Archive for May, 2008

Quote of the Day: “…plus fifteen cents.”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on May 29, 2008 by dcairns


Robert Parrish lunches with John Ford ~

“After lunch, I got up to leave, and Ford muttered, ‘Stick around. I’ve got some information I’d like to give you.’

“When we were alone, Ford said, ‘How’s Kathy?’ I said, ‘Fine.’ He said, ‘Where are you living now?’ I said, ‘One a fifty-foot lot in the valley.’

“He smiled and lit his pipe (1 min. 40 secs.). Then he decided he wanted a cigar instead. He selected a butt from the ashtray and lit it (1 min. 10 secs.). ‘I hear you won an Academy Award,’ he said finally.

“‘Yes, I did.’

“He relit the cigar butt. ‘I’ve won seven.’

“There was nothing much I could say to that without sounding insolent or petty. In fact, at that time he had won three Oscars for direction […] He didn’t show up at the awards ceremony to collect any of these first three Oscars because, he explained, ‘Once I went fishing, another time there was a war on, and on another occasion, I was suddenly taken drunk.’

“[…] In any event, I wasn’t going to bicker about an Oscar or two. Ford deserved every award he received and some he didn’t receive.

“He went on, ‘There’s a place downtown on Hill Street between Fifth and Sixth where, if you take your Oscar in and give them fifteen cents, they’ll give you a cup of coffee.’

“I think I got his point, but there wasn’t much I could say. ‘Do you have the address?’ was the best I could do.

“‘No, but I’ve got the Oscars, and they don’t mean a thing. The only thing that’s important is to keep working. And even that’s only important when you’re actually doing it. OK?’

“I said, ‘Yes. That’s OK.’

“He said, ‘Congratulations,’ and I said ‘Thanks.’ He said, ‘Good luck,’ and I said ‘The same to you.’

“I didn’t have an occasion to talk to Ford again for twenty years.”

~ from Growing Up In Hollywood by Robert Parrish.

A shame Parrish’s modest reputation as a director isn’t enough to keep this book in print because his stories are really good. I love “suddenly taken drunk”.

Also the book makes me want to run ALL THE KING’S MEN (original version) to compare it to his account of editing it, which is fascinating. A colossally overlong bore turned into a hit by a sheer aggressive hack-and-slash job of cutting, to hear him tell it.


Jeb Rand on the Brain

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2008 by dcairns

That's Your Funeral

PURSUED. Robert Mitchum as Jeb Rand attends the funeral of the man he killed, Harry Carey. Stunning photog by James Wong Howe. I guess he’s using a polarising filter to make the sky ultra dark. Either there’s a really strong low sun or he’s actually lighting it — it has a sort of artificial look, but I guess it’s sunlight alright — the sky is basically clear. So they’re filming it late in the day as the sun sinks, and the brightness plus the unnaturally dark sky give it a dreamlike, unnatural quality.

The Women

And anything with Dame Judith Anderson (Mrs. Danvers in REBECCA, and by the way, where do you suppose MISTER Danvers is?) gets extra dream-points. The idea of a Dame out west is appealing too.


Theresa Wright, who’s always admirable, but usually very sweet and innocent, gets to be really strong and interesting in this movie. She look at Mitchum and silently vows to marry him — then kill him!

The Wright Stuff

Does Jeb suspect?

Big Bad Bob

Screenwriter Niven Busch scripted THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and is generally more associated with the noir scene than with westerns. The dialogue is nice too, with pleasing archaisms like “I disremember,” and “must be boresome.” You can’t have too much of that kind of lingo in my book. Well, you CAN, but usually the problem is you don’t have enough. “Generally better to overdo these things,” as Mitchum himself says in the remake of CAPE FEAR.

I guess if this was a John Ford film we might have a long shot with a low horizon and plenty of sky, which would have been pictorially very nice but not helpful really. This is definitely a film noir pretending to be a western, and noir is a fair distance from the Ford style. Although the Ford style takes in Murnau-isms at times, so is closer to noir than I’m acknowledging. Aw, I’m just hedging my bets all over the place. Time I went to bed.


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on May 28, 2008 by dcairns

By any normal standards, one would say Robert Mitchum is kind of funny-looking. But also astonishingly beautiful, at least sometimes.

Suck it in, Mitch!

What, can’t one man admire another’s ruggedly chiselled physiognomy?

That shot in OUT OF THE PAST when he straightens up after fighting his ex-partner in a darkened room, and Jane Greer has just fired her gun… that’s another of those Mitchum shots that takes my breath away.

This one, however, is from PURSUED, a wildly Freudian western written by Niven Busch, directed by Raoul Walsh, and photographed by James Wong Howe. I say “Freudian” because the plot, MARNIE-style, turns on Mitchum’s need to recover a repressed childhood memory. I loved this right up to the finish, which seemed contrived and unconvincing. One character gets to shoot another, who was posing no immediate threat, and yet nobody suggests that a crime has been committed. I know it was the bad guy who gets shot, and nothing says “the story’s finished” better than killing the bad guy, but it seemed… unnecessarily generic. And not explicable in realistic terms, since earlier in the movie the hero is tried after killing a man in self-defense. How come nobody’s bothered this time?

I’m not usually among what Hitchcock dismissively called the plausibilists, but when a film violates its own inner logic it does bug me a little.

I have never forgiven them for my arm.

Still, 90% of the film is great, noirish, unconventional and imaginative, and with a rather strong villain played by Dean Jagger, a man so determined to wipe out his enemies, he sacrifices his own arm rather than give up the hunt. I admired his cussedness.