Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Unearthing the Uncool

So yesterday the Siren was feeling puckish and she posted the following on Facebook: "It is much easier to proclaim dislike for a popular movie than to admit to liking an uncool movie." Which sparked quite the lively discussion. So the Siren has skedaddled back to her wider audience chez blog and is posting it again.

As always, it's best to define terms. By uncool, the Siren doesn't mean "slightly offbeat" or "quirky" or "underrated." She means "courting hoots of derision from critical colleagues." Picking a lesser work of a widely admired auteur doesn't cut it, because after all, even late Hawks is still Hawks. And picking a film that was once lambasted, but is no longer, is also not exactly what the Siren had in mind.

When the estimable Girish Shambu called for one of the first blogathons, and designed it around Showgirls--now that's what I'm talking about. Larry Aydlette on the great Burt Reynolds, Dennis Cozzalio resurrecting 1941; these kinds of judgments take some nerve. The Siren ventures to say that her championing of Titanic and, in the comments section over at Glenn's place, Casual Sex? also fall in this category. (Her one error was being timid about it, due to her distaste for online fisticuffs.) Others like Glenn Kenny speaking up for the reviled Ishtar also count. The Siren said, and still thinks, that the ideal candidate for this exercise would be Crash, possibly the most hated Oscar winner in history. Unfortunately, Glenn and Dan Leo popped up to explain gently that the problem with Crash (which the Siren still hasn't seen) is that it really, truly is a turkey. Still, if someone wants to drop by and extol the virtues of, say, Indecent Proposal, the Siren is all ears.

Don't be shy. After all, James Wolcott took his impeccable cool credentials and used them to champion the much-maligned chick flick to the million-plus readers of Vanity Fair. Gerard Jones had this to say about that:

For decades hip cineastes valorized every kind of old formula Hollywood movie—western, crime, comedy—except the "women's picture," which everyone took for granted was beneath consideration. Still hard to get people to care about them, unless they're pre-Code and naughty.

The Siren would add that when people do praise them, it's often as camp, not as serious, skilled moviemaking. The Siren spends a lot of time trying to bring a respectful tone to discussing the women's picture. She thinks of it as her pet project, which is why you will never, but never see her using the execrable perjorative "weepie" over here.

Anyway, to get the ball rolling, here is a small list of films and filmmakers that won't get me into the pages of whichever hip cinema publishers are still publishing. But I love 'em all the same. I'm not listing Yolanda and the Thief. I've been banging the drum for that one so long it's starting to seem hip to me, and besides, it fits the "lesser-known auteur work" category.

1. Abbott and Costello. Hat tip to John Nolte, who said they are funnier than Duck Soup. They are NOT, but they're funny all the same. The "Niagara Falls" routine still slays me.

2. Mother Wore Tights.

3. Three Coins in the Fountain. And Clifton, too.

4. The Enchanted Cottage.

5. Valley Girl. If I want Nicholas Cage I would take this over that John Woo picture in a heartbeat.

6. Anatole Litvak. (Does he count? I am listing him anyway, because nobody talks about him and I'm telling you right now I love Anastasia.)

7. Merchant-Ivory, specifically Shakespeare Wallah, Heat and Dust, A Room with a View and Maurice. Hey guys (and I do mean guys, not girls), you can have strong emotions and pretty things at the same time.

8. While we are at it, if we may sidle over to television for a moment, it pains the Siren that Masterpiece Theatre has become a synonym (a lazy one) for "dull and middlebrow." Is everyone who does this familiar with a lot of MT productions, or do they just see a corset and think it's strictly for Mom and Grandma to watch before turning in for the night? I could give counterexamples all day, but here's just two: Upstairs, Downstairs, so often used as shorthand for historical soap opera, took on the class system in an intelligent and challenging way. And rent the harrowing "Testament of Youth" and tell me whether that's tea-cosy TV.

9. Pride and Prejudice (1940). Okay, okay, the costumes are all wrong and they messed around with Austen's plot. The Siren would still take this one over Colin Firth AND Keira Knightley any day of the week.

10. Susan Hayward. Easy to make fun of how stiff she was when the part didn't suit her, and the way Brooklyn never left her voice. The Siren herself has a strong memory of doubling over at Susie's attempt at "begorrah" in the Henry King South Africa epic Untamed. But damn it, her performances in I'll Cry Tomorrow and I Want to Live are terrific. And, Salinger fans, I'm willing to bet My Foolish Heart is a good women's picture. I remember liking it as a girl but it is hard to re-view at the moment.

11. Kevin Costner. A good-looking and charismatic actor who could use an old-style studio boss, as he frequently doesn't seem to know which films are in tune with his abilities and image. Yes, he's limited, but so were Errol Flynn and Gary Cooper. The Siren loved him in Bull Durham, Wyatt Earp, Open Range, The Upside of Anger, and above all A Perfect World. And I did not hate Waterworld.

12. The Siren is patiently waiting for critical opinion to come around on Heaven's Gate, as she strongly believes it will.

13. Leslie Howard. Time has shown he was right to resist being cast as Ashley Wilkes, because that one role has eclipsed his sexy and subtle turns in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Pimpernel Smith, It's Love I'm After and Pygmalion.

14. Alexander's Ragtime Band and In Old Chicago.

15. Stewart Granger. Even Errol Flynn's Westerns are getting respect from the likes of Dave Kehr, but Granger, not so much. The Siren will happily plump for him in Captain Boycott, The Man in Grey, Saraband for Dead Lovers (his personal favorite), the fabulous Scaramouche, Moonfleet, Beau Brummell and the criminally underseen and underrated The Last Hunt.

Some others mentioned on Facebook: The Sons of Katie Elder (aside to Dan Leo--the Siren loves that one); Flashdance (the Siren was contemptuous of it when it came out, but now she's inclined to like it); Zorro, the Gay Blade; Big Trouble in Little China (it's pretty hip now, but wasn't for a long while); 1941 (slowly reviving but still takes some nerve to defend); Edward Dmytryk (unlike Elia Kazan, whose career continued apace, Dmytryk fans can make a real case for his having been damaged by persistent political ill-will).

And some of my loves were once uncool, but now (based solely on my blog reading) seem to be acquiring more and more fans: Kay Francis, early Joan Crawford, Sandra Dee, Jean Negulesco, Henry Hathaway, Clarence Brown.

All right, talk to me. Are my uncool picks truly uncool? Mother Wore Tights definitely is.


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Arthur S. said...

Susan Hayward maybe uncool but she's terrific in the super-cool Nicholas Ray's The Lusty Men.

Merchant-Ivory are definitely uncool and I still don't like them.

One great film-maker who I am afraid has become uncool(despite adulation by the likes of Wes Anderson) is Satyajit Ray. Even among Bengali film buffs, they use Ritwik Ghatak as a cudgel to diminish his mastery in the manner Keaton was posited as the Anti-Chaplin. For all the respect he got in the West from the likes of Pauline Kael, J. Hoberman and the dreaded British liberal-humanists, his films are missing from Criterion and is evoked as a relic of post-war Third World cinema and he's far too old and rationalist to evoke the awe someone like Glauber Rocha does.

I also think David Lean's ''Ryan's Daughter'' is a major film masterpiece, flawed as it is and that's still an uncool opinion, I think.

Peter Nellhaus said...

I finally saw Mayerling, Litvak's version, a few weeks ago. Of course given the choice between watching "Swan Lake" or ogling Danielle Darrieux, I'd agree with Charles Boyer.

I have to get more Henry King films on my Netflix queue.

As far as judging what's cool, or being cool, I think the essence is to actually not care what anyone else thinks.

And I liked Open Range too. Much better than Dances with Wolves.

J.C. Loophole said...

Uncool? Not at all. Perhaps...unconventional in some regards. But nevertheless that is what makes film so much fun and enjoyable- not everyone has to like the same things - in fact, I would argue it's just as much fun to debate over these things than it is to just sit and nod: "Gee that Casablanca was a great movie." "Yep."
I believe that is what separates film buffs and classic film fans and even Hollywood History buffs from the average "I only watch what has just been released in the Cine-plex" movie fanboy or fangirl. The Classic Film fan or true movie lover recognizes the existance- no...the need for diversity of film and opinion to make for a richer landscape. It also allows for us to maintain in our hearts those actors, films, directors that we dearly love that others merely disdain. As you said- it is so much easier for someone to proclaim something is uncool, than it is to be brave and declare your devotion to the uncool. To me, those modern day hack fanboy film fans merely look to strengthen their street cred by declaring something is terrible- in fact, I believe they approach a film looking for something to hate.
I, and I would venture to say most, approach a new film (or new to us) wanting to like it, wanting to be entertained and wanting to be transported to another time and place.
That being said- I would agree with several of your choices, including Kevin Costner- an actor I enjoy greatly. And if I were to add a few of my own - I love Rio Bravo more than I love The Searchers. I would admit to loving recent Westerns such as Open Range, Seraphim Falls and one of my all time favorites: Tombstone. I have been derided for that before, as well as my appreciation for the movie Ghost Rider. I think Larry was one of the funnier of the Stooges. Also, I can't help it, but I love Ruth Chatterton and I have the eternal hots for Norma Shearer.
Can we rename this post "True Confessions?"

The Siren said...

Arthur, Ryan's Daughter counts for sure. In my view, visually superb but rather lacking in the acting department, despite Mitchum.

Peter -- and the key ingredient in not caring is often just getting older. One of aging's few compensations. You simply cease to give a damn. Don't appreciate Next of Kin? Your loss, toots.

Anagramsci said...

a cavalcade of thought-provoking uncooleries:

I feel compelled to react to all of them

1.Abbott and Costello--I guess I don't like them so much, but at least they can say they appeared in a film with a Jerome Kern score (One Night in the Tropics)... take THAT Marxes!

2. Mother Wore Tights.
I want to see this movie so badly (I love ALL 20th Century Fox musicals--historically, an "uncool" category unto itself)

3. Three Coins in the Fountain.
Yes, this is a fun movie--and Webb is always welcome.

4. The Enchanted Cottage.
is this uncool? it's one of my favourites! (might explain my sad dating record)

5. Valley Girl.
don't know this one at all--I do often speak up for Cage in Peggy Sue Got Married though (I love everything in that film)

6. Anatole Litvak.
another huge favourite--and I consider his much-maligned THE LONG NIGHT a masterful Americanization of Le jour se leve

7. Merchant-Ivory, specifically Shakespeare Wallah, Heat and Dust, A Room with a View and Maurice.

I like Remain of the Day best

8. Masterpiece Theatre
sadly, not able to comment

9. Pride and Prejudice (1940).
I think it's magnificent.

10. Susan Hayward.
Smash-Up. great.

11. Kevin Costner.
Hmmm--don't like the Kevster... NO WAY OUT was pretty good...

12. Heaven's Gate
haven't seen this one either

13. Leslie Howard.
one of the greats!

14. Alexander's Ragtime Band and In Old Chicago.
yes! Anything with Alice Faye in it is good

15. Stewart Granger.
not a favourite, but he's kind of fun in ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT

5 candidates of my own (although the vagaries of uncoolness are so uncertain that these may actually have earned major props while I wasn't looking)

Helen Slater's finest hour

2. THE FIREFLY (1937) -- and director Robert Z. Leonard (just about everything he did is better than it should be)

nobody loves this movie like I love it--uses the Iberian theatre of the Napoleonic Wars to push a blatant ant-fascist agenda (at MGM!) + "The Donkey Serenade" and Jeanette is actually awake for a change, thanks to the absence of Nelson Eddy

Fred Astaire as a Gen-X-type slacker... Joan Leslie actually being funny and dancing... Robert Benchley's Benchleyest set-piece (in a feature film).. so much more here than "One For My Baby"

wonderfully pleasant pre-Rat Pack fun with Sinatra & Lawford + Durante ("those Schneider babies are growin' up thinkin' the sky is filled with bones!), Kathryn Grayson (whom I've been warming up to as well), and the great Gloria Grahame

5. FEMME FATALE (not alone on this one, of course)

The Siren said...

JC, so good to see you around again. I liked Tombstone too.

"As you said- it is so much easier for someone to proclaim something is uncool, than it is to be brave and declare your devotion to the uncool. To me, those modern day hack fanboy film fans merely look to strengthen their street cred by declaring something is terrible- in fact, I believe they approach a film looking for something to hate."

Yep. That's a critical approach I avoid at all costs.

Norma Shearer counts I think, but Chatterton? Way cool. Although she only got that way recently, after some of her better films were unearthed and people took a second look at her superb performance in Dodsworth.

X. Trapnel said...

Leslie Howard uncool? Ubercool, nay, transcool in my book.

And yes, let's here it for Anatole Litvak ("He hates you; hate him back" [or words to that effect]--Francois Truffaut). I love City for Conquest to bits. Mayerling may be hamburger to Ophulsian bifteck, but satisfying all the same

The Siren said...

Anagram, I really don't much like Lawford but It Happened in Brooklyn is charming. Kathryn Grayson could get her own entry here; totally ignored and she was often adorable.

