Euphoria #16

New York cartoonist Dean Haspiel nominates this passionate clinch from ON THE WATERFRONT as the latest in our highly scientific study of the scenes that set your pulses pounding:

“Native New Yorker, Dean Haspiel is the author of super-psychedelic romances and semi-autobiographical comics and is a founding member of Brooklyn’s DEEP6 Studios.

His studio-mate Simon Fraser describes Dean’s scene thusly: “Dean’s suggestion is very Dean, it’s the Terry and Edie kiss from ‘On the Waterfront.’ It’s a “Kiss/Rape” but her performance makes it more complicated than that. She’s excited.”

Let’s all pray for Dean’s speedy apprehension.

But NO! For truly, one man’s meat is another’s poisson, judge not lest ye be judged, and remember the wise words of Professor Praetorius: “Science, like love, has her little surprises.”

We don’t judge other people’s euphoria here at Shadowplay, we merely celebrate the human capacity for ecstasy!

Just got my hands on Joseph McBride’s splendid Whatever Happened to Orson Welles, and upon reading the McCarthy-era political stuff, I was interested to read the account given of a 1982 discussion at the Cinematheque Francaise, where Welles was asked to comment on Elia Kazan.

Chere mademoiselle, you have chosen the wrong metteur en scene, because Elia Kazan is a traitor. He is a man who sold to McCarthy all his companions at a time when he could continue to work in New York [on Broadway] at high salary, and having sold all his people to McCarthy, he then made a film called ON THE WATERFRONT which was a celebration of the informer.”

Then: “In other respects, he’s one of our great directors.”

In a strange sense, what makes ON THE WATERFRONT acceptable is the way in which Kazan and Schulberg stack the decks in favour of Terry Malloy: he’s dealing with dangerous criminals who kill people, they’re not his true friends, and he stands only to lose out personally by informing on them. If his brother had been true to him, there would be a real moral quandary in his betrayal, but Steiger’s character has made a living from exploiting his sibling. Conversely, Kazan was betraying people who had been loyal, who had committed no crime, who wished him nothing but good, and Kazan benefitted materially from snitching.

I love the story of the biographer who asked searching questions of Kazan about contradictions in his story, and Kazan fell unconscious at his desk rather than answer them. A moral microchip blew inside.


Footnote: Eva Marie Saint is the whole show in this scene, top-notch work from an underrated actress. Her posture at the end is incredible.

Dean’s fellow cartoonist Simon Fraser informs me of the following:

“Dean was taught to swim by Shelly Winters. Who was his godmother. Dean was also babysat by a very young Bobby DeNiro. A family friend. There’s a lot more of that kind of thing from Deans family.”

Wow. And to think I was previously impressed by Simon having a cartoonist friend who’s descended from Johnny Weissmuller! Any connection to Shelley Winters is like a hotline to God.

Shelley / God

19 Responses to “Euphoria #16”

  1. i need a lie down and some strong, sweet tea. his best moment is where he looks around to try and catch a glimpse of his conscience. i think her best moment might be the face she makes, around the 1:47 mark; ray bradbury would probably call it a flash of exquisite agony

  2. Good story from Jim Sheridan — actually, TOO GOOD, I’ll make an an entire post of it.

    Moving on: I don’t like his hand movements when he comes in. Stagey.

    What SHE does with her right hand at the 1:47 mark is strange and BRILLIANT (although it doesn’t match continuity in the wide, but who cares?)

    Yeah, it’s rare to find an actress in that era prepared to make an un-pretty face. Juliette Lewis once said, “There are actresses out there who do crying scenes, and they still have to look pretty. Like, you could have SEX with them while they’re crying.”

    So, Alex, time you nominated some Cinema Euphoria yourself!

  3. i nominate the bit in a matter of life and death where roger livesey crashes his motorcycle and dies, only to turn up in heaven and save the day. i can’t watch it without my breathing getting disrupted – i always wind up gasping and a bit wet-eyed, as if i’ve stuck my head into a supermarket freezer and inhaled really hard

    if this sequence is too long, may i have time to think of another one?

  4. Nice one. Maybe too long, I can’t remember…yes, we get the trip to the operating room and the anaesthetic…work out exactly where you want it to start and stop and I’ll use it. Or come up with another by all means.
    Great sequence, anyhow! I think the crash was shot by second-unit man Christopher Challis, who became Powell’s DOP on the later film.
    Incredibly and marvellously, both Jack Cardiff and Christopher Challis are STILL VERY MUCH ALIVE.

  5. Be sure to get ahold of Mike Connolly and the Manly Art of Hollywod Gossip by Val Holley (MacFarland, 2003) for the real sory of why Gadge turned stoolie. Originally he had planned to speak only about himself and his membership in the party and not name names. But then Connolly wrote a threatening column with the promise of more to come. It was made clear to Kazan that if he didn’t “cooperate” On the Waterfront would never be made and his career would be over. So not only did he testify, he took out that noxious ad encouraging everyone else to do likewise.

    While everyone knows of Hedda and Louelle a more important scribe was Connolly — who wrote for the Hollywood Reporter. As unscrupulous an anti-communist as McCarthy and Cohn he was — like them — a closet queen. In his invaluable The Fifty-Year Decline and Fall of Hollywood Ezra Goodman makes pointed reference to Connelly as regards his sexuality, without mentioning him by name. It was 1961 and “calling a spade a spade” just wasn’t done in Tinseltown — even though Connolley’s career was in eclipse by then.

    Kazan’s career went on — both in Hollywood and on Broadway — following his HUAC testimony. The ridiculous dog and pony show devised to give him an honorary Oscar — as if he hadn’t won already for Gentleman’s Agreement — was the last time all this was aired. That same year the Los Angeles Film Critics Association gave its career achievement award to Abraham Polonsky.

