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Monday, March 14, 2016

Your Universal 50's Tour Awaits

Rock Minus Sirk = Never Say Goodbye (1956)

In a spirit of giving credit where due, here's praise for recent Universal Vault release Never Say Goodbye, a Rock Hudson melodrama not directed by Douglas Sirk. The DVD looks fine, widened to 2:0, with quality equal to any standard-def release from U. All of Never Say Goodbye was lot-shot, despite partial Vienna setting (for extensive flashbacks), but this isn't The Third Man, or anywhere close, for authenticity. Universal wasn't about spending, lush production a 50's rarity, which was how Sirks stood out (he made less go lots farther). Star Rock Hudson was glad to get away from things like this and into Giant of a same (release) year, and said so to press. Contract holder U served fans willing to lap whatever bore his image. Still, he's good and was improving each time out. Giant wouldn't have had half the result without Hudson.

DVD Frame Grab Shows Quality of Never Say Goodbye

Never Say Goodbye was remade off Universal's 1946 This Love Of Ours with Merle Oberon, Charles Korvin, and Claude Rains. Freedom for the screen was no wider an expanse ten years later when the yarn was done as Never Say Goodbye. 1956 posters referred to "Shame and A Child" between Rock Hudson and lead lady "Miss" Cornell Borchers (so billed during build-up by U-I), a tease, for implied illigit offspring isn't source of shame here, rather it's Rock's "insane" jealousy, which sets central disaster in motion. Narrative is silly, even foolish, without high-style exerted by Sirk, but like westerns good or bad, would audiences make distinction, or care once they did? Never Say Goodbye served what was left of frequent moviegoers that followed Modern Screen and whatever Sunday sections published about Hollywood and its gifts to culture.

26 Then, Near 86 Now, and Clint's Still Working

It wouldn't have been inapt to call Rock Hudson a last of manufactured stars, or Universal a final studio incubating them. U's contract list in the 50's was like MGM's in the 30's, as many stars as Heaven afforded, if not so bright. Never Say Goodbye hoped to launch, or re-launch, Cornell Borchers, an Ingrid Bergman  stood in for the real one exiled some seasons back. Borchers had worked in German films, been tried at Fox as co-star of The Big Lift in 1950, quit US work afterward. H'wood return was for Never Say Goodbye, and following year a partner to Errol Flynn for Istanbul, another backlot exotic. If U-I thought stars could be built on output like this, they'd have another thing coming. Borchers wasn't bad, but a Duse couldn't elevate Never Say Goodbye, a lesson Rock Hudson knew and had adjusted to. Up-and-comers at U-I might watch him and learn, six-month hire (and not renewed) Clint Eastwood among these, his two lines as a lab technician in Never Say Goodbye reflecting eagerness to make a most of them. Eastwood can laugh in reflection now, but such was breath of life for a struggling young player then. He'd tell of haunting phone booths just off the U lot in hope his agent might scare up more single-lines-or-less w/ names like Hudson, John Agar (see Star In The Dust), or even Francis the Mule.

Home Away From Patron Homes On Universal Backlot

I've dwelled before on value of 50's U-I being tour of their well-used backlot. Never Say Goodbye gives us better than if we rode a tram with Ed Muhl or shark-ish Wasserman himself as host. Goodbye's "Paris flashback" (only it's "Vienna") amounts to half a run-time and evokes setting like anyone's back patio. But therein lies joy, as monsters, Sherlock Holmes, Abbott and Costello, also dwelt here. I'm not so good for spotting locations as many, but hadn't Goodbye's central residence been recently occupied by Jane Wyman in All That Heaven Allows? --- and wasn't Lee Marvin shot down at least nearby in The Killers? For all I know, the edifice still stands, and used yet for TV. Never Say Goodbye is pleasant stroll over ground we know from Universal output strung to infinity. Why then, be distracted by compelling narrative, lush trappings, or gifted performers?, those less necessary where we've come mainly for the view. Never Say Goodbye being resolutely in-house and on-lot is its strength and ongoing pleasure, a welcome one more tick-off from U-I's scrapbook.

UPDATE: 3/17/16 --- Michael Hayde sent this very interesting photo with explanation: "Donald Benson and MikeD's comments about the Uni tour and its "Western Stunt Show" reminded me of this photo I took there in August 1970 when I was 10.  I used my mother's old Kodak Brownie camera (127 roll Kodachrome film).  My dad, who spent a couple hundred that summer on Nikon equipment, told me I'd never get this shot... but I did!  Bob Hastings was the host, and I believe that's Terry Wilson in the lower left corner.  The stunt man has just been shot off the boarding house." Great stuff, Michael. Thanks!


Blogger MikeD said...

Hey, it's Beaver Cleaver's house!

8:20 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Yep, that's the Cleaver's house on Pine Avenue (at least the street name on LITB). The facade is no longer on the street. It was removed, five or more years ago, and suffered damage during an earthquake a while back.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

I once had a gorgeous 16mm dye-transfer Technicolor print of this movie. I couldn't get beans for it. Except for the collector who bought it, only to return it because Errol Flynn wasn't in it.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

Memories of taking the studio tour and seeing the Munsters' house, completely fixed up and gentrified. It was used as the rich kids' fraternity in "Delta House", the short-lived adaptation of "Animal House" with a couple of the movie's lesser players. That series was so short-lived the tour guides only identified the facade as the Munsters' house.

That was my most recent visit, before they began putting in rides. King Kong (the giant puppet version) and Battlestar Galactica were still in place on the tram tour. Was annoyed that the Sherlock Holmes films were acknowledged only by a picture stuck in the window of a FALSE false front.

My first visit featured an interior set from "Topaz" (with simulated changes of weather!), what was supposedly the actual tower from "The War Lord" (just an exterior; no interior), and a western stunt show hosted by Bob Hastings, who played Joe Flynn's sidekick on "McHale's Navy." Also an interior display of the witch's castle from "Pufnstuf", a movie of the TV show.

4:19 AM  
Blogger MikeD said...

To Donald Benson: When you saw Bob Hastings hosting the stunt show, was Terry Wilson from 'Wagon Train' playing the town marshal? I took the tour in '70 and '73. Once Bob Hastings hosted the stunt show and the other time it was Skip Young, Wally from 'Ozzie and Harriet'. And one of those times, Terry Wilson, who played Bill Hawkes on 'Wagon Train', was blasting bad guys trying to rob the bank. Back then it was a thrill to see those guys in person. Actually it still is whenever one of those celebs from my youth shows up at the Lone Pine Film Fest.

8:17 AM  
Blogger MikeD said...

To Michael Hayde: Thanks for sharing that great photo of the stunt show! I wonder what that area looks like now. Think those hills in the back still exist? Hey wait, I think that's me in the front row of the bleachers!

8:16 AM  

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