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Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Striking 50's Club Scene

 This Could Be The Night (1957)  Pleases In B/W Scope

A picture that J.J. Hensecker would have enjoyed if J.J. Hunsecker had been a real person, and perhaps a last to depict New York on Damon Runyan terms. MGM even arranged to have Earl Wilson host a trailer, him a columnist who would certainly have frequented spots like where action happens here. He appears on-camera with chanteuse Julie Wilson and mentions that he hasn't seen her around town lately because she's been in Hollywood making this movie, such insider talk maybe a turn-off to rurals otherwise disposed to go see This Could Be The Night. It would probably have lost money anyway, this being 1957 when most of what MGM released went belly up. For director Robert Wise, Night came between hit that was Somebody Up There Likes Me, and Until They Sail, a feature trio to argue Wise's reliability for polished product. Wise could take good material and make it very good, like story-and-tempo minded filmmakers Jacques Tourneur, Rudolph Maté, others who await proper recognition. This Could Be The Night has prim schoolteacher Jean Simmons (hers the school also used in Blackboard Jungle) moonlighting as secretary for tough but tender nightclub owner Paul Douglas, he and partner Anthony Franciosa taking it upon selves to protect her from unsavory nightlife and types (including themselves). Idea of Simmons as a "greenhorn" (read virgin) is much emphasized, in that sense a reprise of The Moon Is Blue, but Simmons was by now twenty-eight, so notion of her as inexperienced is hard swallow indeed.

Past that, however, is sometimes bright comedy and music/dance of a sort we'd figure for uptown cabarets in final days of thrive. Trailer-bait Julie Wilson isn't remembered much, at least by me, but was a Manhattan rage and thrush with Ray Anthony's orchestra, latter also appearing in This Could Be The Night as himself. Dancing Neile Adams came close to Broadway brass rings, does striking numbers here, but chucked it to marry Steve McQueen, endure quietly his stardom and infidelities, her second career a memoir of their life together and non-stop reminiscence of McQueen for documentary profiles. Nibbling round edges is Joan Blondell, her character a long-ago headliner, whose apartment with daughter Adams is splayed with stills of Blondell at Warner Bros. peak. Of veterans aboard, ZaSu Pitts is in/out as concerned landlady for Simmons. Maltin Reviews called This Could Be The Night "forced ... frantic" --- opening up of intended B&W-Cinemascope relieves at least some of that, but there is lots of shouting and running about, a hazard when characters are drawn along Runyonesque lines. This Could Be The Night is available on DVD from Warner Archive.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Cagney Still Off The Reservation

Something To Sing About (1937) Is Grand National Up From Poverty Row

What did the James Cagney pact achieve for Grand National? Plenty, judging by trade reportage. Imagine a biggest of stars jumping a major ship to sail with barely a skiff. It was beyond an anomaly. Grand National went from a jack to a king overnight. Their product would be welcome in top venues, seldom the case for independents before. Broadway example was a deal worked between GN sales management and circuit owner Harry Brandt, whose Globe and Central Theatres became “home of all Grand National pictures,” beginning with Something To Sing About for a September 20, 1937 Globe opening (Film Daily, 9-13-37). With Cagney at their service, Grand National might actually crack barriers protected by the eight majors, his name leading an assault on doors too long shut to outsiders. It wouldn’t quite work out that way, but GN sure raised a sweat on status-quo the behemoths thought they had solidly in place, and the trades, plus showmen nationwide, made a loud cheering section. Helping too was the good movie Something To Sing About turned out to be. This was no cheapie salvaged by its star, but a vehicle lush as possible for underdog circumstance in which it was made, allowance happily given by a show world solidly in Grand National’s corner.

The company was a year old, “under the guidance of 39-year-old president Edward L. Alperson" (Boxoffice, 5-22-37). Like any industry David, they hung on by threads relentlessly sawed by mainstream Goliaths. Grand National was formed to host outlaw Cagney, who had breached Warner walls after hard-won expungement of his contract. GN’s first with him, Great Guy, was less great shakes as a film than announcement to theatres that little guys could play with big leagues too, whatever blocks an establishment tossed in their way. Grand National would look to a harvest moon for 1937, sixty-five features announced for a coming season at a first annual convention held during May in Los Angeles. Cagney was ahead for not only Something To Sing About in September, but another, Dynamite, to follow. There would be twelve “special productions,” twelve “Class A” features, a series of twenty-four to be developed around radio, book, and newspaper cartoon characters, along with sixteen westerns (Tex Ritter, Ken Maynard). There were comedies with Stuart Erwin and dramas toplining Anna Sten on tap. Series stuff included The Shadow, Wallaby Jim, Renfrew Of The Mounted, a “Federal Agent” group, and others. Attendees to the L.A. confab likely saw the grandiose forecast as so much pipe smoke, but knew theirs was a business run on confidence, even if misplaced. Whatever Grand National could deliver, they’d try darndest to push through a marketplace.

