Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nomadic Existence: Chicago (1927)


From my Retro-Fit column in Nomad Widescreen, on the 1927 silent version of Chicago (which may or may not have been directed primarily by Cecil B. DeMille on the QT):


Nothing guarantees a murderer immortality quite like getting away with it, as Lizzie Borden could have told you. And so could Beulah Annan, the woman who in 1924 shot a lover foolhardy enough to threaten to leave her — and who walked out of a courtroom 13 months later, free and clear. The story so captured her city and era that a musical and two movie versions bear only the name of her town as a title: Chicago.

The 2002 Oscar-winner was a disappointing, at times downright perverse hash that threw the Broadway musical's greatest asset — its Bob Fosse-choreographed dancing — into a whirling Cuisinart of cuts. Director Rob Marshall slowed down the numbers that needed to sizzle and jazzed up the ones that needed some quiet. It's a delight, then, to return to the first movie made about this long-ago scandal, the 1927 silent, and see how inviting this little cyanide pellet of a story remains.

It's a simple tale of a simple woman with a simple need for the niceties, the nicer the better. Roxie Hart (Phyllis Haver) is married to Amos (Victor Varconi). Amos works at a news and candy stand; he is poor, honest, hardworking, and loves his wee girly with all his handsome, sappy heart. She, of course, is sick to death of him and has instead been carrying on with Casely (Eugene Pallette). As it's a silent, Pallette is bereft of his famous voice, which sounded like a bullfrog trying to climb out of a tuba, but he is young(ish), virile, a couple of dozen pounds lighter than in My Man Godrey nine years later and, more to the point, he has money. Money that he has been spending on Roxie, and money that he has decided, it transpires, to spend on something else. What that something else may be we are destined never to know, for when Rodney arrives at a tryst and rudely announces that he's giving Roxie the air, she airs him in return, with a couple of bullet holes...

...The rest of the film is taken up with watching Roxie scheme and feud from jail cell to courtroom, and Amos slide further into chump-dom as he attempts to rob the jailhouse lawyer (William Flynn) who's promised to get Rosie an acquittal. The idea is to pay the crooked shyster with his own money, an appealing idea for someone capable of doing it competently, which of course Amos is not.

73 comments:

Yojimboen said...

What, no love for
Ginger?

The Siren said...

Y., I love Ginger in that one; her legs in the courtroom are the Siren's Twitter background. But I had plenty enough to say about the silent, which was new to me, so I went with that.

john_burke100 said...

his famous voice, which sounded like a bullfrog trying to climb out of a tuba

That is absolutely wonderful--thank you. Knowing him only from Godfrey and The Adventures of Robin Hood I'm having trouble imagining him as a Lothario, but good tailoring can work miracles, can't it.

Yojimboen said...

One head credit caught my eye: “Settings: J.M. Leisen” The M stands for Mitchell.

Also Victor Varconi as Amos Hart is much studlier – in a Charles Farrell kind of way – than either George Chandler (1942) or John C. Reilly (2002); definitely not henpecked dweeb material IMO.

I saw the Rob Marshall version at a screening, I won’t say where, but the whole cast of principals trooped in afterwards for a Q&A session.

The Moderator made a small mistake, he put the first question to Catherine Zeta-Jones. Well, after listening to her answer for 10 minutes, my wife and I left, had dinner, caught a revival of the complete Berlin Alexanderplatz at the Cinematheque then went back to the Q&A.
She was still talking.

X. Trapnel said...

Y, you might have taken a quick flight to Bayreuth, heard the entire Ring of the Niebelungen and returned for the last half hour of C Z-J.

Karen said...

Y., I assumed the Siren left out Ginger only because she was talking about films actually named Chicago.

I have to see this silent version now, if only to see Eugene Pallette as a love interest.

And, yes, Varconi was studly indeed. I saw him as Capt Horatio Nelson in The Divine Lady and was very taken indeed.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I've seen it and the Eugene Pallette of this film is shockingly svelter than the foghorn-voiced butterball we know and love.

