Monday, March 21, 2011

DVR Alert: Max Ophuls' Caught, Tonight on TCM


The Siren is happy to remind her patient readers that tonight at 10:15 pm EDT, Turner Classic Movies will be screening Max Ophuls' superb, hard-to-come-by Caught. The movie boasts Barbara Bel Geddes in the best screen role she ever got, Robert Ryan playing a marvelously sick spin on Howard Hughes, and James Mason as a gentle doctor. Mason always makes the Siren hyperventilate at least a touch, but this character appeals to her romantic side as do few others. Also, watch for a marvelous sequence in a jazz club, Ophuls' direction underscoring a casual nonsegregated atmosphere that's a wonderful surprise in a film from 1949. And the ending shocked the Siren right down to her ankle straps. (To anyone who knows the film--no spoilers in comments, please! The end really should be seen cold.)

The reason we're getting to see Caught on TCM: my old friend Lee Tsiantis of the Turner legal rights department. Lee is demonstrating his amazing taste by requesting this as his choice for TCM's Employee Picks series. Some time back, as part of the first film-preservation blogathon, I interviewed Lee about his crucial role in unlocking the RKO Six, films that had been in legal limbo for some time.

Well, Lee has not been lounging around Atlanta in the meantime. There are two longed-for titles that he has recently helped bring to our eager embrace. They'll both be screened at the TCM Film Festival next month, before slipping into rotation on the channel itself. One of them is Clarence Brown's Night Flight from 1933.


And the other? Well, a little 1943 title that's been mentioned here from time to time:


The Constant Nymph. The Siren can now confess that a rather elliptical question at the end of her prior interview with Lee was her not-terribly-subtle way of inquiring after the Nymph's preservation health. The happy answer? She's doing swell.

Tovarich Lou Lumenick has a great interview with Lee at his New York Post blog. By all means, go and read it.

36 comments:

X. Trapnel said...

Siren,

No spoilers, I promise. The first time I saw Caught my jaw hit the floor at the finale; the second time it seemd somehow different. Was any reediting done that you know about. I still wonder if I simply dreamt the first version.

Michael Healey said...

In case anyone misses this TCM screening, Caught is also available for streaming via Netflix. The video quality isn't anything to write home about, but it's certainly better than nothing.

It's a crying shame that Ophuls's American pictures have become so rare. Compared to the European films, his direction is less swoon-y but (to my eyes, at least) equally impressive. Take a look, for instance, at Robert Ryan's sly (non)entrance at the side of a pier in Caught or the way Ophuls and DP Burnett Guffey frame the interiors of Joan Bennett's house in The Reckless Moment. There's a toughness in the style of these films, which makes them seem more earthbound than Madame de . . . or La Ronde.

Incidentally, I mean that as a compliment.

X. Trapnel said...

Ophuls' framings and interiors in The Reckless Moment put me in mind of Nicholas Ray (divisions, enclosures). an interesting comparative analysis, formally and thematically, could be done between TRM and Bigger Than Life. And then toss in There's Always Tomorrow...

Michael Healey said...

X. Trapnel, those three would make a great 1950s triple bill.

Furthering the connection, Burnett Guffey shot The Reckless Moment for Ophuls and, shortly after, In a Lonely Place for Nicholas Ray. And not only that: Ophuls's DP for Caught, Lee Garmes, later worked for Ray on The Lusty Men.

The Siren said...

I have it on pretty good authority *coughLeehimselfcoughcough* that the print TCM is screening tonight is better either than the r2 DVD available or the Netflix streaming, FWIW.

X. Trapnel said...

Indeed. All three deal with escape and were made within the alleged confines of the alleged commercial film in the alleged conformisrt fifties.

Trish said...

Oh, thank you, Siren! I saw Caught years ago but don't remember a thing about it except for a staircase and Barbara Bel Geddes.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Ophuls never worked for a major during his U.S. sojourn. All his films here were indies. This gave him a certain amount of freedom.

Caught was scripted by Arthur Laurents and was clearyl inspired by the life of a certain manipulative and controlling multi-millionaire I'm sure we're all familiar with.

