The Spy Who Came Down with a Cold

Nearly done, old boy…

My inhalations and exhalations sound like the sand whirling around in a hula hoop, my chest is constricted as if there are elastic bands wrapped round my lungs, my head has the thickness of lagging and throbs like a Rick Baker bladder effect, while my nose… it’s simply better not to touch upon my nose.

I have a cold.

Which may not have been a bad way to finally watch TORN CURTAIN, one of those Hitchcock films that had always politely resisted my attempts to watch it. Fiona, too, would drift off within minutes of its starting. Having finally obtained a widescreen copy (Universal, worthless organization that they are, having issued all Hitch’s 1:1.88 movies in 1:1.33 ratio) we determined to give it a fair whack.

A nice Edward Hopper shot, and as close as I want to get to Julie in that repulsive outfit.

It’s not that bad: the right aspect ratio immediately sharpens up the filmmaking, which appeared lackadaisical when pan-and-scanned. Hitch’s mise-en-scene is as crisp and thoughtful as ever, and is sometimes inspired — whenever Julie Andrews isn’t around, he seems to perk up. But Andrews is a massive problem — you simply cannot watch this film without somebody saying, about three minutes in, “She really has no sex appeal at all, does she?” I remember trying to watch the film with my Dad, decades back, and him saying that, and now Fiona said it. “Or warmth,” she added, damningly.

“She’s perceived as being warm in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, isn’t she?” I ask. But then, Andrews’ big roles are both nannies, rather than mothers, which may be significant. She offers professional care. It’s her main quality as an actor. And I bet she can create warmth on stage. But in this movie, Paul Newman must be sexy enough for two: in fact, that’s easy for him, but Julie is like a damp rug thrown upon his smoldering embers.

Well HELLO, professor!

Welcome to the cinematic world of Lew Wasserman, Hitch’s former agent and now studio head at Universal, who basically cast this film, pressing Hitch to take two big box office stars. But of course, Andrews was only a hot property in a particular type of family film. The audience for gritty espionage thrillers surely would have been put off by her presence. How do you solve a problem like Julie Andrews?

Nifty opening montage of name-tags to introduce our protags in the sack, Hitch trying to sex up Julie’s image, which is like strapping a dildo to Mickey Mouse. Edith Head lets the side down with a horrible outfit for our heroine. “It’s not even green. What is that colour? Mustard?” asks Fiona. I liken it to baby shit.

Hitch and his Mini-Me.

Hitchcock’s cameo is nice, but Richard Addison’s rather quaint score offends me by quoting Gounod’s Funeral March for a Marionette, AKA the theme from Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Here’s my problem with it: in an interview, Elmer Bernstein once noted that in 1930s Hollywood scoring, if you saw a French ship, the soundtrack would be Max Steiner’s version of La Marseillaise. “An intellectual idea.” The man who undercut all that corn, scoring only the emotion of the scene, was Bernard Herrmann.

Here I should correct one of the few serious errors in Patrick McGilligan’s Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light. McGilligan imagines Herrmann playing Hitch a recording of his score for TORN CURTAIN, and Hitch stopping the recording partway through, followed by the argument which ended the two great artists’ collaboration forever.

The truth is more dreadful and dramatic — it was at the recording session that the bust-up took place, before a full orchestra. Hitch didn’t switch off a tape player, he cancelled the score midway, even though Herrmann argued that as the orchestra was already paid for, they might as well complete the recording and Hitch could think about it. Instead, Hitch fired his composer in the most public and humiliating manner.

The seeds were sewn by Universal, who seem to have pressured Hitch to record a more popular kind of score, perhaps with a song for Julie Andrews (which at any rate they never got). Hitch telegrammed Herrmann early on to warn that the modern audience was “young vigorous and demanding” and that successful European filmmakers had “sought to introduce a beat and a rhythm that is more in tune with the requirements of said audience”. This slightly vague concern was answered by Herrmann with assurances that he could produce something suitable. Perhaps unable to grasp what Hitch was driving at, the composer trusted in his talent to come through. And his score is excellent — you can see the scenes he recorded as extras on the DVD.

