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
Ronde , Max Ophüls, 1950
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.


Until then,
See you at the movies,


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

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,


“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?


NEXT Friday POST December 1

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



Rick’s Journal  —  MY FILM CAREER

When I was growing up Ginger was dancing.  Judy was singing.  And Vivien Leigh was outacting everybody.  And people wrote letters.

I have always had good luck hearing from celebrities.  Over the years I have composed and sent off dozens of admiring missives, some of them fan-atically adulatory.  And the ratio of response has been gratifying.

I have often been sparked to write during awards season.  I have seldom agreed with the Oscar choices made by voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.  The New York Film Critics, as the group was called at the time I am remembering, appeared to me to make the better choices.  They were the only other film award group attracting any considerable attention then.

I tended to write actors and actresses, and directors and photographers, whose work that year I had admired, if they had been ignored by the award givers or had seen the award go to another nominee.  That was when I wrote Jack Hawkins.

Jack Hawkins.  Hawkins in The Black Rose had been brusquely touching as Tristram Griffin who dearly loved his friend, and loved England even more.  I wrote Jack Hawkins, and he responded in ink.  His few words conveyed an unmistakable humility that was genuine.  He wrote an appreciative note, declaring himself “staggered and gratified,” that I thought him the best supporting actor of the year.  (The Black Rose, Henry Hathaway, 1950.)

Richard Hylton.  If any of my readers are not familiar with Richard Hylton, I hope you will find Lost Boundaries and watch him.  Made outside the studio system and one of the earliest American films to look at racism, Lost Boundaries is far from a complete success.  Gavin Lambert said it well:  “It cannot be said to betray its subject but is, rather, unequal to it.” (quoted in Halliwell)  But Hylton is impressive in a sensitive, wrenching performance.

In response to my letter Hylton sent a handwritten note and  —  to my surprise  —  an unrequested photograph, signed.

Hylton would make only three more films.  He took his own life at age 41.  (Lost Boundaries, Alfred Werker, 1949; Halls of Montezuma, Lewis Milestone, 1950; Fixed Bayonets!, Samuel Fuller 1951; The Pride of St. Louis, Harmon Jones, 1952.)

Joseph Wiseman.  I first experienced Joseph Wiseman on the New York stage.  In his first film he reprised his stage role in Sidney Kingsley’s Detective Story (William Wyler, 1950).  My other favorites among his film portrayals are Viva Zapata!, Elia Kazan, 1952;  The Unforgiven, John Huston, 1960; The Happy Thieves, George Marshall, 1962.  He would confound me by eventually playing Dr. No.

I still possess the short letter he wrote me, in his own hand, to thank me for mine.  The scary guy’s brief words are touching and sincere.

Celebrities today seem to have caught our societal bug.  I no longer receive the rate of response to which I became accustomed.  In the last several years the only famous names who responded  —  and they responded right away  —  have been Alistair Cooke, Ginger Rogers and Tom Cruise.


Until then,
See you at the movies?



Rick’s Journal  —  MY FILM CAREER

The prof who brought her to speak to us  —  brought her to the UCLA campus in his own car  —  came into the room alone and told us that she was outside having a final cigarette.  He also told us  —  would she have killed him if she knew?  —  that she was “a little nervous”  about her first classroom appearance.

in Mr. Skeffington

He went outside and brought Bette Davis into us.  I was sitting in the fourth row of an eight-row classroom.  I was that close to the actress I had admired since my childhood, since the time when my mother and my aunts referred to Bette Davis movies as “deep pictures.”  In reality most of her films were melodramas lacking, as were most Hollywood films of the era, psychological sophistication or profundity.  I think that by deep, my family meant somber, with the possibility  —  rare then  —  of an unhappy ending.  But Bette Davis starred in some good films.  She was three times directed by William Wyler.  During her major creative years, 1936-1952, she certainly had overall, scripts of better quality than did Greta Garbo, who spent her entire career elevating hokum.  Of course Davis, too, did her share of making mediocre material watchable and interesting.  From her earliest screen appearances it is impossible NOT to watch Bette Davis once she enters a scene.

On this evening she was wearing a dark blue semi-formal dress.  She and our teacher sat in chairs on either side of the small desk at the front of the room.  She did not begin with a presentation.  He introduced the person who, for once, needed no introduction, then invited us to ask questions.

I remember her responses about four films.

Storm Center.  She displayed a bitterness about the fate of this film in which she played the town librarian who refused to remove a book from the library’s shelves when someone claimed that it promoted communistic ideas.  The Legion of Decency, at the time a powerful force on filmmaking and film distribution, had seen fit to give Storm Center a designation of “condemned,” a category usually reserved in that time for sexy French and Italian imports.  Storm Center, not that well received by critics, also did not perform well at the box office.  Rightly or wrongly, Davis blamed the Legion of Decency for the film’s failure.  “Once you get that Catholic rating…” she said, there was no chance of success.

