Saw several refer to this as an "old
people's" movie, which is reference to myself and peers, I suppose, having
come up with the Four Seasons as constant background to 60/70's living. One
couldargue that Clint (Tarantula) Eastwood led too gentle a dance with the
quartet, and yes, there's alternative of a Martin Scorsese having throats slit
and eyes popped out over direction the Seasons took in heyday, but do we want
that as foreground to Let's Hang On and Rag Doll? I always loved the band, and
still smell chlorine from pools swam while they played on juke boxes next to
Tom's nab machines we'd visit once dry. Siblings bought the albums when I was too
young to consume LP's ($4 a minimum then), so there was access from beginnings
to 4S music. Few were so gratified as I when they (at least Valli) made
comeback with My Eyes Adored You, Who Loves You,December 1963, these a background to college years and beloved unto now. So was I ripe
for The Jersey Boys? Yes, and Yes again.
Here was threshold problem: They didn't use
original recordings. These Jersey Boys don't really sound like Frankie and the
Four, and that takes adjustment. Once you're reconciled, however, the story
makes up difference, and by a third act, even the music makes inroad. Seems the
boys were tied to N.J. gang elements (Christopher Walken as lead apostle). Scorsese would have run far with
that, but Eastwood stays tentative. No one here gets shot, or even punched.
Mischief this crew commits is strictly Dead End kids sort. For many, that
made The Jersey Boys seem old-fashioned. Eastwood shot parts on what looks
like the Warners backlot. There's even a car driven against an apparent process
screen, something I haven't seen since Austin Powers spoofed the technique. Bravo
to Eastwood for reviving it, his sort of Marnie moment, and I'd like to think
unconscious homage to 60's Hitchcock and other old-timers looking to save costs and not drive so far to work.
These Seasons presumably do their own singing
--- at least it's not the original Four we hear (unless there was a reunion to
record tracks). Was this a creative decision or a rights (withheld) necessity? Updating
was cinched in old days where Al Jolson's backlog got refreshed to 1946 standard for The Jolson Story, with AJ performing anew to modern
orchestrations. Plugged into Larry Parks' pantomime, the effect was electric.
As satisfying was Universal restage of GlennMiller standards for their 1954
biopic, decade old hits seeming brand new to a fresh audience. Updating the
Seasons by fifty years was tougher commission. You couldn't have 2014 actors
performing to (comparative) stone-age tape (or whatever format the masters
survive on), though on the other hand, anything done new won't capture raw
quality of music recorded when rock and
pop was resolutely analog, if that (any music archivists out there to
vet, or correct, my freewheeling assumptions?).
Still, I liked The Jersey Boys a lot. Each of
the boys are fine. There's a Price Of Fame thread woven throughout, so it's like
watching The Gene Krupa Story or something of way-past vintage. One of the writers
(Marshall Brinkman) dates to Annie Hall, which for audiences today might as well be
a silent movie. And I wonder what drew Clint to this project.Surely not nostalgia, for he was a grizzled
pro before this pre-Fab Four gota first break. But that just adds to fun, as
there's retro value to not just the story and setting, but it's telling as
well. A younger auteur might make things uglier, more off-putting (not that I mind rougher stuff, but not for a
biopic about the Four Seasons). Besides, Frankie Valli and Robert Gaudio as
Exec Producers aren't going to do anything to cock-up nostalgia touring (26
concerts slated for 2015-16).
Now comes my geeky call-out of what looks like
error in the Jersey Boys telling. There's a scene where the group is in a hotel
room watching TV. The movie is The Big Carnival, which one of them refers to
as Ace In The Hole (it hadn't been called that since summer of 1951). This is
all taking place no later than 1962, because songwriter Bob Guadio gets
inspiration for Big Girls Don't Cry by watching Kirk Douglas slapping Jan
Sterling. Big Girls Don't Cry was released to Top 40 glory in 1962. Now here's
problemfor those who care enough to have read this far: The Big Carnival did
not premiere on television until December 4, 1965 (NBC's Saturday Night At The
Movies). Gotcha, Clint and Company! Digging reveals that Guadio was actually
inspired by tele-viewing Slightly Scarlet, which had been in TV syndication from
late 50's onward. Was it easier clearing clips from the Paramount
pic? Anyway, it's a fun gaffe, if a minor one, and I'm sure billionaire Clint
(especially after American Sniper) would rightly issue "Get A Life" order to me for
bringing it up. Don't exit The Jersey Boys early, by the way, as there's merry end credits dance featuring
whole of the ensemble cast, this a cheery finish to an enjoyable couple of hours.
Thought-lost films continue to turn up, right?
