RITA ONCE MORE – MISS AND MISS

Rita_Hayworth_in_Blood_and_Sand_trailerBut before Rita:

FILM CLIPS:     “It was an aroma compounded of plush and worn carpet and Devon violets and sweat.  It was that scent, perhaps, which first made me a film fan; for it was to the Queen’s in Bolton that I ventured on my first remembered visit to any cinema, one wet and windy afternoon in 1933, when I was four.”  Leslie Halliwell*

AND NOW RITA

Rita 2

“Miss Rita Hayworth as Miss Sadie Thompson”

That’s what the writing on the screen said in the original theatrical trailer for Miss Sadie Thompson.  Curtis Bernhardt’s 1953 film is jerky, jumpy and disjointed and presents narrative and character with surprising obliquity.  The pace is about as awkward as Rita Hayworth’s walk here ( an effective  part of her characterization).  And the film’s indirect exposition eventually gets us somewhere.

Rita Hayworth plays the early scenes with such conviction, hiding her past, that it is hard later to adjust to the fact that the missionary’s accusation is true.  She has been a prostitute.  As the story progresses, though, she shows her ability to grasp perfectly the emotional forces within a scene.  As always, she hears what everyone else is saying. And as in Down to Earth she is excellent in each scene as written; and it is not her fault that the writing has failed her and that the director hasn’t noticed..

Her outrageous number “The Heat Is On” still packs a wallop despite its throwaway quality.  “The Blue Pacific Blues” is a good song, again a pleasing throwaway.  (We of course never heard Rita’s own singing voice until near the end of her career when she herself is finally on the Pal Joey soundtrack singing “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”)

Aldo Ray is very likable as her romantic interest and Russell Collins is excellent as the island doctor.  Charles Bronson is charismatic in an early supporting role.  And as the missionary José Ferrer virtually plays himself:  arrogant, conceited, self-centered and pompous.

MISS SADIE THOMPSON     Curtis Bernhardt     1953
(from the story “Miss Thompson” by W. Somerset Maugham)

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*I found the Leslie Halliwell quote in A Movie Lover’s Diary published by Firefly Books and copyright  1997 by Shelagh Wallace and Scott McKowen.

NEXT POST: THE MEMORABLE OCCASION WHEN I SAW MISS RITA HAYWORTH
Friday March 11

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

REVISITING CLASSIC GRIFFITH

Rick’s Journal  –  MY FILM CAREER

CLASSIC REVISITED

Orphans of the Storm     D.W. Griffith     1921

Robert E. Sherwood (!) wrote:  “There is scarcely a scene or an effect in the entire production that is not beautiful to look upon, and there is scarcely a moment that is not charged with intense dramatic power.”

There is no accounting for taste.

This was my second viewing of Orphans of the Storm, and I am much less impressed this time.  The story, of two devoted sisters separated during the French Revolution, is implausible and foolish.  Almost all the acting is over-wrought, including that of both Gishes.  In the violently emotional scenes of which there are several and which are always too long, Lillian is embarrassing and unbelievable.  Dorothy, whom increasingly I consider the better actress, is even more over the top here.   Lillian is usually good at sex, and she is excellent in the scene where she grasps the villain’s intentions.  She is rarely as good at love, and she regularly spoils love scenes with what I find myself thinking of as her simper.

Lengthy Griffith never cuts to the chase, but he always get there.  The cross-cutting is excellent here.  If cross-cutting did not originate with Griffith, by this time he owned it and revels in it; but it is diluted by a foregone conclusion.

Griffith through and through:  There is a scene in which our villain’s coach runs over and kills a small child, and he asks if the horses are hurt.  It is an obvious and overdone scene, but it might have been moving had not Griffith inserted a mood-shattering title to inform that it is an actual historical incident.

The script is based on a play.  The Charles Affron biography of Lillian Gish gives the authors as Adolphe D’Ennery and Eugène Cormon.  Variety gives the play title as Les Deux orphalines.

Robert E. Sherwood wrote the cited comment for Life.  It is quoted in Halliwell’s guide.

TCM ALERT

On Saturday October 17 at 10:00 PM (Eastern), Turner Classic Movies offers an opportunity to  see Leslie Howard in his heyday as popular star and critical success.  The Petrified Forest also has Bette Davis in a performance coming between her two Academy Awards and in one of three appearances with Howard.  Humphrey Bogart has the supporting role of a lifetime as Duke Mantee, and he and Howard are excellent together  —  as they will be again the following year (Stand-In).  The Petrified Forest, 1936, is from the play by Robert E. Sherwood and is directed by Archie Mayo.  Tay Garnett directed the two men in Stand-In.

NEXT POST FRIDAY October 23

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

CLASSIC REVISITED

RICK’S JOURNAL     –     My Film Career

The Face     Ingmar Bergman     1958

I am flabbergasted that it took Halliwell’s guide to make me see that this film “may be about the survival of Christianity…”  It may be about resurrection, too  —  personal survival after death.  It is certainly about theater.  There is a magic lantern, an early fascination of Bergman’s; and there are other lanterns that dot the production design.

In nineteenth century Sweden a traveling troupe with a mesmerist/magician as star is detained in a small town for investigation by the superintendent of police and a medical examiner (a rationalist ideologue).  They are put up in the home of a local influential merchant.  His wife is grieving the death of their daughter, but she’s randy.  There are many colorful characters in the troupe and in the household.

As the plot proceeds and the troupe performs, there is illusion; and there is death.  Is death an illusion?.  Bergman, of course, has always preferred questions to answers.  His earliest film answers seem to reside in his early Christian belief.  But then his films  more and more move away from those answers.  (I almost wrote “evades those answers” but Bergman never evades anything.)  He finally appears to reject and deny these earlier convictions and to claim, think, that he began questioning them earlier than, in fact, he did  —  though I do not doubt that he sincerely believed that claim when he made it.

(The Halliwell reference is to Halliwell’s 2004 Film Guide, edited by John Walker, Harper Resource.)

The Face was distributed in the United States under the title The Magician.

NEXT POST Friday October 16

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

 

 

LESLIE HOWARD IS BACK

On Sunday August 2 at 8:45 AM (Eastern Time), Turner Classic Movies is showing It’s Love I’m After, a romantic but sophisticated comedy with a theater setting.  This is an opportunity to see Leslie Howard at his peak, co-staring with Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland.  Halliwell’s guide , in an interesting quotation from the American Film Institute, notes that Howard and Davis here are “surrounded by that set of millionaires, valets and heiresses that were at one time as much of a convention in American comedy as the fops of Restoration theatre.”

Those who puzzle over the character of Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind and puzzle even more about the casting of Howard for the role can get a good look here at the popular star American women found dashing.

It’s Love I’m After          Archie Mayo          1937

NEXT REGULAR POST FRIDAYAugust 7

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick