MORE SHORT TAKES — FROM AN EARLIER HOLLYWOOD

Rick’s Journal    —    MY FILM CAREER

Continuing Rick’s Flicks’ diary format for informal, personal observations which, though not in the form of a review or discussion, we hope you still find useful:

Lord Love A Duck
George Axelrod
1966
screenplay by Larry H. Johnson & George Axelrod
from a novel by Al Hine

Leonard Maltin:  “Film wavers uncomfortably between comedy and drama at times…Terrific performances in movie that was ahead of it time.”

A strange, original and funny comedy with a campus setting.  The great Roddy McDowell, the coal miner’s son and Lassie’s master, has grown up, dwells a lot on sex and sports his trimness in tight white cottons.  His mannered feyness is perfect for his nerdy role (supposedly nerdy).  Tuesday Weld is fine in her ditzy part, and Ruth Gordon has the other mother in the story down pat.

How Green Was My Valley

Lassie Come Home

At play with Elizabeth Taylor (from the book “A Pictorial Biography of Elizabeth Taylor” by Larissa Branin))

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Away From Her
Sarah Polley
screenplay by Sarah Polley
2006
from a short story by Alice Munro, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”

I was never partial to Julie Christie in her heyday.  I never understood all the excitement .  I was astonished when she won the Academy Award.  (But I didn’t know then as much as I do now about Academy bizarros.)  I never found her especially attractive.  But she was beautiful last night in Away From Her.  And she and co-star Pinsent give two of the most heart wrenching performances I can remember.  They cease being actors and become people for us.  I bled for these characters.

The staff at the assisted living residence to which the husband finally takes his wife seem little concerned for spouses and relatives.  Is this common?  How much did the writer/director want us to make of this?  I would like to have seen more of the husband at home alone after his wife’s Alzheimer’s disease has forced him to the decision he makes.  What does he do?  What is his life like without his beloved Fiona?  But this was not the film the filmmakers wanted.

Rick’s Journal acknowledges the excellence of Christie’s performance as Queen Gertrude in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet.

Valley, Lassie and Hamlet photos from Google public domain images.

NEXT FRIDAY POST July 20

Until then,
See you AT the movies,
Rick

 

 

 

PREVALENCE

MOVIES ARE EVERYWHERE

including in fine books by good writers

Keller, Lawrence Block’s hit man, often surfs the channels while waiting in his motel room for his latest target to be accessible.

“He turned on the TV and worked his way through the channels, using the remote control bolted to the night stand.  Westerns, he decided, were like cops and cabs, never around when you wanted them.  It seemed to him that he never made a trip around the cable circuit without running into John Wayne or Joel McCrae or a rerun of Gunsmoke or Rawhide or one of those spaghetti westerns with Eastwood or Lee Van Cleef.  Or the great villains  —  Jack Elam, Strother Martin, the young Lee Marvin in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

“It probably said something about you, Keller thought, when your favorite actor was Jack Elam.”  But this time he found no western.  “He switched off the set.”

*          *          *          *          *

Jack Elam
jpg photo

“He left unaccountably sad as always and returned to Manhattan.  He ate at a new Afghan restaurant and went to a movie.  It was a western, but not the sort of Hollywood classic he would have preferred.  Even after the movie was over, you couldn’t really tell which ones were the good guys.”

HIT MAN by Lawrence Block.  William Morrow, 1998

 

NEXT FRIDAY POST June 8

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

NEWS AND OTHER

NEWS:  AMERICAN MOVIES NOW

In the May 4 issue of The Week Managing Editor Theunis Bates, on page 3, has a succinct but powerful editorial on where current films seem headed, or mostly NOT headed.  Check it out.

MOVIES ARE EVERYWHERE, ESPECIALLY IN GOOD BOOKS

Do you know Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer?  Check it out.

“Linda and I went out to a theater in a new suburb.  It was evident somebody had miscalculated, for the suburb had quit growing, and here was the theater, a pink stucco cube, sitting out in a field all by itself…After the movie Linda and I stood under the marquee and talked to the manager, or rather listened to him tell his troubles:  the theater was almost empty, which was pleasant for me but not for him.”

“Our neighborhood theater in Gentilly has permanent lettering on front of the marquee reading:  Where Happiness Costs So Little.  The fact is I am quite happy in a movie, even a bad movie.”

“Kate gives me a look  —  it is understood we do not speak during the movie.”

And can you imagine a better description of the later Gregory Peck?  “Toward her I keep a Gregory Peckish sort of distance.  I am a tall black-headed fellow and I know as well as he how to keep to myself, make my eyes fine and my cheeks spare, tuck my lip and say a word or two with a nod or two.”

Percy’s writing remains pitch-perfect as our anti-hero takes his new girl to visit his  young step-siblings:  “Marcia made too much of them, squatting down and hugging her knees like Joan Fontaine visiting an orphanage.”

