Friday, March 11, 2011

Nomadic Existence: Cover Girl


For the Siren's Retro-Fit column at Nomad Widescreen, a meditation on the very delightful 1944 Cover Girl, Charles Vidor's first major contribution to the eternal Rita Hayworth mystique (the second being Gilda). Billy Wilder claimed his first idea for a directing project was to make a big, candy-colored Hollywood musical, but when he saw this, he figured he'd been right to go with Double Indemnity: "I knew that no matter how good my musical might be, people would say it's no Cover Girl."


So, how are the numbers? The music is by Jerome Kern, the lyrics are by Ira Gershwin, the choreography is by Gene Kelly, and the numbers are swell. There's the title song, the climax of the show, a delirious memory lane of mostly long-gone print dinosaurs arrayed on a stage with a ramp big enough to make Busby Berkeley bite his wrist in envy: The American Home, Liberty, Mademoiselle, Collier's. Each magazine has its own visual theme and chorus girl, the music turning into a nursery jingle when one small girl appears on the cover of Look. (That was a bit creepy, to be honest, but never mind.) At the end, Hayworth appears at the top of the ramp, wearing a heavily sequined dressing gown because… well, because we get to see her take it off. And then, there she is, in the most beautiful costume in the movie, a flowing gold lame strapless that flies around her as she dances down the ramp toward a bunch of chorus boys that the camera never even tries to seek out because who cares? Rita Hayworth is dancing!

I imagine that this is the point at which Billy Wilder said, "Forget it. I can't compete."

Even better, though, is an earlier number called "Make Way for Tomorrow," which starts at an oyster bar where Hayworth, Kelly and Silvers romp in, wave their hands over the oysters and chant, "Come on, pearl!" (I dearly want to try this myself at multiple oyster bars before I die, just to see if a single waiter gets the reference.) And then, oh magic, they dance out onto Columbia's idea of the Brooklyn docks and use trash cans as cymbals and mock-row with oars and lock arms for a kick-step, until they encounter one of those cops who always turns up whenever you're in a musical, minding your own business with the orchestra in the background, just trying to dance your troubles away. They get away from the cop and continue into the Brooklyn streets where they gallop up and down stairs, interrupt a canoodling couple, do a time-step with the milkman — how much poorer movies are now that no one ever encounters a milkman.

It's interesting to note, with regard to our other topic of the week, James Agee, that the critic quite liked Cover Girl, particularly for Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth "at her prettiest," although his dislike of lush Hollywood orchestrations was such that he even complained about too much music in his musicals.

Further to Hayworth, the Siren has linked to this before; but this post from Raymond de Felitta's archives, at Movies 'Til Dawn, remains one of the most poignant things you'll ever read about her. Also, Raymond pointed out (and the Siren neglected to mention) that Vidor didn't direct the musical numbers; that was somebody else you may be familiar with.

50 comments:

DavidEhrenstein said...

My boyfriend Bill once went to see this at the Theatre 80 St. Marks. The big mpontage of Rita doing magazine covers is climaxed by her runnig down that huge ramp. "What magazine is that?" someone asked. "Ramparts" my boyfriend Bill replied.


Off-topic, but here's Sondheim Day Part I

Ned said...

Thanks for this reminder of one of the greatest Columbia musicals. It’s a wonder they ever got made with such a philistine in the front office, but Harry Cohn was never averse to making popular, money-making films.

A few observations. The producer of Cover Girl, Arthur Schwartz, along with his songwriting partner, Howard Dietz was responsible for another of the greatest Hollywood musicals, one noted in a blog linked by the Siren as a serious contender (along with Cover Girl) for greatest musical after Singin’ in the Rain, The Bandwagon. Schwartz served in multiple capacities in the industry, working variously as a composer, writer, and producer. Howard Dietz was even more of a polymath, starting at MGM (he came up with the MGM lion logo) as an ad man, publicist, copywriter, lyricist, and radio host. (One additional bit of Dietzian trivia: during his college days at Columbia two of his fellow students were hall of fame American lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein. Even more incredibly, he attended Townsend Harris High School with lyricists Ira Gershwin--whose lyrics can be heard in Cover Girl--and Yip Harburg. That’s a bit like having a high school baseball team with Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller.)

