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, 31 March 2016

Bad Movies We Love

Here is a Trash Classic indeed. Rebello and Marguilies' 1995 tome on those bad movies we love, with a foreword by Sharon Stone, who gets a whole chapter to herself. The usual suspects though are here in force: Lana, Susan, Joan (Crawford), Bette and all those delirious movies of theirs.

Browsing it again makes one want to dig out QUEEN BEE (Joan - ["wearing the kind of gown a female impersonator would choose"]: "Any man's my man if I want it that way" or: "You look sweet - even in those tacky old clothes"); or Lana's PORTRAIT IN BLACK or LOVE HAS MANY FACES - perennial favourites of ours. Others like THE CHAPMAN REPORT, THE  BEST OF EVERYTHING, SERENADEPARRISH and those Troy Donahue spectaculars get their due (I will have to look out for PALM SPRINGS WEEKEND, which sounds a hoot).

Pity they did not include Suzanne Pleshette's opus A RAGE TO LIVE, or THE SUBTERRANEANS or THE SOUND AND THE FURY or Lee Remick's SANCTUARY or Jean Simmons' HILDA CRANE or Jane Russell's THE REVOLT OF MAMIE STOVER or Shelley's A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME or Debbie's THE SINGING NUN.... maybe in a new edition, and with a foreword by Joan Collins please? At least JOHNNY GUITAR gets it due - a delicious piece on its gay subtext, as does TORCH SONG, AUTUMN LEAVES, FEMALE ON THE BEACH, Bette's THE STAR and DEAD RINGER and Lucille's MAME, plus the pure trash of THE OSCAR and THE LOVE MACHINE and ... those 'disasters' get trashed again too: those AIRPORTs, THE CASSANDRA CROSSING, EARTHQUAKE etc. too easy to make fun of those! 

Lets' savour a few comments on the usually-respected THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (the 1968 one, natch): "Its not the money" business tycoon Steve McQueen drawls soulfully "Its me and the System" - that 60s phrase explains why the ineffably cool McQueen - who plays polo, drives a Rolls, pilots his own glider plane and dune buggy, and lives in a killer Boston mansion - masterminds multi-million dollar bank robberies on the side.... Everything's so terribly, laughably with-it in Norman Jewison's chi-chi epic - that you could bliss out with glee from all the faux hip dialogue, multiple-screen images ... Dunaway, all teeth and legs, and blissfully unaware of how disasterously dated she is going to look in those Theodora Van Runkle costumes, sets a trap to catch a thief, McQueen, whom she just knows is the mastermind".

Lots more here too on bad girls we love like Gina Lollobrigida in GO NAKED IN THE WORLDTaylor and Burton get roasted for THE SANDPIPER and THE VIPs and Liz' THE DRIVER'S SEAT and X, Y AND ZEE (one I have been meaning to return to...). Carroll Baker gets her due (SYLVIA, THE CARPETBAGGERS, HARLOW) as does Natalie Wood (MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR), Ann-Margret ("THE SWINGER might just be the all-time tackeiest major studio  movie") and so many more .... its well worth seeking out for Trash devotees.   
Above: Bette, Susan and director Edward Dmytryk who after his early successes (THE YOUNG LIONS, RAINTREE COUNTY) hit the Trash trail with a vengance: WHERE LOVE HAS GONE, THE CARPETBAGGERS, BLUEBEARD ...

RIP, continued

Patty Duke (1946-2016), age 69. I was stunned by Penn's THE MIRACLE WORKER when I was 16 back in 1962 - Patty Duke was so amazing, no wonder she was the youngest Best Supporting Actress winner - beating Angela Lansbury in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE!), five years later she stunned us again with her over the top Neely O'Hara in trash classic VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (below - THAT scene with Susan Hayward!) - We never saw her PATTY DUKE SHOW here in the UK, but she had a long career in television, as per her list of credits on IMDB) and coped with mental health problems, as detailed in the obituaries. She was the mother of actor Sean Astin.

