Movies in Hollywood Past – Movies in France Present – Vivien Leigh in Texas


Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1932

At times talky, pretentious and dated, this is overall a visually exciting and often taut film.  There are unusually slow dissolves, one especially long and unforgettable one has Miriam Hopkins’ naked leg swinging across the screen through Dr. Jekyll’s mind.  Fredric March is superb, the daring body language of Hyde being particularly effective.  Hopkins is interesting but doesn’t come close to Ingrid Bergman’s portrayal in the King Vidor version of 1941.

The Story of Temple Drake, 1933

The dramatic lighting, the Gothic black and white and the highly keyed underplaying of the actors amount to almost a parody of Southern grotesque à la Faulkner on whose Sanctuary this is loosely based.  It is all interesting, though, if never believable.  Miriam Hopkins is occasionally effective; but the rest of the performers rarely are, not even Florence Eldrige.


A mediocre script from a novel by Tiffany Thayer is distinguished primarily by a surprisingly frank treatment of prostitution and tentative but clear indications of miscegenation.  The prostitution is of the streetwalking kind; the miscegenation, Native American and white.  However, our unflappable flapper Clara Bow is what brings the script and picture to life.  Katz, in his Encyclopedia of Film, aptly describes Clara Bow as “a young woman of personal magnetism and boundless energy.”  In her talkies she can at times appear too energetic in combination with dialogue accompaniment; but she has modulated that here.  (See Rick’s Flicks of 10/26/12, Clara Bow in LIFE AMONG THE MILLIONAIRES.)

In the star turn tradition she makes an unbelievable character believable, and we are always pulling for her, especially as she reveals that all her bad girl antics are a smoke screen for an insecure but golden heart.  And if further evidence is needed, Call Her Savage demonstrates again the fallacy of the myth that her voice and a Brooklyn accent deflected her career.

No one moves quite like Clara Bow who can make an ordinary, modest slip seem an almost indecent garment.

SPOILER ALERT:  The real love of her life, though it takes her until the last few feet of film to recognize him, is played by Gilbert Roland.  Minus the mustache, minus the trademark form-fitting, revealing pants, Roland still smolders as the half-caste Indian.  The always much-touted Thelma Todd is stilted and uninteresting.   But Willard Robertson is impressive as the heroine’s father; and Monroe Owsley is well cast as her feckless, faithless husband.  Russell Simpson is also in the cast.
(I am indebted to Leslie Halliwell for “penultimate.”)


Philippe Garrel again directs son Louis Garrel, here playing his own real-life grandfather (Philippe’s father) as a struggling young stage actor involved with more than one struggling young actress.  The would-be actor is serious about his art and serious about a young precocious daughter.  Much talk, all of it interesting.  Very real acting in harsh black and white.

Eric Hynes, writing about director Garrel in the New York Times (8/10/14), writes that  “his first movies were made largely on his own with hardly any money, forcing him to conserve film by capturing what he needed in single takes.”  Hynes points out that while this director now works with producers and some budget, “he has retained the single-take, without-a-net approach.”  He quotes Garrel:  “At first it was economic, then it was a habit, and finally I do it because it’s become a method.”  Hynes describes it as “a method that requires extensive rehearsals with actors and experienced technicians to make sure the scenes come off.”  (Thanks Eric Hynes, thanks Times.)

*          *          *          *          *


In an article in the Wall Street Journal‘s “Leisure and Arts” section, David Mermelstein reports on an exhibit, “The Making of Gone With the Wind,” at the University of Texas’ Ransom Center through January 4.  Primarily a print exhibit, it displays much of the Center’s archival collection of producer David O. Selznick’s files.  For Mermelstein the most interesting memos and letters are those concerned with decisions on how the film should handle slaves and slavery and the Klan, the latter so prominent in the novel but never called by name in the film.  A riding of the Klan surrounds one of GWTW’s most suspensefully framed and edited sequences, a scene taking place entirely around a table of sewing women in Melanie Wilkes’ house, with the Klan never called by name.  It is clear, though, that Dr. Meade, Frank Kennedy and even Ashley Wilkes were riding.

The Center’s exhibition includes five costumes worn by Vivien Leigh.

Mermelstein rightly notes that 75 years later, GWTW continues to generate unmatched interest.  (WSJ, 9/11/14).  AFTER ALL, TOMORROW IS – ANOTHER DAY.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Ruben Mamoulian

The Story of Temple Drake
Stephen Roberts

Call Her Savage
John Francis Dillon

Philippe Garrel

Gone with the Wind
Victor Fleming

NEXT POST Friday October 31

See you at the movies,

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