Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Housekeeping; or, Multiple Fragments in Search of a Post


It's been a slow couple of viewing weeks chez Siren. She's had a hard time finding quiet periods to watch things, for one. And for another, what she has seen hasn't exactly brought the Muse sashaying over to her computer keyboard. There were a couple of John Garfield movies, Out of the Fog and Saturday's Children. Out of the Fog had Garfield in delicious bad-guy mode, Ida Lupino looking glorious and James Wong Howe making Sheepshead Bay look the way it should look but undoubtedly never did. Still, no inspiration. Saturday's Children had some lovely, delicate moments in the early scenes but slipped later.

There was The Hucksters, deeply disappointing to the Siren, although Sydney Greenstreet hauling off and spitting on a conference table was an unexpected fillip. But Greenstreet, despite the Siren's deep love for the man, was woefully miscast, Gable failed to charm and Ava Gardner's hairstylist must have had it in for her. Deborah Kerr looked ravishing but her part was wan. The movie looked pretty good but was ultimately toothless; maybe if the Siren watches Mad Men again she will now appreciate it more.

Saw Nightfall at the Film Forum, and a good thing too, since its ravishing beauty (via Jacques Tourneur and Burnett Guffey) needed a big screen. But the plot was preposterous in ways both big and small. Saw Cyrus (oh look! a new movie!) and it had some funny moments, but Marisa Tomei's character was frustratingly underdeveloped and the out-of-nowhere constant zooming made the Siren want to gently take the directors' hands off the camera and hand them some worry beads.



Then there was a Frank Borzage night at the home of some dear friends, where we saw Doctors' Wives, an intermittently interesting early work that the Siren has little to say about, and Young as You Feel, a ghastly relic that the Siren cannot recommend even to ardent Borzage completists. There were three shots where she thought she spotted Borzage; otherwise the only sustaining moments came when the Siren's couchmate (He Knows Who He Is) dissolved into inadequately suppressed giggles every time Will Rogers described himself as "an old meat-packer." That sent the Siren into fits as well and she ended the evening with her Serious Classic Movie Viewer cred in tatters.

Hence the radio silence.

Some weeks back we held a belated house-warming and the Siren shut the door to the hall closet where we had piled all the things we didn't know what to do with, like toolboxes and an old bureau and papers to shred and all the pictures we haven't hung because we don't want to face the inevitable debates: "I hate that one." "I hate THAT one more." "Hey, that was a gift." "Oh, a gift, huh. From who? a sworn enemy?" The door to the closet is right next to the bathroom and during the party the Siren kept one eye peeled to make sure no one opened the wrong door and discovered the secret of our Potemkin housekeeping. Since then, the Siren opens the door from time to time, looks in and says to herself, "I ain't touching this shit," and shuts the door, suddenly gripped with the strong desire for a stiff Scotch.

Well, it's only 9:30 am right now and besides, the housewarming guests drank up all the Scotch and it hasn't been replaced. (That isn't a reproach, guys; we had fun doing it.) So the Siren brewed a cup of nicely smoky lapsang souchong and decided to clean out her computer files instead. The Siren wouldn't show you that hall closet's interior if you came over with an armful of gardenias, a sonnet to her left eyebrow and a large bottle of 30-year-old Talisker. But herewith, because her Scots-Irish ancestral blood deplores waste of any kind, and because otherwise the cupboard is bare, a glance at some of the unfinished fragments that have been lurking on the Siren's hard drive.



Here we have the notes for Siren's abortive stab at a comparison between Criss Cross and Touchez Pas au Grisbi, two movies that she saw back-to-back and that still strike her as complementary.

Oddly, it was the French film that ultimately had a less cynical outlook, holding out the possibility of loyalty and even love. Yvonne DeCarlo speaks for the Americans when she snaps at Burt Lancaster: "Love, love! You've got to watch out for yourself."

Criss Cross is even better than The Killers, one of its predecessors, at least in part because of DeCarlo. Her beauty is just lights-out, on a level with the earlier film's Ava Gardner. Unlike Gardner, however, DeCarlo really acts in this movie. She is very good as Anna, Lancaster's ex-wife, showing us a woman who may have some good qualities deep down, but meanwhile is out for herself. Burt Lancaster's magnificent looks help his portrayal of Steve who is, it must be acknowledged, a bit of a drip. Steve takes up a lot of his narration blaming fate, when we can see he's the author of his own misfortunes.

Both of the movies flip sex roles--Steve the drippy romantic, Anna the practical hustler; Gabin the loyal mate, his partner the feckless damsel-in-distress.

Jeanne Moreau really, really, really cannot dance. DeCarlo, on the other hand, tears up the floor.


The opening graf of a planned post on the splendid The Late George Apley. If this one pops up on TCM, by all means watch it.

It has a dry, witty script by Philip Dunne and a wonderfully funny performance from Ronald Colman whom, as her readers know, usually hits the Siren like a big ol' dose of Nyquil. Mr. Siren, who was in the same room trying to beat an external hard drive into submission, at one point looked up and remarked with mild irritation, "You're laughing a LOT at this one." He would have had a much better time just watching it with me.



This is an excellent example of a post the Siren abandoned because she was being entirely too pissy. And no, she won't tell you who it was who aroused her ire, and there are no prizes for a correct guess, either.

Dude ... Stage Door?

There are I-don't-know-how-many actresses and films out there to illustrate your thesis that everything was so much better without feminism, and you choose--Katharine Hepburn in Stage Door?

Okay, don't let me stop you. Maybe next week you'll follow up with how things in Hollywood were a lot better before they invented panchromatic film. I want to be sympathetic here, because I happen to prefer old movies myself. Hence my blogging about old movies. And of course it is a truism that you are entitled to your opinion. But thematic evaluations are supposed to be rooted in something, preferably something connected to the movie. You can't just watch Bringing Up Baby and decide it's all a metaphor for the Boer War.


Yes, we are all better off without that one. It was only going to get worse from there.

Here, to close out this collection of unrelated fragments, are the Siren's notes on My Last Breath, as her British edition titles Luis Buñuel's autobiography.

The book is, surprisingly, in rough chronological order but Buñuel still meanders from topic to topic, detouring for a while and then swerving back onto the road. He was born in the Aragon region of Spain in 1900, at a time when the area was poor and the peasants still lived in much the same way they had for centuries. His father was relatively well-to-do, however, and Buñuel received a good Jesuit education, right up to the day he was expelled, much to the Siren's relief. (Come on, this is Buñuel. You don't want to hear about him being a complete altar boy, do you?) He went to Madrid in the 1920s to be educated at the university, and there Buñuel seems to have met everyone who was anyone in Spain at the time, from the young Garcia Lorca and Salvador Dali to King Alfonse.

He started out studying insects and claims he could recognize and give Latin names for many well into his old age. Eventually he switched to philosophy, but then he moved to Paris. There he made the revolutionary Un chien andalou and L'Âge d'Or, the latter film distinguishing itself by being the first Buñuel to be banned (for about fifty years, as a matter of fact).

