Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Alert: Rare Joan Fontaine


The Siren got another email from a pal late last week, this time alerting her to a YouTube rarity: Something to Live For (1952). "I've been wanting to see this practically my whole life," said her correspondent; "it's never shown anywhere, at any time." Why should it be, really, directed as it was by Hollywood small fry George Stevens, sandwiched between two pieces of indie esoterica called A Place in the Sun and Shane. Seriously, the Siren has no flipping idea why this one is rare, since it appears to have been written directly for the screen, and come on, George Stevens?

But of course, we know why the gentleman emailed the Siren, and it wasn't to stoke any latent auteurist leanings, although the Siren is a Stevens fan: "It stars Joan Fontaine. As a drunk."

Naturally the Siren watched in one quick hurry, and she suggests her fellow Fontaine obsessives do the same, since who knows when Something to Live For will turn up again. The version posted has Spanish subtitles and one of those cable watermarks that never fail to inspire murderous thoughts in the Siren. The recording is decent, no more, although the Siren warns there are a couple of scenes in darkened theaters that may make you think you're watching The Light That Failed. But overall it's good enough and the film is worth your while, with a warmth and sincerity that grew on the Siren.

Although there's plenty of Fontaine, and she's in good form, it's really Ray Milland's show, a pendant to The Lost Weekend that shows what Don Birnam might have been facing 14 months after going on the wagon. Milland plays Alan Miller, an ad executive whose participation in AA leads him one night to the shabby Times Square hotel room of Jenny Carey (Fontaine), an actress whose crippling insecurity and busted romance have contributed to her drinking. He's drawn to her immediately. Although Jenny's able to stop drinking soon after Alan comes on the scene, her fledgling struggles to stay off the sauce mirror the trouble he's having with his own sobriety.

In fact, what's most interesting about the plot and characters isn't that they fall in love. It's the way the movie bypasses the initial battle to quit drinking in favor of looking at just how hard it is to stay quit. Alan's advertising job is yet another forerunner of "Mad Men" and that show's take on the industry's socializing, so often more grisly than anything that goes down at the office. The hard-drinking nature of the era and the job test Alan constantly--the people who press him to drink a toast, the maitre d' who keeps telling him to wait at the bar where a visibly irritated bartender repeatedly asks him for an order, the office party where the same boss who was gossiping over whether he was "nipping again" pours him a drink. And when Alan goes home, his loving and supportive wife still jerks bolt upright if he happens to stumble on the way into the bedroom. It helps that the wife is played by Teresa Wright, who could make simple feminine decency more interesting and moving than just about any other actress.

Still, it's logical that Alan would fall hard for Jenny, who understands his ordeal in a way no one else does. Plus, Fontaine looks so beautiful that you believe a man would fall in love with her even when she's so sloshed she can barely raise her head off the pillow. Fontaine's part is harder than Milland's--her sobering up is abrupt, her psychology isn't explored as much and the script asks her to go from alcoholic defensiveness to gentle adoration without much of a way station in between. Her talent enables her to pull most of it off, however, and Fontaine's pained reactions at a chic party are especially wonderful.

Downsides include a certain predictably of plot and dialogue and a saccharine, repetitive score that irritated even the Siren, who usually thinks any decent screen kiss should include a full orchestra. The opening is marvelous, with some of the most interesting visuals--lots of "cage" shots through the paned windows and the grille of the elevator. And as the Siren's email pal pointed out, the movie is full of luxurious dissolves and many close-ups of Fontaine and Milland. There's a couple of beautiful process shots of the old Penn Station that will make New Yorkers weep.

AND, at the end, you get Joan Fontaine's bare midriff, with a jewel in her navel. If that doesn't make you click through, the Siren doesn't know what will.

73 comments:

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

"It helps that the wife is played by Teresa Wright, who could make simple feminine decency more interesting and moving than just about any other actress."

Bless you, my child.

I also loved the bit about a decent screen kiss being accompanied by a full orchestra.

Never saw this one. Got to now.

The Siren said...

It's true though, isn't it? Wright takes these thankless good-girl roles and makes them glow. Incredibly hard thing to do, and she accomplished it again and again.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Don't know this one at all. Thanks for the heads up.

