Monday, May 17, 2010

Son of Fury (1942)



The Siren had a great time with Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamine Blake, which she just saw on impulse. Besides, you know what this blog really needed? Another George Sanders movie, that's what. We were running low.

Given her love of swashbucklers and Sanders, the Siren probably would have seen Son of Fury ages ago if it weren't always billed as a "South Sea Island-er." We all have certain plot elements that make us groan, and when the Siren hears about the South Seas she practically howls. As sure as death, taxes, and Hugh Hefner's girlfriends using too much self-tanner, you will get:

1. Flowers everywhere, waving palm trees, cute little huts, a secluded lagoon (see no. 4);
2. The king/chieftain/whatever, initially itching to kill the Handsome Western Stranger but abruptly turning all wise and avuncular;
3. At least one native girl, usually played by an actress from any corner of the globe except the South Seas, giggling over the HWS;
4. the HWS going swimming with the native girl in the secluded lagoon, so you get lots of underwater shots and the girl dog-paddling in a flirtatious manner;
5. the native girl falling in love and living only to serve her HWS, and the HWS falls in love too because the girls back home are such a drag with their shoes and their petticoats and their bad attitudes and the way they never once think to serve you fish wrapped in a banana leaf.




This shit is so persistent that some of it pops up as late in 1984 in the revisionist version of The Bounty. The Siren finds the setting bearable only if there's a fun twist, like everybody getting washed out to sea at the end of The Hurricane. And the Siren warns you that the South Seas portion of Son of Fury hits all the points. Fortunately the tropical paradise stuff forms only about one-third of the movie, and the other stuff, including Frances Farmer, Sanders and Tyrone Power, is great. Plus, John Carradine is loping around the island with Power, louche and gloomy as ever, and Carradine pulling his endless tape-measure body out of a hammock takes some sting out of Gene Tierney in permed hair and a sarong that drapes carefully over her belly button.

The plot hews closely to the ur-swashbuckler theme of usurped inheritance, with evil baronet Sir Arthur Blake (Sanders, bien sûr) forcing the real heir, his allegedly illegitimate nephew Benjamin Blake (Roddy McDowell), to become his bonded servant. Ben sticks around long enough to grow into Tyrone Power and fall in love with his beautiful cousin Isabel, played with gusto by Frances Farmer. Fed up with his brutal uncle, Power runs away to the South Seas in order to make his fortune so he can come back and get even.

Now when people discuss Sanders, a frequent topic is his way with a drily funny line, and as Addison DeWitt his delivery is a joy forever. But think also to Addison and Eve in the hotel room. As Sam Staggs and others have noted, the scene suggests S&M roleplay to the point where Baxter's collapse onto the bed is a climax in more ways than one, Sanders leaning in for the kill: "And you agree how completely you belong to me?" So often he is playing a man reserved to the point of iciness, but one you just know is a world-class freak once the bedroom door slams shut.

All of Sanders' best roles employ this side of him, and Son of Fury is one hell of an illustration. When the movie opens Sir Arthur is bare-chested and pummeling the stuffing out of some bit player, as part of a late 18th-century amateur boxing match. It isn't the way Sanders lands the punches that tips you off about Sir Arthur, it's the way he savors the moments between, eyes widening and chest heaving in anticipation. Later he beats Roddy McDowell and plays it the same way, prompting the child to declare, "I'll never submit." Hmmm.




But the high point arrives during a masquerade ball, where Sir Arthur catches Ben (now Power) making a passionate declaration of love to Isabel. Sir Arthur summons his nephew to the stables. They enter and have a nice long moment of eye contact before Sir Arthur declares that it's time to continue Ben's education in the "manly art of self-defense," adding, "it is time you learned to give as well as take." They punch one another to the tune of more roaring double entendres--the Siren's favorite, spoken by Sanders of course, being "Take off your coat and your education will begin."

A minute or two later, as the Siren was reeling back on the couch trying to convince herself that yes, she'd heard what she just heard, Power takes an almighty overhead wallop from Sanders and collapses on the floor. And Sanders pulls a whip off the wall and starts flogging him, and there's shots of Power unconscious on the floor, profile prominent and lashes fluttering. The ball guests pound on the stable door and finally break in and someone grabs Sanders' whip out of his hand and begs him to stop "for mercy's sake." Sanders staggers off, sweaty, panting and spent.

People, this is one dirty scene.