I've over th moon about The Reckless Moment -- both for itself and for one of its players, Frances Williams -- who was a friend of mine. She was a big union organizer and very influential in getting African-American actors into SAG. She told me Ophuls took such a liking to her that he rewrote the script to give her more scenes, the most important being the one where she drives a distraught Joan Bennett to an assignation.

The McGehee and Siegel remake The Deep End, starring Tilda Swinton is truly teriffic. Instead of a daughter dallying with a gangster as in the Ophuls, in the remake it's a gay son.

Yojimboen said...

That tears it. Somebody has to mention In a Lonely Place and bang goes my Monday. How’m I s’posed to get any work done when all I can think about is Gloria Grahame barefoot all the way up to her chin under those silk sheets. (As if the image of 26-yr-old JF as a bare-legged 14-yr-old wasn’t tortuous enough!) Thanks guys!

X. Trapnel said...

To further fuck with your mind Y, how 'bout Glorious Gloria getting rubbed down by that (lesbic?) masseuse?

panavia999 said...

I rented Caught at my local video store a few years ago and did not like it despite the presence of those marvels of hunk and talent, Mason and Ryan! But I've heard so many positive comments about the movie and I like Ophuls, so concluded that I saw an edited version that did no justice to the film. Really looking forward to TCM this evening.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

I have many reasons for loving this film, most of which are best left unexplained *coughRobertRyancoughcough*

My affection is constant, though, despite a certain slackening toward the end. (It's usually around the time when we hear the ambulance that I want to change channels). That one sequence, though, where Smith brings in his coworkers to watch footage in the screening room is enough to make me love the film.

Should I talk about the link between Arthur Laurents' script here and script for "Gypsy"? Or about the actress shared by this and "The Big Sleep"? Or the claim that Preston Sturges, with whom Ophuls also worked, *also* provided inspiration for the Ohlrig character?

Yojimboen said...

I confess to a deep secret love for Barbara B-G. This is probably her biggest slash meatiest role and she shines as bright as the Northern Lights. Taking another look at the aforementioned hunks, I also have to agree Mr. Ryan may be at the peak of his handsome studleytude in Herr Opuls’s (sic) Caught.

Mason is Mason. Safe as the Bank of England (used to be).

But it’s hard not to judge BB-G in terms of quantity vs quality; she’s barely in Vertigo, but there’s a decency and tranquility about her that tightens my chest and simply knocks me into a cocked hat every time I see this scene.

Though she was never film star per se, I submit her trilogy of I Remember Mama; Caught and Vertigo merits a place on anybody’s shelf.

For some reason my version of Caught clocks in at 86 mins – IMDb gives it at 88 – I’m going to watch it again to see what I’ve missed. Bless our hostess for the heads up.

Vanwall said...

M Yo - I always had a soft spot for BB-G myself, she brought intelligence to her roles, even as a frontier gal - see "Blood on the Moon", a favorite noir western of mine.

X. Trapnel said...

I dunno, Y. BB-G, a fine actress, granted, seems to me implausible as the object of so much passion, twisted and otherwise. Same problem in The Long Night which she makes seem longer. As best, friend, kid sister, or undramatic wife she's fine support, just not as a romantic lead (that baby face). I just watched The Amazing Mr. X and can't help but imagine my adored Cathy O'Donnell in Caught.

Yojimboen said...

If we’re recasting, why not George Peppard for R. Ryan and Martha Hyer for BB-G?

Oh, wait, they did that already.

X. Trapnel said...

They did? I'm shamefully ill informed regarding the cinema of George Peppard.

Vanwall said...

This really was an excellent print compared to what I'd seen many years ago. Robert Ryan still portrays one of the most evil bastards ever on screen, gotta love that guy. And say what you will, BB-G is actually quite alluring in this film, and had a harder edge than her usual roles, to say nothing of her quite competitive raisin smuggling.

I realize now I'd seen Mason in a number of roles before I saw this film the first time, and kind of took his America debut a little lightly - he was excellent, and had more screen presence than I'd remember, his intensity was high-wattage.

gmoke said...

The camera movement in the nightclub dance scene is great but there's also that very subtle following movement as Ms Bel Geddes enters the room when she hears the crash and Mr Ryan calling. The camera tracks backward to hold Bel Geddes in full frame and then recedes from her as an emotional reaction to what she's feeling. Damn, Ophuls was good.

gmoke said...

