Monday, September 22, 2008

The "12 I Haven't Seen, So Use Them Up" Challenge

So, Dennis Cozzalio of the splendid Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule tagged me with this "12 Movies I Need to See" meme. Now, as I understand it, the original meme was supposed to be about movies that you wanted to see, but could not locate, perhaps in the generous supposition that you've seen all the important stuff that's available. Well, there's a lot the Siren hasn't seen. It is, to be blunt, fucking embarrassing, some of the movies I haven't seen. The biggest gap: no Robert Bresson. Nary a film. You can all log off right now.

But rather than indulge in my own form of Cinematic Humiliation, à la David Lodge, I decided to combine this with another occasional meme from my beauty-blogger pals. This is called the Use It Up Challenge. If you're a beauty-product junkie, you always wind up with a bunch of half-used stuff abandoned in the back of your medicine chest or vanity case, waiting patiently to be taken out and played with again like so many cosmetic Velveteen Rabbits. The Use It Up Challenge asks you to take out the stuff, use it up, recycle the containers and move on with your life. It's a very good thing to do. (Although it has risks. In trying to use up one Serge Lutens perfume, an extraordinarily pungent jasmine scent called A La Nuit, the Siren succeeded in putting herself off jasmine for almost two years.)

So when this homework assignment came up, the Siren's head immediately swiveled from her computer screen to her DVD shelf, and the group of discs she still hasn't watched. It's a diverse and poignantly large group. Poor little guys. They don't ask much, just their chance to strut and fret upon the screen, and instead the Siren keeps tuning into her TCM addiction or her Netflix discs or Netflixing old Columbo episodes (Columbo is what I do for stress, instead of hard liquor) or popping into other people's blogs.

There are the DVDs that the Siren bought, unwrapped and hasn't watched yet, and those are bad enough. But the ones that really reproach her are the unseen movies sent by friendly bloggers. These wonderful guys went to all that trouble, and still I haven't watched. What's wrong with me? I guess I procrastinate a lot. I'd tell you for sure, but I won't be able to ponder it until a bit later in the week.

So here's a list for the Siren's "12 I Haven't Seen, So Use Them Up" Challenge. I am starting this with a handicap, in that I still haven't purchased a DVD player. I'm having a bit of Consumer Anxiety, trying to decide what to get. As soon as this is rectified, however, I am going to watch 'em all, and post at least something brief as I periodically check them off the list.

The first three were received via the kind offices of Mike P., the movie brain known as Goatdog.
1. Heroes for Sale (William Wellman, 1933) Sent to me after I was wowed by Wild Boys of the Road.
2. The Constant Nymph (Edmund Goulding, 1943) Sent to help complete my Joan Fontaine viewing. I read the book as a girl and perhaps that's why I have put it off--it's a tearjerker, if it follows the original story.

3. Christmas Holiday (Robert Siodmak, 1944) Sent because of my kind words for Deanna Durbin. I wanted to schedule this for Christmas but I seem no more capable of watching a Christmas movie at Christmas than I am of finishing all my shopping by Thanksgiving weekend.

The next four came a long while ago via Peter Nelhaus:
4. Blue Swallow (Jong-Chan Yun, 2005) Sent to shore up my shaky Korean film knowledge, without my having to watch someone get tortured.

5. The Curse of the Golden Flower (Zhang Yimou, 2006) Sent because he knows I love both director and star (Gong Li).
6. Exiled (Johnny To, 2006) See #6 (although maybe someone does get tortured in this one, I'm not sure).
7. Letter from an Unknown Woman (Jinglei Xu, 2004) With this one I think I'm just afraid of the comparison to the Ophuls.

This next was received via David Cairns's Duvivier Giveaway.
8. La Fin du Jour (Julien Duvivier, 1939) I will have to get another multiregion to watch it, I'm afraid, but I really want to.

This one was given me ages ago by Girish and somehow I never watched it.
9. The Marriage Circle (Ernst Lubitsch, 1924) God I suck. Why haven't I sat down for this one? It's Lubitsch, for crying out loud.

