Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Man I Love (1947)

Since the Siren recently dissed another Ida Lupino movie in a big way, it is only fair that she make amends and write up the lovable, unclassifiable The Man I Love. The Siren has no idea what Warner Brothers, via the great Raoul Walsh, was trying to make here--it's noir, it's a musical, it's a women's picture and a romantic melodrama, with bits of The Best Years of Our Lives and Casablanca. Given this all-over-everywhere genre mashup, the Siren was agog at Walsh's superb control of tone. Not once does the movie stall while the gears shift. You hand yourself over to the master and get lost in the characters, particularly Lupino's Petey, a woman the Siren instantly took to heart.

Petey, as she's called without explanation, has just had a romance go bust. Fed up with New York, she leaves for the West Coast to celebrate Christmas with her siblings, her parents being long dead. The folks in Long Beach all have their own problems, however, so Petey's attempt to recharge just throws her in another tar pit. Next we meet her sister, Sally (Andrea King), working at a diner and fending off nightclub owner Nick (Robert Alda, sleazily handsome and quite good). Soon Petey is performing at Nick's club and gets involved with him herself, until she meets up with a morose but gifted piano player, San, and falls in love with him. Meanwhile Petey has to sort out not only her own family, but even the troubled couple across the hall.

Despite a fine cast overall, in terms of acting it's Lupino's picture. Petey may seem like a tough one, but she's too much the caretaker for true toughness, and falling for an unattainable artist isn't usually the hallmark of a true me-first broad. Her toughness is mostly mental clarity. Petey sees things the way they are, doesn't lie to anyone about it and most importantly doesn't lie to herself. This is a dame who would never, but never cheat at solitaire.

Petey's common sense adds to her isolation; no one else in this movie has a clue. Nick thinks he can get Petey. San loves the wife who dumped him. Sally can't figure out what's going on with her shell-shocked, hospitalized husband (Jon Ridgely). Petey's brother Joey (Warren Douglas) thinks he's a tough guy. Their other sister, Ginny (Martha Vickers), loves her married neighbor Johnny (Don McGuire). Johnny thinks his trampy wife Gloria (Dolores Moran) is a nice girl, and Gloria thinks she's going to be Peggy Hopkins Joyce if only she can get somebody to babysit long enough. (Gloria and Johnny have twin boys and since she has twins herself, the Siren was paralyzed with amusement over the movie's breezy attitude toward double-baby duty--Sally and Ginny volunteer for baby-watching practically every day, but alas, sane people in the real world do not.) Petey keeps a gimlet eye on all this, dispensing advice and cleaning up when the advice isn't taken. The Siren's favorite line in the picture comes when Petey wonders why Sally bothers covering for Gloria: "She wouldn't give you the time of day if she had two watches." But Petey is never cruel, and she's generous; she will give you the hat right off her head, even if it matches her jacket.

Over at Glenn Kenny's place there was recently a brief reference to the concept of "invisible editing;" The Man I Love has it, but it also has beautifully subtle and unobtrusive direction. Walsh could do a virtuoso battle scene, but he could make faces equally thrilling. Much of the movie consists of people talking to each other, and Walsh shoots these scenes with depth and intimacy, trusting his actors and the snappy dialogue to hold the audience. In scenes with multiple actors--clubs, a diner, Sally's apartment with its foot traffic to rival Penn Station--the Siren was lost in admiring how Walsh could foreground the people talking so that you don't miss them, and yet draw your attention to something in the background, often with the slightest of camera movements or no movement at all. Walsh can do it all just with a choice of angle. When he shoots Sally visiting her traumatized husband in the hospital, Walsh never once pulls back to show the guy's whole room; instead we stay tightly perched on or near the edge of his bed, conveying the man's isolation and narrowed focus. The director will stay in a medium shot and let you savor the bits of business that signal the characters--Gloria popping out of her apartment to admire a Christmas tree with a cigarette in one hand and a half-empty baby bottle in the other, or Joey, the ne'er-do-well younger brother, showing up moments later with a nattily folded pocket hanky and a bowtie he wants fixed, swinging his hat and not caring one bit he's about to bail on the family on Christmas Eve.

A while back, during the discussion of The Verdict, we talked a bit about musical numbers in non-musical films. Now the Siren confesses she loves the surreal way a song or dance can pop up in a studio film, while everyone claps and smiles and the plot goes off into a corner to smoke a cigarette and bide its time. (James Wolcott recently drew the Siren's attention to a superb example of this, from The Fastest Gun Alive.) Walsh manages here to have it both ways; the songs in The Man I Love are diegetic, but they always advance the story and theme.

The director shows great respect for the musicians and singers that populate these scenes. The Man I Love opens with two drunks trying to get into a club, lured by the music they can hear inside. No dice, the musicians inside are playing for their own pleasure, a nice setup for a picture that savors its characters' love of music. The camera goes from musician to musician, but it isn't just a tease while we wait for the star to show up; the men are talented, they're a pleasure to hear and one by one, each gets a beautiful shot. You hear Lupino singing the title song before the camera even finds her (she's dubbed, but the voice sounds like what the real Lupino sounds like, only better). And when the camera finally lights on her, you see Petey's regard for the musicians and how it's reciprocated just in the way Lupino, while she's singing, leans over the piano to light the player's cigarette with the tip of her own.

Even Sally tenderly listening to "Silent Night" on the radio--and Gloria flinging her fox fur around and whining that she wants some dance music--connects the ability to respond to music with the ability to feel. Nick, the ruthless nightclub owner, spends his life around music and recognizes what is good, but his only thought is to put a price tag on it. Petey and Nick go into a bar on the beach and listens to a great band playing "If I Could Be With You." The venal Nick starts scheming about how to hire away the band, while Petey ignores him to connect with the song.