Cover Girl also demonstrated Gene Kelly’s range as a break out talent not only on his feet but also as a cinematic innovator. The Make Way for Tomorrow number allows the principals, including Phil Silvers, doing an excellent job of keeping up with two supremely gifted pros, Kelly and Hayworth, to dance down streets in what seems a never-ending set. Kelly’s choreography for set pieces like this also needed to take into consideration the practical requirements of the staging. The Alter-Ego number is still a technical marvel to watch, and, like the best special effects, the Wow Factor never gets in the way of pure enjoyment of the routine. Kelly did something similar a few months later on the MGM lot in Anchors Aweigh when he danced with Jerry the Mouse.

Speaking of the Make Way for Tomorrow number, there are a couple of grand Hollywood character actors who appear uncredited in that sequence. The bartender, played by Ed Brophy, who made a slew of pictures as a rough hewn tough guy (he tried to shoot William Powell in the original Thin Man), and Jack Norton, the drunk Kelly weaves seamlessly into the end of the routine. Norton made a career of playing the happy tippler. He can be seen boozing it up in over 20 films in 1944 alone. He appeared often as part of Preston Sturges’ stock company. Watch for him as a member of the Ale and Quail Club in The Palm Beach Story.

All in all, a great movie, filled with astoundingly talented people.
One final note, although Rita Hayworth got married in the middle of shooting Cover Girl (supposedly right after the wedding scene in the movie) to Orson Welles, she never missed a cue call. They tied the knot in a civil ceremony and both went back to work.

The Siren’s remarks on the demise of the milk man as a useful character in films brought a big smile. Hey, where would Robert Donat have been without the milk man in The Thirty Nine Steps? “Oy, the empties!”

Thanks again for recalling this ecstatically wonderful musical.

Vanwall said...

Heh, those dairy men. Scott Brady emerging from the Divco dressed as the clumsy milkman, stalking psycho Richard Basehart in "He Walked By Night" - never was a door-stoop delivery man so menacingly cheerful.

"Cover Girl" and Cansino - yum. I pretty much forget what the tunes are half the time, and Rita could dance, thank you very much. And I'm not a big musical guy.

Yojimboen said...

Thank you Ned for that lovely piece of trivia. Wow, just wow. Between them, Dietz’s classmates probably wrote fifty percent of the greatest songs ever written.

gmoke said...

Another great milkman is James Gleason in "The Clock" with Judy Garland and Robert Walker but then James Gleason was just plain great.

Caftan Woman said...

I once channel surfed past this movie, but my "special needs" son grabbed the remote. He has limited independent speech, but the way he chastised me by saying "Cover Girl" spoke volumes!

Ned said...

Gmoke reminds us of another great milkman, James Gleason. Gleason was indeed great, great in everything he appeared in, one of the rock steady, can't miss character actors. He could easily steal any scene he was in.

Another Gleason role, the cab driver from The Bishop's Wife brings to mind another profession that provided great small roles in numerous excellent films. I'm not talking here about Travis Bickle or Jamie Foxx in Collateral, more like Tom D'Andrea, the sharp-eyed cabbie who helps Bogart's character in Dark Passage by bringing him to the creepy plastic surgeoun ("I could make you look like a bulldog, or a monkey."), or Jimmy Cagney reduced to driving his old flame home in Roaring Twenties, or the cabbie in Arsenic and Old Lace who never actually drives anyone anywhere but has a great line at the end of the movie. Or Joy Barlow, the cabbie who drives Bogart around in the Big Sleep. Or....well, you get the idea.

Perhaps the Siren can do a blog on some of these professions that kept character actors (when there still were such) in business for so many years. She's already mentioned the ubiquitous cop who appears in Cover Girl. Plenty more where he came from. And James Gleason played his share of cops as well!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Off-topic; Sondheim Day Part II

Note: Bulti-in tribute to Hangover Square.

The Siren said...

I'd like Bill. :)

Ned, I love it when people bring up small-scale character actors; indeed, the ones in Make Way for Tomorrow are awesome. If you read the whole Nomad piece you'll find some quibbles; mid-40s is far from my favorite fashion era, for reasons I explain, and that's on view. Also, I agreed with Agee that the grandmother subplot is weak, not least because it saddles us with Poor John. If someone has a love for that one, please explain, because I do not share. But the other numbers are great. "Put Me to the Test," the reprise of which is pictured, is also delicious. I could eat this movie with a spoon.

As for milkmen -- Vanwall, Gmoke, Ned -- I have a special love for the one in Lullaby of Broadway. Not to mention that cat. Man, what a great number that is--sinister as it is.

Caftan Woman, I have a special needs nephew and it would be marvelous to see him respond to Cover Girl. Do you have a theory as to what did it for your son, or does he just respond well to beauty in general? That's certainly true of my nephew.

