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Archive for the ‘Herbert Marshall’ Category

Duel In The Sun

17 Sep

Duel In The Sun. Directed by King Vidor and William Dieterle. A half-breed girl is taken into a King Ranch type family in Texas and drives the boys wild. 2 hours 28 minutes Color 1946.

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It isn’t beautiful but it is gorgeous. Never have you seen Technicolor used so lavishly, or actors throw themselves, not exactly into their roles but all around their roles. You would think Gregory Peck would be miscast as a sexy male, and he is, but he’s surprisingly good as a prick. And Pearl Chavez, played by producer David O. Selznick’s wife, Jennifer Jones, you would think would be written shrewder, but she’s not, she’s just dopey. She throws herself around like a bag of onions and never really proves to the watching world why she was so sexy that Selznick ran off with her into the chaparral. So we take the lickerousness for granted, although she does convincingly writhe on the floor in an agony of sexual conflict. Lionel Barrymore consumes scenery by the platter, and he’s really wonderful as the grandee rancher because the character is so rude, but Lillian Gish as his wife is unable to overcome the character’s failure to get Pearl out of those slouching blouses and into a proper dress, which would have ended the picture right there. I saw it when it came out. I thought it was going to be a dirty movie, but it was just silly. Of course it’s greatly silly. And not sexy, because Lewt is mean, which Peck does well, and Pearl is stupid, which Jones probably was. The film is supposed to vindicate the itch between them, and so achieve a Phaedra-like stature, but its lust falls in the dust flat. Joseph Cotton’s easy-come-easy-go style as the good brother provides no sexual competition for Peck’s bad brother. Charles Bickford is touching as one of Pearl’s swains. Walter Huston makes hay of the fire and brimstone preacher (Huston is sexy, though old, because sexuality seethes through him; Peck isn’t because it doesn’t.). And Herbert Marshall is lovely as Pearl’s doomed father. The film is written like a Perils Of Pauline serial, in chapters and chunks, none which liaison into each other. It proceeds with a very badly written scene of misidentification, which is beautifully directed and shot, and so it goes, with one badly written scene after another beautifully presented. Selznick was so intrusive, reshooting everything, such that the film cost a lot more than his Gone With The Wind (Butterfly McQueen has a much larger part here); Selznick even has his name as the sole screen credit. So King Vidor quit when it was three quarters done, and the film was finished by commonplace director William Dieterle. But never have you seen such sunsets, as though the sun were having the duel with itself. King Vidor’s strong sense of things puts it on all four burners and a pot bellied stove besides. Why are you holding back? You must see it. It is the greatest bad movie ever made.

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Girls’ Dormertory

25 Jul

Girls’ Dormitory – Directed by Irving Cummings. Light Drama. A sexy 19 year old French girl seduces her headmaster, who does not notice the woman who really loves him. 66 minutes Black and White 1936.

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Filmed by Meritt Gerstad to give splendor to the banal, thus were the films of this era made glorious in our eyes if not in our minds. You have to hand it to Hollywood. They knew how to make things appear. Here we have a top flight cast brought into attack upon material that requires a flyswatter. Constance Collier is the redoubtable tank launched against the morals of the girl. Her skirt keeps falling off. This provides neither comedy nor relief. What does count is Ruth Chatterton, here coming to the end of her big career in the 30s at Fox. Have you more than heard of her? Well, she was once married to George Brent, when he was sexy – you know – before he became a talking suitcase. And she resembles with astonishing verisimilitude our own Bette Midler – same face shape, humor, features, figure, and height. She’s very impressive as a power-performer. Opposite her we have that razor strap of an actor Herbert Marshall, smooth, soothing, supple even in a stuffed shirt, innocent, embarrassed, wounded, true. Easy to sympathize with him, no? Opposite him debuts the incredibly seductive young Simone Simon. The film stops dead and your heart stops dead at every close-up of that irresistible upper lip. You want to utterly shame yourself with her. At one of the windows of every Hollywood movie of that era, it would seem, appears the mug of John Qualen, born to sentimentalize, and here wigged out like a codger and playing the janitor. We wait, through the trials and tribulations of the main characters, for a door to open, which in the final scenes it does, to expose to our astounded eyes the first appearance on a screen of the shining animation of the gorgeous face of Tyrone Power. While the movie clumsily stumbles to the wrong ending, our eyes cannot wrest themselves from this beauty, and why should they? Hollywood existed to provide ourselves with such gifts. His talent is in order from the start: he is perfectly in character, plays to the right size of the role, and has a marvelous actor’s voice. He is 22 or so. Unbelievable. All you long for is lodged in wondering did he even look like this when he was 21, 19, 17? Never mind. Here he is at last.

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Trouble In Paradise

31 Dec

Trouble In Paradise – directed by Ernst Lubitsch — High comedy involving two international con artists who meet and match.  Black and white [1932]

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Mind you, Lubitsch’s comedies don’t bring you the steak and kidney pie of realism. But if you can endure the faint afterglow brought on by the finest hock accompanied by the most exquisite of Viennese pastry, then you are invited to the party. Lubitsch had a directorial technique that engages the audience as accomplices in the narrative itself.  Watching Lubitsch one congratulates everyone including oneself. Billy Wilder who trained himself under Lubitsch said: “The key is to make it effective, but don’t make it obvious. Make it clear to them, but don’t spell it out like the audience are just a bunch of idiots. Just aim it slightly above their station and they’re going to get it. This is what I learned from Ernst Lubitsch. He had a real touch, a gift of involving the audience into writing the script with him as it was unfolding on the screen. In other words, he was not the kind of a director who kind of hammered it down and said, ‘Now listen to me, you idiots. There now, put down the popcorn bag, I’m going to tell you something. Two and two is four.’ He said, ‘No, just give them two and two and let them add it up. They’re going to do it for you. And they’re going to have fun with it. They’re going to play the game with you.'”  Here the game is the contest between the attraction existing between society thieves Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall conflicted by the moolah they separately might seize upon. Even the customarily nasty Miriam Hopkins is likable here, and Kay Francis, she of the beautiful arms and eyebrows, well, she’s elegant and generous, and perfectly matched with Marshall, who strikes just the right note as the suave amorous cat burglar. What is funny here cannot and must not be described here, since it must come upon you as a surprise. But let us say, the director masters the material by letting the audience master it too, that is by letting us in on the telling of the tale, and we dive in head first. There is no other choice. Trouble In Paradise is a seminal cinema work. It is thought of as the greatest high comedy ever put down on film. All writing and directing for the screen since its time flowers around it — if, that is to say, the comedy is humorous, the comedy of humans rather than the comedy of clowns. We are not talking about situation comedy here or cartoon. Because we are not talking about directing for broad effects. No – funny as that may be – this is tastier. It is not in the line of screen pantomime as in Chaplin or in screen acrobatics as in Keaton, either. Here’s what I mean: Lubitsch once directed a silent version of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan without using a single caption of Wilde, and yet Lubitsch created exactly the Wildean style on screen. Now I ask you. So, sit back with your better bottle of wine, and prepare to smile and, not just to be flattered but to join in the flattery yourself.

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