Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

A new LUDWIG

I was intrigued to see a new 4-disk Bluray of Luchino Visconti's 1973 opus LUDWIG is about to be released. I already have the 2 disk dvd, but this seemed too good to pass up, so it is on its way to me. We have covered LUDWIG and Visconti, Helmut, Romy, Silvana, Trevor Howard in detail here before, as per the labels - so more on it in due course. It should be a nice companion piece to the new Criterion bluray of Antonioni's BLOW-UP also out next week, and on its way to me from Barnes & Noble in New York. A brace of European classics then, all spruced up for the new era ...

Helmut acquits himself well here, and Romy is sheer perfection as the older, more cynical SISSI, while Trevor Howard and Mangano are ideal as the Wagners. Then there are all those attractive footmen as Ludwig battles his proclivities ... As with all Visconti films costume dramas don't get more opulent.
Visconti with Romy & Helmut

RIP, continued ....


Tomas Milian (1933-2017), aged 84.  Tomas Milian, an American actor born in Cuba; was trained at the Actors Studio. He appeared in a few plays on Broadway in the 1950s. Italian director Mauro Bolognini noticed him and that was the starting point of a rich cinematographic career in Italy
where he played in all manner of genres. 
We like him as the rich young guy propositioning Jean-Claude Brialy in Bolognini's 1959 saga of Italian youth LA NOTTE BRAVA (below), and he is Romy Schneider's husband in the Visconti episode of BOCCACCIO 70 (right) in 1962, and Claudia Cardinale''s brother in TIME OF INDIFFERENCE in 1964, and with Belmondo in MARE MATTO. He was Raphael in THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY in 1965.
He progressed to Spaghetti Westerns (DJANGO KILL in 1967) and Italian giallo thrillers, and the lead in Antonioni's IDENTIFICATION OF A WOMAN in 1982. Later films included TRAFFIC in 2000, Spielberg's AMISTEAD, Stone's JFK. He continued working, 120 credits in all, until 2014. Quite an acting career. 

Friday, 24 March 2017

Sixties rarity: The Day The Fish Came Out, 1967

There MAY be a more bizarre 1960s movie than THE DAY THE FISH CAME OUT, unleashed in 1967, but I can hardly think of one, apart from THE TOUCHABLES in 1968, or JOANNA or HEROSTRATUS or LEO THE LAST or MYRA BRECKINRIDGE or BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS in 1969 ...
FISH is Michael Cacoyannis's followup to his huge hit ZORBA THE GREEK in 1965 - 20th Century Fox were hardly expecting the madly camp, if not gay, mishmash he produced next .... We were dazed by it at the time (it was taken off after two weeks and never seen again, until dvd arrived), as Candice Bergen in some bizarre outfits and pretty young Ian Ogilvy danced with the beautiful gay people on a Greek island, contaminated by some nuclear waste material dropped into the sea from a plane piloted by Tom Courtenay and Colin Blakely - who spend most of the time in their underwear as the pilots tried to hide, and the locals try to increase their tourism trade and anxious government officials try to cover up the disaster and locate the radioactive material .... Mikis Theodorakis adds another Greek score, and it is all delirious fun. 
Here is what we said some years ago: 
Life on a remote Greek island is forever changed when two atomic bombs are accidentally dropped in the sea there when a NATO plane flies overhead. This so-called comedy chronicles these changes. When the pilots Tom Courtenay and Colin Blakely realise they have lost their cargo, they bail out and land on the island - dressed throughout in their underwear - and try to get help without being found. The government has beaten them to the punch and has already sent an agent disguised as a resort developer. All of them are busy looking for the missing weapons when the island is suddenly filled with hedonistic tourists, all looking very gay, who believe the developer is going to build the best resort in the area. The locals are also overjoyed, thinking their quiet little village is finally going to be a tourist resort. When the Agean fish being to mysteriously die (hence the title?) everyone realises that the jig is up and so they give into their wildest desires...
add in Candice Bergen and lots of pretty unisex people, the pilots in their skimpy briefs and it all adds up to one pretty bizarre movie !

Sixties rarities: bawdy fun with Kim, Susannah etc.

