Archive for the ‘Leonid Kinsky’ Category

Weekend In Havanna

23 Dec

Weekend In Havana – Directed by Walter Lang. Musical. A cruise ship to Cuba crashes and the lawyer assigned to prevent a suit comes up against a determined lady. 81 minutes Color 1941.

* * * *

Brilliant! Partly because of the Technicolor process that made color something it never was in real life. And, of course, one didn’t go to the Fox musicals for real life any more than one went to a box of Toffinetti chocolates for a hearty meal. One went for wit, ebullience, and a blond with the common touch. Alice Faye was an Irish lass from Hell’s Kitchen, good hearted, easy, accessible. She had an allure she seemed almost unaware of, but the camera was not unaware of it. Her big, subtle, sleepy, China-blue eyes and her sensual and volatile mouth drew one in, as did her sultry alto when singing, at which point the camera drew close to catch it all. Gosh, what a lady! And she’s a darn good screen actor, too, as is the lushly handsome John Payne opposite her. The amazing costumes of the Fox musicals are in full array on her, as they also are on that island of tropical repose, Carmen Miranda. This movie is not like one of the deep naturalistic musicals of Gene Kelly at MGM, which moved musicals forward. It was rather the confection of a brilliant production crew and a formula for entertainment that was crisp, exotic, and fantastical in its detail and array. I have a high opinion of Fox musicals. I think of Fox musicals as piñatas. They don’t change much from one to the other. They always have the same predictable function and form, but they bring delight and they are full of astonishing gifts! Also with Billy Gilbert, Leonard Kinsky, Sheldon Leonid, Cesar Romero.



Ball Of FIre

09 Oct

Ball Of Fire – Directed by Howard Hawks. Screwball Comedy. A virginal professor meets up with a tootsie chanteuse. 111 minutes Black and White 1941,

* * * *

Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett wrote this version of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, with Dana Andrews as The Wicked Stepmother, Gary Cooper as Snow White, and Barbara Stanwyck as the ball of fire that wakes him from his sexual sleep. Because it is inauthentic, Cooper’s naïve style dates badly, and the film dates too. This is most noticeable when compared to Hawks’ intolerable A Song Is Born made only seven years later with the exact same script, set, setups, cameraman (Gregg Toland), and even Miss Totten.  Why? World War II had intervened and America was naïve no longer. Yet of the two versions, this is the more swallowable. First of all, Gary Cooper is a prettier object of romance than Danny Kaye, and second of all Barbara Stanwyck. It’s a shame Stanwyck did not make more comedies. The War may have killed that too. She had spunk, a strong breezy style, and a rich sense of humor that fit perfectly into the works of Capra, Sturges, and Hawks. Here she is a bunch of fun as the tart, sexually insolent singer on the lam in a refuge of encyclopeaists. These seven dwarfs are played in the lost manner of the time by the great S. Z. Sakall, Oscar Homolka, Henry Travers, Leonid Kinsky, and others. The brilliant Dan Duryea is on hand as a henchman as is the sparky Elisha Cook Jr as a waiter. Hawks had a ten-year run of huge hits – Bringing Up Baby, Only Angels Have Wings, His Girl Friday, Sargent York, Air Force, To Have And To Have Not, The Big Sleep, Red River, I Was A Male War Bride, The Thing – and this was one of them. It is the most forced of all his comedies, and like all of them it is an owl and the pussycat story, of a person heading toward the cliff of convention being rescued against his will by a ruthless eccentric. A fundamental human sexual predicament, that is to say, one that is still recognizable despite, or perhaps even more recognizable because of our modern sexual liberation.




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