Saturday, September 03, 2011

Anecdote of the Week: "The Crisp Tang of Frying Writers"


The Siren has been offline, mostly, for this past week, due to technical circumstances beyond her control. She won't describe the circs (they're boring) except to note that "That's the darndest thing" is not a phrase you ever want to hear from the nice man at Tekserve. All fixed now.

So the Siren has been visiting some old friends on her bookshelf, one of them being S.J. Perelman. The Siren assumes many of her readers know "Strictly From Hunger," but it is worth the revisit. Full text available here (click through the links marked "Part One" and "Conclusion"). Better yet, buy some Perelman--the Siren thinks his best years were the 1930s and early 40s. Yeah, yeah, yeah, like everybody else's best years...

Also, for the record, if the Siren ever adopts a new nom de blog, she's going with Violet Hush.


The violet hush of twilight was descending over Los Angeles as my hostess, Violet Hush, and I left its suburbs headed toward Hollywood. In the distance a glow of huge piles of burning motion-picture scripts lit up the sky. The crisp tang of frying writers and directors whetted my appetite. How good it was to be alive, I thought, inhaling deep lungfuls of carbon monoxide. Suddenly our powerful Gatti-Cazazza slid to a stop in the traffic.

"What is it, Jenkin?" Violet called anxiously through the speaking-tube to the chaffeur (played by Lyle Talbot).

A suttee was in progress by the roadside, he said--did we wish to see it? Quickly, Violet and I elbowed our way out through the crowd. An enormous funeral pyre composed of thousands of feet of film and scripts, drenched with Chanel Number Five, awaited the touch of Jack Holt, who was to act as master of ceremonies. In a few terse words Violet explained this unusual custom borrowed from the HIndus and never paid for. The worst disgrace that can befall a producer is an unkind notice from a New York reviewer. When this happens, the producer becomes a pariah in Hollywood. He is shunned by his friends, throw into bankruptcy, and like a Japanese electing hara-kiri, he commits suttee. A great bonfire is made of the film, and the luckless producer, followed by directors, actors, technicians, and the producer's wives, immolate themselves. Only the scenario writers are exempt. These are tied between the tails of two spirited Caucasian ponies, which are then driven off in opposite directions. This custom is called "a conference."

74 comments:

john_burke100 said...

He really was inimitable--Woody Allen tries but (in my opinion) falls short. Here's a passage I copied to my hard drive--I hope it isn't too long for a comment thread:


Weightless, imponderable, as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean, the great airliner hung high in the thin air above the Sierra Nevadas, its wolfish snout strained toward the paling horizon. Two hundred miles away, in the broad plain washed by the Pacific, lay its goal, the Athens of the West, the mighty citadel which had given the world the double feature, the duplexburger, the motel, the hamfurter, and the shirt worn outside the pants--the Great Pueblo, the City of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels--Los Angeles. Thirty-five hundred feet below the plane, two turkey vultures clung to a snowy crag and picked idly at some bones.

"This sure was a delicious scenario writer," ruminated the elder, stifling a belch. "You'd have to go all the way to Beverly Hills for one like him."

"Listen," said his companion, "that bad I don't need anything." He turned, peering up at the receding roar of motors. "well," he observed sourly, "there goes the morning flight to L.A. Same old cargo of hopheads, hustlers, and movie satraps."

"Ah, what the hell," said the first indulgently. "They're just people."

"So was Dillinger people," snapped the other. "So was Charlie Ponzi. I tell you, it's to chill the marrow. I wouldn't eat one of those creeps up there if I was starving. Jeez, I'm not fastidious, but you've got to draw the line somewhere."

And yet, shrewd though his estimate of the flagship's passengers was, the bird was not wholly right. For among that raffish, dissolute crew speeding toward the sea was one who by his very goodness retrieved them all. A simple, unpretentious man of a grave but kindly mien, his gaunt profile blended the best features of Robinson Jeffers, Lou Tellegen, Pericles, and Voltaire. A keen, humorous eye sparkled above a seamed cheek which had been tanned a rich oleomargarine at the Copacabana and the Stork Club. His loosely woven tweeds were worn with all the easy authority of a man accustomed to go into a pawnshop, lay down his watch, and take his four dollars home with him. As he sat there, relaxed and skyborne, it was the type of subject that would have inspired Monet or Whistler to reach for his palette--the humble dignity of the wayfarer, the pearly effulgence of the clouds, the sense of perfect equilibrium between man and nature.