Alas, that's the last of Sanders for a while, although once we've dispensed with the island idyll he does come back, thank god. Power flees to Bristol where he's sheltered by a barmaid, played with unaffected sweetness by Elsa Lanchester in a nice couple of scenes. He stows away on a ship bound for the Spice Islands and becomes part of the crew, but not without getting knocked around by the first mate. Power gets physically chastised a lot in his movies, ever notice that?

Anyway, all the sexuality pouring off Sanders makes for a nice contrast with Power, who had a purity that seemed to come partly from his wondrous looks, and partly from something innate. To some it reads as closed-off or wan, to others (like the Siren as well as Myrna Loy, who confessed to being in love with him) it's key to the actor's appeal. Power could play attraction, infatuation and love quite well; base lust, not as much.




So when Power jumps ship with Carradine and meets Gene Tierney, whom he christens Eve (blech), their scenes play even cuter than such stuff usually does and they have to carry off the romance via their beauty. It sure isn't chemistry; Power plays much more believably against Farmer in the earlier scenes. Tierney was very young and utterly exquisite, but what could she do with a screenplay that demands she learn English by looking at Power with shining eyes and chirping, "Earth!" while pointing up at the sky. The Siren kept hoping Sanders would show up shipwrecked, but no dice. No, we go through all the scenes enumerated above, and Power dives for pearls in a really baggy set of swimming trunks, and finally a ship arrives to take him back to England and revenge.

Director John Cromwell has a number of good-to-great movies on his resume, but not much auteur cred. Son of Fury is too uneven to make a solid case for his talents--for that you'd need Caged or The Racket or (the Siren loves this one) The Enchanted Cottage. Gareth McFeely points out that Cromwell seems much more interested in the English scenes than in the island paradise, and the Siren seconds that emotion. For that matter, she could say the same of Arthur C. Miller, the brilliant DP who also shot How Green Was My Valley. The island is just pretty; the streets and rooms of England are enthralling. Miller had a way of lighting scenes so that the foreground looked lushly detailed, sharp and accurate, but the background was left in inky shadows that suggested an era without electricity as well as acres of more period stuff stretching beyond the confines of the set. Plus, everyone looks gorgeous. Even Henry Davenport.

Back in England, Power has brought Farmer a string of pearls and declared that he still loves her. (Farmer is throatily sexy and sinister in her few scenes; it is sad indeed to recall that this was her last movie before she was institutionalized.) Farmer's response is to betray her cousin to Sanders. It's no avail, however; Power's legitimacy is revealed in a court scene and Sanders must hie back to the ancestral manse and plot his next move. It's all building to the final confrontation between Sir Arthur and Ben, but the scene preceding that inevitable fight is the last one to relish in Son of Fury.



Sanders slinks into Farmer's bedroom and says he hopes "you won't forget your poor old father after he's broken and humbled," while looking like he's no such thing. Farmer points out that she's doing fine, since Power has asked her to remain as his wife. And just when you thought Sir Arthur could not possibly get any more deviant, he sidles over to his daughter, picks the pearls up off her neck with a caressing little flourish and purrs, "Now that has possibilities." Moments before Power barges in, Sanders is sitting at the table eating grapes, with little finger-wiggles after each one meets his mouth.

All this, mind you, in 98 minutes. So, is Son of Fury a lost classic in need of reappraisal? Well, no. But it was so much fun the Siren wanted a cigarette afterward.

84 comments:

ladybug said...

Thank you very much. Son of Fury is one of my many Sanders' favorites. Nora

Peter Nellhaus said...

Yipes! I've only seen a handful of films by Cromwell, but The Scavengers is not bad, made near the end of his career on a spartan budget, far away from Hollywood.

Jennythenipper said...

First of all, Nora, I was going to email you and tell you about this post.

OMGZ! Great, great post, Siren. I haven't seen Son of Fury, but will definitely look out for it.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Oh Tyrone!!!!!!

BTW, I don't know if I mentioned it before but James Baldwin's great, brief essay-book on the movies The Devil Finds Work goes into some detail on the Boston Hotel sceen in All About Eve and the way black audiences cheered Sanders for for putting baxter in her place. The reason for this was many black mentreated their women precisely the same way.

Especially black pimps.

The Siren said...

David, clearly I need that book. Like, yesterday.