John Addison’s music at times seems appropriate for a 1930s-set caper, and insofar as it shows a coherent musical strategy, it would seem to be striving to lighten the picture’s tone. This was probably Hitch’s trouble with Herrmann’s music: he had made a glum, monochromatic film, and Herrmann had produced a dour, unmelodic score to go with it. All through preparing the project, Hitch had tried to inject some lightness, but his subject (cold war armaments and espionage), his settings (Helsinki, East Berlin, Leipzig), his writer (Brian Moore, author of the tragic The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne) and his mismatched stars had deferred any lilt or zing to the last possible stage of post-production.

Moore himself hadn’t wanted to write a film, but was persuaded by his lawyer that he needed the money. Hitchcock pitched him an original story, Moore developed it into an outline, introducing the idea of the painful, drawn-out murder, which Hitch then acted out with relish (I would love to see film of this impromptu performance, but none was taken). All the while Moore was aghast at what he saw as Hitchcock’s lack of character insight. Moore only really invested himself in the character played, like a demented elf, by Lila Kedrova, a Polish émigré hoping to escape to America. Her character, and that of Gromek the security man killed by Newman, are the only really living people in the film.

It is worth mentioning Newman’s cab driver, though — Peter Lorre Jnr. No relation to the real Lorre, this was a semi-crazed fan who changed his name in honour of his hero, and was sued by the original. I wonder if Hitch knew he’d hired a fake?

The scene where Gromek stalks Newman through an art gallery is the first striking set-piece, although the development of Newman’s defection and Andrews’ following him to East Berlin are interesting enough. Since Hitch’s two stars between them cost more than half his budget and dictated his shooting schedule, the film was almost entirely shot in California, mainly on the Universal lot (it shows), and so the gallery is a series of Albert Whitlock matte paintings. Only the floors were built. They’re very beautiful, and since the whole scene is composed of these artificial settings, they don’t pop out as distractingly fake. It’s like a chase through a virtual reality. Later, some of Hein Heckroth’s phony Leipzig exteriors will look like cast-offs from OH… ROSALINDA!!!! and not in a good way.

The Whitlock Gallery recalls Hitch’s reconstruction of the British Museum way back in BLACKMAIL.

Ah, Gromek! How I long for an entire film detailing your brief period in New York (“corner of 88th Street”) which you recall so nostaligically. Gromek is played by Wolfgang Kieling, the German voice of Bert from Sesame Street. We must thank the IMDb for its little nougats. Gromek, with his black motorcycle and crappy East German cigarette lighter, is wildly endearing and formidably sinister, and although his murder is the highlight of the film, I do wish it came an hour later so we could enjoy him for longer.

“I didn’t order this!”

The skirmish starts when the farmer;s wife (Carolyn Conwell, another great character, actually) interrupts Herr Gromek’s phone call with a sloppily-aimed bowl of rice pudding. He tries to get his lighter to work. Newman tries to strangle him. Years later, Hitch’s summary of the scene’s premise, “It’s very difficult, very painful, and it takes a very long time… to kill a man,” became the slogan for the Coen brothers’ BLOOD SIMPLE. The farmer’s wife takes up a carving knife, which memorably breaks in Gromek’s chest — for some reason, that detail is nastier than all the successful stabbing in PSYCHO. The shovel to the knees is next — ouch — then the long haul to the gas oven, with Gromek gamely strangling our hero all the way. His head stuffed within, Gromek’s chubby little hands begin to flicker and dance, like fleshy butterflies, then lie still.

Note that, as Dan Auiler discovered, Hitchcock’s original notes requested music for this scene, which Herrman duly provided, and very powerful it is. The scene is still a stand-out with no score, but one wonders what else Herrman might have done for the plodding thriller. At any rate, the silence augments the risk of discovery that prevents our heroes using a gun to off Gromek.

Newman picks up the dead man’s lighter, which now sparks into flame on the first try. He leaves the farmer’s wife to bury the body and the motorcycle. We rather wish she’d entombed him astride it, like Nicky Henson in PSYCHOMANIA.

Despite working without his regular cinematographer, Robert Burks, Hitch achieves consistently striking shots.