It’s a return to that bawdy, lusty 18th century with LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS, Peter Coe’s 1969 film of a stage show with songs, though the songs are gone here, as this vainly follows THE ADVENTURES OF MOLL FLANDERS in trying to capture the success of TOM JONES. It ramps up the squalor of the era and plays like a CARRY ON on speed – all it has going for it really is that cast. It basically follows the misadventures of three sailors on shore leave: Lusty (Jim Dale), Shaftoe (Tom Bell) and Ramble (Ian Bannen) who are all looking for some action – willing to provide it are Susannah York (Hilaret) who is rather underused here, Vanessa Howard (Hoyden) and Glynis Johns (Mrs Squeezum). Fabulous Fenella Fielding has the Joan Greenwood role as Lady Eager, allowing herself to be seduced at the theatre and ensuring her seducer has the correct window to call on later – Kathleen Harrison and Roy Kinnear are also funny as Lord and Lady Clumsey, and Roy Dotrice is the Gossip. Other familiar faces include Arthur Mullard, Peter Bull, Fred Emney and its good to see Georgia Brown (the original Nancy in the original OLIVER) as the local strumpet. Top billed though is another extraordinary performance by Christopher Plummer as Lord Fopington with a grotesque wig and what looks like a false nose and who can barely walk he is so effete - he is as stunning as his Inca king Atahualpa in the film of THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN, also that year.. Shot in Kilkenny, Ireland it is an amusing trifle to see at this remove.
THE AMOROUS ADVENTURES OF MOLL FLANDERS in 1965 was obviously following in TOM JONES' footsteps with Kim Novak in the lead as amorous Moll, but is good-humoured fun as Terence Young directs a good cast and practically every British comedian and character actor of the era. There is that terrific star quartet of Angela Lansbury and Vittorio De Sica having fun as impoverished aristocrats, Lilli Palmer as leader of the criminal underworld, and George Sanders as Moll's first husband. Kim was so iconic in the '50s [PICNIC, EDDIE DUCHIN STORY, VERTIGO, BELL BOOK AND CANDLE, STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET etc] but - rather like Carroll Baker - she seems diminished in the '60s as items like BOYS NIGHT OUT, OF HUMAN BONDAGE etc did her no favours. She plays along gamely here ... its still a laugh.

Dame Vera

We were celebrating those veterans like Olivia DeHavilland and Kirk Douglas turning 100 - here is another one: Dame Vera Lynn.

Watching the 1980s British TV series WISH ME LUCK (now on dvd) about the French resistance in World War Two and the work of British female agents in France - more on that later, we enjoyed it at the time - there is a passing reference to popular wartime singer Vera Lynn. The series ran from 1987 to 1990 and is of course set in the 1940s, and yet Vera Lynn, now a Dame, is still here at age 100 and has a new album in the charts and its a big seller. 
So here are congratulations to "The Forces Sweetheart" with that rich popular voice and those songs like "We'll Meet Again" which certainly boosted morale during that time of conflict. 
In 1952 she became the first British artist to score a Nr 1 hit in America, a decade before 'The British Invasion'. She has been described as "as much the voice of the Second World War as Winston Churchill".

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Pets headline Brighton Pride !

I was delighted to see that The Pet Shop Boys were the main act at this year's Brighton Pride here on Saturday 5th August, doing a full 90 minute show.
Much as I like The Pets - still going strong after 30+ years - and their innovative, stylish shows, on reflection we will be giving it a miss - it would not be a good venue for us to see them, as they will attract a huge crowd and one may well be stuck in the middle of a throng, unable to move. Now that we are getting on a bit, comfort is a necessity, I demand a seat and a good view. 

Thankfully I have seen the Pets several time before, as per label - their Savoy Theatre residency in 1997, London Pride that year, and on tour in Brighton in 1999 and also at The Tower Of London in 2006 etc. I am sure they will have other tour dates lined up too. 
But good luck for Brighton on Pride Day. I could always play their Glastonbury or O2 concert dvds instead ,,, Years and Years are terrific too...

Brighton Pride is one of the UK's main Pride events, I have been to several and know the city well having lived there for several years, on the south coast in Sussex. Its a great day out for everyone and events and clubbing continue all weekend.  

