Monday, June 13, 2011
So Much for the Sleeve-Tuggers: The Phantom of the Opera (1943)
The Hard Way, below, got the Siren to thinking about the character of the ambitious heroine’s sweetheart--the one who keeps tugging at her spangled sleeve and reminding her that after all, she’s a woman, and he’s a man, and sure, she’s got the adulation of thousands but is that gonna keep her warm at night?
At least one perfectly logical answer being, "Hell yes, assuming I make some decent investments, it will keep me warm and then some, you boob."
But that’s so rarely the answer a Hollywood heroine gives, which is amusing, considering it’s the real-life answer a lot of big female players in that town give every day. Not in movies. Not in Cover Girl, not in The Red Shoes, not in A Star Is Born, not Lana Turner or Hedy Lamarr in Ziegfeld Girl, not Woman of the Year, not Funny Face, not even poor Anne Hathaway when she’s handed fashion-magazine stardom in 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, oh no, she still wants that drippy sous-chef. Mind you, the Siren loves all those movies; yes, even The Devil Wears Prada. It’s just a persistent trope, that’s all.
But the Siren bethought herself also of the 1943 Phantom of the Opera.
All right, all right, you're probably tired of The Phantom of the Opera, but the Siren has enduring affection for this version, more so than the admittedly greater 1925 silent with Lon Chaney. The 1943 version is in Technicolor, and the Siren never gets tired of Technicolor. The script has some wit and bite to it, which the Siren attributes to screenwriter Samuel Hoffenstein, who’s a side obsession of hers. Claude Rains gets a real character with a detailed background and motivations. And Rains, fabulous actor that he was, knew you couldn’t play this 19th century melodrama in any way other than all-out. He chomps at the scenery with such gusto that the Siren imagines him licking his lips and downing a bromo-seltzer between takes.
In addition to all that, there's the fadeout.
Christine, the heroine, is played by Susanna Foster, a pretty woman and a good singer, and she gets two suitors, Anatole (Nelson Eddy, quite animated and appealing here) and Raoul (Mercury Theater veteran Edgar Barrier). So the action’s over, Christine has been rescued from the lower depths of the Gaumont Opéra (the Siren’s favorite building in Paris, not that you asked). Which sleeve-tugger will she choose?
You can watch below; the part that the Siren is talking about begins around the 7:15 mark. The Siren hopes it brightens your Monday as much as it does hers.
Update: Beloved Siren commenter MrsHenryWindleVale, who knows from sleeve-tuggers, points to Harvey Korman's perfect rendition of the type in the "Torchy Song" skit from the old Carol Burnett Show. No one who didn't love Joan Crawford could do Joan this well, is what I say: "All I have are these miserable scrapbooks, filled with nothing but thousands of articles telling me how wonderful I am."
Embedding is disabled, alas, but part one is here. Part two is here.