Arthur, I forgot about The Lusty Men -- yes, Ray is as cool as they come and if he had starred El Brendel in one of his movies then El would have caught coolness, like the mumps. I mainly had Hayward's many women's pictures in mind but she was terrific in The Lusty Men for sure.

Lance Mannion said...

Ok, first, Zorro, the Gay Blade is totally cool. And it's the 2nd best Zorro movie ever.

And on the subject of Merchant/Ivory: The Bostonians! Christopher Reeve was perfect as Basil Ransome but I think critics missed this because they focused on how he was, well, perfect. And Vanessa Redgrave was wonderful. Also The Europeans---Lee Remick, more perfection.

I didn't know Granger was uncool. Shows you how uncool I am. We're going to watch North to Alaska next week. Be interesting to see how he fares playing second fiddle to John Wayne.

Anagramsci said...

yes indeed, Grayson is lovable (love her in the ROBERTA remake LOVELY TO LOOK AT--and she doesa great job on the Kern songs!)

The Siren said...

XT, 90% of the time I see Howard mentioned the word "wimp" is around in the vicinity, and it's terribly unfair, especially considering the way the man died. Not to mention his swordsman ways; Howard got more action than Gable, it is said.

Larry said...

I think that at the time "Ishtar" came out, most people reviewed the budget rather than the movie. I'm probably one of the few people in the world who 1) saw "Wired" in a theater and 2) thought it wasn't nearly as bad as people said.

I'm afraid I can't agree with you on "Heaven's Gate." Just the roller-skating sequence by itself was too much for me. The whole film is simply too grandiose and self-important.

On the other hand, I used to be a big fan of "The Ruling Class," but I cringed the last time I saw it.

X. Trapnel said...

In this our first Salinger-less week allow me to put in a good word for My Foolish Heart (of course the song alone would save any movie short of Forrest Gump or Breaking the Waves). And S. Hayward is quite good too.

Andrew Sarris wrote a superb appreciation of it.

The Siren said...

Yes, it's possible that Sarris's appreciation takes My Foolish Heart out of contention, although as I recall he had a personal connection to the film and was justifying it somewhat on those grounds.

Larry, I have always maintained that Heaven's Gate's themes were what made it most unpalatable to many, but I admit that Cimino did not suffer from lack of self-confidence at that point in his career. Although the roller-skate scene is gorgeous to my eyes.

StyleSpy said...

I ADORE Abbott & Costello. I also adore Valley Girl, although that may be more about my age & nostalgia & all that. Still, Nic Cage was great, and I often wonder what happened to the gal who played Julie -- she was actually quite lovely.

Now I'll out myself: Taps. Dreadful movie. I love it. (Probably the most interesting work Tom Cruise ever did, though, for what that's worth. Pre-Risky Business, before they figured out how pretty he was.)

Arthur S. said...

Well I find it odd that you feel it lacks in the acting department since for me it has the best acting in all of Lean - Sarah Miles is brilliant as is Trevor Howard and Robert Mitchum, atypically cast, gives one of his very best performances. The guy who plays the English soldier granted is very weak, granted and the other parts aren't very well written. The thing about Ryan's Daughter is that it's a chamber piece given epic treatment, people criticized it for that then but I find that makes it interesting.

Susan Hayward loved working with Ray, they bonded over their mutual admiration for Thomas Wolfe(who I'm afraid is very uncool at the moment). For me as long as an actor makes one genuinely great film with an auteur, (s)he is pardoned of all earthly sins and is granted lifelong and or posthumous coolness. The blessed ones of course are the axioms of cinema, the Coopers, the Stewarts, the Monroes, the Hepburns, the Dietrichs. So even someone as wooden as say, Robert Taylor or Tyrone Power is okay by me because of the former's Party Girl and the latter's The Long Gray Line, though neither hold a candle to say, Farley Granger.

I also love many British films which tend to be uncool, like Humphrey Jennings' wartime films(which invented the non-fiction essay film genre we associate with the likes of Chris Marker today) or Dead of Night(one of Bunuel's favourite films) or completely forgotten works like Pink String and Sealing Wax. This of course excludes Powell-Pressburger whose coolness is indubitable. I also think Carol Reed's The Fallen Idol is a far superior film to The Third Man and Odd Man Out and has better cinematography as well, is that an uncool opinion?

Matt said...

RE: 1941, that's not been seen as the nadir of Spielberg's career for a long time. I think it would be far more uncool to stick up for Hook.

Please note, however: I am decidedly NOT sticking up for Hook. It's dreadful.

Laura said...

I loved seeing Stewart Granger's name turn up on your list...I think I first saw him in KING SOLOMON'S MINES and I was blown away by his charismatic performance. Yet somehow these days it doesn't seem very cool to rave about KSM.

SCARAMOUCHE is a film which really deserves more attention...among other things for its gorgeous use of color and cinematography. It was a bit disillusioning to learn recently that Eleanor Parker hated working with Granger, but oh well...

THE MAN IN GREY, ADAM AND EVELYNE, CAPTAIN BOYCOTT, THE WHOLE TRUTH (a snazzy little mystery/noir with George Sanders)...I love them all. And despite my adoration of Douglas Fairbanks Jr., I think Granger's ZENDA remake was a lovely movie in its own right. (Kerr, Mason, Greer...yum!) Haven't seen THE LAST HUNT yet.

I'm very fond of Granger's GUN GLORY, which is "just" a Western yet he seemed so at home in it and it has some fine location photography. It's "movie comfort food."

In some ways it seems uncool these days to profess a love for all things MGM...I love pre-Codes, film noir, etc., too, but in some circles it seems to be "in" to diss MGM's beautifully produced, typically family-friendly fare. Maybe I'm overgeneralizing but I've noticed this here and there over the last couple years. I will happily admit liking -- or loving -- Garson, Allyson, R. Taylor, O'Brien, Grayson, and all the rest.

Speaking of MGM, YOLANDA AND THE THIEF...yes! :) I'm disappointed it has never made DVD..."Coffee Time" is sublime. And I love the 1940 P&P, anachronistic costumes and all.

Thanks for a fun and thought-provoking post.

Best wishes,

Karen said...

Wait--Leslie Howard is uncool?!?!? How can that even BE?

To your list, Siren, I would add The Animal Kingdom and The 49th Parallel.

I'm not sure whether to be grateful or hurt, by the way, that you didn't out me as the defender of Waterworld.

I don't care for Abbott and Costello, personally, except in Buck Privates, where they're used more sparingly than in their starring vehicles. They are certainly not funnier than Duck Soup; that's too ridiculous even to be entertained.

I LOVE Valley Girl with a passion and in fact love most early Nicolas Cage (Raising Arizona, Moonstruck, Red Rock West). He seemed to turn a corner with The Rock from interesting indie to tiresome blockbuster that he never reversed on. Nowadays, the appearance of his name in the cast list is a virtual guarantee that I won't watch it (although I confess to a certain fondness for Natural Treasure).

You've listed my two favorite Tyrone Power movies, by the way (well, also Nightmare Alley, but it's not always as much fun to watch). My sister and I used to make a pre-alcohol version of a drinking game over how long Power's character sports his face Band-aid in In Old Chicago. We can still be reduced to helpless laughter just at the mention of it, and we are in our respectable fifties.

But, as I said over on Facebook, if I like a film I just assume it's cool.

Gloria said...

I must be that I'm surprised at some of the films or people mentioned, I mean, for the life of me, I'd never refer to Susan Hayward or Stewart Granger as "uncool"... Are they regarded that way in the US? But it is true that there are critical fads that seem to stick until someone challenges them: I recall that in Spain critics seemed -at leas till recently- to have a thing against poor Jennifer Jones: she'd be lambasted everytime there was a film of hers on TV.

I recall an idiot disregarding "Hellzapoppin" because it featured Olsen and Johson instead of the Marx Brothers (O & J seemed to have been declared uncool by some film guru, it seems).

I don't know how uncool is the reputation of Ivory-Merchant (they are usually well regarded in Spanish shores): I'd certainly sit through a weekend of Ivory-Merchants than 15 minutes of a Richard Attenborough film.

"The Firefly", I recall having fun watching it, but being a tad annoyed at Hollywood's cliched Spanish typicalisms in it: I think it would be a fine double programmer with "Goyescas", also an entertaining film -and similarly riddled with typicalisms- featuring the great Imperio Argentina.

As for "Flashdance", I still have trouble with it, wheter it's because of the leg warmers or the portrait of a "poor working girl" who dwells in a "humble loft" as big as a football field.

A personal uncool-o-meter of mine is Knighthood and Peerage: Actors (which were for centuries held as a low breed) should be there to point their fingers at the high and mighty, not to sheeepishly bend their knees in front of them.

Patrick Wahl said...

If liking these movies is uncool, then I don't want to be cool, or something like that...

I'm with you on 3,4,7,8, but have to disagree on 9. I watched the older version after having seen the 2005 version and found the 1940 edition lacking in comparison. It looked stagy, the costumes seemed like costumes rather than something anyone might have ever worn, and the actors were a bit too old for their roles.

I'd add "Tin Cup" to 11, although I remember being almost the only person in the theater laughing, so maybe that's just me.

I'll even own up to liking a decidedly uncool movie that I just watched again a couple of nights ago - "The World of Suzie Wong". Just works for me for some reason. It may actually be so far forgotten as to not even have an uncool rating, although Marilyn Ferdinand did write it up a few months ago at her site.

Uncle Gustav said...

I wept like a bitch during the last ten minutes of Bridges of Madison County. I'll see anything with Julia Roberts (Mona Lisa Smile is a favorite) or Nicole Kidman (sorry, but her Invasion is better than that ridiculous Abel Ferrara version). Hostel II is something of a small masterpiece, a brilliant byproduct of the Dubya era's capitalist excess. (The first Hostel was nothing to write home about.) And Legally Blonde is the greatest movie ever made -- don't even try to challenge that.

Maltydog said...

Abbott and Costello are at their best in their bargain basement TV series, which just concentrates on routines at the expense of plot, realism, everything. Another very good Susan Hayward picture is I Can Get it for You Wholesale, where the Brooklyn accent is very appropriate.


Uncle Gustav said...

Curly from the Three Stooges is the funniest guy ever in the movies.

Dan Callahan said...

I love "The Enchanted Cottage," and I think it's always had a cult of sorts, but it definitely is "uncool." John Cromwell is still an underrated director.

Susan Hayward is a tough call. She's quite good in her 40's films, and very touching in "My Foolish Heart," but in the fifties, after the Ray movie, she started to overdo things and got campy. Her work in "I Want to Live!" is so hard to judge because she's just awful in one scene, then superb in another, then just awful again, and so forth.

Costner? Admitting to liking him at this point is pretty bold; I've stopped watching his work, so I couldn't say. I don't think I want to actually sit through "Waterworld" or "The Postman" to find out if they're as bad as they're supposed to be.

Kathryn Grayson? She's my nemesis, the ultimate Louis B. Mayer soprano horror. Whenever she comes on, I have to literally hide under a sofa and plug my ears and pray for mercy.

Your determined championing of Stewart Granger has made me give him more of a chance whenever I see him.

Uncool admissions: I love David Manners. And "Reds." And the first two "Superman" movies with Chrisopher Reeve.

Karen said...

Flickhead, I defy ANYONE not to weep like a bitch in the last 10 minutes of The Bridges of Madison County. The film is not uncool, I believe--the BOOK is. Eastwood's genius was to take the underlying story, strip away all the cheezy dialogue, and make the characters real. The film is great.

But if you're going to bring up Legally Blonde (which I enjoyed, but didn't love), then I have to plant my flag for Overboard--I don't own it, but I will watch it whenever it shows up on cable. Cracks me UP.

X. Trapnel said...

The matter of Ashely Wilkes recalls the matter of Victor Laszlo. Is Paul Henried uncool, a cocktail of Charles Boyer and Ralph Bellamy?

Ed Howard said...

I grew up watching Abbott & Costello, and I still think they're pretty damn funny. I still remember a bit from one of their movies with a butler who filled up their bowls with imaginary soup.

It seems to be fairly uncool to defend Richard Kelly these days, not sure why.

Woody Allen seems to go through phases: right now he's fairly cool again thanks to Vicky Cristina Barcelona but try defending Anything Else or Small Time Crooks. Hell, the real test would be defending Hollywood Ending but even I won't go there.

Arthur S. said...

Woody Allen's had an incredible last decade but one of his best films, Cassandra's Dream got incredibly bad reviews by people who really should know better. I did a piece of it on the blog analyzing it's really complex structure. With Match Point and Cassandra's Dream, Allen has become the Anglo-American Claude Chabrol with a similar striking talent for making familiar shopworn genre elements utterly unpredictable.

Anagramsci said...

I would and DO defend Hollywood Ending Ed--I laugh myself silly every time Woody goes after Treat Williams...

another one that just occurred to me--LITTLE BLACK BOOK (starring the late lamented Brittany Murphy), I avoided this when it came to the theatres, because the trailers made it seem like a particularly sociopathic modern "chick flick," (why do I love old-time "women's pictures" but hate the modern "CF"?) but rented it in desperation one day when I was avoiding paper grading, only to discover that it's actually a brilliant evisceration of the genre (which explains the bad ratings--it was seen by exactly the wrong people)

Anagramsci said...