This one was sent by Flickhead:
10. A Talking Picture (Manuel Oliveira, 2003) Sent because he's a mensch (don't tell him I said so) and because I expressed admiration for Je Rentre à la Maison.

These two were purchased on Glenn Kenny's say-so:
11. L'Argent (Marcel Herbier, 1928) Glenn swore you can read the intertitles with limited French. Let's hope he's right.
12. Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey, 1937) Actually, this was purchased on the entire blogosphere's say-so.

As a bonus, to keep with the spirit of the original challenge, here are twelve I dearly want to see, but am having the devil of a time finding:

1. No Greater Glory (Frank Borzage, 1934) Of course there's a Borzage. There's always a Borzage. This one is an antiwar allegory based on a novel by Ference Molnar. It's lovingly described in Lawrence Quirk's The Great Romantic Films. (Quirk's volume was one of my first movie books ever and to this day I use it as a reference. If Wikipedia is right, he's about 75 now, and one day I'd like to meet Mr. Quirk and tell him how much his serious exploration of this type of movie influenced my instinct to take them seriously as well.) No Greater Glory is one of the few Borzage movies that doesn't depict a couple's romance. Instead the focus is on the war games played by feuding groups of boys in a lumber yard, and one misfit boy's (George Breakstone) yearning for love and acceptance from his group's leader (Jimmy Butler, who in a painful irony was killed in action in France in 1945).

2. So Red the Rose (King Vidor, 1935) My father preferred this Civil War movie to Gone with the Wind. Dan Callahan's Senses of Cinema article on King Vidor (do click, Dan is worth reading on any topic) says the movie portrays slavery in a far more complex way than Selznick's opus, which might explain why it failed at the box office. It was such a complete disaster, in fact, that no one would touch a Civil War movie for a number of years afterward. Not available in any format.

3. Only Yesterday (John M. Stahl, 1933) Margaret Sullavan in a loose adaptation of Letter from an Unknown Woman. People who have seen it are unanimous in praising it. Apparently stuck back in whatever hidey-hole Fox has put a bunch of other Paramount movies.

4. The Crash (William Dieterle, 1932) Ruth Chatterton was a remarkable actress, stage-trained but perfectly in tune with the camera. She bowled me over in Lilly Turner, Female and the great Dodsworth. I want to see more.

5. Un Carnet du Bal (Julien Duvivier, 1937) Along with Pepe le Moko, one of the movies that put Duvivier on the map. Not available. Why?

6. Safe in Hell (William Wellman, 1931) My respect for Wellman just keeps growing. This one has popped up in repertory houses and at least once on TCM but I haven't seen it yet.

7. Les Visiteurs du Soir (Marcel Carne, 1942) Because Children of Paradise is one of my favorite movies of all time. As far as I know, not available on DVD in any region. I will probably resort to getting it on VHS at some point.

8. La Traversée de Paris (Claude Autant-Lara, 1956) Available in France but not with subtitles.

9. Floating Clouds (Mikio Naruse, 1955) Available in a French DVD and a BFI edition, in both instances packaged with two others I have already seen, which means that on my budget I don't want to stomach the exchange rate. If I hear one more time that Criterion is working on this one I will scream. Promises, promises!

10. The Private Affairs of Bel-Ami (Alfred Lewin, 1947) Lewin was a true talent and this is said to be one of George Sanders' best performances. Will probably resort to VHS for this too.

11. Summer Storm (Douglas Sirk, 1944) Not available in any format.

12. The Blue Veil (Curtis Bernhardt, 1951) Incredibly rare. One IMDB user claims to have spent more than $1,000 trying to locate a watchable copy. Never released on VHS either. Stars Jane Wyman, who isn't a favorite of mine, but also Charles Laughton and Joan Blondell, who certainly are. Curtis Bernhardt directed A Stolen Life and Sirocco, both of which I liked.

I was going to list What Price Hollywood? (George Cukor, 1932), but to my utter delight, this one is showing Oct. 1 at 11:45 pm on TCM. So that's my deadline for fixing the DVD recorder situation.

I'm not sure there is anyone left to tag, but if you want to keep me company and fess up to the DVDs you own, but need to Use Up, by all means do so. And if you haven't contributed to this meme, or its variations, by all means do so.