My favorte movie about alcoholism is Chabrol's Betty in which a very soignee Stephane Audran checks herself inot a nice hotel and proceeds to quietly get sloshed. Alont in her room.

Place Vendome with Catherine Deneuve is also teriffic, especially for the scene where she wanders through a restaurant drinking the dregs of abandoned cocktails -- some of them with stubbed-out cigarettes in them.

The Siren said...

I so totally have to see that restaurant scene. Deneuve has such a cool, elegant reputation and yet she is always doing seriously messed-up stuff in her movies. Love her.

Peter Nellhaus said...

I first heard about Something to Live For from an acquaintance when I was a student volunteer at MoMA's film department, well over thirty years ago. This seems to be the George Stevens film that disappeared, sometimes not even getting listed in filmographies. This film isn't even mentioned in George Stevens, Jr.'s documentary on his father, although he charitably doesn't mention The Only Game in Town, either.

The Siren said...

Peter, it's no masterpiece, but it is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, either. I would love to see a real version of it so I could get a better read on its looks. But even if you just watch Part 1 on Youtube I think you'll get an excellent view of its virtues and defects. The first few shots are odd indeed. I really wonder why this one has disappeared? It's Paramount, that's one explanation. But I'm hoping an all-knowing commenter will pop in with a lowdown.

X. Trapnel said...

wha? wha? eifelasleep. did someone say Joan Fontaine's bare midriff?

The Siren said...

XT, the Siren would not lie to you.

eva said...

Joan Fontaine AND Teresa Wright? :O

I love Joan in the 40s but for me Joan sort of passed it in about 1950, but maybe this movie will make me change my mind.

The watermark is not so bad...I was imagining something totally obnoxious across the middle of the screen...

X. Trapnel said...

I am awake now.

Sorry to have missed the last posting. Fond as I am of Paulette G. Olivia D. (d.?), my first movie love, is sexier still. Did it really take Truffaut to discover the allure of nice girls? No, it was there all the time.

Hope David Cairns is right about the upswing of Leisen's reputation. About time, I'd say.

Dan Callahan said...

Glad you took this tip :) When David Ehrenstein hasn't seen a movie, you know it's rare.

Considering George Stevens's reputation, and how few films he made, it is very strange that this one, made during his award-heavy "significant" period, has been so lost for so long.

If nothing else, it let's you see that no one used slow dissolves like Stevens did at this point, except maybe Von Sternberg in the early '30s. I love the weird mixing of images after the credits.

It isn't a great movie, but there's something about it...and the big scene at the party with Fontaine's abusive ex-bf is upsetting (the actor who plays him is quite believable, and Fontaine's underplayed reactions are very effective).

The play that her character is starring in, with its "Egyptian" theme, seems extremely unlikely to salvage the poor drunk woman's acting career, but maybe that bare midriff might pay off.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Speaking of a "Leisen Upswing," here's the big number from his last movie (which was also RKO's last movie.)

Daniela said...

I never saw this one, but plan to do it as soon as I get the chance (I might also add that I took The Siren's suggestion and saw "Ivy" last week).

I guess my favourite Joan Fontaine movie from the 1950's is "September Affair", where she is cast alongside Joseph Cotten. Another one to remember me that Hollywood could once deal with romance between people over 22.

Speaking of the other Charlie - any chance we turn this into a Teresa Wright appreciation comment section? I'm crossing my fingers...

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Interesting that while even minor Douglas Sirk films are being released on DVD, this George Stevens film hasn't. I wonder why TCM hasn't shown this. Perhaps we should all email TCM to get it shown. Have they ever done a Joan Fontaine month?

The Siren said...

XT, ultimately Olivia/Paulette is what Wall Street calls a win-win situation.

Eva, the watermark isn't that big but those things make me NUTS. I can ignore scratches and wobbly sound and all sorts of those but those stupid station ID things make me stabby.

Dan, ha! you outed yourself! I didn't want the Youtube Polizei to come after you. Yes, the party scene is Fontaine's best and the ex-bf shows how incredibly creepy you can be toward a woman without so much as leaning in her direction. Milland plays it well too, his rage at the guy at war with his worry over Jenny, his consciousness of his wife in the next room and the damn glass of champagne right in front of him. I also loved the ref to Milland's rival maybe being on the same path he was.