Sixties rarity: Nine Hours To Rama, 1963

Another of those long-unseen 20th Century Fox Cinemascope "prestige" films, benefiting from exotic locations and a tense story, even if we know the outcome, from a popular bestseller of the time. I caught it at the time before it vanished ...

NINE HOURS TO RAMA depicts the life of Nathuram Godse the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi. How Godse planned the assassination is shown in the film. How he became a Hindu activist who (unfairly) blamed Gandhi for the killings of thousands of Hindus by Muslims is revealed in a series of flashbacks.

Directed by Fox veteran Mark Robson (he had more success with the thriller THE PRIZE that year) with a polyglot cast browned up as Indians and set in India, it features German Horst Buchholz as the assassin, and Jose Ferrer as the weary police inspector on his trail, trying to catch him before it is too late. It is startling now to see the likes of Robert Morley, Harry Andrews, Diane Baker, Valerie Gearon, Francis Matthews etc as Indians, alongside Marne Maitland and other natives, J.S. Casshyap is an effective Mahatma as the film tries to make sense of those violent years. 
It is though colourful and tense, and Buchholz more or less looks authentic. It took several decades though for a more realistic picture of Gandhi to emerge, in Attenborough's 1982 film. 
1963 was the year of the Kennedy assassination, and like THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, NINE HOURS TO RAMA was taken out of circulation for a while,. 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

1962: year of the long titles ....

We love 1962 here at The Projector. It may be the last great classic Hollywood year, with so many absorbing films (I've listed over 40)  : dramas, musicals, and great British and European films too. I was 16 then and just getting into them all ... seeing them on big screen. That great era too of black and white films ...

1963 and 1964 had their share of great movies too, but not as many as 1962, after that new decade began in 1960 with PSYCHO and L'AVVENTURA, and 1961 had classics like BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S and THE MISFITS, ditto 1965, while the New Hollywood was coming into shape in 1966 (Lumet's THE GROUP, MGM bankrolling Antonioni's BLOW-UP), and arrived with BONNIE & CLYDE and IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT in 1967,while 1968 brought forth 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY and solid entertainments like OLIVER! and THE LION IN WINTER, while 1969's best film was MIDNIGHT COWBOY.

But some of those 1962 titles are so long:
  • WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?
  • LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT
  • DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES
  • EXPERIMENT IN TERROR
  • SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH
  • THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALLANCE
  • TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN
  • LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA
  • HEMINGWAY'S ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG MAN
  • THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER
  • TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
  • THE MIRACLE WORKER
  • ADVISE AND CONSENT
  • THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
  • ALL FALL DOWN
  • BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ
  • WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
  • THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE
  • LOLITA
  • BILLY BUDD
  • L'ECLISSE
  • JULES ET JIM
  • SUNDAYS AND CYBELE
  • A KIND OF LOVING
  • THE CHAPMAN REPORT
  • LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
  • SODOM AND GOMORRAH
  • BOCCACCIO 70
  • THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL
  • FIVE MILES TO MIDNIGHT
  • THE CONDEMNED OF ALTONA
  • THE LONGEST DAY
  • HOW THE WEST WAS WON
  • CAPE FEAR
  • DR NO
  • THE MUSIC MAN
  • GYPSY
  • JUMBO
  • HATARI!
  • THE TRIAL
  • PHAEDRA
  • KNIFE IN THE WATER
  • CLEO FROM 5 TO 7
  • REACH FOR GLORY
  • MR HOBBS TAKES A VACATION.
Lots on these at 1962 label ..... maybe only 1959 has as many noteworthy movies?
I now feel like digging out my 1962 "Films and Filming" magazines and re-live them all.

