Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Screenwriters, Directors, Bitterness and True Grit: Talking With Raymond De Felitta


The Siren’s longtime, all-time best friend is David Leonard, debonair bon vivant and man-about-town, as well as a film editor. There, that’s David’s first full-name shout-out here, with an IMDB link and everything. We’ll see if he spots it, since sometimes he reads the Siren, and sometimes he amuses himself by greeting her with “Hey, are you still writing that thing?”

David cut two films by Raymond De Felitta, Two Family House and City Island, and through David the Siren has gotten to know Raymond, also a sophisticated chap, and also possessed of the occasional impulse to rattle the Siren’s cage. An example being the night she saw City Island, when the Siren yapped on at length about thematic overlap between it and Two Family House, which was set on Staten Island, and wrapped up by telling Raymond that what he needed next was Roosevelt Island. He folded his hands and said pleasantly, “I can honestly say that none of that ever occurred to me.”

As far as the Siren is concerned, that exchange was what cemented our friendship.

Raymond has a wonderful blog, Movies Til Dawn, that chronicled his own classic-film and jazz and historical obsessions until it was taken over by extensive blogging about the making of City Island and, in need of a break, he let it lie fallow for a bit. But he’s back now, with posts like this two-parter about his two encounters with the late, great, much-lamented Sidney Lumet. And, further to what goes below, Raymond also has a post coming up about his conversation with George Stevens Jr. about his distinguished pop.

The Siren recently got an email from Raymond about her James Agee post. That led to a back-and-forth about screenwriters and directors, which was a lot of fun, since Raymond is both. The Siren asked his permission to post our musings, and was granted it. So here, edited slightly for grammar, continuity, and a couple of indiscreet asides, is what we said.



*****

Hello Farran,

I've been meaning to write to you about your James Agee piece...Both my Agee volumes got lent out and lost. I reacquired Vol. 1 recently and had a great time re-reading it. I kind of love his one-liner reviews where he covers a pile of movies--partly for his wit and partly for thinking of Agee sitting in dark movie houses for hours and hours watching scads of things that he dismisses in a few words (my fave is his Give My Regards To Broadway review: "Vaudeville is dead. I wish to hell someone would bury it.") Volume 2 I never cared about because I didn't really like his scripts--I find African Queen one of the more boring famous movies ever made--but I also got the sense that as smart, deep and swinging as his critical writing was, his dramatic writing was quite the opposite--square, earnest, filled with the desire to speak through film but not the gut instinct of a dramatist.

This leads me to wonder if you've read many older scripts and what, if any, your feelings are about them. I spent a good deal of time at both the AFI and Academy libraries when younger reading scripts and found that--no surprise--the best movies were right there on the page, with little ambiguity and with almost all scenes/dialogue largely intact. Dudley Nichol's Stagecoach script was masterful, as was Phillip Dunne's How Green Was My Valley. In a strange way I began to identify with the frustrations of these writers with the directors who grew famous as they faded into obscurity. How much work did John Ford really have to do to make those movies great? Preston Sturges’ scripts (which I'm sure you know are available in collections) ring out much like Coen Brothers scripts do. And a number of noir scripts actually read better than the films made from them--specifically The Dark Corner which is a great read but only an okay movie--and which supports my feeling that Henry Hathaway was really quite a mediocrity, somebody who didn't truly deserve much of the material that came his way.

bestest/warmest
RDEF

*****



Dear Raymond,

Thanks so much for reading the Agee piece, which was a labor of love for me. I also love his short reviews; he really excelled at them. Loved his take on Paris Underground: "Good performance by [Constance] Bennett except in actions requiring a heart."

I haven’t read that many classic screenplays, I'm sorry to say. I'm sure you're aware of the controversy about Agee's African Queen and Night of the Hunter scripts, but apparently what is on screen in terms of dialogue is all there in his scripts, it's just that he wrote more than could be filmed. I agree that the scripts are much less swingin' than the criticism, although I like them both very much. But what's good in the scripts is more like what's good in A Death in the Family or Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Your reference to screenwriters’ impatience with their place in the pantheon reminds me of the bitterness in Ben Hecht’s memoirs, for some reason. For the hardest of hardcore auteurists, the screenwriter scarcely exists except a spur to directorial genius. So it's interesting to hear you, a screenwriter and director, pay such tribute to the scripts you've looked at. Hmm, may I quote you sometime--avec name or not?

All the best,
Farran



*****


Hey there,

Ben Hecht's memoir is spectacularly LONG, but I'm not sure I find it bitter--sardonic and in need of making short shrift of the work for which he's remembered but for which he didn't have a lot of respect. But he has his own version of Hollywood and professionalism and didn't wind up "drunk under a table at Lucy's" (Wilder on Chandler). He wrote novels and plays in the twenties and early thirties and certainly nothing was keeping him from continuing, but movies became his focus and what he's ultimately remembered for. I quite like a novel of his from the early thirties called--get this--A Jew In Love. It's a roman a clef about the Broadway producer Jed Harris--who was later roman-a-clef'd again in The Saxon Charm where he was played by Robert Montgomery. It bears interesting resemblances to one of his and McArthur's arty New York movies, The Scoundrel. Hecht was famous for rewriting himself and many claim to see big similarities between Front Page and Gunga Din, though this mostly eludes me.

Anyway, as far as hardcore auteurists go, they simply don't have the equipment to make these pronoucements, as they've mostly never made a film. There's not much you can do on the floor with a scene that doesn't work or a story that isn't interesting. A lousy screenplay has never been turned into a great--or even very good--movie. Great directors--Hawks, let's say--can take a medium-warm piece of material and give it their own spin, filter it through their interests and come out with something better than it might deserve to be (To Have and Have Not is, for me, the best movie ever made from the weakest story/screenplay). And oftentimes not--Man's Favorite Sport? anybody? To my point about Hathaway, the script of The Dark Corner (by Jay Dratlert and Bernard Shoenfeld--two middle-level hacks with a couple of good credits each) had the stuff for a terrific film noir and falls short because of Hathaway's mostly uninspired direction. So yes, a better director would have taken it to a better place. I nominate John Stahl. Or maybe Manckiewicz in his noir-y Somewhere In the Night/Five Fingers phase.

But I'm bored with the assertion that screenplays are "blueprints". The good ones are fully realized plans with maps, guidebooks and suggested stopovers along the way attached. Phillip Dunne's script for Last Of The Mohicans is so good that no less a hardheaded auteurist than Michael Mann fully admits "basing" his script on Dunne's because it was "a terrific piece of writing" (this from an interview that I read but no longer can remember where). Ford squeezed every drop of juice out of Nichols' great Stagecoach script and could do little with Nichols' Mary of Scotland script. In other words, if Nichols was having a bad day, so was Ford.

You may "jot the above down on a slab of marble" (Welles to Bogdanovich, natch) or simply quote it whenever you feel like it.

bestest/warmest
RDEF



*****


Hi,

I did find Hecht's memoir bitter, in that he spends a great deal of time slamming the profession he excelled at, to the point that it becomes wearisome. No one wants to spend all that much time hearing how you spent life perfecting a craft that was ultimately beneath you. Of course, my beloved George Sanders did the same, but there is less bile to Sanders on acting, and more pure exhaustion. I sort of see The Front Page/Gunga Din comparison, but like all great writers, when Hecht stole, even from himself, he knew how to cover his tracks. And yes, it's refreshing to read a literary memoir that doesn't involve extensive liver damage.

Now I am trying to think of a great movie with a truly bad screenplay, and I can't do it either, unless you're willing to spot me Titanic. I hesitate to blame Dudley Nichols entirely for Mary of Scotland, which really is bad even if it's good-looking in places, when he was taking on Maxwell Anderson's blank verse. I value good dialogue a great deal, but you can have problematic dialogue and get past it, as I think Cameron’s Titanic does.

But a really bad screenplay would also have poor pacing and structure, exposition hanging out like washing on the line, inscrutable characters, poor transitions. Very hard to overcome that on set, I should think, even if you happen to be a genius.

Auteurism is clearly a useful way to look at a lot of great directors, and often essential. But the dogmatic variety wearies me when it's used to devalue other contributions, such as yes, the screenwriter, but also the actors and the editors and many others; and most of all I dislike the whole ranking compulsion that occasionally springs from auteurism, that notion that Man's Favorite Sport? is as interesting as Shane, because Howard Hawks was a greater director than George Stevens.

I don't get a sense that most directors themselves do that, by the by--correct me if I'm wrong. A good movie is a good movie. It's accepted that a mediocrity may have a splendid movie or two in him, that the vagaries of the business may hold some back more than others, that in the words of Wile E. Coyote, even a genius can have an off day. To go back to Stevens--whom I don't consider a mediocrity--the first time I saw McCabe and Mrs. Miller, I was struck by how much the callous murder of Keith Carradine's character echoed a similar killing by Jack Palance in Shane. Altman was an auteur if ever there was one, but he clearly didn't say to himself, "nah, can't use an idea from George Stevens.”

I found this from a Michael Mann interview around the time of Mohicans' release: "’Dunne's screenplay was very good,' Mann said. ‘[My] actual story structure, maybe half of it, is from Philip Dunne.’ “ About a 1936 movie. Come to think of it, I did like Mann's Last of the Mohicans, and it was because it had classic dimensions. I know, I'm predictable.

