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Thursday, September 08, 2016

Lana Turner Still Straying Into the 60's


By Love Possessed (1961) Plows Familiar Ground

This melodrama gets a bad rap not altogether deserved, being directed by John Sturges between pictures better remembered (The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape) and produced by Walter Mirisch, who knocks it in his memoir, I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History. Sudsy shows get no respect, unless Doug Sirk directs, the rest  perishable with spoilage long factored in. Mirisch tended not to like ones that lost money, By Love Possessed good for only $1.7 million in domestic rentals, which had to disappoint after better $ got for previous Lana Turner pics. She actually cedes center stage to accomplished work by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., whose showcase this ends up being. Mirisch says that Turner kept monkeying with the script, so much so that writer Charles Schnee asked to have his name taken off (the credit reads "John Dennis"). I'd like knowing what contributions Lana made to dialogue for any of her films, and that's not sarcastic inquiry. We tend to think stars are too habitually dumb to do anything other than damage screenplays --- is that true or mere myth? Guess it depends on who's applying a blue pencil. By Love Possessed has a New England (as in repressed) setting as with Peyton Place, seemingly same autumn leaves blowing amongst tortured citizenry. Small-town hypocrisy has another airing --- when was that formula finally abandoned? This was penultimate role for Thomas Mitchell; I couldn't tell if it was him or the character that's palsied to point of barely holding cup and saucer. George Hamilton contributes another in his line of weakling sons, the part a photo finish on work done a year before in Home From The Hill. Yvonne Craig is a liveliest wire as the town trollop. By Love Possessed turns up on TCM and elsewhere in gratifying 1.85, and is enjoyable for what it is.

6 Comments:

Blogger iarla said...

Maybe Turner was exacting revenge on Schnee - he scripted "The Prodigal". According to Christopher Isherwood'd diaries : "(David Miller) spent HOURS (sic) on Saturday trying to get lana to accept the line "I know your majesty has a heart and I fear it. But your heart is ruled by your head.....etc" Finally, we found a solution. ('Diane') now says "I know your majesty has a heart and I SHOULD fear it......" No fool, she.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Neely OHara said...

"We tend to think stars are too habitually dumb to do anything other than damage screenplays --- is that true or mere myth?"

Example that springs to my mind is the penultimate "emergency room" scene in Garland's final film, I Could Go On Singing. According to multiple sources, including co-star Dirk Bogarde, he and Garland penned the scene the night prior to shooting, and it certainly rises above any other scene in Mayo Simon's otherwise undistinguished screenplay.

Uncomfortably autobiographical, it's not only the best scene in the movie, it's quite possibly the best of Garland's entire career.

1:32 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Very enlightening comments here --- stuff I did not know.

Thanks Iarla and Neely!

1:41 PM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

You had me at "Yvonne Craig as the town trollop."

It was said in one of Robert Mitchum's biographies he would occasionally write scenes to spruce up a movie. And that bit in "Cape Fear" with Polly Bergen and the eggs was his idea.

5:00 PM  
Blogger jim said...

Jason Robards Jr considered this film a real low point
in his career & used to refer to it as "By Love ....Depressed".

Good one, Jason. ha ha

5:06 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Steve McQueen was famous for crossing out his own lines of dialogue if he thought he could get it across better by simply being Steve McQueen in the moment. Hard to argue with that.

According to Steven Bach in Final Cut, the final draft before shooting of Raging Bull came from Robert DeNiro, not Scorsese or Paul Schrader.

Then there's how Lee Marvin helped turn Point Blank into an art film, from an interview with John Boorman:

This producer, Judd Bernard, gave me the script, then gave it to Lee (Marvin). We met over lunch. Lee said "What do you think of the script." He said "I think it's a piece of shit." (laughs). So he was over in London doing The Dirty Dozen at the time and had a lot of time on his hands, so we met many times and I got to learn a great deal about him, and I could see that he'd been in WW II, had been shot, had killed people and had this compulsion to play out this violence. That's why his on-screen violence was so compelling, because he'd been there. It was coming from a real place. So in many ways, Point Blank became a film about him. In the end, we met a final time and he said "I'll do this picture under one condition." And he took the script, and threw it out the window! (laughs) He committed to a conversation. You could never image that happening today.

8:46 PM  

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