Sixties rarity: Hemingway's Adventures Of A Young Man, 1962

Another of those 1962 dramas, another 20th Century Fox literary adaptation, produced as usual by Jerry Wald and this one is directed by dependable Martin Ritt. Is a little turgid and long-winded though, as we follow Nick Adams on his adventures around rural America and into World War I in Italy, a tepid re-run of A FAREWELL TO ARMS. I have not read Hemingway's stories, but the episodic nature of the film takes us from Nick's typical Hemingway life in rural Michigan, hunting, shooting and fishing with his father and evading his icy, controlling mother, until he runs away, encountering various characters like that broken-down boxer The Battler (a Paul Newman cameo), Fred Clarke, Dan Dailey and others, and Eli Wallach as another ambulance driver in Italy as the First World War rages. Pallid Susan Stransberg is the nurse he loves and loses (Beymer and her are not quite Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones in the 1957 film). Arthur Kennedy scores as the doctor father, who eventually kills himself  (very Hemingway) no doubt to escape from or punish his controlling wife. Jessica Tandy is terrific as ever here, a dry run for her equally controlling mother for Hitchcock in THE BIRDS the next year. Diane Baker gets one scene as the obligatory girlfriend who does not understand our hero ...

Young and restless Nick Adams, the only son of a domineering mother and a weak but noble doctor father, leaves his rural Michigan home to embark on an eventful cross-country journey. He is touched and affected by his encounters with a punch-drunk ex-boxer, a sympathetic telegrapher, and an alcoholic advancement for a burlesque show. After failing to get a job as reporter in New York, he enlists in the Italian army during World War I as an ambulance driver. His camaraderie with fellow soldiers and a romance with a nurse he meets after being wounded propel him to manhood
Rural America of the early 20th century is nicely caught, as in EAST OF EDEN. It ends as Nick returns as a war hero, to confront his mother and make his way as a writer, a coming of age story, similar to the climax of our 1962 favourite ALL FALL DOWN, or that other literary Fox film of D H Lawrence's SONS AND LOVERS.

Richard Beymer has to carry the film, but is not really strong enough -another James Dean would be required or the young Warren Beatty then, but it has the required 20th Century Fox plush look, one to file along their other 'literary' works like Faulkner's THE SOUND AND THE FURY or SANCTUARY, Steinbeck's THE WAYWARD BUS, Inge's THE STRIPPER  or those PEYTON PLACE potboilers. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

Sixties rarirty: The Pleasure Of His Company, 1961

A clutch of '60s rarities we have re-visited, before moving on to some current releases like NOCTURNAL ANIMALS and DR STRANGE

THE PLEASURE OF HIS COMPANY. This 1961 release is perfectly Paramount, another of those smooth Perlberg-Seaton plush comedies, with a leading role for Fred Astaire as the wayward playboy Pogo who returns to San Francisco for his daughter's wedding. He has not seen her since she was a child but his visit causes all kinds of repercussions for his ex-wife, Lilli Palmer, as elegant as ever, and her current husband Garry Merrill (a decade after his Bill Sampson in ALL ABOUT EVE). The young folk are Debbie Reynolds and Tab Hunter, Add in Charlie Ruggles as grandfather and the stage is set - another mansion overlooking San Francisco bay, rather like the location for the rather similar GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER?. 

San Francisco debutante, Jessica Poole, is marrying Napa Valley cattle rancher, Roger Henderson, and hopes her peripatetic father, "Pogo" Poole, whom she hasn't seen for years, comes to the wedding. He arrives, disrupting the household of his ex-wife, Katharine, and her long-suffering husband, and befriending their cook, Toy. At first it seems that Pogo is set on breaking up the engagement, making up for years of neglect by wining and dining Jessica, showing up Roger as a hick, and enticing her to come to Europe with him. Then it seems his real goal is to win back Katharine's heart: why else would he have two tickets to Paris booked on a plane leaving right after the reception?

We are also in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER territory as Pogo is a monster - with no regard for anyone, he takes over the house, ejecting Merrill from his study, and is determined to sabotage the wedding as he now wants his daughter for himself and to take her travelling with him as he circles the globe. Will Debbie fall for it? Will Tab erupt? Will Lilli see through his plans, and who is Pogo taking with him on the plane at the end?  It is fitfully amusing but rather predictable, I last saw it when I was a kid, good though to see Astaire again and the ever radiant Lilli - one of our favourites here - after her good roles then in BUT NOT FOR ME in 1959 and CONSPIRACY OF HEARTS in 1960, we also saw her in another Perlberg-Seaton THE COUNTERFEIT TRAITOR in 1962, where she gets shot by the Nazis, and in the German ADORABLE JULIA, then her other supporting roles in THE ADVENTURES OF MOLL FLANDERS and that very determined secret agent in OPERATION CROSSBOW

RIP, continued ...

