A Recent Weekend's Watching
Company down last weekend and we ran six features, plus innumerable shorts (is that overdoing it?). First was A Woman Of Paris, aka the Charlie Chaplin feature people watch least. It was his attempt to go sophisticated, tell truth of cafe idlers he observed on Euro triumph touring where such types presumably sucked up to him. There'd also been an affair with Peggy Hopkins Joyce, who must have rocked CC's world as she had innumerable husbands/lovers. Chaplin hadn't been long admitted to this club, so Woman Of Paris is maybe less relaxed about decadent lifestyle than imitations that would follow (and maybe surpass) it. Too bad a lot of those are lost now, especially Ernst Lubitsch's contributions. The stopped-being-funny-man spent a year on A Woman Of Paris --- Doug/Mary surely seethed over UA partner Charlie's blowing time back of cameras rather than tramp-ing for profit on behalf of indie-venture he'd launched with them.
Good as it turned out, A Woman Of Paris had not a chance before crowds used to Chaplin merry-making (domestic rentals stalled at $648,000). Part of reason he'd done WOP was to golden parachute Edna Purviance off his lot and to dramatic triumph elsewhere. Her girlish days were gone; there's little remnant left even in opener part where she's innocence not yet defiled. I had a boy crush on 8mm Edna --- how many ingénues from 1916 were this cute? --- she being dream girl to beat in Mutuals like Behind The Screen (in cap and overalls --- my favorite), The Rink ... numerous others. They say Purviance read about Charlie's first marriage in newspapers, this after several years the two were offscreen intimate. Too bad Edna didn't leave her side of that story.
Also read that Oona talked CC into reviving A Woman Of Paris after fifty years it went fallow. Made me wonder if there were even surreptitious runs in the
Ed Wood was next by guest request. I watched this marveling that Disney would front such a movie geek indulgence, EW a losing by-product of studio business done with hot-off-Batmans Tim
There were veterans of Ed Wood wars spoiling still for fights when Ed Wood was released in 1994 (several angrily declaring he never wore women's clothes while directing, but how could Burton have passed up creative-licensing such a hook?). Others took up cudgels for long-departed Bela Lugosi, much too much the gentleman, they said, to have ever used language as Martin Landau does here, he being an otherwise near-dead ringer for late-in-life BL. Again, this was coarse 90's sensibility visited upon the 50's --- purists could take it or leave it. Being seventeen years past '94, just about everyone associated with Wood or Lugosi has gone eternity's way as Ed Wood takes on its own charmed antiquity. Big studios aren't likely to bankroll more black-and-white, extended insider jokes so taken with themselves as this hangover from too many late shows.
Pepe Le Moko is streaming too on Hulu Plus, thanks to that provider's Janus deal. To see a 30's French film in HD after years enduring basement-level dupes is revelation plenty. Finally making sense too is exalted critical rep Pepe developed among those few with access to decent prints. Pepe Le Moko was figured good enough to break out of French confines and maybe splash in US markets, a distinction that would prove its undoing after producer Walter Wanger simply bought the pic outright so he could domestic-do a copy with Euro exotics already settled stateside. Charles Boyer thus replaced Jean Gabin, and recent import Hedy Lamarr romantic partnered him. Good as photo-finished
I've yet to make total peace with sub-titled movies, try as I might, and for years striving toward skill of speed-reading translations w/o missing visuals crucial to the show. My guest proposed but a glance to get essence of words and never mind close perusal of what's at bottom of the image ... but ... I can't help lingering on printed words when they pop up, which is reason I wish they'd use sub-titles only for indispensable narrative info. There's a skill to viewing non-English speaking films that some have and others, like me, never will. Many can't abide a film they have to read. I came off Pepe Le Moko feeling I'd missed part of it, and indeed I had, just for adhering to printed instruction I really didn't need to understand most of what went on. A best watching of foreign films is perhaps the second and beyond times when you know the story and sub-titles can be turned off forever after, a benefit of digital delivery where such option is on most menus.
Last among our program I'll mention is Home Before Dark, of moody 1958 Warners origin just lately (and finally) available on widescreen disc, being a story Bette Davis, or more appropriately Ida Lupino, might have done fifteen years earlier for WB. Its overlong probe of mental illness and domestic trouble resulting is enhanced by locations shot in snowy New England --- director Mervyn LeRoy makes picturesque use of these. Jean Simmons goes for broke of emotional inside-outing actresses wouldn't enjoy much longer as studio manufacture limped toward final decline. Home Before Dark comes of Autumn season for Warner pics that were recognizably theirs. For old time's sake, we're given encore of Now, Voyager themes on the soundtrack. HBD was adult-themed drama kids were likely barred from seeing when new, not that most would have an interest, but for times emerging when most tickets were youth-purchased, it's near unique in appealing first and foremost to grown-up patronage.