The Silver Chalice
The interesting thing about this film today is the credit “introducing Paul Newman.” This is 1954 so the credit comes at the beginning, and all is downhill from there. This is not a good movie, and the introduced actor (already highly regarded from television) who would become a giant star and a finer and finer actor is not good in it. He is disconcertingly contemporary, especially in his body language. Seeing the costume sketches for Quo Vadis, Robert Taylor said, “I’m not wearing a dress.” Paul Newman walks about as if he is uncomfortable wearing a dress.
As a renowned silversmith he has a smaller part than Jack Palance or Virginia Mayo. As the mad magician Simon, Palace has the best role and makes the most of it. Mayo is effective and exhibits real presence, but it is always the presence of an American showgirl. Pier Angeli and Alexander Scourbie (Luke) are unctuously smug as Christian converts,and Natalie Wood is precociously sexy in her two scenes. Lorne Greene, in his film debut, is strange and puzzling as Peter; but those stentorian tones are already present, and it is easy to imagine him preaching.
The stylized sets seem to strive for nowhere rather than for ancient Rome. More than anything else they look inexpensive.
* * * * *
A Thousand and One Nights
Alfred E. Green
This feast for our eyes could not be more of a Hollywood Arabia. The art direction, justly recognized by an Academy Award nomination, is a near Near Eastern dream of gold and green. The photography is rich and costly, and — with two brief exceptions — the matte shots are outstanding. But while the plotting is clever, all this magic is intentionally warred against by the anachronistic tone of the writing and playing. Evelyn Keyes is a slinky, vulgar genie called Babs (very consistent in her characterization). To her vulgar, Phil Silvers adds crass and New York, playing, as always, himself in a part tailored for him. (Cf. Rick’s Flicks blog of 10/4/13) for a discussion of Hollywood sidekicks.) Cornel Wilde was an extraodinarily handsome chap at this moment in his life and career, but I find the frequent mention of his looks embarrassing. While Adele Jurgens gives her usual perfect imitation of a Dresden china puppet, Rex Ingram is momentary fun as a genie giant.
Art direction, Stephen Goossón
Set decoration, Frank Tuttle
Costume design, Jean Louis
* * * * *
Howard Morris’ Favorites List
My comments on the last blog (5/16/14) gave two less than accurate impressions of the list of 9 favorite films from reader Howard Morris. I wrote that Mr. Morris was trying to decide among several choices for the 10th spot on his list. What he has actually written in correspondence is that he has many runners-up to his list (he enumerates them), but that he is not ready for any of those to be his number 10. He awaits another film.
And in pointing out with interest that both his list and the other list submitted at the same time by Corinna Nelson contained several musicals, I indicated that Singin’ in the Rain heads Ms. Nelson’s list because it is her favorite film but that Top Hat is first on the other list because it is first chronologically. But Howard Morris writes that his all-time favorite is The Music Man; so both those readers’ lists do indeed cite musicals as number one favorites.
* * * * *
REMINDER FOR ALL OHIO NORTHEASTERNERS
Kurtiss Hare of Akron Film + Pixel is presenting The Last of the Unjust this evening (5/30) at 7:00 at the Lincoln Theatre in Massillon, Ohio.
NEXT Friday POST June 13.
See you at the movies,