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Monday, August 12, 2019

Another Gone With The Would-Be Wind

A Sock One Then, But Less So Now

So how would Paulette Goddard have played Gone With The Wind had she gotten the part of Scarlett O'Hara? Reap The Wild Wind supplies the answer, at least in part, for here is Goddard as a Southern belle, accent fitfully used, "Fiddle Dee Dee" as spoke by Louise Beavers as a Mammy after Hattie McDaniel example, but lacking depth the GWTW part had, these but portion of epic design by Cecil B. DeMille, who reaped for Paramount a highest-ever gross, according to Scott Eyman's C.B. bio (surpassed a couple seasons later by Going My Way). I've mentioned before Dr. Ellis Boatman, who college-taught and was a lifelong movie hound. He grew up in the late 30's, then 40's, so knew from film-going in that most glorious of eras. Dr. Boatman gave interim courses on film, bringing Reap The Wild Wind, among numerous others, to campus over a series of happy Januarys. He ran Wild Wind to his class and then again that evening for ones among a greater student body who'd care. How many did in 1974? A few anyway, as inveigled by me. Dorm-mates went along to humor my fascination with a relic they never heard of, John Wayne a sole familiar element beyond vague awareness of DeMille. How bitter is fruit of restless civilians sitting through an old movie you've dragged them to? I'd find out that night.

The good and the dull of Reap The Wild Wind was known to me before we sat down, bumps of the show stored with memory from a mid-60's TV broadcast (primetime and in color on High Point's Channel 8). Universal/16 had supplied Dr. Boatman with a lovely print. That alone should have sustained my group, but where was novelty of color for a generation taught to expect that from all moviegoing? Lots think impatience with oldies came lately, but I say it was as common in the 70's and way before. Reap The Wild Wind has spurts of action and a lively for most part spirit. My group perked at fighting on board ships and same being sunk for cargo, this done with DeMillish gusto. The squid was unexpected and the better for it. Reap The Wild Wind had suddenly become a monster movie, it seemed, but there was toll of a long and labored trial leading to that third act, toward which my crew got testy, some hot to depart despite my promise of squid-to-come. Reaction was mixed by the end, consensus that Reap The Wild Wind got by, even if the evening could better have been spent where there was beer. We are often told by wiser heads to keep politics and religion to ourselves, but I'd add love of old movies to the forbid list. You can lead horses to water, but just try, in 1974 or now, to make them drink.

Reissue Billing Could Be Cruel, In This Case for Ray Milland and Paulette Goddard

Not bragging, because it is long gone now, but I used to have a 35mm print of Reap The Wild Wind. Safety stock was assured for this being a 1954 print, product of a reissue that year that juggled billing to favor John Wayne and support-player Susan Hayward over Ray Milland and Paulette Goddard, latter pair on a wane from 40's peak. Technicolor of the time fairly oozed off the screen, especially as a 35mm collecting friend turned loose a carbon arc as used, then discarded, by projectionists of old. These Technicolor treasures, no matter how digitally preserved, vary from how first-run crowds received them. Even prints of a same title differed from one another according to vagaries of lab work and effort toward getting each right. Safety in 1955 was far afield from 1942 nitrate. Vet collectors maintain that no two prints of any film look exactly alike. We used to compare multiple 16mm of a same show and get crazily varied result, a game gone what with digital having final word (sport yet, however, in compare of improved Blu-Ray over standard DVD). DeMille benefits a best from enhanced clarity, several of his streaming in HD or on Blu (The Ten Commandments). There is also a Region Two of Unconquered that looks amazing, Reap The Wind and the B/W Sign Of The Cross also available on R-2. Reap The Wild Wind is also forthcoming from US distrib Kino Lorber on Blu-Ray.


Blogger Reg Hartt said...

"How bitter is fruit of restless civilians sitting through an old movie you've dragged them to? I'd find out that night."

Tasted that bitter fruit so often when I first showed friends my 8mm prints of classic silent film that I thought that was how it would always be.

Then I discovered the great joy of sharing with strangers who knew their value the films my friends not only dismissed but also used as an example of how crazy I am to be wasting my money on things no one else valued.

That's the number one reason I love welcoming strangers into my life.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

I had an early 50's strike of a 16mm print of Castle Film's MUDDY ROMANCE, re-titled by Castle as MUDDLED IN MUD. It was one of those 16mm prints that looked like 35mm, an original reduction. Castle must have access to a 35mm original print. That film and several others I had acquired from Modern Sound Pictures when they folded eventually went vinegar. They were rental films that were invariably coated to clean the rental prints to keep them in the field longer, making the print unable to "breathe" and subject to vinegar. Well, when that print went vinegar I thought "No worries, this film shows up a lot on ebay." Well I won another print and when I ran it I was shocked at the reduced quality of the image. This was a 1971 strike and it seems that Castle lost access to that 35mm and so Castle duped their 16mm elements for subsequent strikes.
I have a 1968 Blackhawk print of TWO TARS that is much sharper than the 1976 print I bought of it. In 1976 Blackhawk bragged that their new TWO TARS print had "extra footage" which was merely one extra title card. That's the only time Blackhawk ever disappointed me.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

I sympathize with your plight in trying to get a restless, short attention span '70s crowd to watch an oldie like Reap the Wild Wind. I've always enjoyed the film, finding it a generally spirited affair, though I agree that things slow down a tad during the trial scene. But Goddard is at a real peak in her career for charm and vivaciousness, enjoying considerable screen chemistry with Ray Milland in this film.

I recall the first time I saw RTWW on TV, recognizing faces, at times, of the stars but not necessarily knowing the names to go with them. When John Wayne first appeared on screen I recall thinking, "Oh, that guy!" but darned if I knew the name of that guy at the time.

A question: would anyone know the reason why North West Mounted Police remains the one DeMille talkie spectacle that never got a Region One release, going right back to video tape days? Sure it's all over the place (great looking prints, too) on the internet yet it still eludes us as a DVD or Blu Ray release in North America.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Castle did refresh its printing negatives periodically. When Castle's "Old Time Movies" series came back in the 1970s (thanks to collector interest in silent movies from Blackhawk), there were still 35mm elements on A WEAK-END DRIVER and THE RAILROAD STOWAWAYS (the latter in an exceptionally good printing). I suspect that Tommie's MUDDLED IN MUD was a dupe of a 16mm print, because this title had been withdrawn for many years (I don't have the Castle book handy, and I don't know the date offhand), and many dealers did dupe withdrawn Castle titles.

Castle's own quality control suffered after the company became Universal 8 in 1977. The two-reel edition of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KEYSTONE KOPS was simply Castle's HOLLYWOOD AND BUST and HAVE BADGE, WILL CHASE spliced together. The first half was a disappointingly dupey copy from a 16mm master, and then the quality improved tremendously with a second half taken from 35mm.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

That explains the gawdawful 16mm Ansco print of BARBER OF SEVILLE with Woody Woodpecker I bought from Castle.

2:27 PM  

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