The Siren knew Bruce Bennett, who plays San, mostly from Mildred Pierce and his small but pivotal part in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. He didn't have a lot of charisma but he had great melancholy appeal, wearing his depression like a well-broken-in fedora. This former Olympian was as tall as Gary Cooper, he sounded like Cooper but he doesn't much look like Cooper unless you scoot way back from the screen, squint and imagine that somebody just beat the shit out of him. In the hands of a different director and star it might be hard to sell Petey's fascination with this big lug, even though Lupino acknowledges the problem by calling him "you big lug" at one point, but sell it they do. Walsh gives Bennett a long moment at the piano, playing the title song, and keeps the camera focused on Lupino's face, so the erotic fascination she has for Gershwin seems naturally to spill over to the man playing the piece so well. Walsh's camera lingers over the couple and dares you to think that the music, and their deep emotional stake in it, is anything other than the very foundation of the film.

More on The Man I Love at Film Noir of the Week.

Dan Callahan's Bright Lights Film Journal article on Ida Lupino here.


Yojimboen said...

Goddamn, woman!
You write good!

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

I'll second Yojimboen's sentiments. Gladly.

It's been too long since I've seen "The Man I Love" (so to speak). I remember a friend of mine, from early college days, commenting on how Lupino here seemed able to carry the entire world on her shoulders without pausing for a breath.

When I think of the film, I think -- apart from my pleasure in the Walsh/Lupino conjunction -- of the oddness of seeing Martha Vickers playing a "nice girl" and seeing Bruce Bennett all romantic and broody.

That director/actress combo of "Man" and "They Drive By Night" and "High Sierra" was quite something. And wasn't there a '30s "Artists and Models" musical? Whets my appetite, it does.

Vanwall said...

I must admit, I never took this film for a noir, so I guess I've been seeing it a different way, and for me, not wrongly. I always saw this one as a family problem melo, with nightclub trappings. The cast is about as noirish as you could get, but the characters are flipped - Andrea King couldn't have been more unalike her role in "Ride the Pink Horse", as Jeff Markham alluded to, if she'd been playing a virgin saint. Maybe it's an inverse noir. Ida was the anchor for this film, like so many she was in, as evil or as good as the character called for, and usually more. I never underestimate Walsh, tho, he was as gifted as they came - this was kind of a cross-purposes film, and he makes it seamless and watchable.

Bruce Bennett as a brooding artiste - that's a sign of clever casting, he always had the chops, just was stuck as the straight second or third banana all the time. I see his name, and I'll watch the film, tho - in "Sahara" he was perfect for the kind of laconic straight talkers they needed for tough soldiers in a tight spot. Or in "Dark Passage", and "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" he was like his usual one-man Greek chorus, straightening out the facts and presenting the difficulties that make for the hard choice. I don't believe he ever played an unintelligent character, and in fact usually knew what was going on better than the protagonists - witness "Mildred Pierce"; when he hauls Mildred into Wally's joint, his superiority over Mildred's perception of the world is very apparent, and then, once again, his character leaves the choices up to the less careful - he's already made his. Here he got a chance and ran with it, altho if there was a defining Bruce Bennett role, this wasn't it - it was the exceptional rule-breaker that proved the others were worth watching for.

Yojimboen said...

Point of info:

"...she's dubbed, but the voice sounds like what the real Lupino sounds like, only better"

The voice belonged to Peg LaCentra, who also sang and played piano - also uncredited - in Humoresque

DavidEhrenstein said...

Utterly adore this one. And it's a great fave of Marty Scorsese too -- who cited it as a big influence on New York New York.

Ida is impeccable in it.

The Siren said...

Y & Mrs HWV, thank you very much. I was glad to see this so soon after Devotion because Lupino had a great, albeit too-brief run at Warners.

Vanwall, I don't see it as noir at all -- to me it's a women's picture with some hard-edged trappings, not even nearly as noir as Mildred Pierce. Film noir has become a bit of a marketing label so I get tired of saying "this isn't really a noir" and this time I didn't bother. :) Bennett is, as you say, always a solid and anchoring presence in a film, so this one was a bit of a departure. He is in tune with reality, he realizes his wife was no good, but he can't shake the dream of her.

David, I loved this one too, I really did, and was disappointed to find that in the three books I have where Walsh is interviewed extensively he never mentioned it. What's it like to have such a great filmography you can forget to mention a movie this good? Walsh talked about how he was pitched to direct a full-out romance only to be shot down by Warner snorting, "Raoul Walsh's idea of a love story is to burn down a whorehouse." Walsh laughed recollecting it but I think he'd done a great job. This and The Strawberry Blonde (which Walsh cited as a favorite) certainly show a remarkable dry-eyed way with a love story as well as women characters.

Unknown said...

Building off what Ehrenstein said, here's a link to a(n unfortunately overtranlsated) list of Scorsese's "placeres culpables": (Spanish speakers go here:

It's a great little list, though I'm not sure I see what makes a lot of these pleasures so guilty (Night and the City?)

Haven't seen TMIL yet, but sure want to now. Maybe pair it with My Dream Is Yours, I sure love Romance on the High Seas.

The Siren said...

Dane, what a wonderful list, and the literal Spanish translation makes it even more so: "I like everything about the British presence in Sudan." Oh really, Marty? I wish I read Spanish so I could go back to the original but in a way I prefer to imagine Scorsese saying "I know all about Gregory Peck, do not read, Gregory Peck Gregory Peck is, when working on a film he is accepted as such, is a fact, as in a theorem in geometry; worth, Gregory Peck."

I always say I have no guilty pleasures, I love what I love, but I agree that Night and the City doesn't belong anywhere near the term guilt.

Arthur S. said...

Here's Scorsese on THE MAN I LOVE,

Liza Minnelli gives a stunning performance of Gershwin's THE MAN I LOVE(which is one of my favourite songs, the music is so melancholy and dour, the lyrics so earnest and optimistic) in Scorsese's NEW YORK, NEW YORK. Where DeNiro plays both the Alda and Bruce Bennett roles combined.

THE MAN I LOVE is one of Walsh's best films I think. It's one of the key post-war films about how relationships have changed so fast and is really a film for grown-ups in many ways right down to the bittersweet anti-happy ending. They part ways and say they'll meet again but the final close-up on Lupino's face makes it clear that that was the end and then you hear the strings of Gershwin as the titles fade out.