James Cagney was a champ to exhibitors for his stand against Warners. He wasn’t just taking them on, but a whole allied, ingrained system the bane of independent operators everywhere. Cagney for these became a one-man trust buster. To book Something To Sing About gave showmen something to show solidarity about. That this was a musical gave pause perhaps, but Cagney sang/danced before in Footlight Parade, a most successful of WB shows he did from earlier in the 30’s. Grand National was where the actor could tweak a persona he’d become bored with. Some, but not enough, were refreshed by JC hoofing it, his being an action audience, so advertising had to play up whatever punches might land in this otherwise civilized vehicle. Opening reel of Something To Sing About is entirely set on expanded stage that is “Terry Rooney’s” bandstand and club, a designer’s creation to do proud beside any that WB, Metro, the rest, could devise.

Budget filmmakers often led with a lushest backdrop to fairly shout “A” treatment ahead. Something’s nightspot, dense with extras and mile-high ceiling, lets us know, or at least imagine, that no expense will be spared. Thrust of story is Terry/Jim being lured to Hollywood for star-making process, basis of comedy and further music from there.  “Galore Pictures” is the pincushion for venality of big-time moviemaking, the sort of place Cagney felt well rid of, Something To Sing About an “insider” rake over a studio system as viewed by outsiders. Terry/Jim is swindled and lied to by toadies who don’t know their business, but try to mind his. A support cast is out of odd drawers to emphasize kooks in back of movies we watch --- Johnny Arthur, Dwight Frye, William Frawley as time-honored demon press agent. These and other familiar faces link Something To Sing About with output from majors that regularly featured them. Take the Grand National logo off this show and you could figure it for something out of Paramount, or at least RKO, maybe Columbia. Something To Sing About, for years in the Public Domain, is available from a number of labels, the Hal Roach or Roan Group’s a good choice, and there is streaming option at Amazon.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Lesser Of Noir and Siodmak, But Still ...

Stanwyck Comes-A-Killing to The File On Thelma Jordon (1950)

Gets off to unpromising start with Wendell Corey sloppy drunk for what seems eternity, but be patient, it gets better. Hal Wallis produced, another of his delves into psychology of greedy folk pushed to killing because they want it all. Corey was a Wallis hire lacking goods to lead, here a born chump stronger names might have been reluctant to play. For an assistant D.A. with oft-mentioned promise, he sure makes stupid moves, all in service to Barbara Stanwyck doing reprise of image-defining Double Indemnity. Thelma Jordon (The File On ... often omitted from title listings) was directed by Robert Siodmak, so you'd expect a higher profile, though it was settled long ago, even by cultists, that this was among his weakest. Thelma is really more representative of Wallis, who would let no director personal-stamp anything bearing HW credit. The less charitable could laugh at thickets woven here, Thelma Jordon one of those where complication is prolonged for its own sake. Siodmak gets in licks where he can: Corey's relation with the wife he betrays is more grown-up than what we expect of otherwise bald melodrama. The File On Thelma Jordon arrives via Olive Blu-Ray lease from Paramount. Quality is fine.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Romance Under The Code

Chained (1934) A Mixmaster Of Morality

This came out several months after the Code cracked down, but does not play altogether gutless. Rules became more stringent as monitors felt their oats, however, so Chained a year later would have been weaker tea. The premise is still ludicrous. We're asked to believe that tycoon Otto Kruger maintains co-worker Joan Crawford not in mistress capacity, despite his marriage crumbled by a castrating spouse. Crawford is willing to consummate the relationship after the wife says no re divorce, to which Kruger demurs, being stunned at the very idea of such a thing. He sends Joan on a Pan-American cruise so they can both "think about" her offer, just as any man would when the woman he desperately wants is ready to put out. Did audiences laugh aloud at this? Maybe not, what with gloss so thick and Clark Gable turning up shipboard. Besides, Kruger is an old guy, as in his 50's, so where does he come off wanting to trade in the first place? Heat comes of Gable's pursuit and Crawford's avoidance. That lasts down an ocean and into Brazil where CG keeps a ranch with horses and a piazza chock-filled with servants. Crawford as shopgirl was definitely behind her here. Chained was about substituting luxury for narrative truth, and it works on at least this occasion where frills disguise characters doing what no human in a same circumstance would.

