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Friday, October 03, 2014

Mankiewicz Tries a Thinking Folks' Comedy


People Will Talk (1951) Will Either Amuse or Confuse

You could slap this title on all Joe Mankiewicz pics for endless talking his people do, this one at least from peak period before chat weighed heavy on pace (The Barefoot Contessa). If Cary Grant weren't here, I'd slate People Will Talk for '51 art-houses, content suiting highest brows best. There is great dialogue scattered like pearls amidst over-length; did Zanuck fight a losing battle with empowered-by-Oscars Joe to scissor some of 110 minutes? There's a Code-tickling romance, Grant to rescue of single-but-impregnated Jeanne Crain, she the picture's weak link by Mankiewicz reckoning (he found her "insipid," but DFZ and customers thought otherwise). The conflict is between unorthodox doc Cary and staff rival Hume Cronyn, who seeks goods on possible crime past of CG and majordomo Finlay Currie, this amidst backdrop of highest education, which may have put off trade. People Will Talk's negative came in reasonable at $1.4 million, but domestic rentals were only $1.8, with foreign a more disappointing $591K. The final loss stood at $52,000. It remains more a curiosity than crowd pleaser, but offers plenty given patience and concentration (being not one to watch while vacuuming). Amazon Prime has (or had) it on HD stream, so there's visual reward for submit to Mankiewicz higher learning.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

Ha! Jeanne Crain sure is the Rodney Dangerfield of 40's-50's leading ladies. Seems she's the perennial whipping girl of gabby old timers... if memory serves me Elia Kazan spent a couple of pages bashing her in his memoir but wouldn't even mention her by name! The Oscar broadcast after her death in 2003 didn't even bother to include in the annual 'Remembrance' segment. And, hell, she had been a nominee once! Not that she wasn't talented or was overly temperamental, the usual slam is just for being too damn bland.

I guess big deal co-stars like Grant, Sinatra and Kirk Douglas could make her look kinda perfunctory in traditional love interest roles. But I always thought she had a wonderful line in playing young, overly earnest teenage types. It was a narrow specialty and Fox kept her at it a few years too long, but stuff like STATE FAIR all the way through CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN had her doing her schtick with just a shade of self parody while still keeping plenty of heart. The best of the bunch, Henry King's MARGIE had her doing a Pickford-ish turn, playing 'old' as a middle aged mom in framing bookends, while regressing in the story proper as an adolescent protagonist, both funny and touching.

Still think she was cute and under-rated!

4:47 PM  
Blogger KING OF JAZZ said...

I always got her confused with Gene Tierney!

7:20 AM  
Blogger Neely OHara said...

This IS a curious film -- rewarding if you hang in with it, but frustrating as light entertainment. I've tried sharing it with friends but they were always underwhelmed -- I began to think I was the only one who liked it.

(Coincidentally it's playing on the big screen next week here in NYC as part of the Lincoln Center Film Series salute to Mankiewicz, though the one I'm really looking forward to is the Burton/Taylor Cleopatra -- I wanna see Albert Whitlock's magic writ large!)

Just wanted to add to what Dave K said; I've always had a great appreciation for Jeanne Crain as well. State Fair, People Will Talk, A Letter To Three Wives, and perhaps my favorite Crain perf of all, Apartment For Peggy.

Never understood the drubbings she took (and continues to take). Even if one didn't find her brilliant, she was always a warm, welcome presence, and never less than believable.

4:20 PM  

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