Dan C.--David Manners is awesome, particularly in MIRACLE WOMAN, THE LAST FLIGHT and when chasing that plastic bat on the balcony in DRACULA

Andy said...

Hmm . . .

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) ranks among my favorite films. Like everything she was in as a teenager, it features a terrific (and terrifically interesting) performance by Judy Garland, and Andy Hardy's speech about the utopian potential of ham radio has always struck me as oddly predictive of the tone that the conversation about new media that most bloggers/blog commenters have participated in at some point or another often takes.

I've admire the intentions of On the Beach (1959), and I've always been genuinely moved by it. I can see that being deemed "uncool."

Among more recent films, I think Lilo & Stitch (2002) is right up there with Spirited Away (2001) and [insert the name of your favorite Pixar movie] as one of the best animated films of the last decade (although I lose points for not being alone on this one), and I love Disney's Tarzan (1999), too. And the only movie I watch more often than Jon Favreau's Elf (2003) (I just adore its old-school special effects, and the impromptu duet between Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel is one of my favorite movie moments from the last decade) is Groundhog Day (1993).

Tom Block said...

Put me down as another The Lusty Men fan. This great American movie has never been released on DVD in North America because...remind me again?

I can see the warmth and affection flooding out of my friends' faces when I mention any of the following: Richard Conte, Wild River (hands-down my favorite Kazan, again no R1 DVD), Kings Row, El Cid, Lee Van Cleef, George Sanders (yes, I know what that name means around here), and the Van Heflin who made The Prowler and Gunman's Walk. (And, of more recent vintage, Anne Heche...)

Dan Leo said...

I'm really impressed that you like The Sons of Katie Elder, dear Siren! The thing about the 60s (well, not the only thing, but one of them) is that the decade was pretty much the last one for non-ironic westerns, and pretty much the last decade when Hollywood was regularly making westerns at all. The Duke of course managed to make a few into the 1970s, but even he was stretching it. But the 60s was the last chance you had to see people like Wayne and Fonda and Stewart and Douglas and Mitchum do what only they could do, even if it was in movies like The War Wagon and Big Jake and The Good Guys and The Bad Guys. I don't care, I still have to watch them, goddammit!

Oh, maybe slightly off the topic, but -- y'know what else I love about the 60s? That they were the last decade -- up to around 1965, anyway -- when film-makers could make movies in black and white just because black-and-white suited the material better, even if it was a comedy. I love the B&W dramas from the US and the UK from that period -- some of which might seem fairly obscure nowadays, like King Rat, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Night of the Iguana, Séance on a Wet Afternoon, all the British kitchen-sink movies. Hell is for Heroes, with one of McQueen's greatest performances. I guess now that I''ve mentioned McQueen I'm out of the realm of the un-cool, but what about Love With a Proper Stranger? Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen, in glorious black-and-white...And then along came 1966, a great year for music, but they stopped making black-and-white movies, and the world started going downhill...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Susan Hayward is incredibly cool in everything from House of Strangers (Mankiewicz) to The Honey Pot (Mankiewicz).

As for the "woman's picture" I thought Sirk scholarship had finally taken the curse off of it.
If you can't comprehend the greatness of The Tarnished Angels, Written on the Wind and Imitation of Life I really have nothing to say to you.

I am a HUGE 1941 fan. It's Spielberg's Party Girl and one of the greatest of all films maudit.

My late and extremely eccentric friend Rick Sanford (who Isherwood wrote about in his book "October") worked as both a gay porno star AND a Hollywood extra. The latter had him running from place to place all the time. Then 1941 came along and he found himself fully employed for nearly a year. He came back every week with all manner of stories about the sets and the models (Hollywood Blvd was reproduced in a full set AND three gradations of models for the dogfight and riot sequence) and what not. As you may recall it opened during the Iran hostage crisis. Not the best time for a movie that wants to throw a cream pie in "Patriotism's" face.

The jitterbug contest sequence is truly beyond amazing. One of the greatest -- wildest -- dance sequences ever. Right up there with the barn-raising dance in Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. IOW Spielberg really knows how to make musicals. That's whay I'm so pleased his next project is Gershwin -- from a script by Doug Wright starring Zarachry Quinto.

X. Trapnel said...

Speaking of b&w, I've always preferred uncool Fail Safe to cooler than thou Doctor Strangelove. Who can ever forget "you will hear a shrill, high-pitched noise. That will be the ambassador's phone melting"?

DavidEhrenstein said...

The uncoolest of the uncool is Mike Sarne's Joanna (1968) with Genevieve Waite (moments before John Phillips encountered her) a score by Rod McKuen, and Donald Sutherland as a boho Lord dying of the Movie Disease in the grandest style imaginable.
Walter Lasally was the DP and it looks splendid.

DavidEhrenstein said...

The Merchant-Ivory maudit is Slaves of New York -- their rendition of Tana Janowitz's a clef about Lower East Side Art chic in the 80's -- with Bernadette Peters.

Rumorhasit that James fell hard for the male lead.

HowardF said...

In the forties, Hayward was one of the sexiest actresses in Hollywood. With her thick mane of chestnut hair (hinted at in black and white), her hopping walk and her deep voice and her urban swagger, she was a precursor to Suzanne Pleshette.
She had a "troubled" quality that was very expressive in the Harold Clurman directed "Deadline At Dawn. And she was loose and free in the forties. It wasn't until 20th Century Fox got their clutches on her that she calcified. However, until they knew what they wanted her to be for them, they allowed her to be herself in "House Of Strangers," and parts of "I Can Get It For You Wholesale." Then, after that, she was noble. Ugh.

X. Trapnel said...

Did anyone make more movies with first person singular titles than SH? I/I'll/I'd

DavidEhrenstein said...

Re My Foolish Heart. . .

X. Trapnel said...

Of course Bill Evans owns My Foolish Heart.

Victor Young, uncool but great anyway

Jaime said...

Siren - One of the opportunities afforded me by my blog project, Unexamined Essentials, is to promote the uncool. Now, since you ruled out the underrated/quirky, the uncool account for only maybe 8-10% of the directory. But they are uncool to the degree that people here, discussing uncool films, would deride them.

Just off the top of my head, from the past couple years:

Rob Zombie films - Zombie can't write a parking ticket, but unlike the SAW producers, he can shoot and cut

Farrelly brothers films that failed at the box office, esp. THE HEARTBREAK KID

DEATH RACE, the best and uncoolest Paul W. S. Anderson film

BEOWULF, not accounting for Mr. Kehr's fascination with Zemeckis (which I share)

I believe, without irony or half-measure, that these directors are among the essential American film artists working today.

If I am pilloried on this thread, or ignored, it will go towards proving my point.

DavidEhrenstein said...

The Pride and Prejudice you love was scripted by Aldous Huxley.

Greg said...

On the other hand, I used to be a big fan of "The Ruling Class," but I cringed the last time I saw it...

Larry, I don't know if you'll see this but YES, same here! I put up a clip at my screening room and ending up watching the whole thing. It feels badly dated and goes on for forty minutes AFTER the logical ending point when he enters the House of Lords. I used to love it but watching it again it came off as a near total disaster.

As for uncool I have always liked Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. Yep, I'm a loser.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Stewart Granger is exceptionally cool in Moonfleet.

Dan Leo said...

Hey, X. Trapnel, Fail Safe is totally cool in my book. Other cool uncool grim B&W movies from that era: the Best Man, Advise and Consent, Seven Days in May, Requiem For a Heavyweight... Speaking of heavy-handed Rod Serling scripts, just watched the Playhouse 90 "The Comedian" on Hulu last night (1957), fucking brutal! But I loved it anyway. What a cast, Mickey Rooney playing the vilest showbiz scum ever, Eddy O'Brien great as always, Kim Hunter, Constance Ford, Mel Tormé as the spineless shat-upon brother of Mickey -- and all of it broadcast live. Directed by John Frankenheimer by the way who went on to do some of those great 60s uncolored masterworks...(By the way, I just want to say that this is a great way to stay home sick with a cold.)

KC said...

I don't think Mother Wore Tights is cool--but it isn't uncool either. I thought it was charming! And Susan Hayward is my gal. I thought she was darn touching in Smash-Up. I actually love a lot of the things on your list, but that doesn't surprise me. I mean, I own Can't Stop the Music, and I have no idea how many times I've seen it by now. I definitely go for the offbeat things that don't impress people. Oh well, I'm happy!

Eurappeal said...

1. How can Abbott & Costello be uncool when they're in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

2. How can Clifton Webb be uncool? I fell in love with him when I saw Dreamboat as a child, and Laura, the Mister Belvedere movies, and The Dark Corner cemented it.

3. What?! I love The Enchanted Cottage! I remember watching this with my mother back when AMC showed real movies and sobbing. It's lovely.

4. Valley Girl was very funny. It's depressing to watch because I now find Nicolas Cage so repellent.

5. Anatole Litvak -- didn't he have an affair with Paulette Goddard? Anyone who had a tryst with the delightful Paulette and made City for Conquest has to be somebody's hero.

6. Pride and Prejudice -- I actually prefer this to Wuthering Heights. Olivier and Garson are so perfect in it.

7. Susan Hayward -- my husband says I Want To Live devastated him. As for My Foolish Heart, it's heartbreaking.

8. Kevin Costner. Thank you for that. I too think he's been crapped on too much, and he's brilliant in Open Range. It makes a great double feature with Silverado.

9. Leslie Howard. He suffers from most of his best performances being pre-GWTW and hard-to-see. The true Leslie Howard persona is his delightful Henry Higgins and Scarlet Pimpernel, and he's a wonderfully romantic character in Smilin' Through. I'm still waiting and hoping to see Berkeley Square on TCM.

10. In Old Chicago -- but but but Don Ameche at the end .

My Candidates:

1. Charlie Chase is very funny.

2. High Noon. I don't get the "Rio Bravo is better than High Noon" statement I've read for several years now. I like both, don't see why the two must be up against each other, and I find High Noon more interesting and tense.

3. Libeled Lady. I think it's right up there with My Man Godfrey, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, and The Awful Truth on the list of great screwball comedies.

4. Helen Morgan. Listen and watch her sing in Whale's Show Boat. Awesome.

5. Paul Henreid. Ah, Victor and Jerry. Need I say more? Okay, I will: guilty pleasure is The Spanish Main.

6. The Hanging Tree. Why isn't this shown more? It's a dark, compelling western with Gary Cooper at his Man-of-the-West ambivalent best, Maria Schell at her loveliest, Karl Malden at his slimiest, George C Scott at his bombastic best, with Shane-like cinematography.

Vanwall said...

"Ice Pirates" - compulsive viewing for me.

Chuck Sigars said...

I'll join you on "1941," the first time I recall being baffled by critical reaction (I was 20). It's currently being streamed on NetFlix, BTW. And speaking of Slim Pickens (weren't we?)...

Is "The Flim-Flam Man" uncool? Slim, Strother, Alice Ghostley, Harry Morgan, Jack Albertson all supporting George C. Scott, and I saw them all from the backseat of our station wagon at the Paramount Drive-In. I still scan the listings for it. Shame it had to pick a crowded year (1967); I think it was the second feature to either "Cool Hand Luke," "Wait Until Dark" or "The War Wagon" (I remember all three from the backseat) but I know which one I preferred.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

God bless! Zorro the Gay Blade is hilarious! And I'm so glad to hear of your awakening interest in 1941! This is a great subject, and I can't wait to start digging through these comments in earnest. I'm actually currently tinkering with the subtitles for another one that I love that was reviled by critics and fanboys upon its release, and still is for all I know, but it's one that I maintain is criminally undervalued: Alien 3. Let the rotten veggies commence their flight!

Yojimboen said...

Some books to films are great, some not. Some weren’t worth adapting in the first place (you know, like Oscar Levant’s quote about scraping away the phony tinsel until you find the real tinsel underneath). And some are so god-awful, so irredeemably, hideously bad that you find yourself - from frame one to the end title - laughing so hard you actually throw up?

But enough about Bridges of Madison County. (Sorry, Karen – truth is I weep at supermarket openings, card tricks; I can’t even type the words ‘k-tten’ or ‘p-ppy’ – but spare me sentimentality as subtle as a sailor with a six-hour pass.)

If today’s elegant blogpost achieves anything, may it forever abolish the notion of “guilty pleasure”. We are not alone in our secret likes and dislikes; we can all come out today.

I find little to argue with in Your List, chère Madame; all right, one or two (which, if I didn’t love you so much) would have me making silly jokes about meds. Maybe it’s a guy/gal thing, but I have always found Nic Cage to be one of the more repellant actors working. Granted, I have a low-tolerance for Coppola nephews (okay, zero tolerance, I find Jason Schwartzman almost as nauseating).

The unpardonable Showgirls is an amazing exercise in hyper-fatuity: a movie filled to the brim with dancers’ perfect nude bodies – and as erotic as an ingrown toenail.

