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Archive for the ‘William Bendix’ Category

Woman Of The Year

09 May

Woman Of The Year – directed by George Stevens. Romantic Comedy. A vibrant internationally renown newspaper female reporter and a writer on the sport page fall in love and sort it out. 114 minutes Black and White 1942.

★★★★★

Katharine Hepburn met Spencer Tracy making this comic masterpiece, the first and best of their films together. Why best? Because she is so sexy, never more so in any subsequent film with him or with anyone else, and he is in turn and at the same time is emotionally smart about her to protect his heart-on for her. They fall in love at first sight, in their editor’s office, and her face is something to behold as she grasps fully the sexual and romantic power she feels for him and wields over him. He stands back and is amazed by her sexiness, youth, and zest. He follows her from the office, she turns a corner and ambushes him on the stairs and seduces him. Tess Harding is her greatest performances. She and I corresponded briefly about this picture, which I saw when it came out and I was eight, for I understood immediately that this is the sort of marriage I would want for myself – a marriage in which the woman brought something vital from the outside into it from her professional life. This film is the greatest feminist tract ever filmed, the woman raised to the heights of competence, power, wit, kindness, sexuality, admirability, and self-awareness – and the male loving her for all of it. Sydney Guilaroff designed a perfect, sexy shoulder-length hairdo for her that does a lot for her character. That, in the press of her professional responsibilities, she falls short as a wife and mother gives us the foundation of a story which, in fact, ends stupidly. They had no ending when they started making it, and Stevens wrote an ending which proves her to be incompetent at homemaking, in which she is outwitted by three breakfast gadgets. It is a scene out of Stevens’ Laurel and Hardy days; it is a scene out of silent film, a scene based on gags. It is awful for it is a scene disconsonant with the character of Hepburn, who would have risen to the situation of the waffle iron just as she does when she catches the fourth piece of toast flying into the air. The fact is, yeast does not operate that way, toasters do not rocket launch toast, and coffee pots don’t percolate like that – and we already know from the scene in the baseball park that Hepburn was game for anything, and could have learned household chores as fast as she learned and rejoiced in, before her first game was over, the ground rules of a sport she had never witnessed before in her life. The finale is false, for the film is verbal, and their reconciliation needs to be verbal also, not a capitulation on her part, no matter how it is worked out in action. Setting this episode aside, the film depicts the triumph of the female at her best, her most characteristic and complete. She is never the victim, never the little housewife, never the doormat. And Tracy does not want her to be. He loves her even when she is brilliant and says so, and so do I, and so did I when twenty years later I married just such an accomplished female.

 

Blackbeard, The Pirate

28 Apr

Blackbeard, The Pirate — directed by Raoul Walsh. Swashbuckler. A beautiful woman conceals a treasure from a bloodthirsty pirate who is concealing it from another bloodthirsty pirate. 99 minutes Color 1952.

★★★★

Robert Newton, he of the twitch, the wink, the tic, the double-jointed gesticulation, commands the screen here and yar-me-hearties his way through this film’s tics, twists, winks, and gesticulations. The plot is a galumphry of costume jewelry, as is the treasure which Linda Darnell carries about her person, which is stupendous. Stupendous eyes, stupendous lips, stupendous décolletage, oh my goodness is she something to behold. Really at the peak of her beauty, the galleon rocks a little every time she appears in one of her unlikely outfits. But Darnell, with plenty to meet the eye, was a very good actress, from the time she started as a teenager from Texas, in Blood And Sand where she and Anthony Quinn and Rita Hayworth are the only credible performers, next to the flaccid work of Tyrone Power, who very well might have made this picture, too, save that no first class swashbuckler would wish to play opposite Newton who slashes every actor to bits with the scimitar of his scene-stealing eccentricities. Keith Andes would be the victim of Newton here, but he stands up fine against him, and one wonders why Andes did not have a bigger career. Actually Newton seems to be acting all by himself most of the time, which means his performance might be bushwhacked by a shrewd character actor, and such an one exists in the form of Skelton Knaggs, a devious lackey, who pickpockets the camera in every scene he appears. Newton’s furbelows extend right down to bows in his beard, but this smart little performer undoes every one of them. Irene Ryan plays Darnell’s loyal disloyal maid; Alan Mobray a worthy, Torin Thatcher Sir Harry Morgan, William Bendix the first mate, and Richard Egan the hero’s chum. Raoul Walsh, who directed Errol Flynn to fame in similar high-seas Spanish Main costume pieces is the perfect director for this material except that Newton’s presence in it makes the vessel list to the starboard, founder, and sink. Walsh directed whatever they threw at him, which meant that, unlike Hawks or Hitchcock or Stevens or Wyler, his art suffered from the relentlessness of the bad material of major studio movies of the 50s on. Walsh could supervise rewrites well, but making something better does not mean making it good. Although romantic foundations always ground his stories, for seven decades Walsh triumphed in action films, some of the most famous ever made. While we don’t think of him as a director of comedies – Jack Pickford said of him, “Your idea of comedy is to burn down a whorehouse” – but comedy is always the chaser in his pieces, and Blackbeard, The Pirate is no exception. Walsh was a master entertainer. If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get. I like it myself. I think you might too.

 
 
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