In the same way that Buñuel's films can focus on seemingly extraneous details (in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, people going on and on about their dreams, as Bunuel does here) and exclude the information you are dying to know (what, exactly, happened to Don Jaime's wife in Viridiana?) the director gives one chapter apiece to his most prolific years as a filmmaker, in Mexico and in France. He is happy to give you a recipe for a Buñueloni (the Siren would love to order one of these at her next blogger outing) but doesn't want to tell you much about, say, Gerard Philippe.


So now we've used up some leftovers. There's about a half-dozen more lurking around, but the Siren promises she won't drag those out until the next time she's just seen a Will Rogers movie and is stumped for material.

If you've seen anything brilliant lately, by all means, tell.

Update: In a nice coincidence prompted by TV5's showing Grisbi last night (Mr. S watched too), James Wolcott posts about the Becker film. The dancing amused him too. Even funnier: Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough, which may well be playing on a double bill with The Oscar in some midnight-camp-palace of the afterlife.

And the in-depth take on Nightfall that the movie deserves, from Kim Morgan, at Noir of the Week. The Siren was still not keen on the woozy plotting, but Kim points out all the brilliance that made the Siren pretty much love the thing anyway. And Simon Abrams at Slant Magazine liked the movie less than either Kim or me, but makes his case very well (Simon has particular problems with the ending).

111 comments:

kenjfuj said...

I saw Nightfall at Film Forum this past weekend and loved it. I agree that Burnet Guffey's gorgeous cinematography demands to be seen projected on a big screen. Just curious, though, about what you (and others, if Simon Abrams's Slant review is any indication) found preposterous about its plot.

The Siren said...

I really kind of loved it too, Kenji, because godDAMN it was beautiful. Just ravishing. Well-acted in most places, too. And it's hard to say where I parted company with the plot, because dearly as I love noir, it is a genre that almost always strains credulity at some point. There was Aldo Ray's unwillingness to call the police, and the way Bancroft's perfectly rational objections to that are just blown off. There's Bancroft and her sudden devotion to Ray even though he's put her life in danger; that may have been because their chemistry was so-so, I don't know. There was the way the bad guys kept dithering about killing and/or torturing Ray, which is common to most thrillers but stretched to breaking point.

SPOILER ALERT****
There was the way they had no problem shooting poor Doc but suddenly at the end they're all worried about someone hearing.
ENDSPOILER***

And I hated the music.

But I still would recommend it...like I said, gorgeous. If you have any love for b&w at all you need to see it.

Mythical Monkey said...

Wait, Bringing Up Baby isn't a metaphor for the Boer War? Dammit, back to the drawing board ...

Peter Nellhaus said...

For better or worse I keep pushing myself, although I do come across DVDs I plan to write about and then decide they aren't worth the bother. Other times I surprise myself by actually coming up with a full length piece.

As far as seeing anything brilliant, I just saw the documentary, It Came from Kuchar, about the twin filmmaking brothers, which was quite fun and illuminating.

Don't worry about not being able to post regularly. I think most of us are aware that you have other, and sometimes more important, responsibilities.

The Siren said...

Thanks, Peter, you're always a kind soul. I wasn't really apologizing, more like trying to keep my hand in.

Mythical Monkey, if you manage to make that connection I swear I will link it in klieg lights.

TLRHB said...

It's not a movie, but I'd highly recommend reading Patti Smith's memoir, "Just Kids."

The Siren said...

I've had my eye on that one Larry. But tell me, how does it compare to I'm With the Band? Because when it comes to rock memoirs, the Siren has time only for the REAL highbrow stuff...

X. Trapnel said...

It's not brilliant, but I'd like to warn off anybody from seeing so-called Anton Chekhov's The Duel; a travesty that makes Dr. Zhiv, Death in V, and The Dead seem doglike in their faithfulness. Stanley Kauffmann, the thinking man's Bosley Crowther, liked it.

Gareth said...

David Cairns recently pointed me to Christian-Jaque's 1946 film Un Revenant, with Louis Jouvet and Gaby Morlay, and it's quite wonderful. As I said to David, it's worthy of one of his revive-this-film campaigns.

I also saw a stunning print of Meet Me in St Louis; doesn't get much better, but that's hardly a discovery on my part.

Tom Block said...

I've gotten downright dysfunctional in my affection for Criss Cross (and Christmas Holiday to a lesser extent). What you said about de Carlo goes, Siren--I especially love the shots of her and Tony Curtis because they actually look like people dancing in a nightclub, not just actors who are jiggling around together. (I assume this was the period just before Curtis returned to NY, where he saw his old fellow acting student Walter Matthau caught in a downpour, causing the classy Mr. Curtis to stick his head out the taxi window and yell "I FUCKED YVONNE DE CARLO!")

The Siren said...

Gareth, I will definitely try to check that one out (and the doc Peter mentions as well). And I keep wanting to watch all of MMISL with my kids; we watched about half one day and then had to leave, and they were glued to it.

Tom, I really loved Criss Cross. Yeah, that Curtis...it's a funny story though, and I think Matthau used to tell it too. DeCarlo was some eyeful in that period; you'd have to be a saint not to want to tell someone you'd been with her, and Curtis has never claimed to be a saint!

Gareth said...

There were quite a few parents-and-children at the MMISL screening, and not a peep from anyone old or young. The theatre manager had talked up the print and he was not wrong!

Tom Block said...

Hey, if I had sex with de Carlo back then, I'd still be working it into conversations. "Boy, that BP oil spill is something, isn't it? You know what it reminds me of? YVONNE DE CARLO!"

I love that shot of her in front of the window when Napier is plotting out the robbery. One big thing that separates Siodmak's noirs from the pack is that tactile, you-are-there sensation. It's remarkable how long that planning session goes on, and the Midnight Mass and concert scenes in Christmas Holiday.

Arthur S. said...

CRISS CROSS is for me not only Siodmak's best(and also Yvonne DeCarlo's and Dan Duryea's, Lancaster would have to wait for a certain Milanese Marxist-aristocrat whose film is about to circulate in a new restoration), it's one of the greatest films noir and best films of the 40s.

What I love in that film isn't the "cynicism" but the real modernist ambience, there's a F. Scott Fitzgerald feel to the romance between Anna and Steve, especially that scene early where they meet and talk at the bar. And it has this powerful uncompromising ending. Unlike ''The Killers'' it isn't bogged down with an arch plot either and the use of real locations is wonderful especially, as Tom Block notes, that shot of DeCarlo against the window as a monorail passes through the panes. It anticipates other LA-set films noir like KISS ME DEADLY.

Criss Cross is also a film which leaves me dissatisfied with much noir scholarship since they always refer to Anna Dundee as a great "femme fatale" when she isn't anything of that sort and the film goes to great lengths to bring us to understand him even that final decision since the person that finally brings death to her is the person who loves her, it's a really bleak way to subvert romantic illusions, even if the final act by Dan Duryea is in fact an act of wounded love.