Raoul Walsh is one of the most neglected of all classical American film-makers along with Vidor, Allan Dwan or Leo McCarey. Even Frank Borzage whose stock has gone up is better understood these days. Two of his best films ME AND MY GAL(which according to Manny Farber is Walsh's best, and I concur) and THE BOWERY(which has Wallace Beery, George Raft and Fay Wray at their very best) are still AWOL as are later films like BAND OF ANGELS(where Sidney Poitier plays Clark Gable's illegitimate son in a Southern Gothic melodrama). Walsh is often compared to Hawks and although people call him an action film-maker, Walsh is indeed a master of faces and use of actors and his films have an aspect of tragedy to them(he was a fan of Shakespeare and Stendhal) and also a great deal of maturity(especially THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE). In some ways I prefer him over Hawks even if he never made as many great films as he.

Arthur S. said...;col1

The English Language original of Scorsese's famous Guilty Pleasures article!

Arthur S. said...

...but I agree that Night and the City doesn't belong anywhere near the term guilt.

Well I for one was profoundly disappointed by that film. It's so over-the-top and the characters are nasty caricatures. Bits and pieces of the film(like the ending) work and Herbert Lom and Googie Withers are fascinating. In many ways the film is a lame retread of Robert Hamer's British masterpiece IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY which also has Googie Withers. That's a portrait of post-war East End of London though the style is different and it ends in a chiarascuro-laden chase as well. The only Dassin film that I think is great is THIEVES' HIGHWAY which I suspect is more due to A. I. Bezzerides, Richard Conte, Lee J. Cobb and Valentina Cortesse than to him.

The only guilty pleasures I disagree with are LAND OF THE PHAROAHS and MURDER BY CONTRACT. Scorsese himself later said that the article was meant in the loose sense and that he doesn't necessarily feel guilt for all the choices.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I love this review, and the stunning way you write. A real pleasure to read you, Siren. I hope I can see the movie sometime soon. Just the "you big lug" line is enough to hook me, but then my movie watching standards aren't very high.

Karen said...

Damn. I wish I'd DVRed this instead of Ladies in Retirement, which I found a little tiresome (apparently, it was Lupino's favorite role, but I couldn't help but keep thinking Ida looked like Frankie Muniz's big sister, which was disconcerting).

Leonard Maltin informs me that Tha Man I Love was the inspiration for Scorsese's New York, New York, which adds to my intrigued reaction.

I was hoping Netflix might come through for me, and was thrilled to see the title come up on the auto-type....but it turns out to be a 1997 French film described thus: "This movie posits the following hypothesis: What gay man hasn't sat beside a pool and dreamed of declaring his love to a beautiful straight boy whose Speedo fits just right?"

No, definitely not the right film.

Karen said...

[blush] I guess I should read the comments before I write, eh? I see the Scorsese angle has been thoroughly covered.[/blush]

Arthur S. said...

I first got hold of a film through a taped TV broadcast. Now it's out on the Warner Archive line of custom DVDs.

Considering that Scorsese's NEW YORK, NEW YORK is still profoundly misunderstood and underrated in America, I don't see any reason why it can't be covered enough. It was fun going through the influences of the film. Another film that influenced that film is LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME by Charles Vidor which has Doris Day's own personal favourite of her performances and one of James Cagney's most nastiest characters. It's not well known today although it was a hit in it's day and also a favourite of Francois Truffaut's.

The Siren said...

I knew the New York, New York connection would come up and unfortunately I have had trouble finishing that one. Not only is the De Niro character a chore, but Minnelli was hard to take too despite my deep liking for her. I should give it another whirl at some point. Perhaps TMIL will give me more of an appreciation.

Karen, this disc was my first foray into the Warner Archives DVDs. I have since watched two others and while the transfers aren't the crisp things of beauty you might deeply desire they are pretty good, clean and completely watchable. I used the code REWARD25 to get 25% off; I don't know if that still works but I got five discs for about $75. Shipping was fast and nuisance-free. I have been stalking this forum for other codes:

For those who are interested, the others I got were The Great Garrick and It's Love I'm After, both of which I watched and loved, and The Actress and The Shopworn Angel, which I still need to view. The Hard Way and The Strawberry Blonde were available only for download, maybe the DVDs sold out? In which case I hope they press more, and take note which films may deserve a better disc treatment.

The Siren said...

Oops, let's try that link this way.

The Siren said...

Arthur, we'll have to agree to disagree about Dassin because I also love Rififi. I haven't seen Me and My Gal and for a moment I was thinking back to Judy Garland and Gene Kelly which confused me, but no, we are talking about Spencer Tracy and my favorite Bennett sister, Joan.

I could swear I saw The Bowery ages ago, like I-was-a-kid ages ago. For some reason as a child I like Wallace Beery and sought out his films, probably because they kept matching him up with kids. But I would need to see it again to be sure. Anyone interested in the movie should definitely hie themselves over to David Cairns' place and read his post and the contentious but smart and illuminating thread. Be warned, however, spoilers abound.

I appreciate Walsh more with each film I see but I have to say I thought Band of Angels was weak as hell, undone by loose, floppy pacing (astonishing for Walsh) and actors who were either weak to begin with (DeCarlo didn't have the chops for the role) or clearly not digging the stilted script (Poitier and Gable).

Arthur S. said...

The Actress is one of Cukor's best.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK is a very tough film because the film is set in a studio atmosphere of New York on LA Sets but the acting is raw and intense in the Kazan/Cassavetes school that Scorsese descends from. The movie is about what DeNiro's character calls "major chords" which is his idea of success - the woman you love, commercial success and innovating in one's artistic calling.

For me, DeNiro's performance in that film is one of his best and I think people have misunderstood his character. He's tough, eccentric and a macho jerk but he never asks Liza Minnelli to stay at home and compromise herself for him nor does he beat her up in any way. In fact the most violent moment is just before their tiff in the car where he seems to encourage her to join her on stage and then suddenly pummels his mouth on the sax and changes the tempo leaving her humiliated.

It's just that he is who he is. And she can't be anyone else either. That scene in the hospital where he leaves her is stunning. They both hug and he leaves because they both know if he sees his kid he'll never leave them and he'll ruin his career. It's a great movie.

The sets are stunning and the costumes are magnificent. Giorgio Armani told Scorsese that after seeing the film, he told his designers, "from now on all our clothes are going to be NEW YORK, NEW YORK."

