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Monday, February 03, 2014

Fred Astaire Dances at Debbie Reynolds' Wedding


The Pleasures Of The Pleasure Of His Company (1961)

So long as Twilight Time and others are leasing titles from Paramount for Blu-Ray release, why in heavenly stars don't they get this? I watched a full-frame and visually bland transfer via Amazon Prime that still managed to enchant. There's no DVD availability, here or elsewhere regions. Unless George Seaton fads up among auteurists (not likely), Pleasure won't likely land on disc or have its stream freshened, a real shame as this was among dying breed of civilized comedy that a fast coarsening 60's would stomp out. Maybe it was outdated on arrival, what with $2.2 million limit for domestic rentals, less than even disappointment of Jerry Lewis' concurrent Cinderfella, his a sort of comedy preferred as children increasingly made up Hollywood's paying audience.


Producer/director team William Perlberg and George Seaton had been supplying Paramount over a last decade, most of theirs at light setting per a preceding two with Clark Gable, Teacher's Pet and But Not For Me. Gable would certainly have taken, or at least been offered, the Fred Astaire lead in The Pleasure Of His Company had not 11/60 death intervened. I wonder too if Cary Grant was sought before settling on Astaire. The latter had ceded dancing other than for TV specials, his screen work gone dramatic direction of On The Beach. Fred wanted roles to better reflect advancing age, so lent deft hand to comedy here, the actor's one regret that his character was softened from edgier interpretation of the origin play. Perlberg/Seaton were restless with marketing indifference at Paramount, release dates being changed at eleventh hour and premiere events spoiled by distribution jumping gun with earlier screenings, as had been case with Teacher's Pet (this covered admirably in Bernard Dick's insider book, Engulfed: The Death Of Paramount Pictures and The Birth Of Corporate Hollywood).


A 60's-bred generation of critics would look back on The Pleasure Of His Company as "slightly anachronistic" and "totally mediocre," sad lot of a project engaged by people who wanted movies like they used to be and never would be again. Such mindset hung into the early 60's, and not just at Perlberg/Seaton --- there were winter seasons of John Ford, Vincente Minnelli, Howard Hawks --- a picture-making way going with winds of cultural change. Pleasure lead Astaire was sixty-two and playing scamp of an absent-till-now father of about-to-marry Debbie Reynolds, rest of Pleasure's cast drawn from well of vets better known to folks staying mostly home to watch their movies. Tab Hunter was among comparative youth; he'd give interesting background to Pleasure's production in memoir Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making Of A Movie Star.


San Francisco location reflects final flower of a cityscape soon to be Vertigone. So many movies shot there made the place seem like home, but landmarks would change as a decade to follow The Pleasure Of His Company made inroads. A few sites, notably the fabled Spreckels Mansion (still standing) remained as stoic background to Pleasure and wildly disparate seven years later harbinger of New Hollywood that was Bullitt. Did Fred Astaire have so utterly an opposite number as Steve McQueen? And yet Bullitt would as vividly bring San Francisco to life, even as a much-altered town it would become by 1968. Soundtrack producer Kritzerland recently came out with a CD of Alfred Newman's complete score for The Pleasure Of His Company. My playing that repeatedly led to search for the movie, which I figured I'd like because most all the Perlberg/Seatons are good, Newman's score lovely, and nothing with Astaire is without interest. The Pleasure Of His Company streams free to Amazon Prime membership, along with most of post-49 Paramounts that haven't been released on DVD, plus some that have.

1 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon remembers "The Pleasure Of His Company" from first-run (lucky him!):


I saw this when I was 8 years old, and though it may seem as if I'm faking this, I really liked it! I LIKED it when I was 8. Not to say it was the last word in sophistication, but it was certainly a movie typically made for adult sensibilities, vs. the moronic, reheated and pathetic slapstick in the "Beach Party" movies, at the other end of the spectrum. I still remember its handsome packaging from the Paramount logo to---correct me if I'm wrong---wonderful nocturnal views of San Francisco from Robert Burks, Hitchcock's favorite cameraman, in beautiful VistaVision (which many cameramen disliked, although the stuff that's coming out on Blu-ray mastered from surviving VistaVision negatives, such as "The Ten Commandments", the great Paramount Hitchcock pictures, "White Christmas", et al, look fantastic. It would be a long while before I grew old enough to appreciate the style and subtlety, and above all the humane aristocracy of the music of Alfred Newman, but his plush, elegantly jazzy themes in this picture really wrapped it up in a bow.


Craig

2:20 PM  

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