Friday, April 18, 2008

John and Hedy

Let's try an experiment. Find the most precious object in your life, the light of your eyes. Place him/her/it in the middle of the room. Get the most fake-nice person you know to circle your precious, take notes, simper a lot, and make little enigmatic remarks like "Of course, they all do things at different times." While this is going on, bring your upper right arm across your face and try to French kiss your elbow. Do this every morning for several hours, for about two weeks.

You have now replicated the experience of trying to get your kid into a good kindergarten in New York City.

Anyway, between this and a youngest who thinks 3 am to 5 am is, by god, the best time of the day, the Siren is not up to anything cohesive. She has, however, spent what free time she has sacked out in front of the television set, glued to her Netflix choices and TCM, so here are some loose-knit thoughts on John Garfield and Hedy Lamarr.

About a month ago Blonde Venus Kim Morgan wrote a wonderful birthday tribute to John Garfield. The more the Siren watches, re-watches and reflects upon Garfield, the more she thinks that he--not the inarguably magnificent Brando--was the definitive American screen actor, the one who divides it all into Before and After. The Siren just saw him in two movies, the excellent He Ran All the Way and the dreary Tortilla Flat, and damn but the man was wondrous in anything. He Ran All the Way, Garfield's swan song, makes you weep for what could have been had he lived past 39. The actor was years too old for the part but that didn't occur to the Siren until J. Hoberman pointed it out. His character is a mess of sweaty jitters, doom stamped on him as clear as the marks on a UPS parcel. He's an armed robber on the run, but he's no John Dillinger. Garfield's character can't keep it together for more than a quarter-hour at a time, flipping out first on Shelley Winters in a public pool, then again at her house when he reveals to her family that he's on the lam. The suspense comes from wondering what his next ghastly burst of paranoia will bring. Garfield's line deliveries are a joy--never just a straightforward tough-guy reading, always something coming from a different angle. When he tells the family, "all I wanted was a place to hole up for a couple of days. Something you'd give an alley cat," it has the force of both accusation and elegy. Garfield gives so many different aspects to a man who could have been played far more simply. You see his yearning for a real family life in his scenes with the mother (Selena Royle) and his instinctive resentment of authority, even as he craves direction, in his frightening confrontations with Winters' father (Wallace Ford). Winters, for her part, gives Garfield someone worth playing against, with her own achingly sad performance. Genius James Wong Howe's cinematography makes the broiling hot summer days look even more menacing than the nights, until the inevitably tragic fadeout--but with a twist that the Siren hadn't seen coming. No wonder Morgan cites this as her favorite Garfield film. Give it a few more viewings and it may yet be the Siren's.

Then the Siren watched Tortilla Flat, and ay yi yi, as the characters are made to say whenever you are in danger of forgetting how Very Ethnic They Are. Garfield made this movie on loan to MGM. It's based on a John Steinbeck novel, and neither Garfield nor Steinbeck were at all suited to the MGM attitude which was, generally, "realism be damned." Spencer Tracy, one of Garfield's acting heros, has the main part. Tracy is a Mexican with a bit of his godawful Portuguese accent from Captains Courageous but, gracias a Dios, not too much. Garfield plays his best friend, and they're both in love with Hedy Lamarr. Garfield wisely doesn't try the accent, he just gives his speech some vaguely Spanish cadences. (The Siren finds that actors using accents frequently get the sounds right, but step all over the rhythm of a dialect.) Anyway, the movie is dishwater dull, providing interest only in a rather sweet sequence concerning a baby, and when Garfield is fighting with Lamarr. Despite being miscast the actor gives real believability to his love for Lamarr and strikes sparks off the frosty beauty.

TCM's article on Tortilla Flat has a funny story from filming:

Garfield recalls shooting his first scene with Fleming at the helm: "The director called a halt and shouted: 'For Christ's sake, Garfield, you have to do better than that. I fought like hell to get you in this picture, so don't make me look like a fool.'" As Tracy snickered in the background, Fleming railed at Garfield some more and they shot the scene again. "Take it easy, Garfield, don't get too good. A lot of your scenes are with Hedy Lamarr. She's not what you'd call unoutclassable, and we can't let that happen. Let's take it again. Be better than you were the first time, but worse than the second."