Mark Harris in his book Five Came Back suggests that there were those in Hollywood who actively worked to punish Davis for her participation in the film and that this played a part in her difficulty finding roles in this crucial period of her career.   (Storm Center, Daniel Taradash, 1956.)

The Virgin Queen.  Davis was particularly interesting talking about this mid-fifties film which had a mixed critical success and was a box office failure.  I had always felt that she and the film were better than the conventional wisdom; and  —  lo!  —  she certainly agreed with me.  But she gave no indication that she regarded it as meeting less then her highest standards.  I would venture that she estimated it as equivalent to her Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939).   She is not that good (the earlier outing is one of her outstanding performances).  Neither is the film, though its brilliant color is handsome, and it tries for a thorough sense of period.  Directed by Henry Koster, it features Richard Todd as Raleigh and Herbert Marshall as Leicester.  (The Virgin Queen, Henry Koster, 1955.)

Another Man’s Poison.  A student in our class remarked to her that she had often read that in her performance in Another Man’s Poison, Bette Davis had intended to parody her films and the kind of role she usually played.  She did not at first grasp the intent of the question; but  —  OH!  —  when she did:  When the questioner explained what she was asking, Davis said, “You mean making fun of my own work?  I would NEVER do such a thing.”  Another Man’s Poison, Irving Rapper, 1951.)

All About Eve.  Hearing the actress speak briefly about the famous Mankiewicz film, I became aware for the first time that performers had often not seen the completed versions of their films.  That is probably no longer true.  Davis was speaking to our group before VHS and DVD and streaming.  But I wonder if sometimes today this still happens  as I reflect on the fascination with which actors sometimes watch clips of their performances during award shows.  They appear sometimes to be discovering and learning.  It is only Barbra Streisand who can clearly be seen enthralled in admiration of her own work.

Bette Davis had been speaking to us of some of her films that she had never seen.  She then said that she had seen Eve.     “That is one I can sit through and never have to close my eyes.”  She said only that about the film, and it was enough.  (All About Eve, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950.)

At another point in the evening one of the lesser lights in our class told Bette Davis that he was interested only in directing .  “How long might I have to work at a silly-assed job like editing before I get to direct?”  She was kinder than she might have been.  She first snapped:  “Editing is not a silly-assed job.”  Then she only said, “Editing can create a movie, it can make or break a film.”

When the session was over, without her having smiled once, our prof thanked her; and, with the great woman sitting right there, said:  “I think we would all prefer having heard honest pride to false modesty.”

See Rick’s Flicks post of 2/5/16 for a discussion of Bette Davis’ career, Rick’s Flicks’ choice of her greatest performances and choice for the single greatest one.

DAVIS QUOTE:  On turning down the role of Mrs. Dudgeon in The Devil’s Disciple, she said that after twenty-five years in the business and two Academy Awards, “I’m damned if I’ll play Kirk Douglas’s mother.”

Until then,
See you at the movies,


Rick’s Journal  —  MY FILM CAREER

MEANWHILE     –     back at UCLA

Hugh Gray brought Jean Renoir to us as well.  I sat in the third row of a small projection room.  I was that close to one of the world’s greatest living men.  And the great man was down-to-earth, close to self-deprecatory, but aware, I don’t doubt, of the timeless quality of his body of work.  Time proves him right about that.

THE SOUTHERNER, one of Renoir’s American films

He was generous in the question and answer session after he spoke.  We of course asked him about Grand Illusion  and Rules of the Game; but I easily recall the most surprising thing he said  —  that, for him, the most beautiful films ever created were the silent films of Hollywood in the twenties.  I am sorry now that I did not ask him if he meant to refer to Hollywood’s silent era in general of if by noting the twenties, he meant to exclude the films from the previous decade.

It must have been Arthur Ripley, our directing prof, who brought George Seaton to us as guest speaker.  (He twice won the Academy Award for adapted screenplay:  The Miracle on 34th Street and The Country Girl.)  Seaton was debonair, tailored and in manner sophisticatedly reserved.  I remember only one point that Seaton made, and I will be grateful if any of my readers can comment on it.  He spoke about music as background in film, something he considered crucial to successful film making.

writer/director George Seaton

He then said that almost any dramatic music  —  I do think he said almost  —  that almost any dramatic music will work with any dramatic scene; that if you play the music against a playing scene, the music and the scene will rise in tension together and dramatically merge and climax.

He really said that.


NEXT Friday POST August 18

Until then,
See you OUT and AT the movies,