Also Ned, one time when we were discussing 1930s cinema (and later) the subject of railway detectives came up. Now there's a character berth for heavies; they are never nice guys are they? Not like hotel proprietors. Or justices of the peace. Or even reporters. Reporters used to get a better deal in movies, although not universally it must be said. Nurses! Mary Wickes!

Beveridge D. Spenser said...

"Poissonally, I don't think poils come from ersters."

Yojimboen said...

My favorite character role in movies is the movie director. Think Douglas Fowley in Singin’ in the Rain. I think with the single exception of Lowell Sherman in What Price Hollywood directors are portrayed as psychotic martinets or raving lunatics.
I’ve always wondered why film directors apparently have such contempt for their own profession.

gmoke said...

Tain't the directors. It's the writers who invent them and the producers who demand that the "crazy director" character is kept in.

gmoke said...

Don't forget Frank Faylen as "Bert" the cab driver in "It's a Wonderful Life." He made quite a team with "Ernie" the cop played by Ward Bond.

Bert and Ernie....

Ned said...

Railroad detectives were indeed an unlovable and despicable character type, always played by stern, malevolent, dangerous types such as Charles Middleton (not sure he actually played a railroad dick but he could have). Of all the law enforcement types, they were probably--next to evil prison and chain-gang guards--the worst, and there were plenty of character actors who regularly portrayed both.

Of course, the value of character actors was that the audience had a pretty good idea of what to expect whenever they saw a particular actor, such as the great Mary Wickes, appear onscreen. It turned out to be a great benefit for writers who wrote with certain characters in mind. (Does anyone, besides the Coen brothers, do this today?) If you needed a wise-cracking, worldly, but kind-hearted best friend for the female lead, you wrote for Joan Blondell. And lots did. She appeared in 54 films between 1931 and ’39; 21 movies between 1931 and ’32. If you were looking for a slimy, evil-eyed snake, you couldn’t do better than C. Henry Gordon (28 films in that same 1931-32 period). Some, like Barton MacLane, Edward Arnold, Donald Meek, and Charles Bickford could play both decent and unsavory characters, but with most, like William Demarest, Marjorie Main, Fay Bainter, Charlie Ruggles, May Robson, C. Henry Davenport, Eric Blore, and George Tobias, you knew what you were getting.

A good friend of mine and I have talked for years about opening our own movie theater and running film festivals dedicated to character actors. Just think of how much fun it would be to hold an Edward Everett Horton Film Festival or a Spring Byington Film Festival. Some character actors even got some of the juiciest parts and best lines in the movies they played in. Is there another part better than Gladys George’s (outside Cagney’s) in Roaring Twenties? AND she gets the last line in the movie “He used to be a big shot.” Just think of some of the best lines: Clifton Webb in Laura “Laura, if you don’t come with me this instant, I shall run amok.” Thelma Ritter, describing the expression on the killer’s face in Rear Window when he’s confronted with a threatening note, “It wasn’t the kind of a look that would get you a quick loan at the bank.” Abner Biberman in His Girl Friday reassuring Roz Russell that his girlfriend “...ain’t no albino. She was born right here in this country.” And Sterling Holloway in Meet John Doe “He ordered donuts!” All some of the most memorable lines and characters in those films. Sterling Holloway is only onscreen two or three minutes but he makes his moment shine in a movie packed with other great actors.

In a film like The Women, stacked up against Norma Shearer, Roz Russell, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard, et al, Mary Boland is who you remember “Oh l’amour, l’amour”. There’s a reason for that.

It would be fun for Sirenistas to put in their bid for films with the best selection of character actors. A couple might be the above-mentioned His Girl Friday (the Siren had mentioned portrayals of reporters in film, and although this lot doesn’t register too highly on any ethics scale, the heroine IS a reporter). But just think of the others in His Girl Friday: Roscoe Karns, Regis Toomey, Billie Gilbert, John Qualen, the incomparable Gene Lockhart, and the always wonderful Alma Kruger (who played another nurse in the Dr. Kildare films of the 30s and 40s).

My Man Godfrey has several of the all-time best including Eugene Pallette, Mischa Auer, “Money, money, money, the Fronken-steen monster that destroys men’s souls”, Gail Patrick, Franklin Pangborn, Alice Brady, and one of the most versatile character actors ever to work in Hollywood, Alan Mowbray.

Any other suggestions?

Yojimboen said...

What, still no love for Percy Helton?

