Archive for the ‘Jo Van Fleet’ Category

A King And Four Queens

19 Apr

A King And Four Queens — directed by Raoul Walsh. Western. A handsome grifter works his charms on four lovelies and their mother-in-law for a boodle. 86 minutes Color 1956.


He drank a lot and screwed any lady who turned up in his dressing room. He could write his own ticket. He was Clark Gable, the sexiest man in Hollywood – and one of the things that made him sexy was his humor – the wry look, the brow furrowed with amusement at female goings-on, and the crackle in his voice that relished the game, its losses and its folly. All this is in full play with Gable in this well constructed and tightly written piece. He is given a first class actress to oppose his ambitions for her money. Jo Van Fleet is the mother of four wretched bank robbers three of whom have burned to death, while one escaped. She sits on their buried booty and she waits for a son to return – except she doesn’t know which son it is, for the bodies were unrecognizable – and their four wives wait with her, not knowing either. Van Fleet was a curious actress, powerful in dispute, but with the sensitivity of a barstool. And yet her scene with Gable shot in bed is really as brilliant a piece of subtext playing as you will ever see. She scorns Gable, wounded though he is, but she longs with unmentioned pain for news of one of her sons. She is, rare for her, touching. Gable admired her professionalism; he himself had his lines down pat first thing; he also asked her scenes to be edited down, because she was stealing the show; it couldn’t be done and still make sense. Somehow the two of them keep the story going, along with Eleanor Parker who entertains herself with common sense and a simple wardrobe. The first symptom of the demise of Hollywood studios in he ’50s was the failure of costuming, and this is a good example of it. Technicolored to death, the other three wives make plays for Gable, and it is a tribute to his gifts and his nature, weathered and real, that he can tell each of them off without shaming them or looking like a prig. Gable, a mountain of masculinity – but with a jocular eye. An actor who never fails us. An actor who loved acting. If you want to see what an actor who is perfectly confident in his craft looks like, look at Gable in this period of his work, in his 50s. It’s late Beethoven. It’s really something to behold. The direction by Raoul Walsh never falters, always tells the story hard and clear. The picture, aside from the spectacle of its opening ride through wild terrain, is an indoor Western. Alex North wrote a terrific score and the great Lucien Ballard filmed it.


I’ll Cry Tomorrow

29 Mar

I’ll Cry Tomorrow — directed by Daniel Mann. Drama. A young stage performer takes her first drink and all is lost. 117 minutes Black and White 1956.


As singer Lillian Roth, Susan Hayward flails about in the first half of this film and then comes alive in the second as a charming drunk. Hayward was one of those repulsive actors — Shelley Winters, Jack Palance were others – who are grating in everything they do, especially in parts in which they are called upon to be sympathetic or endearing. If you want to see what endearing really is, take a look at the Story Conference short in the Special Features which brings us Lillian Roth herself in 1933, a delightful beauty with good clear eyes a fine voice and a spirit you can fall right into. Hayward physically is stiff as an actress and gesticulates rampantly and meaninglessly as she sings, whereas Roth, when she sings may use the same bold gestures, but they suit her and are natural to her.  You can always see Susan Hayward reaching her marks on the soundstage floor. She is never motivated; she is always driven. She is perpetually locked for a fight. In fact, her energy is so pronounced it is masculine – despite the fact that she has a good figure and a pretty face. Both these are enhanced by Sydney Guilaroff, whose perfect hairstyles for her bring a great deal to the character – as they do for Jo Van Fleet, another repulsive actor, who plays Hayward’s stage mother. Of course, Jo Van Fleet is a very good actress, and just how much better than Hayward is determined perfectly in the great confrontation scene between them. Our belovèd Margo and Eddie Albert, Ray Danton, and Richard Conte support the actress, who improves as the drunk scenes loosen her up, invite her to be flexible and less actory, and even funny. Much head tossing goes on as she hits and rises from the skids, but there are other scenes – especially those in AA – which are simple and moving. Daniel Mann directed actresses toward Oscars – Shirley Booth, Anna Magnani, Elizabeth Taylor – and there are times here which justify Hayward nomination for it that year. Hayward would have taken as her cue to play unpleasant characters onscreen that permission given by Bette Davis who mastered the art and paved the way. There are times in this gritty performance which must bow to her powerful predecessor in thanks.


Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button