gave it their best shots, too, but like the formulas for industrial rust-inhibiting paints they swiped from the Brits, they never quite worked right - I bet the smelled funny, too, M. X.

Vanwall said...

M. Arthur S. - the Soviet wartime filmstock was of very uneven quality, varying in many ways from can to can. This partly lead to the post-war affinity for long takes Kalatoshvili & Urusevsky, and other directors and DPs, as they took as much shooting as was available rather than risk short takes that didn't match - even in the same reel. The Soviet directors and DPs began to like the aspect of long takes, so when the postwar filmstocks, much better BTW, became available, they continued the practice. It's no wonder they liked the Agfa stuff, it must've been night and day, quite literally in some cases. The staging of huge events fit in well with this, also - if they'd had a real non-propaganda GWTW film post-war, it could've been the most amazing thing ever filmed.

X. Trapnel said...

Everything looked enbalmed, smelled that way too.

There was a not too terrible British tv version many years back. Anthony Hopkins extremely good as Pierre (Tolstoy's manuscript sketches of Pierre look like AH).

Yojimboen said...

And in the King Vidor version, with Hank Fonda as Pierre, De Laurentiis was furious at Vidor for putting spectacles on Pierre; every time he visited the set he ordered Fonda to lose the glasses – “they weren’t sexy” and when Dino left, Vidor told Fonda to put them back on. That’s why Pierre wanders the battle fields sometimes with, sometimes without.

The Siren said...

I quite love the Vidor War and Peace, shot by the great Jack Cardiff and lovely to look at. Haven't seen the Soviet War and Peace. It was in my Netflix queue and then became mysteriously "unavailable." I wonder why that happens sometimes? A film just slips from your queue to "we're working on it." Does that mean someone has it out and didn't return?

As for the lovely Vivien, indeed her film work is scant. I do think she's lovely in Waterloo Bridge, I share Arthur's regard for That Hamilton Woman and I should try Caesar and Cleopatra again--first time around it bored me stiff, I'm afraid, despite my love for Rains, Shaw and Leigh.

BTW, how right was Orson Welles, as always? You do only need one...

DavidEhrenstein said...

You sound like Midge Decter, X.

I trust recall that one day (back in the 60's as I recall) Gore's Beyond Loathesome Mother she and Sondheim's mother are neck-and-neck in the Monster Mom sweepstakes) rang him up and said "Are you still living with that Jew?" (ie. Howard Austin)

Gore's reply? "I am never speaking to you again." He then hung up and was as good as his word. On her deathbed she called him -- and he refused to answer.
The canard that Gore is an anti-semite because his disapproves of Israel's neo-genocidal attitude towards the Palestinians -- and their most prominent U.S. propagandists, Midge and disgusting hubster Norman Podhoretz, is really tired, X.

And Gore often as not IS the only adult in the room.

I've no doubt I won't convince you so just chalk it up to my taste in gay "troublemakers" -- like Larry Kramer who I also adore.

The Siren said...

Who doesn't love a great gay troublemaker? And Vidal is never funnier than when he is dishing Hollywood, I will say that.

All the same I am, with great emphasis and finality, sounding the buzzer on the Great Gore debate, for fear that like Aunt Pittypat we will all have to ring for the smelling salts.

All righty.

So I spend several minutes of my life scanning in that Sam Wood outtake and no one has a word to say? The next time they didn't take enough padding out and Ona Munson was still too hoochie for Hays. I love the expressions on Leigh and de Havilland too. It's like they know they're gonna have to reshoot.

The Siren said...

And, further to changing the subject, new banner that I love despite the fact that you can't read my blog title anymore.

Vanwall said...

Ye, Siren, to both new piccies! One is hilarious, the other come-hitherish - you are the clever lass!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Dorothy Lamour!

The Siren said...

I saw The Hurricane a while back and while it would have to rank with my least favorite Fords the final storm was quite, quite something.

Olivia's pose IS rather Lamour-ish at that.

Donna said...

Well, Siren, Ona's padded boobage looks to be the size of her head, times two. I can hear the shout for a re-shoot from here. I just bought a blu-ray player; The Third Man was the first b-r disc. GWTW might be next, but I am aching to get Snow White or Oz.

Thank you, thank you for pointing me to Shadowplay. Vertigo is my favorite Hitchcock film most of the time. That was an excellent essay on the film. I'm looking forward to exploring more of this terrific blog.