That said I don't see much connection with ''Touchez'', ''Casque d'Or'' on the other hand. It's my favourite Jacques Becker film and one of Gabin's greatest roles.

By the way, just thought I'd inform you, the English translation of ''My Last Sigh'' is as per Jonathan Rosenbaum, a drastically cut version of the French original with apparently sentences and paragraphs cut from each page and chapter.

TLRHB said...

Not really a rock memoir. It's more about being young, starving and living madly for art in NYC in the late '60s, early '70s. It's La Boheme in Brooklyn and the Chelsea Hotel.

Marilyn said...

The best part of The Great George Apley was getting to see my beloved Peggy Cummins in another film. They are so rare.

Vanwall said...

I caught a Korean noir "A Bittersweet Life" (Dalkomhan insaeng) recently, directed by Ji-woon Kim, who also helmed "A Tale of Two Sisters", a spooky little gem. Very well done, if a bit bloody. It's a revenge film, and you know what happens when you set out for that, and it's not novel or deep, but it was extremely well done.

Saw another Korean gem somewhat before that: "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK", a quirky romance set in a looney bin, that had the damndest appeal. Since it's a Park Chan-wook film, (think "Old Boy") it has it's short moments of daydream grue, but thankfully not much, as the film was about redemption as much as romance. No Nurse Ratcheds need apply.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Some weeks back we held a belated house-warming and the Siren shut the door to the hall closet where we had piled all the things we didn't know what to do with, like toolboxes and an old bureau and papers to shred and all the pictures we haven't hung because we don't want to face the inevitable debates

This is an old-time radio show waiting to happen.

"Dad-rat it...gotta straighten out that closet one of these days..."

Trish said...

I own a stunning book of photographs called "The Image Makers", which my parents gave to me as a gift many years ago. Among all the beautiful Hollywood stars (male and female) is a magnificent shot of Yvonne DeCarlo, all dolled up as Hollywood-style Arabian princess. My mum tells me that in the 1940s she was known as the most beautiful woman in the world...

The Siren said...

Arthur, this is a British edition of the Bunuel book that apparently was slightly altered from the American version, but prob. not much. I enjoyed it in any case. As for Criss Cross, I love it too, although my vision of Anna is apparently a lot less idealized than yours. I would in no way compare her to Casque d'Or; she's a tough article and I don't think femme fatale is far off, despite her flashes of real emotion. As for why it struck me as comparable to Grisbi, I wrote this so long ago I was still in Toronto; but I believe the points were going to be about the heist gone very, very wrong due to irrational love getting in thw way. Clearly this works better if, like the Siren, you see Rene Dary in the Yvonne DeCarlo part. The problems of getting anyone to believe me on that point may be why I abandoned the effort.

The Siren said...

Tom, another thing I loved about Criss Cross was the location photography of Los Angeles; a side of the city I assume is mostly gone.

Marilyn, Cummins was *wonderful.* I agree, she didn't make enough movies.

Vanwall, Korean film is an enormous gaping hole in the Siren's viewing record...

Ivan, the sound effects when I try to pull anything out of there (did I mention it's also where we keep the DVDs?) could keep a number of radio personnel employed--and stumped--for quite some time.

Trish, DeCarlo was stunning when she started out. For me her looks hardened relatively early on, but in Criss Cross she's freeze-the-DVD-for-a-minute gorgeous, and she moves beautifully too.

panavia999 said...

I enjoy Colman in most movies and really enjoyed "The Late George Apley". Like Apley, I also have a tendency to mine Emerson for quotations.

Tom Block said...

>the location photography of Los Angeles

Yeah, it's great. In Visions of Light I think it's Haskell Wexler who says he shot the 2nd unit stuff for Picnic that included the helicopter shot at the very end. He claims it was the first time a chopper was used to get a shot but I can think of at least two earlier examples, the shots of the getaway car in They Live By Night (another movie you don't want to get me started on) and the opening shot of Criss Cross, which starts out like the standard view of L.A.'s City Hall (albeit a beautiful one, what with it being dusk), but then it starts crossing over the city before finally zooming down to the outside of Steve and Anna's bar. (And then there's that great cut to them getting caught in the headlights in the parking lot.)

I assume/hope you've seen Thom Andersen's Los Angeles Plays Itself. One of its best segments is devoted to Bunker Hill and the Angel's Flight trolley. The trolley still runs though they moved it a block up the street after the neighborhood was razed in the late '60s and got replaced by some of L.A.'s most impersonal architecture. The Wiki page for the trolley has some great old pics of it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angels_Flight

Anyway, everyone here probably already knows all this stuff, but since I have the time and my fingers like typing about this subject...

Yojimboen said...

If we’re going potpourri today…

To the Nelson Algren classics...

Never eat in a place called “Mom’s”

Never play poker with a man named “Doc”. And

Never sleep with anybody who’s more fucked-up than you are.

...I would add:

Nothing anyone says in Toronto can ever be held against them.

Tonio Kruger said...

"Potemkin housekeeping."

I just love that term.

* So that's what I've been doing all these years. *

* Shhh! *

"Jeanne Moreau can't dance."

I guessed as much from her "dance number" in Truffaut's The Bride Wore Black but I'd still watch her version of Julie Killeen over Uma Thurman's any day of the week.

The Siren said...

"Nothing anyone says in Toronto can ever be held against them."

Yojimboen, such a gallant way of calling me crazy. I'm charmed.

The Siren said...

Panavia, I need more Emerson quotes in my life, I have decided. Alejandro Adams was tweeting about George Apley and Emerson was part of the appeal for him too.

Tom, I have not seen that doc and I know next to nothing about LA streetscapes save what I see in the movies. But I do know what I see in the 1940s films charms me much more than later ones. In all fairness to Los Angeles that is true of many places, though.

Tonio, "Potemkin housekeeping" -- it's not just a phrase, it's a way of life. And I adore The Bride Wore Black, and Moreau in it. I would still back Moreau over Thurman in a dance-off or indeed a multi-round exhibition match.

Rozsaphile said...

Criss-Cross is so deliriously disorienting: night and day, flashbacks within flashbacks, and that astonishing airborne shot that initiates the heist. It always hits me like a moment of total visual abstraction. Then there's the infernal opening music by whatshisname, soon contrasted with the intoxicating Morales dance material.

I wonder if the hospital-bed assassination inspired The Godfather. And has anybody seen the 1995 Soderbergh remake, called The Underneath?

Yojimboen said...

Yes Roz, I watched Underneath this morning. T'ain't much. A minor Soderbergh.

(A straight line, if ever I wrote one.)

Vanwall said...

Well, I just watched again what may be the most excruciating surgery scene ever on film; it's intensely personal, and it's freakishly effective - no blood, no screams, it takes place in a claustrophobic apartment room, just a series of one-shots and close-ups as Richard Basehart's amazing performance in "He Walked by Night" sells the psychopathic cop killer as he sweats out a no-anesthetic, self-surgery removal of a slug in his side.

