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Archive for the ‘Thomas Gomez’ Category

Force Of Evil

28 Jul

Force Of Evil – Directed and written by Abraham Polonsky. Crime. A bespoke lawyer tries to advance his brother in the numbers racket. 78 minutes Black and White 1948.

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I never like to say of a film, I wish it had been done this way or that way. After all, the thing is finished, a work of art, good or bad, published, done with. But I wish the closing sequence of this picture had been shot differently: it’s a sequence of John Garfield going down and down the cliff of Riverside Drive to the rocks by the river, and it needs to be a descent into hell and it is not. Unless it is, the last line of the film doesn’t work, and it doesn’t. So when you see this terrific picture, I want you to imagine that it is a hell-descent and that the last line does work. For, setting the conclusion aside, the picture is brilliant in a way that seems to transcend the gifts of those who made it, particularly those of its star, John Garfield, who also produced it. Used to seeing him in Depression get-ups, talking out of the side of his mouth and none too bright, instead one finds him here as the super-intelligent, fastest talking lawyer in New York, an operator in the numbers racket (now the NY State Lottery). Looking at his slightly oily face, one sees a real character constantly in play behind the once familiar features. His delivery is faster than a revolver, and the lines he delivers are swift, devious, mean, the result of a remarkably literate and verbal screenplay by Polonsky. I love a lot of good talk in a movie, and Garfield is not the only one supplied with it. Cast with amazing prescience is Thomas Gomez completely occupying the role of the older brother torn between his need for work and his need for honest work. He has the acting opportunity of a lifetime, and he does not fail it. Beatrice Pearson, as the little bird of conscience, is equally wonderful in a role easy to ruin through piety or dimples, neither of which she opts for. Everyone involved is excellent in this production, but let’s just credit Garfield as standing for all, in bringing life to a life, and therefore a mystery, and therefore a dimension instructing our respect, admiration, and wonder.

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Summer and Smoke

04 Apr

Summer and Smoke — Directed by Peter Glenville. Love story. A spinster letches for the ne’er do well boy next door. 93 minutes Color 1961

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As a critic, I wonder what good it does to bring to the front things that cannot be remedied. Here, the lighting often fails its needs, and the director should never have been hired, or shot soon after. The leading man is out of place and league. But this movie contains one of the greatest love scenes ever filmed, ever written, ever acted. It also records the performance of it that brought the play out of the obscurity of its original failure on Broadway, and thrust into prominence both the play, the theatre, The Circle In The Square, and the actress who played Alma and plays it here, Geraldine Page. The play lends itself to one’s imagination as one sees it in a theatre, but the scriptwriters have coarsened these references by literalizing them. The director, who is English, has no sense of the atmosphere required for this material or how to diminish the staginess of his performers. Laurence Harvey is right only in his opening scene, for he has none of the juice and charm that would make this character bearable and understandable. And he should be understandable, for Tennessee Williams has done again what he did in Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire; he has created a female protagonist whose tragedy is that she puts on airs. Why does she do this? Because, like all of us, at one time or another, she so wants to be someone else, someone whose heart is a little taller than the arrows shot at her. She wants to escape the stern facts of her circumstances. This makes her an isolate and a tolerated mockery. It makes her the sort of phony no man wants to be around. Geraldine Page is able to work this character just short of putting our teeth on edge. With desperate hands she clasps her body as though it would fly apart if she did not. She seethes with the sexuality she has to gainsay in order to sustain her act, but she longs for its release if only the young man would stop carousing. You can see the character in Page’s eyes, which are wide open and which are so true to the feeling, to the longing, to the passion in Alma’s being. It’s astounding that she can do all this opposite Laurence Harvey, with his tight, narrow temperament, and his bad Southern accent, a role made thankless by the actor’s lack of blood, a role perfectly suited to Jack Nicholson back in the day. Yet the great scenes unfold between them, carried by Williams’ superb writing and Page’s profound grasp of this woman’s needs. I never saw Page do it on the stage, but when I asked Mildred Dunnock what she thought of Page in the picture, she said she felt Gerry had lost her lyricism in the role. I should have asked her what she meant, and I repeat it here as a lighthouse for actresses to come. But I cannot do anything now except to say you must see this remarkable performance of this remarkable character in this remarkable play.

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