Nonetheless, despite my seemingly placid exterior--for let us not dissemble longer, dear reader, it was indeed myself I have taken the liberty to describe--behind my outwardly cool mask, I say, I was prey to a hundred conflicting sensations. Hypertension, nausea, anticipation of the events in store for me, the dull ache of parting with my creditors...

A fine mist hovered over the City of the Walking Dead as we swung up over the Cahuenga Pass and pointed our radiator emblem toward San Francisco. Hirschfeld leaned out and stared pensively at the myriad twinkling lights of Los Angeles.

"You know," he said at length, "somebody once called this town Bridgeport with palms. But I'll tell you something about it just the same."

"What's that?" I asked, never taking my foot off the throttle.

"I'd rather be embalmed here than any place I know," he said slowly. He turned up the collar of his trench coat and lit a cigarette, and in the flare of the match I saw that his tiny pig eyes were bright with tears.


--S. J. Perelman, Westward Ha! (1947)

joe said...

I remember reading a couple of pieces by Perelman in a humor anthology as a teenager and thinking I'd found my life's purpose, which tells you something about the kind of kid I was. My favorite is "Reunion in Gehenna," about the 42nd reunion of Dropsical High, with entertainment provided by Chalky Aftertaste and His Musical Poltroons. That "violet hush/Violet Hush" joke in the bit you quoted is so perfect that I'm just going to post it as a personal ad and go out with anyone who thinks it's funny.

Yojimboen said...

". . . with a blow I sent him groveling. In ten minutes he was back with a basket of appetizing fresh-picked grovels."

SJP

bixx said...

favorite writer. always nice to see.

The Siren said...

Yojimboen: "The curtain is lowered for seven days to denote the passage of a week."

Yojimboen said...

(His words):
Before they made S. J. Perelman, they broke the mold.

Dave said...

Isn't that curtain quote from Lardner?

X. Trapnel said...

Sounds like it; I've been combing through my Lardners for it. Perelman and Lardner are pretty similar:

"Where were you born?"
"Out of wedlock."
"Mighty pretty country 'round there."

Yojimboen said...

I have Bright's Disease.
I think he has mine.

The Siren said...

Ha, Dave, you are right, it's Lardner! My brain mashed 'em up and I didn't bother to check.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Perelman's piece on silent films viewed at MOMA are very important pieces of film criticism, IMO. I especially love his take on Theda Bara.

Ned said...

From one of my favorite Perelman pieces, "Somewhere a Roscoe":

"In Spicy Detective, they have achieved the sauciest blend of libido and murder this side of Gilles de Rais"

Pulp detective Dan Turner and 15th century child murderer Gilles de Rais. Only Perelman.

A master of blending high and low. My first encounter with Perelman was through the Marx Brothers. Tell me this isn't a Perelman line (from Horsefeathers):

Secretary: Professor Wagstaff! The dean is out here he's furious. He's waxing wroth.

Wagstaff: Is Roth out there too? Well tell Roth to wax the dean for a while.

Perelman's early recollections include this gem about his father who believed "...that if you had a few acres and a chicken farm there was no limit to your possible wealth. I grew up with and have since retained the keenest hatred of chickens."

No E.B. White, he. But terrifically funny.

Caftan Woman said...

The lesson here is NEVER put anything in writing.

john_burke100 said...

@Ned:

Yes, the blend of high and low, or the neck-snapping shift between them, is one of his hallmarks. His Paris Review interview is illustrative, I think. Asked how many drafts he customarily does, he snaps:

"Thirty-seven. I tried doing thirty-two, but
the result lacked a certain je ne sais quoi, as you Italians say. Another time I tried forty-two, but the effect was too lapidary, you know what I
mean, Jack? What are you, trying to extort my trade secrets?"


It's perfect: failed reach for polyglot sophistication, the lapse into show biz idiom, the snarl of the harried small-time competitor.

Karen said...

My parents had The Road to Miltown, or Under the Spreading Atrophy, which I read obsessively as a kid (they had Perelman, Thurber, and Benchley on their bookshelves, which I imagine explains a lot about me). I took it with me when I moved out, and augmented my collection as time went by.