I'm amazed every time I see this scene, it makes me feel the sweat dripping on his face, the touch of the steaming, boiled forceps as he sticks it in the wound, groping for the lead, watching his progress in a mirror as he grimaces and whimpers. You're not really rooting for his character, but he's already established the character as a cold, calculating killer, and the urge to reward clever effort wars with the feeling it'd be better if he failed and died, right there. Jeez, that must've been even more transgressive back in the day. A remarkable film on many levels, Basehart's performance is ferociously splendid. Highly recommended.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Like Ivan, I thought there was a "Fibber McGee & Molly" moment coming with that closet door.

As for:
"You can't just watch Bringing Up Baby and decide it's all a metaphor for the Boer War."

Here I must confess my embarrassment. I thought it was. I've also been working on a thesis wherein "The Flintstones" represents man's inhumanity to man. I can see now I'm going to have to scrap that. Guess I'll just go clean out my closets and shut up.

Exiled in NJ said...

Siodmak had a DiMaggio like hitting streak in the mid-40s with Spiral Staircase, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry and The Suspect.

The latter two are rarely seen today probably because Harry features a non-cynical George Sanders while Laughton is so meek and nuanced in the former, which is a wonderful fictionalization of the Crippen case. With Rosalin Ivan as Laughton's wife and Henry Daniell as his neighbor, it is a granfallon of 40s character actors.

Trish said...

"Nothing anyone says in Toronto can ever be held against them."

Wow.. I'm critic-proof!

Richard Basehart works at a level far above his contemporaries in "He Walked by Night". He took a huge risk with this performance, and I'm always saddened that he's probably best known for a tv show about a submarine. Same with Raymond Burr, whose cinematic bad guys roles are much more pleasing than the virtuous Perry Mason...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Saw Nightfall when it came out. Can't recall the"A" feature it played with. Great wordless opening -- much admired by my friend Warren Sonbert, who referenced it in his own experimental films.

Tom Block said...

I like it that a gorgeous, classy woman like Geraldine Fitzgerald would play a shrewish invalid who has a thing for her brother, and who's such a bitch you actually root for her to die. Uncle Harry and The Suspect both made me sympathize with the killers and hate their victims yet still found ways of getting round the Production Code that criminals had to be punished for their crimes. (I'd argue The Suspect at least leaves the door open that Laughton won't ever be arrested.)

The Underneath is indeed pretty lame; the descent from Burt Lancaster to Peter Gallagher pretty much says it all. It looks like Soderbergh might've been warming up for The Limey, though, so I'm willing to cut it some slack.

And I never thought I'd see the day where I'd count myself as a Raymond Burr fan but he was the classiest thing in a lot of stuff. He was so good in Pitfall it made my teeth hurt, and he kills me as "Harry Prebble" in The Blue Gardenia. I had no idea he was gay until fairly recently--the guy had a bigger closet than Rock Hudson.

X. Trapnel said...

Burr's pyromaniac sadist in Raw Deal is especially memorable.

Yojimboen said...

"It looks like Soderbergh might've been warming up for The Limey, though, so I'm willing to cut it some slack."

Hear hear. I think The Limey is far and away Soderbergh's best work; Stamp's also, and perhaps even Fonda's.

Vanwall said...

Count me in on "The Limey", and it's got a lot of people's possible bests - Lesley Ann Warren and Luis Guzmán both are marvelous as well, and the writing was smart and effective. Soderbergh made good use of cuts and camera work, too - lots of depth in characters and in visuals.

Trish said...

My dream is to teach a class about Canadian actors in american film noir, with a significant focus on Raymond Burr. Politically incorrect as such behaviour might be now, I love the way he flambes his mistress' face in Raw Deal, and hustles Lizabeth Scott in Pitfall. He really had b*lls!

The Limey. I've seen it only once, but will never forget his words: "Tell them I'm coming." Absolutely chills me to the bone to think of it.

Karen said...

I watched Saturday's Children, too, and had a similar take: interesting beginning, nice Garfield, but not that memorable when all was said and done.

As you may know, I am most emphatically NOT in the Nyquil camp when it comes to Ronald Colman, but I was pleasantly surprised by The Late George Apley when I saw it. My parents had the novel on their shelves when I was a kid, and for some reason I got it in my head that it was some Dreiser-like novel of conflict and social criticism. I watched the film a couple of years back solely because Colman was in it and was staggered to learn that it was an exquisitely-tuned comedy.

Do you dislike Colman in The Talk of the Town as well? It seems that the presence of Cary Grant AND Jean Arthur ought to have a mitigating influence.

About Stage Door: I get that you don't want to out the person who stoked your ire, but can you at least share what the argument was? I'm not sure what elements of Hepburn's performance qualify as pre-feminist idyll, and I would dearly love to know.

On the bits and bobs front, Siren, can I ask if you by chance watched The Deadly Affair when it was on this past week or so (or at any point in the past)? James Mason in John Le Carre as directed by Sidney Lumet, and staggeringly good. Robert Osborne, who, despite his utter inability to pronounce anything French, nevertheless compels my absolute respect, informed me in his intro that Mason had been the first choice for Bond, which sends my brain reeling. Also, that Lumet was so delighted with the experience of working with Mason that, whenever he got a good script, he always tried to see if he could find a role for Mason in there somewhere.

Anyway: The Deadly Affair. Smart, complex, startling. An odd sub-plot with Mason's wife, which seemed at first to have floated in from another film, but which had a massive pay-off in the end. Wonderful actors in small roles--particularly a lovely turn by Roy Kinnear.

I just enjoyed the heck out of it, and I hadn't even heard of it before.

X. Trapnel said...

Karen, have you ever had the feeling that there was something Edwardian not to say Victorian about Hepburn's putative feminism? She always seems to me like a suffragette or bloomer girl who stumbled into the fast-talking 1930s. Very noticable in Stage Door in which she seems to be Constance Collier's contemporary.

Saturday's Children starts off wonderfully with a Borzage-like mood of urban romance,but the collapse into melodrama may be Maxwell Anderson's play. On the other hand Vincent Sherman's films often seem to mix genre.

Anne Shirley is adorable.

Karen said...

X., since learning of Kate's utter subservience to Spencer Tracy, I find it almost impossible to think of her as a feminist at all, and it has become painful to think of how long she was held up as one.

Trish said...

X. and Karen have touched on something very important about Hepburn. She rubs people the wrong way in certain films and Stage Door is one of them. Her role here is a cliche, and her ability to finally deliver the "calla lillies" speech is loathsomely self-serving. I love "Bringing up Baby" and "The Philadelphia Story" as much as anyone, but doesn't it seem that she parodies herself sometimes?

X. Trapnel said...

I thought the recent wisdom was that they hardly knew each other; ok,I exaggerate, that they were less close than the legend would have it.

Goose said...

Karen's point is well taken. So many times Kate gets a comeuppance leading to her learning her place in relation to the man, or men in general. Woman of the Year, and odiously, in the Philadelphia Story, when her father blames her(!) for his behavior, and she just sits there and takes it, for example.