Everyone should get ahold of a copy of the edition of Chicago published by the Southern University of Illinois Press in 1997. It not only includes Maurine Watkins play but her "Chicago Tribune" articles from which the play was derived. These nsarky "human interest" pieces about "Chicago's most stylish murderesses" were Watkins' creation from the ground up. She was assigned to cover court cases, discovered a number of women in jail for murder and proceeded to glam them up in fancy duds to have their pactures taken for the paper. It was on these pictures the "fashionable" claims the articles made on the women were based.

In other words it was a con job.

Like much of today's "news."

Her play Chicago was an enormous hit. So much so that Hecht and MacArthur ripped her off in creating their famous hit The Front Page.

Watkins wrote other plays, but neevr repeated the success of Chicago. She went to Hollywood, however, and one of her screenplays was very successfully filmed -- Libelled Lady. Jack Conway directed this lush MGM all-star with Willaim Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow.

In her later years Watkins "got religion," as a consequence of her remorse in getting several murderesses off through her "colorful" newspaper stories.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here from 2009 is an NYT review of Watkins' So Help Me God. This was written in 1929, but never made it to Broadway because of the stock market crash. The 2009 production was a premiere. As you can see it was a lot of fun.

DavidEhrenstein said...

As for the Kander & Edd/ Bob Fosse Chicago, Take it away Liza!

Yojimboen said...

I wrote my above spoof on CZ-J before I read she is having some health difficulties. Unfortunate timing on my part. In all seriousness, I wish her a speedy recovery as I trust we all do.

Yojimboen said...

Reported without comment: The Cannes Film Festival just announced the 19 films chosen for this year’s competition. There no American studio films included.

There is one American Indie: Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.

Vanwall said...

I was reading your Nomad part while trying to watch "So Evil my Love", it just was too much, so I'm glad both of these were in a recorded form of enjoyment, I finished your piece first. I'll have to catch the silent version in one gulp someday, it looks fascinating as hell. And not a show-off piece at all, it seems like everyone has an angle in it. I'm thinking Pallette was cast against type for this one even then.

P.S. I saw the thumbnail of Loren in a car in the Nomad TOC, and thought, "Sophia in an Alfa, I'd be in heaven!" - then the caption sez Peugeot 203 !!??!! Quel horrors! It says Giulietta right on the fender, my old. Never shame a Sprint Veloce so; new proofreader/viewer required.

Yojimboen said...

Eugene Pallette:
Before
After

Juanita's Journal said...

My only memory of "CHICAGO" is the 2002 musical. And if I must be honest, I enjoyed it very much.

normadesmond said...

not sure how long that new header's been up...but yay! how much do i adore "garbo talks?"

time to watch it again.

Karen said...

Y, that before shot is stunning. He was quite the hot patootie! In fact, the contrast of before and after is so stark--geez, even his eyebrows seem to have gained weight--that I find myself unusually curious about his life. Was this a health issue? Psychological? Did he have difficulty making the transition from romantic lead to blissfully grouchy character actor?

Karen said...

This, by the way, is on the Wikipedia entry for Pallette, and is kind of heart-breaking.

AndrewBW said...

I've never seen the silent "Chicago" but I'll have to look for it. It's a great story that really pricks our media hyped celebrity society, and rather ironic that at this point it's more than 80 years old. Plus ca change ... I did enjoy the Rob Marshall version though not as much as "Roxie Hart." Y's story about Catherine Zeta-Jones was pretty funny.

And DavidE, thank you for the link to Liza and surprise guest (in case anyone hasn't clicked over). Outstanding.

I've seen a few of Pallette's films from before he was heavy, but I had no idea that he put on all that weight on purpose.

Yojimboen said...

I think the first piece of movie dialogue I memorized as a wee bairn was from Robin Hood with Pallette as Friar Tuck:

Will Scarlett, introduces the Friar to Robin: “It’s all right, he’s one of us.”

E. Flynn as Robin: “One of us? He looks more like three of us.”

Karen said...

I find the notion of getting that large as a career move really suspect...

Here he is in a middle phase, I guess:
http://www.myspace.com/video/vid/57255564

X. Trapnel said...

Maybe it was extra self-fortification against the Communist Menace

Beth Ann said...

