Classics I Haven't Seen In a Long Time

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
  • Author
  • Message
Offline
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 6004
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

Re: Classics I Haven't Seen In a Long Time

PostSun Oct 29, 2017 10:06 pm

I like the catty, sleazy early parts of Gilda, and my son's eyes kind of boggled at the barely hidden intimations of bisexuality ("I may need both my little friends tonight"). What was a complete surprise to me was the third act (SPOILER) in which Macready vanishes (but you know he isn't dead) and turns out to be a Hitler type with dreams of world domination through... control of the bauxite supply, or some damn thing. It's just odd, that what plays out perfectly fine for 2/3 as a sleazy nightclub story feels the need to turn into Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon in the third act. And it was curious that I could remember so many parts well and yet that was like an entirely new movie to me.
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
Offline
User avatar

greta de groat

  • Posts: 2108
  • Joined: Sun Jan 20, 2008 1:06 am
  • Location: California

Re: Classics I Haven't Seen In a Long Time

PostMon Oct 30, 2017 10:05 am

Mike Gebert wrote:I like the catty, sleazy early parts of Gilda, and my son's eyes kind of boggled at the barely hidden intimations of bisexuality ("I may need both my little friends tonight"). What was a complete surprise to me was the third act (SPOILER) in which Macready vanishes (but you know he isn't dead) and turns out to be a Hitler type with dreams of world domination through... control of the bauxite supply, or some damn thing. It's just odd, that what plays out perfectly fine for 2/3 as a sleazy nightclub story feels the need to turn into Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon in the third act. And it was curious that I could remember so many parts well and yet that was like an entirely new movie to me.


Tungsten was the Maguffin. I don't remember why. Yes, the unlikely bromance between the slimeballs (unlikely because i couldn't imagine either sticking their neck out for anyone) had the makings of an interesting movie, but it all kind of went downhill after Rita showed up. And after all the tiresome meanness between them for the whole movie, (SPOILER) for them to just end up as a couple mixed up kids that all the good guys were rooting for bothered me a lot more than the weird skulduggery. Besides, who was it that dispatched him with the "little friend"? I didn't quite catch that.

greta
Greta de Groat
Unsung Divas of the Silent Screen
http://www.stanford.edu/~gdegroat
Offline
User avatar

s.w.a.c.

  • Posts: 1984
  • Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:27 pm
  • Location: The Land of Evangeline

Re: Classics I Haven't Seen In a Long Time

PostMon Oct 30, 2017 1:54 pm

greta de groat wrote:
Mike Gebert wrote:I like the catty, sleazy early parts of Gilda, and my son's eyes kind of boggled at the barely hidden intimations of bisexuality ("I may need both my little friends tonight"). What was a complete surprise to me was the third act (SPOILER) in which Macready vanishes (but you know he isn't dead) and turns out to be a Hitler type with dreams of world domination through... control of the bauxite supply, or some damn thing. It's just odd, that what plays out perfectly fine for 2/3 as a sleazy nightclub story feels the need to turn into Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon in the third act. And it was curious that I could remember so many parts well and yet that was like an entirely new movie to me.

Tungsten was the Maguffin. I don't remember why. Yes, the unlikely bromance between the slimeballs (unlikely because i couldn't imagine either sticking their neck out for anyone) had the makings of an interesting movie, but it all kind of went downhill after Rita showed up. And after all the tiresome meanness between them for the whole movie, (SPOILER) for them to just end up as a couple mixed up kids that all the good guys were rooting for bothered me a lot more than the weird skulduggery. Besides, who was it that dispatched him with the "little friend"? I didn't quite catch that.

Comedian Greg Proops has his podcast Film Club, which is essentially his recorded intros and outros from screenings at the Cinefamily, and his entry on Gilda is marked by a pretty good Macready impression, and some insights into all the double entendres.

And that reminded me that Lenny Bruce does an impression of Macready as well, in his bit about the kid getting hooked on sniffing model airplane glue. Who knew Macready was so popular with comedians?
Twinkletoes wrote:Oh, ya big blister!
Offline
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 6004
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

Re: Classics I Haven't Seen In a Long Time

PostMon Oct 30, 2017 2:14 pm

That's funny, it sounds like Bob & Ray's bit about the George Brent impersonator, but Macready does have a pretty distinctive voice and I can think of a few lines I could quote from him including the "both my little friends" one, though admittedly they come from only two movies (who can name the other?)