Arthur S. said...

I liked RIFIFI until I saw THE ASPHALT JUNGLE and then I lost all memory of the film. I realize Dassin has a lot of admirers these days but I think there are other lesser known film-makers like, say, Abraham Polonsky or Joseph H. Lewis who were bigger talents.

I commented on that thread as well in the bottom where I offered my defense of the film. Needless to say it's...ahem...politically incorrect. And it's the closest to Walsh's "burning down a whorehouse" side. The movie is more Hawksian in certain aspects as it's about "a love story between two men" but there is also a tragic undertone in that Wallace Beery is getting old(which is a key Walsh theme) and he's become obsolete as George Raft is becoming top dog.

The amazing thing is how Walsh uses ellipsis in really striking ways. Especially in that the climax is a major fight between Beery and Raft on an offshore barge and because of a fog none of the bystanders can see the fight and we don't see the fight until we see the result - one of them steps up the boat and no one follows him. As for who it is? Beery or Raft? See the film and learn for yourself!!!

Joan Bennett despite being known as a raven-haired femme fatale is actually a natural blonde(!) and she wears her real hair colour in Walsh's film where she gives a great comic performance. She and Tracy(great as usual) form just about the hippest pair in early 30s America, bringing a coolness that won't be equalled until Cary and Roz Russell or Betty and Bogie.

It's really an unusual film because there's not a lot of plot in it, it's a portrait of an immigrant block in the Depression period. And there are all sorts of tangents and asides. Like THE MAN I LOVE one of them is a sister in love with a gangster(it also finds time to invent the heist scene) and most bizarrely it has Henry B. Walthall who is a paraplegic mute who communicates by morse code through blinking his eyes. David Ehrenstein said that the 30s was the great period of narrative freedom and ME AND MY GAL shows that.

DavidEhrenstein said...

The Actress is Mr. Cukor's most personal film. Jean Simmons' love of theater matches her own. And as a teenager he sawcharacters like "Hazel Dawn" perform.

New York New York is a Vincente Minneli movie shot in the style of John Cassavetes. A contradction in terms, needless to say. The result is a Magnificent Maudit. I love the moment in it where DeNiro is standing on the plat form of the El at night and sees a boys and gril on the street below break into a dance -- just like in On the Town. Unreal yey apt.

DavidEhrenstein said...

As much (if not more) was happening off-screen during the shooting of New York New York as what was happening on. DeNiro was breaking up with Dihanne Abbott (who's quite amazing in it singing "Honeysuckle Rose") Marty divorced Julia Cameron, and was having an affair with Liza. Things got so out of hand by they time he got to the editing (Marcia Lucas rather than Thelma for once) that Mary Kay Place's role was severely cut. The great "Happy Endings" number wasn't restored in full until 1981. It was the first thing shot for the movie. Marty had such a great time with it he thought the whole production would move along just as smoothly.

It didn't.

LOVE this movie. I think Marty would be ideal for a movie version of Merrily We Roll Along -- Sondheim's musical maudit

Arthur S. said...

Interestingly, that girl in that shot is played by Liza Minnelli in a blonde wig according to the movie trivia. Is it true?

Another great scene is their marriage. I love the set for that, the colour of the sky has this very unreal but vivid aspect to it. And DeNiro is crazy as he practically screams his intention to marry her and talks tough with the justice of the peace who he wakes in the late hour.

The core of the Minnelli/Cassavetes dialectic comes through in that performance of "And the World Goes On" which is done in a single take but while it is a singing performance it's also her character's expression of her grief and her independence. It's a really raw scene.

One thing though, while NEW YORK, NEW YORK has had a bad rap in it's day and still hasn't totally recovered, I have to say, GANGS OF NEW YORK has taken it's place as Scorsese's film maudit. It's flawed and compromised but fevered and frenzied and operatic on a level unsurpassed in it's wake.

KC said...

Ah, such a pleasure to read your writing. You are so right about Lupino being the only one in the movie capable of a lucid thought. I remember that driving me crazy the first time I saw it.

The Siren said...

David, for me Cukor is one of the greats. I am really looking forward to The Actress.

Dan Leo said...

Here's a five-minute Youtube clip from "The Man i Love" --

gmoke said...

Ida Lupino with Errol Flynn in "Escape Me Never" (1947) is being promoed on TBS. Saw the whole coming attraction in between a showing of "8 1/2" and "The Model Shop." I guess they were doing an Anouk Aimee day. (What, no "A Man and a Woman"?)

As for Scorsese, "Kundun" felt like the closest thing to film perfection I'd ever experienced after I saw it in the theater. And the main character in "Gangs of New York" is NYC, not Leonardo or Daniel Day. Another work that has the city as its main character is Will Eisner's _Dropsie Avenue: The Neighborhood_, a graphic novel and one of Eisner's masterpiece.

X. Trapnel said...

Escape Me Never (misreading of Browning as Gone with the Wind is of Dowson:"Escape me? Never-Beloved!") is one of those movies not nearly so bad as its reputation ("Flynn's worst acting") would have us believe. It's a retread of The Constant Nymph (same author, same story, same Korngold) and something to watch Until the Real Thing Comes Along. A bit like De Palma's Obsession (which I love, say what you like) during the Vertigo draught.

Arthur S. said...

This is way off-topic but...
I just started my own blog and my first post is on Tashlin's THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT.

If you aren't too busy with anything else in life and the internet, please drop in...

I plan to weigh in on GANGS OF NEW YORK one of these days and I'll figure out who the main character is supposed to be.

Yojimboen said...

De Palma, X? Brian ‘if-I-ever-had-an-original-thought-in-my-head-it-would-die-of-loneliness’ De Palma??

Okay, my grandmother’s edict of “If you can’t say something nice…” etc., has kept me quiet during this Marty n Bobby love-fest, but Jesus H. (Skeets) Mcgillicuddy! De Palma!? I’m gonna have to spend the rest of the morning cleaning the spit-take coffee off my keyboard. Please, give a guy some warning next time?

WelcometoLA said...

Thanks for the heads-up on this one. Sounds like the perfect pick for my first foray into the Warners archive.