John Burke: you are absolutely right about Woody Allen. I read his humor pieces in The New Yorker, and all I can see is a Perelman manque.

His piece about George Jessel ("The Swirling Cape and the Low Bow") completely re-wrote my impressions of Georgie (who was a pale imitation--if not a caricature--of his earlier self by the 1960s). And his "Dreamland Revisited" series, in which he went to MoMA to steep in the silents of his movie-crazed youth, probably did more to pique my interest in silent film than anything else I'd come across (including one or two silent films).

He was a genius.

Vanwall said...

Robert Leslie Bellem's Dan Turner stories seem to have been made in Perelman lingo, they often have the juxtapositions of the rough and the smooth manners of H'wood, altho definitely mostly the rough, admittedly. Oscar Levant has a lot of that intelligent depth of humor, as well. Can't get much better than that.

john_burke100 said...

@Karen: thanks.
Louis Menand's New Yorker piece about Dwight MacDonald this week recalls a now-vanished cultural hierarchy that I think Perelman took for granted. Partly through remembering (sometimes with embarrassment) the commercial culture of his youth--"Foolish Wives," "The Admirable Crichton," novelists like Elinor Glyn and Maurice DeKobra--and partly because he had to earn a living in the milieu of pulp magazines and studio product, he acquired a command of kitsch style that he could deploy for comic effect. (See his montage of the lingo of promotion, "Entered as Second Class Matter.") I think a deep snobbery underlay this viewpoint: Hollywood and the writers of best-sellers produced crap, not at arm's length for money, but because they believed they were producing Art. "Spicy Detective" was less to be despised than the pretensions of Stanley Kramer and David Susskind, both of whom he eviscerated. And I think his growing sourness of temper ("Old Vinegar Puss," "Baby, It's Cold Inside," "The Rising Gorge" are some late titles) reflected a deepening snobbish revulsion that high culture was drowning in dreck. I don't know if Perelman ever saw "Interiors," but if I were Woody Allen, I would hope he hadn't.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I'm sure Perleman would have loved Gerry Paige

Yojimboen said...

A link to Kenneth Tynan’s complete 1964 interview with SJP and Groucho.

X. Trapnel said...

Perelman's (and Natembrace of low-brow kitsch was of a piece with Surrealism whose pop aspect can be traced to Rimbaud: "I liked stupid paintings...popular engravings,...novels of our grandmothers, erotic books with bad spelling, ridiculous refrains..." and the proto-Perelman What a Life by E.V. Lucas, beloved by Andre Breton. All of these artists were entranced by a naivete at once ridiculous and fantastical. Our (not naive) popular culture is merely ridiculous.

I should like to dedicate my rising gorge re Interiors to S.J. Perelman.

X. Trapnel said...

Computer burp: Perelman's and Nathanael West's embrace of

Vanwall said...

Judging by one pulp writer's desperate ruse of writing the beginning few and ending few pages, then shoving in loose leaves of empty pages so he could get an advance out of the paymaster who only read the start and finish of manuscripts and judged the heft from there, I'd say most pulp writers were mostly interested in the honesty of the penny-a-word aspects rather then any sort of 'art' most of the time. Plates of cold, canned beans were a common meal for pulpers, in between bouts of cheap rye, unless you climbed up and out to the slicks, where you could be pretentious about artsy-fartsy writin', and these were fat targets for Perelman. Bellem didn't leave any evidence of whether he meant a gosh-darned thing about writing style and any legacy, but I understand he had lottsa fun writing his voluminous oeuvre. Perelman was obviously of the same basic writing instincts, it's supposed to be fun, goddammit. He may have been cranky later on, but deep down, I bet he had fun being so. I'm just glad I've had so much fun reading the stuff.

X. Trapnel said...

"Such was Dawn Ginsbergh, imperious dashing Dawn of the flame-taunted hair and scarlet lips beestung like violet pools and so on at ten cents a word for a page and a half."--S.J. Perelman, Dawn Ginsbergh's Revenge

Karen said...

I don't know if Perelman ever saw "Interiors," but if I were Woody Allen, I would hope he hadn't.

John Burke, that line has made me laugh for a full 10 minutes now.

john_burke100 said...

