Sunday, October 09, 2011

New York Film Festival 2011: My Week With Marilyn



If the Siren’s attitude toward Marilyn Monroe could be graphed as a fever chart, it would have two lines. One line would represent the Siren’s opinion of Monroe’s acting, and it would show a steady, if not steep, rise. The other line would chart the Siren’s interest in the Monroe myth. It would resemble a headlong tumble down the south face of K2.

Unfortunately for the Siren’s patience with My Week With Marilyn, the new movie just screened for the press at the New York Film Festival, the myth is still what sells.

In act one, whippersnapper Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) uses his refined upper-class moxie to get a job as third assistant director on Laurence Olivier’s ill-starred directorial outing, The Prince and Showgirl. That part is palatable, as young Colin rushes about making himself indispensable, and there’s a chance for Toby Jones to utter some choice lines, including one delivered on learning of Arthur Miller’s (Dougray Scott) visa troubles: “All those pain-in-the-ass New York intellectuals are Reds.”

The second act is pretty enjoyable. That’s where Colin hangs around as Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) shoots his movie and copes with Monroe’s (Michelle Williams) bizarre work ethic, which included much dedication to the Lee Strasberg distillation of the Method and almost none to such trivia as punctuality and knowing the lines. Little fresh material is evident, except possibly a conception of Monroe’s drama coach Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker) that does not paint her as a complete gargoyle. But it’s fun, even if the score is vacuous, the camerawork never once rises above director Simon Curtis’ BBC-TV roots, and Emma Watson plays a love interest who should have been left on the cutting-room floor. The Siren certainly hopes Dame Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench) really was that charming and understanding. Branagh is hilarious, whether remarking that teaching Monroe to act is “like teaching Urdu to a badger,” or making a priceless face as he fields a call from the absent actress and says, “Colin, it’s for you.”

None of the actors look much like their real-life counterparts. Williams is Monroe-ish only around the cheekbones, and Branagh is Olivier only from the cheekbones up. Judi Dench looks like Judi Dench. Julia Ormond fares worst. She has only Vivien Leigh’s coloring, not her features, but Ormond is still a beautiful woman, and here she’s subjected to lighting and makeup that would have sent the real Leigh into one of her depressive breakdowns. It is one of the film’s strengths, though, that once the initial shock wears off, the lack of physical matching doesn’t much matter. Branagh’s speaking forcefully recalls Olivier’s Old Vic accents, and Williams’ voice blew the Siren away--fully Marilyn, yet believable, consistent and 100% free of parody.

Williams is, in fact, superb. The Siren has lost count of the actresses she’s seen playing Monroe, but Williams leaves them all in the dust. She takes the most imitated woman of all time and manages a performance that recalls every gesture and effect, while still creating a character. It’s a remarkable feat of acting, and Branagh’s work, despite his having to spend too much time musing out loud about Marilyn, is still right up there with Williams.

But what shall it profit an actor to give a good performance in a movie this trite? For any interest in My Week With Marilyn vanishes as soon as the much-vaunted week begins. That’s when we’re supposedly getting to know Marilyn the Woman. And it’s the same goddamn Marilyn we’ve all been seeing since approximately 4:26 am on Aug. 5, 1962. The wounds of her childhood abandonment and loneliness, her rotten luck in love, the pressure oh the pressure. Jesus Christ on a soundstage, you don’t need the Siren to recap any of it. She could hand her Macbook to a stranger on the Columbus Circle subway platform, ask for one paragraph on Marilyn Monroe, and those scenes are what you’d get.

So the Siren’s graph diverges more strongly now than ever. This story that purports to give us Marilyn as she was off-camera only winds up proving what the Siren has always known to be true: Monroe on camera was, and always will be, vastly more worthwhile.

124 comments:

AdamMoody said...

I am so jealous that you get to go to the New York Film Festival and that you have already gotten to see this! Nice review anyway, I am excited to see this.

Tara said...

Very interested to read your review - I haven't seen it yet but I'm more interested in Williams' performance than the movie itself, so it seems we're like-minded!

Obviously I'm a huge fan and love the impact she has on our culture. But one of the problems with the 'Monroe myth', I think, is that it clouds serious consideration of her talent.

Kendra said...

Oh, that bit about Julia Ormond as Vivien is depressing. Although 42 when The Prince and the Showgirl was made, one would argue that Vivien Leigh was still a knockout. I'm not a fan of Kenneth Brannagh and feel like he's been waiting his whole life to play Olivier. I hope it's enjoyable.

Let's just say this is one film where I will have my judgement cap on from start to finish.

The Siren said...

Kendra, I *really* look forward to your thoughts for obvious reasons. I tend to think you'll hate it, although Branagh is quite impressiv. The voice is nailed--not mimicry, but gives the impression beautifully. I think the script's conception of Olivier is gonna grate, and of course Olivier was still quite handsome in 1956 and there you've got Branagh's jowls flapping around. Ormond is rather touching and wears a couple of *fabulous* suits but she doesn't attempt Leigh's kittenish voice. And she has a line where she tells Clark she's 43, and the writers surrounding me all either gasped or guffawed; they've made her look like she's closer to 50 than 40, and it's a shame. One more thing that may raise your eyebrows as they did mine: there's a strong implication that Olivier owed his epochal performance in The Entertainer to Monroe's influence.

BTW Kendra, since I have you here--would love to have your thoughts on Prince and the Showgirl. Easily my least favorite Olivier performance. If you ever wrote up that one, please link us up. (Folks, if you click on Kendra's name you'll discover she's behind Viv and Larry, the pre-eminent Olivier/Leigh site.)

gobsmackedprotean said...

Lucky Siren to attend NYFF. Have not seen 'Week', but gazing at the cover of Vogue with Williams caught a sepulchral draft, as if the hagiography of dead sex sirens is never-ending. That said, I accept that it is sometimes possible to do justice to someone's spirit through filming approximations, and Williams would have keys into that film persona, wouldn't she? ... On another note all together, Dame Sybil Thorndyke in Prince & the Showgirl has one of the funniest lines ever; something on the order of 'Just a simple change of costume will do' after Elsie keeps showing up in the same white beaded dress. And the scene between Thorndyke and Marilyn when she produces the impression of being on intimate terms with Sarah Bernhardt in Paris by just saying 'Oui' is hilarious. No doubt I'm odd, but Thorndyke KILLS, and I love this film's impossibly arch rococo qualities. Despite Marilyn's notorious problem with pills, habitual lateness, and driving everyone up the wall, she and Olivier manage to produce some very funny scenes together. Wish Sybil Thorndyke were still alive; she'd be perfect for my film.

The Siren said...

Adam, this is only my second year and I really love doing it, despite the odd hours, lines and weirdness of seeing certain films on the same day. Thanks for the kind words!