Chuck Berry (1926-2017), aged 90. Indeed one of the pioneers of rock'n'roll whose electric rhythm'n'blues guitar paved the way for those who followed, like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones who covered his songs, like "Roll Over Beethoven" in their early days. His guitar licks, duck walk, brash self-confidence, and those songs about teenage life: cars, girls, dance parties created it all. There was always though, as per some lurid reports, a touch of sleaze about Chuck, but he kept on going decade after decade, Who is left from that era? Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino ....

Joni Sledge (1957-2017), aged 60. One of the Sledge Sisters who were huge disco stars in the late 70s and early 80s. We know and love those songs: "We Are Family", "He's The Greatest Dancer", "Lost in Music" indeed,

Robert Osborne (1932-2017), aged 84. Film historian, writer and television presenter, We did not really know him here in the UK, but Osborne was the face of and host for TCM - American version - with his informed and affectionate comments on Turner Classic Movies and all the seasons and stars he interviewed. I got some of his introductions and interviews on disks sent from friends in New York. We could have done with him over here, 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

An omelette and a glass of wine ...

Its a pleasure to discover Elizabeth David's books on French and Italian food and cooking, originally published in the 1950s and early 60s, when mediterranean food was rare and considered exotic in postwar England, after the age of rationing and wartime shortages.

Long before Mary Berry and Delia, Nigel and Nigella, Jamie Oliver, James Martin and Rick Stein, Rachel Allen and Rachel Khoo, the Chiappa Sisters and The Hairy Bikers and and all the rest with their TV series and books (I won't even mention the ones who annoy me and whom we ignore)  - Elizabeth David (1913-1992) trod a solitary path with her cool prose extolling the virtues of European cuisine in her books and articles for "Vogue" and "The Sunday Times" and other magazines, at a time when now everyday items like olives, figs, garlic, pasta were scare even in London, so she became a major influence on the evolution of British cooking. She was wise to retain her copyrights so was able to republish her writings for her various books. 

AN OMELETTE AND A GLASS OF WINE is a perfect compilation of these articles, covering her travels in France and also Italy - which led to her books ITALIAN COOKING, FRENCH PROVINCIAL COOKING, A BOOK OF MEDITERRANEAN FOOD, SUMMER COOKING, and a little Penguin I first got some decades ago, I WILL BE WITH YOU IN THE SQUEEZING OF A LEMON - included in AN OMELETTE AND A GLASS OF WINE

I like this paragraph: "Let's just have an omelette and a glass of wine. Perhaps first a slice of home-made pate and a few olives, afterwards a fresh salad and a piece of ripe creamy cheese or some fresh figs or strawberries.... How many times have I ordered and enjoyed just such a meal in French country hotels and inns in preference to the set menu of truites meuniere, entrecote, pommes paille and creme caramel which is the French equivalent of the English roast and two veg, and apple tart and no less dull when you have experienced it two or three times," 

Viva Elizabeth David - may her books long continue in print to delight us. They also convey that sense of living in postwar London in areas like Kensington and Chelsea, a vanished world now. 
David was following by those other food writers and columnists like Jane Grigson, and Katharine Whitehorn at "The Observer" whose writings became that invaluable book for us young bedsitter folk: COOKING IN A BEDSITTER, and then the young Delia and Lindsey Bareham ... then Mary Berry took over. 

Friday, 10 March 2017

For the weekend ...

only the greatest song from the greatest musical drama ever.  The 3 alternative versions on the dvd are just as marvellous. See posts on Judy and Cukor ...

Stills of the day

Irene Dunne and Cary in THE AWFUL TRUTH, 1937 - I just love them, they also did MY FAVOURTE WIFE and PENNY SERENADE, as per Cary & Irene labels. 
Thanks to Colin for this shot of Antonioni and Vitti during THE RED DESERT in 1964. We love Monica as a blonde but she looks great here too ..... Richard Harris at his most monotonous disliked working with them and walked off the picture. No loss. Lots more at Antonioni, Vitti labels ....
We always like another look at THE BIRDS here, I like this particular scene, where socialite Melanie Daniels meets Mitch's mother for the first time in the cafe, after that gull swoops down to peck her ... See Hitch, Rod & Tippi labels for lots more.
The previous year, 1962, Jessica Tandy had played another controlling mother in HEMINGWAY'S ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG MAN, driving son Richard Beymer away and her husband, Arthur Kennedy, to suicide - to get away from her. We will be re-viewing that again soon. 