Peter, I'll check out The Scavengers. I didn't mention Cromwell's blacklisting--he always said he wasn't a Communist--but it was a huge loss as his last few Hollywood films were his best and he might have really hit his stride after 1951. We'll never know.

Jenny & Nora, thanks. I think you'd both react the same way to this one--flawed, but a hell of a good time.

Karen said...

Oh, The Devil Finds Work is just essential reading! It's still in print--I bought it in a shiny new paperback about 8 years ago.

Don't miss his essay on The Defiant Ones; you'll never watch it the same way again.

In honesty, reading that slender book of film criticism had the same effect for me as did The Celluloid Closet--helping me to look at familiar films through an utterly different lens.

As to Son of Fury--lord, yes, delicious. Sanders is so....Sanders-y. I've just (finally!) started reading Memoirs of a Professional Cad, and the chapter-one description of spying on the women-only beach, combined with his descriptions of life at school and in Latin America, make your take on his sexuality seem dead accurate. A sensualist of the first order!

I think you're right about Power's sexuality, too. He could burn with love, but despite the occasional gleam in his eye he tended not to burn with lust. When he was young he was just too pretty--prettier than most of his leading ladies, I'd reckon. When he was older...I don't know, perhaps he'd lost the habit?

Gloria said...

I have it on tape at home, so I'll see it again! (Yes, that's what your posts DO!! ;D)

One thing that I recall about it is taht, well, Power is as breathtakinly beautiful an an Antinoo, yes... But bare-chested Sanders is truly **strapping**

"as the Siren was reeling back on the couch trying to convince herself that yes, she'd heard what she just heard"
I am of the opinion that old films, without showing a lot of skin or guts, were far more suggestive (or naughty, or terrifying) than the more explicit scenes of modern movies.

"Power flees to Bristol where he's sheltered by a barmaid, played with unaffected sweetness by Elsa Lanchester in a nice couple of scenes"

Since we mentioned Bride of Laughton, I'd like to recall their brief scenes together in The Razor's Edge, where they play together again oh-so-sweetly.

In contrast with their onscreen chemistry, lanchester wasn't very nice about Power in her memoirs: instead of talking about their work together in film, she'd rather spends a few pages ranting/bitching about Charles giving Tyrone with a Siqueiros from his art collection... Lord! I DO hate the WireHanging school of biography!

The Siren said...

Gloria, Elsa is so natural and touching in her Son of Fury scenes that when you re-view, perhaps you won't think about the Siqueiros...not my favorite Mexican painter anyway. Now, if Laughton gave away my Orozco, watch out. :D

Karen, come to think of it I have read the Defiant Ones essay in anthology form, but never the whole book. Must remedy that. MOFAPC is a hoot, although you aren't going to get much on his career from it. It's more like The Art of Living Caddishly, With George as Your Host. Not that this isn't sheer delight anyway.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Noel Coward reportedly wrote "Made About the Boy" in tribute to Tyrone. Here's my favorite version.

Arthur S. said...

THE DEVIL FINDS WORK, which I read last year, among other things includes details on Baldwin's attendance of Orson Welles' legendary Voodoo Macbeth theatre production as well as the Mercury Theatre's adaptation of Richard Wright's ''Native Son'' and also includes fascinating insights into Henry Fonda and Lang's ''You Only Live Once''.

Sanders' masochism and charisma makes him really the greatest actor Josef von Sternberg never worked with.

As for Tyrone Power, I must say I don't get him at all. The only movie I liked him in is John Ford's ''The Long Gray Line'' and there he has Maureen O'Hara to make him a better actor.

ladybug said...

Dear Siren you might want to try Sanders in Quiet Please: Murder. Don't let the library setting fool you, just listen to his s & m dialog and ponder how it got past the censors. (Then try to forget everything else about the film.)

The Siren said...

Arthur, I think in terms solely of his acting, Power in Nightmare Alley leaves everything else in the dust. (And I do like him very much in many things, including The Black Swan, Witness for the Prosecution, The Mark of Zorro, even the movies he did with Alice Faye.) But in Nightmare Alley he was so good I wrote two posts, one on the movie and one on him. The Long Gray Line I didn't care for at all, which was disappointing to me as I am a huge Ford devotee.

Also, while I can't guess about his personal life, in most movies (like this one) Sanders was the polar opposite of a masochist.

David, great link. :)

Jeff Gee said...

For some reason I'd always assumed "Son of Fury" was about a horse or a dog or something. Well, it's going right to the top of my Netflix queue. Thanks!

