Rick’s Journal (MY FILM CAREER)

I checked into Turner Classic Movies because The Desert Song was scheduled, and I felt like hearing Gordon MacRae sing the title song and “One Alone.”  I had never seen this 1953 version, but knew I could trust his singing.

I was in for a surprise.

The Desert Song is an expensive production, much of it shot outdoors against desert sands and rolling dunes.  It also contains some careful and admirable matting.  “The Riff Song” is not only a production number.  It is a cinematic production number.  MacRae’s “The Desert Song” is obviously lipsynched to his own recording, but his timing is good, and he delivers the lyrics with great feeling.

Those Unfortunate Unfunny Funny Men.  The one fly in this sumptuous ointment is the supposedly funny journalist.  The character is in the play, but in the play he does not war against the romance of the tale and its romantic setting.  This crass, coarse American stereotype figures in thousands of Hollywood movies starting from the twenties, perhaps even earlier.  He often takes the form of a regular sidekick, like Gabby Hayes for Roy Rogers or Smiley Burnette for Gene Autry.  Watching such films today, one sees Roy Rogers, an instinctive performer whose acting doesn’t date at all, alongside Hayes who is not funny but embarrassing, especially in the writing.  This kind of figure, actually played well here by Dick Wesson, is particularly offensive in foreign settings where he perfectly exemplifies American chauvinism and exceptionalism.  You can see his descendants on television’s The Amazing Race where they specialize in disgust at the food of other nations.

The Desert Song
H. Bruce Humberstone

NEXT POST Friday,October 11 featuring Part Two of SERENDIPIDTY, another gift from an earlier Hollywood, this one from 1948.

COMING SOON TO THE SCREEN NEAREST YOU: a discussion of five films exhibited at this year’s Fall Cinsesation during the last week of September in Massillon, Ohio.

Until next time,


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