By contrast with the effulgent Gromek, Professor Lindt is rather a stock figure, a bearded physicist with a brusque manner. Professor Littleoldman! And here the film reaches its fatal flaw, one Moore and Hitchcock apparently missed, and script polishers Ted Willis and Keith Waterhouse (BILLY LIAR) weren’t authorized to address. After the incredibly long and uninteresting diagrams on a blackboard scene, in which case the need for a simple MacGuffin becomes blindingly obvious, Newman and Andrews must flee back to the west. Their lovers’ misunderstanding resolved, and the secret information now secured, they have basically won. Of course, apprehension would still mean utter defeat, so we expect a further climax of suspense, but instead we get a long journey back to Berlin by bicycle and bus, then Kedrova and a long wait in a post office, which is not as exciting in this film as it would be in real life, and a trip to the ballet, where at last Hein Heckroth can do what he does so well.

This is why the film seems so overstuffed. It should be called BURST CUSHION. The third act is practically half the film, and the suspense sequences don’t quite come off (Herrmann would have helped immeasurably), so it’s not only structurally malformed but ineffective on a scene-by-scene basis, apart from the incidental pleasures.

The prima ballerina looked familiar until I realized I knew her from THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. The subliminal freeze-frames Hitch pulls on her pirouettes are amazing — he must be reprinting the last frame of each shot just two or three times. I’ve no idea why nobody seems to have copied this striking effect.

The ballet, Tchaikovsky’s treatment of a character featured in Dante’s Inferno, climaxes the story’s metaphorical arc, which Peter Conrad in The Hitchcock Murders rightly describes as Dantean: Newman embarks on a journey into the underworld, in this case, the Eastern Block. Even the refugee/spy organisation’s name, π, suggests the circle of Hell. Newman’s quest, to steal missile secrets, is Promethean, and the film’s opening titles, a montage of anguished faces amid blue and red clouds of smoke, seem like an analog of Hell.

Conrad notes that the film begins and ends with its characters huddled under blankets, but doesn’t quite make the obvious point that the film could thus be read as a shared nightmare. Hitchcock may have aimed to make “a realistic Bond,” but realism was never his preferred mode, and it seems more profitable to judge the film, with its grey-filtered, shadowless monochrome (shot using reflected light), for its successful expressionism rather than its doubtful authenticity.

Conrad is also excited to see Hitchcock following Paul Newman into the gents’ lav to decode his secret message onto a square of toilet paper. Sometimes a critic’s work is done for him.

Paul leads Julie up the garden path in what looks like Hein Heckroth’s take on INVADERS FROM MARS. One of the few bursts of colour is permitted for this happy moment of truth.

Hitch originally toyed with the idea of Newman discarding the formula he’d worked so hard to get, an idea only Alma liked. It wouldn’t have made sense, but it connects to Hitchcock’s consistent portrayal of espionage, in all his films, as a dirty business with a horrible cost. But the whole idea of Newman as amateur spy is unconvincing, as is the anti-missile missile plot — though it’s been suggested that it inspired Ronald Reagan’s expensive and unworkable Star Wars defense scheme.

TORN CURTAIN isn’t terrible, although it could at least be shorter (Hitch had just lost his usual editor), but we should recall that Hitch really wanted to make MARY ROSE, scripted by Jay Presson Allen and ready to go, a deeply personal film, a departure from his normal turf, and a fascinating story. It’s Universal who are to blame for this film, as they are to blame for TOPAZ, when Hitch wanted to make KALEIDOSCOPE / FRENZY. Their poor decisions, made with a view to protecting the Hitchcock brand, soured much of the last stages of his career, and his friendship with MCA-Universal boss Lew Wasserman prevented Hitchcock from fighting for his most promising subjects. In the meantime, years were wasted. As we shall see, Universal were very kind and considerate to Hitch during his last years, but in a way their concern was damaging to Hitchcock the risk-taking artist. At the end of TORN CURTAIN, the Universal logo appears ghost-like over an extreme close-up of a blanket, possibly wet.

The Hitchcock Murders
Hitchcock’s Secret Notebooks


45 Responses to “The Spy Who Came Down with a Cold”

  1. I didn’t think Julie Andrews was that bad in the film. It’s one of the reasons why the first half of the film is so much better than the second half with this country chase because it deals with the problems in their marriage. Hitchcock said that his initial idea for the film was about someone who defected to the commies and then he wondered, “what did his wife think about it?”, that was still-born because the film he made dealt with that concept and then forgot about it completely.

