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Saturday, October 04, 2014

Romance With Ghostly Garnish


Spooky House Yields Secrets in A Place Of One's Own (1945)

It's a ghost story, but barely ghostly, and certainly no compare to Dead Of Night chill of a following year. A Place Of One's Own actually had its US release, via Eagle-Lion, in 2/49, several years after Universal-International distributed Dead Of Night, Place seeming tame by comparison. Motion Picture Daily regarded it best for "selective audiences," which meant art housing, another shut-out of general acceptance Rank craved from domestic markets. Most of runtime is talk ("overloading of conversation" as MPD saw it) about someone who died at the titular "Place," but there's no spook sighting save Margaret Lockwood being occasionally possessed. The new owners are James Mason and Barbara Mullen, both playing old-age (Mason was 36), what some might call a waste of his dangerous appeal as utilized in hits like The Seventh Veil done around the same time. Dennis Price supplies love interest to Lockwood, sparks she and Mason had generated being absent between this pair. Mason does huff-and-puff in accord with a youngish actor's concept of elder behavior; it might be interesting to compare this with perfs he gave after reaching actual age of the character. A grand cameo is saved for the end, and it's by far the supernatural highlight: Ernest Thesiger, looking still like Dr. Pretorius, in/out to steal the show and at last give impression that we've really seen a ghost. A Place Of One's Own got renewed life on US television when ABC picked it up among 100 titles from Rank (in 12/55) for afternoon broadcasts. Brit backlog was heavy hitting tubes before stateside majors began selling stuff for home view.

1 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer reflects on singular talent that was James Mason:


I wonder if "A Place of One's Own" will have a special charm for some today for what it captures of a time now irretrievably past, save in such souvenirs. A people and their ways, their language and style, their sensibility, all given way before other things other people considered more important. But for all the differences we are supposed to cherish, why were not these considered worthwhile and preserved?

As for James Mason's "dangerous appeal," that was on display this past evening in TCM's showing of "Lolita." The movie itself is a farrago, with its absurdities and farce, its surrealism, all of them heightening moments of genuine insight and tenderness. A lesser actor would have been lost in it. A film of this sort without such an actor would have spun off its axis and gone whirling off into space. But it has Mason with that magnificent voice, like a cello in its richness and nuance, and those eyes, which even in a laugh betray a heart so sorely wounded that no voice, not even his, can give true expression to it. I wonder how many women, especially, would have brought succor to a man with such eyes, were it possible? But here in the great weight of such a soul in its suffering was the link between a show in its silliness and something profound, just beyond the edge of its irony.

I don't know if Mason's career provided him adequate opportunity for such displays. Perhaps one of the more remarkable aspects of it, though--and certainly for many of the readers of this site--is that his success for Rank and other British studios ultimately brought him and his wife Pamela to Hollywood where, needing a place to live, they bought the "Italian Villa," the great house Buster Keaton built to please his wife when he was flying high and her pretensions were still higher. On the property was a small, out of the way building that was being used as a tool shed. Inside was a safe, which was locked.They drilled the lock and found inside cans and cans of film, some of which were in advanced stages of decomposition. Keaton had used the building as a cutting room, and the films included the cutting print of "The General" and the only known print of "The Boat." Unfortunately, these discoveries did not lead to a warm, personal relationship between Mason and Keaton--there was an acquisitive individual called Raymond Rohauer involved, whose latest acquisition was Keaton, or at least so much of him as could be sold--but ultimately the preservation of the films was arranged by Mason, which is why we have them today.

9:27 AM  

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