(Pictures, from top to bottom: Peter Lorre, as fellow bloggers demand to know why he has been neglecting Bresson. Kidding. It's him in Crime and Punishment. I haven't seen that one either. Next, Christmas Holiday: Gene Kelly and pal want me to watch this one before Halloween, Deanna just wants me to watch it. The Curse of the Golden Flower, also know as Gong Li Displays Entirely New Assets. So Red the Rose--probably not a good one to watch if I'm in a firebreathing political snit. Finally, The Private Affairs of Bel-Ami, which was clearly a feminist polemic.)

(Updated & corrected 9/23. Thanks J.C.)


Marilyn said...

I've got a copy of Only Yesterday, a great film I saw in a film class. I'll lend it to you, Siren.

The Siren said...

So you won't take warning, will you? You're a goddess. I will take you up on that, but only AFTER I have "used it up."

Marilyn said...

I believe I can have my cake and eat it. I have the film on DVD. Since you don't have a DVD player, I can record it on VHS and give it to you to keep. If you prefer to remain anonymous with me, I'll hand it off to your "fence" for hard-to-get films, Mike Phillips. I met him for the first time a couple of weeks ago at a showing of Dancing Lady, and we had a party of cinephiles up in the projection booth after the show.

Gareth said...

I love La Traversée de Paris: two of my favourite French stars, and a period of history that is endlessly fascinating to me. Although the films are very different in tone, I can't help thinking that the central odyssey is a miniature of that of Bourvil's later La Grande vadrouille, though the earlier film seems more honest about wartime France despite being only a decade removed from the end of the war.

The Siren said...

Marilyn, I will drop you a line as soon as I'm able. My VHS is the one piece of equipment we have (aside from the computer and the TV itself) that has survived the depredations of the baby.

Gareth, I tried to watch this one on French TV with Mr. Campaspe once, but the French utterly defeated me. We had come in late anyway and I realized I wanted to see it all. It looked so good, noirish cinematography, Gabin in a great role. And Mr. C, who'd seen it before, echoed your thoughts, that it's surprisingly honest about the black market and the compromises of the occupied French.

D Cairns said...

I wonder if copying DVD-Rs in your computer would magically change the region or something. The problem might not be region-related anyway, but a PAL-NTSC thing. I'm not sure.

BEL-AMI is one I recorded ages ago and didn't watch. It's just stting there, waiting.

I like the idea of picking rare stuff that I've nevertheless GOT, but haven't watched. Lots to choose from there, including some of the French 30s-40s-50s stuff I've been proselytizing for.

The Siren said...

David, do it! then drop me a line and I'll link. I highly recommend using up the old beauty products too, if that's been a problem ...

Gloria said...

"Floating Clouds" ... I have the same problem. I want dearly to get "Summer clouds" and "repast" but I have "floating clouds" already... sheesh! can't those coffret items be sold solo?

It's bad enough that a Lewin film should be a hard-to-find item... But a Lewin film with george Sanders not on DVD? That's a friggin' shame!!

And, no it's no so expensive to get a "Blue Veil" copy: there are some more reasonably priced if you stalk them patiently... But I suspect that they are all of the same quality (The "I caught it in my local TV Channel late at night two decades ago" type of quality)

The Siren said...

Gloria, the IMDB guy is in the "boards" section for the movie. Of course you never know who you're talking to over there, but yeah, his problem seems to be not so much finding it, as finding what he deems a watchable copy. According to the same source (IMDB boards) the problem is the copyright for the French novel the movie was based on.

Tell me, is it worth tracking down? It's another one that Quirk recommends in The Great Romantic Films. I know we're both Laughton fans, but the movie as a whole holds up well?

randini said...

With Bel Ami and Summer Storm you've got two George Sanders must-sees. The former was available on a commercial VHS, the latter never. (Have you discovered A Scandal in Paris and Lured?) The Constant Nymph was never available commercially either. Ditto Un Carnet de Bal (a must-see for devotees, as you are, of portmanteau films). Randini also highly recommends Heroes for Sale, which must hold some kind of record for the most disasters that can befall a movie hero in 70 mintes.