Daniela, I hope you liked Ivy! I haven't seen September Affair yet. And yes, the Siren adores Teresa Wright; Shadow of a Doubt is her favorite HItchcock.

Tom Block said...

>the watermark isn't that big but those things make me NUTS.

Roger that. After your post on What Price Hollywood? I made a point of finding a copy of it online, and was pretty totally blown away by it. But the copy I got was a burn from a TCM broadcast, and their logo appeared on the screen AT THE EXACT MOMENT that Sherman was pulling out a certain object, and remained there while he did what he did with it. Whether or not they knew where the logo would appear, they couldn't have cared that they were breaking the fourth wall at the exact moment that it should've been as solid as a rock. As much as I loved the movie, I haven't wanted to watch it again until I get an ad-free copy of it.

Vanwall said...

I loved the determination in her voice and on her face when Wright decides to break-up Dana Andrew's and Virginia Mayo's marriage in TBYOOL - she knows it's wrong, but conversely, she know's it's right for Andrews to make the break, and it's a painful admission you can tell, but the good girl wants to do what she has to. Not that she gets the chance, but there was some some steel there that should depth.

I'll have to look at this mysteriously unwanted Fontaine, thanks for the link.

Lou Lumenick said...

Something to Live For at least played on ABC in the early '70s as part of the same Paramount package as My Son John. Leisen's Darling, How Could You! (1951) with Fontaine to my knowledge has never surfaced at all.

The Siren said...

Hi Lou! Mystery illuminated a bit (thank you very much as always) but not solved. I mean, it's hardly My Son John in terms of maudit status. Maybe, since Peter mentions GS Jr didn't discuss it, Something to LIve For tanked so badly, or Stevens grew to hate it so much, that the estate has never been keen on having it out there.

By the by, David Cairns has recently seen Darling How Could You? as part of his mission from the Almighty to see everything ever made, and says it's pretty swell--that the title is the worst thing about it. Since it's Fontaine, and we evidently have some serious Fontaine fanatics on Youtube (BLESS YOU ALL), maybe that one will turn up.

Elizabeth, Paramount titles aren't part of the TCM library although they have been licensing some and showing them when possible. I know there's a lot of Paramount movies that TCM would love to show. Maybe this one will turn up.

Tom, I am so sorry about WPH! Gad, those things are a blot. I don't know what the purpose is. With today's remotes you can always figure out what you're watching if you need to.

X. Trapnel said...

V, I prefer to think of Wright's (terrific) reading of that line as premordial/elemental femaleness breaking out of its good girl confines.

The Siren said...

Vanwall, it seems to me that Wright does have some steel in most of her roles--definitely in Shadow, and also in The Little Foxes. She was often the purest one around, and yet the one best equipped to perceive evil or wrongdoing and go do something about it.

Dan Callahan said...

Being a Joan Fontaine fan seems to require a lot of skulking around ebay and YouTube and other dark alleys for copies of all these never-shown, blocked movies. I still haven't seen "From This Day Forward," or "Darling, How Could You!" Or "Frenchman's Creek." And I sold my first-born for a barely visible bootleg of "The Constant Nymph."

And when I think of all the junk that's available on Region I DVD, but no "Letter From an Unknown Woman" yet!

Those watermarks seem to be there so that you know where the movie came from, so that it can be traced back to a certain channel. It is a shame when the TCM logo comes on during a particularly dramatic scene, but at least it isn't there all the time.

X. Trapnel said...

I too have wondered about the elusiveness of key Fontainiana (I got my Constant Nymph from Lord Bountiful aka Yojimboen, thus denying the Devil another soul), but am I alone in harboring whispery suspicions of skullduggery on Olivia's part?

Kent Jones said...

I saw this movie a few years ago and liked it very much. Dramatically, it doesn't quite add up, but the portrait of people trying to cope with alcoholism is moving, extremely well-detailed, always surprising.