But how about a visual record (as in over 150 images) from behind-scenes of a
John Ford wartime classic ... news to me on par with reels hauled up
from hiding ... a between-covers coup achieved by author Lou Sabini and
serviceman-photographer Nicholas Scutti. Latter was assigned to the Florida location of They
Were Expendable, part of U.S. Navy cooperation with Ford/crew, Scutti making his own
photo diary during a month spent with Expendable's company. Scutti got to
know director Ford and all of performing principals, coming
away with much insight into each and all. His captures were not for studio use
or publicity ... thus nothing posed ... and everyone on relax or candid setting. We
really get sense of a crew at work, play, eating, arguing (Bob Montgomery did not hit it off with Ward Bond), etc. Most welcome of visitors was military personnel passing through, or there to
greet Naval colleague Ford, one of these a spit-and-polish Richard Barthelmess,
former silent era star andnow a lieutenant commander. Behind The Scenes Of
They Were Expendable: A Pictorial History is one-of-a-kind, and once-in-a-lifetime,
explore of Classic Era filmmaking like we dream of, but nearly never get. Just
pretend someone gave you a camera and a ticket back to Florida in 1945 --- that's the kind of kick you'll get from exploring this marvelous book. Amazon has it HERE.
This ultra-polished vehicle for silent star
Corinne Griffith came out during last roar of voiceless film that was 1928,
pics from there losing some of sheen for limitations sound imposed upon
visuals. The Garden Of Eden was no trend-setter in itself, but nicely cribbed
from naughty fun Ernst Lubitsch and imitators had since the German director's
takeover of ribaldry done stateside. Critics were generous and United Artists
took $583K in domestic rentals, a little below average for that year, but OK overall.
The Garden Of Eden is notable for being the very first DVD from stalwart
distrib Flicker Alley back in 2002, and out-of-print for most of years
since. It's a collector item now and deservedly so, being a top-notch transfer
with generous extras. Flicker Alley has The Garden OfEden on streaming basis, so opportunity is thereto see it.
Corinne Griffith was lauded as a greatest of
screen beauties, her look surviving unto a 21st Century to whom she still
appeals (my take, anyway, while admitting these things are subjective). A 20's
public preferredCorinne out of clothes where possible, she being bared in
set-pieces which were/are Garden highlights. Was retirement with coming of
sound partly her admission that the career was fueled by sex? She did but a
handful of talkies. William K. Everson wrote of her voice not clicking, but
I've not watched to confirm. Corinne
kept her cash, notwithstanding husbands who got portions of it, and wrote books
from which Papa's Delicate Conditionstood out. There was a court incident
where Griffith got on the witness stand to deny that she was Corinne Griffith.
Silent era colleagues were called to impeach her testimony, while observers came away
thinking she was just another nut job of a faded movie queen.
The Garden Of Eden was product of happier times,
being of a brief period when CG could call her shots. UA's deal was with the
actress asproducer, her current husband, Walter Morosco, along for the ride
but taking orders from better half. Cheesecake poses would herald Eden's coming, discard
of Doug Fairbanks, Jr. as leading man resulting in offbeat Charles Ray as substitute, him of "hick" leads in earlier silents. Ray by '28 was just
this side of vaude touring for sustenance, H'wood having had surfeit of his
act. Publicity yelled, It's A Pippin,' that being popular slang of the time, and laid
upon apple art, plus snakes, fig leaves, whatever else might evoke Eden. Ad
messages then as now came direct to point. Happy coincidence in Philadelphia saw a gopher
snake escape from a petshop, then gathered off the street by showman George
Sobel of the Stanley Theatre, who carried the six-footer into his lobby for
display. Cops didn't bother asking if the incident was framed, such gags a
known quantity on busy thoroughfare where merchants stroked each other for
mutual benefit. If film promotion was so much snake oil, why not use snakes?
The Garden Of Eden had a color sequence, once
upon a first-run. It may turn up again when dinosaurs come back. What a shame
so much Technicolor is gone, a loss more keenly felt with peruse of lately published
The Dawn Of Technicolor 1915-1936, by James Layton and David Pierce, a massive
and marvelous history of the process in early flowering. If you want
demonstration of a talk-less era on lushest setting, go by all means with The
Garden Of Eden. It's got all of what would become "precode." In fact, I'm
wondering when someone might do a book on the roots of precode, cause this
Garden is rich with them. Thing is, The Garden Of Eden floated around decades
among collectors (long ago Griggs Moviedrome offered it), and was celebrated
for what a silent movie could look like where you had a really fine print. It'salso Exhibit A for William Cameron Menzies as all-time champ of production
designers, plus early evidence of director Lewis Milestone headed for the top
(All Quiet but two seasons off).