I'm still sad I missed the San Francisco Silent Film Festival's special screening of the silent Chicago. I know it's out on DVD, but I would have loved to see it on the big screen with accompaniment. Your post is reminding I need to get over my disappointment and rent it.

You're right that the movie of Chicago the musical was disappointing. So many cuts and partial body framings were warranted by some of the stars not being able to dance that great Fosse choreography. Gere was fine for the speaking parts of the role, but he obviously was no dancer, and Zellweger was no match for Catherine Zeta-Jones in singing and dancing. Her musical theatre background served her well.

Yojimboen's reminded me that Roxie is on my to-watch list as well. Maybe I'll make a dual bill for my husband and I to watch.

Ah, the dangers of reading good film talk! So many movies to watch and so little time in comparison.

Trish said...

Wow, David! I've never gotten around to see any version of Chicago. Odd because I love Ginger Rogers. But your info about Maurine Watkins and her "human interest" pieces is wonderful. Now I'm interested...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Happy to be of help. Watkins and Chicago are central to understading the true nature of journalism in this country.

Trish said...

Eugene Palette had perfect eyes for a silent film actor, but I'm so glad he was able to survive talkies so memorably.

Happy belated birthday, Charlie.

X. Trapnel said...

Ah, how many extraordinary, indelible voices the talkies gave us, Palette not least. Why did movie speech gradually flatten out over the decades? The bogus quest for "realism," I think.

Yojimboen said...

Ixnay, it’s Darwin, old boy. The evolution of the actor in America deserves a major treatise but in simple terms, there is less theater, therefore less theatrical voice training. Actors used to learn on the boards, now they learn on TV Commercials and Soaps. Given a choice between experience and cheap, guess who gets picked. And, inevitably, mediocrity breeds mediocrity.

Ned said...

Some observations: like most others, I'd be most curious to see the young Eugene Pallette. Trish mentioned how perfectly suited were his eyes for silent films. Quite so. Even after the talkies came in and he was more notable for his voice and girth, he used those eyes to great effect. Recall the squinty-eyed reaction he shoots Gail Patrick in My Man Godfrey when he smells a rat as the mystery of the pearls unravels.

It's astounding to see stars we come to know in their hey-days and compare them with their younger incarnations. Case in point: John Barrymore, sans mustache, paunch, and DTs. Go look at his some of his earlier roles, The Sea Beast, for instance.

Look at the earliest pictures of Joan Crawford. No sign yet of the FACE, but the intensity in the eyes is a giveaway.

A svelte Eugene Pallette almost seems like an oxymoron, but I'd still like to see him that way.

The Siren makes a point of noting the disheartening montage/tight shot/quick cut dance sequences in the 2002 Chicago, clear evidence that music video visions have overtaken directors' faith that audiences might want to watch dancers actually perform. Wasn't that the reason Astaire and Hermes Pan insisted on wide shots for their routines?

It's always interesting to watch pre-code films. Not so much for the possibility of salacious interludes, but to see the enormous difference in films shot while the code impacted so many creative decisions. Adult films were possible to shoot, just not always possible so show.

Finally, Chicago seems a uniquely American approach to black comedy approach to potentially dark subject matter. At the same time, across the sea, in Weimar era UFA studios, such fare came out dark and stayed dark. The difference, most likely, was, it was the roaring twenties here; jackboots on the horizon there.

AndrewBW said...

If you want to see Pallette in his youth, someone on YouTube with the username "earlycinema" has a channel with lots of silents on it, including Dorothy Gish's 1916 film "Gretchen the Greenhorn which co-stars Pallette.

Karen said...

Andrew, a thousand thanks for the link to "Gretchen"! Pallette may not look quite as entrancing as in Yojimboen's photo link, and he's clearly not playing a romantic lead, but it's fascinating to see him, nonetheless.

I suspect Y. is also dead right when he notes that today's stars no longer come from the stage, for the most part. Those stars we DO know from the stage--Kristen Chenoweth springs to mind, maybe Hal Holbrook as well?--tend to have more distinctive looks and voices than the anodyne, TV-created types who zoom to stardom.

