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Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Fluff Given Flair Of Color


Brits Serve Saucy in Divorce Of Lady X (1939)

Fluff from England in easy-on-eyes Technicolor, hues subdued and particularly pleasing for that. Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon are the romancing pair, Lady X spun off misunderstanding that could be cleared up in moments had anyone bothered. Whomever the device nags is best advised to duck Lady X, as this Divorce needs endless complication before being granted. You could say silly-ass comedy was not the great Larry's forte, but he'd done plenty such on Brit stages; how else to win matinee idol status? He falls down, is dispossessed of his bed by "slip of a girl" Merle, she posing as notorious vet of multiple marriages. There are lovely views of fog-bound London at night, shot in natural dark through Technicolor lenses, care obviously taken by producer Alexander Korda to cater a worldwide viewership. Oberon had been a name over here, Olivier less so, but that was about to change with Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. Divorce Of Lady X came at bargain neg cost of 486K to Korda, was US-released by United Artists for stateside rentals of $286K. It plays, HD-beautifully, on TCM, and is US controlled by Criterion. We could hope for a Blu-Ray were it not so obscure.

2 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer recalls youthful discovery of Merle Oberon:


I remember the very moment when I fell in love with Merle Oberon. I was watching “The Epic that Never Was,” a documentary about Alexander Korda’s ill-fated attempt to make a film of Robert Graves’ novel, “I, Claudius.” The scene was Emlyn Williams’ Caligula forcing the lovely Messalina, played by Oberon, to marry the lame, stuttering Claudius of Charles Laughton. As Claudius cringed in embarrassment, Messalina was as a frightened bird in the claws of a sadistic cat. My heart went out to her, then and there—that is, to Merle Oberon—and I wanted to interpose myself between such beauty and the cause of her distress.

Months later, riding the crest of my infatuation, I discovered that New York’s WOR, channel 9, was going to broadcast “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” Living in South Jersey then, I knew that New York was ordinarily too far a reach for my family’s Magnavox. Desperately, I improvised an antenna out of a broomstick and some coat hangers, clambered up on the roof, and pointed it northwards, hopefully in the direction of the Empire State Building, from which the WOR television signal originated. Turning on the set, I was rewarded, as though in a séance, with the ghostly, shimmering images of what was surely the movie, and intermittently, I could discern the face of my beloved.

Such was love, such was a lover.

As for “The Divorce of Lady X,” it is a charming piece of fluff featuring a superb use of the Technicolor process, which the English seemed to master in a way that eluded their American counterparts, and a marvelous speech by Olivier on the vagaries of womanhood. Merle is terribly sweet and cute in it, but, ah, where is love?

10:11 AM  
Blogger brickadoodle said...

Dan, I knew you’d comment on this post. Your fixation, whether it still burns or not, is understandable. Was there any more mysterious an actress (besides Garbo) than Ms. Oberon?

4:57 PM  

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