Aaaaand Tara Hanks, author of The Mmm Girl. I'm so happy to be drawing out the experts here, and to not be annoying them with this post. I really mean what I said in the lead; my admiration for Monroe's acting has only grown, but the life, alas, not so much. One thing the film does capture in act II is her sense of humor; I feel like Monroe was extremely, naturally funny. Unfortunately it's mostly Sad Marilyn in the end. I think you'll be pleased with Williams, though. This is no surface impersonation.

The Siren said...

Gobsmackedprotean, I just got through seeing Thorndike as a moralizing harridan in Gone to Earth and she was wonderful. And she plays a supremely sleazy, hateful and mud-fence ugly blackmailer in Forbidden Street and she's actually frightening. A great actress. Dench makes her seem like a goddess. No Thorndike fans will be offended, I think.

Aside: Kendra's Viv and Larry site.

DavidEhrenstein said...

My favorite marilyns are Theresa Russell in Nicholas Roeg's Insignificance and Samantha Morton as a professional Monroe-imitator in Harmony Korine's Mister Lonely

The Siren said...

David, never seen the Korine. Russell was good but honestly Williams was great. It's such a hard part, like bringing something fresh to Juliet.

gobsmackedprotean said...

Sybil Thorndyke was an amazing spectacle, for sure, and I am not offended by your descriptions: her powers were formidable ...

FYI, probably you've already read, but in Leaving A Doll's House Claire Bloom, another interesting actress, recalls visiting Vivien Leigh at 54 Eaton Square (my screenplay is set down street), as Vivien was feeling extremely distressed and incoherent. MD in attendance, party in full swing, people around oblivious, meanwhile Viv losing her mind. Bloom hangs around until she's told she can do nothing, and leaves. And that's the last she ever saw of Leigh ... Vivien Leigh I practically adore, though somewhat embarrassed to say this of anyone.

I'm also sorry to hear Julia Ormond is not filmed more beautifully in 'Week', as she's a wonderful actress, and I'm always interested to see her work.

By the way, if interested in London and all things English, people can read about my screenplay @europabridge1 or europabridge.wordpress.com.

My blog here (google) I abandoned after a series of unfortunate incidences with noneckmonsters. Fans of T. Williams or E. Taylor will know the provenance of that expression.

Thanks for so many interesting film exchanges, Siren. Love your avatar -- Joan Fontaine also a favorite.

Laura said...

You've made me want to see this movie more than ever. After watching the trailer, I made the snap judgment it was no good, based on the fact I didn't think from the few quick scenes they showed that Williams evoked much Marilyn. But now you've got me suckered in again.

I'm also a fanatical Vivien Leigh fan (almost put maniacal Vivien Leigh fan. Sadly, that would have been appropriate, too). I've heard Ormond's role isn't very big; maybe that's for the best considering the film's interpretation of her? Do they make her the snubbed diva? That seems the easy way to go, because Marilyn's part in Prince and the Showgirl was originally intended for Leigh, I think, but the producers or whoever deemed her too old and probably at that point not box office-y enough. I hope they don't make her too much the woman scorned, and not only because of my biased fan-worship. I'm simply not wild about stock villains showing up in bio-pics.

Laura said...

...Just realized "fanatical Vivien Leigh fan" is redundant. I guess in the end at least I would have looked more coherent, if not more unhinged, had I put maniacal instead.

The Siren said...

Laura and GSP, no, it isn't an unkind portrait of Leigh otherwise, quite the contrary. She's putting up with Olivier, not the other way around. There isn't a single hint of her mental state. She's shown as jealous of Monroe, but not in an ugly way; instead it's rather poignant. And she had good reason as Marilyn was playing her role and her own husband had told her she was too old, at least in this movie. And it's also made clear that Olivier was infatuated with Marilyn until she began to drive him crazy on set. Frankly I think a movie about Leigh could be a lot more rewarding, although biopics are almost never what you want them to be.

The Siren said...

Adding, if there's a stock villain, it's Arthur Miller, who in a couple of extremely brief scenes is depicted as self-absorbed and casually cruel. As played badly by Dougray Scott, he's a cold fish with a waterfront NY accent.

Vulnavia Morbius said...

I'm kind of in love with Michelle Williams these days, so I'll sit through this eventually. I was watching Species a few days ago, in which Williams plays the younger version of Natasha Henstridge's alien, and I thought to myself: "She's already three times the actor Natasha Henstridge is and she's only 14!"

DavidEhrenstein said...

Gavin Lambert, who knew her really really well, told me that it was only toward the end that Leigh's neurosis totally overtook her. Looking at Leigh and Olivier in their prime (particularly in Fire Over England and That Hamilton Woman) it's easy to understand why they were mad for each other.

It's also easy to understand why they drove each other mad.

I've followed Michelle Williams' career with great interest but the performance that finally did it for me was Synchedoche New York (a film I've gotten into more arguments over than any other EVER>)

gobsmackedprotean said...

Eek! I charge you with film-blogging conspiracy to addict, Siren. Will stay away for rest of day. (I hope.)

Leigh played Elsie on the West End, (photos available online), but the Terrence Rattigan vehicle there was not Hollywood enough to film -- Leigh was not perceived as a comic talent. Arthur Miller met his future wife Inge Morath, photographer, on the set, and again on The Misfits. They were wed. Since Marilyn's Diaries have come out, we've learned Miller thought she was not as 'deep' as he originally thought, which is absurd, as if Monroe was famous for being a member of Mensa ... So Miller does not come off well from many angles. Damaged Shiksa from Hollywood gets the high-ho from Jewish intelligentsia, and most everyone around her ... it is amazing Monroe pulled off these feats of cinema magic.

When you look at pictures of Leigh, Olivier, Miller and Monroe in London together, Vivien has this look on her face, as if she is acutely aware the bloom is off the rose, and even the memory of its beauty is no longer valuable.

Poignant does not begin to describe it; Female Valor is more like it.

cgeye said...

fe"She's already three times the actor Natasha Henstridge is and she's only 14!"

Wordy McWord, Miss Vulnavia M. (I named my car for the deathless one... I miss that car....) I still watch SPECIES to see that hunger, lust for life, burst out of a creature that doesn't know why she is the way she is. Once she's handed off to Miss Natasha, it's all model-dullsville up in there.

Yojimboen said...

Fellini famously once said that in Italy a woman can have a face like a train wreck as long as she’s blonde and has big tits.

If ever there was a setup line written for Marilyn Monroe (minus the train-wreck analogy) it’s that one.

Whenever confronted by academic or erudite analyses of the phenomenology of Ms Monroe, I first try to quietly exit the area, but if trapped, my knee-jerk reaction (per our recent WBY exchange – jump in anytime, XT) is to grasp at the premise offered by Mr. Yeats: “The center cannot hold…”

Any examination of “MM” I have ever read carefully avoids the center, viz: After wading chest-deep through vats of peroxide; schussing down Alpine slopes of pan-cake makeup; wielding a rhinestone-studded machete to hack through the Max Factor Jungle (Red) lipsticks and clear away any remnants of self-deluding clouds of pink cotton candy, one arrives at the center, and the central – to this observer’s eye - inescapable reality that the woman was utterly, and I mean utterly devoid of any acting ability.

