Archive for the ‘Richard Conte’ Category

I’ll Cry Tomorrow

29 Mar

I’ll Cry Tomorrow — directed by Daniel Mann. Drama. A young stage performer takes her first drink and all is lost. 117 minutes Black and White 1956.


As singer Lillian Roth, Susan Hayward flails about in the first half of this film and then comes alive in the second as a charming drunk. Hayward was one of those repulsive actors — Shelley Winters, Jack Palance were others – who are grating in everything they do, especially in parts in which they are called upon to be sympathetic or endearing. If you want to see what endearing really is, take a look at the Story Conference short in the Special Features which brings us Lillian Roth herself in 1933, a delightful beauty with good clear eyes a fine voice and a spirit you can fall right into. Hayward physically is stiff as an actress and gesticulates rampantly and meaninglessly as she sings, whereas Roth, when she sings may use the same bold gestures, but they suit her and are natural to her.  You can always see Susan Hayward reaching her marks on the soundstage floor. She is never motivated; she is always driven. She is perpetually locked for a fight. In fact, her energy is so pronounced it is masculine – despite the fact that she has a good figure and a pretty face. Both these are enhanced by Sydney Guilaroff, whose perfect hairstyles for her bring a great deal to the character – as they do for Jo Van Fleet, another repulsive actor, who plays Hayward’s stage mother. Of course, Jo Van Fleet is a very good actress, and just how much better than Hayward is determined perfectly in the great confrontation scene between them. Our belovèd Margo and Eddie Albert, Ray Danton, and Richard Conte support the actress, who improves as the drunk scenes loosen her up, invite her to be flexible and less actory, and even funny. Much head tossing goes on as she hits and rises from the skids, but there are other scenes – especially those in AA – which are simple and moving. Daniel Mann directed actresses toward Oscars – Shirley Booth, Anna Magnani, Elizabeth Taylor – and there are times here which justify Hayward nomination for it that year. Hayward would have taken as her cue to play unpleasant characters onscreen that permission given by Bette Davis who mastered the art and paved the way. There are times in this gritty performance which must bow to her powerful predecessor in thanks.



The Greatest Story Ever Told

13 Feb

The Greatest Story Ever Told — directed by George Stevens. A prophet appears in the ancient Middle East and is believed and followed and then beset by political superstition.

3 hours and 19 minutes, Color, 1965.


It is not fair of me to review this film, for I have not seen it in a movie theatre, but only on my TV, which, while it is fairly large, cannot do justice to the size of the screen for which it was made. When Stevens was asked to choose between Panasonic and super-Panasonic, he chose the latter, although only two such cameras were available. Others were soon found. And the film was made as a story dependent upon its narration for a huge broad screen. Stevens had been a cameraman for years before he became a director, and he could combine the integrity of his material with the size of the canvas upon which he painted. The sort of the story and its telling were intrinsic to the size of the screen. The one had to do with the other, and to see this film on a TV screen is simply for most of it to fail to register as story. Or so I imagine. It may not be the Greatest Film ever made but it must be the most gorgeous. After research in the Holy Land, Stevens made it in remote Arizona settings which resembled that land of long ago. The flooding of Lake Powell was halted so it could be filmed as the Sea of Galilee. The settings are vast and panoramic and are meant, I believe to buoy up the power of the actions on the screen into a spiritual or at least other world dimension, and this I think they may succeed in doing. The individual scenes are made with Stevens’ unerring sense of beauty; he was inspired by famous paintings and their lighting; many interiors are dark and mysterious, lit for chiaroscuro and for effects which his simple camera setups were primed. Max Von Sydow is fine as Jesus as an actor, but no one else comes up to be as good as to be even bad. Great actors like Van Heflin look as uncomfortable in their sandals as everyone else; God, their feet must have hurt. The crowd scenes are just like all Hollywood crowd scenes, a lot of people shaking their fists in the air at the same time unconvincingly. No one is at home their costumes. The actors pause portentous eons between syllables, except for Jose Ferrer who mercifully picks up all his cues and for Claude Rains who gets on with it also. Charlton Heston is well cast as the humorless John The Baptist and delvers his lines through his stentorian teeth like a baleen whale in a vomitorium. Sal Mineo is marvelous as a cripple who is able to walk; his is the best performance in the film and probably of his career. Sometimes the old sermons are moving, but the picture does not seem to be, except once, when Sydney Poitier picks up the cross from Jesus’ stumbled back and helps him along with it. Much of the heart of the film seems to be kept at a distance, a beautiful distance, true. The miracles are all off to one side, never shown; only their effect is shown. The effect of Jesus on his apostles is never shown, always granted. Eventually, the film got out of control, and Jean Negulesco shot the Jerusalem street scenes and David Lean cast and shot the Claude Rains sequence. Alfred Newman scored it with ancient instruments, his own score, and Handel’s Messiah which is quite grating. Some day if I have the chance I will see this film in a movie house. William Mellor, Stevens’ favorite photographer shot it, and there isn’t a scene in it that isn’t rapturously beautiful. From a camera point of view. Whether from a human point of view and a narrative point of view, I wonder.


Ocean’s Eleven – Sinatra Version

30 Jan

Ocean’s Eleven – Sinatra Version — directed by Lewis Milestone. Caper Flick. Eleven chums from WW II convene to rob 5 Las Vegas Casinos. 127 minutes Color 1960.

* * *

As hackneyed a piece of direction as you could wish to see, this picture brings Frank Sinatra, that master of self-satisfaction, as the old sergeant gathering his cadre for a heist. The piece is very well constructed and wittily written, but the mixture of non-actors with professionals with a few cameos thrown in makes the adventure stagger along like a drunkard. Set beside the suave George Clooney versions of this, with his cast of brilliant actors, this ur-version looks dated and dumb. And it is. None of the actors seem able to deliver their lines with any aplomb. On the list of professionals, we have the genius of Akim Tamiroff as the worry wart, Dean Martin who with a few paltry songs manages to sustain his suavity as a lounge act singer, Ilka Chase as the rich mother of that Duke Of Eurotrash, Peter Lawford, and Cesar Romero who brings the humor of his massive authority to the role of a mafia don. Others who get by without disgracing themselves are Richard Conte who is, as usual, straightforward in his part, and Sammy Davis Junior, who gets by, as usual, on a superabundance of natural talent. Shirley MacLaine overdoes a soused chick for us, and Red Skelton is absolutely on the money as a gambling addict. The rest of the cast, including Peter Lawford, we shall not shame by mentioning.


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