"The man you stab in the back... is a SOLDIER!"
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
Offline

Dan Oliver

  • Posts: 112
  • Joined: Wed Jun 10, 2009 11:27 am
  • Location: Raleigh, NC

Re: Classics I Haven't Seen In a Long Time

PostTue Oct 31, 2017 9:07 am

That would be Paths of Glory.
--Dan
Offline

earlytalkiebuffRob

  • Posts: 3264
  • Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2013 11:53 am

Re: Classics I Haven't Seen In a Long Time

PostTue Oct 31, 2017 1:33 pm

greta de groat wrote:I remembered seeing Gilda in my teens, and not being impressed much one way or the other about it. At this point i thought i'd give it another look and expected to like it a good deal more. Unfortunately i found it quite disappointing. While it's not unusual for a noir to have characters who are all jerks, i at least expect them to be interesting or compelling jerks. Hayworth spends a lot of time interacting with her hair and acting like spiteful five year old. Admittedly Glenn Ford looks better than i've seen him look before, which isn't saying a lot. He can't even wear clothes well (which could plausibly be purposeful, since one of servants keeps calling him a peasant, but somehow i don't think it is). His character is both smug and creepy, and he's as spiteful as she is. George Macready as her mysterious husband is more interesting, or at least less annoying. The ending is mystifying and unsatisfactory. I know this film has a huge reputation but it wasn't appealing to me.

To get the bad taste out of my mouth, i followed it up with Ladies of the Jury, which was utterly ridiculous but unpretentious and modestly entertaining.

greta


Have not seen LADIES OF THE JURY anywhere and would like to find a copy. I, too did not enjoy GILDA as mush as I'd hoped. Perhaps its appeal is more to those who saw it on first release.
Offline
User avatar

boblipton

  • Posts: 6047
  • Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 8:01 pm
  • Location: Clement Clarke Moore's Farm

Re: Classics I Haven't Seen In a Long Time

PostTue Oct 31, 2017 1:40 pm

It shows occasionally on TCM.

Bob
If no one listens, then it’s just as well. At least I won’t get caught in any lies I tell.
— Joe Darion
Offline
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 6004
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

Re: Classics I Haven't Seen In a Long Time

PostWed Nov 01, 2017 7:32 pm

Image

MAD LOVE

I know I've seen Mad Love (1935), the Karl Freund remake of The Hands of Orlac, at least twice. This version reconfigures the story to make Peter Lorre's Dr. Gogol, the doctor who gives the pianist Orlac (Colin Clive) the hands of a murderer, the protagonist, by making him a nut job obsessed with Orlac's wife (Frances Drake). I've seen it—but my memories of it are what I've read about it, that one of Freund's cinematographers, Gregg Toland, borrows elements from it for Citizen Kane, making the older Kane a lookalike for the eggy bald head of Dr. Gogol (and throwing in a parrot to boot, as this film has one). Beyond that, I had no real sense of what the film was actually like.

The odd thing about MGM in the Thalberg days was that it was the most saccharine, the most schoolmarmish of studios—then every once in a while its dark side would come out and be more disturbing than any other studio. Universal's monsters would ultimately make cuddly model kits and plush toys, but no one made toys for the kiddies out of Freaks, or The Devil Doll, or The Unknown. Dr. Gogol is, ostensibly, a benefactor of mankind, fixing up the crippled and disfigured, yet there are clear intimations that there's something perverse in his talent for surgery, from his constant attendance at Grand Guignol watching the object of his mad love getting tortured night after night, to the nightmarish disguise he makes out of orthopedic equipment at one point— a plain influence on Guillermo de Toro, for one, in his use of period surgical props and imagery in Hellboy.

Lorre, in his first American film (after his English debut in The Man Who Knew Too Much), is wonderful— menacing, obsessive, poignant; his mad love is such a deep and pathetic thing that the problems of everyone else in the picture, even the guy with a new set of killer hands, pale in comparison. At this moment, the scenes where he presses himself on Drake play like expressionist versions of the Harvey Weinstein story— a parody of desire with a sexless eggheaded cartoon of a man trying to force himself, absurdly yet frighteningly, on a woman.

