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.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Back to the cinema for a Minnelli double-bill, plus ...

I posted before about London's National Film Theatre (run by the British Film Institute) running their current retrospective on Vincente Minnelli, showing all his films *. So it was up to the South Bank yesterday for 2 of my favourites: THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE and DESIGNING WOMAN - both of which have been blogged about here before (see labels). I just want to say how marvellous it was seeing them on the big screen again, I can always pop the dvds on of course, but it was just splendid sitting in front of a Cinemascope screen again with an audience of like-minded devotees, including my IMDB pal Jerry (who gave me Fellini's 8 1/2 as a gift, a movie I had been meaning to get back to as only saw it once back in those 60s days - I gave him that new documentary THE LOOK on Charlotte Rampling).
To recap, Kay was marvellous in DEBUTANTE with that perfect Balmain wardrobe - wearing that boa  (maribou ?), Rex seemed in good mood here and Angela also was having a good time. Sandra Dee seems a little wan here, I liked her more at the time in her other films. And again Vincente creates a marvellous space for them with that great apartment with the red and yellow chairs and cushions (I wore a yellow tee-shirt, as it was a favourite Minnelli colour), and also that ideal shade of green for those other armchairs and lamp. It was all actually filmed in Paris (the interiors at any rate) in early 1958 in just 7 weeks (in between the New York and London runs of Rex's hit MY FAIR LADY) - Vincente had just finished GIGI there, and would go on to SOME CAME RUNNING next in that great year of his 1958.
DEBUTANTE was a popular stage play at the time by William Douglas Home who adapted for the screen. It originally featured Celia Johnson and Wilfrid Hyde-White as the parents, and one can just picture them in the roles, with the young Anna Massey as the reluctant deb (Massey died last year, RIP label). It was glammed up and nicely changed when the Harrisons came on board, making Kendall the second wife (as she would have been too young to be the deb's mother) and making the daughter raised in America, to suit the teen stars Dee and Saxon. It nicely captures that era, where the rich came down for breakfast with everything - all those scrambed eggs etc - set out in silver salvers for them. How did the ladies wear those long gloves which they are forever putting on and taking off ? The audience applauded at the end .... This and Cukor's LES GIRLS remain Kay's greatest roles, and she had one more in 1959 in Donen's ONCE MORE WITH FEELING (more on these at Kendall label).
DESIGNING WOMAN is also bliss to see again now, where Peck and Bacall are prefectly teamed as Mike and Marilla and it remains the height of 1957 chic (along with FUNNY FACE and LES GIRLS), and Dolores Gray scores too, as per my previous posts on it. Again, great compositions and those '50s interiors.
This afternoon I am settling down with another perennial I can watch anytime (and have to whenever it is screened)  Powell & Pressburger's BLACK NARCISSUS from 1947: which may well be the most distinctive and vivid of all British melodramas: those sets for the convent in the Himalayas, Jack Cardiff's marvellous images and colour schemes - the great cast in this intense, exquisite drama which captures the steamy repression in Rumer Godden's novel. The tensions among the nuns prompt all manner of emotions in Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr at 26) and Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron) when the agent Mr Dean (David Farrar in those short shorts) comes to call - add in Sabu wearing the heady perfume of the title, Jean Simmons as Kanchi and the Ayah and the other nuns including Flora Robson ... and of course that marvelous climax at the bell tower and those luscious '40s Technicolor flashbacks to Ireland. I also love that ending with the final meeting between Sr Clodagh and Mr Dean as the convent is swallowed up by the mountain clouds and the rain begins to fall on those giant leaves .... all created in the studio. it was one of the first movies I recorded on the then new vhs video I got in late 1979. It is now practically my favourite film of all, up there with BLOW-UP and L'AVVENTURA etc !
Kay & Lauren at the theatre, 1959
* 6 Degrees of ... : Just to show how everything is linked: I began watching a Dirk Bogarde movie before I went up the NFT for the Kendall, Bacall films with the Rampling dvd for Jerry, and I was reading Gavin Lambert's novel INSIDE DAISY CLOVER (see post on the Natalie Wood film below) which I rescued from the garage recently. I have often said that I consider Dirk Bogarde and Lauren Bacall to be the man and woman who knew practically everybody (one could also make a case for Christopher Plummer and Angela Lansbury, they certainly worked with everybody!): Kay Kendall was one of Dirk's best friends in the '50s, he evidently knew Bacall as well - she visited him the day before he died in 1999 - and Bacall knew Kendall as well, as per the photographs I posted here, at Showpeople label (there is another of them with Vivien Leigh & Noel Coward); there is also a photograph in one of Dirk's books of Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner visiting the Bogarde residence in the South of France, and Charlotte Rampling became another his his best friends in his later years, after their co-starring in THE DAMNED and THE NIGHT PORTER.
To see and review this week: Bogarde with Ava Gardner and Timothy Dalton in a 1975 rarity PERMISSION TO KILL, which I somehow missed at the time, its hardly been seen since, maybe with good reason ...

No comments:

Post a Comment