    “Well, was it worth it?” Abe asked as he mounted the podium. “Was it worth it getting the shit you’re going to get for giving me this award? Cause on the other side of town they’re giving and award to a RAT! Everyone says you should ‘forgive and forget.” Well I NEVER forgive because I NEVER forget!”

    Love that Abe. Force of Evill is so much greater than On the Waterfront I can scarcely discuss it. And have you ever seen Romance of a Horse Thief?

  6. Thanks for the reading recommendations. I was just thinking of posting something comparing various accounts of the blacklist era. Have ordered 50-Yr Decline, the other one is too expensive for me right now, but I’ll watch out for secondhands.

    Force of Evil is SO good. Bits of naive filmmaking butt up against bits of imaginative genius, and I love that effect. Amazing dialogue and perfs, of course. Plus I’m really glad they cast Thomas Gomez instead of Lee J Cobb (Bertrand Tavernier disagrees). I think Gomez is a much better actor. He’s devastating in it.

    Like an idiot I once missed a chance to record Romance of a Horse Thief on TV. Haven’t had another shot at it yet,

    The honorary Oscar for Gadge was just WEIRD. I mean, even the man himself seemed to find the experience more stressful and upsetting that pleasant. Who was it FOR?

  7. Romance of a Horse Thief is out on DVD. Abe directs Yul Byrnner, Eli Wallach, Lanie Kazan and — best of all — Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg! Needless to say he had a ball.

  8. Amazon only has a VHS. I’ll keep an eye out!

    I am reminded that I have Tell Them Willie Boy is Here on tape, and I’ve never watched it!

  9. i am thinking of the scene where david niven is feverishly telling kim hunter that he doesn’t think bob’s the right man for the job, followed by the crash, all the way up to where roger livesey agrees to represent niven in the celestial court. it’s about 5 minutes though = much, much too long = a bit disappointing. on a more puerile note, when marius goring meets roger livesey for the first time he makes a little noise of agreement like someone honking a clown’s nose

    i’ll think of another one

  10. Many euphoric moments in P&P, my favorite being The Red Shoes. No, not just the ballet and the climax (which I discuss in the recently published Little Black Book of the Movies but Ludmilla Techrina saying “He has no heart, that man,” followed by a cut to a long shot of Anton Walbrook sitting in the darkness of his chambers.

    (Anton Walbrook is my favorite actor of All-Time.
    Julie Christie is my favorite actress of All-Time.)

  11. Wow. When Simon Fraser asked me to suggest a euphoric scene in cinema and I described my feelings for the violent/passionate kiss in ON THE WATERFRONT [which informed my webcomic, IMMORTAL:, I had no idea it would be taken seriously. And, despite Kazan’s political blight towards his fellow filmmakers, I maintain that ON THE WATERFRONT is one of the very best romance noir’s ever made. Whenever I ride my bike to Red Hook, I’m reminded of Terry Malloy’s heady conflict.

    The other euphoric scene I suggested for this column was the duel in THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY:

    From extreme vista to extreme close-up, Sergio Leone was a master of building up tension and release.

  12. That scene in Colonel Blimp, just Walbrook in a chair, an old man explaining the horror of Nazism.
    “They are good Nazis”
    …that scene can bring me to tears.

    Perhaps when DC is done with Euphoria he could do Anguish

  13. For some reason, the comma next to my link for IMMORTAL is making the link useless. Here is the proper link for IMMORTAL:

  14. before i think about it too much and sink into a tarpit of indecision, i am going to nominate a scene from richard lester’s the three musketeers. christopher lee and his guards drag raquel welch from her bedroom whilst spike milligan fumbles to reload his flintlock pistol, utterly blind to the possibility that he may not have the upper hand. i think it is basically the muttering that does it for me here

    out of maybe five films that i considered taking my euphoric moment from, three featured faye dunaway. isn’t that funny?

  15. Whew!
    YES, we’re going to have the Great Moments that Make you Cry, later.

    Richard Lester is possibly the filmmaker I feel warmest towards. You want a lecture on him, Alex? Would be great to get Spike Milligan into this. The AMOLAD clip isn’t too long though, we can have both eventually.

    I have an Anton Walbrook story, I’ll post it.

    Couldn’t find the Leone duel on Youtube earlier, thanks for finding it. We’ll run that later too.

    If I were choosing Fay Dunaway euphoria, I’d go for Musketeers, Bonnie & Clyde, Arizona Dream. I’m not sure if Chinatown and Network contain any actual euphoria.

  16. i would love to receive a lecture on richard lester! my dad seems to like richard lester pictures too – he’s a full-blooded, romping type of a fellow

    perversely enough, chinatown is one of my euphoric choices – the other one is little big man

  17. Lester seems to be enjoying doing the publicity for the Help! DVD. Wish he’d do a commentary.

    I recall lots of anguish and some good comedy in Little Big Man… the euphoria must be escaping my memory. Likewise Chinatown, though I always say that great cinema is often exhilarating, no matter what’s actually HAPPENING.

    OK, Lester in a week or too.

  18. Petulia above all!

    Got Petulia on the brain because Julie Christie may be up for an Oscar for Away From Her and because of the Petulia reference in I’m Not There.

  19. Petulia = Lester’s only film with 3-dimensional characters, almost. I guess Cuba has a couple. He was so good at it, it’s a terrible shame he wasn’t asked to do it more often. But he does 2D brilliantly also.

    His film of Conrad’s Victory, scripted by Pinter, would have been another “in-depth” film. The world took a wrong turning when that was cancelled.

    Would love for Julie to win, although I try v hard not to care about Oscars.

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