Archive for Robert Montgomery

First Blush

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2013 by dcairns

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The third in an informal trilogy (and really, everyone should make informal trilogies — they’re the best kind), following OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS and OUR MODERN MAIDENS, OUR BLUSHING BRIDES (1930) is the first full talkie in the sequence, and the earliest talkie I’d seen Joan Crawford in. (I’m now excited to see UNTAMED — as who wouldn’t be, with that title? — her very first speechifying role.)

Shaking up the familiar format of leggy girls and lush deco sets, the movie casts Joan and regular co-star/sacrificial lamb Anita Page as shopgirls, with Dorothy Sebastian completing the traditional trio. DS is really good in this, and it’s a shame she’s the one who slid into extra roles. The department store they work in (Crawford is a mannequin, her friends and flatmates sell perfumes and blankets respectively) is a relatively restrained, realist construction, so that we have to wait until the fashion show at the millionaire’s country retreat before we get any Cedric Gibbons elegance, but it’s worth the wait ~

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Uncredited director Harry Beaumont directs fluidly — there are some long “photographs of people talking” scenes, but also some propulsive tracking shots with overlapping crowd dialogue and a dynamic mix of synch and post-synch sound: an early lingerie pageant has a Greek chorus of female customers babbling over it, perhaps to fix the scene as a fashion show rather than a skin show in the censor’s mind. Whatever, it’s a pleasingly weird effect.

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Sociopolitically, we’re still in flux: the working girl stuff is quite Warner Bros, with sympathy for the gold-digging impulse (it’s what our current Glorious Leaders would call Social Mobility), but Joan is portrayed as the wisest of the three little pigs, the one who doesn’t trust men and won’t accept the advances of tiny-child-in-a-tux Robert Montgomery until he’s proved his intentions are honourable. Whereas Page and Sebastian both get royally taken by the predatory males they’re foolish enough to believe. This means we get to see Page’s shagging palace (above), a spectacular streamlined suite with leather-bound volumes just for show (“David says women shouldn’t ruin their minds with thinking,” gurgles Page), but the biggest treat is Montgomery’s tree-house –

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Yes. This is a tree-house. By Cedric Gibbons. What, no swimming pool?

You can buy the first two films in the series –

Our Dancing Daughters
Our Modern Maidens

Oscar Night Poem

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology, Painting with tags on February 26, 2012 by dcairns

THE FLOOD WILL LIFT THE GHOSTS FROM

THE HOLLYWOOD LAWN CEMETERY AND

THEY WILL DISAPPEAR LIKE ETHER IN THE

NEW DEAD AIR. ALL THE NAMES WILL BE

ERASED FROM THE BILLBOARDS AND THE

THEATRES AND THE PIERS AND THE

MAGAZINES AND THE MONUMENTS.

YOU LIVE BY MYTHS OF IMMORTALITY,

AND YOUR MYTHS ARE NOT SAFE.

A Scottish artist/poet with the ironic movie-star name of Robert Montgomery has been pasting his poems illegally over billboards in Britain. They tend to have an ecological/anti-capitalist philosophy along with biblical/prophetic language. I like this one a lot.

Image and story nicked from The Independent.

Punchy

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on March 4, 2011 by dcairns

Being a big Tod Browning fan, when I was invited to jump in on the Jean Harlow Blogathon hosted by The Kitty Packard Pictorial, my thoughts turned to IRON MAN, a pretty much despised MGM boxing melodrama which pairs La Harlow with Lew Ayres. He’s a boxer, she’s his no-good gal. Robert Armstrong is the kid’s manager.

People, this film is kind of a zombie. I’m generally iffy about MGM flicks unless they’re properly splashy, which this ain’t, apart from Jean’s spectacular furs and gowns, proof of her shameless leaching of Ayres’ winnings. Browning had just come off DRACULA, and was about to make FREAKS (unless IMDb chronology is off — it’d make sense if this were his punishment for the latter film), but while this movie has some of the stilted awkwardness of both — dead pauses, flat delivery, static, airless shots — it doesn’t have the bizarre elements that alchemise that lead into weirdo gold. (Correction — it seems that, as the saying goes, “It’s a Universal Picture.”) Browning could have worked wonders with a boxing story, since it relates to his love of cheap, grotesque showbiz, sadism and exploitation, but this one isn’t it. It plays pretty much like the Wallace Beery wrestling picture Barton Fink is expected to write: generic and soulless. Even Robert Armstrong, who at least was a dynamic (read: shouty) performer, is slowed down to moderately loud drone. Browning did like his talk pretty ssslllooowwww (but his last movie, MIRACLES FOR SALE, is unexpectedly zippy), but here the sheer lack of interest in the situations seems to seep through everything and everyone.

But those furs are pretty impressive.

After grooving to THE WHITE TIGER, which restored my faith in Browning’s abilities with both dramatic tension and performances, I swiftly gathered up another obscure Harlow ~

Remarkable how Oliver Hardy can express frustration/desperation by raising and lowering his hat with both hands — a bizarre gesture, but completely transparent to the viewer.

BACON GRABBERS is one of two Laurel & Hardy shorts Jean breezed through on her rise to fame. Later, in BEAU HUNKS, there would be an excellent gag about everybody in the foreign legion being there to forget a woman, and they all carry a photograph of her: it’s Jean, of course.

Despite buying the mighty L&H box set when it was on sale, and being pleased as punch about it, I’d never watched BACON GRABBERS, a 1929 silent where Harlow appears very briefly as heavy Edgar Kennedy’s wife. The short sees the boys on the right side of the law for once, as repo men trying to reclaim a radio from Kennedy. Said radio gets smashed by a steamroller, needless to say. Kennedy, having already given it up, is amused, until his wife appears to tell him she’s just paid for the thing.

Fiona: “I was always fascinated by those blasted sub-urban landscapes in Laurel & Hardy. When I saw them as a kid, I thought, ‘That looks like a terrible place!'”

Although L&H are maybe unique for actually getting funnier when sound came in — wait, no, W.C. Fields virtually becomes funny with sound — their later silents are pretty close in quality to the better-known talkies. This one has a classic “failing to leave the room” sequence where Stan keeps forgetting his hat, or the list of instructions, or both, and a fairly early example of tit-for-tat violence and destruction. Plus a very funny, ridiculous bit with Stan up a ladder which is caught in Ollie’s trousers and wagging violently about, while Kennedy throws things at Stan from an upper window.

A guy like Kennedy, married to a gal like Harlow, ought to look happier than THAT.

In her tiny appearance, Jean doesn’t have to act much beyond looking happy, and the weather seems to have buffeted her about so her hair is in her face and the sun is in her eyes. She’s swaddled in huge furs again, so we can barely see her. How’s a girl going to get her talent spotted in these circumstances?

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