@Karen: Noblesse oblige, ya dig?

I didn't know until I followed Yojimboen's link that Perelman worked on the show that introduced Vernon Duke's "April in Paris." Duke (né Vladimir Dukelsky--George Gershwin advised the name change) was a very interesting guy who also wrote "Autumn in New York" and later doubled down with "Paris in New York." Honest--I have a copy of the score. Once you get past the title, it's actually a good song, as is his lovely "Ages Ago."

DavidEhrenstein said...

Duke's most memorable collaborator was John Latouche

rcocean said...

The photo surprised me. I thought SJP and Groucho didn't get along. Maybe I'm thinking of George S.Kaufman.

Yojimboen said...

To answer your question RCO, time wounds all heels.

After he left Hollywood, Perelman resented the fact that much of of his reputation was based on his relatively brief association with the Marx Brothers, of whom he said, "I did two films with them, which in its way is perhaps my greatest distinction in life, because anybody who ever worked on any picture for the Marx Brothers said he would rather be chained to a galley oar and lashed at ten-minute intervals until the blood spurted from his frame than ever work for those sons of bitches again."

Portrait of a feuilletonist at bay.

(scroll down to clip):

gmoke said...

In _A Cool Million_, Nathaniel West writes about a former President, Shagpoke Whipple, who also served time for bank fraud. I remember reading it in the 1960s and being tickled by the idea of a felon President. Shagpoke Whipple and his National Revolutionary Party are looking more and more like reality and less and less like a joke.

X. Trapnel said...

Likewise Sinclair Lewis' (underrated) It Can't Happen Here. Lewis' folksy dictator is named Berzelius Windrip.

gmoke said...

Perelman was married to Nathaniel West's sister and West was married to Eileen McKenney, the Eileen of "My Sister Eileen" and "Wonderful Town."

I don't know if any of them were related to Groucho Marx.

X. Trapnel said...

Only by moustache

Ned said...

RC, to expand on the Perelman/Marx relationship, I would point you to a story told by Perelman about the story conference for Monkey Business. Perelman and Will Johnstone were hired to write the script based on some sketches for a radio show they had written.

Neither had written a film script before this and they thought they needed to include camera and staging directions. They had become familiar with something Perelman refers to as a Vorkapich shot (he meant Slavko Vorkapich who was instrumental in developing special effects shots and what would become a standard method for creating montage sequences). Perelman said "...we Vorkapiched all over the place...We wrote about 125 pages in this fashion."

At the first reading of the script, Perelman did all the parts and included all of these directions. The reading was attended by the Marxes, their wives, girlfriends, hangers-on, and various pets. It was a disaster. Groucho's verdict was "It stinks". It took Perelman and Johnstone another six months to put the script in order.

At the end of the ordeal, Perelman declared the brothers, with the exception of Harpo, boorish and ungrateful. He fought with Groucho over dialogue that Groucho felt was too "literary". But the Brothers must have liked his work enough to hire him back for one more film.

Yojimboen said...

"...West was married to Eileen McKenney, the Eileen of "My Sister Eileen..."

And poor Eileen was in the passenger seat when West ran the stop sign and killed them both.

Wikipedia suggests West may have been distracted by having just learned of his friend Scott Fitzgerald's death.

X. Trapnel said...

West was said to be a notably poor driver with or without distraction. The loss to American literature of West and Fitzgerald within days of each other is depressingly ironic given how many of their contemporaries lived long past their sell-by date. The late masterpiece seems to have exited American fiction with Henry James.

Shamus said...

Late masterpieces are always rare: the greatest dried up before then or they simply didn't live to see those years. Philip Roth is going through an amazing period right now but if you want to look away, how about Wallace Stevens? Stevens' Auroras of Autumn would certainly qualify if we -I mean readers as a whole - did not constantly overlook poetry and think that the only masterpieces emerge from fiction (Stevens' grouse). And wouldn't Frost classify as well?

DavidEhrenstein said...

My Sister Eileen

Karen said...

On the subject of late masterpieces: John Updike wrote an interesting piece on "late works" in The New Yorker a few years back. Happily, it's not behind their paywall.

Ned said...

Shamus,

Auroras of Autumn is indeed an exceptional late career effort but Stevens may be an exception in that even his earlier stunning collections (such as Harmonium) were published when he was well into middle age.

