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.
Thursday, 18 February 2010
Some '50s discoveries...
BUT NOT FOR ME is a neglected gem from that great year 1959 and was a treat to catch recently. Its one of Clark Gable's last films [he had just done TEACHER'S PET with Doris Day, and would next go to Italy for IT STARTED IN NAPLES with Sophia Loren (30 years his junior, but its great fun) and then finally to that MISFITS location]. Here he is guying his older image as the Broadway producer falling for his ambitions young secretary Carroll Baker who also wants to be an actress. Its a comedy set in the theatreland of the '50s and has some nice views of New York back then, particuarly as his car glides through Manhattan in the morning, as Ella sings that great theme song. Best of the cast though is Lilli Palmer enjoying her role as his ex-wife watching on the sidelines. Will she get him back at the end? It's nicely worked out and there is also Lee J Cobb in scenery-chewing mode as a drunken playright. A nice Perlberg-Seaton production from Paramount.
WILD IS THE WIND. Another good discovery is this long unseen George Cukor item from 1957. Anna Magnani is magnetic as the sister from Italy brought to America to marry her late sister's husband, Anthony Quinn in very gruff mode here. Quinn's protege young Anthony Francoisa is the only one to show her affection as she struggles with life on their ranch, which rapidly escalates to a doomed romance. I did not care for Magnani's over the top performance in the acclaimed ROSE TATTOO when I saw it a while ago, but I love her here, as reined in by Cukor. She has a wonderful scene at the outdoor party when she sings a lovely little song, and has a nice scene with young Dolores Hart too. There is also another great theme tune (by Johnny Mathis) and, surprisingly for Cukor, the scenes of capturing wild horses is as forceful as Huston's in THE MISFITS. Anna is of course marvellous in Renoir's THE GOLDEN COACH, and its fascinating seeing her with Brando in THE FUGITIVE KIND.
THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE - I did see this MGM comedy from 1958 when young but its a missing title here in the UK and not seen for decades. Its a wonderful as I remembered and - along with GENEVIEVE and LES GIRLS - Kay Kendall's crowning achievement. She is divinely funny and daffy as the diplomat's wife launching his daughter on the London season as a debutante. Add in Angela Lansbury as the catty friend who is also launching her daughter and the stage is set for lots of comedy. Rex Harrison is in his element here and seems enchanted with his new wife in their one main starring film, which at least captures their high comedy style. The youngsters are Sandra Dee and John Saxon (whom I liked then) but they seem pallid now by comparison. It was actually shot mainly in Paris due to Harrison's tax requirements as he was between the US and London runs of MY FAIR LADY, but Minnelli adds the required elements - lots of splashes of yellows and reds (those perfect armchairs and cushions in that perfect apartment) and that perfect shade of green for chairs and lamps. Kay wears her Balmain wardrobe splendidly and has some great moments. Perhaps only Carole Lombard was as glamorous and gifted a comedienne. The play originally featured Celia Johnson and Wilfrid Hyde White (one can just picture them in it) with young Anna Massey as the deb, but with the Harrisons on board it was nicely modernised to make her his second wife and the daughter reared as an American by his first wife. Splendid stuff and ideal for a rainy afternoon. Minnelli had a busy year, he knocked this one out between GIGI and SOME CAME RUNNING!
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME . An important movie from my childhood, from when I was first allowed to start going to the cinema on my own, aged about 11. This was marvellous colorful stuff then, widescreen, lots of action and it still looks good now, set around the cathedral of Notre Dame. Anthony Quinn is perfect as Quasimodo and gains one's sympathy while Gina Lollobrigida is sensational and so attractive as Esmerelda. Director Jean Delannoy has a sure hand with the material. That ending with Esmerelda's body being dragged away (with her faithful goat) and Quasimodo following her to the crypt was powerful stuff for the younger me and it still works now.