RICK’S JOURNAL: My Film Career
THE LOSS OF ANN RUTHERFORD put me in mind of the evening two years ago when I traveled to Kent State University to hear her reminisce about her days in Hollywood. She was beautiful, gracious and kind. At 92 she fielded questions from the audience and showed us some film clips. Speaking of making Gone with the Wind she won my heart by devoting much of her comment to how hard Vivien Leigh worked. Vivien Leigh’s screen time compared with the running time of the film means that she worked almost every day of the six months’ shooting schedule — then alone, afterwards, for many retakes. Ann Rutherford gave us lots of information, and I question only her comment that all the cast were aware of how special a film they were making. Olivia de Havilland, however, said the same thing quite early on. —–Speaking of working with Judy Garland, Miss Rutherford again won this heart when she said she was an excellent actress and then made the simple statement, “She was THE best singer — EVER!” —- I was delighted that she spoke also about a personal favorite film of mine, Orchestra Wives, a conventional backstage musical made to feature the Glenn Miller orchestra and a handful of great hits. —- For encouragement in writing this entry, I am indebted to my usual collaborator BKG, to follower BEC and also to DMG.
The fact that lovely Ann was in Gone with the Wind means that she was once in a film with LESLIE HOWARD.
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LESLIE HOWARD PRAISE 2
At Cinevent in Columbus, Ohio in May I saw a Leslie Howard film new to me, Service For Ladies, directed by Alexander Korda (1932). Howard is Max, head waiter in an elegant London restaurant — except when he vacations on the continent. When an incognito king staying at the same resort recognizes him and calls out to him by his first name, the other guests surmise that Max too is incognito royalty. Mildly amusing complications ensue, especially since more than one woman at the resort is interested in Max.
Our print at Cinevent was dim and dark, so this lighthearted story was shorn of the bright light it needed. Most sequences seemed to get off to a slow start and to take too long winding down. The film also lacked the visual style one associates with Korda. Leslie Howard, perfectly cast, is the film’s real elegance.
Service for Ladies
– screenplay by Lajos Biro and Eliot Crawshay-Williams
-from the novel The Head Waiter by Ernest Vajda
-with Leslie Howard, Benita Hume, Elizabeth Allan, George
Grossmith and Martita Hunt as the Countess’ maid
Service for Ladies is one of the few Howard films not included in Turner Classic Movies’ July celebration of his ten-year Hollywood career. TCM’s magazine has a smashing cover picture of him. Moviegoers will not want to miss Stand-In (1937) showing on July 3. TCM is also offering the hard-to-see Berkeley Square (1933) on July 24.
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Treasures Found at Cinevent in Columbus, Ohio
Treasure #2 The Informer
A moody, atmospheric, gripping silent presentation of the familiar story. Lars Hanson as Gypo, with a somewhat immobile face, is less impressive than usual. Interestingly, he is better in the last scenes when everyone else isn’t. Sound was added to about the last third of the picture, and the film suddenly loses its power. De Putti as Katie is striking with expressive face and manner. Then she begins speaking, and the voice is all wrong — high-pitched and weak. These latter scenes are Hanson’s best despite the fact that he speaks in a labored way as if he’s working at sounding accentless.
Robert Bresson once more: “The TALKIE opens its doors to theatre which occupies the place and surrounds it with barbed wire.” (Notes on the Cinematographer, Copenhagen, Green Integer, 1997).
Carl Harbord is Frankie McPhillip, and Daisy Campbell has the crucial role of his mother. Ellen Pollock is good in the brief role of the telltale prostitute.
This is a powerful capturing of The Informer’s gloomy streets, secret rooms and dark hideouts.
NEXT POST June 29
See you at the movies,