Move over, Federico, I don’t get it either.

The Siren said...

Oh, I have plenty of love for plenty of Monroe performances, Y., as you know. But as with Audrey, I get a bit of a kick out of people who say Marilyn can't act, for a similar reason: It's so axiomatic that she was a potentially great actress hampered by the dumb-blonde roles she was given, it's refreshing to hear someone willing to stand up and say, "I don't think she could act, period."

Still, love her to bits in All About Eve, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Niagara, Clash by Night, The Asphalt Jungle, The Misfits, Some Like It Hot and How to Marry a Millionaire (my favorite Monroe, although Grable's even funnier). Like her just fine in Let's Make Love and Don't Bother to Knock. She's just about the only thing I do like The Prince and the Showgirl (aside from Dame Sybil), There's No Business Like Show Business (aside from Dame Mitzi) and River of No Return (aside from Dame -- oops, I mean Mitchum).

Will tell you here and now that I cannot abide either The Seven-Year Itch or Bus Stop and I have only microscopically more tolerance for Monkey Business.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Marilyhn was a Star, Yojim. And that means her primary performance was a marilyn Monroe.

That took an enormous amount of acting ability as even the most cursory examination of her off-camera life will show. It was hell. Her maother was insane (Mr. Cukor thaought she was borderline crazy herself)and she was for many years a "Working Girl" in Hollywood. They called them "The 5 O'Clock Girls" -- starlet available for a roll in the hay after "business hours." At best this meant parts like her walk on in LOve Happy. But Marilyn was ambitious and worked tirelesly to get real roles. However everyone in town thought she was nothing more than w two-bit no-talent whore -- and couldn't uynderstand how she got promoted to STAR in Gentleman Prefer Blondes

Hannah said...

Interesting review, I couldn't help but think she sounded British in the trailer.

The Siren said...

I didn't see the trailer but you're the 2nd person who's mentioned not liking Williams in it, which says rather odd things about the Weinstein publicity department. I'll have to take a look at some point.

Fiona said...

Fascinating stuff. I kind of adore Michelle Williams, and was hoping that her acting would make me forget that she only has a passing resemblance to MM.

I do think Julia Ormond is lovely, so it's a shame they downplayed that, especially when she is playing such a beautiful woman. I think KB is a very good actor, but I can't forgive him for cheating on Emma, although she certainly seemed to come out for the best from it.

Shamus said...

First Audrey, now Marilyn. (Please, how about some Margaret Sullavan instead? Or Janet Gaynor?)

I think I would resent these "icons" a little less if they didn't relentlessly bludgeon us over and over in pop culture. The Warhol paintings, the pinups, (and in A's case) the Givenchy and the cigarette holders ("Oh so Audrey!"). And everyday you hear about how a crumb of cloth they held briefly sold for about a million dollars. C'mon. I mean, there were other actresses in the 50's and 60's, weren't they? Just a thought.

Did Marilyn! with her rather homogeneous promise of sex under a cluster of artificial surfaces (as Y points out) have about a hundredth of the amused perversity of Gloria Grahame? And yet who remembers Grahame outside the cinephile community? And who is not force-fed Marilyn! every second day?

As for bit parts: I once caught Without Love quite accidentally on TCM for the scene Gloria appears, apparition-like in an enticingly brief flicker (she's a flower girl with hay-fever). But with a sense of conviction that nearly sent Spencer Tracy scampering for cover. Among 50's stars, Angie Dickinson had a sense of humor surpassing anything Marilyn! possessed (witness Rio Bravo). Sigh.

Anyway, more eloquent bloggers than me will pursue this matter further (I think).

DavidEhrenstein said...

Gloria was a masochist who liked to provoke men to hit her.

Shamus said...

In life or in the movies?

DavidEhrenstein said...

Cue Phil Spector

DavidEhrenstein said...

In life, Shamus, in life. That's why Ray lfet. His arm got tired.

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

Ray left because she fucked his son (her stepson). Who was about thirteen at the time.

DavidEhrenstein said...

She was hoping for a roundhouse right.

Harry K. said...

Speaking of other actresses from the 50s and 60s, I don't know how much anybody is excited by any part of this, but I just found out AFI is giving Shirley MacLaine a lifetime achievement award, and I'm plum thrilled.

Harry K. said...

Wow, the conversation took quite the turn from when I started writing my last comment.

DavidEhrenstein said...

She deserves an AFI Tribute for THIS alone.

Vanwall said...

I'll certainly see this one, Williams' work is always worth a look. There was certainly more to MM than met the eye, even if all the make-up (gosh, was that unusual in the film industry?) was scraped off. I liked her a lot in small bites.

She didn't have any outlet for her real self, she was brutally manipulated and perhaps all the trouble she caused was a way of rebelling, but forever she was the MM construct for all public intents and purposes, and so shall she be remembered, which is sad indeed.

Who cares that she wrote intelligent letters, and read books that didn't have pictures, she's always going to be rammed down the public throats as a neurotic some-kind-of-whore. We'll never see that kinda brainless bimbo again, eh? Oops - worse, the new gen prolly doesn't read or write, unless they're twittering in abrev-speak.

She made money for the Studios, one way or another, even in death and beyond, and that's the bottom line in the business.

glennkenny said...

My comment to The Siren as the lights went up: "'There's No Business Like Show Business' was in 'Scope, goddamnit! What's wrong with these people?" I can't really discuss the film as I've got some feature-writing obligations attached at the moment. So I think maybe it'd be fun to criticize it on historically inaccurate aspect ratio issues alone.

Great piece, Siren. I can't believe [name redacted, but as a hint I'll mention it's an individual the top of whose head I could use as a drink tray] got paid to post his dribble on [site name redacted; rhymes with Mindy Pyre] while you give us these gems out of the goodness of your heart.

The Siren said...

Shamus, I get that way too and have even sniped about Audrey's "Breakfast" fans; I always want to tell them, see her at her best in Nun's Story and at her worst in Paris When It Sizzles and THEN tell me how much you love her. Lots more to her than Givenchy. Marilyn gets it even worse, and I once wrote a post where I went off on her because Gene Tierney, while not the same kind of presence that Monroe was, made better movies on the whole, also had an affair with Kennedy (and he almost married Gene) and yet just try bringing her up on the subway platform some time. "Who?"

But: It's not their fault. At all. Both of them did stellar work that deserves consideration beyond their images. I fight all the time for the lesser-knowns but the overdiscussed can use some love sometimes too, if only to bring us all back to the WORK.

I cannot comment on Grahame (aside from loving her) but it does seem to me that sleeping with a man's son is sufficient unto itself.

Glenn, bless you for the kind words. I'd love to see you discuss Monroe sometime. The perspective of an auteurist critic on Monroe, quite aside from the mythology...it would be most interesting.