But maybe not completely predictable. Further to Hathaway: Grudgingly, through clenched teeth, I hereby admit that the Coen Brothers' version of True Grit is superior to Henry Hathaway’s on almost every count, save Wayne/Bridges where I am declaring a draw on the grounds of different approaches. One reason, I submit, is that the remake has a superior script. However, I couldn't help noticing that the Coens quote Hathaway a lot.

Best as ever,
F.



*****


Hi,

No, I can't think of any bad scripts that made good movies either. An interesting excercise (which I've been doing ever since I thought of To Have and Have Not as a great movie with a weak-ish script) is thinking of great movies that would have been mediocre in lesser hands. To Have... directed by Archie Mayo is a two-and-a-half star movie at best--directed by Hawks its genius. I have a feeling that It Happened One Night, directed by, say Eddie Sutherland or Allan Dwan, would be a pleasant but forgettable old comedy. It's Capra who really makes it go and somehow gets his stars so feisty and loose and charming that the damn thing is still irresistable.

One for the list that actually almost happened is Giant directed by Gordon Douglas (think of it! both much shorter and much more boring). At one point that possibility was actually discussed by Jack Warner and Steve Trilling, as Stevens was so over-budget and out of control they actually thought of having Douglas finish up the movie! Oy.

Herman Manckiewicz--even though he didn't write a memoir--was even more bitter than Hecht (he was also a big drunk), and look what he left behind. In general, all these guys thought that movies were a stopover until they got their "real" work done and suddenly--poof!--their careers were over.

I guess bitter is fair for Hecht--though the tone that mostly comes through to me in his book is the wise-ass, out of the side of his mouth Chicago newspaperman who he immortalized in Front Page. Any man who can write, "Tell him his poetry stinks and kick 'em down the stairs," can only be thought to cherish bitterness as an art form...

bestest/warmest
RDEF

146 comments:

X. Trapnel said...

Hathaway may be a mediocrity (even his best-known films don't bear up to close or frequent inspection), but The Dark Corner really sinks under the weight of Lucille Baughl's smugness (damn, she wasn't even that good in Stage Door).

And theres that so-called Titian which might have been painted by "Jacobi" (TDC is a bargain basement Laura) or Ronald Colman in The Light that Failed.

The Siren said...

XT, I like Hathaway much better than R. does--The Sons of Katie Elder is an eternal favorite for me. And I love Lucy, although she somehow never had that certain thing that makes an above-the-title star on screen. But The Dark Corner was a near miss for me, too; after my True Grit epiphany I am willing to entertain R's notion that Hathaway was as good as his collaborators and no better. On Katie Elder, for one, he had Elmer Bernstein--god I love that score.

Rachel said...

I'd also put in a nod for Hathaway's Peter Ibbetson which has moments of striking visual poetry even if that might be more due to Charles Lang (who was also behind The Ghost and Mrs. Muir).

john_burke100 said...

Wonderful stuff--thanks, Siren.

This

In general, all these guys thought that movies were a stopover until they got their "real" work done recalls Herman Mankiewicz' famous telegram to Ben Hecht: "Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don't let this get around." I wonder how much the German emigrés had to do with dissolving this High-Low Culture divide?

X. Trapnel said...

I've long been curious abt Peter Ibbetson (on the basis of a mild interest in George DuMaurier); has this film vanished?, but my last re-see of Kiss of Death left me with the feeling that apart--and then some--from Widmark this was the NICEST film noir ever.

Re: In addition to a Bernstein score Katie Elder also has Dean Martin auctioning off his glass eye to Strother Martin: "Aaaiihhh waaahhnntt thayyutt eyyyhhhhyyyyeee!"

X. Trapnel said...

To Have and Have Not a weak script? Gotta think about that for a bit.

Rachel said...

X,

Peter Ibbetson's on the Gary Cooper Collection DVD, as well as online. It's far from being my favorite of the "love transcends time and death" genre, but it's an interesting little anomaly, well before that genre really took off in the 40s. It's very, very Victorian in spirit.

X. Trapnel said...

A number of German emigres (I mean YOU Herr Doktor Adorno) did a lot to solidify that divide, and some of the more impressionable (Dwight Macdonald, f'rinstance) among the much-overrated NY intellectuals were duly impressed.

Karen said...

I will finish this in a moment, but I stopped to muse over possible connections between The Front Page and Gunga Din.

And, by Jove, if I don't see 'em! Joan Fontaine is clearly Ralph Bellamy (sorry, Siren). Cary Grant Walter Burnses Douglas Fairbanks into staying in the army, with a cheap trick. The Thuggee are Earl Williams.

But, in the end, so what? I mean, Torrid Zone is The Front Page on a banana plantation, as I've been saying for years. I'm not sure Agee drawing that connection in any diminishes Gunga Din which is a cracking great yarn, once you strip away all that nasty imperialist paternalism...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Great exchange!

Hawks neever thought films in terms of a "great script." He liked scenes that worked and he loved character quirks. To Have and Have Not is composed entirely of scenes and character quirks. Who can remember what it was "about" -- except the fabulous chemistry of its stars.

Dave said...

David: What was Hawks's formula? "Three great scenes and no bad ones?"

The Siren said...

David, I agree, and I think that's what Raymond is driving at. The Big Sleep is convoluted, but honestly I had a much better idea of what was going on in that one than in To Have and Have Not, which also goes *really* loopy at the end. But it's still great.

Karen, yes, poor Joan is definitely Ralph Bellamy, but she was only a little way away from Rebecca so she survived.

Would you believe I still haven't caught up with Peter Ibbetson?

DavidEhrenstein said...

Siren did you ever see the first cut of The Big Sleep? It was shown to the military overseas (as all bigtime Hollywood films were) and a handful of select cities before Hawks withdrew it for reshoots. He'd decided that there weren't enough Bogart and Bacall scenes. So he shot more and by including them -- and removing other scenes -- completely altered the plot. As a result The Big Sleep that we know is nearly incomprehensible. A few years back TCM showed the first cut -- and it makes perfect sense! It also sports a few oddities. In early scenes Bacall is wearing a very elaborate outfit that includes a hat with a veil -- a lot like Juliette Berto in Rivette's Duelle

(Raymond De Felitta's Jackie paris documentary is exquisite, BTW)

Yojimboen said...

I forget the source – somebody fill me in (?) – but I remember the story well, when Hawks bet Hemingway he could turn the worst story ever written into a passable movie. He asked, for example, “What’s the worst thing you ever wrote?”

Hemingway admitted ‘the worst piece of shit’ he ever wrote was THAHN, Hawks bought it and made it work by yanking out most of the story then turning it into a mix of Casablanca II – Brazzaville! or The Big Sleep On the Beach.

When Hemingway saw it he asked Hawks if he wanted his money back. I always found the piece almost too creaky for words, even though there isn’t a single actor in it who gives a bad performance. Hoagy Carmichael as Dooley Wilson made me a fan for life. Dalio – perfect as only Dalio could be; and Bogart? Bogart.

But Bacall? – goddamn – as beautiful as all the girls attending the Yale prom laid end to end!

It was about the same time – and about the same movie – that Ernie H. recommended the best way to deal with H’Wood: “What you do is drive up to the California State line then throw the script over and have them throw the money back, then drive away, fast.
On second thoughts, have them throw the money first.”

DavidEhrenstein said...

Also, did you know that Comden & Green were obsessed with The Scoundrel? They went to see it so many times they committed it to memory. Jack Buchanan's character in The Band Wagon is largely inspired by Noel Coward in Hecht's film.

DavidEhrenstein said...

If all the girls attending the Yale prom were laid end to end I wouldn't be at all surprised.

Who said that?

Karen said...

Dorothy Parker--who else!

DavidEhrenstein said...

We have a winner!

Yojimboen said...

I haven’t seen Peter Ibbetson in years, but I do own a magnificent full-length portrait of Gary Cooper and the glacially lovely Ann Harding.
Does this count?

john_burke100 said...

A few years back TCM showed the first cut -- and it makes perfect sense!

It does--the one unexplained killing (Geiger's chauffeur) is explained, in a boring dialog between Philip Marlowe and the DA. If coherence was the price of losing that swatch of flannel and substituting the lewd "horse and rider" backchat between Bogie and Bacall, I say it was worth it.

rcocean said...

Bad, script great movie. What about "The Thin Man"? The dog's cute, Powell and Loy are cute, there's some funny physical comedy. But the script isn't much and neither is the short Novel by Hammett that its based on.

And I like "Gilda" but its really just about Glenn Ford acting tough and Rita Hayworth singing her songs and looking sexy, the script is mediocre as hell. Same with the script for "Lady from Shanghai". Good thing Orson knew how to direct.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Oh Welles had more than that going on

X. Trapnel said...

The Buchanan character based on Noel Coward? How odd. It certainly doesn't show since his besetting vice is pretentiousness rather than viciousness. The wisdom has always been that Buchanan's character was "based on" Orson Welles. The character in The Scoundrel is supposed to be the publisher Horace Liveright. Or Jed Harris on loan from A Jew in Love. Quite a tangle. The concluding shot of The Scoundrel (Coward's upturned beaming face, if memory serves) reminds me (1) of Gene Kelly's beaming rain-in-the-face;(2) Greer Garson's skyward beam over the decapitated Ronald Colman (Random H);(3) the creepy beamish boy in the last shot of We Are Not Alone. The moral is people should try not to beam, especially around cameras.

According to Oscar Levant, Arthur Freed got pretentious himself when making Band Wagon, trying to insert a bit of Yeats' adaptation of Oedipus Rex into the mix, even consulting with the great man's widow on fine points of interpretation. Yeats' Oedipus was, by the way, the signature role of F.J. McCormick (Shell in Odd Man Out) at the Abbey Theatre.

