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Monday, October 17, 2016

Another Lethal Dose Of Wald


The Story On Page One Pushes 1959 Envelopes

Jerry Wald's 1959 sizzler for 20th Fox release. He was a genius producer-writer-idea man who died too young (50) and early (1963) to be noted by emerging film study. Just as well, Wald would probably laugh it off anyhow. He was 100% get-it-done minus refinements, other than turnstiles and how to make them twirl. Go to best Warner releases from the late 30/40's and chances you'll find Jerry's name, either in writer or producing capacity. Wald belongs but short tier down from Selznick, Wallis, Goldwyn, but no one's dug deep on him yet (do papers survive, and in what archive?). Wald was full-out always, had so many brainstorms to threaten short-circuit. Maybe that's what killed him. He was the sort studios kept round when they wanted big profits, which made him welcome everywhere (at height addresses: WB, RKO, Columbia). The town could have used two dozen Jerry Walds. Dancers on his grave said Jerry was the model for Sammy Glick in Budd Schulberg's acidic What Makes Sammy Run?, but that could as easily be any number of Hollywood go-getters, or composite of plenty, which I suspect was case.


Groucho might have put Wald among those vaccinated with a phonograph needle, because he never stopped talking. One occasion of shooting his mouth off nearly started fistic brawl with AIP's Jim Nicholson, Wald crashing an exhib luncheon during a Theatre Owners Of America confab in October 1958. Jim and Sam had paid for the feed, did a major burn when Jerry hopped up and said AIP pics were "injurious to the industry." Arkoff replied that was funny coming from the guy who'd just made Peyton Place. Nicholson was ready to take the discussion outside. Toastmaster Sidney Markely "calmed down the trio" (Boxoffice), and dining resumed. Wald never saw the least hypocrisy in his remarks. For that matter, he'd have probably done Hot Rod Gang and High School Hellcats had notion been his rather than Jim/Sam's. TOA meets were like rugby fields in those days, booze flowing, hot words exchanged, jackets doffed at boiling points. As stated before, I'd have gladly been bellboy for Nicholson/Arkoff, or Jerry Wald, as they entered such frays. I went to a Florida exhib con some years back that was fun, but a pink tea (much too civilized) beside bacchanals these once were.


The Story On Page One is half-speed Wald, a junior varsity Anatomy Of A Murder, but engaging and up-front with sex theme that got gears grinding. Wald knew pushing boundaries was what sold through industry's fight to a finish with television --- give them what tubes did not dare. In this case, it is Rita Hayworth as adulteress in Gig Young arms, the two implicated when her husband falls during struggle for a gun. Anthony Franciosa as reluctant defense lawyer (again as with Jim Stewart in Anatomy --- no pay!) who doubles down on explicit Q&A re hotels, "intimacy," what not, that we'd only recently begun hearing in courtroom drama (one courtroom gladiator makes tactless reference to "fornication"). It all dates, sure, but everyone's game for the showdown, Hayworth a glamour-gone standout, as is Gig Young, sans humor and effective, Franciosa demonstrating high-octane method acting when this was still a new and exciting thing. There's no DVD or streaming that I've come across. FXM runs The Story On Page One, but it's an old transfer, letterboxed but not anamorphic, a hark-back to 80/90's way of broadcasting movies. It deserves an upgrade.

1 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer has some thoughts about Rita Hayworth:


Rita Hayworth said that the tragedy of her relationships was that a man would go to bed with "Gilda" and wake up with her. She seemed to imply that she was just an ordinary woman, far removed from the glamorous image Hollywood had created. I imagine that, in real life--or what passes for it--she was very much like the Josephine Morris character she plays in "The Story on Page One": warm, intelligent, more than a little shy and with a suggestion of sadness, but with sensuality and a great depth of heart. She's not ordinary at all, just different from that image. There are reasons, of course, why any relationship doesn't succeed, and the fault rarely lies entirely with one person. Her sense of inadequacy probably had more to do with the depression she endured for most of her life than with anything else. By all accounts, Orson Welles was devoted to the Rita Hayworth who preferred to go around their home in a work shirt and rumpled dungarees, without makeup but not without a natural dignity and beauty. Depression does not always have an identifiable cause, however, when a person wants to have a name for it. So she looked in the mirror and found in the difference between what she saw and what was on the screen the source of her troubles. Had she looked more deeply, she might also have found a woman who could be loved, if she would accept it.

3:34 PM  

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