Dan Callahan said...

"Son of Fury" is one of my guilty favorites; it really is an awfully sexy movie, what with Sanders cracking the whip and Ty and Gene wandering around in their sarongs. Stuffed with talented people, too, including Kay Johnson, who I always enjoy seeing, and who was Cromwell's wife at the time.

And poor Frances; never more beautiful.

ladybug said...

Siren, you may be personally responsible for the ebay bidding war currently heating up over the Sanders' bare-chested photo from Son of Fury!

Gloria said...

With two days still left for the end of the auction? darn! Some people never learn...

(and only one bid on the Whip one)

The Siren said...

HA! If anyone here wins that photo, I expect you to de-lurk and share. It's only right.

Gloria said...

Can't afford to as I'm after some other stuff (But I have screencaped both as a memento)

X. Trapnel said...

Right you are Siren on the relative merits of Siqueros and Orozco (though the former did include a mini-portrait of Oscar Levant in his painting of Gershwin at the piano).

Gloria said...

Campaspe, despite my occasional annoyment at some parts of her written work (or rather, it being taken as the gospel by certain film writers whitout contrasting it), I have to say that she could play sweet like anybody's bussiness: she may have felt more at home at quirky or humorous characters (i.e. her painter at The Big Clock), which in many a fan's view obscure her more sensible efforts, as in Rembrandt... Also: I think many should see her in Vessel of Wrath/The Beachcomber, a film which seems quite forgotten in spite of being a clear precedent of The African Queen

Rozsaphile said...

I've never seen this one, and now I've got to. Thanks, Siren!

But did they mention the music? It's by Alfred Newman, here displaying a Korngold influence, as he often did in the Fox swashbucklers. (I prefer the gravitas Newman acquired in the following decade: The Robe, David and Bathsheba, The Egyptian, The Diary of Anne Frank . . .)

There's an archival CD of the score. You can even hear audio samples here: http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/4678/SON-OF-FURY/

I haven't heard this one, but the producers have done fine work with other score albums of the period, which typically include plenty of documentation in a well-illustrated booklet.

X. Trapnel said...

Roszaphile,

Another superb late Newman score is The Counterfeit Traitor (a damn good movie too).

Vanwall said...

Code? What kind of code? The safe word kind of code, whether they admitted it or not. Whips in movies - automatically BDSM. Beat-downs: fifty-fifty. Overt sadism: speaks for itself. In H'wood it's "He hit me, and it felt like a kiss" - all the time.

Verification word: domaxiss !!!

taci said...

Being guilty of wildly deviating from the subject, I recently watched Anna and The King of Siam of the above mentioned director John Cromwell. I compared it to The King and I (might be all the talk about Deborah Kerr in this blog triggered it) and find it much, much better though sadder.
It would be interesting to hear Siren's opinion how well Deborah and Irene handle their roles, and I have yet to see Jodie in the newest version, but my bet is on Irene.

X. Trapnel said...

Also off topic but Cromwell did well by Remarque in the Borzage-like So Ends Our Night, marred only by a very callow Glenn Ford.

Yojimboen said...

Would we believe the bidding is almost at $600 for this??

Holy crap, VW, my word is "abusi"!
See what you've started??

DavidEhrenstein said...

He was also very good in Three Women and A Wedding.

Yojimboen said...

Try again.

Gloria said...

*gasp*

What happened? Did the real state speculators turn their vulture eyes towards the market potential of Sanders memorabilia?

Karen said...

Well, in all fairness, that is a SPECTACULAR photograph. One completely understands the admiring eyes turned upon Our George by all assembled therein.

DavidEhrenstein said...

George vs. Tyrone

Jennythenipper said...

http://cinemaocd.tumblr.com/post/607648919/this-one-is-for-lady-bug-and-the-siren

ladybug said...

Jenny, thank you very, very much.

Yojimboen said...

Well done Jenny! As of 03.19 pm (Pac time) May 17 2010, you have saved us all $ 726.99!

panavia999 said...

That's a crazy auction on ebay. I am watching it just for fun.
Power can do no wrong in my book. But the episode in the South Seas was cringe making. The episodes in England we best. The book by Edison Marshall is also loads of fun. I always thought it was a sequel.

Phil Nugent said...

Let it not be forgotten that Power later suffered his fatal heart attack after shooting a duel scene with Sanders in King Vidor's "Solomon and Sheba". That's just how bad George Sanders was. On screen or off, dude took no prisoners.

