“Don’t Call Me Max!”

Because Fiona insisted I get some Arnold Moss up on YouTube. Picture Laura Dern saying, “You find me some music on that radio, Sailor Ripley!” Kind of like that.

Moss is Fouché, the louche, and Richard Basehart is “Max” Robespierre. I’m always very interested in Basehart whenever I see him, but what should I see him IN? I have no actual idea what his claim to fame is, I just like the way he transforms his performance style from film to film. Here, he’s awfully good.

18 Responses to ““Don’t Call Me Max!””

  1. Basehart appears in the William Shatner/Yul Brenner version of The Brothers Karamazov, but I haven’t yet summoned the courage to watch it.

  2. David Boxwell Says:

    Most overrated Basehart film: Fellini’s LA STRADA (54).
    Most underrated Basehart film: Berry’s TENSION (50).

    He is completely inscrutable in Werker’s/Mann’s HE WALKED BY NIGHT (48).

  3. Baseheart’s role in Fuller’s FIXED BAYONETS! is hard to imagine in conjunction with Mann’s film, which was made only the year before. In Fuller’s film, he’s a young infantry pup, a corporal, a rank you get only if you’re in a little longer than a private and you haven’t been snuffed out yet. He’s terrified, the story and the visuals play up his terror, his emotional turmoil is the pivot point of the film – not the Robespierre type at all. Picture an actor playing Emperor Palpatine in STAR WARS one year and Ferris Bueller the next, and hitting it out of the ballpark both times.

    Interesting he’s not more talked about. His reputation suggests he’s sort of this third-string Kirk Douglas type. The fate of the chameleonic performers?

  4. Wrong Mr. Boxwell!

    Here’ Basehart’s Killer scene in La Strada where he explains to Gelsomina that everything in life has a purpose.

  5. Basehart’s really good in HE WALKED BY NIGHT, he makes a very credible psychopath. The way he terrorizes and browbeats poor Whit Bissell, it’s almost hard to believe he has a dog, albeit one that functions as a pretty good lookout, alerting his master to the armada of cops as they close in.

    Basehart was a very familiar face on television back in the Sixties as Admiral Nelson, commander of a nuclear submarine on VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. An Irwin Allen production, I recall episodes featuring a werewolf, a giant octopus, and some gigantic shaggy man-thing that shook and tugged on the sub the way one would a calf or a gator. Not the actor’s finest hour(s). Saw him recently in Huston’s MOBY DICK, where I thought he was very good, as was most of the cast in the Melville adaptation.

  6. Here’s Marty, backing me up on Basehart

    As you may know he was married to the great Valentina Cortese. They were quite a team, until she discovered he liked di Ragazzi a tad too much.

  7. Been too long since I saw La Strada, but I like him in Il Bidone.

    In Finger of Guilt he seems to be doing cinema’s first John Huston impression.

    I remember Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea… underwater stuff so often seems so dreary…

    Rogue Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing claimed a screening of La Strada cured an autistically withdrawn young woman. I can imagine it might!

  8. Never seen Finger of Guilt and I long too.

    I Hope you’ll do a Losey salute one day soon. More than Godard, in many ways, he was a key figure for me in the 1960;s when I was forming a theory of mise end scene relating to cmaera movement in particular. The final pan in The Servant (from James Fox collapsed on the stairs to the clock in the hall below) had a very special resonance for me.

  9. Christopher Says:

    La Strada was the first thing I saw Basehart in after years of Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea..that was a culture shock!

  10. Have you forgotten Joseph Losey Week? There’s a review of the disappointing, slack, yet strangely intriguing Finger of Guilt around here somewhere. He certainly deserves a Forgotten, and there are countless candidates in his career.

  11. David Boxwell Says:

    It’s just me: I am resistant to Fellini’s world view.

  12. I am getting really into Losey recently. I saw a few weeks ago, three films which for me are his best – THESE ARE THE DAMNED, THE ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY and M. KLEIN…before I liked LA TRUITE, found much to admire in the Losey-Pinter films and EVA but nothing really got me until those two. The TROTSKY film is especially fascinating in how true it is to the record yet makes the whole events leading up to the assassination a complete mystery. And Burton and Delon are fantastic and the use of camera movement and composition is exhilarating.

  13. I love the way they pronounce “Danton” to rhyme with “pantin’ ” (as in “pantin’ and sighin’ “). If I were truly shameless, which I’m not, Id call this film “Ants In Their France of 1794.”

    This isn’t the place to go into my reaction to the Charles McGraw performance here. But I love him here, along with most of the Mann’s cast.

  14. Christopher Says:

    no mention of Nights of Cabiria..practicaly my fave Fellini.

  15. Losey’s career is full of obscure interest, and in pure mise-en-scene terms he’s very consistent, although dramatic values are up-and-down. Boom! is well worth checking out for how much he can do visually with a somewhat inert situation and preposterous casting.

    Cabiria is a favourite of mine, certainly of the first, more emotional part of his career. It strikes me as the most sophisticated in its use of that emotion.

    ALL the pronunciation of names in ROT is pretty crazy. I like Cummings’ “Terror of Straussboorg” line particularly.

  16. One of the films Basehart is best known for is Fourteen Hours, where he played a tormented young man teetering on a window ledge, threatening to jump. It was based on an actual suicide, and the original ending did have Basehart leaping to his death. However, a studio exec had recently had a daughter commit suicide, so he ordered the ending to be reshot, with Basehart’s character being rescued by a net right after he leaped. Basehart was unhappy with the changed ending. Actually, he was deeply unhappy for a significant part of the filming, for good reason: while shooting, his wife had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, and died after undergoing surgery.

    Turner Classic Movies reportedly has a Richard Basehart tribute in the works.

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