    For me TORN CURTAIN is frustrating because you could see ideas in it that would make a good or a great film if it was followed through. The one idea expressed is that Paul Newman’s hero is really a nasty character, he’s nice on the outside but his crass exploitation is underlined in his relationship to professor Lindt. Hitchcock suggested that his desire to play the spy game was more motivated out of scientific opportunism than patriotism. That idea didn’t come through either. So the film is a serious disappointment.

    It’s one Hitchcock film that makes sense remaking because all the ideas are there for a good movie but botched. In a sense, Eric Rohmer’s TRIPLE AGENT dealt with those themes more fully and followed it through to the logical conclusion. That’s based on a pre-cold war story but the emotions and the moral ambivalence is all there and the ending is harrowing.

  2. She’s not bad. HE’S terrible. The scene where he tries to memorize the forula the professor has just put up on the blackboard destriys what proforma sympathy one might have had for the creep.

    Rohmer’s Triple Agent is a masterpeice — and has precisely what spy thrillers like Torn Curtain, Topaz and even most of Costa-Gavras lack.

    I trust you know that Elmer Bernstein made a recording of the Herrman score that Hitch tossed aside. It’s absolutely teriffic.

  3. That was used for the Cape Fear remake, and the Gromek murder was the influence for the final killing of Max Cady in that film.

    Triple Agent is about the fact that we can never truly know anyone, and Rohmer uses a historical incident still shrouded with unexplained bits and portions as a metaphor for married life.

    For Topaz wait till next week…

  4. I agree about Rohmer’s Triple Agent. I think it’s one of his best films. Apart from being a great study of secrecy and duplicity in both the political and domestic spheres, it also evokes with great veracity a particular historical period.

    Thinking about favourite films of the year, you can keep your Antichrists. Give me something like Looking for Eric any day of the week.

  5. Well i’ve been thinking of favourites of the decade…

    the use of newsreel in Triple agent is especially powerful.

  6. My favourites of the decade would include Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Le fils (The Son) and Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

  7. I’d also include Aki Kaurismäki’s The Man without a Past

  8. I can never remember what’s in one decade or another, so I’m0 trying to avoid best-of lists. Maybe I’ll come up with something different.

    It’s not that Julie Andrews gives a terrible performance, it’s that she can’t suggest the slightest sense of sexuality. So Hitchcock lost interest in her before he even shot the film, and did all he could to hand it to Newman, whom he didn’t like personally but at least found interesting as a persona.

    (Newman came to dinner and took off his jacket and tie, then shunned the wine and insisted on getting a beer himself from the icebox. Unforgivable!)

    Pushing Newman’s opportunism further would have been interesting. He does more or less cause a whole refugee network to get rolled up by the Stasi, he leaves a trail of destruction behind him. But as with Topaz, Hitch wasn’t allowed to say anything really unpatriotic or controversial. He had more freedom to critique the cold war in North By North West than he does in these “realistic” films.

  9. My list will be up for my blog, a top-ten gala…and I expect all of you to be there!

  10. With TOPAZ Hitchcock suggests that the Cold War bad guys incarnated by Rico Para are just as oppressed or marginalized than they are anywhere else. With that film, he was going beyond criticizing the Cold War, he was basically seeing it in terms of identity. The Russians who defect in the first scene come to America to defect but their relationship to the new American identity displayed to them is ambiguous. It’s actually an identity prostituted to them, since it’s in exchange for intelligence that the KGB is reluctant to give away since that determined his identity in the Iron Curtain, then he loses that and becomes a total vulgarian. You see that throughout the film, you see Roscoe Browne’s proud individualism and most ambiguously you have the assertion of identity when John Vernon’s Rico Para kills the woman he loves to save her from torture at the same time denying his government the information it needs. It’s a negative assertion of personal identity.

    It’s a real tapestry…a film of episodes and the main couple by Dany Robin and Frederick Stafford are bores but fortunately the film devotes screentime to fantastic actors in cool extended cameos. And Hitchcock even gets Fidel and Che to appear in Newsreel for his movie.

  11. I’m…not really looking forward to revisiting Topaz. Fiona’s skipping it. Should watch it soon so I can do it on cold medication. Something’s gotta help.

  12. I can hardly remember seeing this film, but I do remember being very disappointed with the elongated murder scene, which, as you say, is the highlight of the film. I had read that Hitchcock wanted to show how hard it was to kill a man, and I became very excited to see that. But the scene is worthy of an AIRPLANE-style parody, with her picking up one instrument of death after another. It’s a nice idea, but it comes off silly.