The weirdly comic tone of the screenplay, the absurdities to which all but Gogol in the film are oblivious, is perfectly matched by Freund's visually inventive direction, reflected not only in the sets, which find ways to work expressionist visuals into the Parisian setting, but in movement— Gogol's shadow will precede him into a room by several lines of dialogue, and there's a wonderful moment where Ted Healy, as the comic relief, moves past an expressionist backdrop, and his comic movements seem wildly out of place—and then Lorre lumbers into the shot in full Jannings act-with-your-back mode, and the kinetic contrast between the two is as sublime as if it were Bugs Bunny and the big red furry Thing with tennis shoes in Hair-Raising Hare. Of course, you know what celebrity "played" the mad scientist in that cartoon:

Image
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
Offline
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 6004
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

Re: Classics I Haven't Seen In a Long Time

PostSat Jun 30, 2018 7:57 am

Image

SUNSET BLVD.

I ate at a restaurant in Chicago recently called BLVD—not Boulevard, BLVD. The idea behind it (pretty well carried off) is to evoke the feel and luxury of 1950s Hollywood supper club dining. If we take Lana Turner's affair with Johnny Stompanato as a convenient point in that era, the atmosphere BLVD seeks to evoke is about 62 years ago. 62 years back from Billy Wilder's Sunset BLVD., they weren't making Stage Struck with Gloria Swanson—they were making Roundhay Garden Scene.

By comparison, if Norma Desmond's career peaked in 1927 (the last time she was on the Paramount lot, per the film), and she was a goth fantod by 1950, that's the equivalent now of... 1995. The year of Braveheart, Apollo 13 and Billy Madison, none of which quite seems like the ghostly whispers of an impossibly remote age. Okay, maybe Nicholas Cage winning an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas does, but that's about it.

Anyway, Sunset BLVD. is an interesting sign of how distant the silent era seemed in 1950, how quickly the world changed culturally. It's like the way doo-wop of the early 60s was already a nostalgia act in the tongue-in-cheek form of Sha-Na-Na at Woodstock in 1970. Plenty of silent people were still making movies (Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, etc. etc.) but the era, the acting styles, the way stars comported themselves—that's what seems so exotic and spooky in Sunset BLVD.

I've seen Sunset BLVD. a zillion times and it doesn't quite have the feeling of "not being one of mine" that I described in regards to other titles in this thread, which were really kind of unfamiliar to me. But I had not seen it in a long time—15 years at least—and it was the first time for my sons, so it was worth watching it again. Here are some observations, somewhat random but on the themes above:

• More than the contrast of different times, the film is about the clash of different styles of self-dramatization. Norma's behavior is often informed by the artificially heightened passions of the silent era, she's always putting on big scenes, sometimes undercut by a quickly muttered bit of 40s snappy cynicism. She knows and we know she's partly an act. But William Holden with his sardonic tough guy patter— isn't that also an act from his era? Isn't he a low-rent Philip Marlowe type, with the cheap cynicism of all screenwriters toward the Hollywood system? We know that Holden would still be doing it into the 1980s, and on some level it kept him going in feature films longer than other stars of his era—he was making S.O.B. when they were doing The Love Boat or The Colbys— but still, he was a living piece of another time, as she was.

Swanson, of course, was playing herself in Airport 1975 around the same time.

• The horror of Sunset BLVD. is that Joe Gillis becomes a gigolo to an older woman. The terrifying revelation is that Erich von... I mean Max von Mayerling is already an example of a man being consumed by maneater Catwoman Norma.

I wonder how much of a horror this really was even then. Or more like a Hollywood idea of an unspeakable fate, like Donna Reed becoming... a librarian in It's a Wonderful Life. (I'm of the belief that Capra plays that for a laugh deliberately.) Now, of course, women have achieved equality in every way and men aren't freaked out by a woman making more money than they do.

Say Joe Gillis had kept his partnership with Betty Schaefer going. She's ambitious enough for the both of them, and keeps him on the job when he's convinced it's hopeless. So how exactly is their writing partnership different from his with Norma?

• I detected a strong Citizen Kane influence this time in how her mansion is portrayed—lots of deep focus shots, including some that might be process shots, with something big (like a lightbulb or Max's hands playing the organ) in foreground closeup. I suspect that Wilder felt that deep focus made the rococo bric-a-brac of her house seems that much more oppressive and, well, cuckoo. Is there deep focus like this in other Wilder films? I don't think so offhand.