In Bringing Up Baby, on the other hand, her character always is described as atypical for her, which it is, but not for the usual reasons given (i.e. screwball airhead). She in fact drives the plot, based on her determination to snare Cary Grant.

DavidEhrenstein said...

If you're going to teach Raymond Burr, Trish, you ought to do research on "Darg Kings" -- lesbian cross-dressers. Burr is a lesbian Drag King idol.

IOW a "crossover" object of interest for both gays and lesbians.

Like Dusty Springfield.

Tom Block said...

>lesbian Drag King idol

Why doesn't Ryan Seacrest do that show?

Yojimboen said...

Cross-dressing aside for the moment (this really is a potpourri post and no mistake); it probably happens more than we recognize that movies under discussion quite often have a common factor besides star or director, a kind of sub-rosa, under-the-radar auteurism, if you will. It transpires He Walked by Night and Raw Deal were both shot by my favourite D.P. John Alton.

‘Favourite’ because he was an opinionated maverick years before Haskell Wexler saw his first camera; Alton was almost universally disliked by his peers, who considered him a royal pain in the ass. (I wonder why I loved John Alton?) He was one the masters – if not the master – of the so-called noir genre. Bury Me Dead (with Cathy O’Donnell – be still my heart!); T-Men; The Amazing Mr. X; Hollow Triumph; The Crooked Way; Mystery Street; Border Incident; The Big Combo; Slightly Scarlet (a color ‘noir’) et al.

Much to the disapproval of the ASC, Minelli hired him to do the ballet sequence in American in Paris - his first color shoot – for which he won an Oscar®.

After shooting Elmer Gantry Lancaster requested Alton for Bird Man of Alcatraz. He started it, but when Lancaster fired Charles Crichton, the original director, Alton said ‘enough of this shit!’ and hit the bricks. He meant it. He disappeared; for years no one even knew where he was. He surfaced in 1966 to shoot the pilot for the original Mission Impossible series, then vanished again. He reappeared at 92 yrs-old, and the last 2-3 years of his life he granted interviews, lectured and attended some of the retro festivals. He was also given a Life Achievement Award by the L.A. Film Critics.
He died at 94 on June 2nd 1996.

On May 31st 2110 (two weeks ago) Willam Fraker ASC Rosemary's Baby; Bullitt; 1941; Close Encounters; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; Tombstone; Heaven Can Wait died.

Charles Noland said...

I was racking my brain to come up with anything I might have seen lately and was drawing a blank, but wait, I did see couple of Hitchcock movies. I liked "Young and Innocent", a "Thirty Nine Steps"-like movie with one of those wonderuful camera shots Hitchcock sometimes pulled off, and a good performance by Nova Pilbeam who was all of 17 when the movie was made.

I also watched "The Man Who Knew Too Much", which for some reason I never had much interest in, and my instincts turned out to be correct, just a more or less flat movie. Part of the problem is the child in danger aspect of the story gives it a somewhat disturbing tone, takes away any chance at a sense of fun that quite a few of Hitchcock's movies have. I also kept questioning whether the two main characters (Jimmy and Doris) were doing the right thing, and that's never a good thing to be wondering while watching a movie.

The Siren said...

Roszaphile, I haven't seen the Soderbergh remake (does that surprise anyone?) but I have seen He Walked by Night and Vanwall captures that bullet-removal scene perfectly.

The Limey rocks in every way. The pleasure I got out of my lifelong love crush Terence Stamp in that movie--ahhhhhh.

Exiled, good to see you. I really want to see those two Siodmaks for reasons probably no one on this blog could POSSIBLY fathom, but they have eluded me. I love the Crippen case, too; poor man became a byword for callousness when he was one of the more sympathetic murderers of history (if there is such a thing, and if indeed he was a murderer at all--I've seen people try to make the case that he wasn't really guilty). Did you ever read The False Inspector Dew?

The Siren said...

Karen, it wasn't an argument. As I recall I didn't even comment at the time, I just stewed and waited for the offender to drop in his traces, an old pattern with me. There wasn't what you'd call a point-by-point case made for Stage Door's anti-feminism, it was more like, "assertion, meet audience." As for Hepburn, between you, Trish and others, maybe I need to write an extended defense of her in this movie, because I think she captures the character perfectly. And the film allows for her career ambitions without trying to portray her as less female, or as Molly Haskell says, neurotic as a result. Ginger Rogers gets the best lines and more sympathy, but Hepburn ends up with the respect of her sisters. There's none of the final comeuppance Goose describes.

It can be argued that Hepburn's coddling of Tracy and his alcoholism obliterates claims to feminism but I think that would be wrong. Many, many women fall short on that score.

The Siren said...

Re: Raymond Burr and John Alton; the Siren feels the love too, oh boy does she.

And I haven't seen The Deadly Affair but I will keep an eye out for it.

Jacqueline, as I told Mythical Monkey, write that Flintstone idea up and I will link, and how.

Charles, I liked Young and Innocent too. The Stewart/Day Man Who Knew Too Much is my least favorite Hitchcock of that period, and I think it's the joyless marriage at the heart of it that bothers me. Glenn Kenny wrote it up some time back and made a very good case for the movie's excellence, but it leaves me cold and always has.

Karen said...

I think I may have been misconstrued.

I *do* think that Hepburn's roles created the idea of her as a feminist icon. Lord knows I held her up as an exemplar of strong-minded, free-thinking, untrammeled womanhood for most of my life.

Then, after her death, I started reading reports not just of coddling Tracy's alcoholism but literally making career decisions based on his demands--not to take certain roles, for example, if I recall correctly.

It left her substantially lower on the pedestal than I would ever have thought she could be.

I'm happy to be corrected on these scores. But my point wasn't that her performances undercut her feminist cred. And I'm still curious as to just how the description of her in Stage Door was framed.

The Siren said...

The fault lies not with you, dear Karen, but with the Siren's sleep-addled brain, which got your point all right, but didn't expand on it sufficiently. Indeed, when I said a lot of women fall short on that score, I was thinking too of Hepburn's refusing roles as well as just how goddamn MEAN Tracy could be to her, and her just putting up with it. And there's the fact that the ghastly ending of Woman of the Year was Kate's idea. And I've written before about how squicked out I get by every single man in Philadelphia Story save, gloriously, Stewart (and yes, that includes Grant's character, although he's great in the role). Blech, the way they all pile on Tracy (ironic name, that) for daring to check out on her alcoholic husband, and that speech her father gives about how it's HER fault he cheats on his wife; I can't be the only one who needs an anti-emetic to get through those scenes.

But I still give her props personally for eschewing the family trappings that were de rigeur for a female star of almost any magnitude, and keeping up her career even if Tracy had a greater effect than he should have. I dunno, it always struck me as no coincidence that her biggest caretaker role with him came at a time when she was making the transition into older roles, always a painful time for an actress anyway. In some sense he may have been an excuse.

I may have rambled on TOO much here.