  13. “(Newman came to dinner and took off his jacket and tie, then shunned the wine and insisted on getting a beer himself from the icebox. Unforgivable!)”

    Now, now… Good wines are truly excellent, but so are good beers! And there are truly divine British beers (I had a taste Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo t’other day), so I’m shocked cereal juice dismissed by a Briton!

    Wasn’t it a bit snobbish of Hitchcock to disregard Newman from preferring beer? Unless Paul was having a Bud (then I’d understand Hitch shocked reactions)

  14. Well, I think Hitch had chosen the vintage with care to compliment the meal. I’m on Newman’s side, really, but since Hitch required Evan Hunter to wear a suit and tie for script meetings (Hunter wondered at first if this was a joke: it wasn’t) we can see that he took such things quite seriously. I can just picture Newman cracking open a Bud, actually.

    That murder scene plays well for me, but with the Herrmann score on, it really becomes exciting. That bust-up was Hitch’s single really self-destructive act.

  15. For me the film of the decade is Peter Watkins’ La Commune (de Paris 1871). Nothing else so much as touches it.

  16. david wingrove Says:

    Believe it or not, I think Julie Andrews had at least the potential to be an interesting Hitchcock heroine. After all, she has a similar quality to Joan Fontaine, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly and all the other great Hitchcock ladies. Prim, proper and icy cool on the surface, while underneath…well, let me just part company with the rest of the human race (well, the heterosexual male segment of it, at any rate) and admit that I’ve always found Julie extremely sexy!

    Not sure I can explain it…well, I was a little boy in the 60s and, yes, I did grow up gay and, who knows, loving Julie at such an impressionable age may well have marked me for life. But at least I’m in good company. The gorgeous Rupert Everett dedicates a whole chapter of his autobiography to ‘the Julie effect’. And she does make a stupendously attractive man in VICTOR/VICTORIA.

    But, alas, she’s terrible in TORN CURTAIN (as is everybody and everything else) mainly because Hitchcock has no interest in tapping her (weirdly androgynous) sexuality. He seems to have cast her purely for commercial motives, or because Lew Wasserman pressured him into it, or because he’d had a bit too much to drink at the time…

    Whatever his reasons, he mishandles Julie completely and wastes a truly fascinating opportunity to unveil an all-new screen persona. In short, Hitch fully deserved the disaster that TORN CURTAIN was and is. Julie, in contrast, does not. A trooper if ever there was one, she gave it her best shot, only to be let down by a director who simply didn’t care.

  17. Peter Watkins’ La Commune (de Paris 1871 is on YouTube:

    It comes in 26 parts.

  18. I’ve got Torn Curtain and Topaz sitting in a pile of DVDs that I haven’t got around to watching. They’ve been there for two years now…

    I suppose I’ll give them a spin this Christmas — your guidance, through these posts, will help, I expect.

  19. Peter Watkins’ Culloden is another great film.

  20. My favourite Watkins is THE WAR GAME and PUNISHMENT PARK. Haven’t seen many of his films like EDVARD MUNCH and LE COMMUNE yet or PRIVELEGE. Michael Powell has a credit on CULLODEN as some kind of consultant of some sort. That film was certainly interesting but it’s kind of self-revealing about the limitations of that kind of political cinematic approach in relation to the choice of theme of attacking English imperalism.

    I cannot for the life of me think of the greatest film of the decade, Oliveira is certainly the auteur de notres temps(he’s turning 101 in a few days) and his A TALKING PICTURE and I’M GOING HOME! are key 21st century masterpieces, or I can always go safe and cite NOTRE MUSIQUE by JLG or Rohmer’s super-masterpiece L’ANGLAISE ET LE DUC. Then there’s YI YI but the late great Edward Yang. And the new masters – Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Jia Zhangke. Personally my favourite film made this decade in that I’ve seen it repeatedly and find endless surprises in it is Scorsese’s GANGS OF NEW YORK, which for me is the best American film of this decade although that is apparently a minority position.

  21. I love everything going on around the main characters in Gangs of New York, it’s the main characters that are the problem. And DiCaprio’s endless deferral of his vengeance ultimately makes no sense. Actually, the whole thing could have been solved if he didn’t know who actually killed his father and had to join the gang to find out.

