Archive for the ‘Julie Harris’ Category

Reflections In A Golden Eye

14 Jun

When it first came out I hastened to it and saw it shown with Huston’s famous color correction for it meant for us to see the film as through a golden eye. This version was immediately withdrawn and regular Technicolor imposed. It still failed. Why is the eye gold to begin with? Because Anacleto, the fairy houseboy of Julie Harris, theatricalizes a peacock’s eye through a drawing made to correct everything grotesque – meaning we, the audience, are meant to be witnessing the story as grotesque and, through a golden eye, forgive it…I guess. Because that is not what happened to me. What happened to me was that I saw Brian Keith be the only sympathetic character in the piece, and Marlon Brando deliver one of the greatest acting scenes in all motion pictures. This is still true of that scene. At the time I also felt Huston was more interested in the equestrian scenes than in the story itself. I feel this is less true now, because what I did not consider at the time was that this material is not suited to Huston’s temperament and so the film lacks body. Everyone in the film is unfaithful. A highly puritanical, non, drinking, non smoking virgin enlisted man/stable boy, played in his screen debut by that wonderful actor Robert Forster, exercises the horses bareback and bare-ass in the woods where he also sunbathes nude. But he also creeps into the house of the Major played by Brando to ogle his wife as she sleeps, hardly an act of fidelity to the pure. Julie Harris is unfaithful to her husband by favoring her houseboy. Marlon Brando is unfaithful to his wife by lusting for Forster. His wife is unfaithful to him. Brian Keith is unfaithful to Julie Harris. But what the film may really be about is the human lens through which people see and do not see one another. I don’t know. I would say the film is thrown by the playing of Elizabeth Taylor, an untrained actress but one of great experience and one who is sensational in roles suitable to her natural instinct. Here she serves up Martha’s leftovers. She is shrill and technically broad, and a woman that beautiful does not have to be either of those things to get her way. The result is that it is a performance without repose. She throws the fact that her horse is a stallion in Brando’s face to cut him, just as she takes a riding crop to his face in a party after he has abused that horse. It does not convince. Gathering that her part is that of a bitch, Taylor lays it on thick. The result is over-painted. Elizabeth Taylor got what she wanted in life without gesticulating for it, and with her, lifting a finger would have constituted a gesticulation. Of course, the difficulty for Elizabeth Taylor would have been that in real life she didn’t know anybody. Unlike Patricia Neal, who would have been perfect in this part, who had a big Southern family, Elizabeth Taylor was jailed by her fame and so never met the sort of woman she had to play here. Her performance is not based on anything. Neither is her accent. Her performance is thus amateur. It would have been more interesting if she had played it against type, recognizing she did hot understand her husband, Brando, but still tried to. Julie Harris, on the other hand, is a treat. Watch her focus. Her ability to sustain attention is infallible, and Huston has the goodness to show it to us. The same is true of Brando, whose performance is somewhat garbled by his Southern accent, but even that seems justified by the primness that he cannot help but seek refuge in. It is a remarkable characterization. And he has this scene. Don’t expect a great movie, but expect great moments. It’s worth watching for them.


The Dark Half

25 Jan

The Dark Half — directed by George A. Romero. Horror. A college professor moonlighting as a horror story writer is pursued to the death by his doppelganger, his own nom de plume — 122 minutes color 1991.

* * * *

Julie Harris, costumed entirely in lunatic fringe and puffing a meerschaum pipe to boot, plays the college crony crone of our hero, and it’s lovely to see how Harris, a big star with big leading roles behind her, can right-size a role like this and bring to it no more that it will bear, while still giving full value. The original Sally Bowles in I Am A Camera and Frankie in The Member of the Wedding and Abra in East of Eden, here plays a small supporting role: watch, you young actors, what this feels like and how this is managed: no larger, no smaller than ordained: perfect. My view of our hero though is that Timothy Hutton cannot carry a movie, and it is not because of lack of talent or variety of skills with that talent, for his range is certainly demonstrated here. It is as though somewhere in midstream he loses his grip on — I don’t know which — the part the role? A certain doughiness takes over, as the bread starts to rise and then collapses in on itself, as though he could not seek deeper than his instinct. At 31 or so, he’s certainly good looking, even beautiful, and he’s certainly come a long way from Taps, and he certainly has acting in his blood. Nonetheless, this is one of the best pieces of work of his I’ve seen, and his double header as the evil twin is droolingly good. The work of Stephen King always repels me: we’ve a disaffinity of temperament. Always about some male writer, Depp, Richardson, Hutton, Caan, always some remote place in the Maine woods, always someone out to get him and take over. Although over-discursive, here, this version of the theme interests me more than usual: the writer himself as the psychopomp into the hell-realm, not just the wrens, although I liked the wrens a lot.


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