MORE SHORT TAKES — FROM AN EARLIER HOLLYWOOD

Rick’s Journal    —    MY FILM CAREER

Continuing Rick’s Flicks’ diary format for informal, personal observations which, though not in the form of a review or discussion, we hope you still find useful:

Lord Love A Duck
George Axelrod
1966
screenplay by Larry H. Johnson & George Axelrod
from a novel by Al Hine

Leonard Maltin:  “Film wavers uncomfortably between comedy and drama at times…Terrific performances in movie that was ahead of it time.”

A strange, original and funny comedy with a campus setting.  The great Roddy McDowell, the coal miner’s son and Lassie’s master, has grown up, dwells a lot on sex and sports his trimness in tight white cottons.  His mannered feyness is perfect for his nerdy role (supposedly nerdy).  Tuesday Weld is fine in her ditzy part, and Ruth Gordon has the other mother in the story down pat.

How Green Was My Valley

Lassie Come Home

At play with Elizabeth Taylor (from the book “A Pictorial Biography of Elizabeth Taylor” by Larissa Branin))

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Away From Her
Sarah Polley
screenplay by Sarah Polley
2006
from a short story by Alice Munro, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”

I was never partial to Julie Christie in her heyday.  I never understood all the excitement .  I was astonished when she won the Academy Award.  (But I didn’t know then as much as I do now about Academy bizarros.)  I never found her especially attractive.  But she was beautiful last night in Away From Her.  And she and co-star Pinsent give two of the most heart wrenching performances I can remember.  They cease being actors and become people for us.  I bled for these characters.

The staff at the assisted living residence to which the husband finally takes his wife seem little concerned for spouses and relatives.  Is this common?  How much did the writer/director want us to make of this?  I would like to have seen more of the husband at home alone after his wife’s Alzheimer’s disease has forced him to the decision he makes.  What does he do?  What is his life like without his beloved Fiona?  But this was not the film the filmmakers wanted.

Rick’s Journal acknowledges the excellence of Christie’s performance as Queen Gertrude in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet.

Valley, Lassie and Hamlet photos from Google public domain images.

NEXT FRIDAY POST July 20

Until then,
See you AT the movies,
Rick

 

 

 

MORE FROM 40s HOLLYWOOD — AND VIVIEN LEIGH NEWS

Rick’s Journal    —    MY FILM CAREER

Variety Girl
George Marshall
1947
original songs by Frank Loesser

The exposition delivered in the first scene by Joan Caulfield and Barbara Stanwyck is so clumsy that I was ready to give the film up.  But I stayed, became engrossed and,  finally, delighted.

The highpoint for me this view around was the same as when I saw the initial release of Variety Girl:  Alan Ladd and Dorothy Lamour are sensational introducing the song Tallahassee.  (It would become a hit and be recorded by the Andrews Sisters with Bing Crosby.)  Dorothy Lamour is in general a surprisingly vibrant presence in the film.  Once the jungle princess cast off her sarong, she became an effervescent  charmer.

the Andrews Sisters with Bing Crosby

The slim plot is, of course, an excuse for promoting as many stars of the Paramount lot as could be reasonably accomodated.  The character of the studio boss (Frank Ferguson) is funny; and so is the running gag which has our heroine Catherine Brown (Mary Hatcher), aka Amber LaVonne,  somehow always involving him in water:  a bucket; a pool, the sound stage river.  Olga San Juan is perfect, and hilarious, as the other Amber LaVonne.

At the end of a very brief skit Gary Cooper utters the best-timed “Giddyap” that anyone could imagine.  Robert Preston appears even more briefly but proves as sterling as always.  Billy De Wolfe does food again (remember “Meex meex, toss toss…”?)  Directors George Marshall and Mitchell Leisen play parts, have lines.  Cecil B. DeMille, on his set, is one hundred percent believable playing his arrogant self.

A young DeForest Kelley is pleasant  —  and super sexy!  DeForest Kelly!  —  as the other half of the young love interest.  Pearl Bailey sings I’m Tired. 

the great onscreen couple, Lake and Ladd, with Robert Preston

My disappointment came with seeing Veronica Lake, in an autograph-hound skit, enter on Alan Ladd’s arm  —  then never appearing again until the film’s candid curtain call.  ( She is still with Alan Ladd then  and gives the impression of needing him and being dependent on him.)

 

 

 

 

 

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Rick’s Flicks has added a PAGE to its FILE ON VIVIEN LEIGH

Click on Vivien Leigh up top here, then scroll down and click on “A Making Of…”.