And how about this, describing one of those questionable restorations and/or preservations:  “Back to the Loop where we dive into the mother and Urwomb of all moviehouses  —  an Aztec mortuary of funeral urns and glyphs, thronged with the   spirit-presences of another day.”

“O Tony, O Rory”  –

“For the record, here are the performers mentioned in Percy’s novel:  Charles Boyer, William Holden, Adolph Menjou, H.B. Warner, Richard Widmark, Dana Andrews, Clint Walker, Leo Carrol, Tony Curtis, Rory Calhoun, Joan Fontaine, Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, José Ferrer, Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, Jane Powell, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Joseph Cotten, Thomas Mitchell, Dick Powell, Gary Merrill, Veronica Lake, Paul Newman, Patsy Kelly, Charley Chase, Nelson Eddy, Akim Tamiroff, William Powell, Johnny Weismuller; and  —  would you believe?  —  Samuel S. Hinds, Edgar Kennedy and the most wooden actor in the history of Hollywood studios, George Brent.  (Well, maybe there is a three-way tie:  George Brent and Sterling Hayden and John Ireland.)

And here are the films mentioned in the novel:  The Ox-Bow Incident, Red River, Stagecoach, The Third Man, Fort Dobbs, Deep Waters, Panic in the Streets, It Happened One Night and All Quiet on the Western Front.  He also mentions a film he calls Holiday with Joseph Cotten.  I cannot find that film in my sources.  Do any of my readers know it?  Could he have meant The Halliday Brand?

THE MOVIEGOER by Percy Walker.  Knopf, 1961.  Check it out.

NEXT FRIDAY POST May 24

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

THE END OF MORE THAN ONE ERA

Danielle Darrieux, super star of the French screen, died on October 17 in Bois-le-Roi at age 100  .  Few performers can boast of a career lasting nine decades.

With Daniel Gelin in La Ronde

Most obituaries of long-lived artists these days are disappointments, appearing to be authored by writers who think films began when they started going to see them.  And the obituaries for Darrieux, with the exception of the New York Times, seemed interested mainly in the fact that she was not successful in American movies, failing to mention her outstanding films and the great directors with whom she worked on native ground.

Memorableperformances from her filmography of 100 titles:

 Mayerling,  Anatole Litvak, 1935
La
Ronde , Max Ophüls, 1950
Le
Plaisir, Max Ophüls, 1952
The Earrings of Madme
de…, Max Ophüls, 1953
The Rouge et le noir, Claude Autant-Lara 1954

The hazard of a complete and accurate obituary is finding included the accusations against Darrieux as a collaborator during World War ll because she worked at an occupying German film company.  She denied the accusation and worked after the war to clear her name.

IF YOU LIVE IN NORTHEAST OHIO John Ewing is showing The Earrings of Madame de … at the Cleveland Cinematheque on January 6 at 5:00 and on January 7 at 8:35.

NEXT FRIDAY POST January 5

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

NOT TO MISS

DON’T MISS Lady Bird.  It is at least as good as you are reading and hearing that it is.  First-time director Greta Gerwig (who also wrote the screenplay) draws excellent performances from her cast.  All the work is good, but Saorise Ronan, Laurie Metcalf and Beanie Feldstein are outstanding.    One of the best achievements of Gerwig and Ronan is that we’re always on the side of Lady Bird, almost always pulling for her, though she is not always that likable.

Lady Bird
Greta Girwig
2017

NEXT POST Friday  December 8

Until then,
See you at the movies  —
Off the couch and out of the house
To a theater showing Lady Bird,
Rick

DAVID THOMSON’S REFLECTIONS AND MY OWN

“The Oscar Farce”
David Thomson
The Wall Street Journal, 2/27-28/17

In a mean-spirited piece on Academy Awards and the audience for popular culture, Thomson, writing about the phenomenon of viewers not viewing as they once did  —  and not feeling, while viewing, as they once felt  —  makes two interesting points about narrative today.

Speaking of the technology available to today’s filmmaker, Thomson says:  “We are depressed because that technology somehow betrays our allegiance to narrative and our longing for the untamed actuality of the world out there.”

And he concludes:  “So don’t bother to trust the movies or attend them in the old way.  As we drift away from narrative and from caring about what we watch, the Academy looks as substantial as an abandoned set for Rick’s Café, while Oscar is made of melting ice cream.”  (In both quotations the italics are mine.)

For many years I have resented the modern-day fact of life that greeting card companies can purchase and overuse my favorite lines from my favorite films.  I am now concerned about the mini-dramas created for television commercials.  Is the only narrative, the only fiction (besides football) that today’s average pop culture absorber will ever experience is what he or she finds in these fifteen-second scenarios which often seem bent on making fun of fiction itself?

Comments?

NEXT Friday POST December 1

Until then,
See you AT A THEATER at the movies,
Rick