X. Trapnel said...

Rachel, thanks for the tip on Ibbetson. The Victorianism (and Edwardianism) of this subject is fascinating and even a few years difference can dissipate the original mood which isn't really present in, say, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. One of the problems with Portrait of Jenny is its failure to evoke the ghostly presence of the 1890s in the 1940s. Of course, a good score might have helped...

Yojimboen said...

Growing up in the UK we were a little more familiar with JB than the average American – he was a major radio star in the 50s, and again when he moved to TeeVee. But he was the quintessential theatrical actor/manager before, during and after WWII. Coward’s era was the 30s, Jack the lad’s was the 40s & 50s.
Re Bandwagon I can assure everyone that Jack Buchanan was playing… Jack Buchanan.

He was also a very generous friend to out-of-luck actors.
(Did I mention he was Scottish?)

Yojimboen said...

Hmm...



WV: acefugen!

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

That Orson Welles speech in Lady from Shanghai is pretty much copy and paste from Chapter 66 of Moby Dick:
http://www.classicreader.com/book/309/66/

Old Herman M also predicted the effects of the screen in an image from the eighth story in the Encantadas where a woman on an island is drowsing in a hammock and watches through a frame of leaves her husband and their friend drown as the surf overturns their catamaran. She doesn't wake to the reality until it is over.

If that ain't TV (and modern Amurrican politics), I don't know what is.

To get back to the subject, what about writer/directors like Billy Wilder or, to jump the puddle, Jacques Becker (I watched Casque D'or last night)?

Been discovering Becker recently, first with Touchez pas au Grisbi, where we learn how a hoodlum brushes his teeth, and Le Trou, a great prison film. I'd like to see more of his work but it seems my library has only those three films available.

gmoke said...

The Coen's True Grit, if memory serves, is more faithful to the book than Hathaway's (though I still remember the wind in those yellow leaved aspens) and its dialog is taken almost verbatim from Charles Portis.

The Night of the Hunter ride at the end of the movie also elevates it to another level that Hathaway wasn't even considering. Hailee Steinfeld fits the part better than Kim Darby, too, but then she didn't have to compete with Duke Wayne swaggering around in high heels.

Or maybe I like the Coen version just because I got to see it at a free preview.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Oh there were many models for Jack Buchcanan's character in The Band Wagon. But when he revs up his grand gestures and starts going on about his "Damnation scene" C&G were clearly thinking of The Scoundrel

The Siren said...

Everyone: I've been marinating this post for a while and I even asked on Twitter, for fun, for examples of a great movie with a bad script. I think what you find to qualify depends on your definition of both. Rocean's example of The Thin Man, to name one, is something I disagree with because I think the wit of that movie's dialogue is what makes it, together with Van Dyke's ability to get out of the way of an astonishingly great screen team and let them bat the lines back and forth. The examples I got on Twitter either didn't strike me as a truly great movie, or a truly bad script. Like I wrote to Raymond, to me a bad script is more than bad dialogue, it's the whole megillah.

I love Jack Buchanan in The Band Wagon, he cracks me up. That scene where he's describing his vision of their cute little musical and the doors in the apartment open so you get snatches of him describing the gates of hell--at a cocktail party--genius. A good script, whether it's The Scoundrel (that's a new one to me!) or gentle ribbing of Orson Welles.

I always figure that directors who film their own scripts are tailoring things to their own strengths. I wouldn't want to judge which is harder; going the Hawks route and adapting someone else's work, often suggesting alterations to fit your style, or writing a good screenplay in the first place. Both require talent at a minimum. When genius shows up I'm nothing but grateful.

Ned said...

In college, it was suggested to me, in a Shakespeare survey course, that it would be useful to compare Will to one of his contemporaries. I chose Ben Jonson.

I actually found Jonson to be quite good. No Shakespeare, but chopped liver he wasn’t.

I’ve often thought of Henry Hathaway as Hollywood’s Ben Jonson. He was no Welles, or Hawks, or Ford; he didn’t put his particular immediately identifiable ‘touch’ on his pictures, but he handled an incredibly wide range of material that guys like Welles and Hawks would never have touched.

Lives of a Bengal Lancer, China Girl, Niagara, The Desert Fox (a movie I’ve always enjoyed—James Mason is perfect as Rommel), Trail of the Lonesome Pine (the first three color process film shot on location), Airport, True Grit, and the three excellent noirs in the middle of his career including the outstanding Call Northside 777 (with that loooong scene demonstrating the use of an early wire transfer machine).

Not many directors can claim that kind of range.

For a standard African adventure movie, White Witch Doctor, complete with a guy in a gorilla costume, and a rubber tarantula, Fox brought in Hathaway to make sure there were no problems on the set. The stars were having some difficulties at the time (Bob Mitchum was sometimes under the influence and Susan Hayward was going through an ugly divorce) and the studio wanted the picture shot clean with no screwing around. I’ve read an interview with Mitchum (somewhere, I forget where now) in which he had nothing but good things to say about Hathaway as a director. A strong, forceful director who got the job done.

Can you imagine Orson Welles shooting White Witch Doctor? He’d have added three different subplots, cast himself as a Kurtz type character (he always wanted to shoot Heart of Darkness anyway) and demanded to shoot on location in the Congo, and then never have finished the picture. But Hathaway did.

He was a fine director who occasionally turned in excellent, ground breaking work like Kiss of Death.

I think of the reason Gershwin loved to hear Fred Astaire singing his songs. He didn’t screw around with them. He sang ‘em straight, the way they were written. Same with Hathaway. He played it straight, no stylistic tricks or flashy personal touches.

His career was a great example of how to do good, consistent work in Hollywood with a variety of people; to bring it in on time and on budget.

Maybe he wasn’t Shakespeare, but Ben Jonson was not a bad target to aim for either.

The Siren said...

Ned, what a fabulous defense of Hathaway, a jack-of-all-trades craftsman. I have the softest of spots for many of his movies--not Airport, but Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Niagara, Northside, Desert Fox, Katie Elder, Kis of Death, most certainly. Thank you for that, I hope Ray sees it--although it may not change his mind.

Ned said...

Oh, and as for that great Ben Hecht line "Tell him his poetry stinks and kick him down the stairs", I think I prefer Grant's reading to Menjou's. It's been a long time since I saw that early version of the Front Page and I may be off on that, but someone correct me if he didn't say that line. I suppose I've just seen the Hawks version so many times I can hear Grant's and Russell's cadences in my sleep.

Ned said...

I have to disagree with the Thin Man being a bad novel. It may not be a perfectly constructed, finely wrought box that clicks nicely when closed, but it's a tight little story that hums right along with deftly drawn characters.

Same with his other novels. The best move John Huston did in his adaptation of the Maltese Falcon, was to not do too much surgery on either the story or the dialogue. He had, of course, to adapt certain scenes (in the film, Spade takes Brigid at her word that she didn't palm the hundred dollar bill. In the book, if I recall correctly, he takes her into the bathroom and makes her strip) but he retained the feel, kept the gestalt perfectly intact and then went Hammett one better with those wonderfully constructed and staged dialogue scenes in Spade's apartment and office (remember those great shots of Bogart framed by Barton MacLane and Ward Bond).

The Glass Key has been successfully made several times, most recently as the basis for the Coen's Miller's Crossing. I think I prefer the 1935 Glass Key with George Raft. But I've always been a bit peeved that they changed his name from the book (Ned Beaumont) to Ed. Hmmmph.

As for the script of the Thin Man, I don't know. Even though it's fairly convoluted in spots, the brio with which the whole thing is executed makes it sing. There might be some clunky moments, but even the crazy brother Gilbert and his talk of psychoanalysis adds to the surreal feel of the thing.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Could taking up where Fritz Lang left off cause Archie Mayo to step up his game on Moontide?

Although I'm generally an auteurist, I agree with your assessment of Man's Favorite Sport?. Hawks should have let it go when his choices for leading men turned down the script.

rcocean said...

Ned,

You make some good points. Frankly, I'm probably prejudiced against "Thin Man" because most of Hammett bores me. I love "Maltese Falcon" and many of his short stories, but his other stuff like "Glass Key", "Red Harvest", et al was pretty thin gruel to me. I prefer Chandler by a mile.

As for "Thin man" the movie. Yes, it does have some good witty dialog between Loy and Powell, but I can barely remember the story, and I was bored whenever Powell/Loy were off-screen - which is often (or maybe seemed that way). But like the Siren says, it depends on what you consider a "bad Script".

DavidEhrenstein said...

It's Luchino Visconti Day at Dennis Cooper's

Ned said...

rcocean,

I'm right with you on Chandler. He was the Sultan of Superb Similes ("...leaves and stalks like the newly washed fingers of dead men"). Talk about great dialogue, he wrote one of my favorite passages. I think it's from Red Wind. The scene is a bar where the owner is complaining to Marlowe about a customer:

"In the first place, I don't like drunks. In the second place, I don't like them getting drunk in here, and in the third place, I didn't like drunks in the first place."

That's great stuff.

But Chandler was very complimentary towards Hammett, and complimentary remarks did not flow like water from a fountain where Chandler was concerned. He once called Hitchcock a "fat bastard" and referred to James M. Cain as "Proust in greasy overalls". (I think that's an insult...)

But in The Simple Art of Murder he makes much of Hammett's ability to write stuff that no one had ever written before.