And, frankly, Hollywood doesn't seem to WANT to cultivate actors who don't conform to a certain set of standards. You have to be wicked talented, and rise up through indie film, to get any stardom while looking less than perfect--see, for example, Steve Buscemi.

Trish said...

And very few of them take pride in their appearance. For every George Clooney there's ten Sean Penn types - greasy haired and looking like h*ll.

X. Trapnel said...

Well, Y, what you say is part of the story for certain but to complicate things I will put in a word about the easy complicity between hip authenticity and commercial interest. Bear with me as MAT says.

I read a story recently about Kim Stanley rehearsing a play with Helen Hayes, the first lady of the American theater. At one point the former turned her back on the latter saying,"I can't stand to watch you ACT." Now, I believe that Helen Hayes (the first lady of the American theater) should always be clobbered by everyone with any available cudgel, but in the opposition of "acting" and "being" (an old religio-philosophical opposition) I'll come in on the side of the former. It's an easy transition from let's say J. Dean assuming a fetal position to show how much he's a-hurtin' or M. Clift's bug-eyed stare to the frank expressionlessness of talentless models (all those teen vampires [is that still going on? I try to ignore it])pretending to be actors. Yes, of course Brando/Dean/Clift had great talent and brought something new to film and acting generally, but, speaking only for myself, none give me the surge of anticipatory delight I get when Jack Carson appears on the screen. I take acting to be just that: an act a gesture in response to and toward the and the world (true of all art), something that entertains ("It must give pleasure"--Wallace Stevens) and thereby create that bond of sympathy that in so many ways defines the morality of art. The transition from 50s authenticity/realism to our present commodified mediocrity can be seen in the contrast of related attitudes: "I'm good, true, and beautiful, and LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE TO ME!" as against "I'm beautiful and you're not."

X. Trapnel said...

Damn. If anyone got that far: "to the audience and the world."

Ned said...

Thanks for the link to Gretchen. An interesting cast. The young Dorothy Gish is still a few years from stardom and her acting is a bit manntered. But Pallette is quite naturalistic. Perhaps it was his stage training, but--to use a basketball term--he moves well without the ball. When he's not the center of attention he doesn't call undue attention to himself but he doesn't stand stock still either with nothing to do.

I haven't yet watched the entire film but I did notice, scanning through, the giant figure of the ship's captain who looks a little like Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein. It took me a minute to place him as Elmo Lincoln, the screen's first Tarzan.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Kim Stanley -- easily the most mannered actress of all-time -- had ten-ton balls for dissing "The First Lady of The American Theater" for being such a sugar-cured ham.

Monty, Brando and Dean were decidedly baroque, and therefore limited in range. But that range was often fun (Monty in The Heiress Brando in The Night of the Following Day and Dean in Has Anybody Seen My Gal.

The bottom line is you can talk "technique" until the coews come home, but it's results that matter. That said one of the (many) reasons I love Streep is that she's not "method" at all. She says of acitng "Oooo this is where I pretend to be somebody else!" -- a prospect that gives her perpetual delight. Phillip Seymour Hoffman has complained about the fact that on Doubt the moment the take was over she was back to cracking jokes while he was still "in the moment."

He should learn to loosen up.

X. Trapnel said...

Oh yes, Brando and Clift could definitely be fun (I must give The Heiress a resee), but I wonder if the problems of range had more to do with the kind of solemn, sanctimonious movies being made then (this is one reason among many I treasure Sweet Smell of Success and Tony C's performance in it. No noble shit). I'm probably in a minority here but I think Clift was damned good in (speaking of noble shit) Judgment at Nuremberg. I wonder if he could have escaped into European film had he lived longer. He would certainly have made a better Joseph K. than Anthony Perkins.

gmoke said...

Way off topic but the mention of Meryl Streep brought her recent pairings with the magnificent Stanley Tucci to mind. He is a great actor. In Devil Wears Prada, the moment he learns he's not going to be promoted to editor is cutting. In Julia and Julia, his love for the gawky lady with that crazy voice is very quiet and solid as stone. He does so much with so little every time I see him perform.