Finally, an AFI tribute to the very great Shirley Maclaine comes under the heading of "About Goddamn Time."

Karen said...

I guess the thing about Marilyn I feel worst about is that Marilyn the actress is constantly being asked to justify Marilyn the post-mortem legend. That the seething masses seized on Marilyn and made her a mythic figure shouldn't detract from the considerable pleasures of her performances, and no one here, certainly, is asking that those performances detract from anyone else's performances. It's not a zero-sum game: I can enjoy the hell out of Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or Niagara and that doesn't limit my ability to love Gloria Grahame in The Big Heat (watched it again today!) or In a Lonely Place.

My distaste for the Monroe Myth leads me to avoid all movies in which someone plays her as a character, and I'm not particularly fond of photo shoots where starlets dress up as her, either. I find myself drawn to candid photos of her, as I keep trying to figure out if I would even find her attractive if I wasn't continually being yelled at do so. (The jury's still out, but I will say I much prefer her when she's wearing appropriate foundation garments.)

But I do enjoy her performances, and I think she gives a corker in The Prince and the Showgirl. You can tell she's thought about her role but you don't necessarily see her acting.

Karen said...

But the Siren's right about Bus Stop--it's hella shrill. I blame the directing for that, though.

The Siren said...

Karen, I second your every thought. Thank you for the Bus Stop support, I really can't stand it. And double-second to the photo-shoot thing. Dear god make them STOP. As a matter of fact, I am completely over the "Come As Your Favorite Long-Dead Star" photo-shoot thing, period. If the actress has the goods, get a photographer who can capture a new set of eternal keepsakes. Quit messing with mine.

The Siren said...

Fiona, despite my low opinion of the movie overall, I think you'll be very pleased with Williams. And you may even forgive Branagh, depending on how much you laugh.

gmoke said...

Saw the Prince and the Showgirl fairly recently and really enjoyed Monroe's performance. She and Sybil Thorndyke are the best things in it.

At one point my favorite Olivier moment was in The Magic Box as the Bobby being shown William Friese-Greene's early motion pictures. It's a cameo but the astonishment and wonder that pass across his face as he sees his first film really struck home.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Taylor Mead an astute critic as wella s a great underground film star, shares your antipathy to Bus Stop, Siren. He says it was the "low point" of her career as she was basically imitating Kim Stanley's stage performacne down to the last detail.

I kind of like her in it anyway, but I see his points. As for The Seven Year Itch I think it's just elegant.

In Axelrod's play the anti-hero does do the deec with the girl upstairs. The production code of course wouldn't allow that. But what Wilder discovered in Marilyn was her incredible sexual sweetness. Instead of a story of a man tempted tp cheat on his wife it's a story of man at loose ends in middle-age needing a boost from sometone. He gets it from Marilyn simply by beign sweet to him -- in the way that only Marilyn could.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Taylor Mead

DavidEhrenstein said...

"I Am Lost To This World"

Roderick Heath said...

It definitely seems to be a new sub-genre: the dead celebrity pseudo-portrait told from the viewpoint of someone utterly peripheral to the dead celebrity, with a title including something like “My Week With” or “Me And”. I can see the appeal, from a marketing point of view: all the specious star-humping with none of the dead weight of biopics like having to watch them when they were young and non-famous or old and burnt-out.

The Siren said...

Roderick, good point, although one downside from the studio viewpoint is that in conversation I kept referring to it as "My Dinner With Marilyn." Wrong target audience.

Shamus said...

Siren, re Audrey's clunkers - it would take a braver man than me to finish watching the migraine-inducing Paris When it Fizzles - but My Fair Lady probably comes a close second, (depending on your affection for the source material).

Karen, if comparing MM and Gloria is unfair, how about Jennifer Jones or Paulette Goddard in their comic roles instead? Let's say, Diary of the Chambermaid where PG is scheming gold-digger gravitating to her sugar-daddy (curiously echoed in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes)? Or JJ as the wonderfully sexy, uninhibited maid who takes an unseemly interest in plumbing in Cluny Brown?

Yet (bearing in mind that they were the top actresses in H'wood at one point of time), who remembers them (aside from readers of this wonderful blog?)

Shamus said...

By the way, COMPLETELY off tangent here but I came across a reference in a short story collection about a television adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's "Split Second". Supposedly, it's directed by Hitchcock and stars Bette Davis. So far so tantalizing. Except, I can't find any mention of this in all the usual places: no Davis, no Du Maurier, no Hitchcock. Possibly Alberto Manguel (the editor of the anthology) is mistaken except that he praises the adaptation and specifically instructs the reader to keep Bette Davis in mind when reading the story. Anyone here has a clue about this?

The Siren said...

Shamus, you're still sidestepping Karen's point, with which I completely agree -- loving a Hepburn or Marilyn performance has precisely nothing to do with Diary of a Chambermaid or Cluny Brown. In fact, I'd say I have a better chance of screening a Renoir or a Lubitsch for a Marilyn or Hepburn fan, and having them like it, than I do for someone who hasn't been prepped by at least watching a handful of classic movies. There are some things known to everyone, and some things known mostly to the connoisseurs. I mean, come on man--in terms of the wider public's tastes, this ENTIRE BLOG is about obscurities. If coincidence leads me to write about Breakfast at Tiffany's (which I was assigned, but do love) and Marilyn Monroe (by virtue of this film being the Sunday 10/9 NYFF press screening), it doesn't mean I have suddenly gone commercial and henceforth will concentrate on, hell, I don't know, the AFI Top 100 or whatever.

Shamus said...

Siren, I was actually trying to argue against the more specific idea that MM somehow perfectly embodied that archetype of ditzy heroine or the "accidental schemer" so there you have two superb movies from the middle to late 40's whose heroines were just that: innocent connivers (as opposed to the very smart screwball heroines who emerged from the 30's- not so much innocence). Doubtless they're other examples but off the top of my head...

Karen's general point was really about taste and preference, which is impossible to argue with (and who would want to?).

Shamus said...

And yes, this blog is about things pretty obscure. Maybe we really don't have a right to demand that more people watch Lubitsch and Keaton or read Blake or Frost or whatever. Still...

The Siren said...

David E., I can't explain my antipathy to Seven-Year Itch much beyond "just not funny to me." I think it's partly Tom Ewell, whose performances in this and The Girl Can't Help It are always several beats off to me, and partly the script and the way it treats Marilyn's character. She doesn't even get her own name! She played a lot of sex objects, but she's got more of a character even in All About Eve where her screen time probably clocks in at less than 10 minutes. I don't think Axelrod and Wilder melded very well, and the jokes seem very loud and vulgar, as indeed does the entire movie. I have so much more love for Sabrina or, for that matter, Love in the Afternoon, which has a premise that's almost as uncomfortable as Seven-Year Itch.

I don't see anybody sticking up for Monkey Business. I could totally have put that in my "should love, but don't" post. It occurs to me that the comedies I adore are much more likely to be from the 40s or 30s than from the 50s or 60s. Might be worth analyzing why sometime.

