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Thursday, March 21, 2013


The Watch List For 3/21/13

SONG WITHOUT END (1960) --- Dirk Bogarde's Franz Liszt (the guy who wrote some music for The Black Cat, remember?) seducing 'cross Europe and the Russian frontier (so much so he has to cool off at one point in a monastery) amidst lush recreation of piano concerts given by the classical composer/performer. Halls and palaces that host latter look continental-real and not like yet another recital off Universal's over-taxed Phantom stage. Shooting over there where Liszt and colleagues made legend is a biggest asset to Song Without End. Its first half is Liszt interpreting others, Chopin, Wagner, etc., whose music shares a soundtrack with concertos FL eventually wrote, so listening isn't limited to Liszt, and 141 minutes gains for sample of these others from the period. Don't know if Liszt as libertine is accurate to his real-life, but it livens offstage action and gave Bogarde's following a fillup.


It's the Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt) Welcoming
Another 1960 Visitor To Her Castle!
Dirk's dandyish, in a fun sense, and forceful besides --- no spitting up blood on the keys like Cornel Wilde's wilting Chopin. Dexterity at keyboards made me think for all the world it was really Bogarde playing. Initial directing Charles Vidor, hired I assume for having done successfully the Chopin story as A Song To Remember in 1945, dropped dead part way in (on the set, I'm told), and was replaced straightaway by George Cukor, who apparently redid everything, but didn't take credit (other than acknowledgment of non-specific contribution). I didn't note Cukor imprint through what was said to be, and looks at times like, chaotic international co-producing, concert crowds thick as Romans taking the field in peplum epics being shot down the boulevard. The personal story takes back seat to plentiful music, but the latter's ladled out generously, and classicists should be sated. Very nice On-Demand DVD in scope from Columbia.

 
SHADOW OF A WOMAN (1946) --- Gaslight variation wherein murdering doc Helmut Dantine uses new bride Andrea King to square account with former wife and mother of a child he's now starving to death. Pretty unwholesome, as is synopsis-clear, and characters act foolishly against own interests in that contrived movie way that always irks. Will heroines ever cease delivering themselves into villain clutches for sake alone of juicing up third-acts? Warners did several like this on B terms --- if it wasn't Dantine deviltry (with women), then Zachary Scott stood ready, sometimes even Bogart in reduced enough wife-killing circumstance. Adolph Deutsch scores to fine effect, at times reusing Maltese Falcon themes. Sinister Dantine reminded me lots of Montgomery Clift after his car crash, a sort of bent handsomeness that kept this Austrian-born actor largely out of sympathetic leads.


SUCCESS (1931) --- Myopic Jack Haley can't see to read song sheets as a department store music plugger, so how's he going to play baseball to please his girl's sport obsessed father? Haley did surprising volume of comedy shorts before he was the Tin Man, and it's just lately they've begun to be unearthed. Does Jack appeal? I think more so when he's meek, as here, less on brash occasion, like Salt Water Daffy. Opening scenes with Haley among store display of Warner-owned tunes is window to a past when ways of selling music included guys/gals performing all day behind counters. Oh, to have but a little of that back! The would-be father-in-law is TV's future Perry White John Hamilton, who lets thinning hair down to fun-make with Haley, a refreshing glimpse of a player we associate with stolid. Jack's ball team hails from "Astoria." Could this have been reference to Paramount staff based there who regularly made with the ball and bat against Vitaphone rivals? It wasn't unusual for opposing studio teams to meet regular for gaming. Success is far from slick, but always satisfying, to curiosity if not appetite for comedy. Another honey off Warner Archive's Vitaphone Varieties, Volume Two DVD.


MONTE CARLO (1930) --- An Ernst Lubitsch-Maurice Chevalier musical comedy that unfortunately does not have Maurice Chevalier. There is Jeanette MacDonald and good writing from before, but Maurice was occupied at quicker-done vehicles to cash in on success of The Love Parade, thus substituting of Jack Buchanan, over twenty years shy of screen magnetism he'd bring to 1953's The Bandwagon. Monte Carlo has a splendid beginning where it's just Jeanette and supporting laugh-makers. In fairness, Buchanan is alright for holding up his end, but expectation for more Maurice and frustration over his absence had to have been a '30 letdown. Could any personality, necessarily of lower wattage, follow Chevalier's act? The device of Buchanan's wealthy count pretending to be a hair-dresser allows Lubitsch his precode advantage, and Monte Carlo being several reels shorter than The Love Parade is a help. Jeanette MacDonald is out of clothes as much as in, another plus her Paramounts as a group enabled. A song highlight is Beyond The Blue Horizon, performed by JMc in a cross-frontier train. Monte Carlo is one that a lot of Lubitsch retrospectives might skip, but having it now on Criterion's Eclipse DVD makes for pleasing near-completion of the director's Paramount group.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

Saw MONTE CARLO once on fuzzy UHF a trillion years ago. When I try to conjure up faint memories, I 'remember' Maurice Chevalier in the film! Keep in mind, at this time the same station showed a lot of early sound Paramounts that sort of mooshed together in my memory, including several authentic Maurice movies.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Saw SHADOW OF A WOMAN and thought the script had potential ,maybe with other leads. Don't think Helmut Dantine is quite strong enough to carry a film.

Vienna's Classic Hollywood

3:45 AM  
Blogger Michael J. Hayde said...

Your review doesn't make the comparison, but looking at that second shot from SUCCESS makes me think Haley (or the creative team) is trying to evoke Harold Lloyd.

12:02 PM  

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