And I bet he could play the hell out of a taxi driver too.

Karen said...

Stanley Tucci in Big Night is a POEM.

Ned said...

Monty Clift as Joseph K. Wow, that's an idea.

And speaking of Brando, when you think about the sea change in acting styles between the 30s and 40s and the onset of The Method, still in much use today, it's hard to picture pantheon actors of previous generations doing what Brando did. Mostly because we never saw anything like that. The film gestalt and their approaches would not have allowed it. Remember the scene in Waterfront where Brando is playing with Edie's gloves? He stretches them out and then puts them on while sitting on a swing. Can you picture Gable or Cooper doing that? (Strangely enough, I can see Cagney doing it... but it would have been so unusual.)

It's the whole Stella Adler thing about You are what you do, not what you say.

I think Tucci is great at this sort of thing too. Just think of that last scene in Big Night, making the eggs, no dialogue. Tucci puts out two plates but when the brother enters, he does something wonderful. He takes the bread off the table and puts it into a basket because now it's not just a snack, it's a family meal. It changes the entire dynamic of the scene. The brothers sit together and eat.

No fancy editing, just pure performance. It's like mainlining the acting. It goes straight into the bloodstream and right to the head/heart.

Great stuff.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Stanley Tucci is indeed a genius. And he recognizes genius in others.

Trish said...

Those of you who fondly remember the series "Wiseguy" will recall Tucci's great work as a yuppie gangster.

Karen said...

Funny, Ned, when you were talking about the gloves and saying you wouldn't have seen Gable or Cooper do it, I was thinking--I bet Cagney would have. And then you mentioned him!

The reason I think Cagney would have is his extensive stage training. In his autobiography (one of the only Hollywood bios I've ever read), he talks about how few of the Hollywood-trained actors really understood stage business. But he and his ex-Broadway pals were always improvising little bits of realism to enhance a scene, even if they weren't the focus of that scene.

I think, once again, the difference is between stage training and Hollywood training, even more than between pre-Method and post-Method.

Ned said...

Karen I think you're on to something here with the reference to Cagney's stage and vaudeville traning. Something else that distinguishes Cagney is his ability to inhabit the frame as dramatically as he inhabits a character.

His physicality is a big part of this too, as it is with other athletic actors such as Cary Grant and later Burt Lancaster. He seems always to be completely aware of how much room he occupies in the frame, how to best fill his space, how to angle his body, his head, hold his hands, and what kind of little bits of business work best.

In his last film, Ragtime, he does this little gesture with his head. He's indicating, without words, to a cop in the room, that he wants someone removed from that room. He looks at the cop, points with his forehead toward the subject in question, then jerks his chin toward the door. In other words, "Get that guy out of here". It's a brilliant bit that stands out so far beyond everyone else onscreen as to be almost comical.

Never a wrong move.

Karen said...

Never, indeed!

I had been a huge Cagney fan for a long time (the Siren knows how huge a fan!) when I finally saw one of his early films: The Doorway to Hell, from 1930. Lew Ayres plays a gangster mastermind (!) and Cagney is one of his sidekicks. A pretty small part, but Cagney is so explosively charismatic that it's almost like he's in a whole other film.

Ned said...

Lew Ayres: Gangster Mastermind!

Who knew?

He was great in All's Quiet, good as Dr. Kildare and effective as the brother in Holiday but Gangster Mastermind?

Hey, you buy the premise, you buy the joke.

But I know what you mean about Cagney. The guy just explodes off the screen. It's like listening to a nice little pop-jazz tune from the twenties, all very pleasant, good arrangement, fine musicians, and then Bix Beiderbecke stands up and blows 16 bars of shattering stuff.

The other guys were probably thinking that they ought to have stood in bed that day.

Yojimboen said...

“…and then Bix Beiderbecke stands up and blows 16 bars of shattering stuff.”

And then Armstrong's Hot Seven walk in and Bix puts the instrument away and joins the audience. ;-)

Yojimboen said...

