Archive for Marcel L’Herbier

The Sunday Intertitle: Our Own Movie Queen

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2013 by dcairns

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Something different this week. The title above has been freely adapted from one in Marcel L’Herbier’s L’HOMME DU LARGE (a movie with many gloriously decorated and tinted titles) to accompany a film that never was, nor ever was meant to be.

Bits of Paradise is a collection of posthumously published Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald stories, and the tale Our Own Movie Queen deals with cinema — at the climax, Grace Axelrod, voted “movie queen” by the big store she works in, gets revenge for the way her role in the store’s promotional film has been reduced to almost nothing. Re-editing and re-titling the film with the aid of a disgruntled assistant director, she leaves her hated rival, the store-owner’s daughter, on the cutting-room floor, except for shots where she’s not facing the camera, like the one referred to above. The film’s premiere proves an embarrassment to the Blue Ribbon Store but a personal triumph for Miss Axelrod.

The stories in Bits of Paradise are strictly trunk items, but this one has a certain wan charm. I do think the best of the Pat Hobby tales are greatly superior, though, giving a jaundiced view of the studio system from one who was very much part of it.

One aspect of Our Own Movie Queen might give satisfaction to Baz Luhrmann, however. The forthcoming adaptation of THE GREAT GATSBY drew some scorn when it was noted that a neon sign in the movie’s CGI New York was advertising something called “The Zeigfeld Follies.” Mr Ziegfeld (I before E except after C) would not have appreciated his name being spelled wrong, but Scott and Zelda, or their Penguin editor, make the same blunder. The price of immortality is perpetual distortion, I guess.

Perhaps Luhrmann can take comfort in the fact that at least his spelling mistake, embarrassingly brandished in the movie trailer, doesn’t appear in the opening titles. Guy Ritchie still holds the record there.

Much more distorted is the MGM hagiography THE GREAT ZIEGFELD, but it has William Powell, Frank Morgan, Luise Reiner, and all too briefly, Myrna Loy. A three-hour prestige extravaganza (with overture and intermission), it has enough plot to make it through the first ninety minutes, but then Mr Ziegfeld seems to run out of life story, and we get a succession of musical numbers, none of which top the extraordinary biggie in which one or other of the five cameramen (probably either George Folsey or Karl Freund) wind their way up a vast spiral staircase littered with girls. It’s quite a show-stopper, and in fact the show should have stopped there, halfway through.

Oh the Inhumanity

Posted in FILM, Painting with tags , , , on March 14, 2013 by dcairns

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Concluding our brief series of pieces on great production designers of the twenties, we turn our attention, over at The Forgotten, to Marcel L’Herbier’s delirious L’INHUMAINE, aka THE INHUMAN WOMAN, aka FUTURISMO.

These guys look all set to play jazz for Dr Phibes, don’t they?

It begins with cocktails and ends with electrogalvanism: a typical night out, these days.

The Sunday Intertitle: Vertigo

Posted in FILM with tags , , on February 10, 2013 by dcairns

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Must write about LE VERTIGE (1926), and soon! Marcel L’Herbier’s little-seen, highly flash melodrama is a ripsnorting exultation of crazy sets and flaring nostrils. The intertitles, surprisingly, eschew overt design-fetishism, being plain sans serif affairs, but the movie does kick of with a dynamic logo and an unusual (for the period) superimposed title setting up the initial action in revolutionary Russia, before the film decamps to a deco dream of the Cote D’Azur…

We can see L’Herbier experimenting with camera movement, mainly to show off his elaborate settings (in the Italian manner — L’Herbier would remake THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII in 1950, suggesting an affinity with the Italian historical spectacles of the teens and twenties), and gearing up for the extremes of L’ARGENT…

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