For the record, here's what Manny Farber wrote when he put it on his best of 1952 list: "A soap opera that started with a story that was practically nothing and ended up as a strangely disturbing, clean, uncluttered picture of alcoholism; mark up another score for the camera magic of Director George Stevens, the only genuine pioneer working in current films: he evokes a rich lather of romance with his slow, imaginative use of looming close-ups, overlapping dissolves, filtered camera effects, and oddly contrived compositions; story-telling images bring out the inner problems of characters in a purely cinematic way: two members of Alcoholics Anonymous trembling through a party, with the camera insistently hovering over trays of Martinis and highballs; creditable acting by Milland and Fontaine."

panavia999 said...

OOOh! thanks so much for the pointer. I have to watch youtube movies by coming to the office on weekends because there is no broadband in the sticks. I also second a Theresa Wright appreciation day!

Nora said...

Siren: Darling How Could You-1951--John Lund, Joan Fontaine.........
Tom has a copy of this on his list of available titles. Robert may as well. They both frequently come up with obscure films.

Quality varies, but is usually okay.

But I'm not certain how such things are handled on a forum such as this.

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

Siren: Tom says he has the following:

Ivy
Something to Live For
Frenchman’s Creek
The Constant Nymph

Haven't asked about some of the others mentioned here.

However, if this is improper conduct, please let me know.

Vanwall said...

Teresa Wright had my favorite clause in her contract:

"The aforementioned Teresa Wright shall not be required to pose for photographs in a bathing suit unless she is in the water. Neither may she be photographed running on the beach with her hair flying in the wind. Nor may she pose in any of the following situations: In shorts, playing with a cocker spaniel; digging in a garden; whipping up a meal; attired in firecrackers and holding skyrockets for the Fourth of July; looking insinuatingly at a turkey for Thanksgiving; wearing a bunny cap with long ears for Easter; twinkling on prop snow in a skiing outfit while a fan blows her scarf; assuming an athletic stance while pretending to hit something with a bow and arrow."

Smart gal.

"Something to Live For" has a great start in the bedroom, the shot is ambitious and clever, and the movement and pacing sets the tone for the rest of the film. Kinda sappy ending, tho, but the three leads are damned good, with not an un-intelligent performance between them. This one deserves to get out more, it's too good to bury.

gmoke said...

"Something to Live For" is also the title of a great Billy Strayhorn song.

The Siren said...

Dan, it's so true about Fontaine movies. Some of her best work is circulating like samizdat, and it is a frustrating thing. The Constant Nymph is example numero uno and tops on most people's wishlist. I had a copy sent by a kind reader but it was so poor that I only made it about 25 minutes in before giving up and deciding to wait it out. And it's Edmund Goulding, who's another director I love more with each film. That one is tied up due to our old friend, the Bewildering Rights Situation. Others just seem to have disappeared by neglect or perceived lack of interest.

XT, maybe Lord Bountiful Yojimboen's copy of Nymph is better than mine? I am laughing at the notion of Olivia withholding her sister's work. If so, Joan is getting her own back via Hold Back the Dawn and My Cousin Rachel.

The Siren said...

Kent, what a delight to discover one's perceptions line with the great Farber, as well as yours. It does tend to increase my amazement that this one is out of circulation, though. It seems we all agree that the party is the best part, although the opening is really something too. The play at the end, as Dan says, is a puzzlement. I guess the Egyptian setting was picked so they could have the earlier scene in the Egyptian room at the Met, which I also loved. But I did wonder what this David Belasco-style pageant was doing on Broadway in the early 50s.

X. Trapnel said...

Siren, you're welcome to sample my quite watchable copy even if it seems that Georges Seurat was DP (sharper at least than if it were Mr. Whistler).

I've long been interested in Goulding, sensing a very talented director saddled with unworkable actors (e.g., Paul Muni who mucks up the weirdly fascinating We Are Not Alone).

The Siren said...

Nora, not at all, thanks for the pointer. I have a couple of those but Darling How Could You? is on my wishlist.

Vanwall, that may be the best contract clause ever, I agree. Particularly if you've spent time browsing through vintage starlets wearing bunny ears for Easter etc. I don't know what the modern equivalent of that is; I suppose it's all those photo shoots where they're made up to echo 70s low-rent porn. I envision a similar clause for someone like Anne Hathaway: "Miss Hathaway will not be photographed wearing raveled t-shirts, smudged eyeliner and tangled hair while sitting on the edge of an unmade motel bed in Bakersfield..."

The Siren said...