He wrote Blackbird in his mid thirties. Keats died ten years before that, which, as you note, makes Stevens and even rarer bird. He was in his late fifties when he published Blue Guitar.

But An Ordinary Evening in New Haven and several others in Auroras of Autumn do seem to allow us to view Stevens' distillation of a lifetime in poetry, a not insubstantial thing in itself.

Talking about late career work, what about Verdi's winter masterpieces, Otello and Falstaff, the latter of which he ends, fascinatingly, with a fugue(!)? You might even consider Aida a late masterpiece since he retired after its premiere and had only written four operas in the previous 15 years.

Ned said...

Karen,

Thanks for the link to the Updike piece. I remember reading it when it first came out but had forgotten it. Another interesting meditation from his indefatigable pen. I don't think the guy ever slept. If he wasn't writing short stories or novels, he was working on art reviews for NYRB or pieces like this for the New Yorker.

Yojimboen said...

Which brings us via no great leap to the subject of late, filmic masterpieces, or at least last films which, by accident or design, thrust themselves into the category. Late masterpieces are thin on the ground in the H’Wood industry, where a director’s last effort is way more often than not some trashy gig they took on to pay the rent.

Rare entries like Zinnemann’s casually-dismissed Five Days One Summer (1982) is a strong contender (FZ said he’d always wanted to make a mountain movie); certainly when stacked against examples like the odious Eyes Wide Shut.

The mystery of EWS will always be how Kubrick could display such hectares of perfect female nudes to me – an unapologetically life-long letch – and leave me utterly unmoved (so to speak) and uninterested.

But Five Days One Summer, my favorite late masterpiece, is a thing of beauty and joy and well worth seeking out.

Ned said...

Well, if we're gonna start on films, let me throw in a word for two late John Huston films, Under the Volcano and The Dead. Prizzi's Honor? meh....but The Dead is a beautiful film. And Volcano is a fine adaptation of a superb novel.

X. Trapnel said...

Late masterpieces, filmic and otherwise, depend on lateness relative to the artist's age; Yeats and Hardy produced their best work in old age. Late Beethoven which practically defines late style (i.e., having lived and seen all, casting a retrospective glance at the world and one's own creation and then, gathering strength, staking a path into the unknown region) is the work of a man in his early fifties. Late style, becuase it is often enough a dance with mortality (Rachmaninoff's magnificent last work, the Symphonic Dances transposes all of the tropes of the dance of death with tremendous brio as if to say, when the time comes I will go joyfully; Strauss' Four Last Songs dispense with Straussian opulence with no loss, rather an intensification of beauty) and often express or have as their foundation, an essential, "impersonal" loneliness. Honestly, I don't think this happens very often in film because the collaborative nature of film and its extreme expense denies the director the mundane independence of the painter, composer, or poet. He has to raise money and deal with producers, writers, crew, actors all requiring the energy of youth/middle age. Late Hitchcock, Wilder, Renoir, Ford, Rohmer, Bergman, Fellini, mostly uneven, repetitious, dismal (I reserve "crappy" for Kubrick). I find The Dead less beautiful than "beautiful" and an utter travesty of Joyce as if the dying Huston had been overtaken by some Dore Schary dybbuk.

Shamus said...

Ned,

I recall reading something by Martin Amis on how quickly the artistic brilliance of philosophers dissipates (he cites Camus, oddly enough but I've read something to this effect about mathematicians and physicists), in contrast to the vitality of poets (Yeats worked on Last Poems until a few days before his death). You've already mentioned Stevens, but I think Sophocles is generally taken to have the most delayed flowering of genius recorded.

As for late films: there are plenty of movies and, more importantly, plenty of defenders. Whether they all constitute genius is a separate matter but Dreyer, Ford, Hawks, Hitchcock, Lang, Wilder, Some-others-you've-seen, all worked till well into their 60's (defining "late"): in other words, we can now group Hatari, Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Seven Women, Gertrud and Indian Tomb as messily and indiscriminately as we can: in fact, I scarcely see any difference between any of them.

Y., I'll defend Eyes Wide Shut to an inch of my life, or at least, Kubrick's life: it is probably his most unappreciated work- it's easy to like Paths of Glory or Killing but EWS and Full Metal Jacket are cut-off points: you're either with Kubrick or against him and if you don't join us... well, I'm not sure but I think that's bad.

john_burke100 said...

