Archive for the ‘Mary Brian’ Category

Amazing Adventure

01 Mar

Amazing adventure (AKA the Amazing Quest of Earnest Bliss AKA Romance and Riches — directed and produced by Alfred Zeisler. Romantic Drama. A bored playboy takes the challenge of living for a year without his money and solely on his wits. 80 minutes Black and White 1937.


This is a gender/switch version of George Bernard Shaw’s The Millionairess, and it is one of the last of Cary Grant’s tuxedo roles, in which for many years he had played playboys with patent leather shoes and patent leather hair, an expensive cigarette, a hand in a pocket, and a waiting air. He is thirty two and that year, 1937, among the five films he would make came The Awful Truth, by which he became the superstar we are incapable of not seeing him as, as now, even here, in this rather footling English comedy. He is quite wonderful, and you marvel that he did not make it double-big sooner. As the bored man about London, caged in a nightclub and surrounded by classy dames, he is perfect. Indeed he is perfect all the way through, so perfect and the movie so imperfect, that you take pause and just look at him, to see what he is doing, what he is as an actor, what his talent consists of. Setting aside his looks as appealing to you or not (he is almost always more beautiful than his leading ladies), his sensual level mouth, his resplendently shaped head and matchless hair, his strong nose – and taking note of his figure, which is high wasted, which therefore makes his pants ride high and lengthens his leg, making him look super in suits – and his height, around 6 feet – as I say, putting all these meritorious distractions to the side – which of course you cannot do since they are major deposits in the big holdings of his stardom – and letting that imitable voice, with its from-nowhere accent, stand over – let’s just turn to what is going on inside all that that would really make him a star. Well, the first thing is that by this time he is a grown man and before that maybe he isn’t, and that’ll do it. But that’s not it. What do women see in him? What have men to learn from him? As an actor, I think it is just one thing: no actor in screen history paid better attention to the person he was acting with. It’s not a question of “listening;” it’s not a question of looking at them; it’s something more. Without actually ever doing it, his entire body leans, leans without leaning into what is going on and you can sense his mind process it and accept the words he utters as a natural consequence of all that. He’s interested. He doesn’t play I Am Interested. He simply is interested. It is the greatest of all romantic feats. Without appearing to, his slightly hunched shoulders bend him in, and he absorbs everything that Mary Brian, the lovely leading lady opposite him, has to offer. He is an actor who is absolutely there for you. And he never shows it. His entire body is engaged – as well he might be, sold as a child into a vaudeville circus act by his father, walking stilts ads on the boardwalk at Coney Island, and tumbling along as an acrobat, he might very well have learned the importance of physical attention. We love him and we make him a star because we give attention to the person who gives attention. Also to be noted, although at one time he is said to have hated it, Cary Grant was a master at improvisation. To see it writ large, take a look at the screen test he did with Suzy Parker, the world’s top fashion model and non-actor, to see how he makes the screen test work, his generosity, his adaptability. Grant was not a great actor – he monotonizes his lines, for instance – and his sexuality is never ever anywhere but on reserve – but he is capable of great film acting. With him the actor’s motion is inward and outward at exactly the same time. Thus – breathing interest– he became visible to us as an inward ideal.

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