Yojimboen said...

A slightly larger version:

Not that size matters.

The Siren said...

Y'all are killing me with these pictures and links. Well done. But...$72something? for a still? I thought I was the biggest Sanders freak going but I must step aside on the sidewalk for whoever made that bid.

Phil, it's true, but Sanders also made his sadness over Power clear in his memoirs, albeit in a dry and unsentimental manner. Power seems to have been the rare Hollywood sort whom almost everybody found lovable.

ladybug said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gmoke said...

Saw it when I was a kid and, boy, was Frances Farmer alluring (I despise the word "sexy"). You just knew how dangerous she was.

If you want a Tyrone Power double feature, try pairing it with "Lloyd's of London."

And if you want to play connections, "Nightmare Alley" was based upon a book by William Gresham who was married to Joy Gresham who, after the divorce, married CS Lewis and whose relationship was made into at least the movie "Shadowlands" with Debra Winger as Joy.

The Siren said...

Gmoke, Lloyd's of London is also loads of fun if you are in the right mood. Julian Barnes has a great passage about it in his completely brilliant essay on the 1990s LLoyd's meltdown in Letter from London, the collection of his NYer pieces.

Panavia, tell me, was the whipping scene the same in the book? For that matter, how much was it changed altogether?

Rozsaphile said...

And to wander down that path . . .

Shadowlands originated as a teleplay (the best version) starring Joss Ackland and Claire Bloom. It later moved to the stage (Nigel Hawthorne and Jane Laportaire/Jane Alexander).

Vanwall said...

My take on "Nightmare Alley" -

Nightmare Alley

I've had a love/hate relationship with that film.

The Siren said...

Rozsaphile, I am so glad to see you back, even on a post where I forgot to mention the music. And it's lovely. My DVD has a separate soundtrack where you can just listen; very nice feature.

Vanwall, off to read, although I warn you I do love Nightmare Alley!

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

Thank you, Siren! I haven't seen "Son of Fury," but it seems very much to partake of my, um, territory.

As for Cromwell and South Sea islands ... this puts me in mind of his "Victory" movie, with Fredric March and Betty Field, which I would *love* to see.

For the record, I do remember enjoying the Cromwell-dircted "COmpany She Keeps." Not much of a movie, but a terrific central Jane Greer performance.

DavidEhrenstein said...

My beloved Lizabeth Scott's in that one too.

Nice take on Nightmare Alley, Vanwall. I hear someone is thinking of remaking it. They got it right the first time.

The Stans of today can be found on cable television. Any day now I expect Glenn Beck to chew off the head of a live chicken.

The Siren said...

David, HA. So true about Beck. And I also loved Vanwall's Nightmare Alley take, hope everyone clicks through.

MrsHWV, I saw Company She Keeps ages ago and also loved Greer, whose career was screwed up by Howard Hughes like so many others.

Karen said...

VERY nice, Vanwall. I, too, first saw Nightmare Alley at a young and impressionable age--maybe 12? 13?--and have a similar feeling around carnivals. The evolution of the word "geek" to something akin to "nerd" or "dweeb" was something I long resisted, based on Power's sweating and haunted face at the end of the movie (er...spoiler alert?). But the ascendance of that word, re-defined, has actually helped me deal with it.

Yojimboen said...

FYI, Karen, “geek” comes from an old Dutch word “geck” which means an idiot, fool, dupe or simpleton.

Next to the entry in my etymological dictionary there’s a
little picture.

Gerard Jones said...

Wait. You mean...this isn't how first contact between Westerners and Polynesians usually goes?

Very nice summation of the difference between Sanders' and Powers' sexualities, Siren. And a wonderful take on the whuppin' scene. Wonder if you agree: to my eyes that violence isn't a Code-approved stand-in for sex, but a capturing of the inherent eroticism of "consensual violence." Something no one seems to be able to do anymore without self-consciousness and overstatement.

Rozsaphile said...

Evidently a song from the film, "Blue Tahitian Moon," achieved some popularity at the time. Just go to YouTube to hear it sung by Keira Knightley in a film called The Edge of Love, which has to do with Dylan Thomas and the Blitz in London.

Gloria said...

Re the auction: I bet Sanders could be **cloned** for a lesser cost!

Vanwall said...