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Greatest Story Ever Told

This 1965 epic biblical is oddly fascinating now, I like it a lot, not having seen it for decades, but its getting screenings on our Sky Movies at the moment. It is of course George Stevens' retelling of the story of Jesus and it is an oddly sedate version, avoiding the flamboyance of items like KINGS OF KINGS or BARABBAS

The look of the film is astonishing - no biblical lands here, it was shot in the wilds of the USA, mainly in Utah and Arizona and those western landscapes look ideal. Then there is the cast - Max Von Sydow is a dignified Jesus, Charlton Heston is John The Baptist, 
the aged Claude Rains glitters with menace as Herod, Jose Ferrer is Herod Antipas, Dorothy McGuire is Mary, Sidney Poitier is Simon of Cyrene who helps Jesus with his cross, Carroll Baker is Veronica who wipes the face of Jesus. I did not even spot Shelley Winters or Angela Lansbury, while others in the vast cast, some for just seconds include Van Heflin, Sal Mineo, John Wayne as that centurion at the foot of the cross, Pat Boone as an angel, Donald Pleasance as the Satan figure. The disciples include Gary Raymond, Michael Anderson Jr, David McCallum as Judas, Roddy McDowell and Telly Savalas as Pilate. 
IMDB says that David Lean and Jean Negulesco were also uncredited directors, I wonder what input they had? In all, it is not as majestic as BEN HUR or as crowded as QUO VADIS? or as mad as Huston's THE BIBLE, it is like a dignified bible lesson, but it has great visuals and it all looks impressive, and as visually stunning as those weird sets in THE SILVER CHALICE

Fenella

A moment to celebrate the beyond marvellous Fenella Fielding, 90 this year. The fabulous Fenella is still working, in London theatre, and is not a relic of those CARRY ON films, She only did two in fact, the priceless CARRY ON SCREAMING and CARRY ON REGARDLESS. She, like Barbara Windsor and Shirley Eaton, Dilys Laye and the equally individual Rosalind Knight seem to be the only survivors of the CARRY ON gang, along with Jim Dale of course and Sheila Hancock and Amanda Barrie both from CARRY ON CLEO. She was a scream of course as the vampire in 1966's CARRY ON SCREAMING

Fenella's deep husky voice and languid, beyond-camp manner ensures that she will be long remembered and not only by CARRY ON fans. She also popped up in DOCTOR IN LOVE in 1960 and as another vamp with Dirk in DOCTOR IN DISTRESS in 1963, and was an amusing Gwendolen, teasing out Oscar Wilde's lines in a 1964 television THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (see Fenella label) and also did a Tony Curtis comedy and other television roles, and was the Loudspeaker Announcer in THE PRISONER series. She was a delightful Lady Eager in LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS in 1969. Its good to see Fenella is still around, with her voice as individual as Joan Greenwood's or Glynis Johns' or Babs Windsor. Long may she last. 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

White Feather, 1955

WHITE FEATHER is a perfect mid-'50s western, which somehow I never saw at the time. I was 10 or so then and seeing all those early 50s westerns with my father: JOHNNY GUITAR (the first film I saw aged 8, what a vivid introduction to cinema), SHANE, THE COMMAND, DRUM BEAT, SITTING BULL, THE GAMBLER FROM NATCHEZ, GARDEN OF EVIL, CATTLE QUEEN OF MONTANA, THE MAVERICK QUEEN, THE LAST WAGON, RIVER OF NO RETURN, BROKEN LANCE etc. We kids loved anything with covered wagons and Indian attacks on forts, and heroes like Dale Robertson, Clint Walker, Audie Murphy or Guy Madison, or as teamed several times, Robert Wagner and Jeffrey Hunter. 
My father also took me to all those John Wayne and James Stewart westerns, like NIGHT PASSAGE and Ford's THE SEARCHERS, where Hunter had his immortal moment as half-breed Martin Pawley (Wagner had tested for that for Ford would not cast him, it would have been Wagner's first teaming with Natalie Wood if he had).  