The Siren said...

Randini, yes, I bought Lured and the great Girish sent me A Scandal in Paris. I do watch a lot of things that are sent to me right away, in fact that is pretty much the key. It's like email--the second you put it aside "for later" you're dead. Anyway, needless to say I loved Sanders in both. I could go on about his technique etc. but let's face it, he was such a sexy man.

Gloria said...

Re the Blue Veil: It's worth watching, IMHO, but still I wouldn't leave a fortune in getting a copy of it, as I wouldn't say it's a first-rate melo in the Sirk fashion, but still it's a solid one (the script is by Norman Corwin), with slight touches of humour every then and now. The episodic nature of the film means that there are changes of mood in the story, but the cast is generally good, and this helps weaving the different sketches.

However it is foremost a Jane Wyman vehicle, so if she is not your cup of tea...

Ah, Sanders! I'm just reading one biography of him, which is the third Sanders biography I've read in the current month!! Though I find that none of these three books deas as much with his film work as I'd like: in fact, it is in his memoirs that one gets the most of information about film anecdotes, and his memoirs are not that much devoted to his film work, either.

(Sanders canonic biography is still to be written)

The Siren said...

Gloria, I did like her in Johnny Belinda and of course All That Heaven Allows (her best performance I think). She's just not an actress I seek out, she's irritated me in some other movies like Stage Fright.

As for Sanders--his memoirs are OP here in the States and when I find copies they are always around $100! somebody should reprint those.

Brian Doan said...

I did the "12 films" meme in exactly the same way you describe-- some were movies that were out of print or never available, but many of them were films that have been sitting on my shelf for a long time, that i just haven't gotten to. Your fantastic post makes me feel better about my own negligence. (:

Very happy to see Ophuls and Borzage turn up on some many of these lists, too-- they are both such wonderful directors.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Christmas Holiday wasn't released at Chirstmas and it's NEVER shown at Christmas -- obviously because it's redolent of the suicidal despair that our Pagan Foremothers saw fit to creat "Winter Solstice" to counteract.

(J.C. was born sometime in July. The church moved the date to December in order to poach a Pagan Holiday.)

Adapted by Herman J. Mankiewiczfrom a Somerset Maughan story of the same name it finds Deanna warbling "Sping Will Be a Little Late This Tear" (written expressly for this film by the great Frank Loesser) in a new Orleans "road house" ( IOW Whorehouse) She has been reduced to such circumstance, we learn in flashback due to her disastrous marriage to a "mother-fixated" (ie. queer) homicidal maniac -- Gene Kelly. It all ends ith him trying to kill her, hutn stopped by the cops. He collapses in ahil of bullets and dies in her arms.

They don't make 'em like that anymore.

The same year Siodmak helmed Phantom lady and the ineffable Cobra Woman.

The Siren said...



Don't do that! I know I'm a dork for not watching it yet, but still.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Sorry, but so few people have seen the film I always go all-out to make sure they do. It's indescribably beautiful.

The Siren said...

I'm not really mad, I figure suspense is an overrated movie virtue anyway (like realism). It definitely sounds like another one for my "Kelly's persona was basically a heel" files.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Of your impossible to find films, that's a list! I remember watching a little bit of Bel Ami one time on late night TV but couldn't get into it. I might have still be in high school at the time. I might have seen Only Yesterday either through Wm. K. Everson, or shown by a couple of guys who showed films at the Huntington Hartford Museum and later at their own place, but I can't be sure.

I am currently reading Lee Server's biography of Ava Gardner and am in the chapter about the filming of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.

Good luck playing catch up with the DVDs waiting to be chosen from the shelf.

Vanwall said...

I saw DVDs of "The Blue Veil" and "Summer Storm" at my favorite bird-dogging site, should I give it a shot? They have "Christmas Holiday", too, and the copy of "Secret of the Incas" I purchased there was OK, so I may bite. Your shelves are more interesting than most, I must say.

J.C. Loophole said...

