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.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Losey / Baker / Bogarde

Having just purchased 3 Joseph Losey films I had not seen previously, they fill in the gap in his output during the late '50s to that breakthrough with THE SERVANT in 1963. Good to finally get BLIND DATE (1959) and THE CRIMINAL from 1960 now; actually I did see TIME WITHOUT PITY as a child but it was just a routine thriller then and its never surfaced here since (apart from in Losey retrospectives at the London BFI National Film Theatre).

TIME WITHOUT PITY is a tense thriller from 1957 as alcoholic Michael Redgrave (superlative as ever) has 24 hours to clear his son's name before he is due to be hanged for a crime he did not commit. It also features Ann Todd, Alec McCowen, Leo McKern, Peter Cushing and Joan Plowright, and is just as effective now.

I knew BLIND DATE would be a cool movie, from 1959, and it does not dissapoint. Four years before THE SERVANT Losey is reaching his zenith here - it still looks crisp and fresh as Hardy Kruger dances along the street to meet his mistress Micheline Presle - but has she been murdered? Detective Stanley Baker is waiting at the apartment and has lots of questions .... Christophe Challis provides the strong black and white photography and its a key Losey actually.

THE CRIMINAL from 1960 lives up to its reputation too. Alun Owen's gritty screenplay serves Losey well, as does Stanley Baker again and that cast including Jill Bennett, Sam Wanamaker, Patrick Magee and reliable Laurence Naismith. Its gripping from start to finish showing the workings of the prison system. As in THE SERVANT Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine provide perfect music and vocals. Billed at the time as the most violent film ever made in Britain, it may not be that any more but it still certainly delivers. Another essential Losey then.

Losey seasons at the London National Film Theatre, and Bogarde's appearance (and autograph) in 1970: (click to enlarge)

Joseph Losey [1909-84] was a contemporary of Elia Kazan and, like Orson Welles, hailed from Wisconsin. His initial American career was cut short by the HUAC - he then worked in Britain in the early '50s using false names and directed a varied set of films before his most glorious period in the '60s and into the '70s, placing him at the centre of British film-making along with the likes of Schlesinger, Richardson and Lester. I could write a whole separate essay on his THE DAMNED in '62, as well as those Harold Pinter collaborations. His increasingly baroque style found its perfect outlet in his ravishing film of DON GIOVANNI in '79. He in all directed 31 films between 1948 and '84. There is an authorative book on his life and career "Joseph Losey: A Revenge on Life" by David Caute.

I first began watching Dirk Bogarde films in '57 [when I was 11] with CAMPBELL'S KINGDOM (where Stanley Baker, already the tough guy of British movies with films like HELL DRIVERS, is the cartoon villain) so its been interesting catching up with his earlier ones (like CAST A DARK SHADOW, APPOINTMENT IN LONDON etc) - Bogarde had already done a Losey, the little seen THE SLEEPING TIGER in 1954 and would do four more with Losey, but Stanley Baker also did 4 with Losey - BLIND DATE and THE CRIMINAL, 1962's EVA with Jeanne Moreau, and re-teamed opposite Bogarde in 1967's ACCIDENT. Bogarde of course hit the jackpot (though it may not have seemed so initially) with 1963's THE SERVANT which made him and Losey key figures of the '60s cinema.Hardly anyone went to see their 1964 follow-up KING AND COUNTRY [well, I did...] with Tom Countenay; I certainly loved their misunderstood MODESTY BLAISE in 1966, its still a joy now as Dirk's Gabriel in the silver wig grapples with Vitti's ever-changing Modesty on that op art mediterranean island! and then of course ACCIDENT....

Bogarde hit the European trail with Visconti, Baker continued producing and directing [he died aged 48 in 1976], while Losey (right, with Vitti and Stamp) went on to those movies with the Burtons, FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE, and then the success of THE GO-BETWEEN. He later moved to Europe too: MR KLEIN with Delon is certainly a success, but LES ROUTES DE SUD with Montand only surfaced here in the UK on BBC television; A DOLL'S HOUSE made in Norway is an interesting if not entirely successful reworking of the Ibsen play - Jane Fonda does not seem quite right as Nora (as contrasted with the Claire Bloom version of the same time), DON GIOVANNI is a perfectly realised version of the opera; and his last film back in the UK, is the rather touching little drama STEAMING. His 1958 Rank Organisation title THE GYPSY AND THE GENTLEMAN may be a routine melodrama [its reviewed further back here] but is also a delirious Technicolor update on those '40s Gainsborough romps. I must watch his ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY from 1972 with Burton, Delon and Schneider.

I saw Losey in 1970 when he and Taylor and Burton took to the stage for an hour or so, with esteemed critic Dilys Powell, at the Roundhouse in London during the "Cinema City" exhibition run by "The Sunday Times" [left, click to enlarge] to lambast the selling of their SECRET CEREMONY - a notorious flop at the time - to television where it had been re-edited. It was fascinating seeing them on stage, and as Taylor said "its our names and reputations up there on the screen". Well, 40 years later SECRET CEREMONY is quite well regarded now... and those other Loseys grow in reputation.

My full-length 'appreciations' on Bogarde and Baker are on IMDb at:
As well as the official Dirk Bogarde site there is also a great Bogarde blog site at:

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