Ah, Hedy. It's hard to feel sorry for one of the most beautiful women in film history, but sometimes the Siren does. Shirley Temple got more respect as an actress. In one of life's glaring inequities Lamarr was a beauty and an intellect, so she probably knew her colleagues thought she couldn't act her way out of a lipstick tube. Her "autobiography," Ecstasy and Me, indicates an ego the size of Guam but it also reeks of tall-tale ghostwriting more than any star memoir the Siren has ever read (and as we all know, I've read too many). Lamarr later sued the ghostwriter for embellishing the book and was mocked for her pains. People snickered that she hadn't realized it would make her look like a mix of Baby Jane and Messalina and so, they said, Hedy decided to pretend it was all made up. Well, the Siren thinks that if Hedy could invent frequency-hopping (do you understand how that works? because I sure don't) she could read a manuscript and know how it would sound. There probably was some fabricated stuff, maybe even a lot. It was the lurid sex passages that caused a sensation in 1967--"Hollywood is prudish," shrugged David Shipman. And it's the sex scenes that sound a lot more like a male writer's fantasies than a woman's reminiscences. Of far more concern to the Siren was how Lamarr lovingly details her adoption of a son and her fight to keep him after her divorce--then barely mentions him after she has biological children with a second husband.*

Hedy is TCM's star of the month for April and the Siren has made a discovery: one reason for Lamarr's reputation as a dreadful actress is that her most famous films contain her worst performances. Ziegfeld Girl? Judy Garland blows her off the screen; hell, Lana Turner does too. Samson and Delilah? Her midriff does most of the acting. Algiers? She doesn't have that much screen time and what she does have is excruciatingly self-conscious. And then there's White Cargo, probably her second-most-famous role after the Philistine woman. Man, this is a dreadful movie. Just re-viewing the first hour last night put the Siren in such a grumpy frame of mind she didn't have energy to figure out how to record Experiment Perilous. Lamarr sports hideous brown body makeup, although the Production Code's repulsive miscegenation clause meant she's half-breed but not really half-breed and even though they're in Africa she's certainly not THAT kind of African, my goodness no, here's this letter about her parents. Hedy's pidgin syntax, her sarongs, the way she conveys evil intent by narrowing her eyes, seductiveness by parting her lips and tilting her head back--is this where Claudia Cardinale picked up her technique? The only fun parts are the violent tantrums from Walter Pidgeon when one character complains again about how it's "beastly hot." "STOP SAYING THAT!" shrieks Pidgeon. It's like an early colonial version of Office Space.

But Hedy wasn't always terrible. The Siren has seen two movies in which Lamarr's quite fun, although she does benefit from low expectations. In Edgar Ulmer's Strange Woman, a movie she produced herself, she Vivien-Leighs all over the place, adopting every one of that actress's gestures and movements as Scarlett. But Lamarr is still most enjoyable as a Maine belle with an unexplained accent who uses her sexual allure in an unexpectedly explicit manner, including an implied S&M scene that you truly don't want to miss. Plus, you get Ulmer's direction. Who knew Down East was this erotic?

The second movie is Come Live With Me, a romantic comedy that seemed to owe quite a bit to the previous year's Remember the Night, from Paramount, not to mention It Happened One Night. While not nearly as good as either of those two Come Live With Me has its own points, including excellent performances from James Stewart as a frustrated, then lovelorn writer and Ian Hunter and Verree Teasdale as a posh publishing couple with an open marriage. Lamarr's part as a European refugee is potentially unsympathetic. She starts out as a kept woman breaking up a marriage, then proceeds to a green-card marriage with Stewart. But for once her essentially cool persona serves her well, as you don't know precisely how her feelings tend, and the script keeps offering good reasons for her behavior. Stewart also helps, as he was a premiere romantic actor, able to inject tenderness into scenes with even the least promising leading ladies. Here, a year past The Philadelphia Story, he's another average Joe teasing an ice princess down off her mountain top. Lamarr fares less well when he takes her home to the farm--she's walking around all delighted at the decor when you just know she wouldn't have been caught dead in the place. But she regains her footing with the farcical denouement.