    I think subcocsciouly Scorsese didn’t like his own plot and was doing everything he could to de-emphasize it, but couldn’t escape the pull of narrative and get into the Satyricon territory that appealed to him.

    Diarmid, if you wait until you’re replete with dinner, then start Topaz and leave the remote control slightly out of reach, you might manage it. Or else you’ll fall asleep.

    David W, Hitch did at least start out with the planned shock of Julie in bed with a man. But he simply couldn’t find any inspiration in her, which isn’t his fault, it’s just a quirk of his muse. At any rate, there’s certainly no chemistry between Newman and Andrews, though they were united at least in their discomfort with the whole film.

    Still to see La Commune, and it isn’t going to be on YouTube when I do!

  22. Watkins is a genuinely political filmmaker — and thus a man without a country. He was driven out of England for Culloden and The War Game. Privilege remains his sole “commercial” film. And it’s as powerful now as when it was made. Among other things David Bowie copped his entire act from it.

    La Commune is quite lengthy (but never boring) and quite specific about histoircal facts — as a result it’s French TV backers balked at broadcasting it save for one screening in the wee smalls. The French do not want to deal with this key moment in history save for glossing over it. Watkins shot it in an abandoned factory that was originally built by Melies as his film studio. One of Watkins’ sons plays a large role as a reporter for “Commune TV.”

    Making films politically in a way far beyond Godard’s reach Watkins periodically stops the action to interview his non-pro cast on their thoughts about it.

    Altogether devestating.

  23. ———————————-
    One of Watkins’ sons plays a large role as a reporter for “Commune TV.”
    David, do you know who played the female reporter for “Commune TV”?

  24. Interestingly, I’ve had a couple of lesbian friends who also found Julie Andrews very sexy.

    I’m probably going to be kicked out of the cinephiles’ club for this, but up until now, I hadn’t seriously thought about whether the Hitchcocks that I own on DVD respect their original aspect ratio or not (for some reason, Hitch’s films occupy a category-of-their own in my brain, and I don’t tend to apply normal considerations like those to them), and now I’m aghast at realizing that they don’t. At least, my copy of “The birds” doesn’t, since I saw it last week and it was definitely 1:33. Where did you get the “correct” copies? Is there some kind of US vs. Europe rule of thumb that one can follow when buying DVDs?

  25. Couldn’t find a clip but in Bedazzled (1967), the magic word is . . .”Julie Andrews.”

  26. Christopher Says:

    I had a terrible crush on Julie Andrews as a kid after seeing Mary Poppins….I’ve always wanted to at least see her legs..more skin..I think the fact that shes been covered and rigid thruout her carrer ,makes her even more desirable a bit of a mystery..What would we find?? =:o/?
    ..I need to check out Thouroghly Modern Millie again to see if I can find some clues..I’ve always wanted to see her with long black hair too..Shes never without a short haircut! or hair up…Well did the Cat walk away from Torn Curtain too?…
    ..Torn Curtain and Topaz,sitting in a pile ,waiting to be watched.and waiting..and waiting… lol

  27. Also in Bedazzled: “…and win a night on the town with Alfred Hitchcock.”

    Yes, I think you have to get American editions to get some of the later Hitchcocks in the right ratio. Universal suck.

    Christopher, the film you need to see is SOB, made by Julie’s husband Blake Edwards, a genuinely embittered and depressing Hollywood comedy. David W has a very amusing story about the shocked reaction of an Irish audience to a key moment in which Julie “gets them out.”

  28. S.O.B. a wonderfully savage recounting of Blake Edwards’ actual experiences at the less-than-tender-mercies of James T. Aubrey and Robert Evans. It also has a number of marvelous Keaton-inspired sight gags.

    Meanwhile, (off-topic) — Ta-Dah!

  29. The female reporter in La commune was played by Aurélia Petit. She was also in Gondry’s La science des rêves.

  30. Great piece, David. Really looking forward to that film. Remember being very impressed by Matthew Goode in The Lookout.

  31. He can do two entirely different kinds of American accents (quite a feat). The one in A Single Man bears no resembalnce to the one in The Lookout — likewise the character of course. He’s going to be very big cause he’s really talented, and smart and HOT.

