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.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Hitch & Mankiewicz

Two books its a pleasure to re-read are the late critic Robin Wood's seminal Alfred Hitchcock study - one of the first books on film criticism I got, back in 1969 - one of those little Zwemmer arts paperbacks. Thats probably filed away in a box in the garage somewhere, but I acquired the expanded version and its a real treat, not only the original studies of the films but expanded and covering a lot more Hitchcock films. For me, the Hitchcock essentials are NOTORIOUS, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, REAR WINDOW, VERTIGO, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, PSYCHO and THE BIRDS, and that early RICH AND STRANGE - I also rate UNDER CAPRICORN and his lesser masterpieces like THE PARADINE CASE and STAGE FRIGHT. So interesting to read on all these plus items like SHADOW OF A DOUBT which I didn't get at all. The one Hitch I never wanted to see was TORN CURTAIN ! I may just get back to thinking MARNIE is a masterpiece ....

Also, PICTURES WILL TALK, that fascinating look at Joe Mankiewicz and his films. Joe is surely one of the most fascinating erudite witty film makers - well along with Billy Wilder and quite a few others actually ... but I have particular affection for Mankiewicz and those endlessly re-watchable films like A LETTER TO 3 WIVES, ALL ABOUT EVE, THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, JULIUS CEASAR and THE HONEYPOT. I particuarly like the first half of CLEOPATRA. I have now got a brace of unseen Mankiewicz's lined up to watch: NO WAY OUT, PEOPLE WILL TALK and 5 FINGERS. All should be fascinating. It was interesting seeing LETTER TO 3 WIVES again recently - there are several similarities with EVE, not least in dialogue situations and both being about 3 women, as Margo, Eve and Karen actually all have about equal size roles; Davis's Margo dominates the first half with some great scenes but she really is on the sidelines during the second half as Eve and Karen and Addison de Witt play out their power games, that's also why we see no more of Thelma Ritter's Birdie once the action moves away from Margo's duplex.

His BAREFOOT CONTESSA has that wonderful scene of Ava on the balcony in the moonlight (as lit by Jack Cardiff) with Bogart, just one pleasure of this fascinating movie. The book is also engrossing on Mankiewicz's time producing films at MGM - Crawford vehicles and those Katharine Hepburn starrers PHILADELPHIA STORY and WOMAN OF THE YEAR. It was he who came up with the often-quoted line that Tracy would cut Kate down to size! Then there were his romances with the likes of Linda Darnell, Judy Garland, Lana and the rest...

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