The Siren recorded King Vidor's H.M. Pulham, Esq., which Lamarr frequently cited in Ecstasy and Me as the sort of role she wished she'd had more often. After viewing it, if inspired, the Siren will let you know whether Hedy knew what she was talking about, or was exhibiting the critical facilities that made her say sarongs and hip-swinging would make her a "memorable nymphomaniac" in White Cargo.

*Biographer Patrick Agan claims here that her treatment of that son wasn't as bad as it sounds.


Parisjasmal said...

Lovely post Dear F.
Photos of Hedy hypnotize me. So beautiful.
Hope you and the fam are doing wonderful!


Gerard Jones said...

Hello Siren. I'm a recent convert to your site and have been waiting eagerly for another post--this was more than worth it. Garfield is a fascinating figure, and much written about, but looking at him next to and through Hedy Lamarr opened up new ways to see him. Thank you.

And having once gone through the process of getting my son into kindergarten in San Francisco, which by all reports is only better than the same in New York by a hair, I can sympathize with what you've been going through. All I can see is that it will all work out! Really it will!

Just find a good K-8 school at don't want to go through the high school process any sooner than you have to, believe me.

Gerard Jones said...

Of course I mean "all I can SAY..."

Peter Nellhaus said...

I just saw We were Strangers last week. It's a pretty good film, made even better by the sight of Jennifer Jones with a gun blasting away at the bad guys. My favorite Garfield is still Postman.

goatdog said...

I agree that John Garfield would be the alpha and omega of American screen acting had he not died so young. I just read that Nelson Algren wanted him to play Frankie Machine in The Man with the Golden Arm; I haven't seen the Frank Sinatra version yet (it's 1950s Preminger, plus the excellent Ferdy on Films hates it so much she can't bear to say its name, so I'm avoiding it), but Garfield would have been so wonderful it makes me sad we never got to see that dream project.

My favorite Hedy Lamarr film is the criminally under-praised director Joseph H. Lewis's (Gun Crazy) excellent A Lady Without Passport. (She's the lady without passport.) Lamarr was fine in it, and I haven't really seen much else from her aside from Boom Town.

Eddie Selover said...

Dear Siren: love the blog -- you're a great writer and I enjoy every word. As you're about to discover, H.M. Pulham, Esq. is pretty good stuff, and by far Hedy Lamarr's best work. She was miscast (it's a Joan Blondell part) but warm and sensitive and human, for once. I personally can't abide Robert Young, who was miscast in everything, but he too manages a good performance. The movie is another of John P. Marquand's male menopause stories (e.g. The Late George Apley) but despite the fake studio atmosphere and the talky script, it manages to capture a real feeling of regret and loss. The final scene is especially poignant.

p.s. speaking of John Garfield, I would love to read your thoughts on Humoresque. I saw it on TCM a couple of weeks ago and was blown away by Joan Crawford's nuance and force and Johnny's smokin' hotness (and I don't even especially like him).

Karen said...

Oh, Siren, my psychic twin.

Earlier this week I was watching "Outward Bound" with Leslie Howard and Douglas Fairbanks jr, and I had to share with my sister and friends the screamingly earnest three-screen-long prologue titles with which it opens. I also mentioned in follow-up messages to my sister that I was surprised at how overwrought Howard was in his role, and that I'd vastly preferred John Garfield in the role in "Between Two Worlds," the remake. I added that the more I saw of John Garfield, the more I liked him as an actor.

And here you are.

Have you seen the TCM bio on Garfield? This was a guy with serious acting cred from his Broadway career. Just an amazingly human actor.

Speaking of Garfield and remakes, I just saw "Young at Heart," the remake of "Four Daughters," with Frank Sinatra in the Garfield role. Let's just say...not as successful. Sinatra, still scrawny, lets his hollow cheeks do much of the acting. The remake, of course, is not helped by the butchered redo of the ending (I honest-t0-god thought it was supposied to be a dream sequence, at first). But Garfield made the character sorrowful and fatalistic, while Sinatra made him bitter and nihilistic. Really big difference.