As for Stage Door, the original post has disappeared from the web, so I reasoned that posting my long-ago quarrel with it could do no harm. I swear I'm not being coy. It hinged on Katharine Hepburn, and it was, with only slight embellishment: "Look at this great movie, and weren't women's pictures so much better before feminism?" Like that.

Trish said...

David Ehrenstein said...
If you're going to teach Raymond Burr, Trish, you ought to do research on "Darg Kings" -- lesbian cross-dressers. Burr is a lesbian Drag King idol.


Whoa, David. I'm not even gonna touch that one... :D

X. Trapnel said...

Y, I thought I was the only breathless admirer of Bury Me Dead. I should have known...

My sense of Hepburn is that she was essentially a theater artist making films (a reason for her deep affinity with Cukor) and the fact is that a the time American theater was retrograde stuff (mostly unstagable today) as compared to film. It was always said of Hepburn that she was "different" from other movie stars. Well, from whom: Loy, Stanwyck, Sullavan, Lombard, Dunne? Yes, but to her disadvantage (try to imagine her in the last scene of The Awful Truth). My problem with her besides the mannered, brittle delivery (her "modernity" makes me think of Edna St. V. Millay or Elinor Wylie, modern attitudinizing in the language of Shelley) is that her films are all about her--either being exalted or put in her place and the subtext of her performances is always acting rather than being. I think La Cava and Hawks challenged her in a way Cukor (another Victorian, David C and Little Women being his best, Gaslight something of a throwback) never did. I find The Philadelphia Story odious for all the usual reasons, but its also socially reactionary in addition to its implicit antifeminism. The Stewart character is condescended to throughout and sent back to the lowlands while aristocratic privilege is reasserted.

Yar. Yecch.

X. Trapnel said...

Crikes! I forgot to add my beloved Jean Arthur to the list of "conventional" movie stars Hepburn was so very different from.

Exiled in NJ said...

Ah, The Deadly Affair; I saw that in 1967-68 at Ft. Jackson SC in a theater filled with trainees who would usually sit rapt with attention at anything on the screen, but the heavy accents of the cast sent most of the fatigue clad soldiers to the exits.

Yes, Siren, I have a special place in my heart for Peter Lovesey's The False Inspector Dew. It was one of the few Lovesey's I liked because I knew he could not give us another volume. In a newsletter in 2003 I wrote,

"The name "Crippen" often popped up in mysteries written in the next twenty or thirty years, the "Golden Age" of mystery writing. Perhaps the last word on the case came with the publishing in our time of Peter Lovesey’s The False Inspector Dew, a farcial reworking of the Crippen tale where on the ship, asked for a name, the Crippen-like character gives "Walter Dew." A murder is then committed on board and "Dew" is asked to solve it, but I better not tell you anymore."

Emlyn Williams, in an essay in a book of famous Scotland Yard cases, theorized the poisoning was an accident.

The chase to Montreal was an early precursor of the Bronco affair of 1994, since wireless on the pursuit ship and the newspapers of the time kept the public in the loop.

Trish said...

I'm juiced by the Stage Door/Kate discussion. I think I’ll head out for the DVD.

I'm not on the Tracy/Hepburn bandwagon. Cynicism set in a long time ago as I read studio-fabricated accounts of their love affair in old movie magazines: Noble Kate waits forever for the man whose religion forbids him to divorce his wife. Adultery’s okay, but divorce is a no-no? A nice convenience for both of them, I say. That said, I do enjoy watching them – just not together. I prefer Hepburn in her younger days, but can only tolerate Tracy as a white-haired authoritarian. Specifically, Bad Day at Black Rock. Anyone who stands up to Robert Ryan is okay in my books.

William Fraker – so sorry to hear he’s gone. He directed several episodes of one of my all-time favourite tv shows – Wiseguy. And man, did they look good.

Goose said...

I also am not on the Tracy/Hepburn bandwagon and echo Trish. Actually, they were best with each other when Kate was down to earth, so Pat and Mike, Desk Set, and Without Love (first half) are the best, and prefer them separately.

I think Tracy was best when his grumpiness and even meanness can come out - I even like his leering Mr. Hyde, but his Jekyll was hopeless miscasting (elegant Victorian gentleman, I don't think so) - such as Fury, Bad Day at Block Rock, Inherit the Wind, Broken Lance, and Northwest Passage.

X. Trapnel said...

The cards are stacked against Ryan in Bad Day but he still out-acts Tracy and his crust-like smugness.

A friend of mine insists that Without Love directed by George H. Nobody is the only film in which Tracy and Hepburn actually generate some romantic heat.

Vanwall said...

The Crippen case was a major example of the new "criminology" and technology catching up to reality - as a CSI-ish doc, it would make an excellent subject for the process-minded - it was positively Holmes-ian in the mattrafactual vein. Otherwise, it's a rather tawdry story, but curiously inspirational as a "swipe", it's right up there with Ed Gein as a jumping-off point for the weak-story-minded screenwriter.

I'm a big Alton fan, too, he had much more influence on the "look" of films in general than I think he's given credit for. If anyone took advantage of the pure, glorious blackness of nitrate film, it was surely at its apogee with Alton.

As for Kate Hepburn, I'll paraphrase Lina Lamont: "I can't stannn 'er!" Very, very few of her films will this deponent re-watch after the first viewings, which are usually for completist reasons regarding other players.

"Squicked" - oooh, I've always liked that level of icky, but afeared it was from too, yes, squicky, a few newsgroups to use in good company.

Goose said...

I saw another Borzage film, Secrets. It also is Mary Pickford's last film. Leslie Howard is the other lead. Both are quite good. The film lists at 84 minutes and shares the fault with other films of the 30's in trying to tell an epic story in too short a time. It would be GWTW with the dance, skipping to the evacuation of Atlanta, and then to the final scene. The first was delightfully comic, with the couple coming together over the objections of her father, C. Aubrey Smith. They meet when Mary tries to swat a bee away from her mother and Leslie mistakes it for a wave. (It really plays quite wittily.) After a montage of migration to California, the middle section is a grim vignette of pioneer life, and the third act is a soap opera. An epilog returns to the spirit of the first section. Overall, the film was less seamless than History is Made at Night or Big City in the Borzage canon in going from comedy to drama, but was worth seeing.

Goose said...

Although I disagree, I think I understand X's perpective on Bad Day (regarding Tracy), but bear in mind, that knowing the Old Man was going to win, we have to be interested in the journey. Just like the Adventures of Robin Hood. I find the karate beatdown of Borgnine as exhiliarating as Robin splitting the arrow.

Ernest B reminisced on TCM that he and Robert Ryan during filming remarked between themselves that something was wrong with Tracy in that he did not seem to be doing anything (or words to that effect), until they saw the rushes.

Trish said...

Robert Ryan is always a joy to watch. His performances are informed by the demons that surely lurked within, and we are richer for him. Spencer Tracy performs from the surface. I wonder what he thought of Ryan?