The Siren said...

I want to say I have high hopes for NY NY but I just...don't. And I love Marty, truly madly deeply.

TLRHB, I recommend checking that chat link for codes and ordering a few at once. So far I have seen three of mine and am very pleased. The images are a bit soft but the prints were clean and jump-free.

X. Trapnel said...

Whoa there, Y! Every frame of de Palma is shite and god knows I'd never defend Obsession on grounds of originality. Everything good in it is pilfered from Hitch, especially the tracking shots (there's even a scene with a clueless shrink a la Simon Oakland and Mr. Drysdale, but B de P, vulgarian that he is practically sticks the camera up his nostrils); no one could make Genevieve Bujold or Florence look bad and above and beyond all there is glorious Herrmann music. During the shooting Mlle. Bujold complained to BH that Cliff Robertson was more interested in his make up than in her (I always thought he was sort of an upscale Bob Cummings) but added, "your music made love to me." Benny's reaction may be imagined. He carried her picture in his wallet for the rest (not very long) of his life.

Yojimboen said...

“…no one could make Genevieve Bujold or Florence look bad and above and beyond all there is glorious Herrmann music…”

Argument came there none. Whenever I hear somebody knocking Canada I trot out my standard spritz: “Canada gave us Joni M and Neil Y and Leonard C and the indescribably magnificent Genevieve Bujold, so Canada can take a seat for a century or two.”

No one could ever question my love for GB or BH but their work is their work, and their connection with a film doesn’t make it a good film – that’s a whole nother (hate that expression!) blog topic: The acorns found by blind pigs like De Palma.

X. Trapnel said...

Fair enough. If Obsession had starred Nancy Allen and been scored by John (Big Boy) Williams I wouldn't go near it.

I've been ducking the Marty-Bobby stuff as well. When I raise my head at the blessed words "Raoul Walsh" I get boinked by a brick labled "George Cukor." Back to my spiderhole.

The Siren said...

I like De Palma AND I adore Cukor. But it is okay to shun them. And Marty and Bobby. The only rule around here is "no dissing Citizen Kane." Other than that, fire away. No matter how wrong you are. :)

Yojimboen said...

Setting aside more contemporary likes and dislikes, I have to confess to not really liking much of Ida Lupino. (I haven’t seen The Man I Love, but plan to this weekend.)

This is not to say I don’t admire her undeniable acting skills, or the phenomenology of her career and her accomplishments as a filmmaker.

It’s personal of course; inevitably sex plays its part. I never found her remotely attractive; her face is upside-down pear-shaped, too thin and urchin-like for my tastes; and I must say (someone has to) that perennial poodle-cut hair-do of hers was at best ill-advised.

No, that’s mincing words, I always thought Ida Lupino’s hair-do was laugh out-loud bad (maybe somewhere during the heyday of Rosie the Riveter it was fashionable - for about 20 minutes - but not a second longer). Watching her at work is difficult while constantly suppressing the impulse to shout at the screen “Good grief, woman, do you know what you look like??”
It’s torture, is what it is.

We’re all burdened with subjective standards, aren’t we? Pity, Ida was potentially a great actress, I think she could have put Mildred in Of Human Bondage into the history books.
(Certainly it would’ve been a cakewalk for her to top BD’s hilarious attempt at Cockney. Don’t get me started on accents.)

Watching Escape Me, Never tonight highlighted a couple of things for me (Re ‘ill-advised’, let’s not discuss Ida’s lederhosen costume which made her look like a refugee from the Lollipop Guild):

First, Errol Flynn’s predispositions were out there for all to read: he was clearly more insecure up against Ida Lupino, actress, than he was up against Eleanor Parker, beauty.
Secondly, mein gott what a beauty! I was never a huge fan but tonight scales fell from these cynical eyes. I was wrong, wrong, wrong about Eleanor Parker! Ms P was a singularly beautiful and seriously talented actress! Now where did I put that humble pie recipe?

Arthur S. said...

Well I always found Ida very attractive. Ever since I first saw HIGH SIERRA(which is really one of the great romantic films) and ON DANGEROUS GROUND. She's also on record as one of the few actresses Fritz Lang praised, for her work in his masterpiece WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS. I think THE MAN I LOVE is one of her best.

I haven't seen any of the films she has directed unfortunately but it has a very rich reputation among the cinephiles. Including one of Yojimboen's bete-noirs, Martin Scorsese.

Ellie said...

Wow. That's a serious post!

X. Trapnel said...

Siren, I will NEVER diss CK; love it to bits, can recite reams of dialogue, burst into tears and chills when Rosebud is cast unto the flames (when I hear the words "Throw that junk!" I do think of certain films that might feed the flames rather more nutritiously than the innocent sled.) Cukor I just don't get; in sensibility he seems to me a David Selznick (surely they were brothers) burdened with taste and sanity (what's the point?), a proficient cinemacator of "intelligent" plays (ugh). I'm sure he was good with actresses as per reputation, but I do think Hepburn did her best work for Hawks, LaCava (Stage Door way better than The Women), Geo. Stevens (Alice A.), Huston. Still, I do love Holiday.

Y, re Miss Lupino, this is the first time we've disagreed on an actress. Pistols or swords?

The Siren said...

Yojimboen, have you seen The Light That Failed? It's Ida doing La Davis in Of Human Bondage right down to the Cockney and while I do love my Bette, of course as a native Ida is a lot more believably street.

As for the hairdo, it was popular for a lot longer than 10 minutes, and unfortunately for those whom it bothers (I'm not really one of them) its popularity lasted for most of Ida's good years. She wore a lot of variations on it but then so did Ava and Lana.

Humble pie most humbly welcomed on the subject of Miss Parker, who is alive and I hope well and still gorgeous, I'll bet.

XT: Sylvia Scarlett? Holiday? What Price Hollywood? Les Girls? A Star is Born?