Zaha Hadid (1950-2016), aged 65. Architect Dame Zaha Hadid, born in Baghdad, designed lots of iconic buildings, including the London Olympics Aquatic Centre (right), and designed stage sets for musicians like the Pet Shop Boys. She had a heart attack after being treated for bronchitis in Miami. Her very individual award-winning designs have been commissioned around the world and often the designs looked like waves or curves. She was one of the world's great architects of our time. 

Ronnie Corbett (1930-2016), aged 85. Yet another veteran British entertainer and legend departs - the much moved Corbett, of THE TWO RONNIES and SORRY). We still laugh at his falling-over moment in Peter Kay's charity video for "Is this the way to Amarillo?"). Corbett was a charismatic and extremely likable man - there is absolutely no doubt that he will be fondly remembered by millions of people as being not only half of one of the most successful comedy duos of all time, but also as a truly brilliant entertainer. He and Ronnie Barker complemented each other perfectly.

Paul Daniels (1938-2016), aged 77. Another veteran British entertainer and magician. His Paul Daniels Show (with the lovely Debbie McGee, his wife) ran on British television from 1979 to 1994, he was still busy until recently.

Cliff Michelmore (1919-2016), aged 96. Another British veteran broadcaster and producer. We seemed to grow up seeing him (and wife Jean Metcalf) fronting all those BBC programmes like TONIGHT and the new travel shows.. He anchored events like the moon landing, general elections, he brought a more informal affable style to news broadcasting, ideal for the times.

Douglas Wilmer (1920-1916), aged 96. Another 96 year old veteran departs. Douglas was a great dependable, as memorable in his way as Christopher Lee - he played Nayland Smith in the Lee FU MANCHU films of the '60s, also played Sherlock Holmes on television - he must have been an ideal Sherlock, as good as Basil Rathbone, and had extensive theatre and television roles, plus in films like OCTOPUSSY, PATTON, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD. He just was right for period and costume films. He was also a mainstay of epics: I like his Moor Lord Moutamin in EL CID (right), he was in THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, CLEOPATRAKHARTOUM, PATTON, CROMWELL, Olivier's RICHARD III and  Heston's ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.

Barry Hines (1939-2016) aged 76. English author who wrote several popular novels and television scripts. He is best known for the novel "A Kestrel for a Knave", which he helped adapt for Ken Loach's film KES.

Adrienne Corri (1930-2016), aged 85. Veteran British actress not seen much in recent years. Her best known role is that sculptor in Kubrick's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Other roles included in Renor's THE RIVER in 1951, VAMPIRE CIRCUS, DR ZHIVAGO and extensive television. 

Rita Gam (1928-2016), aged 88. Hollywood actress often cast in 'exotic' roles: SIGN OF THE PAGAN, SAADIA, KING OF KINGS, and she had a striking scene in KLUTESidney Lumet was her first husband and she was a bridesmaid at friend Grace Kelly's wedding in 1956.

Sylvia Anderson ( 1927-2016), aged 88.  Television and film producer, best known as the voice of Lady Penelope in THUNDERBIRDS, the series she and her husband Gerry Anderson created.  Anderson's primary contribution was character development and costume design. She regularly directed the bi-weekly voice recording sessions, and provided the voices of many female and child characters, in particular Lady Penelope. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Bette and Dirk / Dirk and Bette

People We Like, continued. Dirk Bogarde (the man who knew everyone) didn't get to meet Bette Davis until late in both their careers and lives, but I remember seeing them in some tribute show in the 1980s.  

Here they are with Dickie (Lord Attenborough) too - I met him and his wife the time we were all queueing for Dirk's first personal appearance/Q&A at the London BFI in 1970, and Bette was a wow there in person in 1972  (above right), as we have reported before here, Bette, NFT labels.

Bette goes beyond the forest ...

Is BEYOND THE FOREST a camp stinker, a Trash Classic or an undervalued late Forties melodrama proving Bette Davis with one of her great roles, in her last film at Warner Bros? Its hard to decide....