Gmoke, I'll have to look that one up!

The Siren said...

XT, your offer is most kind, but I am going to decline. I decided a while back that I am waiting for the One True Copy of Constant Nymph, so heartbroken was I over having to watch Joan at her loveliest and Boyer at his sexiest through what appeared to be the leftover aspic from Dinner at Eight. **music cue: "Waitin' for My Dearie" from Brigadoon**

X. Trapnel said...

Siren, I can well understand. I found the movie utterly enthralling but it left me longing for the OTC as well. Let's not forget Korngold's glorious score.

I'm quite fond of the book too--Charlotte Bronte + J.M. Barrie and a dash of Robert Browning. It was much admired by Cyril Connolly, Arnold Bennett, and THOMAS HARDY. Geo. Orwell confessed to "shedding hot tears over it." Anita Brookner shrewdly observed that it's really a book for men.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Don't forget Joan Fontaine in Beyond a Reasonable Doubt -- Fritz Lang's very last American movie. Jacques Rivette was crazy about it and write a famous review of in in CdC entitled "The Hand" which includes a footnote that's longer than the review itself . Very Jacques Derrida avant la lettre.

X. Trapnel said...

Seems to me Joan F. is rather wasted in BARD (though it's a great picture), the first of her lady in black with pearls personage (though she did give us fair warning in Rebecca).

The Siren said...

Oh good grief David is there no end to the Fontaine goodies held just out of my grasp like the fox and the grapes? I have read about that one but blanked it out. And I'm a huge Lang fan, huge.

XT, I confess to weeping hot tears over the book too.

X. Trapnel said...

Aficiandos of French song may know the haunting "Chanson de Tessa" (recorded by such greats as Cora Vaucaire, Mouloudji, Michele Arnaud). They may not know that it comes from Jean Giraudoux's adaptation of The Constant Nymph with music by none other than Maurice Jaubert who scored L'Atalante, Quai des Brumes, Hotel du Nord, and more.

Margaret Kennedy wrote a sequel (or prequel) to TCN called The Fool of the Family (haven't read it yet.

DavidEhrenstein said...

It's a deeply strange Lang, Siren. By that point he was making films on poverty row budgets. Sometimes this would work beautifully as with the fabulous House By The River. But his last American films, While the City Sleeps and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt are far more conceptual than they are visual.

Happily on his return to germany he made his masterful Der Tiger von Eschnapur /Das Indische Grabmal on a no-expense-spared budget, and his final film The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse wasn't a cheapie either. That one gave the lovely Dawn Addams her best role next to Chaplin's A King in New York.

Trish said...

Teresa Wright was lovely. She was so appropriate to wartime America. Did her career go into a natural decline or did she just choose to do television? It seems to me that there wasn't a lot of call for her type in the 1950s. She wasn't a dancer/showgirl, high-fashion type, or a film noir moll.

X. Trapnel said...

Theresa Wright did not conform to the 50s ideal of studio-manufactured show horses: sex bombs, ice queens, mannequin princesses (we could do anything bigger and better than the Russians). Also reflected in the not-quite stardom of Dorothy Maguire, Eva-Marie Saint, Vera Miles, Jeanne Crain, so many others whose attractions were similar to Wright's

The Siren said...

XT & Trish, agreed on Wright, although she certainly managed to make some great films. An actress' shelf life is somewhere between milk and yogurt even when she does suit the temper of the times; a handful of great movies is more than many of them ever get.

David E., oh joy! Film Forum is showing Beyond a Reasonable Doubt in January as part of their Fritz Lang in Hollywood series, which seems to have all sorts of seldom-screened goodies like Moonfleet and An American Guerrilla in the Philippines.

Trish said...

I meant to mention this last week while there was discussion of Hitchcock, but when I look at Vera Miles in Psycho, I wonder what on earth Hitch originally saw in her that made him want to turn her into the next Grace Kelly. Lila is frumpy looking -- too much heavy clothing and her hair is so severe. Was Miles pregnant, or was Hitch just being vengeful?

DavidEhrenstein said...