X. Trapnel said...

Siren, I'm deeply fond of Holiday and all credit to Cukor for not letting it get stagy (it's intimate and full of feeling). But A Star is Born is sharp-stick-in-the-eye unwatchable for me (despite Mason, Carson). I've not seen Sylvia S. but hold out some hope for it on the grounds of quirkiness, a mild interest on my part in Compton Mackenzie, and, of course the charm of the actors. The others I haven't seen. When I compare GC to, say, Borzage, Leisen, (orchestral surge) Lubitsch, (orch & choir of angels, Liszt at the piano) OPHULS, his work lacks beauty and passion. Still, he's way better than Joe "Cukor on Quaaluds" Mankiewicz.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Mr. Ckuro was always one to put his actors at ease, and utilize all aspoects of their personality. With jean Simmons he noticed that whn she was nervous she'd break into a fit of the giggles. So he actually uses this to considerable effect in The Actress. Her staring down Spencer Tracy -- as he gruff-but-loveable father -- is really something to behold.

This was Tony Perkins debut. In his files at the Motio Picture Academy there's a letter Perkins wrote to Cukor apologizing for all the tpruble he had with him on the film. Cukor wrote back that there was no need to apologize, that it was a very tricky part, and he surely had a whole career ahead of him -- which he did. Cukor of course knw Perkins' actor father Osgood perkins and was therefore primed to give this spud a break. But he also saw that the kid had talent.

The best way to understand why Cukor is so special is to see his work from the inside out. He begins with the actors and arranges the mise en scene to support them in every way. He worked with the best art directors in the business: Gene Allen and Hoyneguen-Hune. That's why you can find Degas visually referenced in A Star is Born - and why he was able to make so much of a Maudit like Justine.

While he worked with Selznick quite a bit at RKO he was a lot smarter than David O. He was a romantic too, but he didn't let his dreams get in the way of the practicalities of filmmaking.

Arthur S. said...

My favourite Katharine Hepburn performance is with George Cukor and it also has one of Cary Grant's most interesting roles. The film is of course SYLVIA SCARLETT which is kind of like a French New Wave film avant-la-lettre in the way it mixes genres and moods and styles.

I think Cukor is one of the great masters but then I think that a lot of his best films haven't been getting attention. Until very recently, Judy Holliday's IT SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU wasn't very well known, now it's a little more visible. Then his most serious film is A DOUBLE LIFE which is like an arthouse film noir, shot on location in New York and the way it deals with the nature of performance anticipates Cassavetes' OPENING NIGHT. It's a very tough movie.

THE ACTRESS is another film that's not as respected. The film is shot in amazingly blocked out long takes. And it's a really moving film.

One aspect that people don't take into account when talking about Cukor was that he wasn't a simple craftsmen contract film-maker. Many of his films were taken away from him and cut against his wishes because the producers didn't like the direction he was taking. People make a big deal about Welles but not about Cukor, presumably because they think he was a good boy who followed the straight path in his Hollywood career. A STAR IS BORN is the most famous but there's also BHOWANI JUNCTION, THE ACTRESS(crucial scenes involving Perkins), THE CHAPMAN REPORT and others that I can't remember.

And Selznick who Mr. XT thinks Cukor was too close to, fired him off the film and the only good parts of that bloated mess is thanks to Cukor in terms of direction.

X. Trapnel said...

I have no doubt that Cukor was good with actors and mise en scene (again, Holiday is a perfect illustration), but these are primarily theatrical virtues, though necessary to film. Things like Gaslight and A Double Life still strike me as soulless, pure contraption (like Five Fingers and Sleuth). Adam's Rib is a movie I continually want to punch (even when I'm not watching it), and as for The Philadelphia Story I'd like to tip it back in its chair, make a rude deafening noise in its face, and stuff a bead up its nose. (Thanks, Kingsley).

DavidEhrenstein said...

"these are primarily theatrical virtues, though necessary to film."

And therefore not to be sneezed at. There are very view directos with his brand of smarts today.
Stephen Frears comes to min.

The Siren said...

I am with David, I have to say -- I would love a little more "good with actors and mise en scene" and a little less "look at meeeeee I'm cinematic," but then I probably didn't even need to point that out, not on this blog. :D (Totally off-topic, but I think we just inadvertently nailed why I liked "Cheri" despite an ill-judged credit sequence that throws the tone off.)

Arthur, I grieve for the way they scissored A Star Is Born but the remaining film still works beautifully -- whereas something like Ambersons, though it's also a self-evident masterpiece, has those insert scenes that make the audience say, for want of a better expression, "WTF?" With Cukor I see the damage more in Bhowani Junction which is like a collection of good (and sometimes very good) bits than a cohesive whole for me. I share your admiration for It Should Happen to You. Holliday is a special favorite of mine and Cukor knew her acting inside-out.

X. Trapnel said...

No sneezing here; I did say "necessary to film." Lubitsch and Hawks are masters of both (and so much more) without being CINEMATIC in neon, and as for Ophuls, well...that's rapture.

It's just that I find Cukor earthbound by comparison.

The Siren said...

XT, fair enough. How do you feel about David Copperfield? I love that one too. Cukor AND Selznick. But W.C. Fields!

X. Trapnel said...

DC a brave attempt at the impossible. I should add that I like Little Women too. Maybe I like Cukor in the thirties (hell, I like EVERYONE in the 30s). Fields' Micawber? It's a gift. Thank you George, thank you David, thank you Charles, and thank you Wm. Claud Dukenfield.

The thought of Fields has restored my good nature and love of children and other furry creatures so I won't float my supposition that Bosley Crowther liked Cukor.

The Siren said...

LMAO! Crowther liked Mankiewicz, that I do know. Stopped clocks and all that sort of thing. I like Mank. The Late George Apley was one of my best viewing experiences of 2008.

Yojimboen said...

Dear me, where to begin? X., read me again, I didn’t and don’t under-value Ms Lupino’s talent as an actress (or director), I just didn’t and don’t find her physically appealing. Like it or not, since the dawn of the movies we have been prey to our baser instincts, putty in the hands of Messrs Zukor, Laemmle, DeMille, Mayer, Warner et al.; the principal operating philosophy underlying the public art of film has always been simple: men in the audience should want to fuck the female star, and women in the audience, the male.

Maybe it’s being a fellow-Brit; perhaps over-familiarity (her uncle Lupino Lane was a music-hall legend) bred disinterest; maybe she looked too much like my sister, who knows. Just taste, is all.