X. Trapnel said...

I'd never suggest that Tracy was not a fine actor and, yes, he's very good in Black Rock, but his performances are almost immediately exhaustible. Oh, you may spot some gesture or flicker you hadn't noticed before but just compare Ryan's cruelty/kindness in say On Dangerous Ground to Tracy's customary meanness/goodness.

Vanwall said...

Ronald Neame has gone to sit at the right hand of the Lord, sad to say. A life in film almost like no other's.

Charles Noland said...

Siren - I didn't really notice the marriage as joyless, wasn't looking for it either so it could be there, I figured they were both pretty grim because the kid had been taken.

X - I've never cared much for Robert Ryan as an actor, always seemed a bit stiff, looked like he was acting. But maybe it's his physical self I don't like, an actor can't do too much with that component of acting, or presence as the case may be. I'll take Tracy or Borgnine over Ryan in Bad Day at Black Rock.

Tom Block said...

Ryan's sneering violent cynicism repeated itself, with every detail intact, over way too many movies (and in The Naked Spur he's close to pure self-parody), but in the right part he was nothing short of awesome. I'm especially thinking of Ophuls' Caught and The Wild Bunch. People always talk about Holden in the latter--and he is great in it--but for me the two killer performances come from Ryan and Emilio Fernandez, who played General Mapache. Those are two incredibly lived-in performances.

I think Ryan would've benefited a lot if he'd been born 10 or 15 years later--the only actor who I wish that even more for is Garfield. Like Garfield, Ryan had the equipment for modern acting and he always kept getting better, but in the '50s there were just too many chances for him to get thrown into the same downer role again and again. It must've gotten old for him, too.

Vanwall said...

I love Robert Ryan, he's a fave. A couple of his more interesting later performances are in "The Professionals", where he plays a sensitive - at least to critters - horse wrangler, and the 1971 "Lawman", where he plays a washed-up marshal who's had to eat dirt, and flee a few times before, on the long trail downhill, but who still has a little sand left in 'im.

Tom Block said...

And I guess I should check out Black Rock again. It sure looked like malarkey the one time I saw it.

X. Trapnel said...

Robert Ryan is a favorite of mine too; I suppose I respond to Tracy the Charles does to Ryan. As to the monotony Tom Block notes (don't agree) it may stem from Ryan's frustration with the kind of parts he was getting. Personally, I think he's playing Dan Duryea in Naked Spur.

It's hard to imagine, but Ryan wanted to do romantic comedy. Well, who knows?

Trish said...

He's particularly good in Crossfire (oh the awesomeness of Gloria Grahame!), On Dangerous Ground and Lonelyhearts. I worship the man so imagine my horror while watching Billy Budd. I'm sure this one has its defenders, but I was embarassed for Ryan. Oh God! He's so miscast - that silly costume..!!! It makes me shudder to remember...

X. Trapnel said...

Lonelyhearts! Another botched filming of a masterpiece (with a happy ending, ferkrissakes!) albeit with a perfect cast. Oh what Ryan could have done with Shrike as written!

Let's not forget the Dore Schary brain fart that caused the character of Betty to be rechristened Justy.

Justy.

Tom Block said...

Trish, you're right, he's also good in Crossfire. And I guess he's good in On Dangerous Ground but I've got such a prejudice against that movie because the second half is so dull and goody two-shoes. Nita Talbot in that bar scene, though...Jesus God!

Speaking of Dore Schary brain farts, I watched Ray's A Woman's Secret last night. It's a mess, beginning with that title--it can't decide what it wants to be and a major motivation is left hanging--but it's still kind of charming. Herman Mankiewicz wrote the script, Melvyn Douglas and Maureen O'Hara show some surprising chemistry, and it's also the project where Nick met Gloria (though she isn't that great in it).

X. Trapnel said...

The whole bar scene is out of this world! How 'bout screenwriter Bezzerides as the sleazoid bar owner trying to bribe Ryan. The urban half of the film is of the stuff Scorsese would later turn operatic to no good puropse.

I admit the second half is a bit sentimental, but Ryan and Ward Bond spike the honey with iron shavings and Herrmann's music is dazzling.

Trish said...

Nita Talbot was in On Dangerous Ground??? The gal I'm thinking of played the desk clerk who let women into Rock Hudson's apartment/hotel in A Very Special Favor, hoping he'd hit on her one day. She's wonderful in that film, and eventually makes a more sensible choice in cab driver Larry Storch.

X. Trapnel said...

Nita Talbot indeed. She comes on like an even more depraved Sternwood daughter.

Karen said...

It hinged on Katharine Hepburn, and it was, with only slight embellishment: "Look at this great movie, and weren't women's pictures so much better before feminism?"

That elicited an actual audible gasp from me. What a stupendously ignorant statement, on so many levels. When I think of how many of the "pre-feminist" pre-Code films involved woman making overtly "feminist" stands, a crack like that just makes my blood boil.

Goose, I also liked Secrets, which just kept taking turns I didn't expect.

Tom Block, checking out Black Rock again ain't a bad idea. There are many joys, both large and small in it. A personal favorite moment of mine is courtesy of the great Lee Marvin, and is actually just the way he gets up out of a hotel chair at one point. I don't really know how to describe it, but I swear you'll know what I mean when you see it.

X. Trapnel said...

Is it Marvin who drawls to Tracy, "Looks like you could use a hand, Mister."

Trish said...

Black Rock is also one the best looking films of the 50s. The mountains and sky are huge, and so beautiful. And the train - gasp! Note how Ann Francis just plays one of the boys, and thus her sex doesn't make her immune to the violence.

X. Trapnel said...

That train was truly frightening; what an image!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Ronald Neame R.I.P.

Trish said...

I'm speechless. I just watched The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie 2 nights ago. When I first saw it as a teenager, it was the first time I'd ever seen a naked woman onscreen...

Yojimboen said...

Bits and bobs:

I always thought the most interesting romance in Philadelphia Story was the one between Roland Young and Virginia Weidler.

“Squicked”? I agree I should get out more and, having no teenagers in the house, ‘squicked’ is a new one on me. I’ve no idea what it means, but after encountering it, I feel like taking a shower.

Ronnie Neame is gone, and it all changes.
Just look at his filmography.

With last year’s passing of Jack Cardiff and Ken Annakin (on the same day) Neame became the senior member (and mainmast) of BAFTA-LA.
He was the last of the giants.

It’s fair to say throughout his years in Hollywood, he was the modern equivalent of Karloff, Aubrey Smith, Coleman, Niven, Aherne, Mowbray and Hardwicke rolled into one.

As a producer, Neame, more than anyone else, wrestled the post-war British industry up off its knees with films like: This Happy Breed; Brief Encounter; Great Expectations; Oliver Twist; and most of all, The Magic Box.

I remember the night (May 2 2008) at the American Cinematheque’s David Lean Centenary celebration. Guests included Jean Simmons, James Fox; editor Anne V. Coates et al. At the last minute, Neame begged off and sent his apologies. Host David Thomson read them to the audience: “Sorry I can’t make it …the old legs aren’t up to it… Besides, need I remind you I’m a little bit older than David Lean; by the time David was my age he’d been dead for fifteen years.”

