AT THE STAGE DOOR – NEWCOMER, OLDTIMER

Rick’s Journal    —    MY FILM CAREER

THEATER ALLEYS AND STAGE DOORS IN NEW YORK

One of my prime reasons for wanting to go to New York the first time was to see Richard Hart on stage.  He was appearing in Goodbye, My Fancy with Ruth Hussey.  I had been more than impressed by him in MGM’s version of Elizabeth Goudge’s novel Green Dolphin Street.  He was dashing and talented, and he was believable as dull, self-centered, good-hearted William, the center of two women’s worlds.  A new star was alight in the screen’s sky.  But he would make only two more films and die of a heart attack at thirty-five.  I would come to a re-evaluation of Green Dolphin Street as a botch of a lengthy but intriguing novel.

At the time I am recalling, though, Richard Hart was my latest discovery, and he was back on Broadway where, before his first film, he had achieved solid success playing the witch boy in Dark of the Moon.  And after his current play, I was sanding at the stage door with my Playbill.  I told him that I had come all the way to New York to see him.  He was unimpressed and was really interested only in the small attractive young woman on his arm.  But he signed my program and thanked me.

I watched them walk to the end of the theater alley and turn right; and I was still at the stage door when lovely Ruth Hussey appeared.  She signed my Playbill, too.  She was alone and looked tired through her prettiness.  She made an effort, though, and thanked me.

Finally Conrad Nagel, also in the cast, signed for me, too.  I told him that my mother had played hooky from school to see him in the silent film Three Weeks.  I fear he did not appreciate the comment of which I was so proud.   With a sigh he said, “That was a LONG time ago.”  Like Richard Hart, he too had a very attractive young woman on his arm,  But he did graciously sign my program.

NEXT FRIDAY POST June 9
Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

THE ANDREWS SISTERS JOIN THE NAVY

Rick’s Journal    —    MY FILM CAREER

In the Navy
Arthur Lubin
1942
music & lyrics by Gene de Paul and Don Raye

I remember my surprise when reading a statement by a British journalist that Dwight Eisenhower had won World War ll.  I grew up believing that the Andrews Sisters had.

The Andrews Sisters in action.

In this outing, though, they perform three not very impressive numbers.  To my knowledge “Gimme Some Skin, My Friend,” is the only one of the three they recorded.  Accompanying it in the film they do a bit of their dancing, with LaVerne especially letting herself go.

The other songs:

“We’re Off to the See the World”
“Hula-Ba-Luau”

In an all-cast finale at the end they reprise two songs that Dick Powell had sung earlier:  “Starlight, Starbright” and “You’re in the Navy.”

They are a little outrageously hula-ish and somewhat wildly costumed in the hula number; but as is always the case when they offer something like this, there remains a 40’s innocence about them.

They figure in the plot of this film and have plenty of lines and several scenes.

Powell, always in fine voice, is perfectly cast as a successful and well-known crooner who enlists under a false name so that he can escape his career and hide in the Navy.

I don’t enjoy Abbot and Costello very much in this.  There is a meanness in much of the humor which, as usual, involves even physical cruelty on the part of Abbot towards his supposed chum.  Watching In the Navy this time I found myself wondering if there is hostility between the actors as well as between the characters.

Check out Rick’s Flicks for 3/24/12:  “The Andrews Sisters in the Movies.”

NEXT FRIDAY POST April 21

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

NO MEMORIES LIKE MOVIE MEMORIES

Rick’s Journal    –    MY FILM CAREER

At Antoine’s

The sturdy little booklet is yellowing slightly; but, only stapled, it is holding together well.  “Souvenir du Restaurant Antoine.”  No date appears anywhere, except 1840 (fondé en 1840).  The travel souvenir was given me by a library director I worked for long ago in the Bronx.

The small paper book has photographs of founding family members and pictures of chefs and short pieces about foods and the restaurant’s menus.  My boss took unusual delight in sharing memories of her travels, sharing to that ultimate point of giving them away to someone she was sure would appreciate them.  She was right in knowing that I would be taken with the section of the booklet telling of famous folk, including cinema folk, who had enjoyed the restaurant.

A partial list of enticing customers I found:  Colleen Moore, Buster Keaton, Buddy Rogers, Leatrice Joy Gilbert (yes:  that Joy and that Gilbert), Randolph Scott, Paulette Goddard, Judy Garland,John (Johnny) Sheffield and Ben Piazza.

We watched him grow up as Tarzan’s son, then become Bomba the jungle boy.

And more:  Todd Browning, John Ford, Robert Florey, Edward Cline, George Cukor, Henry King, Victor Fleming.  René Clair.