Rosa Moline is bored with life in a small town. She loves Chicago industrialist Neil Latimer who has a hunting lodge nearby. Rosa squeezes her husband's patients to pay their bills so she can visit Chicago; her husband's patience is also tried: he tells her to go and never come back. Once there, Neil tells her he doesn't want her. Back home and pregnant, Neil shows up and now wants her. The caretaker at Neil's lodge threatens to reveal her pregnancy... 

Legend has it that Bette at 40 was all washed up in the late '40s, her Warner Bros contract was running out, her films were under-performing ... King Vidor's meller certainly finished her off in style.

Bette plays Rosa Moline, a small town strumpet ("a 12 o'clock girl in a 9 o'clock town") who wants more than her hick doctor hubby can provide. Sporting a Dracula-like black wig and pounds of lipstick, quivering with impatience at being stuck in a coal-mining town as the wife of a dull doctor, she's Madame Bovary in a major key, spitting out her lines with gusto (yes,"What a dump" as spoofed by Elizabeth Taylor, below) as everyone else cowers around her. Our other favourite Ruth Roman barely gets a look in ...

Bette's explosive performance is among the best of her career (and that's saying something!). Her character has to be among the most evil in 1940s movies. What is remarkable is that Bette compels us to care about and, even root for this greedy and self centered woman. 
As the opening title, in keeping with Forties morality, puts it:
This is the story of evil. Evil is headstrong - is puffed up. For our souls sake, it is salutory for us to view it in all it's ugly nakedness once in a while. Thus may we know how those who deliver themselves over to it end up like the scorpion, in a mad frenzy stinging themselves to eternal death. 

Bette seems to have a whale of a time sashaying around, snarling at everyone, including her saintly doctor husband Joseph Cotten. What though does the visiting millionaire see in her? Surely there are more attractive and younger cuties around? As my very-knowing friend melvelvit puts it: "How could a past-her-prime, dimestore siren like that keep Joseph Cotten and David Brian in such thrall? Why, sex of course. Rosa no doubt did things in bed they couldn't get enough of ... , its the most extreme portrayal of a malignant bitch of the forties."

Bette was in luck though, as ALL ABOUT EVE fell into her lap next year, giving her perhaps her most iconic role, and she continued throughout the Fifties in lesser roles (THE STAR, THE VIRGIN QUEEN, THE CATERED AFFAIR) ending the '50s doing two cameos in 1959: coming on as Catherine The Great for the last five minutes of the otherwise dull JOHN PAUL JONES, and a few scenes with Alec Guinness in THE SCAPEGOAT; (Joan was also cameo-ing that year, "as Amanda Farrow" in THE BEST OF EVERYTHING, a Fox Trash Classic) - they both rose again in 1962 .... BEYOND THE FOREST though remains a Trash Classic.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Prick Up Your Ears, 1987

The story of the spectacular life and violent death of British playwright Joe Orton, through the eyes and pen of that other great British playwright Alan Bennett.

In his teens, Joe Orton (a smart working-class boy from Leicester) is befriended by the older, more reserved Kenneth Halliwell, and while the two begin a relationship, it's fairly obvious that it's not all about sex (they were also sent to prison for defacing library books, hilariously treated here). Orton loves the dangers of cruising; Halliwell, not as attractive as Joe, doesn't fare so well (he is bald and wears a wig). While both try to become writers, it is Orton who succeeds - his plays ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE and LOOT become huge hits in London of the sixties, and he's even commissioned to write a screenplay for the Beatles. But Orton's success destroys Halliwell's sanity, whose response ended both their lives.