To my eye, 1941 and the two films on either side of it, E.T.; Raiders; Close Encounters; Jaws are the collective peak of Spielberg’s film-making career. His career as a corporate icon has been less satisfying – no question he still makes interesting movies, but nothing to touch the above five. 1941 was a happy accident: screenwriters Gale & Zemeckis at their peak, admixed with the cigar-chomping, thumb-in-the-eye stylings of John Milius.
I adore it.

Ishtar - dazzlingly brilliant comedy; sadly true, critics and public chose to review the budget rather than the movie, missing the axiomatic reality: it’s Elaine May, you idiots! Anything by Elaine May is brilliant. If you don’t see that, get your eyes tested!

1. Mr. Abbot and Mr. Costello Any more questions?

2, 3 & 4 – completely agree.

5. Nuff said.

6, 7, 8 - Nous sommes d’accord.


Yojimboen said...


9. Used to agree – lately I’ve gone off Ms Garson. Way off. The older I get, the harder it is to watch her. I find her as genuine as bakelite.
(Exception: Strange Lady in Town; but that also stars another secret pash, Lois Smith.)

An aside, I’ve never quite got the appellation “Woman’s Picture”. A great movie is a great movie. Forced to watch only one movie for the rest of my life, I’d pick Sense and Sensibility over Rio Bravo every time. And I love Rio Bravo.

10. Susan Hayward. I’m working on her; honest I am. Treading water in this lovely blogsite these last twelvemonth, I’ve found myself relaxing long-held antipathies to Misses B. Davis and B. Stanwyck.
(J. Crawford is still not on my horizon, nor likely ever to be.)
So I’ll continue working on Miss Hayward. Clearly Hathaway, Nick Ray and Bob Wise saw something in her; so I’ll try to remember Valley of the Dolls (great trashy/camp novel turned into a shit trashy/camp movie) wasn’t entirely her fault.

11. I’ve been at two or three K. Costner Q&As – each time he raises the topic of Waterworld and how it wound up in the black – as have virtually all his films. One has to fight the temptation to walk up there, slap him upside the haid and tell him to stop being so goddamn defensive; keep turning out pictures like Open Range and we’ll keep buying tickets.

12. What impedes any warm feelings for Heaven’s Gate is the history of coke-fueled arrogance surrounding it. Irresponsible squandering on that scale not only killed the best of the major studios (whose execs were equally at fault), but made it difficult, in some cases impossible, for young filmmakers to get a break.

13. What’s uncool about Leslie Howard? In company with Johnny Weissmuller, the most grab-ass actor on any sound stage. His milquetoast exterior was the perfect disguise. Uncool? Never.

14. Two great Fox musicals. Which were, until Rogers and Hammerstein, scarce.

15. Stewart Granger? He had Jean Simmons first (officially).
The very definition of cool.

Lastly, I used to confuse Mother Wore Tights with Heller in Pink Tights, the latter a decent Cukor spoiled for me by a lack of chemistry between A Quinn and S. Loren.

Homework for this weekend, re-see Mother Wore Tights and My Foolish Heart.

Great post, Madame. As always!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here in all it's baroque glory is the jitterbug dance scene from 1941

Lou Lumenick said...

I've always had a weakness for "Losin' It'' (1983), which is basically "Y Tu Mama Tambien'' with Tom Cruise, Jackie Earle Haley and Shelley Long. And I was smitten with Kristy McNichol for years after "Little Darlings'' (1980) and "The Night the Lights Went Out With Georgia'' (1981, with Dennis Quaid as her brother).

DavidEhrenstein said...

As every gay man "of a certain age" knows Judy Garland was orginally cast to play Helen Lawson in Valley of the Dolls. She did wardrobe and maek-up tests and even cut a track of the big musical number "I'll Plant My Own Tree."

Alas when shooting was about to commence Ms. Garlan was "unwell" -- and replaced by Susan Hayward.
She was of course not a singer, and so her voice for the song was dubbed by Mrs. jack Wrnagler (aka. Margaret Whiting.)

Well if that isn't campt-to-the-tits enough for you, some mad queen has taken it upon himself to ut Judy's voice onto Susan Hayward fro a You Tube clip.


Heres' the result!

Ladybug said...

Coolest of the uncool:

Nelson Eddy is the king of uncool. How can one not love "Let Freedom Ring"? I used to skip school to see his movies on tv.

"Psychomania" for the toad worshippers among us and "Best House in London" for those of us considered politically incorrect.

"Enchanted Cottage" has always been cool, if only for Herbert Marshall, so I'm not certain it should be on this list. Could we substitute "The Fly"? For this film I’ll get up at 3:00am.

Add what John McManus called "the cinematic half-Nelson" - "Lloyd's of London".

And finally throw in my favorite uncool actors: Curd/Curt Jurgens and Shemp (the Stooge).

Now back to lurking.

cgeye said...

"you will hear a shrill, high-pitched noise. That will be the ambassador's phone melting"?" Yep, FAIL SAFE over its suppressive competition, any day.

And I'm personally convinced TCM hates me, specifically, because it will not show SEVEN DAYS IN MAY during election time, in May, or in any other slot. Even when they went all in regarding Fredric March, Lancaster or Douglas, not one sign of it. *sigh*

As for me, it's MILLION DOLLAR LEGS and HOLLYWOOD HOTEL; they still make me laugh like a loon, when I'm suppressing an upcoming cringe for the minstrelsy in a Marx Bros. pic.

Laura said...

TCM is showing SEVEN DAYS IN MAY on February 8th.

Best wishes,

Goose said...


A belated congratulations on the TCM programming.

The Uncool cannot include anyone associated with film noir or pre-Code film. So pre-Ben-Hur period and even Wayne's World Charlton Heston cannot be uncool, even if he cannot be totaling cool, either. Alan Ladd, also. It is only a matter of time before Warren William and Ricardo Cortez are acknowledged as cool. They are!

Uncool -
Rudolph Valentino
Deanna Durbin
George Brent
Walter Pidgeon
Nelson Eddy
Jeanette MacDonald

By the way, I hope you are correct that Clarence Brown is cool.

Cee said...

Agree about Leslie Howard, Gone with the Wind has cast too much of a shadow on some great performances.

I'll add that Yolanda and the Thief doesn't seem to have praise - now or when it was first released - and that might be because it's so heavily aesthetic and people might not like Lucille Bremer as a Fred partner. But I quite like it.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Sorry, but Jeanette Macdonald is Exceptionally Cool!

The Siren said...

Good gracious, I will be here all night, not a bad thing I suppose.

Thing is, the Siren does not like to name names, but she has an addiction to the "external reviews" button on IMDB and Google searches of reviews of whichever movie she has on the brain at the moment. And these frequently turn up writers eye-rolling over some movie, director or actor she thinks utterly swell. Case in point: women's pictures. David E. is right of course that the Sirk revival should have taken care of this, but the fact is that non-auteur gems like Mr. Skeffington (dunno if it's cool, but I love it dearly) still get waved off quite a lot.

Addendum: I should have fessed up to my Shirley Temple love. AND my Deanna Durbin love. Omission hereby corrected. And no, I'm not just talking Wee Willie Winkie and Christmas Holiday (although those two are awesome).

To those reminding me of I Can Get It For You Wholesale: YES. What a bracingly astringent picture, with a screenplay by unapologetic Hollywood Ten member Abraham Polonsky. And the great George Sanders too. Should definitely have figured in my defense of Susie. And HowardF is right, in the 1940s she was some dish.

Y., anyone who has read Final Cut knows exactly what you're talking about with Heaven's Gate. Cimino was not what you'd call a lovable guy, and what the picture did to UA is a crying shame. Still, when I see the film I still see a great deal to admire.

Karen said...

Paul Henreid is NOT uncool. I submit Night Train to Munich.

And I also love David Manners. What an attractive man! Whatever HAPPENED to him, anyway??

Andy, Groundhog Day is a work of real genius, and shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence with the word "uncool."

Siren, I LOVE Shirley Temple. Never miss a Temple marathon. I find her utterly delightful human, without any of the saccharine of so many of her imitators.

Kim said...

Anyone who stars in a movie entitled Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman is cool. So, Susan Hayward equals cool as ice.

If she'd had the chance, Susan Hayward would've tore through a Merchant-Ivory film like some kind of crazy Ross Hunter/John Waters production. Now that would have been pretty cool.

That being said, I love The Remains of the Day...

Lou Lumenick said...

Goose, by your definition Deanna Durbin cannot be uncool because she appeared in Robert Siodmak's "Christmas Holiday,'' which despite its title and Somerset Maugham byline, is a noir.

The Siren said...

So, re: Matt on 1941--you may be right, and probably Hook would be a more on-a-limb choice. I should be clear: it's Dennis who was redeeming 1941. Me, I couldn't stand it, but I admit that I have not seen it in at least 20 years. Also, my contribution to the Showgirls blogathon was a piece that basically said I still think it's DOA so I can't claim cool cred there either.

Lance, The Bostonians and The Europeans are also very good. There's a lot of emotional violence in Merchant Ivory that they don't get credit for.

You know, I never saw Slaves of New York due to the bad reviews, and these days that wouldn't stop me at all. I should rent it. It will no doubt be a huge nostalgia trip for me now.

SidneyW said...

The narrative that we're expected to follow about French cinema is that it started off great, but had become a bit tired and cliched by the late fifties until it was revitalised by the emergence of all the New Wave directors. Well actually I prefer the other stuff, and so did most French people who were around at the time. Give me something starring Bourvil, Bernard Blier or especially Louis de Funes anyday. The Adventures of Rabbi Jacob, La Grande Vadrouille, Fantomas, even Le gendarme et les Extra-terrestres, I love them all.

That's one area where the whole "Art-House Cinema" movement really annoys me. The French have produced some great comedies over the years but the Art-houses prefer sticking on really dire variations of "slightly demented nineteen year old takes long walks along the beach in the nude." Recently I've enjoyed seeing Franck Dubosc in Camping (although I'd recommend sticking to just the trailer of Disco), and the two OSS films with Jean Dujardin made me laugh more than all the Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell trailers I've seen in the last decade. And OK if we're really confessing our corny, uncool, favourites then Brice de Nice had me sniggering too, but don't take that as a go-see recommendation.

And Abbott and Costello are brilliant.

gmoke said...

Leslie Howard reminds me of Chow Yun Fat who is known as the coolest man in the world.

"The Sins of Harold Diddlebock" - Preston Sturges and Harold Lloyd and a circus

Tyrone Power and Orson Welles in "The Black Rose" and "Prince of Foxes" - it seems to me they were friends and enjoyed each others' company but that could have been ACCCTING!

I was really disappointed that the Brattle didn't get a copy of "The Roots of Heaven" a few months ago. Really would like to see that movie again.

The Tora-san movies with the Buddhist priest cameos by the great Chishu Ryu, although Chishu Ryu can never be considered uncool.

Sammo Hung - can such an athletic and - um- portly man be uncool?

Gregory Ratoff - I know people get him confused with Akim Tamiroff but he's entirely different.

Anything the Siren likes is ipso facto cool. It is certainly ungentlemanly to question her taste within her own house.

The Siren said...

Totally okay to question my taste, Gmoke, as long as it's done in polite fashion and not "are you @#*!ing kidding me?" which general attitude is mercifully absent from my comments section. I also quite like Ratoff.

StyleSpy, Taps holds up quite well for me although that may be nostalgia on my part too. What I loved about Valley Girl was the straight-up treatment of a pampered girl's wants and needs; there is no condescension in the movie at all. And I still dig the soundtrack.

Arthur S., I also prefer The Fallen Idol of all Carol Reed's work and never stopped to consider whether that's uncool; perhaps it is. We're supposed to prefer the noir, as Goose points out below.

Yojimboen said...

Ah, Tama Janowitz! The ultimate embodiment of Warhol’s credo. Slaves of New York?
As cool as disco after Studio 54 started letting in the B&T crowd.

Somebody should do a list of finger-on-the-pulse dernier cri “cool” movies like it: New York Stories; Bright Lights, Big City; After Hours; Bonfire of the Vanities...
The good old days, when twaddle was cool.

Jim and Ismail made a couple of clunkers over the years, (The Guru; The Wild Party), but this I believe was their worst.
Save your money.

P.S. “Anything the Siren likes is ipso facto cool. It is certainly ungentlemanly to question her taste within her own house.”

Agree with the first sentence; but the second I believe is accurate only in the formal sense. Our hostess (not to speak for her) has consistently invited and encouraged such open questioning – as long as we don’t criticize Charles Foster Kane.

(Now, will that be a five-minute argument, or the full hour?)

The Siren said...

Laura, MGM is definitely not the "in" taste at the moment and it always was the apple-pie and rather corny studio in the eyes of fans, I think. There is more to many of the films than a dull "quality," though; many of them pulse with vivid life and of course great beauty. And there is much merit to telling a country about its dreams, as well as about its nightmares. I do think critical thought in this country has favored the latter for many years.

The Siren said...

Andy, I like a lot of the Andy Hardy films. There's a clip of an interview with Ann Rutherford that runs on TCM where she says she thinks they hold up very well, except for the parts where Judge Hardy says "Andy, let's talk man to man." And she's right!