I'm with you on wanting to see more of Ruth Chatterton. I've seen Female and Dodsworth (two very different performances) and loved her in both. I just recently saw Girl's Dormitory (from the recent Ty Power set) and liked her in that as well. An interesting melodrama that introduced Ty and Simone Simon to American audiences. But to me Chatterton was the standout in the film. What an underappreciated actress- and yet so talented.
Also - I think I may have misread your first list- but are you missing a #4 and #5? Or did I not read it right?

The Siren said...

Thanks J.C., I can't believe I did that ... I went back over the list several times and evidently just re-numbered and chopped off the bottom. It's fixed now. What's really funny is that you're comment #21 and the first to point this out. Is everyone too polite to tell me I can't count? :D

J.C. Loophole said...

No prob- I do stuff like that also- I have to be extra careful when writing reviews because sometimes they are linked to at bigger blogs and not only do I look like a little fish in a bigger pond, but a little fish who can't spell or write correctly!
By the way- are you aware of any other Ruth Chatterton available on DVD? I can't seem to find any, other than what's been mentioned.

mndean said...

Lilly Turner has been shown on TCM, and being that I burn every pre-WWII film that's remotely interesting (especially precodes), I have a copy of it. It is well worth seeing. It's not as saucy as Female, but in some ways I like it better. I tend to like films about the people who are hit by the depression and what they have to do to survive (Man's Castle and Heroes For Sale are favorites of mine in the genre). They're not always realistic, but they do give a flavor of the toughness of those times. Besides, it's a Wellman film, so it has his touch and even though it's more in the Chatterton tradition, it's a pretty dry-eyed tearjerker.

La Traversée de Paris is one I'd been waiting for years to see, but seeing it in French, no subtitles wouldn't be too helpful. I can usually watch a French film and get about 1/2 of the dialogue, but when it's in slang, forget it. My French lessons are too far in the past and creaky to allow me to do any more than minimal conversation in the language.

The Siren said...

Peter, I liked the Lee Server Gardner bio. He picks subjects he loves and it shows, although as with Mitchum, he's more indulgent about Gardner's behavior than I would be. The Pandora chapter is fascinating.

Vanwall, do, and tell me how you like them! although the consensus, as Gloria points out, seems to be that The Blue Veil copies circulating are in sad shape.

JC, those are the only ones I can locate. I was blown away by Female, she was so natural and direct. I guess she's like some other largely Pre-Code actresses in being underrepresented on video. I am keeping an eye peeled and intend to pounce on anything I find.

Thanks again for the numbering heads-up!

The Siren said...

Mndean, yes, that was where I saw Lilly Turner. I agree with all you say. And our French problems seem similar. The slang is particularly difficult and because they're black-market guys the flavor of the tough dialogue is very important. Mr. C was trying to translate a bit but that's no way to see a movie, for either the translator or the listener.

J.C. Loophole said...

Thanks Siren and mndean-
I'll have to keep checking TCM for Lilly Turner and more.

randini said...

Let me second David on Christmas Holiday, especially if your idea of a Guilty Pleasure is seeing Deanna do Noir. You know something is amiss when Kelly's mom is played by Gale Sondergaard (much more effectively than as the Dragon Lady in The Letter), and there's a scene with her that directly anticipates Monsieur Verdoux. I have no idea why it was never part of any of the Deanna Durbin VHS collections. (Is this the movie in which she sings the slowest-ever version of "Always"?)

The Siren said...

Randini, I don't consider Deanna a guilty pleasure! I honestly think she's underrated. She was charming; I wrote up It Started with Eve a while back. If I recall, Christmas Holiday was her attempt to break out of her image, and when it flopped, that was the beginning of the end for her interest in making movies. She is still alive and (so far as anyone knows, she never talks to the press) well and living in France.

And of course, Siodmak was a genius.

Now I want to watch Christmas Holiday but I still need a player. :(

randini said...

We'll all be looking forward to your assessment of What Price Hollywood? And not only as a not-quite-there version of A Star is Born but also as just maybe the best film of the long-forgotten Constance Bennett, who, in a way, was to RKO what Kay Francis was to Warners. I used to use it, via my old Image laserdisc, in a course I taught called "Where Have I Seen This Before?: Series, Cycles, Sequels, Ripoffs, and Remakes". It's also one of Gene Fowler's only on-screen credits, and he was probably responsible for making Max Carey almost but not too obviously John Barrymore (and while you're watching Lowell Sherman play him remember that LS was Barrymore's brother-in-law!). A good example, maybe also, of Billy Wilder's dictum that, if you've got problems with the Third Act the solution is in the First Act.