This 1987 film is a fascinating re-view now, particularly with that great cast: Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina early in their careers as the outrageous playwright Joe Orton and his lover Kenneth Halliwell who ends up killing them both. Add in Vanessa Redgrave ideal as the agent Peggy Ramsay (a small woman actually), Julie Walters as Joe's dotty mother back in Leicester, Frances Barber as his sister, Lindsay Duncan as the wife of writer John Lahr (Wallace Shawn) who wrote that great biography of Orton, as we follow him piecing together Joe's life. Its a fascinating saga particularly for anyone who lived through that 1960s era, as I did. 
I did not see MR SLOANE then but remember walking past the theatre where it was playing when I was first new in London in 1964, when I was 18 - but I saw the 1967 production of LOOT at the Criterion, with young Simon Ward and Kenneth Cranham. In 1976 I saw a great revival of SLOANE at the Royal Court, with Beryl Reid reprising her role in the 1970 film (much better than the film of LOOT - see Orton label) with Malcolm McDowell as Sloane in leather trousers! The actual murder of Orton in August 1967 and Ken's suicide was front page news, I was spending the weekend in Hastings on the coast with friends and it was in all the papers ...
Written by Alan Bennett from Lahr's book and directed by Stephen Frears, PRICK is a treat all round and captures both the 80s and 60s perfectly, and their one-room flat in London's Islington. It should be a better-known cult film, it does not shy away from the seedier aspects of cruising (what gays did before all those bars and clubs opened in the '80s - pity Orton did not live to see all that...) its frank language captures it all too. Its also very moving and sad as well as being wildly funny - Oldman (great legs) is perfect as Joe (looks like him too in that leather cap and tee shirt) and Molina is also marvellous as ever. Great to see him recently in that other gay romance LOVE IS STRANGE (and those re-runs of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK), while Gary is magnetic in films like AIR FORCE ONE, BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA, TINKER TAILOR SOLIDER SPY etc (and directed NIL BY MOUTH). 
Lahr's book is a great read too (as are Orton's published diaries), capturing it all, like Joe's final visit to Brighton where he was looking at flats as be was thinking of moving there, once he had left Halliwell (before he returns to London that fateful weekend ... when Ken explodes in murderous rage when Joe suggests they could split up, leaving Ken feeling abandoned by Joe's success), and it also details their friendship with Kenneth Williams and their trips to Morocco etc. Orton's own diaries are very amusingly explicit too on his many sex-capades ...
Great quotes in the film also: like that end comment, before The Beatles's "A Day In The Life" reaches that crescendo ...

Leonie Orton:  [Mingling Joe's and Ken's ashes]
I think I'm putting in more of Joe than I am of Ken.
Peggy Ramsay:  It's a gesture dear, not a recipe.

Kenneth Halliwell:  Cheap clothes suit you. It's because you're from the gutter.

[Halliwell puts his hand on Orton's leg. Orton brushes it off]
Joe:  No. Have a wank.
Kenneth:  Have a wank? Have a wank? I can't just have a wank. I need three days' notice to have a wank. You can just stand there and do it. Me, it's like organizing D-Day. Forces have to be assembled, magazines bought, the past dredged for some suitably unsavoury episode, the dog-eared thought of which can still produce a faint flicker of desire! Have a wank, it'd be easier to raise the Titanic.

[Joe and Ken are cruising a strange man]
Joe:   He's built like a brick shithouse!
Kenneth:  He's probably a policeman.
Joe:  I know, isn't it wonderful?

Peggy:  Ken was the first wife. He did all the work and the waiting and then...
John Lahr:  Well, first wives don't usually beat their husbands' heads in.
Peggy:  No. Though why I can't think.
John:  So what does that make you? The second wife?
Peggy:  Better than that, dear. The widow.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Joan Fontaine on stardom ...

Joan Fontaine's 1978 autobiography NO BED OF ROSES, which I have just rescued from a box filed away in the garage, is a fascinating re-read now. Written by Joan herself it captures her style perfectly, one can almost picture her raised eyebrow as she casts a cool eye over her life and career, plus the story of the "feuding sisters" - her and sister Olivia De Havilland - and the ups and downs of her career and personal life. Here is a taste: a few paragraphs on stardom in the 1940s: 

In the Forties, no chic woman appeared on the street in New York without hat or gloves. We wore real silk stockings, high heels, occasionally a bunch of violets or a fresh camellia on the lapel. On a warm day a scarf of mink or sable was carelessly thrown about a pearl-necklaced throat. Diamonds were only worn at night. At the theatre, hats or velvet ribbons, flowers or feathers were quite appropriate, while I cannot remember anyone not dressing for a performance at the Metropolitan Opera.