WHITE FEATHER: The story of the peace mission from the US cavalry to the Cheyenne Indians in Wyoming during the 1870s. The mission is threatened when a civilian surveyor befriends the chief's son and falls for the chief's daughter.
Wagner is the  lead here, and Jeff is Little Dog, the Indian brave, with Hugh O'Brien as his sidekick.  Debra Paget is the indian princess and stodgy John Lund also features. 
We have covered Jeff Hunter several times before - he is one of "People We Like" - he of course died aged 42 in 1969, Wagner is still here and writing entertaining books, at 86, while Hugh died last year aged 91. Wagner and Hunter appeared in at least 5 films together, as well as the all-star THE LONGEST DAY, while Hunter also did five with Debra Paget - we are very partial to their 1954 PRINCESS OF THE NILE where Deb does one of her torrid dances, and Jeff wears a turban and harem pants, in old Cairo, right. Debra was back out west with Elvis in his first film LOVE ME TENDER in 1956.
WHITE FEATHER though is well done, scripted by western maestro Delmar Daves, but directed by one Robert D. Webb.  

Postcards from the edge

Another visit to La La Land with a return to 1990's POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE, Mike Nichol's satisfying comedy drama from Carrie Fisher's book, all the more poignant now after her recent passing and that of her mother Debbie Reynolds. Shirley McLaine - never a favourite of ours - does maybe her best work here, outside of THE APARTMENT, as Suzanne Vale's movie star mother, who drinks a lot and can't help upstaging her daughter.

Substance-addicted Hollywood actress Suzanne Vale is on the skids. After a spell at a detox centre her film company insists as a condition of continuing to employ her that she live with her mother Doris Mann, herself once a star and now a champion drinker. Such a set-up is bad news for Suzanne who has struggled for years to get out of her mother's shadow, and who finds her mother still treats her like a child. Despite these problems - and further ones to do with the men in in her life - Suzanne can begin to see the funny side of her situation, and it also starts to occur to her that not only do daughters have mothers, mothers do too.
Meryl Streep has one of her best early roles here as the drug-addled actress Suzanne tries to get her life back on track, and Mike Nichols fills the film with a great cast: not only Dennis Quaid, but Simon Callow, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, Annette Bening and even the great Mary Wickes (from 40s and 50s classics like NOW VOYAGER and WHITE CHRISTMAS, she also went on to SISTER ACT). 
But the film boils down to those encounters between Meryl and Shirley, and both shine, Shirley in her hospital scene getting ready to face her public - the gays love her - and belting out a version of Sondheim's "I'm Still Here". Meryl too sings up a storm in that final country music scene. 
It all certainly works now and is a film to savour for many fine moments.
Maybe its time for another look at Carrie's THESE OLD BROADS telemovie with not only Debbie and Shirley but Dames Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins - which we covered before. see Debbie label.

Back to La La Land

A return visit to LA LA LAND was nice this week, for a rainy afternoon, as my partner had not seen it, and yes, he loved it - the music and dancing and the jazz and all those bright colours. I liked it a lot too again, but it seemed a tad too long, and maybe shallow. 
But hey, we like Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone is a big discovery for me and some sequences just sang for me, recalling moments from the Cukor 1954 A STAR IS BORN (walking around the movie sound stages), AN AMERICAN IN PARIS,  SINGING IN THE RAINTHE BANDWAGON's "Dancing In The Dark"- Minnelli is a big influence here as is French director Jacques Demy - echoes of UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG and particuarly THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT, that 1967 delight and of course Scorsese's NEW YORK NEW YORK with that other driven, more intense couple both finding their individual careers but having to separate to do so - LA LA LAND is not quite in that league, but has so many blissful moments we don't care, thanks to Damien Chazelle's flair. He captures the spirit of those films and recreates it in present day Los Angeles - Joni's "city of the fallen angels", taking in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE's Griffith Park Observatory along the way. 
More on Scorsese, Demy, Minnelli and Ryan at labels.