Gmoke, I do like Marilyn in Prince and the Showgirl. But speaking of being a beat or two off, Olivier is just a big block of wood in that one. The accent seems like an impediment, his comic timing is way out of synch with Marilyn, and he isn't romantic. And saying Olivier isn't romantic is like saying James Stewart isn't sincere; it's so unbelievably wrong you start to wonder if the effect was intentional. And yes, that Magic Box moment is lovely.

Karen said...

Yet (bearing in mind that they were the top actresses in H'wood at one point of time), who remembers them (aside from readers of this wonderful blog?)

Shamus, clearly you need to spend some time on Tumblr! There are entire blogs dedicated to classic Hollywood stars you believe are forgotten--and some who are unfamiliar even to the Sirenista cognoscenti. I, for example, was stunned by this photo of Hazel Brooks, a name that I had to look up in IMDb. And this was only one of the photos posted of her today.

The popular taste is the popular taste, however, and there's not much one can do to divert it into new channels. But the popular taste is not always wrong.

The Siren said...

Karen, Hazel Brooks - Body and Soul. And now I shall look to see if she ever did anything else. Gorgeous woman and that picture is wonderful. I love that dress. Interesting placement of the gathers--ahem. See, why doesn't some enterprising starlet steal THAT for the next Academy Awards, instead of another take on Gilda?

And you're so right about Tumblr. There are a finite number of old-movie pictures in this world and such is the explosion of Tumblr that I sometimes wonder if we will wake up one day and realize all of them have been posted. And I love how I go on and see young (I mean really young, some of them are teenagers) women especially going into a total fangirl frenzy over Olivia de Havilland or Paulette Goddard or Dorothy Lamour or [fill in the blank].

Shamus said...

That was a rhetorical question, Karen. Not to mention, a blatant generalization. Happily, I hath been much aware whereof you speak and I shall sojourn to yonder blogophere, presently.

I don't see anybody sticking up for Monkey Business.

Actually, Monkey Business is a great favorite among the auteurist critics (Robin Wood, Dave Kehr, Jonathan Rosenbaum and, hold your breath, Jacques Rivette).

The Siren said...

Oh, I know the auteurists love Monkey Business, but they ask me to love a lot of things I don't. "Have some more Frank Tashlin, Farran. Come on. You have to take one bite, or you don't get your La Cava for dessert."

I meant anybody HERE. Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Howard Hawks, Charles Coburn (hi Karen) and, for me, a Face of Stone. I think I got a few good laughs out of it but not many.

Shamus said...

Like Johnny Guitar... Or Rio Bravo.

The Siren said...

Okay, now you're baiting me.

Shamus said...

But Tashlin is pretty amazing and I think I would take Rock Hunter over either Godfrey or even Stage Door (Sorry, Siren).

gobsmackedprotean said...

Well, there are so many good points made here I feel stuffed -- but I would like to second Siren by saying that liking or loving AH or MM is not an exclusive occupation. The fact that there is a 26 foot high statue of Marilyn in Chicago at this moment as opposed to one of Gloria Graham or any of the other wonderful actresses says exactly WHAT about American culture? It says everything ... But if I admire Catherine Deneuve does this mean that I ignore Arletty? Simone Signoret? Or Danniele Darrieux?

It's a kind of artistic fascism to say that admiration or discussion of a star who went into the public domain to be recycled endlessly as an industry is a lowbrow concern, (because the public does not enjoy the same things I love).

Marilyn's statue in Chicago -- overblown, without subtlety or real artistic interest, and not really looking like her very much -- says everything about the many generations that have grown up looking at her films -- or not at all.

People notice the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons.

Hollywood is a ruthless business, and Marilyn knew it. I find her to be an incredible smart, adept actress who wielded her powers, charms, talents, and instincts to maximum result -- until she was effectively vampirized and dumped.

Rat-packed.

Roderick makes very good points, and I echoed his in an earlier blog -- the sepulchral whiff coming from the hagiography of dead movie stars is almost like a tour of Forest Lawn itself. I find it amusing that when Evelyn Waugh went to Hollywood his singular literary efforts produced 'The Loved One' a novel about a dead Sealyham Terrier.

We sniff around the tombs of the great ones; we throw stones or we light candles. The other artists are not ignored, but their contributions were not deemed BROAD or WIDE enough for PUBLIC consumption ... for hagiography ... for 26 foot statues in Chicago by studio heads, assassinated Presidents or Mafia bosses.

In fact, it is the commercial studio industry that ultimately makes smaller films possible, arguably. But really, all this is just mashing of details among acolytes.

About Bus Stop: Blame Lee Strasberg and his retinue of hypnotic Method actors -- a tyrannic force if ever there was one ... Marilyn had moved to NYC to study with the Studio, was just learning the ropes, so to speak. However, I find her Southern accent to be delicious, pure hokum. As far as copying Kim Stanley, that's what actors do. I understand Vivien Leigh saw Jessica Tandy's performance of Blanche as well.

Anyway, they give us a lot to talk about and look at, these legends.

We are their CONSUMERS ...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Rivette indeed, Shamus. In fact the formula eeryone ends up taking in Monkey Business inspired the mgical candy in Celine and Julie Go Boating.

I find Marilyn charming in it -- especially when she's beig pursued by a rejuvinated Cary Grant.

As for The Seven Itchy Years (as "Mad Magazine" called it) I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree, Siren. I find Marilyn utterlyadorable in it.

Shamus said...

I plead guilty to said baiting. Is that wrong?

Shamus said...

Miss Protean, the movies or at least Hollywood movies at their best, are fundamentally low-brow. Or no-brow if you prefer (shudder). Think screwball comedies: Sturges and McCarey. Think film noir: Richard Fleischer of Narrow Margin, Jacques Tourneur. Great directors. Highbrow, not so much. And being pissed because so much time is lavished on an object (no pun. Seriously) that is unworthy of the attention is not fascism. It's just being pissed. C'mon. Fascism is essentially cultivating homogenous tastes, which means there would be no discussion. No arguments, no differences of opinion. Period.

rcocean said...

Siren's gone commercial baby. Next stop: James Dean.

And agree on Bus Stop (like MM otherwise its terrible) and think "Monkey Business" is mediocre.

50s comedy suffered due to extended run times and use of wide screen.

Shamus said...

And for Christ's sake do you even have to use that word, "fascism"? One guy ranting about Marilyn Monroe on a blog does not fascism make. Before it was applied to college professors who showed favoritism in allotting parking spaces, it meant something very definite about a system of governance. Like democracy, coup, republic or whatever: concrete political terms. Same thing with "genocide". Prosecutors got greedy when they had to charge war criminals (it's more fashionable to say you're prosecuting for genocide rather than first degree murder). It got so absurd that an International Tribunal was actually forced to rule whether one man killing another of a different community (in what was admittedly a hate crime) constituted "genocide". And then there were the academics writing about such matters.