So Chandler, for all his weirdness and personal peccadilloes, was one hell of a writer, no arguments there. If only he had stayed sober long enough to crank out a few more scripts like Blue Dahlia.

Only now that I think of it, didn't the studio deliver a bottle of scotch to his apartment every day until the script was finished?

Damn. Screenwriting takes its toll!

X. Trapnel said...

I would take "Proust in greasy overalls" to be a compliment. Pity it isn't true of Cain.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Zola in greasy overalls is closer to the mark, IMO.

X. Trapnel said...

Zola is Zola in greasy overalls

Ned said...

X, that's what I thought too. I could never figure that out. The greasy overalls I get, but the Cain=Proust part always eluded me.

Chandler must have been off on a toot that day.

But you guys are too funny.

Zola IS Zola in greasy overalls.

I might have to steal that one.

The Siren said...

I love Chandler AND Hammett. And Woolrich. And John Dickson Carr and 1930s vintage Agatha Christie...my tastes in such things are also vintage. Like I said, I'm predictable. Except when I'm not.

X. Trapnel said...

Ned, I sort of stole it myself: "Meredith is a prose Browning and so is Browning"--Oscar Wilde

Veddy witty, Oscar, veddy, veddy witty, but not so.

I've always wished for an American prole Proust, preferably New Jerseyan (I like to imagine a lengthy passage on how two factory smokestacks along Routes 1 and 9, reflecting the churning, dusty light of a Newark evening seem to converge as one clanks along in a '57 Studebaker).

DavidEhrenstein said...

And I love James Hadley Chase.

Ned said...

Cornell Woolrich!! A god in the pantheon.

"You'll Never See Me Again", "Graves for the Living", "The Screaming Laugh", some of the best noir short stories ever written. Years after reading them for the first time they're still embedded deep in my brain.

X. Trapnel said...

"Graves for the Living"; I still shudder. Woolrich was possessed by his own nightmares such as to give Kafka pause. It may not be "literature," but it's way beyond pulp. It is Something Else.

The Siren said...

After pondering, I think Roald Dahl's "Man from the South" is just about the creepiest story I've ever read...but Woolrich is supremely, sublimely disturbing.

Ned said...

Siren, "Man From the South" IS an uber creepy story. "Taste" is also a great Dahl story! You can just see the father's face when he realizes his guest has cheated in order to get his slimy hands on the man's daughter. Too bad there aren't the kind of omnibus shows still around that encouraged short story adaptations to film.

But "Graves for Living"....a true paranoia fest. People showing up out of nowhere who have been watching your every move, acid poured on a suspect to make him talk, people buried alive. I don't know what Woolrich did at night, but I don't think it was happy-happy dreamtime.

DavidEhrenstein said...

My all-time fave creepy stories are by Paul Bowles: "A Distant Episode" and especially "Pages From Cold Point."

X. Trapnel said...

The scariest story EVER: "Seaton's Aunt," by the great Walter de la Mare.

The greatest little-known (except for we happy few) writers of horror fiction: Robert Aickman

Ned said...

David, I've not read the Bowles short stories, only Sheltering Sky but I'll definitely check out these stories.

X, I've read De La Mare's "Out of the Deep"....one of those stories that makes you look around you after you finish it, and open closet doors.

"Seaton's Aunt" goes on the "to be read" list.

Another favorite story, not truly a horror story, but a great revenge tale (they're always so much fun) is Saki's "Sredni Vashtar" about a giant ferret and a sociopathic little boy. It will remind you a bit of some of Bradbury's best like the "Small Assassin" and "The Veldt".

rcocean said...

Speaking of Chandler, I love what he wrote about Bogart:

"Bogart of course is also so much better than the other tough guy actors, that he makes bums out the Ladds and the Powells. As we say here, Bogart can be tough without a gun. Also, he has a sense of humor that contains a grating undertone of contempt. Ladd is hard bitter and occasionally charming but he is after all a small boys idea of a tough guy. Bogart is the genuine article. Like Robinson, when younger all he had to do to dominate a scene was enter it"

Karen said...

No story has ever scared me as much as pick-your-story from M.R.James' Ghost stories of an antiquary. I can't even read those at night.

X. Trapnel said...

De la Mare and Aickman impart a sense of creeping, indefinable terror or loathsomeness combined with a weird nightmarish beauty. Ned, also check out Aickman's "Ravaissant," concerning an art historian specializing in the work of Charles Sims (I know someone on this site [Vanwall, is it you?] shares my interest in Sims [V, if it is you, don't you think the sleeping woman in "Night Piece for Julia" looks a bit like Loretta Young?).

Yojimboen said...

Ned - It took me a while to check, but you had it right: Grant's and Menjou's line is the same - even the lines leading into and out of it are identical. But Grant's delivery is better - because he was Grant. For me Menjou was always an exquisitely tailored moustache on legs.

Dave said...

rcocean: Great quote, and it reminds me of Clark Gable in "Manhattan Melodrama." I love Gable, but his tough guy wouldn't have lasted more than about two minutes in any Warner Bros. picture.

X. Trapnel said...

Gable's name rarely turns up around here, I suppose because he made so few good movies. He was definitely at the wrong studio (MGM assiduously fostered mediocrity--ok, it was briefly home to Lubitsch but that's about it. Its happiest camper was S.A. Brugh). At Warner's he could have honed his tough guy skills and good humor in a congenial mise en scene of that studio's romantic realism. Also no Spencer Tracy to provide lugubrious moral gravity. Pat O'Brien never weighs down Cagney.

Ned said...

Y, thanks for sussing out that bit of dialogue in the first Front Page. And thanks also for that image of Menjou. I like him but I'll never be able to watch him again without thinking of him as a 'well tailored mustache on legs', thank you very much.

Also X's comment about the 'lugubrious' presence of Spencer Tracy in the films he shared with Gable is too true. He is a serious buzzkill in both San Francisco and Boomtown.

Dave's comment about Gable's work as MGM's tough guy as compared to the feral toughness of the boys over at Warner's House of Gritty Realism is a great point. But that, as X points out, has as much to do with MGM as it does with Gable.

And speaking of Bogart and Gable, I'm sure most everyone out here knows that they almost appeared opposite each other once. Almost. John Huston finally got to direct Kipling's Man Who Would Be King in the 70s but wanted very much to do it in the 40s with Gable and Bogart (guess who would be 'the king'). I have no doubt their version would not come up to the excellence of Connery and Caine's pairing (can you imagine Gable affecting a Cockney accent?? Bogart's phony Irish accent almost sank Dark Victory) but it would have been enormously intriguing to see.

And since I'm now in serious associative mode, I wanted to bring up a subject that could take up quite a lot of space in its own right, at least as a sort of parlor game, and that's what to make of the names assigned to characters. Gable in the two films mentioned above had the names Blackie (a name he also had in Manhattan Melodrama, I'm pretty sure) and Big John McMasters--a primo macho moniker if ever there was one. But in his last film his name was Gay. Does anyone know if that was the name in the Arthur Miller short story?

Bogart was Duke a couple of times, but also (one of my favorites), Gloves Donahue. He was Dixon Steele in a Nicholas Ray film, and Sgt. Gunn in Sahara.

Don't even start on Marion Morrison's names.

So what's in a name? We might need to consult Saul Kripke on this one, or maybe Russell can help us with his 'present king of France is bald' identity game.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Arthur Miller not only write the original screenplay of The Misfits but he was on the set from first to last, so yes Gable's character is named "Gay." (An inadvertently dark joke for those who know of Gable's pre-acting years.)

MGM wasn't Warner Bros. It was the home of Vincente Minnelli and Charles Walters. They were the cream of the crop, and perfectly suited to what L.B. wanted. Of course they weren't gritty (save for Some Came Running). Still the studio gave gable a few good moments like San Francisco

The bottom line was he was arather limited leading man. He was well-suited to Gone Wiht The Wind, but that's because Vivian Leigh and Hattie McDaniels carried him.

X. Trapnel said...

Ned, I've been waiting for YEARS to have a cackle on this site over "Big John McMasters," and when the context finally comes up you beat me to it.

God, do I hate Boom Town.

Ned said...

Hedy Lamarr is not too hard to look at in Boom Town.

But Claudette Colbert's role in the middle of the romantic triangle does generate one memorable and very funny line.

At one point the Gable character says to Colbert "I may have to lick you" to which she responds, "You can lick me anytime you want."

Well, alright.

How that got by the censors, I have no idea. They must not have been orally inclined.

X. Trapnel said...

Re: "You can lick me etc." The censors must have been rendered softly complaisant by all the Republican attitudinizing.

I'd rather hear that line trippingly off the tongue of Hedy Lamarr.

Ned said...

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

X. Trapnel said...

A heady prospect.

Yojimboen said...

Which brings up my fave in that category: in Male War Bride Grant and Sheridan have a minor accident on the motor bike/sidecar which gives Sheridan a couple of bruises; which gives rise to the scene in the hospital cafeteria where two of Sheridan’s colleague nurses are studying Grant – in his handsome French Officer uniform - sitting alone at a table across the room.
First Nurse: (re Sheridan’s bruises) “He beats her you know.”
Second Nurse: “He could beat me any time.” (pause) “I’d bring the stick.”

rcocean said...

Gable at WB is an interesting thought. I can see him replacing Bogie in all his great 40s roles without much trouble: Casablanca, Maltese F, Have and Have not, Big Sleep, Key largo.