In other news, I love "Come Live with Me."

Exiled in NJ said...

I am sure I wrote of my late Mother-in-Law before. Like many, she went to NYC in the forties, took an apartment with her sister, (a woman who turned down a date with Kirk Douglas....he wanted to borrow their vacuum cleaner the story went), and had a good old time there. She would always say, "John Garfield was the handsomest man I ever saw." She was of that generation who would never say 'sexiest' but that is what she implied.

Besides Two Worlds and Postman, I have this memory of Garfield, Lupino and Robinson in The Sea Wolf.

I suppose the only bit of acting I could never stand was the final scene in Postmas where he spouts the claptrap about the postman that removes the picture from Cain's prurient hands into Hollywood Code.

The Siren said...

J., it's so nice to see you here! DH always gets very, very interested in the computer screen whenever I am searching for Hedy stills. Go figure!

Gerard, thanks so much and I am having a good time exploring your sites as well. Garfield is written about quite a lot but it's frustrating that his name isn't a household word the way it should be. I loved Kim's question, "where's his damn boxed set?" It would be well worth the money.

many thanks for the school sympathies. It is quite rare to find a k-8 school here in Brooklyn and the middle school process is such that when the kids hit 10 the parents often throw up their hands and decamp for the suburbs, having only delayed the inevitable. I am hoping that doesn't happen because I am a city girl through and through. The Times once ran a delightful article about New Yorkers who lived in gritty urban nabes but were terrified of being murdered in the country, imagining Ed Gein lurking around every wooded corner.
That's me.

The Siren said...

Peter, once again you give my memory bank a poke. I am not sure if We Were Strangers is one I haven't seen, or falls into that frightening category of Seen But Lost in Memory. It sounds worth seeing again, at any rate. I also want to re-watch Force of Evil, since I am on a Garfield kick.

Speaking of which, KAREN you frighten me, woman. I saw the same TCM double feature just the other day. I love Leslie Howard and am convinced he is underrated -- you were the one who told me to view The Animal Kingdom and I liked him best in it. But you're right about Outward Bound and Betwen Two Worlds, and Garfield was so touching in the latter. Nobody else could make you see beneath the surface of a heel like Garfield could, certainly not Sinatra, whose deeper insight came across in his singing and only rarely in his acting. (I also loved Eleanor Parker, who should have had much greater stardom.) The one thing I preferred in Outward Bound was Alison Skipworth as the snobbish society doyenne. Otherwise it was very much proof that not all pre-Codes are lost treasures.

When I briefly tried acting I studied at Stella Adler, and Garfield of course was a colleague of hers at the Group Theater. Yep, serious cred indeed. Some of his early colleagues talked about Garfield toting around "An Actor Prepares" on set and wondering what that was about ... until they played a scene with him.

The Siren said...

Goatdog, I am still yearning for your analysis of a certain Kay Francis film. **taps toes** Meanwhile, yes, the Preminger would have been a whole different (and better) movie with Garfield. Sinatra, as Karen said, often had a bitter and even adolescent quality on screen. (I need to read Ferdy's review!) It could be subsumed with his charm in some of his comedies or musicals or used for the character in some of his dramas, but if the character was unsympathetic to begin with Sinatra couldn't peel away anything to put the man in a different light.

But wasn't Come Live with Me an unexpected treat? It was like a crazy quilt of ideas from other movies; I didn't even mention the blatant cribbing of the end from The Awful Truth. But somehow it all hung together nicely in the end. I loved Hedy on the porch swing in a dress a modern actress would wear to the Oscars, no problem.

Lady Without a Passport is on my list. We have a DVR but it is a cussed thing that I swear does not like me; it will only let Mr. C program it. He stands there and does the same damn thing I had spent an hour trying to do, only this time it works. Meanwhile the Siren turns the air bright blue with her unladylike opinion of the thing, which was her Christmas present.

