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.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

'60s double bill: In search of what's'isname ...

1967 - London in the Swinging '60s, the Kings Road, the fashionable people, the mini-skirted dolly birds and the clothes and music - and those long forgotten movies that never get revived now. Here's 2 more of them: Michael Winner's magnum opus of the time I'LL NEVER FORGET WHAT'S'ISNAME, and a Julie Christie oddity IN SEARCH OF GREGORY.

Advertising golden boy Andrew Quint is fed up with his fabulously successful life. In very dramatic fashion, he quits his job to return to writing for a small literary magazine. He wants to leave his former life behind, going as far as saying good-bye to his wife and mistresses. He finds, however, that it's not so easy to escape the past.

I had not seen Winner's film since its release, its a cornucopia of '60s people and places. We start with Oliver Reed, then in his prime, walking all the busy street with an axe over his shoulder. He arrives at his office and proceeds to demolish his desk. Well, its one way of resigning .... Olly's boss is the devious Jonathan Lute, top billed Orson Welles who looks like he is enjoying himself while no doubt collecting a hefty pay check. Lute is presented as evil incarnate who will do anything to keep Quint (Reed) in his power. Quint goes back to his roots, that little magazine he ran with Norman Rodway and his wife Ann Lynn, their secretary Carol White whom Quint gets involved with; of course there's also his discarded wife Wendy Craig, and assorted mistresses like hippy chick/dolly bird Marianne Faithfull always stripping off for a bath (below). Pot shots are taken at all the usual targets, the braying toffs at Cambridge, well-known faces pop in and out: Michael Hordern, Harry Andrews, Mark Burns, Mark Eden, Edward Fox, Frank Finlay, Roland Curram ... I suppose it was par for the course then for actors to get a day or two on the new Michael Winner.

Winner though, like the budding Ken Russell, had his finger on the pulse of contemporary culture then, this catches the mid-60s perfectly as his 1964 THE SYSTEM (Oliver again, with budding David Hemmings, Jane Merrow and another great cast) catches the tail end of that black-and-white era.

The melodramatics come thick and fast here, as scriped by Peter Draper: Rodway sells out the magazine to Orson, Quint make a commercial attacking the superficiality of it all and the ruthless world of advertising, this is unveiled to applause at the old National Film Theatre I knew so well, one of the leading characters comes to grief in a grisly car accident and we finish with Oliver at dawn on a bridge, as Wendy, his ex-wife, arrives and they walk off for breakfast, with Battersea Power Station belching out fumes in the distance .... they just don't make them like that anymore! POOR COW Carol White of course also lives in one of those Chelsea houseboats we are familiar with from other '60s trash opuses like MY LOVER MY SON and GOODBYE GEMINI. A neglected London classic then like UP THE JUNCTION ... ?  
Oliver Reed was a powerful screen presence then, as shown by his 4 for Winner and 4 for Ken Russell - I only caught his Dante Gabriel Rossetti in Ken's 1967 BBC film DANTE'S INFERNO once and it was a mesmerising experience, and of course his Bill Sykes in OLIVER will be unveiled once again over the seasonal holidays ...

IN SEARCH OF GREGORY:  The mid to late '60s saw lots of these pseudo highbrow arty cod-Antonioni dramas. For every genuine classic like THE CONFORMIST or THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI CONTINI we had to endure oddities like 1969's IN SEARCH OF GREGORY - Julie Christie hunting a mystery man - or De Sica's own A PLACE FOR LOVERS - Faye Dunaway dying of  a rare disease while still looking dazzling (as per recent review) or Vanessa Redgrave & Franco Nero in A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY. (Trash label) or Anouk and Omar in Lumet's baffling THE APPOINTMENT - these must have emptied cinemas on release, but we never really got a chance to see them at the time, so they couldn't have hung around long. Visconti's SANDRA (VAGHE STELLE DELL'ORSA) in 1965 is one that actually works, its dazzlingly operatic style highlights Claudia Cardinale and Jean Sorel at their best as the incestuous siblings, as per my reviews on it (Italian, Claudia, Jean labels).

Here the brother and sister are Julie and a very young looking John Hurt. This would seem to reach for the Antonioni style with Julie as the Monica Vitti figure we first see walking around Rome. She is lured to her father's 5th wedding in Geneva by the promise of the mysterious guest Gregory who just may prove to be ideal for her. Her brother though wants to keep Gregory for himself - we never see the mystery man but Julie imagines him to be Michael Sarrazin, whom she glimpses in a poster in his leather jacket. Cue several scenes of Sarrazin, in and out of clothes, as the mystery man she keeps missing ...  the mystery here is why Julie, after her triumphs in DARLING, ZHIVAGO and FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, chose to do this puzzler, maybe it was a final film she owed producer Joseph Janni. Her previous one, PETULIA for Richard Lester in '68 is a genuine '60s classic, before she headed to America, and Altman's MCCABE & MRS MILLER with Beatty, and of course back to Italy for DON'T LOOK NOW ...

What sinks IN SEARCH OF GREGORY is that Sarrazin (who died last year aged 70, see label), fine in other movies, is simply not appealing or interesting enough for us to see what attracts Christie to him ... the story is not realistically worked out, but hey - Julie looks different but marvellous here in 1969 and it catches that Euro-gloss nicely. Adolfo Celi as the father is for once easy to understand here, and Hurt looks like a decadent cherub.
We never see the real Gregory but Julie runs across Sarrazin at the airport and thinks he is Gregory and they end up in the same hotel room. Turns out he is not Gregory, but a complete stranger, while unknown to her the real Gregory is next to her at the airport while she is on the phone to her brother, who is also on the line to Gregory. Thats the kind of Antonioni puzzle director Peter Wood seems to be aiming for here, so its a tale of emptiness, boredom and longing about an idle rich girl (cue acres of footage of Julie wandering around looking glam but glum and disconsolate), as co-scripted by Antonioni regular Tonino Geurra (who also died this year). A genuine curio then...

These 2 (WHAT'S'ISNAME and GREGORY) have the Universal Pictures logo and are more examples of European films financed by Americans in the '60s, Others reviewed here (1960s label) include OTLEY, DUFFY, SEBASTIAN, THE DAY THE FISH CAME OUT, THE BOFORS GUN, SMASHING TIME (actually a Carlo Ponti production), LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS etc.  
Next Swinging '60s double bill: BEDAZZLED by PETULIA


  1. In Search of Gregory does sound odd but I'd still like to see it. Julie is my favorite living actress and I've seen most of her films but this and a few other remain elusive. Looking forward to The Company You Keep, really wish she'd work more!

  2. Yes we wish Julie had worked more .... it was wonderful seeing her on the stage in Pinter's OLD TIMES back in the 90s, to be able to gaze at her for 90 minutes, as she is the enigmatic centre of the play. (I saw Liv Ullmann in a previous version, and Kirstin Scott Thomas plays it here in London next year).

    I did not know about the forthcoming Redford film, one to watch out for then.

    I mentioned in a previous Julie post how I like that dvd extra on the ZHIVAGO dvd where she is promoting the film in 1965 and does a long interview while smoking and drinking tea and being totally unselfconscious in front of the camera, while being totally entracing and one of the most beautiful mysterious creatures ever filmed. If only they could have teamed her, Sophia and Monica Vitti in a film ... with Romy and Anouk and Claudia too of course!

  3. Great write up! I've never even heard of In Search of Gregory I don't think...bizarre considering my love for Julie and John Hurt!

    Ah yes the perennial Chelsea houseboats! Reed made a brilliant Rossetti - I've written about that one before now too

  4. Thanks. I've left a comment at yours on Rossetti ....