Arthur, Martin Scorcese is not in the remotest sense a bête noire for me. I have expressed in these pages my admiration for his drive and manifest love of cinema. I think he could have been a film producer on the scale of Lubitsch, Freed or Korda; I just don’t consider him a very talented film director. This is not to say he isn’t head and shoulders above many of his peers – it’s just that these days it isn’t much of a contest, his peers aren’t terribly tall either.

I find New York, New York an embarrassment to watch, and light years distant from Minnelli or Cassavetes or even Donen on their worst days. Chuck Walters could have made it work better with his eyes closed.

Good luck with your quest to define the main character of Gangs of New York. Maybe gmoke is right that the hero of the movie is really the 14-acre NYC street set built in Cinecitta. (But that doesn’t say much for the actors – or the director.) I fear Gangs of New York is a disaster for the ages, a massive albatross about the necks of Scorcese and Harvey Weinstein (who should have known a lot better).

Bobby De Niro? I just don’t see it; a decent journeyman actor, but no more. Re Raging Bull? Gaining weight is not the same as gaining talent.

I’m delighted X., to escape the distinction of being first to question the quality of that nakedest of naked emperors A Star is Born. Mind you, I probably like more of Cukor’s films than you do (more than is good for me, no doubt) but ASIB ain’t among them. But for poor Jack Carson’s valiant efforts, it’s a lumbering monstrosity from start to finish, with all the subtlety of an escaped circus elephant. The real tragedy is that it wasn’t made 10 or 15 years earlier when it might have actually deserved the praises which people (who should know better) lavish on it now.

X. Trapnel said...

As for Mr. Mank, the clock stopped while making The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and then started again all too soon: talk, talk, talk, and not a good word said (except by Geo. S--though what oh so clevah person thought up the name Addison de Witt).

X. Trapnel said...

Y, is your sister free this Saturday night?

cgeye said...

Two points:

LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME is the only Doris Day film that matters. It's the MGM musical Warners should have made, as A STAR IS BORN is the Warner musical MGM should have made with Miss Garland. It's the only Day character I don't get a stomach ache watching, an adult without apology, a broad who'd dissolve Rock Hudson into a puff of steam. God, she was glorious -- and my only regret? Cagney's Marty didn't dance or sing. I know, I know, character integrity....

And, BAND OF ANGELS? What the what? Gable, a lover of chocolate? And I thought Mr. Poitier nevah, evah did anything on the level of MANDINGO -- Mercy, me.... it's a miscegenationist spectacular!!! With Yvonne De Carlo!!!

The Siren said...

I could be wrong in this instance, but I have found in the past that one's appreciation of the Cukor ASIB is dependent on how much or how little you love Miss Garland. For me it's a lot, and a lot.

As for Mank, I was supposed to do a piece about Letter to Three Wives and discuss how his oft-maligned staginess is often an unfair cut (so to speak) but got bogged down and never got back to it. Grrrr.

CGeye, Band of Angels sounds a lot campier than it is. It's mostly just dull. The color is lovely though.

I appreciate the love for Love Me or Leave Me, and agree with all you say, saving that I like Doris Day in a lot of things. She has more spice than she gets credit for. Apparently if you are a Ruth Etting fan the movie is controversial, since Day is quite the opportunist in the script, but it holds up well even untethered from any historical background. Which may be the test of a good biopic--would you still want to know about these people if it were purest fiction?

DavidEhrenstein said...

Romance on the High Seas is the greatest acting debut in the history of the cinema.

Doris had never acted before in ANYTHING until she was given this gem (which had been out together for the ever-unstable Betty Hutton) She's Beyond Amazing in it.

Doris is great in Love Me or Leave Me, but she's also great in Young at Heart, The Pajama Game, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Pillow Talk.

Don't get me started on Doris. She is a goddes and one of the most unjustly maligned talents to ever grace the cinema.

New York New York is almost entirely based on Doris' actual life and the wife-beating musician who was Terry Melcher's father.

X. Trapnel said...

I sense that the cultural attitude toward Doris Day is changing; it was by and large a product of Sixties groupthink, myopia, tone deafness. Though I'm not a big fan (matter of subjective taste), she was a huge talent and not at all goodygoody wholesome. Let no one be fooled by that iron-clad breeziness; she was ANGRY! Rock Hudson, hell; unleashed she could have blown away Cody Jarrett.

Trish said...

Agreed, Arthur S!

“Night and the City” IS overrated. It looks great, but the London location is also jarring and the Brit actors try too hard. Worse, Richard Widmark is about as American as they come, and I cringe when I hear him say words like “lift” instead of “elevator”. It may be considered essential noir, but in my humble opinion, “Night and the City” makes a better poster than film.

“Thieves Highway” rules with its simple, but familiar theme of the post-war struggle to get back on one’s feet, and in this film one truckload of apples could be the catalyst for Richard Conte’s new life.

As for A.I. Bezzerides, he wrote the similarly themed "They Drive By Night", which happens to be my favourite Ida Lupino film. The doors made her do it.

Karen said...

I'm pleased to see the love for Doris Day. I grew up with the notion of her as a stereotypical virginal goody-two-shoes, a slightly older Sandra Dee, an ice queen. And then I finally saw Pillow Talk and I couldn't help wondering who on earth all those people had been watching. Off she goes for a weekend of sin with Rock Hudson without so much as a second thought--and he compares her to a raging forest fire as they lay before the hearth.

She certainly had a certain chirrup-y good-humor in many of her films, but that was only one note. I really like Doris Day--and boy did she get great wardrobe.

Siren, I'm pleased to hear you speak up for The Light That Failed which I think is a stunning piece of work, with tremendous performances from both its leads (of course, I have a sick crush on Ronald Colman, and have since I first heard his voice emerging from True Blue Odie Cologne).

X. Trapnel said...

Bezzerides also wrote my favorite Lupino picture On Dangerous Ground (he has a brief cameo, trying to bribe Robert Ryan).

Has anyone ever noticed that Lupino's voice turns Cockney in her TDBN breakdown scene?

Yojimboen said...

Romance on the High Seas is the greatest acting debut in the history of the cinema.”