D Cairns said...

Christmas Holiday might not be the best film to watch at Christmas anyway -- watch it ASAP.

Right after La Fin Du Jour, of course.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's Deana

camorrista said...

Campaspe, at the risk of starting an amiable quarrel with some of your others posters, may I suggest that the first tape you stick in your VCR be McCarey's MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW?

There are only a handful of extraordinary movies about old age and no others from Hollywood in the Thirties (or Forties or Fifties or Sixties).

MWFT was released in 1937, the heyday of Astaire-Rogers musicals and screwball comedies, and it made no money for Paramount (understandably). McCarey, unsurprisingly, regarded it as his best film.

For me (and I'm old enough to connect to MWFT's subject matter all too keenly) it ranks with TOKYO STORY, UMBERTO D and TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL. (Some might add HOME, ATLANTIC CITY and THE SAVAGES to the list, but that's another discussion.)

Vanwall said...

camorrista - OW! Why dontcha just pound nails into my eyes? You are right, tho, it is unsparingly honest, with a little manipulation thrown in for good, or bad, measure. I guess anything one watched after that would be cheery as all hell. I've had some experience with older relative shuffling, ongoing as a matter of fact, so I can vouch for its intent. It will always be the dirty little secret film, sadly. I relate to it, also - I'm hoping for better later in life. Can't say I really want to know why you connect with "The Savages", tho - best keep it to oneself.

Operator_99 said...

Siren, I you want a DVD copy of Safe in Hell, just let me know where to send and its ready for your viewing pleasure. A TCM time shifted production :-)

randini said...

Camorrista is 100 percent right about Make Way for Tomorrow, but you're going to have a helluva time deciding when you're in the right mood for it because it's got no other peg, unlike Umberto D, which I always used to recommend to students if I knew they were dog lovers. Try this: make it a double bill with If I Had a Million (if you can find it), in which the final sequence has May Robson using her newly acquired wealth to turn a drab old folks home into a fun spot.

randini said...

The Marriage Circle is highly recomended, provided it's the Image DVD. Avoid cheap dupes with canned music tracks (which of course you don't need reminding). It's also a good movie to run for people who think they don't like silent films. Lubitsch's remake, One Hour with You, is also recommended if you can find it. The boxed laserdisc set that included it had a gorgeous copy that I have also seen in 35mm. It's the only early 30s film I've seen with color tints that change! (Don't know how they did it.)

mndean said...

Only Yesterday shows up as a Universal film (which makes sense, since I remember Stahl during this period working at Universal), and if it's Universal's, they release their own precode films even less often than the Paramount films they own. Except for horror films and the odd thing here and there they can pair with a newer version of the same film (like Imitation of Life, another Stahl picture), Universal just sits on them.

It's funny how I mentioned reading my old New Yorkers c. 1932 - the reviewer had a lot good to say about a Tiffany production(!), Strangers of the Evening. Mostly because it starred Zasu Pitts, who he couldn't get enough of in the part. It's got Eugene Pallette as a detective in it as well. He's a strange reviewer, though, you can practically hear his sneering over the fact that Hollywood isn't as daring as Broadway.

BTW, do you ever read your email - at least the addy you left with Blogger?

Karen said...

I’m coming in a little late to this party; is the bar still open?

I’m always impressed with your ability to come up with lists like these. When I’m called upon to do something like this, my brain always goes blank.

So, weighing in: Heroes for Sale was on TCM a few months ago, and I quite liked it. For years, I hadn’t seen Richard Barthelmess in much other than Only Angels Have Wings and Broken Blossoms, which gave me his range but not, perhaps, a good sense of why he’d been such a big star in the silent era. I hear that he wasn’t supposed to have made an effective transition to the sound era, but I’ve never found any fault with his performances. He has an intensity that’s pretty compelling.