Can't see him replacing Bogie in "African Queen" or "Treasure of Sierra Madre" though.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I disagree. Gable never played weary or cynical. Even in The Misfits he's bouncy and bright.

Ned said...

Gable had an opportunity to play cynical AND depressed in the filmed version of the stage play Command Decision, as a Brigadier General who has to make some difficult decisions around the American daylight bombing of Nazi ball bearing plants all the while juggling a visit from snarky, meddlesome, but influential congressmen (one of which is the ubiquitous Edward Arnold).

I have to admit that I do enjoy this film but it doesn't compare with Twelve O'Clock High or Dawn Patrol, in which Greg Peck and Errol Flynn actually do outstanding jobs of conveying the depression and cynicism that can beset a command officer in wartime.

In his favor, we must remember that Gable, unlike other chest-beating living room warriors such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, actually did fly a few missions. Even if he was accompanied by MGM photographers, he was still subjected to fire from German anti aircraft batteries and fighter planes. A gunner on one of his missions was killed by strafing fire and he came inches from death via the same fusillade.

One interesting note. His discharge papers, signed around the time of D-Day, came from a state-side warrior who never got closer than Culver City to the front, who years later seemed to recall, inaccurately, that he spent quite a lot of time in the ETO: Ronald Reagan.

Now that would depress me.

X. Trapnel said...

Looking over Gable's filmography I can't help noticing the ubiquity of second rank/rate directors (Brown, Conway, Fleming) in undemanding projects; Walsh and Ford are there in the fifties, Borzage and Vidor in the forties, but these are all fair to middling pictures. Only in It Happened One Night did a great director get a great performance. Peter Warne is how I like to think of Gable. No one else could have given this ebulliant performance.

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...")?

The Man on the Flying Trapeze scene is a wonderful moment in American films of the 30s. Not to mention the hitchhiking scene. A great film no matter how you look at it.

Young people in love.....

X. Trapnel said...

are very seldom hungry!

What a great movie, and let's hear it for Alan Hale! Among the multitudinous pleasures of Strawberry Blonde is having AH and Jack Carson in the same picture.

Dave said...

To criticize Gable for not being dark and cynical enough is (to me) to miss the point of Gable. Fewer "tough guys" can crack wise better. ("Tough guy" being a relative term here; at Metro, he was that.)

I do wonder, though, what would have happened if either Mayer had cast Gene Kelly as a Philip Marlow type or lent Frank Morgan to Paramount to work with Sturges.

And Pat O'Brien? I've yet to see a performance of his that doesn't consist of shouting unpleasantly.

X. Trapnel said...

Oh, the Warner bros. just threw O'Brien in as a sop to the moral authority they didn't give a damn about. Now, if I could only figure out what they meant by Jeffrey Lynn...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Gene Kelly could do dark and cynical: For Me and My Gal, Christmas Holiday, It's Always Fair Weather. And of course he began on Broadway as Pal Joey

Yojimboen said...

X - Nothing nefarious going on, the Brothers Warner only threw in Jeffrey Lynn when Patrick Knowles wasn't available. (Or when he was busy sobering up E Flynn.)



WV Deadme

Huh?!

Ned said...

Kelly didn't do a bad job in Inherit the Wind as the H.L. Mencken character. Mencken himself elevated cynicism to a high art. One way to look at the writer character in ITW is as someone who was overly idealistic about his own position. In either case, Kelly holds his own with Tracy and March in a non dance role. It's been a while since I've seen it but I can't recall if he flashes those teeth in this one.

rcocean said...

While Gene Kelly could do dark and cynical, he couldn't do tough or menacing. He also wasn't much of an actor - people tell he could dance a little.

X. Trapnel said...

If it were only that simple, Y. Patrick Knowles was just filler, like the non-beef stuff they put in hot dogs. I know I've said this before, but there was a positive REASON that Jeffrey Lynn was made to triumph over Cagney, Bogart, and Garfield, and it's connected to PAUL MUNI. In the eyes of the Bros., Lynn represented the hope that Muni-esque nobility could be transplanted in American soil and flourish with the sociocultural weeding out of C, B, and G, who rarely survived (or remained at large) to the end of the picture. No big deal you may say since Priscilla Lane was the prize, but it could be Ann Sheridan now and again. There's a brief moment toward the end of It All Came True, when Bogie, after he's been thwarted, flashes an incinerating smile at Lynn that not only makes a hash out of this Muni-ficence but reminds us that High Sierra and immortality are just around the corner and that JL is fated to be a special guest star on Murder She Wrote.

Ned said...

I'm not sure the Warners sought a displacement of the loners, the outcasts, the Cagneys, Bogarts, and Garfields. The brothers, nee Wonskolaser, felt pretty outcast themselves. They succeeded against long odds and they never forgot how hard they worked to force their way into a club that mostly hated them. In the early days the big boys at studios like Biograph (under control and at the insistence of Thomas Edison) did everything they could to keep out the 'others', these east European Jews who were trying to climb aboard their train. Edison even got Eastman Kodak to decline to sell them film stock. But guys like the Warners knew from the ground up (because they were theater owners and promoters) what the public wanted in ways Edison couldn't understand, and so ultimately defeated Edison's combine.

But the brothers never felt 'safe', they always felt they had to fight for everything. That spirit, that world view, comes through in two unusual ways that make the Warners product so different from the other studios. First, their unflagging support for the underdog. Second, and most importantly, the recognition, that most of those underdogs will lose in the end. So Cagney dies, Lynn gets the girl. Bogart goes off, heroically to an uncertain fate. Muni fades back into the darkness and survives by stealing, and John Garfield, most interestingly of all, is both blessed and doomed by the realization that the deck is stacked against him and all he can do is keep punching. Don't you remember how Garfield always seems to walk around under his own storm cloud? Even in freakin' Four Daughters you can see the bitterness. I think Warners let Jeffrey Lynn win because they don't see him as a hero. They see him as the insider they--and by extension, C,B,G, and M--could never become.

That tension is what makes even the earliest Warner films still watchable long after you've given up on an MGM or Columbia entry from the same period.

I had never thought of the Jeffrey Lynn question before, but it's an interesting one.

Karen said...

I wrote a really long comment yesterday morning, in response to Dave's remark about Gable not making it at Warners and X.T.'s that Gable made so few good movies, but I neglected to Ctrl-C before posting and Blogger ate it and then I gave up.

But the gist was that Gable pops off the screen in his early work just as Cagney did. See him as the laundryman brother in The Easiest Way or the chauffeur in Night Nurse. And while It Happened One Night is truly his apotheosis, he's also a treat in Red Dust and a few others.

For me, Gable is like Crawford: so much more interesting in the pre-Code work than what they did after they had become stars and essentially played their personas. I love their work in the '30s, and lose a lot of interest after that (not entirely, and less so with Crawford, but still).

Gable loses his spark in the '40s (was it Lombard's death?), and is positively robotic in the '50s. Ironically, he doesn't show much of his old life until he was dying, in The Misfits...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Speaking of Alan Hale and Jack Carson. . .

X. Trapnel said...

Ned, everything yoou say is true and my remarks on Jeffrey Lynn were somewhat facetious, but I do think he rperesnted a longing for respectability on the part of the W Bros. that nevertheless retained some of the cultural trappings of the Europe they left behind (recall he writes "modern tone poems" in Four Daughters). Over at MGM L.B. Mayer and The Boy Genius were only interested in respectability (this is no way contradicted by MGM's clunky literary/prestige products).

Karen, late Gable films are central to my theory of cinema fatigue (that's French, but I don't know how to do an on-line accent aigu). All the participants in such items as It Started in Naples, Teacher's Pet, But Not for Me seem to have been bored, half-asleep, irritatable; the unbreathable air hot and thick with rancid Brylcreem, burning insulation (the key grip has nodded off), and stale tobacco, dried sweat. Such films are seen to best advantage on archaic tv sets of such vanished makes as Philco, Emerson, and Dumont.

Ned said...

Teacher's Pet! OMG.

Run away, run away.

To pick up on Karen's point, once you compare something like Teacher's Pet (or even Run Silent, Run Deep which I'll watch for Burt Lancaster and Don Rickles) with Red Dust....well, there really is no comparison. And I don't think we can lay that at the feet of somnambulent grips. Gable was mailing it in by then. The Hucksters I'll watch because of the Deborah Kerr subplot and just to see Sidney Greenstreet expectorate on the table, but Teacher's Pet? Not on a bet.

X, I see what you mean about the Warners striving for respectability. Their primary problem was to maintain respect and civility within their own family group since Jack and Harry hated each other so much. But I get your point regarding the Jeffrey Lynn problem.

Regarding the situation over at Retake Valley, The Boy Genius does get a nod from me purely on the strength of his helping out the Marx Brothers after their Paramount contract ended.

Unfortunately the formula he devised that was so successful in Night at the Opera devolved into dreck after he died. But I guess we can't blame him for that.

(And everyone getting ready to say "the Paramount pictures were much better" can hold their fire. I agree that Duck Soup is a masterpiece but NATO is surely up there in the American comic film pantheon.)

Ned said...

David, thanks so much for that Alan Hale/Jack Carson number.

That bit brought to mind a number I haven't thought of in years, a song from one of the Two Guys movies (Two Guys from Texas) Carson and Dennis Morgan made called "I Wanna Be a Cowboy in the Movies". If anyone knows where to find this online I'd love to see it again.

The song has Dennis and Jack describing what daring feats they would do as movie cowboys:

I'll ride the trails for RKO
I'll rope for Paramount,
We'll get more mail for MGM than they can ever count,
Warners will star me in the lead and Monogram will call me to stop a small stampede.