The Siren said...

Flickhead, I love me some Nicole and it pains me how much she gets mocked in certain quarters. Julia Roberts; well, I really love Nicole. And Legally Blonde is totally something Judy Holliday could have played the shit out of.

Jaime, we don't pillory here! That is an impressively uncool list, nonetheless. I will check out the site.

The Siren said...

David E, I'd forgotten about the Huxley script, you're right! Perhaps that means it's cool now. :D And yes, I shouldn't have even mentioned Moonfleet because everyone knows that one is great.

Gloria, you are very right about critical fads; and I totally agree on M-I vs. Attenborough.

Karen, perhaps I should remove my beloved Leslie from consideration since obviously there is more than enough love for him amongst the Siren's uber-cool readership to banish the adjective "wimp" to the corner where it belongs.

Charles, I love The World of Suzy Wong despite its quite stunning lack of PCness. Hong Kong is fabulous and Nancy Kwan should have been huge.

Lou, I remember The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia! Where IS Kristy McNichol? she was genuinely talented.

Tom Block, I share your Van Heflin love. He brought a special kind of chill to his ostensibly good-guy FBI agent in My Son John.

The Siren said...

Eurappeal, welcome and AMEN to your thoughts on the High Noon versus Rio Bravo stakes.

Edwards, welcome and thanks for de-lurking. Nelson Eddy is not a Siren favorite but championing him definitely wins points in the "so uncool he's cool" stakes.

The Siren said...

Kim, what a treat to see you here in comments. The idea of Susan Hayward chewing the trimming right off the costumes in a M-I misfire like Jefferson in Paris has me in stitches.

I am missing people aren't I? KC, glad to see someone else succumb to Mother Wore Tights; Rhapsody in Blue, glad to see more Yolanda love; CGeye, Million Dollar Legs, I forgot!

And Karen, you know I love Paul Henreid, including The Spanish Main. I think he was another under-the-radar Hollywood ladykiller.

WelcometoLA said...

Shirley Jones. Most underrated hottie in the history of Hollywood, and uncool because of the whole wholesome thing. I like wholesome. I remember ogling her as Mama Partridge and staying up past my bedtime to catch a glimpse of her in April Love with Pat Boone. (Now, that's devotion.) And the Bedtime Story/Elmer Gantry/The Courtship of Eddie's Father era? Hubba-hubba. I saw her flash some fleshy gam in Gantry the other night on TCM and thought: Burt Who?

Vertigo's Psycho said...

Betty Grable is one cool, talented babe.

You're right about Hayward never losing her Brooklynese, which makes her uncool singing in I'll Cry Tomorrow very cool. I don't agree her performance therein is (overall) great, but listening to her warble "Sing You Sinners" is a cherished memory- ". . .let dat harmony ring, up to heavun and sing. . . " I do agree Hayward was on target in a lot of other roles, including I Want to Live! (the Brooklyn background definitely is an asset in that one). I don't even know if I've seen Where Love Has Gone, but it has to be cool, too.

I think Frankie and Annette are cool, at least in Beach Blanket Bingo and Back to the Beach.

The Greatest Show on Earth is cool (Cornel Wilde shirtless in tights- 'nuff said).

Carrol Baker is cool in The Carpetbaggers (pretty much shirtless dancing on a chandelier- 'nuff said).

Olivia Newton-John is cool in Grease, especially singing "Hopelessly Devoted to You." And Michelle Pfeiffer declaring "I want a cool-ol-ol-ol rider" in the sequel is beyond cool.

I just watched some of The End again after seeing it many years ago. Burt Reynolds was a lot cooler than I remembered, and Dom Deluise is very cool, and fearless- he gives one of the greatest or one of the worst comedy performances ever, or maybe he gives both at the same time.

Oh, Kristy McNichol is in The End, too, and she is cool in Little Darlings.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I love the idea of Huxley going to his office at MGM to adapt Pride and Prejudice then hurrying home to write After Many a Summer Dies the Swan.

Vanwall said...

I'm glad I grew up when and where you had to look pretty hard to find more than a few opinions on films, actors, actresses, or directors - now they're all over, in print and every other form of disinformation. I had that innocence for quite a while, an advantage to forming my own favorites and cools, and the hell with the rest of the opinions.

Siren, your uncool list is upside down, or at least through-the-looking-glass backwards - more cool there than a library full of words to the cont'ary. 'Cepting the late Waynes, which I have to consign to my mental dustbin, sorry, the list is populated by films and people I assumed were cool in at least one way or another, since forever, and it just reminds me why I likes what I likes, and that's all I likes. Hayward, Granger and many others of little note, and the wonderful Clarence Brown, why, these are the people who made movies - a much more revealing term than films, which might imply it's hi-falutin' - that I found enjoyable and watchable then, and now.

Karen said...

My personal favorite of Kristy McNichol films is Just the Way You Are--the one where she plays the gimpy flautist who fakes a ski injury so she can be "normal" and bags Michael Ontkean.

I haven't seen it in over 20 years, so there might be a contextual sheen to it, but I thought it was great fun.

She was a hell of an actress, actually--with a really expressive face--and then she just disappeared.

Uncle Gustav said...

Karen, Kristy had some terrific scenes with (blonde) Sherilyn Fenn in Zalman King's remarkable Two Moon Junction.

Peter Nellhaus said...

I kind of liked Slaves of New York. Aside from being a fairly decent adaptation of the book, it almost made me nostalgic for NYC, and my little apartment on East 7th Street.

The only James Ivory film I'd really like to see again is Savages, with it's little musical number, "Stepping on a Spaniel".

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

My example of embracing the uncool: loving Shirley Jones in "The Music Man," although clearly it *should've* been Barbara Cook. Yes, it should've. But that don't prevent me from loving the performance that was filmed.

BTW, did you see how, in Dave Kehr's most recent column, the headline "Evolution of a Belgian Autuer" (or something like that) was placed above a photo of Robert Preston and his band in "The Music Man." I'd be curious what Chantal Akermann (?sp?) would have done with that musical ...

Brian Doan said...

Zorro, The Gay Blade ran constantly on HBO when I was a kid, so it was a real favorite of mine back then. Seeing it mentioned here is a surreal treat-- I don't know what I'd think of it now, but every other Zorro felt stiff to me after George Hamilton.

I also think Costner is underappreciated at this point. Yes, the early-to-mid-90s stuff is often ponderous, but he's very good in THE UNTOUCHABLES, SILVERADO, and NO WAY OUT, and BULL DURHAM is the very definition of the sublime-- I could watch that movie all day. And he keeps getting better as he ages: his recent, character-actory turns have been marvelous.

My dissertation director wrote a whole book on the Andy Hardy movies, so I'll join in the chorus praising them, and 30s MGM in general (the recent coffee table book on Thalberg is a thing of beauty, and a reminder of how sensuous those "corny" MGM films could be). I think the tricks to the Hardy films are !)Seeing a bunch in a row, or at least a compressed period: individually, they can feel hokey, but taken as a long piece, the connections and rhythms become sweet and hypnotically compelling (ANDY HARDY GETS SPRING FEVER is, no joke, a Surrealist masterpiece); 2) Jumping off after Ann Rutherford leaves. maybe it's just my love of GONE WITH THE WIND, but Andy doesn't make sense without Polly-- Rutherford's wonderfully subtle sense of irony and deadpan timing takes the manic edge off Rooney and makes him much more bearable. Without her, the series gets lost, even with Herbert Marshall popping up when Andy goes to college.

For a long time, I would've said POINT BREAK was my "uncool" movie-- I love it unreservedly, and think it's one of the most beautiful action films ever made. But with Bigelow finally getting the attention she deserves, I don't know if it still qualifies (very happy to see her getting the attention, though).

Arthur S. said...

To Siren,

Yeah, I know but personally I'm bored to death with noir fetishism that goes on in cinephile culture these days. I've never been overly impressed by the other Reeds anyway. The Third Man tends to be too grotesque with those weird headache-inducing camera angles. The Fallen Idol on the other has this wonderful fairy tale quality but shot in this sober and precise style and tells a lot about class behaviour and it also deals with human subjectivity in a way that anticipates Rashomon.

Vertigo's Psycho said...

Don't know if it really should've been Cook over the perfectly cast Jones in The Music Man- I've listened to the Original Broadway Cast recording, and Jones is equal to Cook in the singing department, and I think acting-wise Jones has a little more finesse.

Brian Doan said...


1)PENNY SERENADE and SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, both of which made me cry like a baby;

2)PORTRAIT OF JENNIE-- I don't know if it's uncool or not (a hard thing about this is how quickly things move in and out of fashion), but it's a hauntingly beautiful Selznick film that I hardly ever see anyone write about, and Joseph Cotten is wonderfully sad and quiet in it;

3) SO PROUDLY WE HAIL, maybe my favorite film of Paulette Goddard's, and I like Paulette Goddard a lot;

4) UNDER CAPRICORN-- I know Siren said auteurs don't count, and I take her point, but this is a marvelous Hitchcock film that is constantly undervalued because it doesn't fit into our critical template of him (and it was a massive flop at the time). But Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten (him again! Really, I could do a whole list of just Cotten films) completely caught me up in their costumed melodrama;

5)Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, but only when they are not together-- she's great in LOVE ME TONIGHT, and he's wonderful in ROSALIE, which I just got from the Warner Archive;

6)GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER, because Poitier is so quietly good, but really because I'm always moved by the meta-emotional moments in Tracey's final speech about love and Katharine Hepburn, a speech whose heart and quiet underplaying justify the rest of the heavy-handed, ugly-looking, occasionally problematic film;

7)Paula Prentiss comedies. Is it uncool to like Prentiss? Not in my house-- I don't care how ridiculous WHERE THE BOYS ARE or THE HORIZONTAL LIEUTENANT might be-- Prentiss's curious glances and slightly southern drawl make them all watchable. And He and She was a wonderful sitcom.

Brian Doan said...

Oops-- here's the Prentiss link I THOUGHT I'd put in the earlier post (sorry!):

Brian Doan said...

Siren, just to completely overrun this thread...(: I've nominated you for this blogging award. I don't know if this sort of thing is your cup of tea or not, but as one of my favorite bloggers, I wanted to pass it on to you. Please feel free to ignore, but one of the "rules" is letting recipients know, so...

cgeye said...

the HOriZONtal LIEU-tenant (hutt-two-three-four)... product of too many afternoon movies....

And since Warren William's mostly a pre-Code hottie, by jing he's already cool. He made Glenn Ford out for a posturing fool once one compares LADY FOR A DAY with its remake. He's the type of boss for which a girl doesn't mind enduring a hostile workplace....

Dave said...

As I mentioned earlier on Facebook, I'm in "1941" and still think it's terrible; I cringe every time I see myself in it.

I was at the world premiere/preview of "Valley Girl" at the late, lamented Filmex in 1983. As soon as that title hit the screen, the collective groan could have filled the sails of a thousand ships.

Within minutes, the theatre, which had been packed, was emptier than Sarah Palin's skull. I stayed until the end, but man, it stunk. I haven't seen it since, but I can't imagine it's improved.

Dave said...

cgeye: I must beg to differ. Warren William defines the word "cool." Has there ever been a sleazier, more disreputable character on the screen? He is my personal guarantee of movie pleasure. Just knowing he's going to show up makes any film more tolerable.

VW: blest: what we are by having Warren William.

Lou Lumenick said...

Karen, Just the Way You Are has a fascinating backstory. It was originally called "I Won't Dance'' and production shut down midway when Kristy had a breakdown. Unusually, MGM opted to resume the shoot a full year later, and the movie was a modest success. If you watch carefully you can pick out Kristy's "before'' and "after'' shots, sometimes in the same scene.

Karen said...

Flickhead and Lou, thanks for the McNichol info!

Brian, it's heartening to see some love for "He and She," a sitcom I have never once heard mentioned in lists of brilliant, quirky, and sadly short-lived shows. The Dick Benjamin/Paula Prentiss pairing was completely charming and what a supporting cast: Jack Cassidy, Kenneth Mars, and Hamilton Camp. We were addicted to it in my family.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Sweet Betsy from Pike, woman, you've really hit upon a topic here! I love these comments.

First, thank you, my dear, for the link. Secondly, thank you, my dear, for mentioning the "Masterpiece Theatre" version of "Testament of Youth", something I have not seen since my wayward college days, but which spurred me to get the book, which after these many years is practically falling apart from so many re-readings. A favorite of mine.

I can't really contribute to what I like about uncool movies or actors because I've always been a bit naive about what was cool. I had no idea many of these films mentioned were uncool. I thought they were swell.

Heck, yes, I love David Manners. And Kristy McNichol.

Perpetually lost in my own fog of uncoolness, and just happy to be here at the party, slipping things off the buffet table into my purse.

Exiled in NJ said...

Is there no love for The Stunt Man, where Steve Railsback does his Charles Manson bit again? Often I will parrot O'Toole's 'How tall was King Kong? line to people.

