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, 8 April 2011
A Bette moment or two ...
A perfect Bette moment occurs in THE VIRGIN QUEEN, a rather turgid costumer by Fox in 1955, where - 16 years after THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX - she reprises her Elizabeth I, this time as a querellous, cantankerous middle-aged monarch. The film is really about Walter Raleigh though and his quest to return to the Americas if the queen will grant him the money, and his romance with a lady at the court, Bess Trogmorton - one of Joan Collins' early forays in Hollywood. The film plods along as directed by Henry Koster but Bette enlivens it every time she makes an entrance. The best moment, and which should be one of Bette's classic lines, is when Richard Todd as Raleigh steps forward to put his cloak over the puddle for Bette to walk on - then as they stand around in the cold air another noblemen tries to seek favour by offering her his fur cloak to wrap around her. Bette/Elizabeth strokes the fur and says (in that Bette voice) "sable, the finest sable" to which he replies "yes, Ma'am, there is no finer" and she retorts "much too fine to waste on a mere queen" and flings it in the dust as she flounces off. Perfect!
The Davis impersonators of course had a field day with her 60s films like BABY JANE and DEAD RINGER, which the likes of Charles Pierce used to do a whole act based on the two Bettes, the nice Edie who runs a cocktail lounge on Figuroa and nasty Margaret, who stole Edie's beau and is now a rich widow. The early scenes with them together are great fun as Margaret sashays around her mansion and bites out those lines about "Poor, Father. A. Wino" or "but you have not seen my castoffs!" while Edie snarls "you haven't GOT that much money". Edie at the end of her tether with all her debts and seeing how rich Margaret has cheated her, hatches a plan to kill Margaret and take her place .... will it work? Will her nice detective beau Karl Malden rumble her, or sleazy Peter Lawford (who else?) as Margaret's lover, and there is that dog, and the number to the safe, and forging signatures etc. It is delirious trash but just try looking away as this middle-aged dumpy woman commands the screen. Directed by Bette's old co-star Paul Henreid, and score by Andre Previn.
A 1956 "Films and Filming" had a whole issue on Bette, with a good interview.
And for Jeff: that poster from THE ANNIVERSARY.
Getting back to classic Bette, one always returns to that trio by Wyler: JEZEBEL, THE LETTER and THE LITTLE FOXES, and that perfect trio of NOW VOYAGER, THE GREAT LIE and OLD ACQUAINTANCE, where nice Bette copes with the gorgons Gladys Cooper, superbitch Mary Astor and of course Miriam Hopkins...Then there is DECEPTION in 1946 where her vixen in furs has to choose between Henreid or Claude Rains, and I have a soft spot for JUNE BRIDE which does not really work at all but is great fun, with Bette at her most brittle.
My report on seeing Bette in person in 1972 is at Bette Davis label.