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.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Montgomery - a double feature ...

Following on from Montgomer Clift thread, see label ...
The Long Goodbye:  TERMINAL STATION and INDESCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE, plus - how I spoil you - another look at SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER .... '50s dramas don't get hotter than that, as I sit wrapped in a blanket, watching the snow swirl outside and the temperature drop to below zero again, still the heating will be coming on shortly, in our coldest spring for 50 years ...

The early 50s were busy years for Vittorio De Sica, UMBERTO D in '52, acting in many films includng MADAME DE .... for Ophuls, and BREAD LOVE & DREAMS with Gina in '53, when David O. Selznick hired him and his screenwriter Cesare Zavattini for TERMINAL STATION which was meant to marry their neo-realism with Hollywood glamour in the shape of Mrs Selznick Jennifer Jones with Montgomery Clift, hugely popular and in his prime then, after A PLACE IN THE SUN, I CONFESS and FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. Dialogue was by Truman Capote, and Jennifer wears a chic Dior costume and fur.

A married American woman has gotten involved with another man while visiting relatives in Rome. She decides that the time has come to break off the relationship, and she makes plans to return home to her husband. But she soon realizes that she is not at all sure about what she wants to do, and she continues to agonize over her decision.

I had not seen this before - of the '40s stars Jennifer Jones never impinged on me much, though she was effective in SONG OF BERNADETTE, DUEL IN THE SUN, MADAME BOVARY etc. Here she is in lush close-up after lush close-up as she and Clift as the Italian lover she is saying goodybe to agonise over their relationship, as she plans to return to Paris by train and back to America. For a film set in a railway station it is surprisingly formal and looks terrific with marvellous black and white images, as our lovers try to find a private place amid the bustle of the station - there are amusing vignettes too of various people, passengers both rich and poor. I kept worrying about her suitcase and fur coat left with a porter, which her nephew, young Richard Beymer (top, with Jones) brings to the station ...will she finally get on a train, will they get back together after he slaps her? It reminds one of other films - Rossellini's VOYAGE TO ITALY, also 1953 - with another Selznick star Ingrid Bergman similarly agonising over her marriage, or Lean's SUMMERTIME with its lovers Hepburn and Brazzi parting at the railway station .... It reminded me too of my train journeys from Paris to Milan and back in '74, and from Paris to Barcelona ...

De Sica and stars
The interesting thing here is De Sica's film is 89 minutes, but Selznick took control as usual, cut it down to 63 minutes and tried to spice it up with a lurid trailer as its new title INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE. It didn't work as the film was not successful at the time. The Criterion Collection now though has both films on one disk and its fascinating to compare (thanks, Jerry). Selznick cuts most of the opening sequence setting up our heroine's indecision, thus making her character colder, and also cuts most of the local colour at the station. They added on a short of Patti Page singing "Autumn In Rome" to pad it out, as an introduction before the feature.

Selznick went on to one final lush one A FAREWELL TO ARMS in Italy in 1957 with Jones again cast opposite another gay idol, with De Sica in the cast; she went on to BEAT THE DEVIL and the huge romantic hit of LOVE IS A MANY SPENDOURED THING in 1955, while Clift had the ill-fated RAINTREE COUNTY lined up (unless FROM HERE TO ENTERNITY was made after INDESCRETION ...). He is marvellous here and looks terrific ... Vittorio was going to be very busy too, with GOLD OF NAPLES next, as well as TOO BAD SHES BAD, acting with Sophia and Marcello in their first outing ...

What to add about SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER that has not been said before. I remember this when I was a kid (well, 13) in 1959 ... that late '50s era was great for dramas (I WANT TO LIVE, SEPARATE TABLES, ON THE BEACH, ANATOMY OF A MURDER, THE NUN'S STORY, IMITATION OF LIFE, A SUMMER PLACE etc) but nothing was as lurid as SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, another slice of Tennessee Williams, though set in the American south, it was filmed at Shepperton Studios in England so it amuses to see British character players like Rita Webb pop up in the asylum scene.

It was of course scripted by Gore Vidal, that great set was by Oliver Messel, and Mankiewicz put Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn through their paces. Monty though seems lost between them, and actually doesnt seem quite with it here, after his near fatal car crash. It seems Mank had little patience with him, which annoyed Hepburn no end, she spat at the director when her role was finished,. She is amazing as Mrs Venable, descending in her lift, feeding her venus fly-traps, and telling the doctor about her poet son Sebastian's last trip last summer when they saw the baby turtles trying to get to the sea while the sky was full of vicious birds devouring them. Sebastian too was devouring - the poor youths he preyed on, using his mother as bait,
and then cousin Catherine Holly (Elizabeth) in that notorious white bathing suit - "why it was a scandal to the jaybirds". No wonder she wants Catherine lobotomised. Taylor in one of her great Tennessee Williams roles is marvellous, the supporting cast includes Mercedes McCambridge (Luz from GIANT, Emma from JOHNNY GUITAR) and Gary Raymond, and Tennessee as usual creates poetry out of mere dialogue.
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER remains a stunner - the BBC version in the 90s with Maggie Smith and Natasha Richardson was totally forgettable by comparison.  The original "Films & Filming" review stated that tourists in sunny climes began wearing tee-shirts with "Sebastian" emblazoned on them ....!
 Next double-feature: Sarah Miles in THE HIRELING and LADY CAROLINE LAMB ...

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