In this house, our guilty pleasure is Notting Hill. We find ourselves mimmicking Hugh Grant and his friend's lines all the time. "I once saw Ringo Starr, or at least I think it might have been Ringo Starr. It might have been that guy from Fiddler on the Roof, Toppy."

Hazel said...

I think with a couple of exceptions, that Hitchcock's British films are considered uncool but I love Young and Innocent, Rich and Strange, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage, and Secret Agent, etc.

I also love David Manners, he was so gorgeous in The Miracle Woman. He retired from the screen in the mid-30s but lived to a ripe old 98.

I too like Nicole Kidman and have done so ever since I saw that wild red hair in Dead Calm.

I'm rather partial to the rather uncool Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.

Is Calamity Jane cool?

steve simels said...

I don't know about you, but I just like saying the name Anatole Litvak.

The Siren said...

Brian, Silverado! I forgot Silverado. Saw that one with my late father, in the theater. We thought it rocked. And Penny Serenade is my mother's favorite movie; I have to say it reduces to me a weepy red-eyed snuffling MESS as well.

Warren William is Antarctic cool by virtue of his Caesar-like profile, his commanding voice and his presence in various Precodes.

The Music Man, however, is uncool no matter who stick in the librarian part. That doesn't mean bad at all--I'm crazy about Robert Preston and just about anything he's in is good by me.

Exiled, The Stunt Man is a marvelous movie but to me it's not only cool, it's still hip more than twenty years later. However, High Spirits, another O'Toole movie, is definitely uncool and I like it very much too.

The Siren said...

Hazel, that's a good question; all things Doris Day used to be quite uncool but she is having a great little revival now, one that I started noticing around the time Wolcott (him again!) ran a loving appreciation of her in Vanity Fair. I always did love Doris; my mom had a Greatest Hits recording of hers that I played to DEATH and I can still belt out "Once I Had a Secret Love" as long as the toddler isn't around to implore, "Mommy! Noooo, STOP SINGING!"

Steve, welcome; and actually, one of the unsung pleasures of classic Hollywood is saying some of the character actors and directors' names. I am partial to saying "Mischa Auer" myself.

The Siren said...

And actually, the subject of Doris Day and her revival from uncool to way-cool is worth contemplating. It only takes a few clued-in people fanning out through the film-fan world to start a turnaround; Warren William illustrates this too. If we all get together and decide that Howard Keel needs to be cool again, we can do it.

steve simels said...

I'm also rather partial to saying Gerd Oswald, but perhaps I've said too much.

Anyway, nice place you've got here. An old friend just turned me on to it, and what a pleasure...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Howard Keel has always been insanely cool in my book. Incredibly tall. Masculine without being pretentious about it. Plus that incredible voice. Sevn Bride For Seven Brothers for all its dancing glory simply wouldn't work without him.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Howard Keel

X. Trapnel said...

Has anyone mentioned Tony Curtis? Brandocliftdean have all frozen into iconicity. Sidney Falco lives and breathes.

Bureau of Weights and Measures standard for uncoolness: Warner Baxter in Penthouse. Just watch Miss Myrna undo him by mussing that viscuous hair.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Re David Manners his real name was (hang onto the furniture for this one)

Rauff de Ryther Duan Acklom

I wanted to interview him for my book Open Secret but he died before I had the chance.

Gloria Stuart, who co-starred with him in the matcheless Eddie cantor musical Roman Scandals says he was terribly nice.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Shaun was quite the cutie back in the day.

Exiled in NJ said...

This discussion needs one of those "up" and "down" or 'In' and 'Out' meters to do the measuring.

Mischa Auer, Shemp Howard, Richard Carlson, Ted 'Is Everybody Happy?' Lewis and Joan Davis all pop up in Hold That Ghost, where Costello's 'dance' with Davis is priceless.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Don't forget Jerry Lewis's dance with Sheree Noth in Living It Up (a not-at-all-bad remake of Nothign Sacred with Jerry in the Carole Lombard role.)

DavidEhrenstein said...

Love Mischa Auer in My Man Godfrey, Hellzapoppin (where he's pursued by Martha Raye) and Mr. Arkadin (where he runs a flea circus)

DavidEhrenstein said...

The Cahiers du Cinama gang were crazy about Under Capricorn, Brian. In many ways it was the lynchpin of their regard for Hitchcock as it clearly indicated he wasn't all about "mere" suspense thrillers. Plus Bergman's climactic confession scene stoked their Heavy Metal Catholicism.

The newly and dearly deaprted Eric Rohmer paid hommage to its mise en scene in his The Marquise of O..

Kevin Deany said...

Coming late to the disucssion, but count me in as a big Kevin Costner fan, and not just because he has such a fine first name.

He's marvelous in "The Upside of Anger." A co-worker of mine is a former sports writer for the Chicago Sun-Times and said Costner had that character nailed to a T.

In some ways I think the success of "Dancing With Wolves" hurt him, because everything after that came with a heavey case of seriousitis.
I remember when he was cast as Robin Hood, I thought it was a good choice. I had hoped he would bring to Robin Hood something like his character in "Silverado", where he's so loose, funny and appeling. I could easily see that character in Sherwood Forest. But his Robin Hood turned out to be a humorless bore.

I think after "Dancing With Wolves" he forgot to enjoy himself, but he's come back. His mass murderer "Mr. Brooks" is a vastly underrated delight.

The Siren said...

Kevin, the Silverado/Robin Hood comparison is very astute. The one part of Robin Hood that everybody did like was Alan Rickman, who WAS loose and having fun, so much so he seemed to be in another movie much more like the Robin Hood of your dreams.

Karen said...

I love Mischa Auer in ANYTHING, but especially in Destry Rides Again and The Rage of Paris. He had a teensy part in Scarlet Dawn--seen courtesy of the Siren's and Lou's Shadows of Russia series--and an even teensier part (looking about 15 years old but apparently 26) in Garbo's Mata Hari.

I also love Howard Keel, but most especially in Seven Brides (which is just undiluted joyousness from start to finish) and Kiss Me, Kate. SO sexy in his stage beard in that one. And what a voice!

On the thread of big colorful dorky musicals, I love There's No Business Like Show Business, not least because of the surreal pairing of Donald O'Connor and Marilyn Monroe. And, to leapfrog from Howard Keel to another uncool fave, Esther Williams, allow me to express my unreserved adoration for Jupiter's Darling. Sadly, YouTube does not appear prepared to provide me with visual evidence, via the amazing underwater ballet with the living statuary. Man, I'm a sucker for that.

Vanwall said...

I think TCM has been a huge factor in the new-found re-frigeration of many of the "uncool" - just 'cause we can see a lot of the castaways, and redefine opinions. Even Pre-codes were considered uncool for a long time, they weren't appreciated for the right things they brought. Like snappy dialogue and adult thinking, things you could imply with silents, but with sound, now you could almost say anything and get away with it - that's why they buried 'em, and were spoken of in rumors, they woulda been shocking even 20 years later, and if that ain't cool, I dunno what is. I still remember seeing Warren Williams for the first time back in the B&W TV days, and wondering where actors like him had been.

Gerd Oswald - right up there with Edgar Ulmer for cool names, and Ulmer especially is one of the great outsiders that's so cool, he's one of the thermometers for me.

partisan said...

1. This is arguably not just uncool, but positively demented, but I seriously maintain that the 1956 "Around the World in 80 Days" is one of the best Best Picture winners, and a better movie than "The Searchers."

2. Cinephiles don't really like Alan Parker, but "Pink Floyd: the Wall" and "Angel Heart" are two of my favorite movies, which is one more great movie than Ridley Scott ever made.

3. I want to push back against any demotion of Satyajit Ray. Madhabi Mukherjee in "Charulata" is THE female performance of 1965, even better than Catherine Deneuve.

4. This may be more odd than uncool, but "Alice in Wonderland" is my favorite Disney film.

5. "Clue" starts off badly, but Tim Curry gets better and better as the movie proceeds.

The Siren said...

Karen, Keel was remarkably sexy. Had the Big Colorful Dorky Musical era lasted longer we might have had more of him. Alas!

Partisan, ever seen the old Paramount Alice in Wonderland? They used to show it arond Thanksgiving when I was a kid. I loved it at the time, much more than the Disney version, and I yearn for a DVD version to test my memories.

Lou Lumenick said...

Akim Tamiroff! He's great in everything, but I have especially fond memories of "The Magnificent Fraud'' (1939) where he plays an actor hired to impersonate a South American dictator. Love to see that one again! Paul Mazursky less entertainingly remade it as "Moon Over Parador'' with Richard Dreyfuss.

Charles Monagan said...

How about good old early to earlyish Ken Russell? I'd love to see the half-crazy "The Music Lovers" again and the completely crazy "The Devils," too (after which Russell lapsed into dull incoherence). There were his shimmering BBC biopics, such as on Delius, but these probably don't rate as uncool enough.

Karen said...

Mmmmm....Akim Tamiroff as the excitable innkeeper in Five Graves to Cairo--too much fun!

I love that movie. It has many of my faves in it (I'm looking at YOU, Franchot Tone!) and the ending rips my freakin' heart out every time. Oh man. I'm welling up just thinking about it.

Uncle Gustav said...

If we're going into Gerd Oswald territory, we might as well haul out Alexander Singer.

Jaime said...

Siren - very kind of you. Takes the starch out off my rebellious pose, but that's okay.

Do keep up with UE throughout 2010. Will cover the cinema all the way back to its infancy - a new list every three days. And like I said, 8-ish % uncool!

Yojimboen said...

Gerd Oswald’s A Kiss Before Dying is leagues better than the remake, and probably (then-cool) R. J. Wagner’s best performance.

As usual, you’re right, M VW, TCM does alter our perspectives. Case in point: I used to think Howard Keel was the best musical leading man in H’wood history – his IMDb bio calls him “the John Wayne, Errol Flynn and Clark Gable of movie musicals”; for me his magnificent voice and stature were the tent poles of not only Seven Brides but also Calamity Jane; Kismet; Kiss Me Kate; Show Boat; Annie Get Your Gun and a half-dozen others…

There was no bigger fan than me.
Until last week.

Watching Robert Osborne’s re-broadcast of his Betty Hutton interview I learned to my shock and awe of her cruel treatment on the set of Annie Get Your Gun. Cast and crew behaved as if it was her fault their beloved Judy had to be replaced. According to the interview, after solo numbers, when anyone who’s ever been on a stage knows it’s customary (obligatory in musicals) for cast and crew to offer at least a polite round of applause, she got nothing. After finishing a song, her fellow-workers turned their backs in silence.

Granted, Betty Hutton was somewhat flaky, and a grain of salt may be called for, but if even if it’s only half-true, even one-tenth true (likely it is, she never worked with any of them ever again), then Howard Keel, Louis Calhern, Keenan Wynn - and most of all George Sidney for allowing such cruelty - are now and forever irrevocably uncool.

pj said...

My uncool movies -
'Cleopatra','The Alamo','Four For Texas',and both versions of 'The Parent Trap'. Tell no one.
I believe my list has big stars and crappy genres, so I'm happy about that. I still think the title 'Four For Texas' refers to only two of the stars of the movie, Liz Taylor naked and squirming occupies a very large portion of my brain, John Wayne doesn't look good in a coonskin cap, and Lilo and Hayley both own me. As I said before, tell no one.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Ah yes, Alexander Singer -- director of the ineffable Love Has Many Face-Lifts.

Here's a scene from the dubbed German version of that Lana Turner classic.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Take it with more than a grain of salt Yojimboen. When the film was finally revived and screened at the Academy EVERYONE came -- except Betty.

She was brilliant but a real piece of work. Everyone had toruble with her -- except Preston Sturges. He got on her wavelength and made her fell not only loved but valued.

X. Trapnel said...

Ken Russell's Delius biopic A Song of Summer is far and away the best of a rather dubious lot (though the Vaughan Williams documentary is quite good), but Delius's early life when he was palling around in Paris with Munch and Strindberg would have made a more enjoyable film. Delius' music of course is way beyond cool; a big influence on Bernard Herrmann too.

The Siren said...

David E, I was about to say the same thing re: Betty Hutton. She was the picture of wholesomeness on screen (and would be an excellent entry here, except she sets my teeth on edge in most things) but from what I have read her offscreen persona was a whole different ball of wax.

Charles, does Lair of the White Worm count? I love that batty movie.

PJ, I should have listed Hayley Mills. My uncool Mills passion: The Moonspinners, with young handsome Peter McEnery.

Maltydog said...

The Paramount Alice in Wonderland (with W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty and many other Paramount stars) is coming out on DVD on March 2 from Universal.


cgeye said...

Confession time: I sorta dissed Miss Shirley J. back when I was wee, because I had the biggest pash for Jack Cassidy, I mean the *biggest*. I watched HE & SHE for him, not the redoubtable couple. For a moment, I thought at last that David Cassidy had aged into his dad's look, but alas, that was someone else in the final scenes of UP IN THE AIR... but I digress.

As for Shaun, I knew that boy Wasn't Right with his showrunning AMERICAN GOTHIC... and praise "Bob" for that....