Moonfleet is Beyond Fabulous. While Lang complained in Contempt that Cinemascope "is only good for snakes and funerals" he really used it beautifully in this pirate film. Stewart Granger is teriffic as the anti-hero. Vivica Lindfors is marvelous as his faithful love, and Joan Greenwood is more Joan Greenwood than ever as an upper-class lady who wants him. All this plus George Sanders, and as a dancing girl Liliane Montevecchi (decades later the toast of Broaday in Nine)

Rivette screened Moonfleet to his entire cast before the shooting of his pirate epic Noroit

Vanwall said...

Wright rebelled against the Studios and was fired, and sorta "greylisted" - TV beckoned, conveniently.

My favorite Vera Miles was a sci-fi-/fantasy/noir episode of the original "Outer Limits" - "The Forms of Things Unknown" from '64; she did pretty damn well as one of pair of fatal dames.

The Siren said...

David, I *adore* Moonfleet, it's gorgeous. I saw it again a while back on a Region 2 that Foreign Region Guru Glenn Kenny kindly lent to me. I am really going to try to see it at Film Forum, I think it will totally rock on the big screen.

Vanwall, I realize I know almost nothing about Wright's life so I didn't know that. She was really something special.

The Siren said...

Trish, I never got Vera Miles either; so pallid compared to HItchcock's other blondes. But then I confess that Psycho goes way downhill for me after Perkins cleans up the shower. I love so many Hitchcocks, and I never understood why that one should get more love than, just for instance, Strangers on a Train.

Trish said...

Well, maybe if Strangers on a Train featured a statuesque, cool blonde protagonist/villain it would get more respect. I love it as it is, though.

gmoke said...

Vera Miles is heartbreaking in "The Wrong Man."

Siren, Billy Strayhorn never wrote a bad song. He and Duke Ellington would work on the same piece of music miles apart and both come up with almost identical phrases. Strayhorn's music should be right up your alley.

Ellington's brilliant tribute album, "And His Mother Called Him Bill" includes a cut of Ellington alone at the piano playing a version of "Lotus Blossom" that always brings tears to my eyes.

David Hadju's _Lush Life_ tells Strayhorn's story well, a gay black man writing great music in the shadow of the Duke.

Kent Jones said...

Siren, it's been a while since I've seen the movie, but I am remembering the as being kind of out of place - sort of like an Oscar Jaffe extravaganza, no?

Those last two Lang Hollywood films are very...unclean. Especially BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. But if you're going to spend your time at the FF Lang in Hollywood series, and if you haven't seen it, don't miss YOU AND ME. Very special film.

Jenn said...

A vodka swillen funky hat wearing drunken Joan Fontaine? What more can you ask for :)

X. Trapnel said...

My favorite Vera Miles performance is the Twilight Zone episode Mirror Image, a sort of Edward Hopper tableau vivant, full of the drab poetry of waiting rooms.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Strangers on a Train is a truly ingratiating film in a way that Psycho quite pointedly isn't. The villain is almost loveable, the story takes you to all sorts of lovely locales, and on top of that there's perky Pat Hitchcock. Psycho changed the face of cinema. It brought subject matter once relgated to grindhouses into the "mainstream," it made serial killers a prime cinematic preoccupation, and most important of all it killed off the leading lady way before the halfway mark. It was a descent into the abyss.

And we still ahven't crawled back out of it.

X. Trapnel said...

True, but Psycho had Bernard Herrmann. Strangers on a Train is weighed down by what may be Dmitri Tiomkin's worst score (a tremendous achievement in view of the competition).

The Siren said...

David, that's very eloquently put, and I don't argue Psycho's importance. I just argue that I don't enjoy it very much after he finishes cleaning up the bathroom. The movie pretty much starts up all over again and for me it's never as enthralling. The final shot is a doozy, however.

The Siren said...

XT, one of these days I'ma gonna write up a Tiomkin defense just to scare you. :P

Jenn, yes indeed!! And Edith Head did the gowns!

Kent, I am laughing at "unclean." I haven't seen You and Me so on the list it goes. January will be pretty busy. I'm gonna line up the sitter this month, just watch me.

Gmoke, Strayhorn was a genius, I completely agree.

Trish said...

I don't know if I see the villain of Strangers on a Train as loveable, but he is certainly well-played. Robert Walker has a creepy quality. When I first saw this film I was shocked by the quality of his performance. Up until then I had only seen him as the wooden corporal of Since You Went Away, and suffering the phony nostalgia of 'Til the Clouds Roll By (a truly god-awful film in-between the musical numbers).