Chained spoke to large extent between the lines, or between dissolves, fade outs and in, whatever permitted a grown-up viewer to form his/her own notion of what has taken place during unseen interims. We know Otto Kruger and Joan Crawford have not slept together because dialogue tells us specifically that. Later on, with Gable at his below-equator paradise, there is collapse into tall grass, a steaming kiss, followed by the fade. We may assume they acted on nature from there, and it's at least half confirmed reels later by Gable when he refers to their having gone "balmy" under a South American sun. Audiences were in a way flattered for knack they'd develop at decoding the Code, but that was an adjustment that took time, and those denser or less patient may well have given up movies as too tough a slog toward coherence. The job would be no less a challenge today with viewership used to sex dealt face up and explicit. Would they have hope of reading narrative sleight-of-hand as applied in Chained?

Prohibition had been gone over a year when Chained came out. Drinking was in meantime back with a vengeance and became chief concern, if not way of life, for idols we'd bid to emulate. To know which drink to order implied not only sophistication, but wealth. Nursing a cocktail meant having leisure to do so, working people presumably without time or resource to know infinite permutations of alcohol. The bracer you ordered spoke much to background and status. Crawford wants a "sherry flip" because she and Kruger share them back home, but Gable disparages the choice as one that provincials or old folks would make, him not needing to meet Kruger to realize the man is outclassed. People are graded then, by what they drink. Social life of Hollywood had to have been influenced by all this, or maybe the social life influenced the movies. Liquor no longer being bootlegged made connoisseurs of whoever could stock a home bar, or make positive impression at nightspots. Part of why drinks and cigarettes thrived in films was gift both were to acting, there being no more valued props than these. Why worry what to do with your hands with a crutch so handy? 

Clarence Brown (above) directed Chained. He understood from touching down at Metro in the late 20's how a dream factory best functioned, and wove artistry from unlikeliest elements. A long second act of Chained takes place aboard ship, a real one Brown utilizes and makes most of, advantage pressed by traveling shots of Gable/Crawford as they deck walk and encounter other passengers. A skeet shoot with targets over the water, plus swimming in a pool aboard, lends variety and takes onus off predicted romance of the leads. Much of value in 30's star vehicles was background they played against, ticket's worth the invite to travel places we'd never likely see, even where trips were simulated by rear projection. An aspect that separated us from screen idols was their knowing exactly how to comport themselves in whatever circumstance presented itself. Perfect appearance, etiquette, bon mots at hand where occasion needed them. Part of reason candid interviews were forbade was knowledge that stars being themselves would be too much letdown from ideal they presented on screen. Clark Gable had been muzzled from 1931 and a fan mag chat titled "I Do What I Am Told," where he frankly spoke to peonage at his place of employ.

Marriage vows were meant by a vigorous Code to be observed, but where the magnets were Gable and Crawford, and she's wed to withered Otto Kruger, something of the rule had to bend. Noble as self-sacrifice was on most occasions, no audience would accept co-stars in heat staying separated. Hollywood had seen the situation play in real life with the Mary Pickford/Douglas Fairbanks coupling which would not be denied despite both having spouses. That misfortune was resolved by mutual pay-offs and disposal of baggage, then sanctify by (second) marriage between Doug and Mary, the switch embraced by a post-Victorian public that could as easily have gone a negative way. Musical beds had not been played at so high a stake, but it worked, and would again and again as movieland morality found acceptance by its mass following. Chained relied on that by letting Crawford enter into marriage with Kruger, who is entirely likeable and sympathetic, but old (the actor was 48 when he did Chained), and a presumably inadequate sheets partner for Joan.