The Man Who Knew Too Much? The English version does not lean upon Stewart or Day's sappier image tropes-- that married couple sins by being damn near a pentagon, with all the poly-energy wafting about, and the kid pays for it. Modern marriages, indeed...

As for Miss Kidman, she had me at MALICE, the most pre-Code pic of the 90s -- a bad woman from a bad family (Hi, Miss Bancroft!), playing the saps for all they're worth, stepping up to the plate to kill a disabled child, and Mr. Baldwin in his final man-candy days. Now that's quality.

And Costner bought a freighter of slack with NO WAY OUT; that charm is missed, truly. MR. BROOKS even made William Hurt seem like a fun boy, and any film that features gutting Dane Cook is performing a service for the nation.

Miss S., of *course* LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM counts, as does *ahem* CRIMES OF PASSION (as well as Mr. Oswald's CRIME OF PASSION, for that matter). Whether it be Miss Donohue, Turner or Stanwyck wielding the uncomfortable object, these films show that these dames are certainly in charge. Those films and CAGED would be a respectable night's viewing for those needing Sapphic refreshment.

Speaking of which -- And what of Lilo? I think her early career surpasses Miss Mills, and probably everyone's up to Miss Taylor's. I'm sorta glad she's hitting her rough patch now, as long as she can pull herself up and start charting what she wants in a mature career, with better people in her chosen family. If Drew Barrymore can do it, so can she....

Karen said...

cgeye, LiLo is kind of heartbreaking, isn't she? I agree: her work in the Parent Trap remake definitely flirts with surpassing Hayley, and she's brilliant in Mean Girls and Freaky Friday and a host of her other early work. And then: SMASH!

My best friend James wanted Meryl Streep to take LiLo in hand after A Prairie Home Companion and teach her how to be a mensch in Hollywood, but it appears not to have occurred. I really wonder if she's going to survive to an age where she can bounce back like Drew....

The Siren said...

Bill, that is such good news!

Re: LiLo -- She is talented although she can't hold a candle to Hayley in my affections. The last couple of times I saw pap shots of her she seemed much less rough. I always do root for second acts in Hollywood lives so here's hoping she has one.

Charles Monagan said...

I suppose Ken Russell's entire body of feature work would be considered uncool at this point, but I have special affection for "The Music Lovers" and "The Devils," where he really transitioned from a lucid approach into nearly constant hysteria. In the former, especially, you could sense him wanting to hold onto the temperate tone of his distinguished BBC run, but then deciding, "Nah, let's blow people's heads off with cannonballs." And the things he made Richard Chamberlain and Glenda Jackson do!!

Eurappeal said...

I have and always shall be a Doris Day fan. Teacher's Pet, Pillow Talk, Glass Bottom Boat (boy, did I have a crush on Rod Taylor), Midnight Lace, Love Me or Leave Me, Young at Heart, That Touch of Mink, the Gordon MacRae movies .... She's a great-looking Amazon, a wonderful singer, is funny, and has anyone ever done indignant better than Doris? Her indignant squeals and sobs are fantastic. And off-screen she cares for animals.

Groggy Dundee said...

>Anatole Litvak.

Have you seen Night of the Generals?

Groggy Dundee said...

>I also think David Lean's ''Ryan's Daughter'' is a major film masterpiece, flawed as it is and that's still an uncool opinion, I think.

It's much less flawed than Dr. Zhivago, which has a much better reputation.

The Siren said...

Groggy: Sure have, and enjoyed the hell out of it.

Brian Doan said...

David, thanks for letting me know about Cahiers and Under Capricorn-- I really love the movie, so that's cool to know. And I read Rohmer and Chabrol's book on Hitchcock years and years ago, but didn't remember them mentioning the film. Damn faulty memory...

Siren, if you want to see the '33 Alice before it hits DVD, YouTube has it here, broken into several parts.

cgeye-- Cassidy is really wonderful in HE & SHE, isn't he? I read they wanted him for Ted Baxter on Mary Tyler Moore, too, but he turned it down. But gosh, he's funny on the earlier show.

Great comments thread! My netflix queue is growing by the minute.

X. Trapnel said...

Whatever his other qualities, the least cool actor by any definition of the word or concept has got to be (I've thought hard about this) Robert Young.

Karen said...

X.T., I'll see your Robert Young and raise you a Bob Cummings.

Donna said...

Goose, Valentino, not cool??? :-(
Not always wonderful, okay, but not cool? Jeez, he even made a lovely film with the recently declared cool Clarence Brown. Do his smashing good looks count for nothing in these parts? ;-)

The Siren said...

Is poor George Brent out of the running? Little Georgy, cool at last?

The Siren said...

And Valentino is definitely cool in the Siren's book. Monte Blue, not so much in his leading-man stage.

HowardF said...

Robert Young is pretty exceptional in "They Won't Believe Me" and "H.M. Pulham, Esq." He wasn't bad in some other movies like "Crossfire" and though he was mostly a straight man or leading man in films like "Sitting Pretty,' I never felt he disgraced himself. He was, at worst, bland.
Robert Cummings, on the other hand, is hopeless, insipid. Why Hitchcock used him twice is one of the great mysteries.

Goose said...

I think Valentino is not cool, in that his style of acting can all too easily be excerpted into ludicrousness. Especially by those who have not seen the movies. I am not saying he deserves uncoolness, but sticking up for him is an exercise in uncoolness.

He was quite good in Four Horsemen and Son of the Sheikh, for example.

But George Btrent can never be cool, having been saddled as giving solid emotional support to powerhouse actresses, and often without sex appeal on screen at that. More cool than Philip Terry, however.

Word verification = ectivene, a pill for intestinal cramps.

The Derelict said...

My uncool favorites have already been mentioned for the most part: Doris Day, Shirley Jones, Betty Hutton (apparently sunny, singing blondes are uncool, heh), but I thought I'd throw out "Gidget" as an uncool movie that I love.

I think the ultimate uncool movie, though, is "The Sound of Music." I don't care how many times Pauline Kael is quoted at me, I will love that movie until the day I die.

Also, re: Doris Day, I remember in college film classes (this would be early 2000s) it was very uncool to like Doris Day and Frank Capra. Which basically meant I was the most uncool undergrad at the University of Michigan for awhile, heh. It makes me happy to see Miss Day getting her due with the recent reappraisal of her work.

Vanwall said...

George Brent and Bob Cummings have cool moments....just. Cummings was very popular back in the day and so was cool then, Brent as well, and I can take either one in a pinch. Brent's voice saves him a little for me, but not Cummings' - his was a little like a breathless tattle-tale. Cummings had a semi-cool temperature range for me, whereas Bob Young is too much a cypher. Cummings moved well, and wore H'wood outfits nicely, and I still think that boyish lock of hair that invariably flopped loose was a draw of some kind, altho for the life of me, I can't name why.

Donna said...

Siren, the Paramount Alice in Wonderland IS coming out on DVD in March. Hideous cover art, but it IS the 1933 film with Charlotte Henry. I await it, as well. How they could hide Cary Grant in all his gloriousness as the Mock Turtle is beyond me.

Yojimboen said...

“(I've thought hard about this)” With respects, X, not hard enough.

M VW, “Bob Young a cipher”? What was the name of that six-foot four tree stump who appeared with him in Marcus Welby? James something? Now that was a cipher.
He made Young look like Olivier.

Charles Monagan said...

Was Cary Grant referring to his own "Alice in Wonderland" role when, a few years later in "His Girl Friday" he admonished the hapless fugitive by calling him a "mock turtle"? Otherwise, it's a taunt that makes absolutely no sense. And, by the way, as to uncool actors, my Oscar goes to Tim Holt.

Uncle Gustav said...

Bob Cummings was in My Living Doll, coolest of the uncool (TV division).

The Siren said...

Charles, that is what I ALWAYS thought because you're right, it doesn't make sense otherwise. He sobbed his way through the "Beautiful Soup" song. And don't forget another crime against male beauty, casting Gary Cooper as the White Knight! I still wanna see it again though.

Derelict, the ultra-cool Flickhead also digs The Sound of Music and I have to admit I watch it many times, for Christopher Plummer. Soooo sexy in that era. And Eleanor Parker. They cut her song, damn it. But you are right, despite endorsements from you and Flickhead it is the most uncool blockbuster in movie history.

Karen said...

But George Btrent can never be cool, having been saddled as giving solid emotional support to powerhouse actresses, and often without sex appeal on screen at that.

Yes, the later Brent was exactly that. But check him out in Week-end Marriage or Living on Velvet or Female or Lilly Turner or....

fregan said...

I'm way too old to have an opinion on what's cool and what's not, but I don't think I'm the oldest person to comment here by a long shot. However, I did see Mother Wore Tights when it first came out and I was one of the ten or twelve people who saw Heaven's Gate during it's first run in New York. I still remember the hollow echoing emptiness in the theater as the movie moved into its fourth hour. I also saw the recut 2 1/2 hour version about 6 months later in a similarly empty theater. I thought the original was a masterpiece. I still do. and not a "flawed" masterpiece either, just a long one. A very long masterpiece which was not given a chance in a very impatient age. But then I never did finish In Search of Lost Time either because I didn't give it the time it needed from me. I watch Heaven's Gate all the way through every now and then. Keep urging people to see it, Siren. It's worth the time.

hamletta said...

Oh, y'all don't know how happy you've made me with the news about the Paramount Alice in Wonderland! I've been obsessed with all things Alice since I was a tiny girl, and that movie's been like the Holy Grail for me!

The release is undoubtedly timed to coincide with the release of Tim Burton's version, which has me quivering with antici—pation.

But back to the list: I've seen no mention of Costner in Fandango, his breakthrough role. I fell madly in love with him in that movie, and it's been so long, I have trouble reconciling him with the limp dishrag he seems to be now.

I just picked up his Robin Hood in the bargain bin at KMart the other night, but I was going for My Man Alan Rickman. What a mess!

You're right that Rickman's in a whole other movie. And this being the early ’90s, the Merrie Men are all dressed like The Alarm. I was wondering when they'd all strap on guitars and belt out a heartening rock anthem with the Celtic mercenaries playing bagpipes.

What could be cooler than Granger or Keel in tights? Granger and Keel in tights, that's what!

Speaking of male pulchitrude, I know Brent was all wood(!) as an actor, but damn, that man was hot! Every time I see him, I totally get why he managed to schtup every woman in Hollywood.

Vertigo's Psycho said...

I have to bring up Hayley Mills in Tiger Bay, even if she's cool, with no reservations, in it (it's one of the great child performances).

cgeye said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hamletta said...

How about Margaret O'Brien? My mom & I used to have a running joke: "Hey, look! It's Margaret O'Brien! And she's crying!"

Her Tootie in Meet Me In St. Louis is morbidly perverse, just like I was at that age, and in my town, we had the scary-crazy neighbor whose house on Halloween was a dare.

She's also a hot mess in The Enchanted Garden, which is a joy. Li'l Dean Stockwell has trouble keeping up with her, though he was adorable.

And she's quite good in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, a very uncool Family Film that could easily have been treacly dreck, but is awesome, with Edward G. Robinson and Agnes Moorehead as her parents.

cgeye said...

Robert Young suffered for being a backup for Robert Montgomery -- how can you get out from under being a contract negotiation threat?

As for Bob Cummings, uncool? Aw, HELL no -- You sit down for a double feature of THE BLACK BOOK and KINGS ROW, *then* tell me he doesn't have the chops. In fact, I'd be right pleased to own TBB, for the fierceness vogues between him and Richard Basehart (who defrosted after LA STRADA and TENSION) alone.

And as for George Brent, he's stone... (like hot stones for a back massage.... I'm back.) I hope to find an oddity as rare as Bogart's THE RETURN OF DR. X in his filmography -- something, anything, to show me he could shake it up and pop the cork, so to speak....

Charles Matthews said...

I don't think anyone has mentioned the uncoolest film of all time: The Sound of Music. It's as irresistible as a package of Twinkies.

Karen said...

cgeye, I'll say it again--watch Lilly Turner. Brent definitely pops the cork.

Exiled in NJ said...

Jack Cassidy will always be my favorite Columbo foil. He finishes a nose ahead of Patrick McGoohan. And of all the episodes, "Now You See Him, Now You Don't" is almost a perfect distillation of the series.

How can we leave Michael Douglas off this list? The man is almost late Olivier redivus, acting in anything for a paycheck, but I have such a love of The War of the Roses.

Will Melanie Griffith ever be cool? We were watching The Birds (a Hitch that started uncool because it followed Psycho but now ???) and at one spot, Tippi's voice morphed into her daughter's helium screed. Watch that voice go undercover in A Stranger Among Us, or be paired with Mr. Take-a-check in Shining Through. But give her credit, her gum chewing is perfect in Working Girl, and she adds a wonderful semi-cameo in Nobody's Fool.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Ken Russell is of course a world unto himself. He won my heart forever in 1971 when Ken Russell's Film on Tchaikovsky and The Music Lovers (it's full and proper title, was released and shorty; followed by The Devils his masterpiece, and one of the greatest political films ever made) and The Boy Friend. The next year brought Savage Messiah (with Helen Mirren amking an unforgettable entrance -- throwing a bomb.) Then there was a falling off, which is to be expected. It's amazing he was able to make what he did when he could.