Yojimboen said...

In appreciation of the scannage:

The missing link:

Re the bosom kerfuffle, dunno what the fuss was about, I think Belle looks great.

Rhett and Scarlett and Ashley and Melanie, not so much.

Donna said...

What an absolutely stunning image of Miss Olivia de

The Siren said...

Y., thanks! but that isn't the Tarleton outtake -- when I say orange, I mean orange, and I believe it was one of the attempts where she is wearing the green muslin with the ribbons and not the white one she's got on there.

That's some strange priorities where you make Belle the best doll.

Judith said...

X. Trapnel writing from Elswhere:

Siren, I'm sorry, but David's comment crossed the line, and in the wishy-washy spirit of the liberalism I love, I beg equal time:

I was not referring to Vidal's attitude toward Israel (which he shares with Pat Buchanan, a host of European neo-fascists, and the our own Stalinist remnant). As to Israel's "neo-genocidal attitudes," I wonder how you, David, square this with the ever-increasing Palestinian population (the Jews should have suffered such genocide), the supposed demographic time bomb that will make the Middle East Judenrein and an undifferentiated blanket of political tyranny and religious fanaticism (I won't bother to compare Israel to the Arab world on the subject of gay rights). Enough.

What I was referring to was Vidal's belief in a cabal of NY Jewish literary critics (Kazin, Trilling, Howe) who have denied his imaginatively impoverished novels and mirror-licking memoirs their status as world-shaking masterpieces.

For the record, I loathe Decter, Podhoretz and their politics with regard to Israel and all else.

Also for the record: Larry Kramer claimed the Stern Gang as a model for Act Up.

D Cairns said...

Thanks for linking to me!

As for Rebecca, Hitch did indeed propose basically dumping the book and Selznick restrained him. But then Hitch got with the program and was the one who solved the problem of how to shoot Maxim's lengthy confession, using the camera to reconstruct the scene, rather than resorting to flashback.

Judith said...

No, Judith did not say. XT again.

I've been thinking over the Siren's suggestion that Hitchcock wished to make Mrs. I. de Winter more of a Hitchcock woman. Did H. Woman really exist in the 30s/40s? I think Hitch gave us a very differentiated gallery of female characters (recall that Truffaut suggested Claude Jade to Hitch as "a Joan Fontaine type" for Topaze). Of course one may question whether Madeleine/Judy, Lisa, Eve, Marnie etc. are really sisters under the hair.

The Siren said...

XT/Judith and David: Please, gentlemen. You're two of my best commenters. Knock it off. There are a gazillion different Internet places for this sort of debate. Not the Siren's place. Don't make her call out the boys from the back room.

The Siren said...

David C., I loved your analysis of that confession scene. Indeed it's splendid the way it avoids flashback and I see many creaky flashback sequences in movies and on TV that have to resort to the explicit recreation rather than Hitch's subtlety there. Another strike against the view of more obvious and creaky old movies.

XT, as for the Hitchcockian woman, that was more my flip shorthand than anything else, but I believe he wanted "I" to be more like Madeleine Carroll in The Thirty-Nine Steps or Margaret Lockwood in The Lady Vanishes; bright, upper-crust, rather witty and confident and no pushover.

X. Trapnel said...

Siren,

Your humble servant (XT; Judith has left the building) hereby drops the matter with pleasure. On to Hitchcock. I've always loved that line in Rebecca (bbok and movie): "I wish I were a 35-year old woman in a black dress with a string of pearls." Hitchcock Woman ab ovo.

Anagramsci said...

thanks for sending readers Vidorward Siren!

re: Gone With the Wind--the film is not even close to being a favourite of mine, but it certainly is engrossing (and a magnificent tool for introducing Intro. to American History students to the historiography of the Civil War)

re: Selznick--I'm an unabashed fan of the producer... he did a masterful job of bringing several great novels to the screen during the 1930s, presiding over the adaptations of Little Women , David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities (all better movies than Gone With the Wind, in my opinion--but then, they're also better books)

and Vivian Leigh IS great, of course--one of many proto- (if problematic) feminist protagonists in the Selznick oeuvre

Anagramsci said...

I'm finally doing this Vidor series for real!

http://anagramsci.wordpress.com/category/king-vidor-series/

Dave