Thanks very much for looking at my Nightmare Alley scrawl, all, and the kind words. I love the film, even when it creeped me out, and compulsively cannot stop watching it if it starts. It was one of those films that played often on TV in the Sixties and early Seventies, then pretty much vanished, along with a whole host of other interesting films that were suddenly deemed not worth showing. I used to wonder whatever happened to them.

Among those were shitloads of "Island" films - I wasn't a big fan of most of them, they kinda creeped me out just by being so damned condescending. SOF was on often enough, and I used to wonder about the beatings Power's character took, it was like there was more to it than I saw, and sure enough, when I got older I figured that stuff out - it didn't make sense otherwise.

I must say, I believed then if Ty Power was built anything like, say, Woody Strode or Clint Walker, it would've been unthinkable - they'd've chewed up Sanders and spit 'im out, in my mind's eye. A lot of male stars had that slimmer smooth-muscled look, which by the late sixties seemed easier to slap the crap outta, to a growing boy - how'd the islanders put up with him?

Speaking of which, we have some Samoan guys who work in our shop - large, good-time guys, who are pretty easy going...at work. They have a fearsome rep when partying or fighting, and sometimes I think they're both the same in that world. I don't know where this fits in the Code-dodging if you filmed it back then - one Samoan came to work with his knuckles all bandaged on one hand, sez he'd been to the ER after work. I asked him if it was a work-related injury. "Nah," he said matrafactly, "Some guy got his tooth stuck in it."

tomcervo said...

"This shit is so persistent that some of it pops up as late in 1984 in the revisionist version of The Bounty."

Okay, but Bolt didn't make it up--that's how it actually happened. Look up Caroline Alexander's recent book "The Bounty".

"forcing the real heir, his allegedly illegitimate nephew Benjamin Blake (Roddy McDowell), to become his bonded servant. Ben sticks around long enough to grow into Tyrone Power"

Same thing nearly happened before in "How Green Was My Valley". Power was cast as McDowell grown up. Ford saw McDowell's tests and decided to cut the story in half. Not hiring Power saved so much money that Ford got a little more leeway than usual from Zanuck and got to make a better picture.

The Siren said...

Tom, facts are one thing, but it's a question of style and emphasis, which is my real complaint there. The 1984 Bounty was not as revisionist as it thought it was, in the way the islanders were presented.

Vanwall, I am so glad you didn't really hate Nightmare Alley because I love it so.

Gloria, LOL! I bet he could!

Rozsaphile, want to see if I can find Knightley singing but I'm skeered....

Yojimboen said...

“…want to see if I can find Knightley singing but I'm skeered...”

Know whatcha mean, doll, same reason I’ve stayed far away from them Caribee-Piratey thingies… That KK Kid scares the bejeeziz outta me too.

Karen said...

It was one of those films that played often on TV in the Sixties and early Seventies, then pretty much vanished, along with a whole host of other interesting films that were suddenly deemed not worth showing. I used to wonder whatever happened to them.

Lord, right, Vanwall? My sister and I lived for the Million Dollar Movie (I can still do an impressive rendition of its theme music), and basically any movie that came on between 4 PM and midnight. We would pore over the TV Guide and take in every film we could. And then almost all of them disappeared. Half the films our distinguished hostess describes I haven't seen in, oh, 30 to 35 years. It's depressing.

Vanwall said...

Karen -

I used to mark the TV Guide, and the local rag hand-out, with movies and TV shows I wanted to watch, and as there were no recording media for home viewing that were practical, I had to see them then or that was it for who knew how long. I remember it took three years of trying to fit into my family's TV schedule to finally see "The Clouded Yellow", and then it was like you said, 30 years until the next viewing.

The anticipation of seeing some of them was like a drug - to say nothing of trying to catch the latest songs on the radio, where you also were at the mercy of time and place and receiving quality, or you spent a fortune on records. Ah, youth, it really was a different world back then. Lotsa younger folks today don't know how lucky they are.

It's funny, I wrote about a TV show on my last blog entry that I watched as a kid that ran 30-some years straight, and almost none of it is preserved, but I remember those shows like they were just an hour ago - I had this feeling because of the way things were back then, that if I didn't try real hard to remember films and TV shows, I might not see them again. I was pretty close to the mark for a while, sadly.

The Siren said...

Yojimboen, Knightley is very beautiful but her speaking voice is not, and she is so alarmingly thin that if we were at a party, if she didn't like the canapes I'd be afraid she might bite my arm off at the elbow.