Words like that become meaningless when you decide to use them like that.

The Siren said...

That went well.

Maybe we should take a cue from Glenn and Rcocean and talk aspect ratios.

Shamus said...

It's a pet peeve. I think after the last US presidential election, many wrote that the word "maverick" had lost its meaning. Now, everybody can use the words like "freedom" or "liberty" and "justice" and it would mean exactly what the listener wants it to mean. So liberals, conservatives, and libertarians can all the use those words, smile, nod and wave to the camera. And never fear that they will not be misunderstood.

Rozsaphile said...

Thank you, Siren, for citing The Nun's Story as Audrey at her best. Great performance, great film. I remain dumbfounded at the way all of her many memorial tributes overlooked that role. It didn't fit with received notions of the princess, the fashion plate, the seducer of older men, etc. Molly Haskell, who wrote one of those tributes, was doubly derelict. Her famous book on women's roles in film also neglected The Nun's Story, an exceptional movie focused almost entirely on a woman's struggle inside an entirely female institution.

gobsmackedprotean said...

Have nothing to say really about my choice of words ... Of course one does not really mean fascism as in Mussolini or banana republic dictators, but more in terms of ever expecting such unruly types as film fans to be anything other than contrarian in nature.

Karen said...

Re Hazel Brooks: a short career. And yes the dress is magnificent and yes I had the exact same reaction to the gathers--I could hear the Fug Girls tut-tutting in my ear.

I constantly wonder why our current crop of stars don't take a page out of Joan Crawford's or Constance Bennett's 1930s playbook instead of walking down the carpet in yet another goddamn fishtail hem.

The Siren said...

Roszcaphile, I think The Nun's Story is fascinating; a story of deep faith that paints a very bleak portrait of religious service. When I saw it for the first time, immediately afterward I told a friend, "Either I have just seen the most devout Catholic movie of all time, or I have just seen the most insidiously anti-Catholic movie of all time. I am truly not sure which."

Yojimboen said...

Chere Madame – If I may crystalize your last thought, when I saw Nun’s Story as a naïve youngster I vaguely remember feeling manipulated. As a dyed-in-the-wool proud heathen I was annoyed to find I didn’t want Hepburn to enter the convent in the beginning but by the end I didn’t want her to leave.
Then I got older and smarter and recognized the supreme talent of the master Zinnemann.

Rozsaphile said...

The film is open to allegorical reading: the human spirit, ever striving for perfection or serenity and never able to attain either. Zinnemann was adamant about the balance. Composer Franz Waxman had originally composed exultant music for the ending, suggesting the liberation of a free spirit from a repressive institution. But Z. wanted the film to end in silence, leaving the viewer to decide. I think it's one of the most beautifully poised endings of any film. You feel like you have seen something by Bergman or Bresson. But this was a big commercial movie that opened at Radio City Music Hall! Imagine something like that today.

But the topic -- is there a topic in the house? -- was strong women's roles and how Hepburn's admirers and feminist critics in general totally overlook this instance.

rcocean said...

"Words like that become meaningless when you decide to use them like that."

Fascism became a meaningless term of abuse years ago. We even have "liberal fascism" now. "Racism" is going the same way.

Never have seen the "Nuns Story". I assume its one of those movies where we're supposed to admire the heroine for being a Nun but secretly root for her to leave it and marry the handsome leading man.

The Siren said...

Rcocean, that was my take on the Nun's Story too, for years before I saw it, but I'm happy to report that's not the case. There's some very delicate sexual tension with Peter Finch but nothing like a love affair, even a platonic one. I really do recommend it and such is its sweep that you can watch it whether you're Catholic or total apostate, like Y. & moi.

Shamus said...

Rcocean, agreed. Especially about "racism". It's tragic, really, considering what the terms really signify. "Colonialism" and "imperialism" are two other lost words.

Haven't seen Nun's Story but the most profoundly beautiful religious movie this apostate can think of is Rossellini's Flowers of St. Francis: also one of the most moving and least manipulative movies about religion. Oddest movie about religion is surely Ordet.

gobsmackedprotean said...

Don't think any explanation I can provide will satisfy per my use of the problematical 'fascism' for some here. I think I was arguing against judgment of blogs, critical theory, articles, reviews or discussions of MM, AH, or any other Icon on the merits of it needing to be more outre, obscure, insider, etc. as opposed to being populist.

It seems to be a form of aggression on the concept of a blog like this that takes what it's given -- the current showings at the NYFF (or whatever, wherever), and discuss them at length.

Popular culture is popular because it is a massive phenomena, not because 10,000 people saw a film once.

Language is abused all the time, just as ideas are abused. I made clear the context for my ideas; that's enough.

DavidEhrenstein said...

My favorite "Nun's Story" is Black Narcissus

As you can doubtless tell, I'm a VERY "lapsed" Catholic.

VP81955 said...

There are a finite number of old-movie pictures in this world and such is the explosion of Tumblr that I sometimes wonder if we will wake up one day and realize all of them have been posted. And I love how I go on and see young (I mean really young, some of them are teenagers) women especially going into a total fangirl frenzy over Olivia de Havilland or Paulette Goddard or Dorothy Lamour or [fill in the blank].

I've been seeing that with my Lombard blog, "Carole & Co."; we have more than 300 members (many of them surprisingly young), and just finished a blogathon where we had more than two dozen entries.

I constantly wonder why our current crop of stars don't take a page out of Joan Crawford's or Constance Bennett's 1930s playbook instead of walking down the carpet in yet another goddamn fishtail hem.

They still think of Joan Crawford as the severe-looking child abuser of "Mommie Dearest," and likely have never heard of Constance Bennett.

Shamus said...

Ms. Protean: Fair enough (I wasn't aiming any sally at you, actually). But people are terribly eager to conjugate words like that just to sound provocative or interesting. Words like (as Rcocean mentions) "liberal fascism" sound catchy enough but they are utterly bereft of meaning. It also seems to cheapen... you get the drift.

My objection is really the diametric opposite of yours: I always feel that there is some external force compelling me to love MM or AH even though there are so many other fascinating actresses who have played similar roles more thrillingly. I was arguing against homogeneous tastes. If you can enjoy both Audrey Hepburn and Myrna Loy, say, what's to stop you? But let's not pretend that they are somehow equal in stature.

(Reads above comment for anything potentially offensive or objectionable: I guess it passes muster.)

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

Here's the trailer

As you can see Michelle Williams (as always) is giving it her all. But she can't ompete with an Ultimate Icon, and the whole "Behind the scenes" conceit is wafer-thin. We know who these people were and what they looked and sounded like and The Prince and the Showgirl is widely available on DVD.

What's really going on here is Harvey Weinstein's attempt at making a "British" film with popular appeal, and possibly snag another Oscar as a kind of King's Speech hand-me-down.

MrJeffery said...

thanks for your review! i'm interested in seeing this still. love williams.

The Siren said...