The finish, which I'll give away as Chained is plenty fun even knowing how it wraps, lets Kruger simply give up this most precious thing in his life (a sentiment he repeats throughout Chained), and for which he sacrifices children we understand he will not be permitted to see again, thanks to a vengeful first wife. "That doesn't matter," he says, so shouldn't it matter a great deal more when Gable comes to claim his wife? And yet because it is Gable, and Gable wants Crawford and she wants him, the inconvenience of a husband will be removed so as to afford a happy ending. Dishonest, even outlandish as this fade is (would any husband be so good a sport?), it was the resolution they wanted, insisted upon, in 1934, and remains so for us watching today, and hang the ethics of it. Think Casablanca if Ilsa had chosen Rick at the airport with Victor's resigned approval. Would the film be so beloved in that event? Chained is a joy for many reasons then, tops among the Gable-Crawfords to my mind. It can had on DVD from Warner Archive.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Postwar Range Closing On Studio Westerns

The Outriders Fills Metro Quota For Outdoors 1950

Overstuffed recliner of a comfort western where Metro took epic bumps of their own Northwest Passage plus others and brought all to bear on Joel McCrea and Confederates as they flee a Union stockade toward big-scale confront with Quantrill renegades. Using history as backdrop made "A" oaters respectable, based-on-fact reassuring crowds that they weren't paying for another dumb shoot-'em-up. Such mentality grafted psychology and social issues onto outdoor subjects like Pursued, Devil's Doorway, Broken Arrow, others that gave impression of heft beyond cowboy/injun stuff at Saturday gathers. The Outriders locationed at Kanab, Utah, fresh site at a time when westerns needed background to distinguish themselves. Problem facing 1950 markets was glut of boots-and-saddle; good ones had a tough time standing out. Metro swapped leads like chessmen to train's departure for location: first Van Heflin for The Outriders, then Van Johnson, before Joel McCrea caught outgoing Utah express. It was a plug-in-your-hero game that companies with contract talent played. The Outriders got notice for a whale of a river crossing staged under what looked to be trying real-life conditions (that a specific echo from Northwest Passage). Metro proved a same year with King Solomon's Mines (in Africa) that no firm was better at staging hazard on nature's stage. The Outriders played well but cost beyond what could be recovered, a negative at $1.6 million would not break even with $1.5 million in domestic rentals and $697K foreign. The loss was $453,000. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Were Karloff Labs Altogether Mad?

We Should Have Listened To This Man!

It's not news that crackpot science Boris Karloff practiced in his quartet of late 30's/early 40's would be absorbed into real life treatment later on. What was then way-out melodrama plays for me like legitimate tragedy now. I always longed for just one of BK's  experiments to work out. Alas, they never did, and so he marched grimly to one death chamber after another, put there by cruel authority that never understood. This seemed a confirmation that no good deed goes unpunished. If lesson of life being unfair needed teaching, these pictures taught it. In fact, the group as a whole, mostly for Columbia release, has me satisfied that any miracle cures I develop must be kept resolutely to myself, sharing with mankind too near flirtation with a hangman's rope. That last was shadow hung (yes, hung) over several Karloffs in the lot: The Man They Could Not Hang and Before I Hang, these and others of a prolific lot hosted at present by Amazon Prime and adorned as not before with HD clarity we dared not dream of in Shock Theatre days.

Of course I take it all too much to heart, possibly more now than at ten years old, for issues of justice and fairness that nag a mature mind (how mature if I still look at such stuff?). For the record, here is a pair in addition to the aforementioned two: The Man With Nine Lives and The Devil Commands. The quartet plus The Black Room are playing Amazon. Latter is period-set fun with robust BK in dual role capacity and well above the law so far as mayhem he commits. Trouble with the science group is Karloff under thumbs of judge, jury, wardens, every sort of law/order representation all of us dread at some time or other. He is also older in these, made up to look still older, so vulnerability gets factored in much as would be case in late-career mishaps that saw BK immersed in chill water (The Terror) or catching pneumonia on Euro locations (Black Sabbath). We fans are protective of Karloff as we would be for any Granddad put to hardship, so when he invents something useful, even epoch-making, how dare they drag him off by a rope? The guy who cured polio wasn't treated so harsh, as I recall. Drat Columbia and horror mechanisms they had to apply, but how else to satisfy thrill shoppers?

