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.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Bad Movies We Love (2): More Lana, Susan, Bette, Joan F - and music music music!

LOVE HAS MANY FACES – I simply had to revisit this deliriously exotic artefact from 1965 and currently my favourite Lana Turner epic. The best thing about it actually is the theme song sung by Nancy Wilson. Lana, looking glazed throughout, is dressed by Edith Head (though that’s no recommendation anymore after the other period films like A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME she dressed in atrocious early 60s styles) and plays a wealthy playgirl in Acapulco married to ex-beach boy gigolo Cliff Robertson. They drink a lot as the police find the body of another beach boy who it seems Lana knew. Hugh O’Brian in skimpy speedos lingers while waiting to get off with Lana, as he trains his room-mate, another bottle blonde beach boy, in how to be a gigolo. Enter Ruth Roman [right, with O'Brian], a dame who knows the score and is willing to pay for her pleasures, with her pal Virginia Grey. Stephanie Powers is the young innocent trying to find what happened to the dead beachboy, and she and Cliff are drawn together. They all go off to a bullfight [below] and ….. but no, I cannot describe how this delirious farrago ends. Its certainly one to cherish though, as directed by Alexander Singer who also did A COLD WIND IN AUGUST and PSYCHE 59 (both to be reviewed here). Ruth is terrific, I must see more of her ...WHERE LOVE HAS GONE - this 1964 sudser has re-surfaced! A famous clunker at the time and seemingly based on the Lana Turner scandal, here we have Susan Hayward as the famous sculptress whose wayward daughter Joey Heatherton kills her lover and is put on trial. Dominating the show is Bette Davis as Hayward's mother, an imperial dowager who (as the Newsweek review at the time said "sits in the ugliest chair in Hollywood and lowers her teacup and pronounces "Somewhere along the line the world has lost all its standards and all its taste"). Embassy and Paramount are obviously cashing in on the Lana scandal - scripted by John Michael Hayes and directed by Edward Dmytryk (the team who brought us the compulsive trash of THE CARPETBAGGERS) this is gloriously over the top stuff. Michael Connors is the colourless leading man, Jane Greer is in the background, Susan though isn't firing on all cylinders - perhaps the presence of Bette hindered her (Hayward has just re-made one of Davis's 30s hits DARK VICTORY, as STOLEN HOURS - another movie I love!) Bette went on to entertain us in DEAD RINGER and HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE, of which more later.

Above: Hayward and Davis with director Edward Dmytryk.

SERENADE. Mario Lanza films were jolly affairs as I remember [like THE SEVEN HILLS OF ROME], but SERENADE in 1956, seen again recently on TCM UK, is a very enjoyable, dark, twisted tale, from a James M Cain novel, with that rich deep Warnercolor and as directed by Anthony Mann (having a break from westerns) has some great scope compositions. Mario here is the factory worker on his tractor who is discovered by Joan Fontaine as Kendall Hale (a man in the Cain original!). Kendall is a society dame/rich bitch who, aided by her campy sidekick Vincent Price, picks up and then destroys her proteges, her current one being hunky young boxer Vince Edwards. Mario is soon in Kendall's clutches and on his way to being an opera star, but he spectacularly falls apart once Kendall discards him - in a scene as intense as Judy Garland's in A STAR IS BORN - so he ends up in Mexico ... enter Sarita Montiel (who became Mrs Mann) who is very attractive here, and gets Mario back to singing. The stage is set for a showdown between the women when they return to New York and it all ends in pure melodrama. Joan has a lot of fun with the role [though she dismisses it with one line in her autobiography] and does that quizzical look and raised eyebrow to perfection as Mario serenades us with "Nessun Dorma" and she has several ritzy outfits including that white fur cape for the opera, and the red outfit to match her red thunderbird when out driving ..
SINCERELY YOURS, 1955 – This is one of those movies I know I saw as a child but could remember nothing much about, as it had never surfaced since, so it was beyond amusing to finally get to see it again. It of course is Liberace’s one starring role as the concert pianist with an apartment to die for overlooking Central Park and he finally gets to play Carnegie Hall, only to find – it is too kitsch for words – that he has suddenly gone deaf! He lives cosseted by his devoted manager William Demarest and his devoted secretary Joanne Dru who of course secretly loves him. Then there is the ritzy socialite Dorothy Malone he is engaged to … but now his world falls apart – but he has that pair of binoculars and he begins to spy on people in the park: the mother (Lurene Tuttle) who is not smart enough to meet her snobby daughter’s in-laws, or the little crippled boy longing to play ball with the other kids. Lee of course intervenes to make things turn out right for them [nobody seems to have realised that spying on a little boy could be considered pervy back then, or that it was questionable to invade people’s privacy], and then he finally has a little operation and can hear again. Lee’s fans must have lapped this up back then, it is kitsch beyond endurance but the cast give it their all, particularly Malone and Dru. Studio hack supreme Gordon Douglas keeps it all together and as an actor Liberace is a great piano-player as we are treated to miles of footage of him tinkling the ivories.

Next round-up to include WRITTEN ON THE WIND, A SUMMER PLACE and those Troy Donahue and Fabian classics...

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