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Friday, July 15, 2016

Postcard From 1962 New York


Two For The Seesaw (1962) Is Gotham As It Won't Be Again

A Broadway success brought to movies in 1962, tough translate from two-room setting on stage, but opened up by scope B/W shot on NY streets. That's concentrated largely in credits, Robert Mitchum in/out of taxis, looking off bridges, to accompany of Andre Previn's score (very good, and on OOP disc). You could wish he were detecting, or otherwise immersed in city-bred crime, instead of romancing Greenwich Village "kook" Shirley MacLaine and dithering over divorce pending home in Nebraska. There was good reason Bob did mostly action subjects. He was simply better suited to them, as evidenced here. Passivity never became this actor. Gimmick of Two For The Seesaw is odd pair MacLaine and "square" Mitchum, mismatch more miscasting on his part. He could be varied things on screen, but never convincingly square. Seesaw casting was seesaw of leading men sifted before ball went to RM ... first Paul Newman, initially figured to star with Elizabeth Taylor, after reject of B'way original Henry Fonda (too old, and not movie-starry enough, said producer Walter Mirisch). The play meanwhile took to roads and summer stock with lead men I'd like to have seen try the movie version. Dana Andrews, for instance, replaced Fonda and did the part on Broadway for some months.

Robert Wise Directs Stars On New York Location

New York is at least not glamorized, being apartments dingy or dingier. There's reference to smell, bedbugs, other realities of city life where money is limited. Shirley MacLaine nixes a block-size loft that rents for outlandish $65, a scene bound to raise mirth where Two For The Seesaw is revived, but would it be, other than for NYC-set festival or Mitchum closure? Romantic and sexual negotiation is spoke bluntly for what was still Code-era 1962, and Mitchum slaps MacLaine hard at one point, tells her she had it coming, a shock to modern sensibility. Reminding myself that he did this a same year as Cape Fear was food to ponder, but then there was also The Last Time I Saw Archie a short year before, so yes, Mitch covered range during early-60's. He and MacLaine got personal while on the seesaw, topic addressed, in fact a centerpiece, of her memoir years later. RM would make dates to meet at spots all round the world, then give MacLaine a stand-up w/o explanation. Maybe he was the kook. Two For The Seesaw is lately out from Kino, an excellent Blu-Ray to uptick overall rate for the show.

7 Comments:

Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Hank Fonda not movie-starry enough? That's rich.

I suspect Mitchum wasn't kooky. He just didn't give a damn.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Michael J. Hayde said...

Given the lackluster box office for LAST TIME I SAW ARCHIE, it's surprising UA wanted Mitchum back so soon in another non-actioner. Then again, maybe blame for ARCHIE was ascribed solely to Jack Webb. It wouldn't have been the first time, and certainly not the last.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Henry Fonda said that every one of his 1500 performances in MR. ROBERTS on Broadway was better and easier than the previous one because he could feel the love for his character flooding over the footlights. On the other hand, he said that every performance in TWO FOR THE SEESAW was misery, because he could feel how much the audience hated the character.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Mike Ballew said...

You know, I once saw a write-up about Shirley MacLaine in an L.A. TIMES Sunday supplement. She was talking about how she used to be, quote, "a Moorish girl who cured the Emperor Constantine of impotence" in a previous life.

A little later in the interview, TWO FOR THE SEESAW came up. "A young [writer] came out here the other day," MacLaine said, "and he had all these deep and probing questions like, 'In that scene with Robert Mitchum, what were you thinking?' My God, that was so long ago, who knows what I was thinking?" [Emphasis added.]

1:46 AM  
Blogger tbonemankini said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:57 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer on the Mitchum-MacLaine partnership:


According to Robert Server, in his biography of Robert Mitchum, it was the prospect of working with Shirley MacLaine that got Mitchum to do "Two for the Seesaw." He was a married man and by all accounts devoted to his wife, Dorothy, though perhaps in the way of the protagonist of Ernest Christopher Dowson's poem: "I have been faithful to thee, Cynara!/In my fashion." He had his affairs, but Shirley MacLaine was the only woman he might have left his wife for. She had that gamine beauty and dancer's grace--he told her that her face was "treacherously beautiful...like some enchanted goblin's"--but also a quirky intelligence and sense of humor that would have attracted and charmed him. Around this time, she gave a brief filmed interview after returning from a trip to Nepal, and spoke of esoteric philosophy and Zen Buddhism in quite an articulate and cogent way. She wasn't simply some flake.
For her part, she'd seen "Out of the Past" when she was 13 and Mitchum became her girlhood idol. She wasn't disappointed when they met for the first time in Walter Mirisch's office at the old Goldwyn Studios. "Don't let me take up too much space," he said, shaking her hand. "I'm basically a Bulgarian wrestler. I'm not right for this part." MacLaine simply gushed, "You're wonderful. I've admired you for so long...I think you'll be great."
As for those dates he'd make with her later that never came off, it's not hard to understand. He knew that he'd never divorce his wife, but that didn't mean that he wasn't in love with MacLaine. A date was a way of acknowledging that and making its realization a possibility. There is hope in such possibilities and a way of reconciling for a time what is irreconcilable. But such hope has to be insulated from reality, if it is to be preserved. So a new date would be made and then another, and hope would always be a light in the distance, until disappointment at last snuffed it out.
Long after it was over, MacLaine never quite forgot. Years later, a director about to begin a picture with Mitchum recalled getting a telephone call from her. How is Bob? Is he OK? She still wanted to know.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Paul Dionne said...

Re: Dan Mercer - "As for those dates he'd make with her later that never came off, it's not hard to understand. He knew that he'd never divorce his wife, but that didn't mean that he wasn't in love with MacLaine. A date was a way of acknowledging that and making its realization a possibility. There is hope in such possibilities and a way of reconciling for a time what is irreconcilable. But such hope has to be insulated from reality, if it is to be preserved. So a new date would be made and then another, and hope would always be a light in the distance, until disappointment at last snuffed it out."

That was beautifully said -

paul dionne

10:43 AM  

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