@X. Trapnel: Lord preserve us from the Dore Schary dybbuk (which would have struck terror in Perelman's heart, by the bye.)
I've tried more than once to read Edward Said's On Late Style but every time I think I know what he means by it, he says it's something else, often (as far as I can make out) something quite contradictory. This may be dialectics but if so, it's too subtle for me. But while we're on the subject, let me mention Brahms' "Four Serious Songs."

Shamus said...

C'mon X.T.: "crappy"? Kubrick? He deserves better. At least for his early films.

I'm not sure I agree with you about films either (Resnais is still working, and though I can't say I like him all that much, so is Eastwood, whose films are never less than masterly in their formal aspects). Collaborative medium or not, the moods and ideas which progressively attend to the director do not vanish and if he is any good at all, these changes would drift into his films.

Filmmakers are generally ignored as they grow older (the bias that film is a "young man's medium" and bullshit like that), which means it becomes very important to champion the works of even famous directors who will otherwise be overlooked (as it happened to even Hitchcock and Renoir).

Shamus said...

Or Eliot's "Four Quartets". Or Richard Strauss' "Four Last Songs". Or Dr. Faustus...

Or more unusually, Lampedusa's "The Leopard" and Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter": pieces of art which are cousins in arms (necking).

Thanks for that Updike article, Karen. I'd read about the Said book before but I'd not yet read Updike's take on it.

X. Trapnel said...

JB,

I haven't read Said's Late Style, but I did read Musical Elaborations and found the same thing you did. I wish it were dialectics; we'd get a synthesis then instead of a giving with one hand and taking with the other. Said was a very conflicted critic, or it may be (in this case), some Adorno dybbuk at work (I'll take Dore Schary, thanks).

Yes to the Four Serious Songs (and every precious note of Brahms), and to his French secret sharer Gabriel Faure. The Piano Quintet No. 2, one of his last works and, I think, his very greatest, in its quiet, subtle, French way pushes musical expression to pinnacles unheard since Beethoven. And if the old man had held on for a few more years he might have had Danielle Darrieux as a student at the Paris Conservatory. I discern portents of her in the first movement of the quintet which contains (obligatory IMHO) the most beautiful passage in all of music. Something like Moses seeing but being unable to enter the Promised Land.

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

john_burke100: Great commentary on Perleman. In my humble opinion, Pulp -- despite images and stories that are politically incorrect by our standards -- is Art. There are cover images of great beauty, and the stories and novels -- often fascinatingly lurid -- belong to our literary history as much as Perleman. Too bad he couldn't stick around long enough to read Robert Hughes' views on high and low culture.

I haven't decided whether Perleman is a neo-Dadist or a neo-expressionist.

X. Trapnel said...

In other literatures Perelman wouldn't be quarantined as a humorist. Read him alongside the much-revered (and rightly so) Swiss writer Robert Walser, a real kinship, and like SJP beyond category.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Lambert Wilson is a thing of beauty and well worth seeking out.

Yojimboen said...

Mein gott! Has anybody seen this so-called trailer for the fourth remake of A Star is Boring. It's called The Artist and I insist anyone who ever contributed a word to this blog could have cut a trailer 1000 times better.

And who the hell is the lead?

Vanwall said...

M Yo, it's a spoof film. Dollops of smartassery and bad acting to a surfeit seems to be required.

Yojimboen said...

1000 pardons M VW, it's just that when the Philistines encroach too near our (meaning the S-SS's) fence, I go into my dance. viz:
The old "Knee-Jerk Lock n Load".

X. Trapnel said...

What on earth can be the point of parodying A Star (a black hole, I'd say) is Born at this point? Better to give these dry bones a decent burial.

Vanwall said...

It's been called an affectionate send-up/touchstone/blah-blah-blah to B&W films, and especially Silents and the early talkies transition - personally I'll cue up some pre-codes, 'M', some Lee Tracy, our Kay, and Warren William and say thanks, but I've got memories ready-made by yours truly. I'll see it though, just for completeness, like a good cinemaniac.

X. Trapnel said...

How much bullshit can the phrase "affectionate send up" absorb before it bursts in a supernova of smug ignorance?

