Archive for the ‘Joan Crawford: SCREEN GODDESS’ Category

Harry Langdon: The Forgotten Clown

28 Jan

Harry Langdon: The Forgotten Clown —  directed by Frank Captra and Harry Edwards. Three broad comedies: Tramp, Tramp, Tramp; The Strong Man; Long Pants.   193 minutes blck and white 1922 and later.

* * * * *

Harry Langdon was tapioca pudding buttoned up in a tight little jacket. Wry bee-stung lips, white makeup, wide-spaced eyes beady and alert as a chipmunk. He was a child-size man with a child’s responsiveness to life, a responsiveness physically and emotionally more subtle than Chaplin’s. The entire body is always engaged differently, unlike Chaplin’s which as the little tramp was broadly kinetic and always the same. Tiny men both of them, Langdon seems smaller, a pipsqueak, and like Chaplin and Keaton, heroic. I find him very very funny. And always surprising. See him in this Strong Man picture defend his honor from a female rapist! See his scene in the bus with a cold. See the little bows he takes as the strong man at the end.  Watch his eyes. Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the second feature puts him in a crosscountry walking race. See the cyclone scene!  See the cliff hanger scene!  See the scene in the bassinet!  I fell off my chair laughing. Watch his contortions when he first lays eye on his dream girl, the ever-gauche Joan Crawford (age 23). The picture is set up in long sequences, and they’re wonderful, and only in pictures and only in silent pictures would they work. The third piece, Long Pants, I found less amusing, but still… See him, he’s a find: the Pierrot of silent film, The Great White Clown. A master.



Dancing Lady

18 Jan

Dancing Lady — directed by Robert Z. Leonard — a backstage musical in which a hodgepodge  vaudeville company is drawn into feasability. 92 minutes black and white 1933.

Here Crawford is  27 and already too old for the part of a naive beginner. Her makeup is a mask over her red-head’s freckles and her eyelashes are hugely destructive to her character. But boy, was she gifted. Not as a dancer, of course, for her dancing is gauche. She flings herself about with no mercy for any of us, always looking at her feet. Nonetheless she holds the screen like nobody’s business. She had this great face, with enormous eyes, strong nose, and broad, flexible mouth with a stunner smile. She is a tower of human will in a part that requires exactly that quality. And you cannot take your eyes off her. And you root for her. And she is a very talented actress, to boot. Gable is another matter entirely. Like her, he was born exquisitely gifted to be photographed. The beautiful shape of his head is a treat to see, the way his face moves, the way his dimples operate, how the mustache gives him an upper lip, his long neck and broad sloping shoulders and slim physique, his deep gnarled voice — all these are gifts of god. But, boy could he act! He’s so skilled that it’s easy to overlook his superb ability for honest forthright acting choices which animate the house he is. Unlike Crawford whose acting choices are always noticeable, Gable’s choice are more inherent and so less noticeable. Unlike Crawford, he could actually play comedy; he could actually play parts that made a fool of himself. The picture here is one of many these two made together. In real life they had a long affair. And on the screen it shows and shows well.  He is all impatient resistance; she is all desperate eagerness. What a perfect match. The film is a backstage musical with huge incoherent production numbers of the Busby Berkeley stripe, and, mercifully, very little of Joan’s “dancing” — certainly not with Fred Astaire who appears with her in a couple of numbers well organized to disguise her limitations. The songs are by Burton Lane, so that’s nice. And Franchot Tone (one of Crawford’s real-life husbands) does his insouciant sophisticate on one side of the stage while the Three Stooges cavort and bonk one another on the other. (There’s a Three Stooges extra, too, if you like them, and I don’t.) Robert Benchley brings his fumbling into several scenes and the deco settings are grand, though Crawford’s costumes are overdone. This is not high art. It fact it is not art at all. So, from the title, don’t expect Cyd Charisse to round the bend and astound us with her gams and class and talent. You don’t expect great art from a supermarket generic brand. That’s not what you go for. You expect something that is filling without being in any way nourishing. Such is the experience of Dancing Lady. And. by the way, she aint no lady.


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