Tom Block said...

Talbot's moment in On Dangerous Ground can be seen here.

I also love Ryan's scene with Cleo Moore. I'm a total sucker for the old-school broads like Gladys George and Anne Revere--it's a species that's hard to find in today's movies.

Nora said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DavidEhrenstein said...

I interviewed Mr. Neame a few years back.

jonerik said...

I give up! I confess to being unable to identify the film, the actress or the actor in the Siren's masthead photo. Is it Ann Sheridan?

Yojimboen said...

Jacques Dumesnil and the

utterly miraculous, 21-year-old

Danielle Darrieux

in Retour à l'Aube (1938)

Yojimboen said...

P.S.

The Siren said...

Wow, y'all were busy while the Siren was offline. I just want to say that I really, really like Bad Day at Black Rock; never thought that being a message movie was an automatic disqualifier for greatness. (No one is saying that here, but it does crop up a lot with that movie.) It looks great, it plays well, Spencer Tracy does a splendid slow burn, and Ryan and Marvin are on top of their games.

RIP Mr. Neame, indeed. Thanks for all the comment tributes to him.

The Siren said...

And, re: Mr. Neame--I'm completely crazy about The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Major childhood favorite. "ASS-ASSSSS-INNNN!!!!!"

X. Trapnel said...

"But the age of miracles, it hadn't passed."--I. Gershwin

Re The miraculous Mlle. D: Retour a l'Aube (damn, I thought it was Albert Luguet. Thanx Y) and the sublimely titled Madmoiselle Mozart (who else could fulfill that sobriquet, bet W.A. screens in constantly in paradise, while Constanze rolls her eyes) are my current DVD grails.

"And what were they going to DO with the Holy Grail when they found it, Mr. Rossetti?"--Max Beerbohm

jonerik said...

Thank you. I must say, Dannielle Darrieux and Jacques Dumesnil certainly are a striking couple. They have quite a screen presence. Ive never heard of the film but now I'm going to seek it out.

X. Trapnel said...

Good luck finding it.

DD has more than presence. The screen cannot contain her. Ophuls alone could give her all the magic space she needed.

To return to Hepburn, she certainly had great presence. Some actors evaporate from your thoughts as you watch them move across the screen. Others have a mere thereness, a neutral quality that denotes a certain physical inevitablity that occasions no feelings of affection or dislike, something like a drab building that no one notices or minds. One day it is demolished but it's years before anyone notes its absence. Once gone, the open space shows only empty air (not toxic but too drab to breathe) rather than a new vista, so that the blankness is simultaneously material and immaterial.

Lorne Greene is the prefect example.

Yojimboen said...

Happily, most of the Noirs we’ve been discussing this week are viewable on line.

This link here will take you to a sizeable noir trove (59 titles) all screenable, or downloadable, gratis.

And it’s all legal – all Public Domain.

Enjoy.

Trish said...

X., I can't think of a single film featuring Lorne Greene. He's a radio voice to me, and of course, Ben Cartwright.

Vanwall said...

The only film I can remember Greene from is "Peyton Place" - he was a TV actor pretty much for everything else. I actually remember him fondly as a sort of demonic narrator on one of the god-damnedest half-hour teleplays I ever saw, "Legends of the Spanish Kitchen", locally produced and shown on KABC Los Angeles in 1985. Lorne Greene starred with Phil Hartman (!) and Los Lobos (!!), and was directed by T-Bone Burnett (!!!!!)- about a cursed taco stand. And no I ain't makin' this up.

The Siren said...

Vanwall, Greene in Peyton Place gives you renewed appreciation for George C. Scott in Anatomy of a Murder or Vincent Price in Leave Her to Heaven.

Vanwall said...

Siren, Scott was a revelation in that one, and along with his work in "The Hustler" and "The Hospital", those are three of my favorite growling attack dog scenes on film.

Trish said...

Oh, my. George C. Scott is very gay in The Hustler, but not as gay as in Anatomy of a Murder.

X. Trapnel said...

Oh I just meant Greene as an actor and dog food pitchman in general. In the town I grew up in there was a tremendous boulder in front of the elementary school. Like the leopard in The Snows of Kilimanjaro nobody knows how it got there. It wasn't picturesque, had no landmark status, wasn't a meeting place. Nobody ever spoke about it. It was just THERE. It still is. Though Lorne Greene has left us he seems as solid, inevitable, and pointless as that boulder.

X. Trapnel said...

Siren, Price's lawyerly skills in Leave Her to Heaven are less impressive when considered against Ray Collins' defense strategy of writing stuff down on a pad. An Ikea CD rack could have mounted a better defense.

The Siren said...

"An Ikea CD rack could have mounted a better defense."

I have no response to this. I'm laughing too hard.

Goose said...

Hilarious!

Ray Collins is Perry Mason and Clarence Darrow rolled into one, however, compared to Fred Clark in "A Place in the Sun." He offers some hopeless objections, immediately resumes his slouch, and stares into space the whole trial.

X. Trapnel said...

I hope I didn't imply any criticism of Ray Collins, a great, great actor. His Jim Geddes is of course indelible, but as Jack Amberson he brings to life every whiskery, semi-eminent 19th century American you've ever seen in a bleak, grainy photograph. Only the terrifyingly vapid face of Benjamin Harrison remains utterly unreadable, but I digress...

Trish said...

Although Peyton Place is one of my guilty pleasures, I have a hard time remembering Lorne Greene in it. I never think of Ray Collins in Perry Mason. Though I've seen many of his films, I always think of him first in The Fountainhead.

Tom Block said...

Is this thing still on?

So I succumbed to peer pressure and watched Bad Day again. It's better than I remembered but I definitely prefer the first half, before it gets so focused on the mystery, which frankly does nothing for me. But the early part has some great stuff. It's great at braiding 2-3 genres together, and it's fun just as a star-gazing movie--it really gives you time to hang out and watch Ryan, Marvin, Brennan, et al., do their thing. It also does a lot of spatial stuff I'm into, like the high overhead shot which gives you the town's layout right at the outset. It uses real-time action (if a character walks from Point A to B, it takes him about as much time as that walk would actually take--the movie doesn't just cut and he's magically arrived) and plays it out as viewed by different characters in different locations, with the meaning changing with each viewpoint. (Deadwood did this to perfection.) Also, I'm a sucker for the Lone Pine/Alabama Hills area anyway, but it was so perfect here it felt like the landscape could've inspired the story. There's still no way Spencer Tracy beats up Ernie Borgnine with those goofy little karate chops, though. (And Old Man Tracy fought in Italy? I don't think so!) But I give it bonus points for Tracy's arm when he throws the Molotov cocktail--he really wings that thing!

X. Trapnel said...

Did BDABR cheat a bit by making Ryan a shirker or 4F? Crossfire was more daring in that regard.

Tom Block said...

He just says he failed his physical the day after Pearl Harbor. He sure wanted to go kill Japs, though!