John Cromwell Week


After enjoying the Selznick version of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, I decided to watch more stuff by director John Cromwell.

So here it is — John Cromwell Week on Shadowplay, taking us up to Christmas. Interesting thing about this one, apart from the comparative obscurity and low status of the subject (I require you to be curious about films you may not have heard of or been interested in, as usual) is that I’m going from a standing start: this is the only previous Shadowplay entry on a Cromwell film, and I believe it’s the only Cromwell I’d seen before this week.


Incidentally, is Shadowplay the only blog that ever does a week themed around a single film-maker’s work? Is it the only film blog written substantially by one person which posts every day (I think I missed about seven days in nine+ years of blogging), discounting movie-news type places? Certainly I think it’s the only blog that’s going to devote a week to a talented Hollywood journeyman like Cromwell. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, or not too hard. But this is kind of a strange, unusual thing I do and maybe I should talk it up more.

First proper post in the series will be later today. Those with a fondness for Cromwell and Selznick may be able to guess which film we’ll end on. But I haven’t watched that one yet, so I promise nothing. Viewing recommendations gratefully received, as at this point some of you no doubt know more than me.


13 Responses to “John Cromwell Week”

  1. I think “Caged” and “Of Human Bondage” are great.

  2. THE RACKET ought to be a lot more interesting– a cracking stage-script with a spit-in-you-eye gusto akin to FRONT PAGE, and the pairing of noir demigods Ryan and Mitchum. Ryan crackles– he nearly always does– but their dynamic never heats up.

  3. I recommend Cromwell’s Erich Maria Remarque adaptation, So Ends Our Night, with Fredric March, Margaret Sullavan, and Erich von Stroheim.

  4. Apologies for commenting twice in a row, but I forgot to mention earlier what a splendid idea for a themed week this is. You’re doing marvellous work on this blog, and I can’t wait to read what you think of Cromwell’s films (I’ve only seen five myself, so your choices are bound to be enlightening to me as well as entertaining).

  5. Thanks, all! Keep ’em coming!

    I liked Caged a lot. Realized I’d seen another Cromwell earlier: The Enchanted Cottage, which is certainly interesting. But it’s been twenty years, so I’d have to see it again to have anything more to say.

  6. Jack Lechner Says:

    So glad you’re doing this, David! Maude and I watched The Prisoner of Zenda a few months ago, and I was struck by the wit and economy of Cromwell’s framing — often implying that there’s a huge setpiece going on just outside the frame, but which we never actually see.

  7. Cromwell did a pair of acting turns for Altman. He appears in both “A Wedding” and “Three Women”

  8. Wonder what he made of those jobs? He cast himself pretty regularly in small roles. Of course his movie career began with the talkies because they valued his stage experience directing actors.

  9. I saw several of the 1930s films on weekend afternoons years ago, including Little Lord Fauntleroy and Tom Sawyer, but they’ve left little trace in the memory banks. I watched Son of Fury a few years back and quite liked it, though it’s structurally a bit awkward (which may be as much a function of writing and budget as of direction); I first became aware of it because of issues with colonial censorship in the 1940s and 1950s. Looking forward to seeing where the week takes you!

  10. Thanks again for your daily blogging! Reading your blog is one of the highlights of my day! Every day, even your shortest post has more substance than most sites.

  11. That shot of the endless row of trumpeters is at once iconic and charmingly ridiculous when you think about it. It’s used as a stylized fanfare for the movie, then reappears during the coronation sequence as a real event.

    Where are they all standing, without a building in sight? The smart 180-degree turn is impressive, but why were they all standing with backs to the king or whatever audience is just out of camera range?

  12. The shot has been optically flipped for one of it’s uses, presumably to make the movie seem even more expensive (suggests there are two rows – cf Jack’s comment, one row is always out shot).

    Thanks, Mr. K!

    Gareth, can you provide more info about Son of Fury’s censorship issues? That’s one I’ve watched and haven’t quite decided what to say about.

  13. I went back to my records and it didn’t make quite as much of a stir as I recalled — there was some controversy in Kenya about the horsewhipping scene, though nothing about the island interactions, which might have been expected to raise more eyebrows among colonial censors. I thought Sanders was in top form here, but the film as a whole comes across as quite unbalanced (structurally, not psychologically).

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