Karen said...

Yes, a different world indeed, but I'm not convinced that kids these days are luckier. They've lost the intensity and expectation that comes of knowing you had one shot at a viewing, and it might have to last you a lifetime. Not to mention great cover art, liner notes, and lyrics sheets--and never hearing the end of a song without automatically hearing the opening bars of the song that followed it on the album...

Sigh. I'm old.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I first saw The Red Shoes and Tales of Hoffman in black and white on "Million Dollar Movie" -- and so did Marty. That's why ZMichael Powell called Volume two of his memoirs Million Dollar Movie, in tribute to that.

Vanwall said...

David -

Exactly! I was blown away when I first saw "The Red Shoes" in color.

Yojimboen said...

When I emigrated to these Golden Shores I thought Million Dollar Movie was the best American invention since Puffed Wheat. I was accidentally fortunate; growing up in my Scottish Highland shtetl, we didn’t have TV, so I saw everything at the local Bijou.

(Scotland didn’t wasn’t covered by broadcast TV until the late 50s – which I always thought was unfair since, like pretty much everything else, a Scotsman invented the damn thing.)

Million Dollar Movie was like church to me - getting to see them all again, for free!

These kids today have no idea how lucky they are – almost every existing movie is available anywhere, anytime.

Same with music (with their MP3CPOs and EarPods and I-Buds)! When we were their age we had to take drugs and go to concerts!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Turning to contemorary matters. . .

Saw and greatly enjoyed the new Alain Resnais Wild Grass last night. He has begun to make films about people closer to his own age. Sabine Azema --topped with a wild mop of red har, plays a dentist who's purse is snatched one day whiles shopping. Andre Dussolier plays a cranky and soemwhat mysterious gent who discovers her wallet next to the tire of his car in a shopping center garage. He calls her up but there's no answer so he turns it over to the police (Matthieu Alamaric who seems to be in everything). They meet up anyway and become emeshed in a kind of emotional stand-off. He wants to have a relatioship with her that's not really romantic. Rather he sees her as his female counterpart -- which she is. Very Manoel de Oliveira (which figures.)

The title refers quite frankly to weeds -- whcih we see at sundry points in tracked close up throughout the action. Resnais has featured weeds since the first shot of Hiroshima Mon Amour.
Anyhoo much fun, especially if you like the Resnais of Le vie est un roman.

Plus a great score by Marty Fulterman (Scroll down for the skinny)

Karen said...

The very first old movie I ever saw was The Adventures of Robin Hood--on a B&W set. It was 1966 and I was 7 or 8 years old. I was hooked on classic Hollywood from that moment onward, but had no idea that that film (and The Wizard of Oz and scores of others) were even in color until we got a new TV in 1974.

panavia999 said...

I grew up in the country with limited TV reception and prior to VCRs. I did not have color TV until the 80's. I'm so used to b&w that I prefer it. Although the gorgeous colors of the Archers is also lovely! My introduction to Tales of Hoffman was listening to the LPs when I was a kid with liner notes in b&w. I was really suprised to see it in color as an adult.

BTW, the barechested photo of our favorite cad is up to $811.99 on eBay.

Vanwall said...

With all apologies to our hostess, this was the siren-call of my youth:

CBS movie bumper

Morton Stevens thunk it up, and I still hear it in my head sometimes while wait for a DVD to spool up.

Karen said...

Oh, geez, Vanwall, I remember that one, too!

Karen said...

By the way--$811 for bare-chested George? I hope it's stained with some of his own sweat.

X. Trapnel said...

V, I hadn't thought about that in years but now I remember it note for note. I've been trying to find the Saturday Night at the Movies music. No luck so far.

In the NY area we had two movie shows that used The Pines of Rome and the Jupiter movement from The Planets. One may have been Movie Greats, the other...

Yojimboen said...

Million Dollar Movie
(WOR 9 NYC)

Saturday Night at the Movies

Sunday Night at the Movies

The Movie Channel (1981)

Gloria said...

"By the way--$811 for bare-chested George? I hope it's stained with some of his own sweat."

When I think of all the crazy -and unsuccessful- schemes that Sanders plotted during his life in order to get rich and quit working (including his project of marrying Dolores del Rio to eventually become President of Mexico, or setting a Building film to lure rich widows - with Sanders as the builder and James Mason as the architect), it is somewhat sad that it didn't occur to him to get rich by selling beefcake pictures.