Mad Holiday (1936) Sets Edmund Lowe In Powell Pattern
Screen sleuth Edmund Lowe is tired of bad movies
he makes and quits the biz only to encounter time-honored real murder aboard
ship. Sounds better than it turns out, this a Metro B representative of that
studio's commit to supplycheapies as second features. MGM was dragged
screaming into a double-feature policy, but houses everywhere by the
mid-thirties were using them, and you couldn't buck a public's clear
preference. A combo by then was generally a good A and soft B, or good B
supporting a letdown A. Customers wouldn't complain either way so long as they
could plop on (hopefully) cushioned seats for three hours at least. But hold on
--- most theatre seats in those days were hard-backed at least --- so it took a
champ back, if not backside, to get through long shows. Mad Holidayloaded bases with character folk to assure laughs if not suspense, thus ZaSu
Pitts, Edgar Kennedy, Ted Healy (him again), all this dashed with Thin
Man-ish flavor. Would murder be taken seriously again after that cycle
caught fire? Guess we needed noir, still years down a road, before screen death
got renewed impact.
Deadbeat Edgar Kennedy won't make payments on
his radio, so the sheriff sends Laurel and Hardy out to retrieve it. Taking a
man's radio in 1929 was worse than seizing his wife or dog, that listening post
a most important article of furniture in anyone's Jazz Age home. $600 million
was spent on radios in 1929, over 80% " bought on time," that is,
monthly payments that added from eleven to forty percent onto original cost of
the luxury. But radio had in fact become a necessity. Without it, you'd be out
of everyone's loop. It made sense, then, for Kennedy to seal his entrance
against Stan and Babe effort to seize the set, '29's public at least able to
appreciate Ed's anxiety if not his honesty.
Bacon Grabbers was always obscure among the
Laurel-Hardys. Blackhawk in heady days offered it on 8 or 16mm, minus the disc
score available to bookers in 1929, latter mattering less for fact the
two-reeler had no dialogue. Robert Youngson never used Bacon Grabbers in
his comedycompilations (anyone know why?). Like Big Business and The Perfect
Day, this too was shot on sunny environ that was L.A. neighborhoods before all of open space
was filled. Nothing conveys bucolic beginnings of filmland like L&H done
outdoors. You can never mind comedy of these and still get a marvelous
travelogue with each. Bacon Grabbers is all roof and ladders and windows
busted, as good a reflection of bungalow living in the 20's as we'll ever have.
There's even Jean Harlow to deliver the finish gag. Too bad this short is
out-of-print DVD-wise. Will these silent Laurel-Hardys ever see light again?
UPDATE --- 6/17/15: Long arm of coincidence brought news of a Laurel-Hardy rediscovery just after this post went up. Seems the long missing second reel of Battle Of The Century has turned up. This is really a find, as that short had survived till now in its first reel only, plus a pie fight from the second that was used (after editing) by producer Robert Youngsonfor The Golden Age Of Comedy. A Greenbriar post on various L&H Battles Of The Centuries from the silent era isHERE.
It never occurred to me that someday he'd be
gone. Had Dracula's immortality bled into my perception of Christopher Lee the
man? We wanted him to stay forever because Chris neverwent out of style. He
was the one old name who kept punching stardom's ticket for one generation
after another. There were the Hammers and Fu Manchus and so forth from 50's
through the 60's, then James Bond villainy before a wider audience, support
work in high-profilersAirport '77and 1941 where
mainstream audiences found him. Chris was dubbed cool enough to host Saturday
Night Live (a 70's equivalent to knighthood?). Then he got work from directors who'd grown up with his evil-doing in
theatres. That brought exposure before another generation of fandom ... then
another when he ping-ponged from Lord Of The Rings and sequels to the second
wave of Star Wars ... and sequels. Christopher Lee is the only actor I can
think of who could have lived another hundred years and stayed in demand for
whole of it.
You'd see him from beginnings in British parts.
People would be chatting in a manor house, and suddenly this tall and magnetic
presence would enter, and all the rest would evaporate. The game would be to see
how fast you could say "There's Chris Lee!" before someone else in
the room recognized him. It happened most recently for me with Scott Of The Antarcticand The Warriors, the first dated 1948, the next 1955. Polish up
your Lee-spotting skills in any number of Brit pix between those dates or before/after,
as Chris seemed everywhere, and always to the good of shows that could use his
kind of energy. Lee was never afraid to go ahead and be an actor, that is, to
show us something and make a thing worth paying attention to. His kind of
stature, imposing at the least, called for bravura of a kind that too many
"natural" players stayed clear of, maybe for knowing they had not the
panache to take screen command and keep it, like him.
Lee at times wanted out from under the horror
hood. For a while in the 70's, it looked like he'd make it, butsomehow he
couldn't help being sinister, and a Hammer past would hang on like grim
un-death. Not that CL disdained chillers altogether, for he'd champion writers of
the genre and apply himself to projects that rose above the formula, like The Devil Rides Outand The Wicker Man. Some who met Lee reported a healthy actor's
ego and tendency to dominate a room. Well, what else would you expect, or want?
