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Friday, July 10, 2020

Two Weeks More Bad Than Beautiful?

Minnelli Tries a Spaghetti Melodrama

A truly cheerless and unhappy film, reflecting bitter awareness that old Hollywood was dead and not coming back. Two Weeks being a movie about movies, we know writing and direction will air grievance toward an industry that once fed well, but will not again. Joseph Mankiewicz spoke his peace similarly in The Barefoot Contessa some years before, only to step off the soapbox and find no one caring (Contessa lost money), and true to form, Two Weeks stayed short in theatres willing to play it at all (final loss a horrific $3.3 million). So what?, said most where pampered film stars/directors were concerned, a question glowing red in account books since movies began. You'd not profit using Hollywood as topic lest you made fun with it. Vincente Minnelli treats Hollywood like tragedy in transit to worse place that was Rome, where integrity gives way to "peddlers" who don't appreciate high standards US filmmakers maintain.

There were plenty in 1962 to dispute Minnelli's implication that Euro pix were money-driven junk. This, however, was the trend for film that would exclude studio men, of whom Minnelli and tinseled peers were typical (Billy Wilder, for example, always had snide words for off-shore art stuff). There is business in a projection room where Kirk Douglas and others washed out of H’wood look at The Bad and The Beautiful, exalted for greatness achieved ten years before when movies meant more. It's a sad scene for Two Weeks’ crew knowing their show wouldn't turn out so polished as the 1952 in-house melodrama done under Culver control. Further evidence of changed times and Minnelli not changing was re-staging of set pieces that drew notice to The Bad and The Beautiful, instance one an over-top car drive where Douglas and Cyd Charisse make Lana Turner fits of yore look like gentle mews. In the older show it worked, melodrama an accepted enough form of expression for Minnelli to crank up and still be effective, but by 1962 and excess of Two Weeks' reprise, it just looked strange.

There is an "orgy" Minnelli stages to go La Dolce Vita one better, but Two Weeks In Another Town had to wade through Code thicket to American release, so the portion is sliced and unappetizing. US films would need a few more years to shed inhibition and run even with Euro decadence. Two Weeks In Another Town was meant to reunite the creative team from The Bad and The Beautiful, getting cracked mirror result, as pointed out then and since. Years ago, I counted Two Weeks among favorites, but this time it played heavy. One’s own changing views of life should, I suppose, be factored into movie visits that are far apart. Two Weeks situations and dialogue are harsh and not a little cruel. It's said writer Charles Schnee used this for occasion to vent over bitter harvest from his own spent marriage. The Claire Trevor character is a shrieking ball-and-chain from presumed purgatory that was either Schnee's or most/all long-term biz marriages. By comparison, the Italians seem well-adjusted in their stereotyped jabber and face-slaps. To that representation, Two Weeks In Another Town must have seemed provincial to Euros seeing themselves portrayed as virtual cartoons (no more absurd instance of this than Rosanna Schiaffino as a no-talent firebrand of an Italian "actress").

Kirk Douglas is the comeback-seeking "washed up ham," and you wonder if KD deliberately played his guy as just that, the perf Gorshinesque at times. There is compliant earth-woman Daliah Lavi for Douglas to simpatico with, she the sort any damaged American could find solace in, pure male fantasy not common for a Minnelli film. Their relationship plays as unbelievably as the movie being made in Another Town. Edward G. Robinson's may be the best performance as a harried, and ultimately disloyal, director. He has to raise pitch, however, to overstated level of his co-stars, which makes for shrill exchange with Trevor, Douglas, George Hamilton, virtually everyone there for the Two Weeks.

The one element of the 1962 film not to suffer in comparison to The Bad and The Beautiful was David Raksin's score, the equal of any of this great composer's work, and happily available on CD. It's not fair being harsh on Two Weeks In Another Town for what Metro did in mutilating the film as submitted by Vincente Minnelli and producer John Houseman. Script problems the creative team was aware of from a beginning keeps Two Weeks from being any ruined masterpiece, but what might have been sounds better than what we got, based on footage known to have been dropped. I guess the only reassurance for having been involved was knowing it would be forgotten quickly or paved over by a next success, or repeated flop (like Mutiny On The Bounty three months later for MGM). Two Weeks In Another Town went to television, looked awful there thanks to cropping of its scope image, and to boot had no network primetime run, a reminder of how theatregoers rejected it. Now comes Blu-Ray to a rescue, and from that advantage, the picture looks and plays better than it has since being new.