These films raise specter of a possibly wasted life. Should I have been developing serums rather than watching monster movies? What of youngsters who embraced science for seeing Karloff perform even misguided experiments? Where he went wrong, they may go right. One or more might have introduced whatever antibiotic I took last. Never underestimate influence horror movies have. Again to those mechanisms, which I've learned to dread: A first reel of The Man They Could Not Hang and Before I Hang go swimmingly for benign and brilliant Boris, his efforts at a seeming cusp of triumph. Why must there be wrinkles to this? Some snoop or ding-dong assistant will inevitably wreck the craft, BK's tube-fed substitute for a human heart, or chugging cleanser of damaged cells shot to pieces before he gets the death verdict. You have to swallow food for thought quick in these Columbias, as they only last an hour plus mere minutes. Their not being worthy of Karloff is a given, but that is part of nobility in such ignoble enterprise. Folks came to be scared in 1939, 1940, whenever, so formula must be served, no matter larger issues the films address, then trivialize.

To which I'll raise one more: Could human cells regenerate themselves and give us immortality if not for ordinary wear-and-tear on the human body and mind? Boris thought so in Before I Hang, and sure sold the concept to me. I wanted him to make it work, but no such satisfaction is had, BK transfused by a thrice-murdering donor, a clear contrivance to make him the bogey-man for a second half not so satisfying (let alone hopeful) as the first. I saw these as a kid and hoped Karloff ideas might be embraced by a presumably enlightened 60's community and that I would enjoy longer (if not forever) life for their being put in play by modern medicine. We could all benefit from such forward-thinking research, best of all BK's seeming arrest of the aging process. How many have dreamed that a key to immortality might be discovered before we age and die? Boris Karloff held out promise of this, even against rules of "B" narrative and forgone disaster they impose. His experiments achieve a state of grace, even if fleetingly within six or so reels.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Finding Fun In The War

Stalag 17 (1953) Generates Laughs Inside Barbed Wire

A landmark Billy Wilder dramedy that got imitated too much and lost punch as consequence, that being no fault of the blueprint, which still compels for BW's airtight script and Bill Holden starmaking to surpass even his Sunset Boulevard. Poster art emphasized the fun, Robert Strauss all over one-sheets in his "Animal" guise. This and Harvey Lembeck shenanigans would be easiest footage to lose today. But would we have had Lembeck's immortal Eric Von Zipper of AIP's beach series if not for Stalag 17? I found myself always waiting for Holden to take back over, essential mystery (who's the German plant among P.O.W.'s?) for him to resolve. Born loser Joe Gillis of Sunset Boulevard has become proactive, if anti-heroic, Sefton a sort of me first we'd warm increasingly to in the 50's, and especially so after Holden patented it.

Too many look-backs credit Brando, Dean, or such as summing up the decade, but Holden was more the real deal for reflecting conflict that roiled in men of the era. Stalag 17 needs recognition too for expertise of Wilder writing (with Edwin Blum) back yonder when script construction mattered. There are so many Eureka bumps for the audience: the light bulb chord, chess piece, a traitor unmasked. Wilder's films were better than anyone's when it came to narrative satisfaction. A pity he fell out with Paramount after this and Sabrina. They needed each other, Wilder for the studio's polish and tech support, Paramount for quality BW contributed to otherwise bland seasons. Check out Love In The Afternoon and consider how much more elegant it would at least have looked amidst Paramount environs.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Still Fresh After Sixty Years

Is Giant's Barbecue The Tastiest Of All?

I recently went to a high school reunion, nothing in itself, but occasion again to be yanked from real life into a movie seen numerous times that left a big impression, just because some aspect of the event took me there. In this case, it was a barbecue grill with a crowd stood round that spoke Giant to me. Did these 150 revelers not get such an obvious connection? Somehow I expected them to, but how reasonable is that? Giant came out over sixty years ago after all. Less and less people have heard of it since. All the world's a screen, however, at least for film hounds with much of lives given to it. The reunionists grilled a pig for their open air feast, as in a hog split open and brimming with fresh meat, to which came the revelation that I am Bick Benedict and these are my guests. Survey of classmates did not reveal a Jett Rink stood apart and pulling a horse's tail, nor a Leslie/Liz, however well-preserved some of attendees were. Barbecue transported me to Reata, Giant my pick (or pig-pickin') for a most vivid cook-out in all of movies. It seems not fashionable these days to like Giant, but to this mind and eyes, it is every bit the "Cavalcade" Warner's promised in 1956 publicity, barbecuing but one of plenty highlights spread over three hours and twenty-one minutes. Can't, in fact, think of a 50's epic I like better.

