Archive for the ‘Rita Moreno’ Category

The Night Of The Following Day

20 Oct

The Night Of The Following Day – Directed by Hubert Cornfield. Crime Drama. Four kidnappers hole up in a beach house to generate ransom, and things fall apart. 92 minutes Color 1968.

a cloud over the stars

Cornfield’s commentary is worth the trip, for he remains justifiably vindictive regarding Brando’s destructive misconduct while filming this. But that’s not the problem. The actors are fine, including Brando. The trouble is that the story itself lacks power because we are not offered any way to invest in any of these people, including the kidnappee. Moreover, the film does not generate suspense, and that is probably due to the arrangement of the shots. It is Brando’s last picture as a male beauty. And he really is beautiful — in a blond wig, no less. He is trim, he is buffed, he is dressed all in black. He is forty-four. After this he declines into the soda fountain of his belly and, to the indignation of God, attempts for the rest of his life to attain artistic ruin, which, in his case, was an impossibility. So the greatest actor of his time throws away his sex appeal on the one hand and his career on the other through the mere mischief of an ice cream cone. But this is his last moment with all four burners and the oven and the broiler working, and there are scenes in this picture well worth seeing because of that. We witness again and for the last time his extraordinary power, physical command, and generosity. He performs with an intensity astonishing to this day and with a reserve in which he is unsurpassed because he has so much to hold in reserve. Richard Boone appears in it with him, but his character is given insufficient scenic development, so he remains enigmatic in the wrong way. The great treat is Rita Moreno. Who knows how she came to be cast in this part, but on the commentary the director says she is the best actor he ever worked with, and you can see why. She is immediate, game, always present. She is susceptible to whatever is thrown at her. Her scenes with Brando are daring triumphs of the actor’s art. It is insulting to the world that she was confined to hotsie-totsie parts all her long career in film, when it is clear that she has a classical instrument, and should have been working in classical roles. This is an actor who right now should be playing Hecuba in Euripides’ The Trojan Women. Contemplating this dream, consider this: besides Hecuba there are three great roles in that play, Andromache, Hector’s wife, Cassandra, Hector’s mad sister, and Helen of Troy, and that Rita Moreno at one time or another in her life, could also have played any one of them.




Summer and Smoke

04 Apr

Summer and Smoke — Directed by Peter Glenville. Love story. A spinster letches for the ne’er do well boy next door. 93 minutes Color 1961

* * * * *

As a critic, I wonder what good it does to bring to the front things that cannot be remedied. Here, the lighting often fails its needs, and the director should never have been hired, or shot soon after. The leading man is out of place and league. But this movie contains one of the greatest love scenes ever filmed, ever written, ever acted. It also records the performance of it that brought the play out of the obscurity of its original failure on Broadway, and thrust into prominence both the play, the theatre, The Circle In The Square, and the actress who played Alma and plays it here, Geraldine Page. The play lends itself to one’s imagination as one sees it in a theatre, but the scriptwriters have coarsened these references by literalizing them. The director, who is English, has no sense of the atmosphere required for this material or how to diminish the staginess of his performers. Laurence Harvey is right only in his opening scene, for he has none of the juice and charm that would make this character bearable and understandable. And he should be understandable, for Tennessee Williams has done again what he did in Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire; he has created a female protagonist whose tragedy is that she puts on airs. Why does she do this? Because, like all of us, at one time or another, she so wants to be someone else, someone whose heart is a little taller than the arrows shot at her. She wants to escape the stern facts of her circumstances. This makes her an isolate and a tolerated mockery. It makes her the sort of phony no man wants to be around. Geraldine Page is able to work this character just short of putting our teeth on edge. With desperate hands she clasps her body as though it would fly apart if she did not. She seethes with the sexuality she has to gainsay in order to sustain her act, but she longs for its release if only the young man would stop carousing. You can see the character in Page’s eyes, which are wide open and which are so true to the feeling, to the longing, to the passion in Alma’s being. It’s astounding that she can do all this opposite Laurence Harvey, with his tight, narrow temperament, and his bad Southern accent, a role made thankless by the actor’s lack of blood, a role perfectly suited to Jack Nicholson back in the day. Yet the great scenes unfold between them, carried by Williams’ superb writing and Page’s profound grasp of this woman’s needs. I never saw Page do it on the stage, but when I asked Mildred Dunnock what she thought of Page in the picture, she said she felt Gerry had lost her lyricism in the role. I should have asked her what she meant, and I repeat it here as a lighthouse for actresses to come. But I cannot do anything now except to say you must see this remarkable performance of this remarkable character in this remarkable play.


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