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, 13 August 2013

Rare '30s/'40s double feature: Michael Strogoff & Bel Ami

THE ADVENTURES OF MICHAEL STROGOFF, 1937. Part of an interesting double bill our BBC ran last Saturday morning, with the 1947 THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI. I loved this 1937 adventure “based on Jules Verne”, produced by Pandro Berman and directed by George Nichols, Jr. It actually looks and feels like a Josef Von Sternberg film, with so much going on, from Tartar hordes, gypsies, and a dancing bear! Anton Walbrook is our dashing hero who has to carry secret messages from Tsar Alexander II in 1870 Russia to a military outpost, while hissable villain Akim Tamiroff (chewing the scenery as usual) tries to intercept him. The film is only 80 minutes long but crams in so much it feels twice as long … Elizabeth Allen as the nice girl, Margot Graham as the bad one, even Eric Blore for comic relief, and Fay Bainter scores as our hero’s mother. Its all terrific fun, with torture, a supposed blinding of our hero and a rousing climax, the intense Walbrook (a Person We Like) is terrific here. (there was a 50s German version with Curt Jurgens, and a 1970 one with John Philip Law).
THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI, 1947. Having seen the recent RPatz version a while back (review at 2000s label), I was looking forward to this, as directed by Albert Lewin whose DORIAN GRAY and PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN are favourites of mine. While this starts out well tedium soon sets in and we are begging for it to be over as the two hour mark approaches … Not having read the De Maupassant novel I am not sure how faithful this is, George Sanders is ideally cast of course as George Duroy, that SOB on the make in 19th Century Paris. 
Angela Lansbury is a spirited Clothilde, Ann Dvorak is the married woman Madeleine Forestier, and John Carradine her ailing husband who sets events in motion … Frances Dee and Marie Wilson (Rachel, the prostitute) are also good but it all begins to drag, before that dawn duel with carriages and umbrellas in the rain – not quite how the recent version ends, interesting seeing '40s morality imposed on the material. There is one terrific scene of a frenetic can-can type dance Sanders and Lansbury engage in which leaves one as breathless as they are. 

1 comment:

  1. We didn't get the MICHAEL STROGOFF movie over here. I would love to have seen that but as you know I loved BEL AMI which I found surprisingly deep and involving with a great performance from Angela. At least we agree on that dance scene which was wonderful.