Archive for the ‘EDITED BY’ Category

Tough Assignment

20 Oct

Tough Assignment – directed by William Baudine. A local reporter and his wife stalk gangsters rustling cattle. Crime. 64 minutes Black and White 1949.


This is lodged in volume 5 of Forgotten Noir, but it has nothing to do with Noir, either in content or treatment — it’s not even filmed as one. But that doesn’t matter. It’s a B film; it was meant to be a B film; it gets 5 stars because it fulfills its intent.

What’s interesting about it is the playing of the minor characters. Each one of them holds the screen in a way that the principal actor does not. Don “Red” Barry as the reporter had played Red Rider for a good long while, and you have to conclude that his prominence here stemmed from the role he had played rather than from his skill or star power.

Not so the supporting people. Joel Blumberg is one of the rare Bonus Feature commentators who, unlike almost all directors, is completely informed and prepared for his subject. For what he does is recite their credits and careers as crew and actors: Steve Brodie, Marjorie Steele (who married Huntington Hartford, the A & P heir who financed the film), Marc Lawrence, Iris Adrian; the editor Harry Gerstad, who this same year won an Oscar for editing Champion and later for High Noon; Stanley Price, Sid Melton, Ben Weldon, Stanley Andrews.

These crew members and actors each made hundreds of films apiece. I love their long careers. The piece-work they did and made a decent living doing. I love actors, their stubbornness and willingness to adapt, their modesty, and their aspiration. For there is not one of them that is not giving his all to the part he plays – and doing that counts for everything in material like this, which would stump the sophistication of a backward third-grader. The director would get $500 to make such a film and make it in a week and go on to the next gig– and the actors did the same, maybe earning less. If you watch these actors in scenes they support, they are more interesting than the star or than the scene they are appearing in, which understandably may draw our attention at first.

But instead, just watch Marc Lawrence, that pock-marked thug with the sunken jaws and keen black eyes. Just watch him respond to the scene at hand. He was working the Bs between filming Diamonds Are Forever, Days Of Wine And Roses, Johnny Apollo, This Gun For Hire, The Ox Bow Incident, Key Largo, Captain From Castile, The Asphalt Jungle, Marathon Man and hundreds of others. He started in the Bronx and entered Eva Le Gallienne’s company and The Group. He died at 95 still active. I love it.

So I sing the praises of actors, actors like these, actors so special in their energy, mein, and visage that they would seldom play leads, but swelled many a scene and made it better. And made an honorable career for themselves their whole lives long.


Objective, Burma!

06 May

Objective, Burma! – directed by Raoul Walsh. Action/Adventure World War II Drama. A company of soldiers after completing its demolition mission must walk two hundred miles through the Burmese jungle while tracked by Japanese intent on killing them. 142 minutes Black and White 1945.


Nominated for three Oscars, George Amy for editing, Alvah Bessie for writing, and Franz Waxman for the score, any one of them deserved it, but, apart from Raoul Walsh, the key genius in all this is James Wong Howe who filmed it. One of the great film artists, he brings a raw look to every shot, and every shot tells. Particularly in light of the fact that we always believe we are in a jungle in Burma, when, in fact, it was shot at the arboretum in Los Angeles and at a California ranch. The uniforms and equipment are authentic, not props and costumes, and the combat footage is actual footage from the China-Burma-India Theatre. So we get real parachute jumps and actual glider landing operations of that period, with tanks and trucks and troops pouring out of them in Burma, and takeoffs, too, which Howe’s footage and Amy’s editing match perfectly. Again Errol Flynn is Walsh’s star, and, with all the guns going off, and the peril of the jungle, the sweat, the hunger, the polluted water, he plays the leader of the slogging men quietly, modestly. The subtle shift in his eyes as he sees the dismembered bodies of his men is so great a film moment that we never have to see the bodies at all. Of course, while the other men grow beards during the long arduous trek, Flynn’s jaw remains shaved – but at least it is dirty, sweaty, and drawn. Walsh made many war films, and this is one of the most commanding World War II films by anyone. His supporting cast is admirable, with George Tobias as the company clown, Mark Stevens as the rescue pilot who cannot rescue them, Richard Erdman aged 19 playing a 19 year old, Warner Anderson as the young Colonel who must abandon them to their fate, James Brown as a doughty sergeant, William Prince in his first film, Frank Tang marvelous as the translator, and Henry Hull who speechifies his lines grandiosely, alas. (“All right, boys, no Hamlets in the jungle,” Walsh told them, but Hull didn’t listen. He was always that way, though; after all, he’d acted with Barrymore.) If you like action/adventure films, Walsh was the top director in his day of them. This is one of his best.




03 Aug

Rififi – Written and Directed by Jules Dassin. Heist Thriller. A quartet of experts sets to lift 250 million dollars of gems from a jewelry store. 122 minutes Black and White 1955.


A full half hour at the dead center of this masterpiece is given over to the silent execution of the caper, a passage that has never been preceded, equaled, or surpassed in film.  It was made for $200,000, a penny. Expense forbad the use of Jean Gabin, say, in the lead, and so they hired actors virtually unknown to the public, which suits the material right down to the ground. For we have Jean Servais, with his huge, sad, John McIntyre eyes, in the part, and he is riveting. They all are. What the actors lacked in experience, the crew made up for in brilliance, An A- class cinema-photographer, Phillip Agostini, filmed it, an A-class editor, Robert Dwyer, cut it, and the music is by Georges Auric. What luck! Dassin, a lovable man if there ever was one, had been exiled as one of the Hollywood 10. And in an interview in the Bonus Material he talks about those times and the making of this film. It’s all fascinating. And it is the greatest film of its kind ever made.




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