 During the Forties, I flew to New York on business. Often I took the train. It was a luxury to board the Super Chief at Los Angeles or Pasadena, knowing that for the next three days I would be rid of outside pressures, of interviews and telephone calls from producers and agents, of the petty problems presented by the morning mail, of the never-ending details of running a house.

In the days of transcontinental train service, smiling porters were as solicitous as mothers. They guarded one’s privacy, acted as alarm clocks upon request, conjured up icy-cold martinis. …. As the long black train snaked eastward over the Rockies, fresh Colorado trout would be boarded, then crip Utah celery, grouse and pheasant from the western plains. The uniformed dining-car steward would tip you off in advance, stowing away the best of the delicacies , so he implied, until you appeared in the dining car. Here silver cutlery danced on starched white linen tablecloths. Wineglasses tinkled against the silver as you looked out the steamy window.  Lights from towns flashed by during the meal, then suddenly darkness until moonlight revealed a snow-capped mountain or shining desert floor.
Often friends would be discovered. This meant cocktail visits in staterooms perhaps ten cars away; then a return visit with all the guests to your stateroom seemed essential. After idle days of reading, writing letters, playing cards, or simply staring out the windows, arrival suddenly became exciting.

In New York during those years I usually stopped at the Hampshire House on Central Park South or at the St. Regis at Fifty-Fifth and Fifth Avenue. Upon my arrival I would find the suite massed with fruit and flowers, a chilled bottle of champagne, courtesy of the management. Bouquets of long-stemmed roses and colourful floral arrangements bore cards from the studio currently employing me, from my agents, from fans. Friends would have left messages and invitations, publicists their long schedules of interviews, autograph seekers crowded outside on the pavement. A studio limousine waited on the street to whisk me to appointments.

Joan (1917-2013) lived to be 96 - Olivia is 99 now and will surely make 100 this summer. Joan is a favourite of ours here at The Projector, in fact one could say Fontaine is our favourite Joan. I like this posed still from ISLAND IN THE SUN, 1957 where Joan has a chaste romance with Harry Belafonte and looks great in those '50s outfits (plus gloves of course). She and Belefonte don't actually touch in the film (off set it was the other Joan in the film - Collins - who had a fling with Harry...); Fontaine though got a lot of hate mail after the film, as she says "it was too soon to tackle the race question with honesty". 

Joan was wonderful of course in THE WOMEN and Hitch's REBECCA (she won the Best Actress Oscar for his SUSPICION in 1942), I also like FRENCHMAN'S CREEK and of course Ophuls ' LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN. She is disparaging about a lot of her other films, including those Fifties ones like IVANHOE, ISLAND IN THE SUN, UNTIL THEY SAIL, and a Bob Hope comedy (CASANOVA'S BIG NIGHT in '54 which I liked a lot as a kid) and that Mario Lanza extravaganza SERENADE in 1956 where she is perfectly divine as society rich dame and superbitch Kendall Hale (a gay man in the Cornell Woolrich novel) who drives her pickups mad before she discards them - its one of our favourite Trash Classics here. Reviews on this and more at Joan label, including her last film, the hilarious horror THE WITCHES in 1966.

She also did TEA AND SYMPATHY on stage, with Tony Perkins - thats a version I would like to have seen, replacing Deborah Kerr in the original stage production directed by Kazan (Ingrid Bergman played it in Paris)As Joan relates in the book, Kerr later replaced her in real life, as Joan had been dating writer Peter Viertel in the late '50s and was considering him as her next husband and she flew to Vienna (where he was working on Litvak's THE JOURNEY) to surprise him, but it was Joan who got the surprise, as Viertel and the film's star Deborah Kerr had discovered each other, which led to their long marriage.

Goodbye Again, again

GOODBYE AGAIN is a nice entry to those early '60s sudsers like IMITATION OF LIFETHE BEST OF EVERYTHINGA SUMMER PLACEBACK STREETADA etc. this is a rather low-key one though in black and white, and again we zoom around Paris in the early 60s with rich spoilt Tony Perkins, and his rich bitch mother Jessie Royce Landis (a good role for Jessie here).