David, did you see the movie yet? Because that trailer is just as I suspected -- they're ALWAYS like this nowadays -- all these flashing glimpses of Williams in MM regalia and almost nothing of her movements and voice, which is where her performance shines through. She doesn't look like Monroe, any more than most beautiful women in platinum hair and a mole do. It's all in what she does.

That said, the movie gives you a fair enough glimpse of how crushingly banal most of it is, so right on, I guess. I didn't even mention all the people Warning Young Colin to Beware. Gack.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Haven't seen the movie yet. Did see We Need To Talk About Kevin last night. It's REAL Heavy Duty. The Feel-Bad Movie of the year.

Tilda is transplendent as always, but be foreewarned it's REAL "downer."

The Siren said...

I read several largish chunks of We Need to Talk About Kevin, including the end, and my basic feeling is, no we don't. Not something I am likely to see unless I am paid, despite my faith that Tilda is all you say.

Yojimboen said...

@Sirène "Not something I am likely to see unless I am paid…"

Now there’s a topic I’ve pondered raising for ages: Just how much would “they” have to pay you? My loved one and I don’t judge movies on a scale of 1-10, but rather by how much “they” would have to pay me to sit through a given movie a second time.

(Bear in mind this only a hypothetical; ignore how rich or poor you are - nobody’s actually going to pay you - and just set a figure.)

My Price List to watch again:
Any film by Judd Apatow: $500
Any film by the Farelly Brothers: $1000
Any film starring any actor who has worked for Judd Apatow or the Farelly Brothers: $500

Any film starring Jim Carrey or James Franco: $5000
Any film starring Nicolas Cage $10,000
[Leaving Las Vegas: $20,000]
The other Coppola nephew whatsisname: $2500

Re the MM biopic: Any film with Eddie Redmayne: $25,000
(He is the most eerily weird-looking and creepily unsettling actor I think I’ve ever seen. His appearances in and Powder Blue killed both movies for me. Stone cold dead. I can’t look at his face. He terrifies me.)

Joan Crawford’s price is coming down. Used to be a couple hundred, now I’ll cop a look at anything by her for a tenner.

You get the idea.

P.S. I'm first in line for the video game of My Dinner with Marilyn.

Yojimboen said...

That should have read: His appearances in The Good Shepherd and Powder Blue killed both movies for me.

Rachel said...

I'm pretty intrigued by We Need To Talk About Kevin since I was riveted by the original Lionel Shriver novel. I'm especially curious about how they handled the ending, but I'm guessing there weren't any The Bad Seed-style spankings being handed out.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Nope. God doesn't kill Kevin with a lightening strike.

gobsmackedprotean said...

Actually, I agree with The Siren. Looked at the trailer for 'Week' and could tell by the few tightly edited acting moments ... of Branaugh, and of Williams that the acting is quite good. Branaugh's voice pitch is right, and he has worked his face into a muscley approximation of Olivier -- a kind of psycho-linguistic modeling -- and Williams has Monroe down.

Wish they had cast someone like Sam Shepard as Arthur Miller, only because he has the authorial presence.

Film appears to have great acting supportive cast too ... Well, will get around to seeing it, when I can.

The Siren said...

GSP, Redmayne didn't bother me, but that's the best I can say of him. To me he was adequate. Dougray Scott, however, as Miller--well, it's a badly scripted part but he's pretty terrible, all Noo Yawk accent and clenched manner. Dench is delightful. It's the kind of part she could email in from her Blackberry (as long as the servers weren't down) but she deserves credit for her amazing facility with these kinds of supporting roles. I love Dench. I really liked Notes on a Scandal and she was brilliant in that. Could have been a nails-on-a-car-door character but she made it enormously moving.

Yojimboen said...

Servers, schmervers! Dame Judi could email in any role with a pair of Dixie cups and a string. Heartily concur on Notes on a Scandal, she even made Cate Blanchett look better, which ain’t easy (impossible for mortals).

DavidEhrenstein said...

Eddie Redmayne

Hazel said...

I try to be nice but I can't think of any role that Dougray Scott hasn't been terrible in.

gobsmackedprotean said...

Agree with everyone on Dame Judy Dench (much better than Judge Judy any day). Notes on a Scandal shocking in the most original way - all creepy intimacy and shocking dislocation. I'm not sure I get the antipathy toward Cate Blanchett, as I think she was extraordinary in Notes, and has been fine in many a role. But Dench as Q was masterful casting, and she makes even drawing a bath in Quantum of Solace interesting. Well, these people who come up through the theatre, you know they must have cast-iron guts, yet very fine tools.

Yojimboen said...

@gsp – Forgive any implication of disapproval of Ms Blanchett (badly constructed double-negatives on my part, I fear); I meant to say Cate Blanchett is perfectly superb here, as she is in virtually everything she’s ever done - IMO – “it ain’t easy” to improve on perfection.

Trish said...

Doing a mad catch-up on this post, and spotting the names of some of my most disliked films.

I'd be equally as willing for a dentist to be drilling
than to ever let My Fair Lady into my life ...again. Argh! Not one of Audrey's finest hours. That goes double for the unwatchable Bus Stop. And I'll take Rio Bravo over Johnny Guitar any day. The Dean/Ricky duet is sweet.

As for Marilyn, I tend to avoid movies about her. Her myth is so huge that it's impossible for me to accept any actress as her. However, I'm motivated for this one because of Branagh's take on Olivier.

Karen - that photo of Hazel Brooks is awesome. I've put her on my desktop.

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

Speaking of Marilyn (and when these days ar we NOT speaking of Marilyn) Some Like It Hot is on TCM right now. It is of course a masterpeice and central to what makes it so wonderful is Billy Wilder's uncanny undersatnding of her cinematic power.

The plot is of course a wildly frenetic facre with an absolutely breakneck pace. But such a pace can't be maintained constantly without giving the audience a breather. Ans Marilyn is that breather.

Without so much as even trying she ever-so-delicately puts the brakes on the action -- simply be showing up and being Marilyn. She's otu for romance. And romance can't run the way farce does. What's so beautiful is that he scenes wqith Tony Curtis are a parody of romantic love scenes -- while being romantic love scenes anyway.

Her climatic rendition of "I'm Through With Love" is devesatingly sad, and would put us all in a deep funk were it not for the fact that the farce rushes back into save her -- and us.

Shamus said...

All the sadness of her race and then those splendid tits.
(Marilyn of the Myth, condensed)

With apologies to Philip Roth. Still searching for a one-liner on Audrey.

Johnny Guitar and Rio Bravo mark the point where I usually tell auteurism- this is where I get off. Merely wondering if anyone else felt that urge.

DavidEhrenstein said...

No. Becuase for me the entire subject of auteurism involves a lot more than particular films.

Why do Johnny Guitar and Rio Bravo annoy you on this level?

Yojimboen said...

