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Tuesday, June 11, 2013


The Watch List For 6/11/13

I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941) --- Writers have placed this near a vanguard of film noir, which it very much is for black-ish corners that conceal sinister doings, most the handiwork of masterly Laird Cregar, without whom Screaming would be lots less interesting. What a loss to casting of future noirs when Cregar died so untimely in 1945. A few more like this would have put him in that sub-genre's Hall Of Fame. Cregar had a singular way of conveying impurities to otherwise rote Hollywood story-telling, thus his scenes with Victor Mature and Betty Grable favor totally a mood he creates. It's easy to forget that Cregar actually turns out to be innocent of the murder in question, though you'd swear in hindsight that he-dunit. Shouldn't we credit H. Bruce Humberstone with laying down much of the template from which noir-doers would copy? He said later in an interview that Zanuck forced inclusion of Betty Grable singing in order not to disappoint her fans, but relented when the insert was so out-of-key with effect Humberstone achieved. There is pander to Betty-philes in a swimming pool sortie with she and Mature supplying eye appeal for respective followers. Fox's DVD runs gamut from black to gray scale, a big upswing after 16mm prints that all seemed problematic in one way or another.


EVERY DAY'S A HOLIDAY (1937) --- Mae West in a last for Paramount, her feature end amounting to a run out of town by moral guardians fueled by fallout from a radio broadcast where Mae met her randy match in Charlie McCarthy. This movie that came in controversy's wake was spoon bread compared with ones that first put West on PCA radar, but she'd stay toxic anyway just for affront of being Mae West. Must have been heartbreaking for Paramount to have such a money-spinner yielding less each time she came out the Marathon gate. Mae's public knew she'd been neutered, so why bother going? They could almost feel hot breath of censors when watching her. Unfair this surely was, but evidence of how  star images could lift them one day, crash them upon shoals the next. Every Day's Mae is again a Gay 90's dweller, that setting always reliable to put her sex at historic distance --- by '37, Topic A was all but banished from pics in any case.


What Paramount (and screenwriting Mae) did for safety measure was load up Holiday with funnymen to make up loss of spice and supply gelded escort for an increasingly ossified star attraction. West tended to pose like tableau in best of times. Here she plays drums in near-sleep rhythm that made me wonder if that in itself was the joke. It's sometime disaster to let a support comedian rip, three of them loose a guarantor of viewing fatigue. Flip your own coin as to which jangles nerves surest --- Charles Winninger, Walter Catlett, or Charles Butterworth. As to each or all, I'll take vanilla. They seem at times like a tag team with Mae West as hapless opponent. Given creative control we know she exerted, did West figure that less of her by 1937 was more? Dialogue was obviously PCA-parsed, not a line getting through that was remotely suggestive.


Mae is tendered as a "confidence woman," doing little to earn said placement beyond selling the Brooklyn Bridge to foolish Herman Bing. Production values are lush, Paramount spending in hope that West might surprise them and pay off after spectacular fashion of long-gone precode days. Jon Tuska wrote that Every Day's A Holiday was the first of her vehicles to actually lose money, so their ending association with Mae was no surprise. From here would come teaming with W.C. Fields where she'd rate distinct second best, then The Heat's On, it being off more than on, followed by decades offscreen. Universal offers Every Day's A Holiday in their Vault Series, but I was mightily disappointed by a very old transfer they used, hardly better than what cave-era VHS might have yielded. A quality-conscious day is upon us, Universal, so please get your ducks in a row.


DEPUTY MARSHAL (1949) --- An independent western that dreamed big, woke up small. William Stephens had been knocking out B's for Lippert release, five so far, but figured Deputy for a step up and maybe Randolph Scott to topline. Such plan fell before reality and he'd settle for husband-wife Jon Hall and Frances Langford, the former on fade since departure from Universal's T and sand series with co-star Maria Montez. Intent to shoot on New Mexico location got scuttled in favor of rented space at Nassour Studios and close-by scrubby road. Such was budget filmmaking among scratch-pennies doing their best, Stephens and crew giving Deputy Marshal game try and coming off with not-at-all-bad result. Langford sings, as was wont before service personnel during the war, her name likely more meaningful than Hall's for a draw. A new-fangled "Garutso balanced lens" was used to create "a three-dimensional effect," not noticeable on the Kit Parker DVD I watched, but maybe so on 35mm prints then exhibited. Deputy Marshal is another of quickies shipped by pallets from Lippert, all of interest to deep-digging students of 40/50's obscurity. Kit Parker's quality for ones so far released is uniformly fine.

1 Comments:

Blogger Kevin Deany said...

Regarding "I Wake Up Screaming", I'm always puzzled by the use of the song "Over the Rainbow" throughout. Studios liked to promote songs from their own catalogs, so why was Fox doing M-G-M favors here?

11:53 AM  

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