Selznick roasting on an open fire

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Well, there’s your problem right there.

I love, in an ironic way, the idea that the ultimate in David O Selznick’s perennial quest for QUALITY was to dispense with the services of Ben Hecht, Robert E. Sherwood and all the other top writing talent he could so readily afford, roll up his shirtsleeves and get down to work at the typewriter himself. His time being more valuable than anybody’s, the results would have to be impressive. Leave aside the fact that if Selznick wasn’t Selznick, there’s no way Selznick would hire him to write a screenplay.

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SINCE YOU WENT AWAY, his wartime epic about the home front, build on the MRS MINIVER model, is stuffed with goodies. EVERYBODY seems to be in it, and to be fair, Selznick finds something for them all to do. Just listing the favourite actors in the cast would make this piece too long. There are TWO top-notch cinematographers, Stanley Cortez to make it beautiful, and Lee Garmes to also make it beautiful and maybe get it all shot before the war is over. (Director John Cromwell had uncredited assists from THREE colleagues, including DOS himself.) The film deserves praise for making epic scenes out of an inherently small-scale, domestic story. Compare with the lovely THIS HAPPY BREED, directed by the future Mr. Epic himself, David Lean, which keeps everything simple and understated which is also a good way to go. But it must have been kind of thrilling for Americans to see their daily struggles turned into the stuff of Hollywood super-production.

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Some good scenes — some very good scenes — some scenes which work despite being unbearably schmaltzy — and some scenes which are just unbearably schmaltzy. It all ends at Christmas, and this is the best time of year for it because you’re more likely to find the icky sentimental bits bearable. Rather than the starry and excellent cast, I’m concentrating on Jack Cosgrove’s FESTIVE GLASS SHOTS. Because what is Christmas without in-camera optical effects?

A wet Sunday in Edinburgh, that’s what.

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That upper one MIGHT be a miniature, not sure — the last shot of the film is a model, with Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple projected on a tiny screen in the upper window, transforming them into dollhouse residents for the occasion.

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2 Responses to “Selznick roasting on an open fire”

  1. Jennifer Jones waving goodbye to Robert Walker at the train station is emotionally overwhelming because she’s been pushing him away ever since he sowed up and at that moment she realizes she loves him. Off-screen Jones was waving goodbye to Walker and Hello to David O.

    Gay Jeopardy Bonus Points; The debut of the Gorgeous Beyond Belief Guy Madison, a sailor who was uh “discovered” by Selznick “Talent Scout” Henry Willson (“Hello Sailor!”) He had a pretty good career for someone who couldn’t act. But who needs acting ability when you’re so beautiful? I’m sure the scene where Monte Wooley makes a ass at him was cut.

    Henry went on to “find” Rock, Tab, et. al

  2. Madison is kind of refreshing because everybody else – from Grady Sutton to Andrew McLaglen – is acting their socks off. He can’t compete, so he doesn’t try.

    Jones’ train station farewell even survives the comprehensive spoofing it gets in Airplane!

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