Then there is that middle ground where the character actor who is so good, you can’t possibly imagine anyone else in his (or her) role.
Elisha Cook? Lionel Stander? Sir C. Aubrey Smith? (who also gets the prize for the most aristo name of any actor).

But for me, la crème de la crème of character actors is Thelma Ritter.

Yojimboen said...

While we’re vaguely on-topic, a tip o’ the hat to the two most prolific character actors in H’Wood history:

Tom London, with 624 credits.

And the “Queen of the Dress Extras” (rarely seen without evening dress and diamond necklace, Bess Flowers with an unbelievable 801 credits.

Ned said...

Having recently purchased The Set-Up, I can attest to Percy Helton's ubiquity in films and televisions for some years. He certainly had one of the more memorable voices (he could have had a career in radio had he come along a few years earlier).

And Tom London and Bess Flowers certainly tip the scales with their prodigious numbers, but what about Ann Doran? By some counts she appeared in over 500 films and perhaps as many as 1,000 television roles. You'll remember her as Bert's wife in Meet John Doe and even a few Three Stooges episodes.

Yojimboen said...

Ann Doran will always be Jimmy Dean's mother in Rebel>.

"You're tearing me APART!!"

gmoke said...

Let us not forget the Ale and Quail Club of Preston Sturges.

However much you may dislike them, Tarantino and Rodriguez both have their stock companies of character actors today and tend to use them prominently.

And may I put in a word for Bud Cort as a modern day character actor? He should be used much more.

Vanwall said...

You couldn't have a film noir without Whit Bissell, I think. But pigeonholing doesn't always work - Emile Meyer one of the great villains of the screen, was an amazingly convincing cop or father. I watch Casablanca mostly for the character actors - Ludwig Stössel and Ilka Grüning, "Liebchen - sweetnessheart, vaht vahtch?" "Ten vahtch." "Such vahtch?!?" or, Claude Rains, "How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Someday they may be scarce." It has an awesome list of characters play-acting.

Caftan Woman said...

" Do you have a theory as to what did it for your son, or does he just respond well to beauty in general? That's certainly true of my nephew "

I am somewhat tempted to say it's the Technicolor, but while my son responds to the beauty in classic Disney animation, he's been known to sit for hours watching "The Whole Town's Talking" starring Edward G. Robinson or a marathon of "The Dick Van Dyke Show"!

In the case of "Cover Girl" I think there's a definite "Babe" factor at work. Rita is right up there with "Pocahontas", "Princess Aurora" and "Ariel".

My son is also very much drawn to music and quirky voices he can imitate. He's never shown any interest in silent pictures.

The "special needs" of loved ones are a challenge, but they also enlighten us.

Ned said...

Caftan Woman, if your son seems partial to babes, music, quirky voices, and Eddie G., you could hardly do better than Some Like It Hot. Sugar, Spats, and Osgood Fielding (Joe. E. Brown, who, like many other great character actors, gets the last line...and it's a great one!), not to mention Nehemiah Persoff, and Mike Mazurki, all have great voices. And the I Want to Be Loved By You number should satisfy the Babe requirement.

As for Whit Bissell, I seem to remember him more from science fiction and horror (or semi-horror) films than film noir, but a great character actor nonetheless.

And Casablanca is a superb choice for character actor heaven, including several members of the CA pantheon--Claude Rains and S.Z. Sakall, but Joy Page ("Monsieur, you are a man..."), Frank Puglia ("For special friend of Rick's..."), Leonid Kinsky ("Yvonne, I luff you, but he pays me."), and Madeleine Lebeau, the beautiful Yvonne who, along with Marcel Dalio ("Sir, your winnings.") left Fortress Europe via Lisbon and a clipper ship to (South) America, as many hope to do in the film, and then on to Hollywood, all brighten the scenes at Rick's Cafe Americain.

Dalio was a leading man in France, appearing in two of Jean Renoir's world cinema classics, Grand Illusion and La Regle du Jeu but was reduced to character parts in America.

Good choice for character actor vehicle supremo, however.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Madeleine Lebeau went on to appear as the French actress bugging Guido about her part in 8 1/2.

That's two absolute classics in one career.

Vanwall said...

Ned -

Whit's later career was filled with sci-fi and such, but his dark drama credentials are tops. Even Westerns, and I believe his face is referenced in the dictionary for the word "ubiquitous".

Alonzo said...

This seems the place to drop this little you tube clip, as it touches on both musicals AND George Sanders.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ft3OtmiTpvM&safety_mode=true&persist_safety_mode=1

Yojimboen said...