Re Cagney: Examined closely there wasn’t a great deal there; limited acting range (if indeed you can call it a range), no singing voice to speak of, and couldn’t dance for toffee, but…
You can’t take your eyes off him.
The definitive Movie Star IMO.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I love Lew Ayres as Katherine Hepburn's dissolute, alcoholic and coded-gay brother in Holiday (1938)

X. Trapnel said...

Hm. Apart from Astaire there's no one I'd rather watch dance (excluding the ladies) than Cagney.

X. Trapnel said...

Yeah, I always figured the Lew Ayres got the cut on his forehead 'neath Brooklyn Bridge. It doesn't take the Bletchley folk to crack that code.

Ned said...

Don't know that Beiderbecke would actually take a seat, he did play with Armstrong in jam sessions, but Armstrong was less likely to show up on the kind of mainstream, pop oriented sides that Bix sat in on, thus a bigger surprise.

Still, there aren't many more hair raising runs than Louis' in West End Blues except maybe the piano-trumpet duet he cut with Earl Hines, Weatherbird.

Karen said...

I seem to recall reading somewhere that even audiences of the time didn't buy Ayres as ruthless mobster. But if you see it come up on TCM, I really recommend you watch it. Not only to see the electrifying young Cagney, but because it's actually got some great dialogue. It was even nominated for an Oscar for the story it was based on.

The closing scene--which is a shot of what is supposed to be the final page of that story--really choked me up. It describes Ayres walking out of his hotel room to the ambush he knows is waiting for him: "The 'Doorway to Hell' is a one-way door. There is no retribution - no plea for further clemency. The little boy walked through it with his head up and a smile on his lips. They gave him a funeral - a swell funeral that stopped traffic - and then they forgot him before the roses had a chance to wilt."

That's good stuff.

Trish said...

Sweet! Someone loves Cagney dearly!

Yojimboen said...

X - Hm? Hm-mm!

Cagney moved well enough for his experience and limited training; he was light on his feet, could wear dance pumps and still look butch, but he was no threat to even the Georges Raft & Murphy.

Again, I come here to praise Jimmy C., not to bury him; in my book, an adorable and hugely talented screen actor (and, by all reports, a gent) from start to finish.

But terpsichorean? No.
He admitted he was not.
"I'm just a hoofer."

Martha Graham coined the perfect appellation for dancers; she called them “Acrobats of God” (that’s the only time I ever capitalize god); put it this way, in the high-flying trapeze act that is dance, Jimmy Cagney was great catcher.

Ned said...

Doorway to Hell sounds like a must-see. I'll look for it. I notice that its cast also includes a young Ward Bond and Dwight Frye, better known to everyone as Tod Browning's rat-crazy Renfield.

Regarding Cagney's idiosyncratic dancing style, as Y says, no favorite of the Terpsichorean muse, he; but he moved well and made the most of his limited chops--I've never seen that straight-legged strut that he does performed by anyone else. He must have come up with that while dancing on the streets of NY.

But for all that, he is such a complete package, and was able to do so much with everything he had that no one can complain.

And really, if you aren't grinning when you watch him tap dance down the White House steps, I never want to meet you and that's that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LwCXLx0SyM

DavidEhrenstein said...

Who doesn't love Jimmy Cagney? His dancing style was as unique as his acting. No one would think of him as a great dancer, but when dancing was called for (eg. Yankee Doodle Dandy) he galvanized the screen.

I particularly love him for Wilder's One Two Tree, which is at heart a Racinian monologue on speed. The look on Lilo Pulver's face as he gleefully barks orders at her is enchanting.

X. Trapnel said...

Y, I'd never argue that greatness comes into it, nor finally has it much to do with "dance." It's just that Cagney doing whatever he's doing down the White House staircase in YDD delights me more than any number of Gene Kelly moments (yes, yes, of course Kelley's great, but those TEETH!). I also think Cagney as dancer should include the Ma's Dead number and brain seizure interpretive dance, a lot of bullet dodging, and death scene from Roaring 20s.

Ned said...

"...brain seizure interpretive dance." Great idea.