Of his BBC films my fave is Isadora: The Biggest Dander in the World. I live in hope of seeing Dance of the Seven Veils.

Oh and The Lair of the White Worm is teriffic fun. Who can resis Amanda Donahoe luring Boy Scouts to their doom, or Catherin Oxenberg suspended over a snake pit while Hugh Grant looks more confused than ever?

X. Trapnel said...

In the Matter of Robert Young: The enigma of RY is that we're never sure what he was meant to be. Our Bob was intended as a "light" leading man suitable for comedy. Robert Y, in Halliwell-speak was probably supposed to be a "dependable" leading man, but it was never clear what we (or the leading lady) were supposed to depend on him for. Think of that (publicity?) shot of him (pipe wielding) with the other two Roberts in Crossfire as a tableau vivant of the mystery.

George Brent (without inky moustache) showed possibilities of cool in 42nd Street. By the way has anyone taken note of the gorgeous love theme (instrumental) from the latter? Pity Al Dubin never supplied words.

Karen said...

Melanie Griffith is AWESOMELY cool in Working Girl and semi-cool in Something Wild. Since then she's mostly just been creepy.

Speaking of mostly: I mostly wanted to post so I could type in the VW: logglam. I think that describes some of our leading ladies and even a few leading men (I'm looking at you, late period George Brent).

X. Trapnel said...

Distillation of every Columbo episode:

1. (Cooly)"Yes, Lieutenant; I believe I can fit you into my schedule next Thursday."
2. (Cordially) "Lieutenant, you'll have my full cooperation. Contact me any time."
3. (Overly friendly) "Columbo, I find this investigation fascinating! Now, I think the murderer would have..."
4. (Distracted) "Uh, yes, Columbo, I'll try to fit you into my schedule next Thursday."
5. (Exasperated) "What is it NOW, Columbo?"
6. (Enraged) "Columbo, can't you see I have GUESTS!?"
7. (Smugly) "Yes, Columbo; I killed Miranda, but you haven't any proof." (Proof is produced.)
8. (Angry, bitter)"You must be pretty pleased with yourself Columbo. (C. delivers zinger; 2nd level leading man from 60s/early70s is led away in cuffs)

Exiled in NJ said...

This is one of the better pieces I wrote for a mystery newsletter.

I love Falk/Columbo popping up in Wings of Desire. When he lets Bruno Ganz in on his secret, it sent chills up my back the first time I heard it.

Peter L. Winkler said...

I nominate Marjorie Morningstar. Natalie Wood is borderline awful as an actress, but it doesn't matter because Gene Kelly is so damn good as the charming, self-loathing failed artist, Noel Airman, and Everett Freeman's script and handling of Airman's character is surprisingly intelligent. I wish Kelly had had more opportunities to play dramatic roles beside this film and in Inherit the Wind.

X. Trapnel said...

Y, I wasn't suggesting that Robert Young was not a good actor; he's quite decent. One way of understanding "cool" is that defines an enviable manner or way of being. So I ask you, Y: just what is it about Robert Young that's so different, so appealing? (hat tip to Richard Hamilton).

cgeye said...

Thanks. Got my reminder set up on TCM -- March 15th...

Tom Block said...

>As for Bob Cummings, uncool? Aw, HELL no -- You sit down for a double feature of THE BLACK BOOK and KINGS ROW, *then* tell me he doesn't have the chops.

I was getting ready to post exactly this but cgeye saved me the trouble of typing it all out; I was flabbergasted to find out Cummings could actually have some weight to him.(Anthony Mann's The Black Book aka Reign of Terror is terrific, BTW--both a great period movie and a great action movie. A major character's demise at the end is nightmarish--unforgettable.)

cgeye said...

One could pen a lengthy disquisition on how the new hottie Methodists of the '50s and '60s simmered down to the reliable background resource of A Quinn Martin Production.

Just looking at the cast of THE STRANGE ONE and knowing they have their futures of playing the Guest Star Doctor With A Drinking Problem or the Tough Trucking Boss Threatening the Little Guy guides one to a peculiar tristesse, just as watching Madeleine Sherwood play down and dirty in her Tennesee Williams movies does when you recall her mortgage work in THE FLYING NUN....

Yojimboen said...

Trying not to be too fatuous here, X (you think it’s easy being the house curmudgeon?); R. Young I never found that objectionable, apologies if I misunderstood your intent; I eagerly grabbed for the opportunity to unburden a long-held annoyance that certain so-called actors succeed in the biz when their sole discernible talent is that they are tall and sort of handsome. James Brolin I would submit is the absolute apotheosis of this phenomenon; but I would also include Robert Montgomery, and yes, sorry ladies, Gregory Peck, the master mahogany-slab. Not to say I don’t love many of the films these… tall people… have appeared in, but it’s despite, not because of them.

Different topic: DavidE, I have Dance of the Seven Veils, you’re welcome to a copy.

X. Trapnel said...


Yes Gregory Peck and, say, C. Heston are wooden, but where the former is a tree the latter is lumber.

Robert Young is thoroughly unobjectionable (as against S.A. Brugh, a smirking cloud of vacuousness interposing itself between the radiance of Margaret Sullavan and my line of vision). Like white rice.

Peck's woodenness becomes unintentionally comic when it splinters several time in Capt. Newman MD (cf. "My sheep!?" and "But Cushy Flynn is a patient!!). Now, I happen to like Gregory Peck, but bring him together with an exclamation point and the result will be unfortunate.

Duncan Mitchel said...

One Susan Hayward film I want to see again -- I saw it at least twice on TV as a young fagling, and always adored it -- is The President's Lady. I don't think I've seen much else by her. Barbara Stanwyck I knew only from her late TV series (The Big Valley?) but as an adult I've become enamored of her, from Stella Dallas to Double Indemnity to The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. I guess Stanwyck is cool, though.

"But nevertheless that is what makes film so much fun and enjoyable- not everyone has to like the same things ..." I agree, but I think that's true not just of movies but of everything: movies, books, music, visual art, food, people. And one of the biggest mistakes (many? some?) critics make is the idea that any such thing is objectively and demonstrably good or bad.

HowardF said...

Even the most wooden actors have one good performance in them. If you have ever seen "The Rains Came" with Myrna Loy and Tyrone Power, George Brent is elegantly world-weary in that film. Loy, by the way, was never better in an uncharacteristic role, as a bitch.

X. Trapnel said...

I'm not sure that George Brent is wooden, so much as unpleasant. One thing he has in common with Warner Baxter and S.A. Brugh is a crankiness/irritability signaled by rogue strand of hair detaching itself from the oily triangular mainland.

Yojimboen said...

Forever my favourite display of ‘Peck’s Bad Boy’ is when he upbraids David Niven in Navarone and gives him the ‘suck it up and get the job done!’ speech. That particular series of exclamation points makes me dissolve in girlish giggles.

P.S. No matter how much we’ve razzed Bob Cummings this past year, I’m forced to admit Our Bob was always super-cool.

X. Trapnel said...

No Y. So uncool as to be cool doesn't count. When I think of Our Bob I think of the reaction of one of Chekhov's characters to an unwanted/uninteresting gift: "Yes, it is...a thing"

Charles Monagan said...

And who can forget the droll, dapper, wooden-as-a-telephone-pole Bob ("Brylcream") Cummings of "Love That Bob," the sitcom about the femme-ogling bachelor photographer living with his sister, Rosemary DeCamp? Who could have guessed he had such a gift for humor? Certainly not his darkroom sidekick Schultzy (Ann B. Davis), who ably parried his every comic thrust.

X. Trapnel said...

Charles M.,

You must be a newcomer; we had a carnival of Bob bashing last year; no turn unstoned, LTB in particular. But glad to have you join the party.

X. Trapnel said...

And Brylcreem Bob has nothing on Rustoleum Robert [Brugh].

Cyndi said...

I'm new here, but I'm a HUGE fan of your site, and can no longer be a passive lurker!

Let me be the first to say that the uncool Bob Hope, in his pre-1950s films, is tres cool. I love and adore him, especially in Road to Morocco, The Ghost Breakers and The Cat and the Canary.

Bing Crosby on the other hand? Still uncool.

Exiled in NJ said...

"Well, son... your bystanding days are over! You're in it now, up to your neck! They told me that you're a genius with explosives. Start proving it!"

Navarone also has Anthony Quayle, a man whose expression always gives me the impression he was severly constipated.

Yojimboen said...

Thanks, Exiled...
A little warning next time?
I had to go change my pants.

Vanwall said...

My favorite Greg Peck role is Stretch, in "Yellow Sky" - this was the kind of role he was born for, that and the "Twelve O'Clock High" style of standing tall and taking it regardless. Like Heston, his acting was less stilted early on, very cool stuff. Heston's highest moment of cool for me is his Harry Steele, in "Secret of the Incas" - his ur-Indy was frozen nitrogen compared with the later, lesser imitation that was Jones.

Yojimboen said...

C. Heston? Okay, I was hoping never to tell this one (it’s hideously sad or hilarious – depending on your level of humanism) but you’re making me do this: The nadir of unter-sub-uncoolness happened about 20 years ago; Charlton Heston elected to make a TV version of Treasure Island, perhaps as a favour to his son, Fraser Heston, who directed it. It’s actually not a bad movie; Olly Reed chews off a mainmast or two, Chistopher Lee is unrecognizable as Blind Pew and the ever polite young Christian Bale does a creditable Jim Hawkins. Anyway, for some reason, Heston pere et fils decided Long John Silver should be bald – no problem; at the time there must have been three people in the world who didn’t know Chuck Heston wore a piece most of his career, so whip off the piece, dad, strap on the wooden leg and Long John lives!

Not so fast, son. (And I had this from someone who worked the show) Chuck H. decided to pursue the fiction.
He had them make a bald piece to fit over his hair-piece.
I kid you not. Uncool enough?

Vanwall said...

M Yo - yeah, Heston became something other, a sad thing. As I mentioned, fresh off the grill is best with his performances.

Charles Monagan said...

How about uncool William Hurt as the modern version of classically uncool Gregory Peck? Both are tall, rather wooden, with expressions tending to run from pained to quite pained. Both are at their worst when attempting foreign accents, which they nonetheless do, or did, with alarming frequency. Both now have played Captain Ahab, not exactly a cool cat himself (and literally, at least in part, made of wood). Peck got to be in better movies, I suppose, but Hurt, not yet 60, may still have a "Boys From Brazil" in him yet (or at least we can hope).

panavia999 said...

STEWART GRANGER: You have mentioned two of my all time fave Granger films: "Saraband for Dead Lovers" and "The Last Hunt". There is also "Blanche Fury", one of the great melodramas of all time in gorgeous color with Valerie Hobson. I also like "Harry Black and the Tiger" from 1958.

Dave said...

1) I just have never gotten the appeal of Doris Day*. She's like the female Danny Kaye for me: I can see why people would like her; I just don't fall into that camp.

(*I like her a lot in "It's a Great Feeling," a lot of that is due to Jack Carson doing the heavy lifting.)

2) Gene Kelly. It's a shame Metro never lent him out to Paramount or Warners to do a private eye picture. I think he would have rivaled the incomparable Dick Powell.

3) Heston is a stiff. But put him in something where he can chew the scenery, and he can't be touched.

4) I can't imagine Louis Calhern being mean to anyone -- even Betty Hutton. Every time I see him, I love him more.

Dave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meredith said...

I love the 1940s P&P as well. One defense of the plot changes is that the film apparently takes its script from a play of the book and not a straight book adaptation so some of those things may have already been monkeyed with. I just love the light hearted comedy of it and don't care if Greer Garson was too old she made a great Elizabeth. Same goes for naysayers of Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility. She was that character for me.

gmoke said...

Gary Giddins wrote a biography of Bing Crosby in which he proffers the argument that Bing was the first really hip white guy. Certainly his early singing work shows some signs of that and look at him, even at the end of his career, with his old friend and somewhat mentor Louis Armstrong to see what fun is. In the Whiteman Band, Bing worked with Bix Beiderbecke and Jack Teagarden. That's gotta be cool.

He was also a mean, mean drunk. Trés uncool.

Karen said...

gmoke, I get what you're saying about Der Bingle, but somehow his aggressive hipness--the constant use of hepcat slang in his later musical roles, for instance--always seemed to be a measure of his absolute uncoolness. All that Daddyo slang coming out of that staggeringly WASPy face is like the 1940s/1950s equivalent of Sean Connery's endlessly-mocked "You're the man now, dog!"

I cringe every time I hear Bing flaunt his jive self.

WV: ingst. If only it were Bingst, to convey my Bing angst.

DavidEhrenstein said...

You do, Yojimboen? FABULOUS! Write me at

Karen said...

If you have ever seen "The Rains Came" with Myrna Loy and Tyrone Power, George Brent is elegantly world-weary in that film.

Bingo! That was actually the first film in my George Brent-reassessment journey.

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