It's a great bit.

Yojimboen said...

Sorry, Ned, “I Wanna Be a Cowboy in the Movies” doesn’t seem to up anywhere.
This’ll have to do.

Yojimboen said...

Never understood Jeffrey Lynn. Soft, pink, wimpy, ball-less performances one and all. I think he got the gigs because there weren’t that many B players on the WB Roster whose name had nothing but soft consonants – the better to oppose BoGart, CaGney, Edward G, J Garfield et al. Certainly the easy confidence of actors with WASP names gave them a leg up in the world of Mayers, Zukors, Wonskolasers, Goldfishes, et al.

And then you pop over to IMDb and discover JL’s birth name was Ragnar Godfrey Lind and my premise falls on its face.

X. Trapnel said...

Ragnar! A mighty Norse hero who must journey to the dark land of Kjlppkjnjn to tie an egg in a knot and thereby claim the fair Yjdggrsdjl as his bride.

Jeffrey, we hardly knew ye.

rcocean said...

Any discussion of Gable, has to note that from 1942-1949; that is 8 years when he was ages 41-48, he only made 6 movies! And that includes a mediocre flag-waver from 1942. And that from 1950-1954 MGM gave him "Mogambo" in 1953, but mostly just cast him in a lot of "solid entertainment" B+ movies. He had a good role in "Across the Missouri" but Dore Sharey chopped the film to bits.

He really didn't get the roles he deserved after 1942. He was really quite good in "Run Silent Run Deep" and the "Misfits". So, the problem wasn't Gable.

I wish he'd been cast in "Love in the Afternoon". He was still too old for Audrey, but Cooper looked like he was 80, while Gable merely looked his age.

Harry Kay said...

Thanks for the Way Up North clip,especially for the opening. It's like a cavalcade of character actors after my own heart. Horton! Cuddles! And of course, the two singing sensations! I don't know, with Horton and Cuddles lies possibly the only nostalgic bone in my body. I really miss great comedic support, which seems to have fallen by the wayside.

Ned said...

The Misfits is an example of how certain extra-filmic events (I guess you could call it non-diegetic but who's counting?) can affect your viewing experience.

It's impossible to watch that film and not feel the pall over the whole enterprise knowing that all the principles would be dead shortly thereafter. Gable, before it was released, Monroe within 18 months and Clift a few years later.

You get a similar feeling watching Saratoga (another Gable film that wasn't bad) realizing that Jean Harlow died towards the end of the shooting schedule. Watching the stand-in who was hired to play her in those last few shots with Gable is kind of creepy, but completely fascinating. Didn't they also find a voice double for her?

It' a bit like sitting in the audience listening to Turandot and suddenly realizing, towards the end of the last act, that the music you're hearing is not Puccini's anymore.

And wasn't Yggrasil a tree? That Jeffrey Lynn was really quite a confused guy! No wonder the Warners never bumped him off, they felt so sorry for the poor guy.

Ned said...

Speaking of Horton and Cuddles, I always thought if I ever owned a theater, I would have to have an Edward Everett Horton Film Festival starting with a double bill of Holiday ("That's Potter...") and Arsenic and Old Lace ("Oh my, we have lots of stairs at Happydale."). And an S.Z. Sakall Festival wouldn't be a bad idea either.

It would do very nicely in America.

Fiddlin' Bill said...

Even though this wonderful post and equally wonderful comment section as probably gone on too long, I wonder if anyone has ever considered comparing the Bogart-Bacall "story" in TH&HN with the Cotton-Wright relationship in Shadow of a Doubt. In both films there is an underlying story that actually holds the views eye--rivets so to speak--and this subterranean story is what makes both films go.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I can see the tabloid headline now : "Misfits Curse -- Is Eli Wallach Next?"

X. Trapnel said...

Ned,

In an earlier post somebody noted a director who complained that Lynn was a "leaner." Just as well that he should marry a tree.

Ned said...

Y, apologies for not acknowledging your detective work on that Carson/Morgan clip sooner.

Thanks.

Warner tried to duplicate the success of the Road pictures with their Two Guys entries. They didn't succeed but "Cowboy" (and the Carson/Morgan performance) is as good as anything in the Hope/Crosby series, and that's saying something.

gmoke said...

Thelma Ritter, who began with stealing "The Miracle on 34th Street" in an uncredited role, lasted another eight years after the release of "The Misfits," which as written was pretty touching all on its own.

The Misfits curse strikes again! Only slowly.

The Siren said...

Yes, curses make for cute headlines, but little else. On the rare occasions that I encounter someone who really does seem to think there was a Misfits curse, I'm flummoxed. Jesus, you cast a man with a smoking habit and a heart condition and two other leads with multiple addictions stretching back years, well, the wonder is that they made it through filming, not that they didn't survive long after.

I'm more fascinated with the extensive set photographs I've seen. For people who were so ill--and they all were--they look to be very much at ease in each other's company.

As for Gable--tough room. Last week at Glenn's place it was Gary Cooper being put through the wringer. Between those two and poor Elizabeth Taylor, I start to wonder who's left. I love Gable. No, he wasn't Warners tough; why should he be? Neither was Flynn. Different breed of star. If everyone in the pantheon were as tough as parts of the WB roster we wouldn't be able to watch without throwing meat tenderizer at the screen. But anyone who's seen Night Nurse knows Gable could be menacing as all hell when he so chose. No one's mentioned it, but his Fletcher Christian could wipe the floor with Mel Gibon's (as indeed Charles Laughton would have withered Anthony Hopkins to ashes with a single glare). I do think Lombard's death took something out of Gable; I'd say it was his appetite for the business.Aalthough he's dead sexy in Mogambo. And what, no love for The Tall Men? Really, despite Walsh and Ryan? No Run Silent Run Deep? And what's with all the contempt for Teacher's Pet? As I recall, it doesn't have striking looks aside from the leads. But it had some funny lines, chemistry with Day and Gable, and sexual politics that were several light years better than Woman of the Year. What I recall being its problem was a rather preachy denouement.

Ned said...

About Teacher's Pet, I don't know, just something about it that has always rubbed me the wrong way. I suppose comparing early Gable to late Gable is what does it for me. Although there are a few later ones I'll watch. But his early stuff is just so compelling. I think we all have films that just hit us at an odd angle. That's one for me.

As for the Misfits 'curse', initially, I was simply suggesting that when watching it, because of the deaths of the principles shortly thereafter (especially in the case of Gable and Monroe) it's hard (at least for me) not to think about that. Since Eli Wallach's still around I don't think there's much of a curse. And despite all the problems on the set, and Gable's stated relief at completing that shoot, I do think there is a lot of chemistry onscreen. There's a nicely weary lived-in quality about the characters. John Huston has said that Marylin wasn't so much playing a character as she was playing herself, and that's about as complicated a screen persona as you'll find anywhere.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Marilyn's "self" was of course a character that she had created. Mr. Cukor said she was "mad" as her mother had been. Tha's probably true in that it took so much work to construct a "self" she forgot who she may have origianlly been. Considering who that was that was no loss. The trouble was her difficulty in replacing it with a functioning "self."

Over the years I've spoken to several people who worked with her at one point or another and they all liked her very much -- despite her "unprofessional" difficulty in getting to the set.

Yes Gable was tough in Night Nurse -- but nowhere near as tough as Barbara Stanwyck!

The Siren said...

Oh Ned, I didn't mean you--I meant all the times I encountered the Misfits curse in rather lazy writeups of the film.

David, I'd have to agree, but then who was as tough as Stanwyck at her toughest? Davis, Crawford and not many others. I think any one of them could have taken down the WB tough-guy roster and gone home and had a beer afterward...

Ned said...

I recall that Film Comment, in an old issue back in the 70s, I think, did an excellent cover which encapsulated the greatest of the Queen Bees of Noir. All the usual suspects were there, Veronica Lake, Jane Greer, Lana Turner, Lizabeth Scott, Mary Astor, of course. The roster went from the outer rings to the innermost, the Queen Bee at the center of the noir world.

Who was it?

Stanwyck.

rcocean said...

I think Gable from 1946-1960 - performance wise -holds up pretty well, especially when compared to Cooper. He's pretty darn good when given a good role. CF: "Run Silent Run Deep", "Command Decisions", "The Misfits", "Teachers Pet", and even "Mogambo" (although I think Heston would've been better). Other than old age, the problem were the movies and the roles he got. He had a lot of competition in the 50s.

X. Trapnel said...

Siren, I don't think anyone here was knocking Gable for not being WB tough; after all there's more to the Warner's esthetique than Gangsters and streetfighters. speaking for myself, I wish Gable could have worked with Raoul Walsh in the 30s and 40s; I sense an affinity in their gallantry toward women. Regarding this latter I've always admired how the women in Walsh's films stand their own ground or fail in realistic terms, not according to a code of right conduct by which they earn their way in with the boys ("She's all right"). Compare Lupino/Leslie in High Sierra with Bacall/Moran in THAHN. Joan Leslie's failure (if that's what it is) is moral and stems from the emotional and social tensions of her relationship with Bogart. Moran is just not cool. Something of the sort is played out in a comedic key in Strawberry Blonde between deHavilland and Hayworth. Don't get me wrong; I love Hawks, but his immersion in that much noted cockpit of his own sensibility excludes a lot of reality. It seems to me that Walsh loved reality and the relations between people. I recall so many subtle gestures of friendship and affection between characters in his films. E.g., Cagney holding a cup of coffee under the nose of the sleeping Frank McHugh and Gladys George taking the hand of the oblivious Cagney , both in Roaring 20s, that conversation between Bogart and Donald McBride in High Sierra in which we feel death in the room and a rueful, ironic acceptance that cuts much deeper than "Who's Joe?"

dr.morbius said...