X. Trapnel said...

Maybe not "lovable" precisely, but hugely entertaining and and thus engages our unwilling sympathy. The ever-insipid Farley Granger is such an inadequate foil and no challenge to him. Imagine William Holden doing an engaging though slightly bogus, social-clibing hero. His "I could strangle her" would have been frightening whereas FG sounds merely petulant.

Trish said...

Great point, X. And maybe that's why Walker appears to enjoy himself. Farley doesn't have the goods. He is literally and figuratively a sitting target in a too-large overcoat.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Farley has the goods sexually.

That Bruno wants Guy is made achingly clear in the scene where Guy creeps upstairs to the bedroom where he's told Bruno's hated father is and finds Bruno in bed instead.

BTW, Strangers on a Train grew our of Patricia Highsmith's longing to have her own father murdered. She thought about it quite a lot, asked around for someone who might do it for her, and finally gave up -- writing the book instead. And this book -- her very first -- gave her instant fame and a career that lasted a lifetime. Needless to say Hitchcock's film version was of pivotal importance in this.

Trish said...

Yes! I'd forgotten about that scene, David!!! Bravo to Robert Walker and for whatever made him decide to go for it. It's like Hitchcock stood over him and yelled "Release the Kraken!".

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

Thank you, Siren, for pointing this one out (if it's not premature to start offering thanks after only having seen the first).

I skimmed over several of the comments (mea maxima culpa), so forgive me if I got this wrong but ... it was Victor Young, not Billy Strayhorn, who wrote the music for the *film* "Something To Live For." Young is no Billy Strayhorn, and anyone responsible for the title song of "Around The World In Eighty Days" has a lot to answer for -- and yet he does deserve some words in his defense.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

Young wrote music for THE UNINVITED (including "Stella By Starlight") and JOHNNY GUITAR. He also (co)wrote splendid songs like "Street of Dreams" and "(I Don't Stand) A Ghost of a Chance With You."

My sense is that his SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR music is much like his GUN CRAZY/DEADLY IS THE FEMALE music -- middlingly effective in a neo-romantic way. My only surprise is that neither the opening credits or IMDb lists a song along the lines of, say, "Mad About You" (for GUN CRAZY) or the title song of WRITTEN ON THE WIND.

Kent Jones said...

Siren, you should probably see WESTERN UNION too. Not great by any means, but there's something so compelling about the absolute precision of it. I assume you've seen THE SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR - a CRAZY movie but extremely beautiful and disturbing.

Flickhead said...

Siren, I don't mean to alarm you, but someone snuck in a photo taken after the 1950s and put it on the banner of your blog!

The Siren said...

Flickhead, I don't mean to alarm YOU, but that set still is from one of the Siren's all-time favorite movies. No fooling. I'm CRAZY about it. It seemed appropriate this week. :)

The Siren said...

Briefly, as I'm heading to work -- Mrs HWV, I believe Gmoke was just pointing out the song with the same title; I did realize that Young wrote the Something to Live For music but had forgotten his wonderful Stella by Starlight. I also adore the Written on the Wind music; it's one of my favorite credit sequences for both the filming and the wonderful glossy old song.

Kent, I don't know what this says about me, but I HAVE seen Western Union and liked it, but haven't seen Secret Beyond the Door and that one is on my Film Forum must-see list.

gmoke said...

And the theme from "Johnny Guitar" is great. You could perform it as a tango, if memory serves. (And wouldn't that be fitting for that particular film, with Mercedes cutting in on Sterling to dance with Joan. Hmm, I can see a remake set in the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires during the Dirty War. Sally Potter could direct.)

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

I've been enjoying "Something To Live For" for the way it shows A.A. in the early-ish days. One thing struck me: the scenarist, Dwight Taylor, was the son of actress Laurette Taylor (a household that was sorta kinda depicted by Noel Coward in "Hay Fever"). Laurette Taylor was, herself, famously a drinker. With this in mind, it seems to me that Taylor *fils* might be saying a thing or two about alcohol and theater.

seanax said...

FYI: The film is now available on DVD from Olive Films.