NEXT FRIDAY POST July 6

Until then,
See you AT the movies,
Rick

HEADS UP! INTERIM POST: LESLIE HOWARD RIGHT NOW

Turner Classic Movies’ Star of the Month for June is LESLIE HOWARD.  Consult TCM’s “Now Playing” calendar online for titles, dates and times,

You will want to view Ginevra Di Verduno’s Leslie Howard blog (InafferrabileLeslieHoward@word.press.com)  for a splendid gallery of photographs which, in themselves, display the great star’s versatility  —  the Englishman who became one of Hollywood’s brightest stars in the 30s and was twice an Academy Award nominee. My readers who know Howard well but only as Vivien Leigh’s Ashley have a treat in store.  (See also Rick’s Flicks 4/25/12.)

Special Bonus.  At 4:30 A.M. on Tuesday June 19 TCM will show a documentary about the actor whose life and work were cut short by an untimely death, The Man Who Gave a Damn.

Leslie Howard in his Hollywood heyday

Recommended from the Howard canon by Rick’s Flicks:

BERKELEY SQUARE (1933, directed by Frank Lloyd).  The famous play, still a play, but featuring an outstanding Howard in one of his  two Academy Award nominations.

SECRETS (1933, directed by Frank Borzage).  Howard on the American frontier?  With Mary Pickford in her last film demonstrating that America’s Sweetheart was also a great actress.

IT’S LOVE I’M AFTER (1937, directed by Archie Mayo).  A romantic comedy.  Howard’s co-stars are Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland.

THE 49th PARALLEL (1941, directed by MICHAEL POWELL).  A suspenseful World War ll thriller.  Howard appears with Anton Walbrook and Laurence Olivier.

 

 

 

NEXT REGULAR POST Wednesday June 20

Until then,
See you before the TCM screen,
See you at the movies,
Rick

ASSORTED SHORT TAKES

RICK’S JOURNAL  —  MY FILM CAREER

Hollywood in the Teens and the Twenties:  Personal Reflections

The Bargain  —  Reginald Barker  —  1914

screenplay by William H. Clifford and Thomas Ince
with William S. Hart, J. Frank Burke and Clara Williams

This is a sophisticated production with good photography of interiors as well as exteriors.  There is a stunning Hitchcock-like pan within the Border Rest Cafe and Saloon.  Time is taken to develop all characters in this 75-minute western.  All performers are good, everyone having an acting edge on Hart himself despite all his experience (which, admittedly, was stage experience).

The Bargain is a visual story visually told.  An outstanding example:  As those who will arrest Two-Gun Jim are at the door to his room, others make known to him that they are at the window.  He hears that they are there.  In this silent world we, of course, do not.  But one of the two men we see through the window moves his hand ; and we know that he has made a sound that Jim hears.

The conclusion to the tale consists in a bargain between the sheriff and our outlaw Two-Gun hero who is trying to go straight.  For 1914 it makes for a shockingly cynical ending but a happy one for the romance.

The Grand Duchess and the Waiter  —  Malcolm St. Claire  —  1926

The Grand Duchess and the Waiter is a perfect example of those films I once heard Jean Renoir describe as the most beautiful films ever made.  He said this of the films made in Hollywood during the twenties.  This picture, chosen by the New York Times as one of the ten best of its year, is captivating, lovingly photographed, subtly acted, and meaningless.  It could not be more accomplished, but it amounts to nothing at all.

Adolph Menjou again proves himself the most subtle of silent actors, if never deviating from his screen persona.  Florence Vidor is every inch a duchess, and all the well-cast supporting players do dandy jobs.

Menjou ten years later in the famous STAGE DOOR

Almost all the fun is visual.  The script, however, lacks invention as it seeks to show how an inexperienced waiter can fail.  The happy conclusion is trite and based on the dime-store psychology that permeated American films of the era.  Love makes the world go round, even if it’s between two people who have only just met and know so little about each other that they cannot even know if they have anything in common.

Enchanting froth.

SECOND THOUGHTS;  Can I insist that the film mean something?  If this were a French film, would I see it as a charming comedy of manners and praise froth?

screenplay by Pierre Collings
adaptation by John Lynch, based on the play La Grande duchesse et le gar⊆on by Alfred Savoir
photography by Lee Garmes

NEXT “Friday” POST Wednesday June 20
Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

PREVALENCE

MOVIES ARE EVERYWHERE

including in fine books by good writers

Keller, Lawrence Block’s hit man, often surfs the channels while waiting in his motel room for his latest target to be accessible.