If you want to watch modern Korean cinema without seeing anyone get tortured…much, I recommend Memories of Murder (2003), which is about Korea’s first serial killer—or, really, about the inability of a post-totalitarian society to deal with crime; Chunhyang (2000), a lushly-filmed historical epic, either enhanced or marred (your mileage may vary) by a uniquely Korean form of sung narration called pansori; and The President’s Last Bang (2005), a recounting of the assassination of the South Korean president in 1979, crafted by a director who has clearly seen every Mob film ever to come out of Hollywood (as he himself admitted when I saw it at the NYFF).

The Marriage Circle is delicious, as you know it will be, and I am as mystified as you are as to why you haven’t watched it yet!

Make Way for Tomorrow will actually make you like Victor Moore, or at least not cringe every time he walks on-screen, which has always been my experience of Victor Moore (the weakest link in the otherwise impeccable Swing Time--and YES I know this is the film with “Bojangles of Harlem.”

And, oh gosh, Margaret Sullavan and Only Yesterday! Is it possible not to love Margaret Sullavan? I don’t think so. She’s so delicious, and the film is relentlessly pre-Code. I looked it up in the AFI catalog to see what I could find of its Hays office history. Plenty!

In Jan, 1933, a rough draft script was submitted to the Hays Office, and Dr. James Wingate, Director of the Studio Relations Office, AMPP, wrote to Carl Laemmle on 3 Jan 1933 informing him of Office objections. They included the uses of profanity such as "God almighty," "My God" and "Mrs. Richbitch," as well as two speeches made by masculine looking women which ended with: "And my dear, when I say nothing, I mean nothing--if you follow me" and the reply, "I follow you, my dear." In Wingate's words, the Office was of the opinion that the speeches were "rubbing the implication of Lesbianism in to the point where it would be contrary to the Code....We feel that your point is amply gotten over by the preceding two speeches." It is unclear what message the speeches were intended to relate.

What else? Ruth Chatterton, as you say, is amazing, and I can confirm that The Crash won’t disappoint. I check Netflix fairly regularly to see if new Chatterton becomes available, and am always disappointed.

And I’m THRILLED to learn that What Price Hollywood? is going to be aired again! I inadvertently deleted my DVR copy, and have been kicking myself ever since. I’m a huge fan of both Lowell Sherman and Constance Bennett, and Cukor actually kind of outdoes himself. He uses techniques that are amazing now, and must have been simply mind-blowing in 1932. I’m thinking of the way he depicts Bennett’s rise, but especially the suicide scene. And Sherman’s performance, especially the scene where he looks himself in the mirror after a particularly bad bender, will shred you.

So, I will look forward with great antici...pation for your thoughts on all these!!

mndean said...

Being that I'm a contrarian much of the time, I have to say I like Victor Moore in many of the films I've seen him in, even in Swing Time (though it's not my favorite Astaire/Rogers picture - it's about 2/3 of a great Astaire/Rogers picture - George Stevens is such a leisurely director. Sometimes it works, and sometimes I want to kick his sleeping ass and tell him to get on with it). Who else would you cast in the part aside from Moore? Edward Everett Horton just doesn't fit that part at all. Funny thing with me is if Edward and Eric Blore are in an Astaire/Rogers picture, I rate it higher than if they're missing. It's more a quirk than a guide - it just happens that way with me.

mndean said...

You've never seen Crime and Punishment with Lorre?!? I didn't notice that before. I saw it years ago, so I have to go from memory. It's Hollywood, but Lorre is surprisingly good, though his physiognomy is very far from the book's description of Raskolnikov. The really bad casting is Edward Arnold, who makes Porfiry somewhat fatherly instead of a sly character playing cat-and-mouse mind games. I have a few ideas of a Porfiry that would I think have worked better, but it's a principal part, so it would've been difficult to cast a good character actor. Marian Marsh is somewhat forgettable (Sonia is something of a thankless part, so I don't blame her), and I only consider it a not-bad try for a Hollywood code version. I wish I'd seen Harry Baur in the French version, I hear he was a great Porfiry. It can be a frustrating movie to watch if you'd read the book and remember it too well.