CINESATION WRAP, FROM GEORGE RAFT TO EDDIE BRACKEN; FROM MAE WEST TO VERONICA LAKE

Night After Night is a cleverly written, gutsy film that goes the way of so many Hollywood films of the 30s, 40s and 50s  —  fizzling out to a limp and disappointing conclusion, often negating all that had gone before.  The Cinesation program note:  “a film that starts well and then pulls its punches.”

George Raft is well cast as a casino owner.  Allison Skipworth as his tutor is excellent and delightful.  He’s a hood who wants so much to be a gentleman that he’s taking lessons.  He falls hard for a “lady” but is faced with figures from his past:  gangster rivals and  —  as if they were not enough  —  Mae West, a former girl friend.  She is hilarious and touching in a strikingly human characterization.  The Cinesation audience roared its approval when ol’ Mae delivered her now classic response about her diamonds to the hat check girl.

Night After Night is based on a story by Louis Bromfield.  I have not read it and cannot know whether the film is faithful to the material.  Since the original is titled Single Night, there’s a suggestion of discordant perspective from the get-go.

Night After Night
Archie Mayo
1932

Eddie Bracken and Veronica Lake show a genius for comedy in Hold That Blonde.  It is a silly picture about a not very bright kleptomaniac becoming involved with jewel thieves, one of whom is Veronica Lake.  She is skillful, ruthless, not in the least mean, and adorably alluring.  Some of the slapstick scenes include so much gesturing, so much movement, so much ad libbing and overlapping dialogue that it becomes clear that much of what these two are doing (and it’s 1945!) is improvised.  I wish I could watch it again with a script in hand.  Outstanding work from these two is anything but unusual, but how much they appear to create on their own here is remarkable. ( See note from Rick’s Journal below.)

Hold That Blonde
George Marshall
1945

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Rick’s Journal (MY FILM CAREER)

Eddie Bracken died in 2002.  He was 87.  A short time before his death, I wrote him a long overdue fan letter.  I had admired his work for years, especially in Hail the Conquering Hero, and wanted to tell him so.  In his late 80s he found time to send me a signed photo.  He had written “Hi” and my name on it.

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Richard Roud on Jean-Luc Godard

“One cannot be sure that individual shots in a Godard film have been planned to create a special dramatic effect, but they always contribute to the mood and general tenor of the film.”  (I always wonder how much that we see as art might have been accidental and/or unintended.)

How many of Godard’s films have you seen?    How many have you been able to see?  “Several times in Godard’s career he has produced a film which summed up his previous work, consolidated his advances.  Vivre sa vie was such a one; Alphaville is another.  Now it is quite possible to prefer those films which strike out on new ground, films like Les Carabiniers or Une Femme mariée, or, indeed like Pierrot le fou.  Although obviously less perfect, they will be to some more interesting, more exciting.  It just depends how much importance one gives to experiment, how much to achievement.  To put it differently, whether one prefers romantic striving or classic perfection…The ultimate superiority of Alphaville lies not only in its more brilliantly achieved plastic beauty, but in the greater adequacy of its plot.  Without being too pompous about it, one could say that in this film more than any other, Godard has achieved the most complete degree of correlation between vehicle and content, between style and subject.”

Both quotations are from Richard Roud’s introduction (c by Lorrimer Publishing Ltd.)  to Peter Whitehead’s Alphaville, a film by Jean-Luc Godard, Simon and Schuster, 1968(?).

OUTSTANDING ACTING IN CURRENT FILMS:  James Franco in Spring Breakers, directed by Harmony Korine.

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NEXT FRIDAY POST November 8
Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

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