Blogger DBenson said...


A theme that crops up in comedies about the movies (and the stage, for that matter), is that an awful actor -- or a total non-actor -- can be a brilliantly successful comedian without trying. Especially without trying.

Chaplin's "The Circus" (the little tramp is unintentionally a star clown); "Metron of the Movies"; "Make Me a Star" (a surprisingly downbeat earlier version of "Metron"); Harold Lloyd's "Movie Crazy"; "Free and Easy" (amateur Keaton propelled to stardom by a grotesque operetta that's MEANT to be funny, but is merely bizarre); "Speak Easily"(this time Keaton saves a stage show by getting tangled in the sets); "Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Cops"; and lord knows how many sitcoms.

Even Jerry Lewis, the wildly self-conscious Genius, went to that plot three times: "The Stooge" with Dean Martin (vaudeville sidekick doesn't realize he's the real star); "The Errand Boy" (the title character is declared a genius when cameras catch him screwing up his job); and "The Patsy" (the production team assembled by a recently dead star try to replace him with bellhop Lewis -- who becomes a TV sensation when he's not aware he's on the air, ignoring everything the experts tried to teach him).

We know about all the small-town beauties who flocked to Hollywood. How about the class clowns and local laughingstocks who believed it really was as effortless as the movies themselves said. Did they besiege the studios as well?

And why were so many brilliant comedy creators drawn to stories that aggressively dismissed their own lives' work as the unaware blundering of common schmoes, or the misguided efforts of talentless tragedians?

3:05 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Pretty much every time this one rolls around on TCM, I watch it thinking "Well, maybe it's not a meh as I think it is," and every damn time it is.

I don't know where they went wrong, but they sure did.

6:23 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer comments on TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN:

Ah, yes, that drive at the end, an almost orgiastic mélange of wild images, the car gyrating on its rotisserie before the process screen as Kirk Douglas courts death with manic laughter and Cyd Charisse provides a screaming accompaniment. It is as real and convincing as Teddy, the Mack Sennett Dog, on a treadmill, but probably this touch of surrealism was needed. The film was on such a high emotional key from the beginning that only this sort of crescendo could provide a needed release.

I confess, though, that I have enjoyed “Two Weeks in Another Town” the two or three times that I’ve seen it. The melodrama is vivid and entertaining, Douglas gives an intense, charismatic performance, the elegant Cyd subjects herself to what is almost self-abuse, and Edward G. Robinson approaches a real characterization, without which the film would have been as substantial as a sand castle before the tide. Beneath the extremes and excesses, though, there is a story of transcendence, of a sort that has always appealed to me. It is as though time might pass, even to the end, and yet always there will be the possibility of redemption.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Everything you point out is what made me enjoy the movie when I saw it. Although it's no "Bad and the Beautiful."

9:53 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

"There is an "orgy" Minnelli stages to go La Dolce Vita one better, but Two Weeks In Another Town had to wade through Code thicket to American release, so the portion is sliced and unappetizing. US films would need a few more years to shed inhibition and run even with Euro decadence."

The problem with orgies (and with sex) in the movies is that while sex will put bums on seats its on screen depiction almost always puts the viewer to sleep.

This I believe is because when we watch people making love onscreen we become aroused at which point we either engage in sex with the nearest available person, play solitaire or we go to sleep because our stimulation to act is frustrated our and brains shut down. I watch it happening with myself during such moments and I'm as far from a prude as can be got.

The movies used to wisely fade to black at such moments.

My youngest brother seeing THE AFRICAN QUEEN for the first time asked why the relationship between Hepburn and Bogart changed so dramatically. I said, "They made love.: He said, "No, they didn't. We didn't see it."

There was a time in the movies when we did not see a lot of things.

Now we see everything.

The movies as a whole were better then.

Often less is a whole helluva lot more.

8:00 AM  
Blogger murft said...

This movie made me lose all respect for Minnelli's directorial ability. i counted seven face slaps. And i agree with you about Kirk. A truly bad performance. For me, this is the only time i've seen Cyd come close to giving a performance

12:25 PM  

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