I couldn’t disagree more, David. Though the film is close to being a masterpiece (“We was wit’ you at Rigoletto’s!”), I tend to accept Wilder’s protestations that it was a monstrous cluster-fuck to try to get anything usable out of MM. Even discounting his later bitching by half – he wasn’t immune from pique – I can readily accept his version that Monroe’s performance was constructed almost entirely in the cutting room.

Shamus said...

David: I enjoyed those two films, if weakly. Just feel Nick Ray and Hawks made much greater films, Dangerous Ground or Scarface, which make those other efforts seem rather weak.

Wilder was not a cutting-room kinda a guy: he shot exactly as much as he needed, never more. And the shots in Some Like It seem sustained in length (mostly), even if the cutting is sometimes mismatched.

DavidEhrenstein said...

But that's were more performances than you might imagine are constructed.

Wilder had a horrible time with Marilyn. Yet we wanted to work with her again. He offered her Irma La Douce -- which she didn't live to turn down. nd it's clear that Kiss Me Stupid was written with her in mind.

DavidEhrenstein said...

You're right about Ray and Hawks, Shamus. Johnny Guitar is a deleriouslt bizarre movie with two auteurs -- Ray and Joan. I love On Dangerous Ground and the other night I took yet another look at Rebel Withou a Cause. After all these years and all this mythmaking it's STILL teriffic.

Rio Bravo is a charming netertainment but i much prefer toehr hawks works, inclusing Land of the Pharoahs

Trish said...

David, I LOVE Land of the Pharoahs! It is so irresistibly cheesy. Joan Collins' fate is at once awful and awesome. Also along the same lines, The Egyptian, which I saw about 10 years ago on VHS and thought it to be one of the most literate and beautiful colour movies I'd ever seen...

Yojimboen said...

Ever your humble servant, Trish:

Joan Collins gets her comeuppance.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Yes. Joan dies so that Dewey Martin might live.

Trish said...

Yikes, still as stomach-dropping as the first time :O. I like to think of it as punishment for bad acting.

Yojimboen said...

No, this was her punishment for bad acting:

Trish said...

And well deserved, I say! Too bad she didn't get the same kind of treatment in The Opposite Sex.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Off-tpic but what the hell :Me on Derek Jarman

gmoke said...

Veronica Lake in "I Married a Witch" is what the new banner looks like. She had a hard time with Frederic March, I've read. He didn't consider her a real actress apparently. To get back at him, in one scene where March was supposed to lift her up in his arms, she tied a big weight to her feet hidden by her skirt. March was in for one surprise.

At least that's the story I heard.

Rene Clair directed but I've always like "The Ghost Goes West" a little better.

Karen said...

Oh, gmoke, I'm sorry to hear that about Fredric March. I like to believe he had more integrity than to go full Olivier on some poor actress! Shame on him: she'd already more than proved herself in Sullivan's Travels and The Glass Key.

I like the movie I Married a Witch all right, but it suffers in comparison with the book. The screenwriters toned down Thorne Smith's wicked little comedy considerably. My parents had a cheap paperback of it, which I read, wide-eyed, when I was 10 or so, and I didn't see the film until years later. It was good, but a little tame.

Trish said...

Oh no... not my Fredric March! I'm disappointed. Veronica Lake is so classy and carefree onscreen. It makes me wonder how March treated Kim Novak on the set of Middle of the Night...

gmoke said...

Even the best of us sometimes make mistakes.

http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4453&start=30#p68192

It's been written that Fredric March and Veronica Lake were not happy campers on the set of "I Married a Witch":

March and Lake had problems, beginning with March's pre-production comment that Lake was "a brainless little blonde sexpot, void of any acting ability", to which Lake retaliated by calling March a "pompous poseur". Things did not get much better during filming, as Lake was prone to playing practical jokes on March, like hiding a 40-pound weight under her dress for a scene in which March had to carry her, or pushing her foot repeatedly into his groin during the filming of a from-the-waist-up shot.

VP81955 said...

The lady in the previous banner (and on this avatar), Carole Lombard, also had issues with March. To wit: Carole had heard that Fredric reportedly liked to put the make on his leading ladies, so one day during filming she invited him to her dressing room. March began making his moves, eventually pawing his way up Carole's dress -- but when he got past her thighs, instead of hitting the jackpot he found...a dildo.

On a completely unrelated topic, I note the passing of centenarian radio legend Norman Corwin, whose productions during the 1940s still represent some of the most literate uses of the medium.

gobsmackedprotean said...

That sounds like Carole Lombard ... What an unique wit. Was devastated when first heard (decades ago) how she died, can see why Gable was so besotted with her ... The Screwball Cinema blogspot has a wonderful picture of Gable & Lombard with their Siamese kittehs, also one of Lombard imitating her dog. Rather precious.

Jaime said...

Quite the long-time lurker (via James Wolcott) and nowhere near the expert/aficionado of classic movies as some here, but I'd always thought that I MARRIED A WITCH was an utterly botched version of the terrific Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber. Didn't know about the Thorne Smith book - I always took him and Leiber as kinda-sorta contemporaries.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I always thought Branagh looked more like Cagney than Olivier.

BTW, Colin Clark is the son of Sir Kenneth Clark, of CIVILISATION fame. So he came by his upper-class accent honestly.

Just call me Cranky said...

Dear Siren - just saw Marilyn. You are exactly right about Williams. It's an extraordinary performance, worthy of Marilyn herself. I can't imagine how anyone could do this. Could anyone ever do Garbo, Marilyn's only other rival for exquisite screen mesmerization? I can't think of anyone who could ever get Garbo. Any ideas?

As for the Marilyn legend, dear Siren, I must take you to task: Ok, background - I'm a shrink, and a former unsuccessful actor and film and theater maniac. In both lives, I've known and worked with the adult children of schizophrenics, and I also know the horrors a child can be exposed to in the foster care system.

I think that Marilyn could have had a chance to get it together but for the psychoanalysis of the 50s and the Strassbergs and Arthur Miller. They all, including her shrink, Greenson, fed off of her and enabled her, and when she didn't give them what they wanted, her gratification of their narcissism, they dumped her. It's a complex, fascinating, contemporary version of the Narcissus myth that is not just another bathos drenched Susan Hayward inflected camp howler - to me, it's got much more going on - intellectually, culturally, psychologically, artistically.

I think she was a great artist, and she deserves a serious effort to be understood as a person. This movie did that, I thought, far more seriously and convincingly than ever before. By taking the callow young fellow's POV, and pitting her against Olivier, and adding Williams' astonishing alechemical performance, you get a 3D Marilyn whose life and work have lasting meaning and value for many good reasons.

So, dear Siren, tsk tsk - I think you were a bit too flip in dismissing Marilyn's personal story. Of course, she was a royal pain in the ass, but she was one of a kind, unforgettable, indelible, a unicorn - and all you have to do is watch her in Bus Stop, in Prince, in Some Like it Hot, in Misits - she's still breathtaking. Not just the flesh - the spirit. Plenty of others had the flesh to match, no one ever had anywhere near the spirit. The likes of her will never be seen again.