Two non-cinema celebrities to catch the eye today:  John Ringling and John Ringling North.

NEXT FRIDAY POST March 24

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

ALL THE WORLD’S A SCREEN

MOVIES ARE EVERYWHERE, ESPECIALLY IN GOOD BOOKS

In Michael Innes’ Death on a Quiet Day  (1957) some university chaps, on a study retreat (a “reading-party”) in the English countryside, are driving looking for the right spot on the road for a game of American chicken.  The five in the car are followed by the non-participating but watchful Leon on his motor-bike.  “David, twisting round to have a look at him, was vaguely reminded of something sinister in a film.  They swept round a bend and Leon vanished.”    “David turned again and saw Leon swing after them.  A Death-Rider in the fantasy of Cocteau’s  —   that was it.  Something between a speed cop and a Royal Automobile Club patrol  —  and waiting to convoy you to another world.”

The next day, in another part of the countryside, a murderous trio is pursuing David (they are all on foot) and they’re armed.  David is running towards the nearest village as his best hope of haven.  “They couldn’t  —  they just couldn’t  —  pursue him into that with guns blazing.  This that he’d strayed into wasn’t a 3-D western.”

Then, when David is doing some pursuing of his own afoot, he grabs his prof’s car.  “He had it started in a flash.  With a fantastic effect of unreality  —  of the unashamedly cinematographic  —  the pursuit and flight were continuing.  In  a whirl of dust the two cars disappeared down the track.”  (Michael Innes, Death on a Quiet Day, New York, Dodd, Mead, 1957.)

AND  —  CAN YOU GUESS which novel these two short squibs are from?

“He guessed nowadays you could see all there was to see in the world if you just took a season ticket at the nearest movie show.”

“”Sprawling here while you’re sitting in a chair makes me feel like a vamp in a talkie.”

The words vamp and talkie and the term movie show mark this as clearly from an earlier work, correct?  Correct.  Edith Wharton’s novel The Gods Arrive.

COMING SOON from Rick’s Flicks to that screen nearest you:

Red Road
My Beautiful Laundrette
Kenji Mizaoguchi’s Ronin
The Devil’s Own

NEXT FRIDAY POST October 28

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

 

 

 

THE ASSURED GIANT

Rick’s Journal  –  MY FILM CAREER

I once had the good fortune to hear director George Stevens speak.  I had double the luck to hear him talk about Giant.  I attended a showing of the film on the UCLA campus, a showing billed as offering Stevens in a Q & A afterwards.  The program drew a crowd which stayed in place after all three hours and seventeen minutes of the film to talk with the man who created it.  George Stevens was quiet but articulate, assured but courteous.

Having seen Giant several times, always with unappreciative and/or unsympathetic audiences, I was looking forward to watching it with an informed and film-savvy group.  Alas!

Stevens did not receive many questions, but the one he took from the young woman directly behind me made up for any lack.  The questioner addressed the climactic scene in the roadside diner which stars Rock Hudson as knight in shining armor.  Hudson, who as Bick Benedict earlier in the film has referred to Mexicans as “those people,” but now has a Mexican daughter-in-law, takes up for an elderly Mexican and his family who are being denied service in a local diner.  He gets into a fistfight with the owner of the diner, and they slug it out as “The Yellow Rose Texas” ironically blurts Texas pride from the jukebox.  The owner is even bigger than Hudson and knocks him out.  As he lies unconscious on the restaurant floor, the owner tosses onto him the sign from the wall about the right to refuse service.

Knight in shining armor

Knight in shining armor

The young woman in the row behind me told Stevens she found the scene obvious and too long, and she wondered why he had to be beat us over the head with his racial message.  She told George Stevens he was unsophisticated.

Stevens calmly and quietly made three points.  He said that he had aimed the scene not at audience members with her convictions but at those without them.  He said he thought sophistication was based on factors of location and milieu and, perhaps, trade or craft.  And finally:  “Many points throughout my movie that may have puzzled you are quite taken for granted by some of the sophisticated cowhands I met down in Texas.”

John L., the movie buddy attending with me, described George Stevens’ response as the greatest, and politest, putdown he had ever heard.

Director and stars

Director and stars

Rick’s Flicks also discussed Giant in the post for Friday, August 26.

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SHOWING NOTICES FOR NORTHEAST OHIO

On September 11 and 12 The Akron Nightlight is showing Akron.  The 11th showing is at 7:30 and the 12th is at 7:00.

On September 16 Daichi Saito will appear at Oberlin College and present a program of his films at 7:00 PM.

NEXT POST Friday September 16

Until then,
See you AT the movies,
Rick