Archive for A Girl in Every Port

The Sunday Intertitle: Primeval Genius

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2011 by dcairns

Howard Hawks was probably right to reckon that his movies came into their own when they started talking, but that doesn’t mean his silents are devoid of interest — they’re just damned hard to see. A GIRL IN EVERY PORT at least ought to be more widely available, but it was made at Fox and so has vanished into a black hole (not even light can escape, though the great Ford & Borzage box set did manage to make it out, a lone blip alas). And so to FIG LEAVES –

A nice dinosaur with long eyelashes.

We open in the Garden of Eden, envisaged as part of stone age times, so Darwin and Biblical Creation co-exist happily. The scene-setter is a cave-man getting walloped by a giant chimpanzee, leant height by forced perspective sets courtesy of William Cameron Menzies. In fact, that might be one of the giant chimps from the Menzies-designed THIEF OF BAGDAD, minus the fetching black satin shorts Mitchell Leisen provided. How many chimpanzees in Hollywood were there willing to be subjected to optical illusion growth?

From there we go to Adam’s love shack, where he (George SUNRISE O’Brien) and Eve (Olive “the Joy Girl” Borden) snooze in their twin beds, a trickling sand device eventually tipping a coconut onto George’s noggin to wake him. This delightful prelapsarian Flintstones fantasy world segues into a slightly less interesting contemporary section, essaying standard domestic comedy situations with a pronounced sexist slant surprising and disappointing in Hawks (and his male and female writing partners).

I kind of wish they’d kept it all stone age — the main advantage of the modern stuff is some snazzy fashion show bits of catwalk finery by Adrian. I guess cro-magnon times offered fewer opportunities for flapper garb, although I did admire George’s fur mankini.

Generally, Hawks romcoms can be divided into those which have goofy gimmicks, and those that have strong, interesting and convincing story worlds. This one is firmly in the same category as MONKEY BUSINESS, which — hey! — had a chimp in it too. And begins with Hawks’ offscreen voice directing Cary Grant. I like MONKEY BUSINESS. It’s not great or anything, but it’s fun. And so with FIG LEAVES.

Pin-Up of the Day: Louise Brooks

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2008 by dcairns

This is what happens when you try to photograph Louise Brooks off your TV set. If you’re not George Hurrell it’s just not going to work. Let’s see what I can leech off the internet…

Plenty of gorgeous photographs, including some nice early nudes if you want to go Google ‘em, but not much of her in her superhero costume. She’s really a daredevil girl who leaps off a mile-high ladder into a tub of water, soaking a happy Victor McLaglen (he’s always happy), but with the cape she really ought to be a costumed vigilante, perhaps going by the name of Sexygirl, fighting the forces of evil by shagging them into submission, which was pretty much Brooks’ mission in life at this time anyway.

She’s a prototypical Hawksian woman — self-driven, smart and sassy, but the plot has her down as a gold-digging bitch. Wisely, Hawks, who penned the storyline, avoids giving her any kind of downfall: she simply pockets McLaglen’s life savings, then drops out of the film altogether, presumably to fleece another cheerful sucker in another film. McLaglen returns to the meaty embrace of Robert Armstrong, just as happy as before, neither sadder nor wiser.

It amazes me little has been done to examine this vein of homoeroticism in Hawks, actually… but at the same time I’m totally NOT amazed. Somehow the films both welcome this reading — Hawks spoke openly of “a love story between two men” — and render it irrelevant, by foregrounding it and shrugging “So what?”

While the pummeling, two-fisted punch-ups serve as a substitute for more intimate man-on-man action, somehow there’s no real frisson of naughtiness in it. By contrast, in an Italian western like Bava’s ROY COLT AND WINCHESTER JACK, the fist-fights are more or less explicit acts of love between men who can’t express their feelings any other way, and in Cottafavi’s LEGIONS OF CLEOPATRA, poor Cleo (Linda Cristal) is reduced to the status of beard, watching irrelevantly (or not even present) as male protagonists wallop seven shades of shit out of each other to demonstrate how very masculine they are… Truly, Italian popular cinema of this time just reeks of repressed passion, which is fascinating considering the kind of culture it’s emerging from.

Oh, alright then:

UK residents can check out Brooks’ work here:

Diary of a Lost Girl [1929] [DVD] [2007]

Erotic Intertitles of the Week

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 12, 2008 by dcairns

From Howard Hawks’ A GIRL IN EVERY PORT. Titles written by Malcolm Stuart Boylan. Photographed off my TV because I couldn’t get the frame-grabber to work on this disc.

This would be a sexier film if perhaps Louise Brooks had more scenes — waiting for her to show up in the second half is AGONY — and if she were complimented by more winning leading men. The thought of Louise in any kind of menage with hulking gorilla Victor McLaglen smacks of the bestial. Although I guess some people are into that. Robert (KING KONG) Armstrong as McLaglen’s bulbous buddy, is a bit more attractive, but somehow gets absorbed into the same muscular, macho, jaunty, sentimental vibe whenever he shares the screen with Big Victor.

What this means is that Hawks was right to say that his films really got going when sound came in. The Hawks ethos can’t really flex and extend and become sophisticated without opening its mouth. The clipped verbiage of intertitles allow insufficient room.

(Oddly, it’s very easy to read Vic’s lips. I say oddly, because most  of the time he doesn’t seem to HAVE lips. He’s all toothy grin, like a musclebound skeleton.)

Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable movie, making horrible activities like barroom brawling seem fun and innocent, the way Raoul Walsh would. Hawks really fits into that beautifully-crafted late-20s scene, where the compositions and editing have a precision and grace that kind of got discombobulated for a while when talking started in Hollywood pictures.

Louise Brooks’ role really deserves to have more said about it — so I’m going to say it…

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