Wednesday, January 13, 2010
The Russians Are Still Coming
A gratifyingly large turnout for Mission to Moscow last night, and a lively panel discussion that was worthy of the movie, with all its surprises, historical interest, controversy and occasional loopiness. Glenn has his summary here, and Lou gives the lowdown here, along with Night 2 of the TCM Shadows of Russia festival. Ed Hulse was wonderful, putting the movie into its context within studio history and the war films being made at the time.
During her part of the panel discussion Siren spoke about the artists involved in making the film and offered some opinions about the drama and visuals. She lightly mentioned Ambassador Davies arriving on the Sea Cloud with his wife, heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, and their stepdaughter. "That's not true!" barked a lady from the back. This lady was none other than Joseph Davies' real-life granddaughter, the offspring of the woman played in Mission to Moscow by gorgeous Eleanor Parker. She took the mike and gave some family background for a few minutes, including an explanation of her half-Belgian background and why the family brought an enormous shipment of Bird's Eye frozen food to Moscow, and handed the mike back to Lou with explaining her interruption. So the Siren had to ask, did the Sea Cloud go to Leningrad? The family didn't arrive on the Sea Cloud, the lady explained sternly; the famed yacht joined them in Leningrad later.
For tonight, the Siren hopes everyone who hasn't seen Comrade X will tune in. It suffers by comparison with the magnificent Ninotchka, which screens directly afterward, but Comrade X is surprisingly watchable, via the great King Vidor. It boasts one of Hedy Lamarr's better performances as well as a funny turn by Eve Arden as Clark Gable's spurned lover and some unexpectedly sharp barbs.
Ninotchka--well, the Siren doesn't have to talk anyone into that one, does she? According to Wilder biographer Ed Sikov, William Powell was originally cast opposite Garbo, but he got sick and couldn't do it. The role was then offered to Cary Grant (he'd have been swell) and Gary Cooper (nope) and finally came to rest with Melvyn Douglas who was, of course, perfect.
The Way We Were was written up by James Wolcott in Vanity Fair some time back with customary panache. David Ehrenstein once stated in this blog's comments that he thinks Arthur Laurents was chronicling his own love for Farley Granger, a theory that, for the Siren, adds an extra bit of interest to the film.
Overnight, two that the Siren hasn't seen but will be recording: 1938's Spring Madness, starring Maureen O'Sullivan (who isn't a Siren love) and Lew Ayres (who is), and 1970's The Strawberry Statement, starring Bruce Davison and Kim Darby, whom the Siren hasn't seen in a big-screen movie besides True Grit.