Also love the writing in the confrontation between Mason and Ryan. It is set up as a macho duel but Mason's character refuses to let it play out that way and puts the decision squarely in Bel Geddes' lap. Her character's growth in the course of the film is remarkable in a picture of that era.

Of course, the real star of the film is Curt Bois, darling.

gmoke said...

And let us not forget Frank Ferguson, another fantastic character actor.

Yojimboen said...

X - I'm guessing you're funnin' - can't believe you would miss The Carpetbaggers co-starring as it does Our Bob his oily ownself.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"I think I know the reason why
producers tend to make him cry,
For they invariably demand
some stationary set-ups,
and
a shot that does not call for tracks
is agony to poor dear Max
who, separated from his dolly,
is wrapped in deepest melacholy
Once, when they took away his crane
I thought he'd never smile agaim."

-- James Mason

X. Trapnel said...

I did read the Mad magazine take off and recall therein that GP slugs (love that) Bob, saying, "I just wanted to see what it was like to punch all that makeup."

JustJoan said...

I saw this in the streaming Netflix version and cannot wait for tonight's better print. What struck me most, beyond the shocker, natch, is what a very grownup film this is. That and how brave an actor Ryan was, never shying away from playing truly sick characters, and never cheating to curry favor with the audience. If this is truly how Ophuls and his writers saw Howard Hughes then I can only hope Martin Scorsese watched this with his fingers stuck firmly in his ears. I could never have seen him any other way after this version.

X. Trapnel said...

I suspect that Ryan's integrity and enormous talent undercut his own career. By his own account he wanted to play romantic leads and comedy (he was said to be a terrific Walter Burns in a Front Page revival [How many major actors, come to that, never did a comedy: Richard Burton? Montgomery Clift?]).

Tom Block said...

I'm as interested in the beginning of Caught as its ending. It really takes all those bold-faced parallels old movies drew between working women and working women, and runs with them. All of BBG's antics at the beginning, like enrolling in charm school for the open purpose of snaring a man and her strategy talks with her roommate--amazing. But I also like the depiction of life for two young women getting by in the city together, like the scene where Bel Geddes has to haggle with the charm-school woman about her tuition.

I like the camera move during discussion between Mason and his partner where the camera slides back and forth between them like a leisurely ping-pong match, each time pausing over the empty chair where BBG would normally be sitting. It was a nice way of making her presence felt in the men's discussion about her.

And I gotta disagree with David about "The Deep End". The damn thing's so artsy-fartsy, it just made me ick.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Chaque a so goo.

Tom Block said...

Exactly.

Yojimboen said...

Sorry, DE - I have to second Tom B’s opinion of The Deep End. I kept waiting for it to start. But then again I’m not a major Tilda Swinton fan – I think it's because I have too many relatives who look like her.

(What do you call a beautiful woman in Scotland? A tourist, more often than not).

Call me over-cautious but Michael Jackson had to die before I stopped believing he was also Diana Ross.

My jury will still be out until I see Tilda Swinton and David Bowie at the same time.

X. Trapnel said...

I'm convinced the James Dean and Marilyn M were one and he same.

DavidEhrenstein said...

They certainly had the smae taste in men.

Meanwhile. . .

Latest FaBlog: Fait Diver -- A Friend of Vito‘s Passed Away

X. Trapnel said...

I rest my case. Same hairline also.

Yojimboen said...

Dear me, David, I’d never seen that shot of E.T. on your site. It’s like every beautiful photograph anyone took of her rolled into one.

The tabloid bullshit apart, she was an astonishing creature.

Once in NYC I got out of an elevator she was getting into, she focused the violet irises on me for a brief moment and smiled.

My knees turned to water and the doors closed.

DavidEhrenstein said...

You've just defined a star, Yojim.

Few sentient beings have that affect on people.

They're really gonna miss her in WeHo. In recent months she'd make periodic jaunts to The Abbey, have few Appletinis and get worshipped by every gay man in town.

Trish said...

I wonder, did Hughes build a similar trap for Jean Peters?