Archive for the ‘Basil Rathbone’ Category


25 Feb

Heartbeat — Directed by Sam Wood — Melodrama. A  female juvenile delinquent enters high society.  100 minutes Black And White 1946

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Ginger Rogers was 35 when she played the part of a 17 year old here. I don’t know how well this movie did at the box office, but if it failed it might have been because the public who grew up with her knew perfectly well how old she was, because they were the same age as she was. Nevertheless, she is wonderful. The story is Oliver Twist with a female as Oliver, Basil Rathbone as Fagan, and so forth. We are to believe she has run away from a girls’ reformatory, and when she is soon thrust into the high life of Paris, watch what, as an actress, she chooses to play. She does not play innocence. She plays, I’m Not Used To This World, This Dress, This Handsome Ambassador. It’s a very shrewd choice, and a natural one. Her being found stealing Alolphe Menjou’s stick pin is delicious. She had this naturalness from the start of her career in pictures which began when she was 19 in 1930. The film is amusing and quirky throughout. And, boy, can she hold the screen. She had a naturalness and a sense of herself that drew you to her. Rogers was talented and hardworking: she was touring the country at age 14 as a Charleston Queen. By the time she started making musicals with Astaire she had 19 films under her belt. She understood film acting from the inside out. I think you’ll enjoy yourself with this off-beat Sam Wood piece.[ad#300×250]


Anna Karenina

05 Feb

Anna Karenina — directed by Clarence Brown — Tragedy. A young mother married to a chilly bureaucrat is wooed and won by a high riding cavalry officer. 93 minutes Black and white 1935.

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Frederick March had learned the secret of perpetual middle age, and he is no more a prince than my chest of drawers. He lacks the rash dash which John Gilbert had as Vronsky in Garbo’s earlier and silent version, which is in modern dress, and in which her scenes with her child are far more interesting than they are here with the dread Freddie Bartholomew. Vronsky requires an actor of Byronic allure, shirt open to the waist, a part perfectly suited to Errol Flynn, here being played by a businessman. Garbo plays it as though courteously exhausted by her marriage, whose doom she puts up with with a lovely and sincerely kind and interested social smile. She is unutterably beautiful, with her thick eyelashes and the astounding geography of her eyes, summoning everything from an exhausted interior. She does not look well in many of her costumes, though, and her hair-dos are an error. And of course the movie does not work because, for its transience, the love affair has to decline, and it can’t if it has never peaked, and it can’t peak if there is no lubricity between the two lovers, and there aint. The piece is over-produced; it looks foolishly expensive. as though all the Russian upper classes lived in MacMansions; Russian haute bourgeois interiors never had ceilings that weren’t there, nor were they that vast; after all, they had to be heated. Garbo does not play a beautiful woman; she, as usual, dismisses her beauty humorously as beside the point. Good. But I question the drone her voice takes on as one who has given up hopelessly before the play begins, making the performance appear a bit prefabricated. That is, I question her choice. The director Clarence Brown she liked because he managed traffic so well, but he’s an awful dullard, and the picture’s excellence, so far as it has any, is solely the product of Williams Daniels who filmed and lit most of Garbo’s films; the banquet scene, the ball, the movement of light across her face; the placement of Garbo in it; all the camera moves; all the angles; shooting from behind the harp, everything like that is not directorial, not Clarence Brown but Williams Daniels. Williams Daniels is the man. He is one really playing Vronsky here. He is the one madly in love with her. He was one of the great lighting and filming geniuses who ever lived. Garbo was a great actress and a great beauty and a great soul, and he caught it all, over and over again for us.


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