Wow, I'm late to this.

In brief: yes to Agee's books. Never actually read the screenplays, but I think Night of the Hunter has so much reek of A Death in the Family (and the original novel by Davis Grubb, which is an unknown masterpiece) that I think Charles Laughton might get too much credit for it. I don't have an opinion on The African Queen, which I haven't seen in forever.

Love Chandler. Love Hammett (particularly Red Harvest, but not so much The Thin Man). LOVE Woolrich and Christie and Dahl. Favorite Woolrich (apart from I Married a Dead Man) is "Post Mortem," which was ripped off with seeming impugnity in Mr. Sardonicus.

I'm with you with Titanic, if by "screenplay" we mean dialogue. But the movie itself is too well constructed for me to sign off on it being completely awful on the page.

I don't think The Front Page actually works without Cary Grant. Walter Burns is too much of a prick without Grant's charm. That's neither here nor there, I guess.

Howard Hawks described his "bet" with Hemmingway re: To Have and Have Not in The Men Who Made the Movies, by the way.

Re: Henry Hathaway. How can someone, presented with such an out of this world performance by Richard Widmark, make a movie as boring as Kiss of Death? I don't buy what Hathaway's apologists are selling. He's a director who is as good as the material and no more. Occasionally not even that.

X. Trapnel said...

Re Kiss of Death, Widmark seems to have stumbled into a Rotary Club meeting and resolved to liven things up a bit.

X. Trapnel said...

Who's the lady in the banner? I'm imagining Ingres ("Drawing is the probity of art, clochard!" WHAP!) and Delacroix ("Color above all else, cochon!" POW!) getting into a pretty good shindy over her.

The Siren said...

XT, that would be Hedy Lamarr in Samson and Delilah. Over on FB, my good pal Kim Morgan was going to the mat for ol' CB. I have recently been experiencing something of a change of heart about him, so this was my Mea Culpa, rather late for Easter, and a Philistine woman at that, but we take what we can get in this cockamamie world.

Ned said...

The lady in question is Hedy Lamarr and I'm guessing it's from Samson and Delilah.

She is looking a bit Ingres-esque there, if I can apply such an awkwardly executed descriptive.

And don't forget what Groucho Marx had to say about that movie.

Rachel said...

By the by, has anyone read that Empire of Dreams DeMille biography by Scott Eyman? I've been eying it for awhile but haven't gotten an opportunity.

In regards to Raoul Walsh, I did finally see The Strawberry Blonde a few weeks ago and thought that Olivia de Havilland rarely looked as warm and loving as she did in that movie (and de Havilland could have gone toe to toe with Ingrid Bergman in the Loving Looks Contest).

Yojimboen said...

I confess I’m hard put to remember any Gable movie I unreservedly like besides The Misfits. Granted he played an effective second banana in It Happened One Night, and his work in Run Silent… is enhanced by and enhances that of Burt Lancaster; but things like his Spencer Tracy co-starrers, Mogambo and above all GWTW are just too painful to watch, but that’s about as much as I can add to what’s already been said. “The Misfits curse” of course is silly stuff set against the real curse of The Conquerer.

The strength of the piece – too often ignored – is Miller’s superb script; it isn’t too much of a stretch to attribute at least some of the successful portrayal of the death of a way of life to the death of the Miller/Monroe marriage. It’s the only Monroe performance I come close to believing (I’m sorry, the girl – legend aside – was a hopelessly bad actress [I know, David, we disagree]). Ritter was, as always, beyond price; Wallach got a lot of the best lines, and made them even better, and Clift gave us perhaps the last glimpses of his tortured genius.

But Gable – I had never seen this Gable - was nothing short of magnificent. All credit to Miller and Huston for what is, I think, the best film in the so-called later careers of every participant.

Yojimboen said...

HEDLEY!!


When the coffee kicked in this morning and I clicked the S-S Siren shortcut and saw Ms Lamarr, I gulped. I knew instantly who it was and where it came from. Only C.B DeM. could take one of the world's most beautiful women and make her look like a 50-centime pute.

X. Trapnel said...

Right you are, Y. Some time ago the Siren had a still of Hedy Lamarr in a plain white slip from Comrade X and looking like the pinnacle of creation. Knuckleheads like CB will never learn. LB might have done better by her too, Warners would have put her native Viennese intelligence to good use.

Goose said...

Actually, Hedy looks pretty darn fabulous in the film Samson & Delila itself. So don't be too hard on ol' CB.

On the other hand, do be hard on LB. The discussion about Clark Gable and MGM's lack of good material suggests to me that lack of first-class directors was not the problem - XT mentions Lubitsch for a brief period, but they also had Vidor for a long time, Borzage for a while, and I would hold that Clarence Brown, WS Van Dyke, Victor Fleming and even Jack Conway could do first-class work. The problem was the collection of executives boneheads (from Mayer and Thalberg on down to Joe Mankewicz) on the production end, who could suck blood out of numerous projects. More than other studios, the frequent miscasting of the talent in front and behind the camera was striking. Spencer Tracy as a slum doctor, anyone?

Back to Hedy, she really was quite good in Vidor's HM Pulham, and touching opposite Jas. Stewart in Brown's Come Live with Me, indicating strong directors help.

BTW, late Gable comes to terms with his age in But Not for Me, an underrated and witty film.

If I can backtread to Henry Hathaway - Shepherd of the Hills shows a real sympathy with mountain folk, more inside than Sergeant York is IMO. Spawn of the North is also quite entertaining. And I think that Peter Ibbetson and Lives of a Bengal Lancer are total successes in every way. His earlier Paramount work is far more interesting.

Rachel said...

"'You're lovely my dear, but I have the family point of view...At MGM we take clean pictures. We want our stars to lead clean lives, I don't like what people would think about a girl who flits bare-assed around the screen.'"

Louis B. Mayer to Hedy Lamarr, before signing her on.

It was also MGM that decided to put Hedy in White Cargo.

X. Trapnel said...

I've never seen But Not For Me. I suspect it's the sort of May/December shtick where poor Gable must in the end "settle for" Lilli Palmer (another possible pinnacle of creation) over the vernal (dull, dull, dull) Carol Baker.

Goose said...

XT,

Trying not to spoil, but in no way goes Gable "settle" for Lilli Palmer in But Not for Me. She is the leading lady of the film, not Ms. Baker.

Dave said...

First of all, I'd like to thank Blogger for eating the comment I just wrote.

On to more pertinent matters. Even though I like Gable in pretty much anything (excepting "Teacher's Pet;" I just don't get Doris Day -- which brings us back to TMWKTM), I agree that he had some kind of death wish after Lombard's death and was really only going through the motions. (Like "Adventure." -Really?- Oy.)

As for Lamarr, I think the biggest problem was that, since Mayer's, um, "tastes" ran to blander fare like Virginia O'Brien and the baffling June Allyson, he didn't have a clue as to how to use her. Since there were no bad girls in Culver City (even Gloria Grahame is tepid tea there, for the most part), they had no niche for her, hence things like "Boom Town," which despite its basic incongruities (such as Colbert's mere existence in a Metro film) and WTF? plot, I kinda like.

X. Trapnel said...

I heard somewhere that Mayer wished to press Margaret Sullavan into an Andy Hardy vehicle, and she agreed on condition that it be Death Comes for Andy Hardy.

Now that's hitting LB where he lives.

Ned said...

X, is that Margaret Sullavan story apocryphal? If it's true it's very funny and even if not, it's still funny. In any event it sounds like her.

How unfortunate (for us) that she made so few films. She had a crackling presence on screen, and, apparently, off screen as well.

Karen said...

That Sullavan story is PRICELESS. I wish it so much to be true that I simply choose to believe it is.

Siren, I promise you that in the comment that Blogger ate (Dave, I know you feel me on this one), I mentioned the miracle that is Gable in Mutiny on the Bounty. I was not prepared for him to be that good in it--in a role that wasn't relying just on charm and charisma.

And the room is not as tough as you think. I adore Gable. He was my first old-movie love, after my grandmother took my sister and me to see a re-release of GWTW when I was in second grade. One of my earliest self-purchased wall decorations was a Gable poster (one I still own, by the way, although it is now in a scrapbook).

As I got older, though, I started noticing the difference between early and late Gable. I don't hate Teacher's Pet, but that Gable doesn't have the spirit, the elan vital, of early Gable. And perhaps he shouldn't--age diminishes us all, and even Cary Grant mellowed from cocky to suave--but he just doesn't feel the same.

You're right that a great deal of that fire comes back in Mogambo, but mostly I just don't feel the inner light from Gable in his later work. Maybe it IS the directors, I don't know.

But I don't think Gable needs to be defended. And I wasn't making points about his toughness. I think he was plenty tough.

You know what the saddest thing about Gable is, though? It's that if you search for Clark Gable in the IMDb, the first result if for Pedro Armendáriz, "the Clark Gable of Mexico." Gable himself comes second. That is SO NOT RIGHT.

X. Trapnel said...

Ned, you've opened up the floodgates, but I am manfully resisting giving voice to the surging tide of Sullavan adoration that I must harbor in silence lest I be thought mad.