“Emile Meyer one of the great villains of the screen, was an amazingly convincing cop or father.”

Second that emotion, M VW!

Meyer was for me the unsung star of Blackboard Jungle.

The school assembly is an undisciplined, deafening roar, uncontrollable until Meyer leans into the microphone and utters one word: “SHADDUPPP!!" Priceless.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Meyer's greatest moment, IMO, was in Sweet Smell of Success: "Come here Sidney, I want to chastize you."

Jut off the phone with Todd. He said his expeirience with HBO "was like working for a really smart studio." He said veteran costume designer Ann Roth (The World of Henry Orient, Midnight Cowboy, The Day of the Locust, Silkwood, Postcards From the Edge, Angels in America and on and on) was on the set every day.

Ned said...

I have to agree with you all on the selection of Emile Meyer as a prime sonavabitch. And thanks David, for that great image of Emile getting ready to pound on Tony Curtis.

Just watched Paths of Glory again (another Emile Meyer film) and was reminded of another slick, smarmy villain, George Macready. He had those beady little malevolent eyes behind which lurked a creepy, sadistic nastiness. But Emile was a much more straightforward thuggish brute.

Good pick.

Another slick, urbane villain, not so much evil as amoral was Louis Calhern. Even the good guys he played (think of Cary Grant's boss in Notorious) always seemed completely at ease with any kind of moral compromise. He was outstanding in The Asphalt Jungle. A great vehicle for a few other sterling examples of character acting, notably Sam Jaffe. Doc Riedenschneider was probably his best role after Gunga Din; and could there be two more different characters for one guy to play? Man, that's some range.

KEVYN KNOX said...

I have never seen Cover Girl but after reading your great piece on the film, it climbs to the top of an already way way way too long list of must sees.

Trish said...

Paul Stewart! I'm not sure he ever played a milkman but I think it's safe to assume he would have done it as well as he played played gangsters and manager-types...

Yojimboen said...

Some of my faves:
(To put names to faces)

James Gleason

Nigel Bruce

Conrad Veidt
“Are you one of those people who cannot imagine the Germans in their beloved Paris?”

Akim Tamiroff

Richard Loo
“A chain is no stronger than its weakest rink.”

Jimmy Conlin

James Burke

Melville Cooper

Donald MacBride

Donald Meek

Frank Orth
“Duffy! DUFFA-A-A-Y!!
Diabetes!? I ought to know better than to hire anybody with a disease!”

Abner Biberman
“She ain’t no albino! She was born right here in this country!

Erik Rhodes, Edward Everett Horton & Eric Blore (Top Hat)

Alfonso Bedoya
“We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”

Fortunio Bonanova
“No-no-no-no-no-no-No-NO-NO!!!

Ned said...

Yojimboen, very nice selection of CAs. Don't forget that Conrad Veidt would be famous in film history without Casablanca, having played Cesare, the somnabulist murderer in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

And although Akim Tamiroff created thoroughly memorable characters in a long career (think of Pablo in For Whom the Bell Tolls and Uncle Joe in Touch of Evil), I love his Boss in The Great McGinty and the wonderful little cameo both he and Brian Donlevy have in Miracle at Morgan's Creek ("He don't work no more. His license revoked!").

And if you've seen Citizen Kane, it's impossible not to hear Fortunio Bonanova shouting at "the second" Mrs. Kane as she brutalizes her aria.

And speaking of Kane, Trish's nod to Paul Stewart ("Talk to Raymond, he knows where all the bodies are buried") reminds us of one of the great heavies in American film (even though, as she points out, he could play good guys). He was also an impeccable foil for Cary Grant in Mr. Lucky another vehicle for interesting character actors, like Vladimir Sokoloff who, like Akim, was drafted to play Frenchmen, Russians, Greeks, Mexicans, Poles, and even a Filipino.

Yojimboen said...

And, sad to say, we just lost one of Britain's best Character Actors:

Michael Gough

mndean said...

Frank Faylen also played a cabbie in The Palm Beach Story. Not all directors in film besides Lowell Sherman were psychotic - Sam Hardy in Make Me A Star, for example, wasn't.

Since I always go for lesser-known actors, I'll name two:

Tom Dugan
Lynne Overman

X. Trapnel said...

Y, I think of Conrad Veidt (a huge favorite of mine; just saw him in that fascinating oddity, The Passing of the Third Floor Back) as belonging to that elite subcategory of CAs who were virtual leads. After all, there was never a slogan, "Women shriek for Donald Meek" (according to Warner Bros. they fought for Conrad Vought).

