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Archive for the ‘Paul Douglas’ Category

Clash By Night

21 Oct

Clash By Night — Directed by Fritz Lang. Kitchen Sink Drama. A woman who has married a decent dullard falls for a hunk of trouble. 105 minutes Black and White 1952.

* * * * *

It is not film noir; it is kitchen sink drama of the kind that Chayefsky was writing and that was all over live TV at the time. It’s by Odets, and later even the great Rita Hayworth appeared in one of these KSDs, Story On Page One, also by Odets. This version is excellent and Bogdanovich and Lang himself do the Extra Features voice over, which is an education and a treat. We have here a strong story, well acted by Robert Ryan as the cad and Barbara Stanwyck, although not by Paul Douglas who plays it for pity – never a good idea. Marilyn Monroe as a small town girl is wonderful in all her scenes and different from the lollypop she often was shown as later; here she’s a fish-scaler in a Monterey cannery; she’s wonderful in a scene where her boyfriend tells her off. Kim Stanley, Lloyd Bridges, and E.G. Marshall made a TV version of this a little later, and it’s interesting to compare the scripts and performances. For one thing, Kim Stanley is better at playing a mother than Stanwyck because she was closer to childbearing age. But here Stanwyck is wonderful as the beaten-down, been-away-for-years failure. And why is that? Because Stanwyck is the least beaten-down person on the planet. In both versions the false naiveté of the husband stretches our gag reflex. But the piece has its power. In the case of Kim Stanley it is the power of a woman whose sexual capacity is stifled by her circumstances and has no way out but toward the arms of a rotter. In the case of Stanwyck, it is her natural power that is stifled with the same tragic result. Odets was a master at dramas of humans with no natural outlet. The ignorant armies are inside us. We are in the land of lower-class melodrama here, and in this case, I can think of far worse places to be. Fritz Lang’s work is always worth seeing.

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Panic In The Streets

16 Apr

Panic In The Streets – Directed by Elia Kazan. Suspense Thriller. A deadly plague threatens New Orleans. 96 minutes Black And White 1950.

* * * * *

This is one of Kazan’s best pictures. Filmed – and this is important – by the same photographer who filmed Sam Fuller’s House of Bamboo – Joe MacDonald. He was a brilliant and economical director of photography, and it is his work which gives Panic its narrative carrying power. Kazan when directing did not pay attention to the actors – that came beforehand – what he did was cozy up to the director of photography, to learn, to watch. House of Bamboo has a commentary running with it that helps us here to see how MacDonald keeps the camera on groups and long shots and continuous shots and master shots, and how Kazan keeps actors moving at all times through this dance of the camera. The picture has Richard Widmark as the protagonist, which goes against the sort of actor he had played in Kiss Of Death and so often after. Here he is given a Gregory Peck part (who gave Kazan his canned Good Guy in Gentlemen’s Agreement). Widmark is well cast for he is, of course, not a good guy; he’s too freakish; he’s a character lead at best, and, as such, not an actor of much range or inherent interest either, but an oddity, an actor far less good than Dan Duryea, say, but chance put him leading roles from now on. Of course, he isn’t as odd as Jack Palance (no one is), making his film debut as the chief threat. Barbara Bel Geddes, whom Kazan worked with on Broadway as Maggie in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof), is always curiously affecting. And all the supporting actors are wonderful, held in check by the director and by the lighting by MacDonald. The film is full of non-professional supporting players from New Orleans, where it is filmed and set, and the down-to- earth, un-touristy, back alley life of that city comes alive as the waterfront did in a later picture. This picture should be added to the canon of Kazan’s great films, Baby Doll, Streetcar, East of Eden, Viva Zapata, Waterfront. It hasn’t dated.

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We’re Not Married

26 Feb

We’re Not Married — Directed by Edmund Goulding — Low Comedy. Multiple miscarriages of marriage. 86 minutes Black and White 1952.

* * *

Oh, dear, and what a good idea, too. A letter of the law has not been followed, and five couple find they are not wed after all. It’s essentially five playlets for two actors each. The problem lies in the writing and directing, for the exposition of each of them goes on far too long, and the resolutions of all but the ones with Louis Calhern and Zsa Zsa Gabor and Eddie Bracken’s with Mitzie Gaynor, are left unexplained. Why do Eve Arden and Paul Douglas remarry, when Douglas has torn up the marriage-canceling letter in the throes of a sexual fantasy about an orgy of future babes? The soda-fountain mentality of Hollywood in the 50s is perfectly arrayed here in the flatness and thinness of the set design, the banality of the world Hollywood wanted us to swallow, and which we didn’t swallow thanks to Marlon Brando. None of the actors are well served: the great Louis Calhern is filmed all wrong, Eddie Bracken is asked to perform bedroom farce on a back-lot small town street, opposite the vexing Mitzie Gaynor, who throve only in musicals, as far as I know. Ginger Rogers, as expert a natural comedienne of light bite as ever drew breath, has to play exposition scenes of interminable length with radio star Fred Allen. Marilyn Monroe is in fine figure and good fun as a beauty queen, and David Wayne does a good job as her house-husband. It’s an ice-cream sundae with powdered milk ice-cream. But, to watch Ginger Rogers as an actress work the material with full natural ease and responsiveness is a treat. The adaptation was done by Dwight Taylor, the son of the great Laurette Taylor; he wrote some of the Rogers and Astaire musicals, and it would have been better had he written the script itself. Sorry to be sour here. I was open when it opened and slowly closed up as it went along.

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