“He turned on the TV and worked his way through the channels, using the remote control bolted to the night stand.  Westerns, he decided, were like cops and cabs, never around when you wanted them.  It seemed to him that he never made a trip around the cable circuit without running into John Wayne or Joel McCrae or a rerun of Gunsmoke or Rawhide or one of those spaghetti westerns with Eastwood or Lee Van Cleef.  Or the great villains  —  Jack Elam, Strother Martin, the young Lee Marvin in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

“It probably said something about you, Keller thought, when your favorite actor was Jack Elam.”  But this time he found no western.  “He switched off the set.”

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Jack Elam
jpg photo

“He left unaccountably sad as always and returned to Manhattan.  He ate at a new Afghan restaurant and went to a movie.  It was a western, but not the sort of Hollywood classic he would have preferred.  Even after the movie was over, you couldn’t really tell which ones were the good guys.”

HIT MAN by Lawrence Block.  William Morrow, 1998

 

NEXT FRIDAY POST June 8

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

The Memphis Bell Is Back

THE MEMPHIS BELLE

Almy Stock Photo

The refurbished Memphis Belle will be unveiled this Thursday, May 17,  in the World War ll Gallery at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.  The fabled  plane was the star of William Wyler’s celebrated documentary of  1944..  The making of the film is presented in detail in Mark Harris’ s book Five Came Back.  See Rick’s Flicks post for 9/29/17.

The B-17 “Memphis Belle” and crew. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Acknowlegment:  Mitch Stacy, Associated Press

NEXT REGULAR FRIDAY POST May 24

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

NEWS AND OTHER

NEWS:  AMERICAN MOVIES NOW

In the May 4 issue of The Week Managing Editor Theunis Bates, on page 3, has a succinct but powerful editorial on where current films seem headed, or mostly NOT headed.  Check it out.

MOVIES ARE EVERYWHERE, ESPECIALLY IN GOOD BOOKS

Do you know Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer?  Check it out.

“Linda and I went out to a theater in a new suburb.  It was evident somebody had miscalculated, for the suburb had quit growing, and here was the theater, a pink stucco cube, sitting out in a field all by itself…After the movie Linda and I stood under the marquee and talked to the manager, or rather listened to him tell his troubles:  the theater was almost empty, which was pleasant for me but not for him.”

“Our neighborhood theater in Gentilly has permanent lettering on front of the marquee reading:  Where Happiness Costs So Little.  The fact is I am quite happy in a movie, even a bad movie.”

“Kate gives me a look  —  it is understood we do not speak during the movie.”

And can you imagine a better description of the later Gregory Peck?  “Toward her I keep a Gregory Peckish sort of distance.  I am a tall black-headed fellow and I know as well as he how to keep to myself, make my eyes fine and my cheeks spare, tuck my lip and say a word or two with a nod or two.”

Percy’s writing remains pitch-perfect as our anti-hero takes his new girl to visit his  young step-siblings:  “Marcia made too much of them, squatting down and hugging her knees like Joan Fontaine visiting an orphanage.”

And how about this, describing one of those questionable restorations and/or preservations:  “Back to the Loop where we dive into the mother and Urwomb of all moviehouses  —  an Aztec mortuary of funeral urns and glyphs, thronged with the   spirit-presences of another day.”

“O Tony, O Rory”  –

“For the record, here are the performers mentioned in Percy’s novel:  Charles Boyer, William Holden, Adolph Menjou, H.B. Warner, Richard Widmark, Dana Andrews, Clint Walker, Leo Carrol, Tony Curtis, Rory Calhoun, Joan Fontaine, Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, José Ferrer, Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, Jane Powell, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Joseph Cotten, Thomas Mitchell, Dick Powell, Gary Merrill, Veronica Lake, Paul Newman, Patsy Kelly, Charley Chase, Nelson Eddy, Akim Tamiroff, William Powell, Johnny Weismuller; and  —  would you believe?  —  Samuel S. Hinds, Edgar Kennedy and the most wooden actor in the history of Hollywood studios, George Brent.  (Well, maybe there is a three-way tie:  George Brent and Sterling Hayden and John Ireland.)

And here are the films mentioned in the novel:  The Ox-Bow Incident, Red River, Stagecoach, The Third Man, Fort Dobbs, Deep Waters, Panic in the Streets, It Happened One Night and All Quiet on the Western Front.  He also mentions a film he calls Holiday with Joseph Cotten.  I cannot find that film in my sources.  Do any of my readers know it?  Could he have meant The Halliday Brand?

THE MOVIEGOER by Percy Walker.  Knopf, 1961.  Check it out.

NEXT FRIDAY POST May 24

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick