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Archive for the ‘Aim Tamiroff: ACTING GOD’ Category

China Seas

10 Feb

China Seas — directed by Tay Garnett. Low Adventure On The High Seas. A ship captain endures pirates, monsoon, and the forward attentions of two desirable dames. 87 minutes Black and White 1935.

★★★★

Drama at every turn, so, why are you complaining – ain’t you gettin’ your money’s worth? Yes, you are, but it’s a crazy film. Clark Gable is before us, aged 34 and at the peak of his masculinity. There’s a lot to say about Gable as an actor, for he loved his craft, was absolutely in earnest about being good at it. Technically he is the perfect film star, with the most beautiful head of hair, shape of head, face, eyes, mouth, nose, and photogenicality. He has a voice unmatched for male ardor. He is absolutely sure of his sexuality, which is really the foundation of his appeal, and which means not only that he can go after what he wants, but that he can decline what he does not want, both without shame. And what he does not want in this story is the neediness of the dame he has been screwing, played by Jean Harlow. How different a sex idol she was than Monroe, who has all the seduction of pliability, soft as perfume, whereas Harlow is rapacious and hard. The peroxide hair of Marilyn made her look soft, that of Harlow tough. Interesting huh? The difficulty with the material lies in these two stars’ acting. Gable had a lot more talent and technique than Harlow, but he barks and barks, and Harlow is cacophonous. She is so monotonously raucous in her playing that the character looks insane, and you never think that Gable would put up with her for a minutes, much less possibly end up with her. They needed a suggestion of more variety from the director. Rosalind Russell, such a tonic as an actress, plays the English lady Gable really loves, a gal friend from his better days. Aboard this ship of fools is Robert Benchley as a droll drunk, C. Aubrey Smith, that firm but kindly hatchet, as a bemused ship owner, Lewis Stone as a deposed captain, Edward Brophy playing out that great Somerset Maugham story about the necklace opposite Akim Tamiroff, he of The Moscow Art Theatre and Stanislavsky, along with Donald Meek, Hattie McDaniel delicious as the greedy maid, and, last but never least, Wallace Beery as the loveable heavy. Harlow’s and Russell’s dresses are by Adrian and are masterpieces of the costumers’ art. Dwell upon them. The story is by one of the most gifted screenwriters of the day, Jules Furthman. The filming of the typhoon at sea is worth the show – but all of it is worth the show. If only to just watch Gable, and see how good an actor he is, a factor almost impossible to scope past his personal presence, confidence, and beauty.

 

 

Ocean’s Eleven – Sinatra Version

30 Jan

Ocean’s Eleven – Sinatra Version — directed by Lewis Milestone. Caper Flick. Eleven chums from WW II convene to rob 5 Las Vegas Casinos. 127 minutes Color 1960.

* * *

As hackneyed a piece of direction as you could wish to see, this picture brings Frank Sinatra, that master of self-satisfaction, as the old sergeant gathering his cadre for a heist. The piece is very well constructed and wittily written, but the mixture of non-actors with professionals with a few cameos thrown in makes the adventure stagger along like a drunkard. Set beside the suave George Clooney versions of this, with his cast of brilliant actors, this ur-version looks dated and dumb. And it is. None of the actors seem able to deliver their lines with any aplomb. On the list of professionals, we have the genius of Akim Tamiroff as the worry wart, Dean Martin who with a few paltry songs manages to sustain his suavity as a lounge act singer, Ilka Chase as the rich mother of that Duke Of Eurotrash, Peter Lawford, and Cesar Romero who brings the humor of his massive authority to the role of a mafia don. Others who get by without disgracing themselves are Richard Conte who is, as usual, straightforward in his part, and Sammy Davis Junior, who gets by, as usual, on a superabundance of natural talent. Shirley MacLaine overdoes a soused chick for us, and Red Skelton is absolutely on the money as a gambling addict. The rest of the cast, including Peter Lawford, we shall not shame by mentioning.

 

 
 
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