It is Ingrid Bergman's show though as 40ish Paula, a successful interior decorator, hired by Jessie and getting involved with her son Tony. Paula has been carrying on for 5 years with businessman Yves Montand who is certainly having his cake and eating it, often letting Paula down at the last minute when he picks up a new 'Maisie' (he calls them all Maisie...). Paula is used to this but longs for commitment. Tony is going to provide it in spades as he follows, woos, flatters and finally gets Paula, which of course in turn makes Montand jealous. There are nicely judged moments along the way as our stars eat, drink, dance and drive around Paris by day and night. Perkins' little boy act gets a bit tiresome actually - he has a nice drunk scene in a nightclub with singer Diahann Carroll.

Francoise Sagan's novel is nicely adapted here, though the end is amusing now - Paula sends Perkins away saying she is "too old" [Ingrid too old at 40!], when Montand decides to marry her - as his single life isn't quite so satisfying without her to return to. But once married he reverts to his old ways with a new Maisie, leaving Paula on her own again, rubbing night lotion into her face. A nice touch too is when she is driving and crying so she turns on the windscreen wipers as she thinks it is raining.
The older female does not fare too well in these Sagan stories: Kerr in BONJOUR TRISTESSE, Joan Fontaine in A CERTAIN SMILE or Bergman as Paula here. Litvak was good with actresses, viz his films with Davis, De Havilland, Kerr (THE JOURNEY) and Bergman previously in ANASTASIA. This is a nicely satisfying soap - Perkins after PSYCHO had a good run in Europe with some super ladies: Ingrid here, Mercouri (PHAEDRA), Orson's THE TRIAL with Moreau and Romy, with Loren again in FIVE MILES TO MIDNIGHT in '62 and Bardot in THE RAVISHING IDIOT.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

1971: Golden year for music?

A new tome on the key albums of 1971 should be worth investigating - as long as it is not as heavy as that recent book on 1966 (which I reviewed a while back). The author here, music jounalist David Hepworth, makes a good case for 1971 being a golden year, and looking at the key albums of that year I tend to agree - I was 25 then and deeply into music as vinyl record albums were entering their golden period.

Music fans of course will have their own golden period (that 1964-67 period was terrific for me too) - that time of their first immersion into pop culture, for younger people it may be the punk or disco years of the late 70s, but that singer-songwriter was at its peak in the early '70s as music by black artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack and Sly Stone evolved and caught the changing times. Led Zeppelin and The Who also released some of their best work - the Zepps were not for me, but I loved The Who's WHO'S NEXT - and of course The Doors L A WOMAN (having seen them at that all-nighter in 1968, as mentioned before) then there were The Rolling Stones ... and Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton did some great stuff too and Rod and Elton were at their early best. Joni and Carole dominated the year too with their enduring albums - Carole is even doing TAPESTRY in full at a concert in London's Hyde Park this July, 45 years after recording the album ...

How about this lot all from 1971:  A golden year indeed! I had them all at the time .... and a lot still now. One could say in 1971 rock was still inventing itself, we did not realise how lucky we were to be living through it at the ideal age - but we do now. Of course the next year 1972 brought us Stevie Wonder's TALKING BOOK and seeing and meeting Joni again - see label - and '73 ushered in Pink Floyd's DARK SIDE OF THE MOON as the long-playing vinyl album took over the world - see Music-1 label. 
  • Marvin Gaye – Whats Going On
  • Sly & Family Stone – There’s A Riot Going On
  • Carole King – Tapestry
  • Joni Mitchell – Blue
  • James Taylor - Mud Slide Slim
  • David Bowie – Hunky Dory
  • Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
  • Doors – LA Woman
  • John Lennon – Imagine
  • Janis Joplin – Pearl
  • Carly Simon - First album 
  • Elton John – Madman Across The Water
  • Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story
  • Cat Stevens – Teaser and the  Firecat
  • Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson
  • Traffic – Low Spark of High Heel Boys
  • Jeff Beck – Rough and Ready
  • Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey
  • Led Zeppelin IV
  • Who – Who’s Next
  • Emerson Lake & Palmer – Pictures at an Exhibition
  • The Band – Cahoots
  • Barbra Streisand – Stoney End, Barbara Joan Streisand