A few random points, though:

1. I'm pretty sure the story is true; it matches up well with her famous smackdown of Harry Cohn's ungallant advances.

2. I just saw her in So Ends Our Night, a fascinating, if uneven film. She is phenomenal.

3. Here is Erich Maria Remarque describing the heroine of Three Comrades: "Her hair was brown and silky.... Her face was narrow and pale, but the large eyes gave it an almost passionate strength....She spoke softly and slowly in [a] deep, exciting, slightly hoarse voice....as if [she] pondered every word." I am currently rereading Three Comrades in conjuction with the other favorite book of my adolescence to which it is often compared, The Sun Also Rises. Without hesitation, I maintain that the first is a lost masterpiece, a great novel; the second, strictly of its period, thin and insubstantial.
3. Given that Sullavan made so few films it's pity that she was so often paired with such bland or offensive actors as Douglass Montgomery, S.A. Brugh, John Boles, Randolph Scott, Robert Young, and that Hal Wallis brain fart Wendell Corey (HW to his bemused associates: "He's just the right mix of Bill Holden and Hitler; I tell you the guy can't miss!").
4. Like Karen, I almost never read star bios but I made a rather apprehensive exception for Brooke Hayward's memoir. It turned out to be a very fine book and, I think, a sympathetic portrait of her mother who, whatever her troubles (Klara Novak writ large), was clearly an extraordinary woman and great actress.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Wendell Corey was far from a brian fart. Apprently you haven't seen Desert Fury.

Luaghton spent a great deal of time pulling the script Agee had written for The Night of the Hunter into reasonable shooting shape. Poor Agee was on his last legs, alas.

June Allyson is not "baffling"!

Joseph Cornell was crazy about Hedy Lamarr, particularly in the otherwise routine Come Live Wiht Me He said that there was something about her that kept the style of silent film acting alive after sound came in.

Ned said...

I wonder if Cornell ever thought of doing something more with his fascination for the alluring Lamarr. Do you think he ever considered Boxing Hedy?

The Siren said...

DAVID! Why do you torture with me with June, why? What did I do to you?

X. Trapnel said...

David, for me the quintessential Wendell Corey is his character in
The Accused in which he wonders why Loretta Young, who he's making every effort to put in the electric chair, won't go out with him. I have an alternate theory that he was a Martian sent to scout the possibilities of an invasion of earth.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Actually he created several boxes in tribute to Hedy.

He also made a Grasshopper in a Bottle (on the order of a classic ship in a bottle) in tribute to Jackie Bissett for her performance in The Grasshopper.

I guess Junie is an "acquired taste," Siren. One you have no interest in acquiring. But my devotion to Good News remains unshakable!

Ned said...

David, thanks for pointing me in the direction of Cornell's Lamarr tributes. I knew he had done work based on other stars but I didn't know about his Lamarr-inspired pieces.

I tend, these days, not to vouchsafe knowledge of which I am not absolutely certain, for several reasons, one being my avowed dislike of egg on face, the other stemming from a Guy Davenport essay on the problem of Pergolesi's Dog, or what can happen when you are wrong but completely sure that you are right.

The outline of the essay follows the quest of Stan Brakhage in running down an allusion dropped in his lap by none other than Joseph Cornell.

It's a short essay and well worth a quick peek, if for no other reason than to find out what became of Pergolesi's pet.

http://denniscooper.blogspot.com/2006/08/pergolesis-dog-guy-davenport-on-ill.html

Karen said...

I have a wonderful book of Grimms' Fairy Tales (illustrated by the brilliant Arthur Szyk) that was handed down to me from my elder siblings. In the story "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids," the wolf is described as disguising his voice by putting chalk in his throat. I never really understood what that meant...until I heard June Allyson's speaking voice.

Plus, her singing voice always sounds slightly off-key to me.

X. Trapnel said...

Trust Karen to be familiar with Ben Hecht's pal Arthur Szyk.

After quoting Remarque's description of Patricia Hollmann's voice in Three Comrades, I was tempted to add: "who does this sound like? June Allyson?" but desisted.

Yojimboen said...

Damn, I hate starting my day trailing by three hours the net’s primo passel of latter-day Algonquinites - nothing else for it, I’m gonna haveta move back East.
(Any empty brownstones on your street, Madame Sirène?)

Karen, Gable: It’s a guy thing. I’m just not able to get past the smell of Gable’s dentures per Ms Leigh or the nugget that “Clark ain’t much in the sack” per Carole L. But even if he’d only made Misfits he’s got a seat in the pantheon.

David – that’s the second time in less than a month you’ve slapped your hostess upside the haid with soi-disant ‘Good News’. Personally I adore the foolishness, and could watch it till DP gets drunk enough to slip under the host, but that’s just me.

Re Wendel Corey: I have to go with X on this, except I actually liked Wendel Corey before I saw Desert Fury; but the movie itself, I agree wholeheartedly, David, is close to being the most orgasmic use of Technicolor in a non-period, non-musical movie in H’Wood history.

Mark said...

Dear Siren,
I haven't found a way to identify the ever changing picture that appears at the top of your blog. Is there a way to find a caption or link to give a clue? Today's is a real zinger. Please tell who is that lady and why is she dressed in such finery? The quality of the picture is so fine I doubt it's a frame from a film -- a studio promotional then, I guess. Any details would be much appreciated.

The Siren said...

Hi Mark,
The banners are my way of amusing myself; sometimes the connection to what's going on (belated Chaplin birthday) is fairly up-front, sometimes you'd have to be either in my house or my head. In this case, I believe it's a hand-tinted publicity still, but it is most definitely Miss Hedy Lamarr in costume for Samson and Delilah. There was a small Facebook squabble provoked by a friend's CB De Mille thread, so this was a small in-joke. I don't know of a way to caption them; I kind of prefer the mystery, but I am always happy to identify. And people seem to enjoy being the first to guess.

Ned said...

Not to distract from the "Wendell Corey: Creep or Stalwart" discussion, but references to Desert Fury allow me to slide in a backdoor nod to the director, Lewis Allen, who helmed several excellent entries in different genres.

First, The Uninvited, an outstandingly creepy ghost story, on a par with Dead of Night. Second, a snappy little chamber noir, Suddenly, starring an over-caffeinated Frank Sinatra.

Suddenly is not hugely cinematic, but Lewis' theater background no doubt helped with the well constructed staging of long interior dialogue scenes and in coaxing a crack performance out of Sinatra.

I recall reading somewhere that Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly watched Suddenly sometime in 1963, a rumor that apparently has been squelched. Still, one can see where a story like that, matched with a film like this, would have some serious legs.

Maybe Wendell Corey was on train playing the president.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Yojim, Desert Fury was the subject of the longest single article I've ever written in an individual film. You can find it in Film Quarterly: Forty Years -- A Selection (University of California Press)

DavidEhrenstein said...

I think the film Sinatra was most concerned that Oswald might have seen wasn't Suddenly but The Manchurian Candidate. That's why he put it out of circulation. Since his death its become available again.

Yojimboen said...

Both films vanished from world screens for many years, but Sinatra had control only over Manchurian Candidate (he owned it, in fact), but Suddenly was withdrawn it seems by common consent of distributors, theater owners and to a much lesser degree, requests by some of the participants, Sinatra included.

gmoke said...

Hedy Lamarr may have been the most beautiful geek girl who ever lived. With composer George Antheil, she invented an early version of frequency hopping which is part of the basis for WiFi and cell phone communication.

Ada Lovelace and Hedy Lamarr, the brainy beauty queens of the Internet generation.

DavidEhrenstein said...

One can easily see in that Samson and Delilah still that the only thing on Hedy's mind is frequency hopping.

X. Trapnel said...

gmoke, a little credit to her co-inventor George Antheil aka the Bad Boy of Music among who's myriad accomplisments should be noted the beautiful/despairing score of In a Lonely Place.

My favorite among his works is his fourth symphony.

gmoke said...

X. Trapnel, I gave George Antheil credit and find it intriguing that a modernist composer and a movie queen who started her career with a nude scene helped build the foundations of our 21st century communications devices.

X. Trapnel said...

gmoke, sorry, my oversight. Antheil has been having quite a comeback on cd over the past few years. There was a time not so long ago when NONE of his music was available and I'm hoping some recording company gets around to his film music. His strange story is not unlike that of Leo Ornstein, the John Garfield of music [even looked a bit like him] who made a huge splash in the twenties until they (i.e., the fates, the destinies) lost interest (sure, sure) and he fell into obscurity, but kept writing music almost until his death in 2002 ages 107. And his music is damned good, a lot better than that of such famous names as...

Yojimboen said...

Yeah, I suppose Antheil ain't too bad for somebody born in... New JERSey!

X. Trapnel said...

Y, despite fervent NJ patriotism I must concede your point. Compositional talent has been thin on the ground in these parts. That Richard Dreyfus thing, Mr. Holland's Opus is said to be based in part on the life Anthony Louis Scarmolin a high school music teacher from what I can only call the New Jersey of New Jersey, Union City (The most horrific/despairng moment in all of film: Robert Ryan in The Set Up hopefully speculating on buting "that cigar stand in Union City." Somehow its the word "that" that shrivels the soul). Scarmolin (an Ornstein/Antheil contemporary) isn't much, but somehow he hit the gong with his Third Symphony. I once played for a friend without any explanation as to who/what/where. Her reaction: "It sounds like northern New Jersey." And so it does.

X. Trapnel said...

"buying" that cigar stand.

NJ does not produce good typists either.