Fortunio Bonanova was a composer (like Sam Jaffee and L. Barrymore) in his youth and was a friend of Jorge Luis Borges, no less.

DavidEhrenstein said...

A particular fave of mine, Charles Lane -- without whom half of the cinema would not have been possible.

Ned said...

X Trapnel, thanks for the tip on Passing of the Third Floor Back. I'd heard of it but never seen it. I've found the complete film online however and will check it out.

I love these odd little fantasy films, little movies you don't expect much from but become treasured favorites, like The (original) Bishop's Wife or
Between Two Worlds, the story of passengers on a ship who don't know why they're there or where they're going. And seeing Conrad Veidt playing against type will be a treat as well. It's fun to see actors normally cast as villains disrupt our expectations.

X. Trapnel said...

It's a pity Veidt didn't get the chance to do comedy. He brought a certain low-key twisty humor to his Nazi villain in the wonderful All Through the Night. And then there's his Teutonic tango in Above Suspicion.

Trish said...

Good one, David. Charles Lane never seems to age!

Michael Gough. I loved his Alfred but for me he will always be a beloved Hammer horror star.

Ned said...

All Through the Night! Yes.

Veidt and the always substantial Judith Anderson and Peter Lorre created a nicely creepy atmosphere to go along with the rip-roaring bits including knock-down drag-outs between the Nazis and certain less reputable New York types (including a young Jackie Gleason and Phil Silvers). I guess this was what Bogart meant when he told Veidt, in another movie, that there were certain parts of New York it wouldn't be wise for the Nazis to try to invade.

But Veidt in a comedy. I think you're on to something there. He might have done some interesting work with Ernst Lubitsch (I don't see him in stuff like Hellzapoppin').

Just a nod here to Sid Hickox who shot All Through the Night. Sidney, along with so many cinematographers of his era (he started at Biograph in 1915 and was still shooting Andy of Mayberrys 50 years later!) had enormous range. He shot biopics, oaters, melos, war movies, crime thrillers, on sets, on location, you name it.

He was the DP of choice for such as Raoul Walsh. He accommodated dark interior mysteries like The Big Sleep just easily as he shot Jimmy Cagney on top of the world in White Heat and James Whitmore battling giant ants in the desert in Them.

A little off topic, I know, but I'm in association mode today.

X. Trapnel said...

Ned, yes, All Through the Night is a great LOOKING film (screwball Lang, I always call it).

How about Veidt as--Victor Laszlo? Why not? CV was a fervent anti-Nazi and VL should be older than Paul Henried. And there would then be a slot for Sig Ruman: "So, they call me Concentration Camp Strasser."

Ned said...

"Concentration Camp Strasser" Big laugh at that one. Maybe he could tell that joke about Hitler being a piece of cheese instead of singing Wacht Am Rhein.

Yojimboen said...

XT - The source of [the Epsteins’] Rick’s warning to Strasser about invading New York was a rewrite of a popular wartime gag (credited to Fred Allen) that Hitler couldn’t possibly invade New York – he’d never find a place to park.

X. Trapnel said...

The Epstein boys should have been advisors when the Maginot Line was going up. Or else Hitler should have just invaded NY on film where nobody ever has trouble finding a space (same as all files in movies being found in the top drawer). I believe Gun Crazy is the earliest instance of characters speaking about finding a parking space.

X. Trapnel said...

I meant Fred Allen. Sorry

DavidEhrenstein said...

I love Connie Veidt best in Korda's magnificent Thief of Bagdad where his evil sorcerer is defeated by my childhood idol, Sabu.

Ned said...

David, because of your fondness for Sabu, I direct your attention to this little John Prine song, Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9GBZ2qNvDs&feature=related

Instead of fighting Conrad Veidt he battles the vague ennui.

gmoke said...

Conrad Veidt was really something and I really enjoy him in "Thief of Baghdad" ("Wind! Wind!").

Looking at his credits I see that "Above Suspicion" was his last film. There's "Dark Journey" where he got to romance Vivien Leigh and two Michael Powell pictures, "Blackout" and "The Spy in Black" where he was paired with Valerie Hobson. Have to look those up sometime.

I wonder if certain ladies' heart would have exploded if Conrad Veidt ever appeared in a film together with George Sanders.

Yojimboen said...

Conrad Veidt & pals at home – 1928

DavidEhrenstein said...

The NYT on Todd's Mildred.