Friday, 25 March 2016

Kismet, 1955

MGM's 1955 musical by Vincente Minnelli is actually rather wonderful, I hadn't realised - I enjoyed it enormously early today, and I have the dvd filed away too. Its lush, opulent, MGM at its best and Minnelli's wonderful eye for colour and movement are well to the fore here - unlike his previous one, the moribund BRIGADOON which only comes to life intermittently. 
Howard Keel is terrific here, as he was in KISS ME KATE, CALAMITY JANE, and as Hannibal in that other favourite of mine JUPITER'S DARLING, while stupendous Dolores Gray matches him .... 
The fifties were an odd decade for Vincente, starting with those enormous hits AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL and my personal favourite THE BANDWAGON in 1953 (see label).  His '53 comedy with Lucy and Desi THE LONG LONG TRAILER is an enduring childhood memory, but THE COBWEB is dreary, after KISMET came TEA AND SYMPATHY in 1956 and the wonderful DESIGNING WOMAN, a 1957 favourite where Peck, Bacall and Dolores Gray are all bliss - and Jack Cole too - Cole does the choreography in KISMET with his usual pizazz and chorus boys.   
Minnelli was big again in 1958: the Oscar-winning GIGI, THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE (Kay, Rex and Angela =  certified bliss) and SOME CAME RUNNING - could he have been busier? followed by his string of melodramas; HOME FROM THE HILL, TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN, FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE and the tedious GOODBYE CHARLIE - his 1970 ON A CLEAR DAY is a mixed pleasure, Barbra as Daisy Gamble annoys, apart from the Beaton Regency flashbacks in Brighton, while Montand' s accent is as impenetrable as it was in LETS MAKE LOVE a decade earlier. 
I now though have a Minnelli rarity lined up to see sometime soon: that 1976 oddity and his last film A MATTER OF TIME with Liza and Ingrid Bergman, its meant to be so terrible it was never released, we will soon see why ... more on Minnelli and his films at label. 

Stills of the day 2: Blow-Up, again ...

No point saying any more about my favourite film - it is all there in the previous posts - see BLOW-UP label ....

Stills of the day: The Heiress, 1949

Wyler's THE HEIRESS remains one of the great movies of the 1940s, with a trio of perfect roles for Olivia De Havilland, Ralph Richardson and Montgomery Clift, as per my previous post on it - Clift, Richardson labels. It was great seeing Olivia up close (in a lovely multi-colour chiffon outfit) when she gave a lecture/discussion/Q&A at the London BFI NFT back in 1972 (left) - she will be 100 this summer! 

Something for the weekend 2: Faye !

Time for some more Faye Dunaway glamour .... we can never get enough of Faye, as per previous posts on her - see label. 

Watching items like THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR again or even De Sica's A PLACE FOR LOVERS or Kazan's THE ARRANGEMENT all from Faye's late 1960s goddessy period, not to mention her endlessly fascinating Evelyn Mulwray in CHINATOWN are enduring pleasures, as is her wicked Milady in the THREE and FOUR MUSKETEERS films.
Bottom: Faye in Ireland in 1983 photographed by Jack McManus.

Something for the weekend 1: Fabian

Fabian in stripes! Fab Fabian was only 14 when he was discovered and manufactured into a pop star in the late '50s (Italian-Americans were all the rage then - Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Tommy Sands, John Saxon were others), but he matured rather nicely as an actor in the early '60s, mainly at 20th Century Fox where he usually played second banana to oldies like James Stewart, Bing Crosby, and John Wayne. I liked HOUND DOG MAN in 1959 and still like NORTH TO ALASKA in 1960 ,, FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON was fun recently too (reviews at Fabian label). 
Fabian was practically unrecognisable in the recent BBC documentaries on American Fifties rock'n'roll but, hey, he is in his seventies now; he parlayed his period of stardom into a longer career in television and touring and is still going now.