RENOIR AT UCLA

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.

Comments?

NEXT Friday POST August 18

Until then,
See you OUT and AT the movies,
Rick

STRANGE THRESHOLD OR BEHIND THE DOOR FROM PETER LORRE

Rick’s Journal  —  MY FILM CAREER

When I was a student at UCLA the perks included not just the regular experience of hearing Colin Young and Hugh Gray and Arthur Ripley as regular classroom instructors.  They were always bringing outstanding  —  nay!  THRILLING  —  guest speakers for us.

I was late for class the day Mr. Ripley brought Peter Lorre with him.  I could see through the open door that not a seat was left.  I was able to stand in such a way that our guest could not see me but I could see him.  Even from outside the room, though, his presence was still vivid.  From where I crouched, I seldom distinguished any of his words; but I could hear the buzzing nasal hum of an internationally recognizable voice.

The Speaker

Right there, before my squinting eyes, stood M, a redder-faced, heavier M, heavy but not sloppy, neat in an expensive gray suit.  I was looking at Ugarte, at Joel Cairo, at Julius O’Hara.

In those good and glamorous days at UCLA, Peter Lorre was the only speaker I had to hear from such an uncomfortable distance.  I was close to all the others, usually in intimate classroom settings  —  small classrooms.  Billy Wilder  —  when only three of us showed (!), and we had him all to ourselves; and he graciously gave us an hour and a half.  Bette Davis  —  in a small classroom.

Dalio in CASABLANCA (photo courtesy of reader dmg)

 

I can’t remember why Marcel Dalio was in town when prof Hugh Gray brought him to class to talk with us.  And blithering, often hungover youth that I was, I cannot now report much of what he said to us.  He was candid, unsentimental and quintessentially French relating anecdotes from the sets of Casablanca but especially The Rules of the Game and Grand Illusion.

Coming Soon:  George Seaton.  Billy Wilder.  Jean Renoir.  And Bette Davis:  dynamite in a small classroom.

Coming Soon:  Farrell, Kidman and Dunst in Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled.

Note:  Consult imdb for Arthur Ripley, Hugh Gray and Colin Young.

NEXT FRIDAY POST July 28

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

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