• Interesting that the picture namechecks the three most famous silent comedians, 3/4 of Agee's pantheon. Keaton's in it; Chaplin is imitated; Lloyd's home is used for exteriors. [NOTE: not true, I am informed it was a forner Getty mansion, fallen to ruin. I suspect I'm mixing this up with something that was filmed at the Lloyd home after his death.]

• I remember that my early reaction— in my teens probably— to Max being a former director turned butler was that it strained credulity that someone would give up directing for buttling. I completely missed, till now, his line about life being unbearable after she divorced him. That kind of sexual obsession just did not compute, I guess, even as it's the subject of so many films of the 20s and 30s, notably von Sternberg's, with whom von Stroheim is very much a pea in a pod.

• Hmm:

Image Image

• So much of the film portrays the silent era as absurd and overblown, yet is anything in all of Wilder's work as great as the final scene in which the ecstasy of silent cinema takes over and obliterates the dialogue-driven 1940s? The only scene that I can think of that compares is the climax of Ace in the Hole. It's as if he were afraid to feel that much ever again, give himself over to the passion of visual cinema.

• Norma, at the end, has a gun (this is not a spoiler, given the film's opening). Notice that she calls it a revolver. Both my kids (who are not especially interested in guns) called out, "That's not a revolver." It's a pistol with a clip.

Anyway, how does she get it? The only possible answer is that Max drove her to get one. On a NitrateVille radio podcast, Nora Fiore says that Nancy Olson (Betty Schaefer) pointed out that even sweet innocent Betty is pretty much a schemer with ambition, and we joked that she was the Eve Harrington of this picture, the real mover behind it all.

But if Max drove Norma to get a pistol, he knew what she would do with it. He knew her actions would bring cameras to the house. The whole thing is a set up— not to get Norma back into movies, but to get Max a chance to direct, again, for the first time in decades— which would allow him to hire his unacknowledged son, Artie Green, to do second unit. He's ready for your African brothel scene, Miss Desmond!
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
Offline
User avatar

boblipton

  • Posts: 6047
  • Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 8:01 pm
  • Location: Clement Clarke Moore's Farm

Re: Classics I Haven't Seen In a Long Time

PostSat Jun 30, 2018 8:12 am

Perhaps, Mike, it's all masks and obsessions, until the real human being is destroyed by one or the other. I'm vague on Freudian analysis, but id, ego, and superego; the human loses control and becomes the mask or is completely destroyed, one or or another. It makes one wonder how Betty Schaefer ends up. What hapens when she can no longer be the sweet, helpful, efficient young thing?

It would seem to indicate that Cecil DeMille is the only human being in the movie. However, he is a director.

Bob
If no one listens, then it’s just as well. At least I won’t get caught in any lies I tell.
— Joe Darion
Offline
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 6004
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

Re: Classics I Haven't Seen In a Long Time

PostSat Jun 30, 2018 8:15 am

DeMille gives a wonderful performance. First of all, he radiates empathy and wisdom and seems a wonderful guy. Secondly, like a star, he completely crafts his own image to do exactly those things—even displaying a little self-deprecating humor ("I wonder what that makes me") that I somehow doubt was that common in real life.
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
Offline

Daniel Eagan

  • Posts: 786
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 7:14 am

Re: Classics I Haven't Seen In a Long Time

PostSat Jun 30, 2018 3:17 pm

Wilder's contempt, even disgust for men as sexual objects is a theme throughout his movies, perhaps a holdover from his days as a gigolo, err, "taxi dancer." There was no greater sin than a man who succumbed to sexual drives, e.g., Double Indemnity, The Seven Year Itch, The Apartment, Kiss Me Stupid. (Paradoxically, men could also be redeemed by giving in: Sabrina, Love in the Afternoon, Ninotchka.) Holden's self-image, his very identity, was based on his belief that he could wriggle out of every problem through his seductive powers. Using those powers for Swanson unmanned him, destroyed everything he believed about himself. (I mean the characters they played.)

The last time I watched Sunset all I could see was rot and corruption driven by self-loathing. Everyone hated who he or she was (excepting perhaps the bridge players and bit actors), but gave in because comfort, money, sexual gratification, adoration, fame, big houses. Rats indeed.

Wilder was so clever with words, so adept with visuals, so attuned to filmmaking machinery that he made it all entertaining. He may have had some affection for his characters but boy did he hate people. With good reason.
Previous

Return to Talking About Talkies

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 17 guests