The Siren said...

Edward, I am always happy to have another knowledgeable commenter and your kind words are much appreciated. I'm looking forward to HM Pulham. A Joan Blondell part, huh? I don't see Hedy as a tough-tootsie but we'll see. I know what you mean about Robert Young, he never seems to slide completely into a character, but he has been good in so many movies I love that I forgive him for it. Ah, The Enchanted Cottage -- now THERE was a chick flick.

I watched Humoresque a long while ago with Mr. C and one of my nicest memories was how mesmerized he was by it--it isn't his usual sort of thing. I think Wolcott is right that it out-Sirks Sirk. The Times TV reviewer (was that Crowther?) rolled his eyes over the Liebestod finale but we adored it and for the next few weeks chez Campaspe was all Wagner, all the time. Lawrence Quirk thought it was Crawford's best performance and I just ran to my Great Romantic Films book to find his quote: "her nature--jaded, neurotic, complex, sybaritic--has made her a failure at love, though presumably a wow at sex."

It also produced one of my favorite Oscar Levant quips, to Crawford who by this time knitted incessantly off-camera: "Do you knit when you fuck?" She quit speaking to him for a couple of weeks.

It's a fascinating portrait of female restlessness and dissatisfaction, and Helen is the kind of character you usually see as a male in Hollywood movies. So on that level too it's great.

The Siren said...

Exiled, I am surprised your aunt got away from Douglas. In his youth he was most persistent, I hear. She must be quite a woman. To me, Garfield is not conventionally handsome at all (when compared to an idol like Power or Grant) but he had sex appeal that just wouldn't quit. I once posted a still from They Made Me a Criminal, of him lighting a cigarette from a candle--when he does that in the movie it's unbelievably suggestive.

I haven't seen The Sea Wolf but I agree that even Garfield can't save that last scene in Postman. There's a movie that would have benefitted enormously from removing the Breen touch (or, in this case, sledgehammer).

Gerard Jones said...

Campaspe: It's lovely to think of you looking through my blogs. If you get a chance, please let me know what you think of that first chapter of my book, "Million Dollar Ideas." If anyone will get all the in-jokes, it's you.

As for my main blog, note that although I've been a bit election-obsessed lately, not ALL the posts are political. There's one on Jules Dassin in there, and I have one on Irene Dunne in the works. I can see it evolving movie-ward in the weeks to come.

As for H.M. Pulham--a frustrating movie for me. Enjoyable, but.... The first problem is that I love the novel and of course they missed the point. I try very hard not to hold that against movies (two different media, etc.), but that's difficult unless the movie's virtues are so great on their own that becomes "separate but equal." Unfortunately, this is just a solid, enjoyable '40s Metro based on a truly crackling, distinctive novel. (It IS better than The Late George Apley, though, another Marquand adaptation.)

And Lamarr, though she does her best, is just SO wrong. The whole point of the character is that she represents common American commerciality and egalitarianism in contrast to the exclusionary, high-expectations world of the protagonist. The LAST actress you'd want in that role is an urbane, intellectual European with a background in art films. It must have been a case of Hedy coming up at the top of the "project needed" list and Pulham being ready to go at that moment. The downside of the studio assembly line.

It was also Young's dullest phase, when he did see miscast in everything (great line). I like some of his '30s movies, when he got to do more with his edgy anxiety, but all the edges were smoothed off by this point. Too perfect for 40s MGM.

The Derelict said...

Tortilla Flat was a disappointment because I love Tracy, Garfield, and Lamarr and I thought they were all pretty horrible in it. Garfield's accent wasn't that bad, it's true, but it still bugged me for some reason. And Tracy, whom I usually love no matter what, was just all kinds of terrible. I wanted to stick a sock in him by the second reel. I thought Frank Morgan's dog-loving beggar was the only thing worth watching in the film, and he had the best accent to boot!

Poor Hedy seemed too hysterical all the time, more screeching her lines than saying them. In my bias on her behalf, I've always attributed that to Victor Fleming's reputation as a "man's director" and that he probably wasn't sensitive to the support Hedy probably needed as an actress. I can just imagine him leaving her to her own devices and thinking of her as merely the sexy hot chick (sorta like how he regarded Vivien Leigh in GWTW).

I dunno why I'm such a Hedy fan, it's not her acting so much, but simply her presence that makes watching her enjoyable. Must be that aristocratic European mystique. Of maybe I find her real life to be so interesting I project what I know about her real life onto her roles. And as far as acting is concerned, she seems to have an honesty and openness in many of her roles that draws me in. She was good in H.M. Pulham Esq. though miscast. Call me crazy, but I have trouble with actors or actresses with noticeable accents in roles where they're meant to be all-American types. But I haven't seen the movie in awhile, so maybe I'm misremembering her character and they explain the accent.

Siren, I recently dvr-ed Experiment Perilous and can put it onto a disk for you if you'd like to watch it. Email me if you're interested.

Dume3 said...

Has anyone seen Comrade X or The Heavenly Body? Both are comedies. I thought they were pretty good.

VP81955 said...

Dume3 said...
Has anyone seen Comrade X or The Heavenly Body? Both are comedies. I thought they were pretty good.

I have seen both, and liked both. "X" is too often dismissed as a poor man's "Ninotchka," which isn't fair -- if there is a comparison, "X" is more American in sensibility than the Lubitsch film. (Ben Hecht's script has its moments, though one senses much of his usual bite was lost in the Mayer machine.) Lamarr has some good chemistry with Gable, perhaps aided by the direction of the always engaging King Vidor (who later directed "H.M. Pulham, Esq.").

As for "Heavenly Body," it's a wartime trifle, but Powell is charming, though getting on in years (by now having outlived two of the great loves of his life, Jean Harlow and Carole Lombard). He seems a bit old for Hedy, but even in an unsympathetic role, she obviously responds to his intelligence.

It should be noted that "Comrade X" was Lamarr's second film with Gable, and "Heavenly Body" her second with Powell, so perhaps her experience working with both actors bolstered her comfort.

Eddie Selover said...

Hey Siren: Thanks for responding to my post... having been a faithful reader all this time it's kind of a thrill to actually converse with you in cyberspace.

Just to clarify about Hedy in H.M. Pulham, I wasn't thinking of the character as a tootsie, but more a smart, down to earth "pal" type. Gerard nailed it when he said Hedy was too urbane and European for the part. But for lack of a better word, she's companionable -- cheerful, self assured, fun, and of course gorgeous. I had a co-worker like that once, and ended up much the way Pulham does, so maybe the movie got under my skin a little bit.

As for Humoresque, great anecdotes and quotes. It's not my kind of movie at all (that phony Odets up from the ghetto stuff) and it's right on the edge of camp, so it was all the more amazing to watch Crawford keeping it real. Or kind of hyper-real. Distractedly tapping her cigarette ash onto the expensive carpet, hurling her martini at the paneling to make a point, having a discreet orgasm at a music recital... what a woman.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Campaspe: Maybe your memory of We were Strangers will be jogged next Sunday. I have a special Passover coffee break with Julius Garfinkle and Mrs. Selznick. Also, thanks for that terrific link.

Greg said...

I'm here late (as usual) to an excellent post.

I have always liked Hedy, which is surprising to me because I do not think highly of her acting, because she always seemed out of place. And so I kind of always feel bad for her. Honestly, and this will probably make me sound like a big dumb male (as S.Martin would say), it's probably the combination of the voice and the face. TCM shows a surprising amount of her movies so I've probably seen at least 12 at this point and that voice and that face always capture my attention, in a big, dumb male kind of a way.

BTW, when I had a pic of her with whip in hand from Strange Woman on my sidebar a few months ago that thing got clicked on repeatedly every day. One of my more popular sidebar pics.

The Siren said...

Gerard, now you have me itching to delve into Marquand. I read too. ;)

Derelict, I agree wholeheartedly with all you say, and you remind me that I should have mentioned how enjoyable Morgan is. I wouldn't be surprised if the on-set atmosphere was as you surmise. Certainly the Garfield story bears it out. Fleming had a red-hot affair with Ingrid Bergman which I always found curious, I guess since as a director he's hard for me to warm to (his two biggest classics had major contributions from other directors) and as a person the record suggests he wasn't my type either. Anne Edwards' bio of Leigh described how Fleming forced Leigh to get her breasts tape to make a better decollete, snapping (in front of an infuriated Leigh) "for god's sakes, let's get a look at the girl's tits." Probably a lot of directors were like this, which must have made working with someone like Cukor or Goulding sheer bliss.

Dume & VP, I have seen Comrade X but not Heavenly Body. In all honesty I thought it was pretty thin gruel, not because of the Ninotchka comparison so much as the tiresome slide into slapstick farce it takes at a couple of points. It's really hard to do that sort of thing well and I didn't think Vidor pulled it off, much as I admire him.

The Siren said...

Edward, you seem to have a knack for phrasing - do you write yourself? I see exactly what you mean and that "palsy" thing was something Blondell did so superbly. I'm also not much of an Odets person and I don't find "phony" to be too strong an adjective for some of his stuff. But as you say Crawford's intensity really subverts some of how the script wants us to see Helen.

Peter, thanks for the tip! and I am so glad you liked the link. (If anyone wants to see it, here you go. It's at Starlet Showcase, a wonderful eye-candy blog where C. Parker also occasionally veers into very funny, pungent writing. You'll see why I though Peter needed the link at Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee.)

The Siren said...

Jonathan, believe it or not Hedy mesmerizes females as well so there's no need for the explanations. :D I wouldn't really call her underrated but her lower-profile films do show that she had some acting ability, especially when guided well.

Erich Kuersten said...

"doom stamped on him as clear as the marks on a UPS parcel"

Delicious! Your prose is boiling harder than a James Ellroy's pressure pot, and I love you for it.

The Siren said...

welcome, Erich, and thanks for the compliment. Usually my prose doesn't get that noir-ish but the Berry film really puts you in that frame of mind.

camorrista said...

Campaspe, I'm so pleased you mentioned Garfield's importance in the history of male (movie) acting. If you watch the brothers' relationship between Garfield and Thomas Gomez in "Force of Evil"--you'll see the template for the Brando-Steiger relationship in "Waterfront"--even to acting choices in the famous taxicab scene. (Kazan, of course, had not only worked with Garfield at the Group Theater but had directed one of his subtlest performances, in "Gentleman's Agreement.")

As no doubt you and your readers know, "Force of Evil" was written and directed by Abraham Polonsky, who also wrote "Body And Soul," making Polonsky the creator of two of Garfield's greatest roles. (Like Garfield, Polonsky was blacklisted, though he wrote behind a front for many years, and eventually returned to directing with "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here," a picture that contained a cringe-making performance by a latter-day Garfield wanna-be, Robert Blake.)

Noel Vera said...

I loved Comrade X, and make a case for it in my blog that it needn't be embarrassed placed beside Ninotchka. Alas, am not a Garbo fan. But I do love Hedy.

And anyone see her in Ecstasy? Lovely performance, lovely presence. And I do think she does well in Strange Woman (Ulmer is a great filmmaker, budget or no budget--but you have to see him too when he does have a budget, as in The Black Cat, or The Pirates of Capri), and even Her Highness and the Bellboy.

Loved looking at her in Samson and Delilah, but no, I thought the movie itself was a plodding bore.

Menky said...

I have some beautiful shots of John Garfield with Joan Crawford on my Humoresque page. He was so handomse and Crawford and Garfield looked so hot together! link below.

surly hack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
surly hack said...

He Ran All The Way is great, and Garfield is easily at his best in it. I love the location work in the film. Director Berry was another blacklist victim...not to start that ruckus up again, but have you seen Try And Get Me? The finish too that film is amazing. I also agree that Garfield had that inner acting thing on screen a decade before Brando.

Lady Without a Passport is interesting for its use of Gun Crazy like atmospherics in a few scenes, but it is relatively minor Lewis.