The barbecue scene is early introduction to Reata way of life. It brings on characters that will populate Giant, and firms up those we know.  There is flavor and detail few films achieved to then, or since. George Stevens famously shot miles of footage he would spend a year sifting through. His camera addressed players from every angle, requiring take after take, which had to exhaust them. With so much footage for Stevens to pick from, he got flawless results that were almost intimidating. The barbecue is a Swiss watch of a Giant set-piece, but no more so than the rest of it. Reata neighbors to figure into a next three hours line up one by one to meet Bick’s new wife. We get that this is undiscovered country for her, the barbecue pit stood in for earthy way of life she must adjust to. Also an outlier is Jett Rink, but more so the actor who plays him, James Dean. Separated from the cook-out, Dean lingered apart as well from others of the cast who had to adjust to him. Pulling a horse’s tail as he crosses the frame, Jimmy poses for imagery he knows will be iconic, though to what degree he could not have imagined. Dean understood what it took to register as a star, that more his goal, I suspect, than excelling as an actor. Jett peering from under the brim of a hat, propped full-length in the back seat of a 20’s auto, any of shots devoted to Dean could serve as magazine covers, or giveaway to fans. Stevens had to recognize this as he spent a post-Dean-death year editing Giant.

Marfa residents were welcome to the barbecue. By some accounts, they were even fed. Come one and all was Stevens policy for all-outdoor settings. He called townsfolk “good will ambassadors” for Giant. They'd serve as extras for the feed, and many more of them stood back of cameras. Giant stars took breaks to sign autographs. A vista shot includes the Reata house in a far background, space so vast as to make human participants seem fewer. I don’t wonder that pilgrims still go to Marfa and what’s left of the structure, crumbled to almost nothing as it is. Must be spooky to stand alone, or with a companion, and regard what was once such active ground. Hallowed ground, they'd call it. Is it still sacred for Texans after sixty years? The barbecue puts several stories underway as folks feast, Leslie as awkward fit to Texas culture, Vashti announcing her own marriage now that Bick is unattainable, Jett as outsider and photographed so, plus Luz (Mercedes McCambridge) kidded by a tactless neighbor who says Luz would “rather herd cattle than make love.” Jett as friend and ultimate beneficiary of Luz’s estate makes sense for their shared isolation here. For that matter, Bick might be sole among principals not isolated amidst vast space director Stevens uses.

James Dean does his soon-to-be-immortal car pose to burnish the point. The auto-mo-bile, as Bick calls it, is reminder that a first half of Giant is period set. Otherwise, and based on Dean's dress and deportment, you could place Jett Rink for here-and-now, as in 1956, if not today. He had done a same trick in East Of Eden with sweaters any 50's teen would be pleased to wear at school, Dean realizing that fashion on him was timeless (would current youth opt for a red windbreaker like what he wore, and made sensation of, in Rebel Without A Cause?). Dean in the car became a most sought after card from Giant's lobby set of eight, and made up all of art on the film's R-80's one-sheet from Kino (at right), this after he became a best reason to go and see a movie old as Giant. We may assume that Jett/Jimmy partakes not of barbecue delights. Was Dean ever shown eating in a film, or would this have brought him too far down to earth? Cary Grant once advised a fellow player never to indulge during a public appearance, because sure enough camera-bugs would capture you with mouth agape and shoveling food into it. Grant knew his public would simply not allow a star to be too human.

Big sloppy plates of barbecue are yet repugnant to many. Raw animal on a spit can have such effect. Tough to look at, let alone eat. Stevens captures that reaction where Leslie/Liz recoils from a dish she's offered. Bick has just informed her that it is a "calf's head," not realizing this is the wrong-est thing to say. We know from incidents of the barbecue that Bick/Leslie are in numerous ways mismatched. Stevens makes sure ranch hands unwrap the calf head so we won't miss detail. I envision the director preparing final form of Giant, perusing dozens of calf close-ups to pick a most graphic one. Such detail is what makes Giant a favorite, certainly for me. Stevens cuts from the close-up to meat dropped heavy on Leslie's plate, us knowing what result will be. She'll faint, as expected and set up from previous shots, the sequence ending with Luz saying to herself if not other characters that "I knew this was going to happen." For himself, Stevens could build to multiple pay-offs here and in other highlights of Giant, structural echoes from silent comedy he worked on years before at Roach. You could take out the barbecue and call that splendidly realized portion a whole movie, notwithstanding so many other wonders to enjoy in Giant.
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