And at the end of the Roaring Twenties death scene jig, Gladys George can say "He used to be a tap dancer."

Karen said...

Oh, X.T., my soulmate! I can't bear Kelly's teeth. That final zoom out of his smiling face in the "Gotta Dance!" number always creeps me out. I'm just grateful I've never seen it on the big screen!

Ned said...

Karen, at least it's not a zoom in on those giant pearly whites. Yikes! Just imagine a CSI-type zoom down the Kelly trachea. Now that would be a different kind of Broadway Melody.

X. Trapnel said...

Karen,

Kelly's face has a way of protruding from the screen like a gargoyle from a wall of Notre Dame (cognate, perhaps, with his love of things French). The most painful moment for me is in the (yes, very great) "Singing in the Rain" number on the line "there's a smile on my face" when K's streaming phiz resembles the Graf Zeppelin approaching its docking tower. I really want to throw a pie in his face at that moment.

Don't we share a dislike of Lucille Bawl?

X. Trapnel said...

Or the Hindenburg (oh, the humanity).

DavidEhrenstein said...

Kelly can be problematic. I like him best when he dances with others (especially Donald O'Connor in Singin' in the Rain) than his solos.

As for that Big Smiling Gargoyle face of his, it's made for comedy.
Remember everyone "Dignity -- Always Dignity!"

DavidEhrenstein said...

See what I mean?

AndrewBW said...

I love Cagney, but I especially enjoy him paired with Joan Blondell. To me they're like two peas in a pod.

Karen said...

Andrew, Cagney adored Blondell. They went way back together. He also maintained that she had the cutest figure in Hollywood.

And, yes, X.T., we DO share a distaste for That Redhead.

Yojimboen said...

Oo, can I join your tree-house club? I never understood Lucille Ball. I'll go further: I never understood what anyone ever saw in Lucille Ball. Her TV work wasn't imported to the UK so my awareness of her was mostly through Bob Hope movies. On the rare occasions I happened upon a rerun of one her shows (of her film work the less said the better; Mame? MAME??) I always had the same reaction: Somebody should take pity on that woman, have her sit down before she breaks a hip or something.

X. Trapnel said...

Join the club, Y!

What really irks me about the L. Bhaughll mythos is the all the blah about "such a beautiful woman being so funny." Such a WHAT woman!? Such a beautiful WHAT!? Such a beautiful woman being so WHAT!? (hat tip to Kingsley Amis).

Have these folks never heard of Carole Lombard?

AndrewBW said...

Karen, I knew Cagney and Blondell were old pals, but I never heard about him saying she had the cutest figure in Hollywood. What can I say, the man knew talent! I'd take her for a turn on the dance floor any day.

Karen said...

Andrew, he says it in his autobiography. It's a fun read.

Ned said...

Hedy's reading of that line would have removed the 'double' from the 'entendre'.

Ned said...

X, good point. Which is why, in addition to GWTW (which is pretty much de rigeur in any decent collection), It Happened One Night is the only other Gable film I own. Don't you just love Walter Connolly ("Ellie, you don't want to marry that mug Westley...")?

VP81955 said...

What really irks me about the L. Bhaughll mythos is the all the blah about "such a beautiful woman being so funny." Such a WHAT woman!? Such a beautiful WHAT!? Such a beautiful woman being so WHAT!? (hat tip to Kingsley Amis).

Have these folks never heard of Carole Lombard?


Lucille Ball always cited Lombard (a friend from RKO days) as an influence on her comedic style. Interesting trivia note: Part of Ball's 1938 film "The Affairs Of Annabel," about the travails of a movie star, was shot at Raoul Walsh's Encino ranch a few months before Lombard and Clark Gable bought it and made it their home.

Re Eugene Pallette: I've seen both "Intolerance" and "The Birth Of A Nation" and didn't recognize him. Of course, being silent films there was no distinctive voice of his to hang my hat on. It's supporting actors like him, Walter Connolly, Una Merkel, Edward Everett Horton, Zasu Pitts, Eric Blore, Eve Arden, etc. that gave classic Hollywood cinema such depth.