Not sure I’d go with ‘greatest’ ever, but it’s not an assessment I’d argue strongly against. I’m a helpless, legless, hopeless fool for all things Doris Day. She never put a foot wrong in my book (except, of course, for her choice in husbands).

As for my feelings on Judy Garland?
I’ll leave it to David Shipman:

There was a tribute to her on Australian television after she died: not, said the narrator ‘a blow-by-blow description of the prolonged finale when press agents were doing dreadful things to the human soul, but the way it was for us in the golden Hollywood years when all was tinsel, glitter, bluebirds and rainbows, when the whole apparatus was the dream factory in full blast producing its masterpiece - Judy.’

Though I still wish that ASIB had happened 10 years sooner, before her edges began to blur.

Trish said...

I'm disappointed in LMOLM's lack of historical accuracy in costuming and set decoration.

I love Doris, but Cagney is absolutely awesome - he makes you believe. I think Ernest Borgnine should return his oscar.

The Siren said...

Since we are having a Doris Day love-fest I will plump for Midnight Lace. Flawed but interesting. Produced by Ross Hunter and Martin Melcher. If I ever manage to write up my Worthless Paramours of the Great Stars book Melcher will get his own chapter, alongside Stompanato, the guy who stole all of Debbie Reynolds' money and that creep who punched Maureen O'Hara in the stomach when she was pregnant with her daughter.

I also quite like Julie, another melodrama with a social conscience that would have fit with my Mad Men post if it hadn't been made in 1956. The problem with that one is that later disaster movies and Airplane! have made the climax rather difficult to watch.

Trish, from the 1950s right up through the early 60s nobody seemed to remember or care what they were really wearing in the 1920s or 1930s. Ship of Fools is so bad in this regard that it really, really detracts from the movie (as much as Kramer's direction I mean).

Trish said...

I recently bought a copy of Midnight Lace from ebay, and found a short about Doris' dress designs in the film on youtube.

Siren, I know Melcher was a lousy husband who ripped off Doris. But I have never known the details. Please dish!

Vanwall said...

I'm of the generation force-fed the apple-cheeked goody-two-shoes of the mid to late Day films, and never took to those - Rock was better in "Man's Favorite Sport?" IMHO, and Doris was always to plasticky-seeming in those days, and became somewhat stuck in hairspray-doos-as-amber. However, when allowed to savor her early work, I saw an actress who could really sing, and a singer who could really act - she was animated in a realistic, multidimensional way. Those I can take, the rest are a meh, as far as I'm concerned.

I'm ambivalent about Cukor - sometimes I watch his work because it's there in front of me, not an inducement to like, so much as it is to wait, for better. He was a Studio product, both in form and function, and I can take him or leave him - he was workmanlike, not as inspired as others who pushed things in different directions. He did some great work in the 40s, tho, and I like a lot of those period Cukors.

Mank is a favorite of mine, since I first saw "Somewhere in the Night", a film I think is vastly underrated BTW, and I would rather watch Mank than Cukor.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Doris sings backup for Terry -- on the song jackson Browne wrote for Nico when he was 15 years old.

Yojimboen said...

Some hommage for a rainy Thursday:
(Not entirely off-topic)

Love her or Leave Her

There’s just no escaping Big Bob

Let’s go Yankees!

X. Trapnel said...

Y, thanks for the picture of M & M (who are the other two folks?); it brought back those peak moments from Safe at Home such as:

M: "Yuh better go home, kid."
M: "Yeah, kid. Yuh better go home."

Talk about speaking the speech trippingly on the tongue!

Vanwall said...

To paraphase the Great Krukie, "Lady, I ain't an actor, I'm a ballplayer."

Patrick from Cambridge said...

I’ve been a lurker here for some time, but haven’t had anything to contribute.

I’d like to call attention to what IMHO is Lupino’s best directorial work: an hour-long episode of the “Thriller” program called “The Last of the Somervilles” (she also wrote it), which has much the same tone as “The Old Dark House” (I prefer it to the Whale film; it’s just as weird, rather campier, and a good bit funnier). Though set in a country house in New England c. 1900, its humor is very British in its relishing of eccentricity and dottiness.

Martita Hunt is in top form as a charming madwoman given to extravagant utterance. Phyllis Thaxter (as Hunt’s gleefully scheming niece) and Boris Karloff (as a zany family doctor—he looks like Ernie Kovacs in his “Percy Dovetonsils” persona—who roguishly flirts with Hunt) are very good in uncharacteristic roles.

Tania said...

Well, I'm late to this conversation, but I just watched this (thanks to you). Never saw anything with Ida Lupino in it that I remembered. Despite rolling my eyes at some of the dialogue (literate scriptwriters of the time must surely have felt some embarrassment at using the words "swell" and "dame" over and over and felt wary about yet another grown woman called "the kid" or "you crazy little dame" for that matter), I had a great time, first for the great Lupino performance (her Petey is basically Humphrey Bogart in gold lamé) and second for the film's real theme, which is the love of music. Watching Lupino listening to Sand play "The Man I Love" is a bit of self-recognition for any Gershwin fan, though I'll take Bernstein conducting Rhapsody in Blue. It is grand, vast, ridiculously romantic, Rachmaninoff-ish stuff, with melodies joyfully lifted from the best of Yiddish folksong and orchestrated to fill Carnegie Hall, which is to say it's perfectly New York, and it makes skyscrapered skylines grow in your heart like salt crystals. In short, you fall in love every time. And brilliant piece of casting to have Bennett play Sand; when he first turns up you don't know if he's actually a villain, you don't know if he's going to kiss Petey or strangle her, he's so dead in the eyes. When she falls in love with him you want to rise from your chair shouting no, but then he plays the piano and you realize she's got no choice. The plot was a bit of a mess, but hey, no messy plot, no chance to make the most of a big talented cast. It worked on me.

NicksFlickPicks said...

I know you wrote this piece a year ago, SSS, but I just saw the movie tonight on a big screen in Chicago and completely adored it. Your review, as usual, is so gorgeous, detailed, funny, and spot-on. I just love when it turns out you've written up a movie I've just seen and enjoyed. It always goes well!