I'd have been disappointed if he'd been any other way. Teamings with Peter
Cushing were ideal because they were so different onscreen and off, yet got
along famously and had truest friendship as there was between horror icons. The
rest of us could figure that if "Saint Peter" liked Chris, he must be
a right guy. At least I'll go on assuming it now that they're both gone, and
door to meeting either is closed.
His homefolk finally knighted the actor a few
years ago, and that gave gravitas to everything he'd done or was doing. Sir
Christopher became an online familiar and issued Christmas greeting from
comfort of hearth, where he also spoke to admirers who couldn't get enough of a
legend's career reflection. And yes, Lee liked to talk, and did so for DVD
producers, book authors, whatever queue waited upon his door. As to staying
current, nobody did that better. Will any of us be performing heavymetal at
age 90? Be in continuing demand at age 90 and beyond? (CL was signed to start
another picture just prior to his passing) To have lived such a long life so well is worthy example to follow, a good job indeed if we can do it at
half Sir Christopher's strength.
The Night Has A Thousand Eyes (1948) Is On DVD From Germany
Actually less a noir than variation on The Uninvited, involvingmore that is supernatural, and effect it has on frightened doe
that is Gail Russell, an actress gifted for show of vulnerability, onscreen and
off. Was this instinct, talent, or just who she was? Latter would seem
likeliest, sad circumstance of Russell's life a best argument that some folks
should never be film stars. She would cope with malevolent spirits on one
hand, Para predators on the other. Those
schoolmates did Gail no favor by recommending her to studio scouts. The Night
Has AThousand Eyes is Gail Russell sum-up and added log on fire that was
romance of Paramount noir. Between their own
and ones independent Hal Wallisdid for company release, Para owned whole of
lush avenue that forked off doom-gloom we associate with noir out of RKO, Universal,
even MGM on most of occasions.
Consider that at Paramount,
most of good, or at least well-intentioned people, got to live. Downer finish
was rare to noir from this address. Billy Wilder's approach was not common to
others who neighbored him on Para stages.
Where he'd kill off miscreants of Double Indemnity (they were in on murder, and
so under Code authority, had to die or face confinement), a director like John
Farrow ended on hope (Thousand Eyes' romantic couple will survive and
ultimately thrive) or even laugh coda Elsa Lanchester supplies The Big Clock
after villainy is dealt out. Most of Para-noir is spread with Victor Young
scoring, him a most melodic and standard-bearing of composers. "Stella By
Starlight" is night music from Paramount
as much as "Laura" for 20th. Young is a major reason I like The Big
Clock, I Walk Alone,Appointment With Danger, and this one. Is it time to
anoint him as truest auteur behind best of noir at Paramount?
But that would exclude John Farrow, who rates
hurrahs he still doesn't get from noir congregation. Is it because the films
have been largely out of circulation? I speak of The Night Has A Thousand Eyes
today for having finally got a DVD --- not a boot as customary for pre-49
Paras, but a Region Two just out from Germany. Maybe it was mood of the
moment, but this thing really grabbedme, and what Farrow did with scene after
scene, rife with his signature long takes and roving camera, was just a
knockout. I'm all for Orson Welles, Max Ophuls, and others who used such
technique, but none did them better than Farrow, who according to accounts,
rehearsed cast/crew to pinpoint readiness, then shot reams of action and
dialogue in continuous take ("six or seven pages," according to
studio press), and not just once in The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, but frequent all through. Film faculty could assign all of Farrow Paramounts to classes
(plusWhere Danger Lives,His Kind Of Woman, 50's others), and give the rest of
noirs a rest.
One lesson learned with The
Uninvited was not to pull rugs from under supernatural content. Let the ghosts
be real, and again with The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, make Edward G. Robinsonvisions of a future come true without final reel debunk of the phenomenon. Source yarn was from Cornell
Woolrich, and as with all his, grabs from the opening, suspense keyed to end
of 81 minutes, commendably brief where too many studio releases ran overlong in
the 40's. Another plus for The Night Has A Thousand Eyes is Bunker
Hill setting for part of action. No backdrop fitted noir so well.
That benighted section seems built for stories told there, ones to come
including The Turning Point,Cry Danger!,Kiss Me Deadly, numerous others.
Bunker Hill waslandscape Los Angeles seemingly
maintained to accommodate noir filmmakers. Studios should have bought the shabby ruins
just to host thrillers more convincing for being shot there. What a shame this
noir's neighborhood got bulldozed. HEREis the Amazon Germany link for The Night Has A Thousand Eyes on DVD.