Archive for Casanova

The Sunday Intertitle: The World’s Greatest Lover

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on June 10, 2012 by dcairns

Theory — to make sure Ivan Mosjoukine registers as a convincing Great Lover in Alexandre Volkoff’s 1927 CASANOVA, he’s surrounded by male grotesques — notably an early appearance by Michel Simon (right). I always assumed Simon perfected his  “look” in the boxing ring, but however far back you go, the spectacular kisser seems just as alcesian (moose-like) . Age and weight added “character” to it later, but this was surely redundant — Simon was already a flesh-cartoon drunkenly doodled by God on a beer mat, then foolishly allowed out into the world before sobriety could intervene. A boozy decision we can all be grateful for.

In one scene, Casanova startles an angry creditor and the bailiffs (above) by inflating himself to colossal size (something not nearly enough characters do in films). While the bulbous Mardi Gras Casanova that results is indeed alarming, it’s hard to see how it could startle Simon, who after all must face himself in the mirror to shave every day.

Mosjoukine DOES impress, though I’ve never been partial to periwigs myself. Actually, his very first appearance is a neat trick, as two white wigs fill the screen, creating an indistinct sort of woolly cloud, then they part as Casanova’s female servants stop fussing with him, revealing Mosjoukine in all his glory.

Another good bit of storytelling — a servant brings a message for the Great Lover, and stops an old Venetian gent to ask directions. The senior citizen cups his ear –

– yells the boy. The old guy is still baffled, shaking his head — but every shutter in every window opens and a woman appears at each, pointing the way.

The Vox Project

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2010 by dcairns

Presenting, a new and exciting, if somewhat mythical, Shadowplay Project.

For a while I was fascinated by Marina Vlady in CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT. Well, actually I still am. But when I saw La Vlady in Godard’s TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER, something seemed different. The voice, of course. Welles was happy to use Jeanne Moreau’s own hoarse, sexy tones for her characterisation of Doll Tearsheet (with the logic that, since the British were always fighting the French, and armies have camp followers, there would be a lot of French tottie knocking around Merrie England) but Vlady plays the lady wife of Henry Hotspur, and had to sound plummily English.

So, somebody else provided the voice, and for once Welles couldn’t do it himself (I imagine he’s responsible for Fernando Rey’s and possibly Walter Chiari’s dubbing in this film). The question that vexes me is, who?

The throaty vibrato has a slight air of Fenella Fielding about it, and this is lent weight by the fact that we know Fielding has done a spot of revoicing in her time: she dubbed Anita Pallenberg as the Black Queen in BARBARELLA. But this voice isn’t quite AS extreme. I’m thinking Joan Greenwood, who perhaps is more Shakespearian.

But I don’t know! And it frustrates me.

Nor do I know for sure if that’s the voice of TV comedy legend Richard Briers issuing from beneath the mustache of Jean-Pierre Cassel in Richard Lester’s THE THREE MUSKETEERS. It sure sounds like him (and Briers had worked with Raquel Welch in FATHOM) but it could conceivably be Ian Carmichael. But neither one has any certain connection with Lester. (NB — the IMDb confirms Briers as the voice artist responsible.) Nonetheless, I am morally certain that’s Michael Hordern providing vocals for the captain of the musketeers, played externally by Georges Wilson.

Lester’s films are full of overdubs — the Greek chorus narrating THE KNACK… AND HOW TO GET IT certainly seems to include Dandy Nichols, who appears briefly, and Arthur Lowe, who doesn’t. Both would later perform in THE BED SITTING ROOM.

Fellini’s English language movies contain similar mysteries: in CASANOVA that’s certainly Robert Stephen’s uniquely fluctuating fruitiness emanating from the aristo who hosts a shagging contest in his court. Which makes me suspect that at least one of the crystal-sharp lady’s voices in the film stems from his significant other, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW’s Patricia Quinn. Several of them sound like her.

Film history is full of anonymous voices whispering slyly from the lips of faces famous and infamous and unfamous. And the few people who know the truth aren’t getting any younger. So, without any resources or any free time to devote to the problem, I’m nevertheless launching the Vox Project. All I want is for anyone who knows anything about famous dubs to let me know so I can put it on the record. It would be particularly interesting to hear from people in the industry with direct knowledge of this. Let’s not let this important and sexy information disappear from history.

Spread the word!

The Dramatic Angle #1

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2010 by dcairns

Telly Savalas opens a door.

This lovely image is from the decidedly unlovely PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW, a retina-searingly tasteless serial killer campus sex comedy directed by Roger Vadim, written by Star Trek supremo Gene Roddenberry. Hollywood cinema in its post-code priapic male menopause mode. The Gene-Roddenberry-in-disguise character is a college guidance counsellor who’s slipping the salami to all the cheerleaders. He’s played by Rock Hudson, without apparent irony. Meanwhile, somebody (else?) is killing said cheerleaders, and pinning sarcastic notes to their corpse-panties. What all this says about Roddenberry, a notorious babe-hound, is hard to fathom, but I don’t find it encouraging.

Campuses, in the modern age, tend to be rather ugly structures, and this whole film is startlingly devoid of attractive locales, which is unusual for Vadim. At least there’s a panoply of female pulchritude (including Angie Dickinson and the celebrated Joy Bang), plus poor old Roddy McDowell (who seems to crop up in every misbegotten 70s atrocity I peruse). And Telly, who’s still in pre-lollipop mode. He smokes strangely, as if the cigarette were a lipstick. Later, following Mario Bava’s advice, he would successfully quit the coffin nails by finding something else to do with his hands, and hence the Kojak lollipop was acquired.

It’s not easy to account for the Savalas appeal, but it’s a very real thing. I always buck up when I see his name in the credits. When I see him in HORROR EXPRESS, playing a cossack, I dance a jig.

I seem to recall actor Dudley Sutton (Duke of Wuertemberg in Fellini’s CASANOVA, Tinker in Lovejoy) talking about meeting some nice woman who’d met Telly on holiday. He’d been charmed by her little daughter and kept talking about wanting to take the child home with him. The woman seemed delighted by this patter, whereas Dudley “– found this terrifying, because when I worked with him*, he was out of his mind on LSD the whole time.”**

*On A TOWN CALLED BASTARD, which Dud called “the crookedest film I was ever in.”

**More Dudley wisdom: “Now, the best films to be in for drugs were the Disney films…”

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