  32. Even his performance in Watchmen, which is pretty bad, is bad in more interesting ways than most of his fellow performers.

  33. david wingrove Says:

    Paul – Julie Andrews is a huge lesbian icon. So much so that some people claim she and Blake Edwards are ‘a marriage of convenience.’ Not sure I’d go that far. I mean, you’d have to be heterosexual to portray the gay world as unconvincingly as VICTOR/VICTORIA does. Also, that dreadful movie 10 has some truly revolting and gratuitous homophobic gags.

    Still (as Franklin Pangborn says in EASY LIVING)…”Where there’s smoke, there must be somebody smokin’!”

  34. Blake and Julie are supposed to have fag-baited Rock Hudson mercilessly while making Darling Lilli — which might have all been part of their “cover act,” who knows? That closet is a strange place.

  35. I’ve met and talked with them both. In many ways they’re a typical Hollywood Power Couple. “Charming” and just a wee bit chilly.
    That they may have fag-baited Rock during the making of Darling Lili rather surprises me. I would have pegged them as more sophisticated than that. But that shoot was a nightmare. He wanted to make a superproduction when all the air had gone out of that genre. Star!, after all, had Died the Death at the Box Office — the blockbuster success of The Sound of Music notwithstanding. It’s quite an interesting film, nonetheless, and “Whistling Away the Dark” is a great song.

    Don’t share your disdain for V/V Mr. Wingrove. Of course it makes no gay sense. But Robert Preston is adorable, and I love the scene where they let the cockroach loose in the restaurant to avoid paying the bill.

  36. I should withdraw the allegation since I don’t remember where I heard it and so don’t know how reliable it may be. I’ve enjoyed a lot of Edwards films, and would like to re-see VV. I do agree that 10 is pretty terrible, but I’d like to see Sunset.

  37. No I heard the allegation too. It was all over the place at the time. They denied it to me when asked.

    Sunset isn’t much and Swithc bombs. But I reccomend That’s Life.

    Rather liked Dudley Moore repeatedly falling down the hill outside his house in 10.

  38. David W just told me the story he heard, that Julie didn’t get on with Rock and at one point said to him, “The trouble is, we have nothing in common.”

    To which he is supposed to have replied, in front of everyone, “Of course we do, we’re both queer and we don’t talk about it!”

  39. I rather liked Julie Andrews’ performance in “Torn Curtain” when I last saw it. I also think that more people should see her performance opposite James Garner in “The Americanization of Emily.”

    I also remember, in my “Alternate Universe Movies” game — where I formulate movies that *should’ve* been made out of novels I like — thinking that Andrews would’ve been ideal playing the female protag of Muriel Spark’s novel “The Public Image.” With Losey as the director? She’d have played an English film star in late-’60s Rome often referred to as “The English Lady-Tiger.”

  40. Yes, I could see her as a lady-tiger.

    The problem in Torn Curtain isn’t the performance so much as the persona, which Hitch can’t seem to get a grip on.

    I like the idea of Alternative Universe Movies, where we could get Orson Welles’ Catch 22 instead of Mike Nichols’. Maybe Welles could cast Nichols in his version (as Aarfy?) so as to produce fewest interdimensional ripples.

  41. david wingrove Says:

    David E – will you forgive me for trashing VICTOR/VICTORIA if I confess that I love DARLING LILI?! Always have.

    It’s a gem of a movie that came at a time when the musical genre had simply run out of steam. Julie is ravishing throughout (as a Mata Hari-esque lady spy), Rock is suitably dashing (as a World War I flying ace) and the songs (Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer) are among the best ever. And as for the gowns by Jean Louis…don’t even get me started!

  42. To which he is supposed to have replied, in front of everyone, “Of course we do, we’re both queer and we don’t talk about it!”

    That sounds like the sort of “true story” Truman Capote would have told Joanne Carson.

    Never happened.

  43. Yeah, it does depend on Hudson breaking character even as he delineates it…

  44. david wingrove Says:

    In fact, I read it in the David Bret biography of Rock Hudson. Naturally, I do realise that very little in a DB bio is even remotely believable (that’s what makes them so much fun) but I can’t help thinking of an old Italian saying…SE NON E VERO, E BEN TROVATO. Which translates freely as: “If it’s not true, it should be.”

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