Yojimboen said...

Sorry, guys but I just can’t shake the mind’s eye image of Jonathan Winters running around the set of The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming screaming, “We’ve GOT to get organized!”

rcocean said...

Damn you guys are good - you're real good.

Thanks for the info.

Dave said...

David E.: I've linked to that "Eileen" clip on FB a number of times. I just find it amazing -- and regret that Tommy Rall never became a bigger star.

Shamus: Re Kubrick: I'm agin him. My cutoff point is "Strangelove."

Re "Eileen:" For anyone who has access to the "New Yorker" archives, Ruth McKenney has a marvelous piece about the disconnect she felt watching Roz Russell (and Shirley Booth) play her.

gmoke said...

I really liked Joris Ivens' last film, Une Histoire de Vent, the one time I saw it.

Kurosawa's late films are still great cinema and you see him recapitulating images and themes from his earlier films - the dream doppelganger on the beach in Yomiuri Tenjin and Kagemusha, the bookends of Ikiru and Mada Dayoo, both structured around banquets.

Manoel de Oliveira is still working at over 100 and still has things to say.

The thing I find in late works is a matter of pacing. It is not so much that the movement slows down but that each change is considered and weighed in a way that youth does not notice and may not allow.

I like late works as a genre. They tell me something as I dodder along into my own late workings.

john_burke100 said...

@gmoke:
The thing I find in late works is a matter of pacing. It is not so much that the movement slows down but that each change is considered and weighed in a way that youth does not notice and may not allow.


I think of it in terms of having command of all the resources of the art, whichever one it is. Brahms composed a piano trio at age 21 or thereabout; he returned to it 35 years later and shortened it by about one-third, a huge cut and by general opinion a big improvement. (He left the Scberzo almost unaltered, which was also the right choice, I think.) It's an example of a specific kind of wisdom--knowing what to leave out, the essence of Thelonious Monk's genius--but also part of the general confidence in one's own powers.

Siren, we've come a fair distance from Perelman... I love the comment threads at this blog, they're a lot like being at a really good party, but I hope we aren't burdening our hostess.

Karen said...

Vanwall, a thousand thanks for the information that The Artist is a spoof film. I went OFF somewhere about their having used "Sing, Sing, Sing!" in a film taking place in the 1920s. The whole thing is awash with anachronisms.

mndean said...

I sez when someone "affectionately sends up" an era and style of film already mocked (even while being embraced) by the young and self consciously hip, that someone has all the affection of an abuser.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Siren,

You have made my day, my week, and possibly the decade. And never apologize for the misquote: As SJP himself told an interviewer, about his early work, "I could have been arrested for stealing from Ring Lardner."

I shall now seek out my crumbling copy of "The Most of SJP," with its Appreciation by Dorothy Parker (which reads, in its entirety, "I appreciate S.J. Perelman") and re-read "Insert Flap 'A' and Throw Away." Thinking about "the soft, ghostly chuckling of the moths" has coaxed me off many a ledge.

Yojimboen said...

Here, Karen.
Just for you.

john_burke100 said...

@Yojimboen:

They certainly play the bejeezus out of that chart, don't they? I think Jess Stacy's place among the immortals is still secure, but damn!

Mark T Lancaster said...

Siren, as wide-ranging as the topics have been here, this question takes it even further from Mr. Perelman -- it's the identity of one of the men in the picture at the top of your blog. I know Hudson, Grant and Peck. Please identify the other guy, it's been bugging me for days!

Yojimboen said...

It's Brando - in costume for The Ugly American.

Mark T Lancaster said...

Yojimboen: Thank you. Halfway between "On the Waterfront" and "The Godfather", and looking nothing like he did in either of those!

Karen said...

Yojimboen, bless you for that. Those girls did indeed play the living bejeezus out of that. The entire clip was sublime, but I have to say that the crocheted mouse on the trumpet bell really sent me over the top.

DavidEhrenstein said...

And here's a "Sing Sing Sing" variation by John Williams accompanied by Steven Spielberg at his most maudit

DavidEhrenstein said...

Tusday Weld at Roddy McDowell's

More and more of Roddy's 8mm home movies are showing up on You Tube, and they're an indecribable pleasure/treasure.