X. Trapnel said...

Y, thanks for the effort but this, alas, is not the real SNATM, i.e., flashing, any-angled bits of marquee, excited orchestral flourishes and furbelows, all anticlimaxing with some lame service comedy or sexcapade. However, given the choice of Billy Jack or The Horizontal Lieutenant...

Karen said...

Hmmm. Those are not the theme songs I remember. I mean, I remember the GWTW music from Million Dollar Movie, but there must have been another one that had a different theme song that still haunts me. I shall ask my sister.

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

Found it!! This, to me, will always mean a great movie is coming up:

http://www.dvddrive-in.com/TV%20Guide/430movielogo.htm

X. Trapnel said...

Karen, I've never disagreed with you on anything but that must now end. That music (which I well remember) usually portended bad late 50s/early 60s stuff: (1) an Efrem Zimbalist movie (By Love Possessed, The Chapman Report, A Fever in the Blood); "tired" Gable (It Started in Naples, Teacher's Pet), or Susan Slade Meets Rachel Cade.
The best old movie venue in and around NY was the 11:30 Movie which would have Bogart Week, Flynn Week, etc.

Karen said...

Well, I couldn't watch the 11:30 movie, because I was in junior high and high school and that was considered past my bedtime.

I dunno--I remember loving the sound of that theme song, and usually being fascinated by what followed. But I was not, of course, as discerning then as I am today <*cough*>. I was more of a gourmand; just shovelling in whatever I could.

This is why I've seen so many of the films our gracious hostess discusses: I was a Hollywood vacuum in the 1970s.

X. Trapnel said...

"I was more of a gourmand; just shovelling in whatever I could."

Perfectly understandable. We all were. At some point, perhaps that epiphanic moment when we realized that Zsa Zsa Gabor was not important, taste, discernment, and discrimination take root and flourish, though still fed by the compost of early viewing.

Rozsaphile said...

The thing about those local telecasts was that the movies were mercilessly trimmed to fit into 2-hour (or even 90-minute) time slots. This was not always done with much sensitivity. Sometimes I imagine they just left the projector running while the commercials were playing out. Whole characters or subplots could disappear, leading to considerable puzzlement -- and to amazed rediscoveries on seeing the complete film years later.

panavia999 said...

Dear Siren
I read Son of Fury as a teenager, my callow imagination probably did not grasp the full essence of the flogging scene. I'll have to read it again. But I like Edison Marshall and he embraces weird subject matter. I'm sure the flogging scenes are far more lurid that the movie.

panavia999 said...

When I was a teenager I read Yankee Pasha, Caravan to Xanadu, Benjamin Blake and Castle in the Swamp, all by Edison Marshall. Loved 'em all. I think they all feature scenes of physical humiliation and Castle in the Swamp features a woman in the mold of Isabel. Hmmm.. If you like bad women, Ben Ames Williams wrote about some psycho corkers in Leave Her to Heaven and The Strange Woman. The movie of The Strange Woman was so sanitized from the novel as to lose its punch. But George Sanders is in it! The movie of Leave Her to Heaven is remarkably faithful to the book considering the material and the time.
I don't know what other teenagers read in the 70's , but I loved those authors for melodrama.

G.A. Axton said...

Dear Siren,

As an instructor in cultural studies, I humbly remind you that sexuality explorations and psychoanalysis are not the one and only way to seek the truth, if any truth could be obtained by them. Rather, they are a cunning scheme to justify one's personal, subjective view of things, including the desire to see sex, only sex and nothing but sex, in everything. What happens in that scene is one man fighting another to prove his power over him; the scene was evidently torturous to George Sanders as he was opposed to any kind of violence, even to slapping women, which is very, very clear if one took a better look at his film parts--apparently, it's not the case. Like Vincent Price, he had to fake insanity to justify Sir Arthur's conduct; the same thing happens in "Portrait of Murder" during the final episode. Please bear in mind that human beings, even actors and characters, have not only their bodies but their souls--and kindly revise your methods and objectives of film analysis.

Regards,
Thomas Dekker

panavia999 said...

G.A.Axton : Gosh, It's just a movie! Over analysis removes all the fun of melodrama. Many of the greatest movies villains and cads were know to be personally very nice people: Conrad Veidt, Karloff, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, Vincent Price.
It's ACTING.