Indoor Derricks

The miniature indoor oil derrick was a short-lived design fad, but you can see examples in WRITTEN ON THE WIND — the late Dorothy Malone (above) keeps hers as a kind of phallic symbol and a memento of dear dead daddy (above above) — and SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS, where father Pat Hingle keeps a model of the derrick he fell from, resulting in his limp — in reality, poor Pat got it falling down an elevator shaft, fracturing his skull, hip, wrist, half his ribs, and his leg in three places. Ouch.

Worse, it cost him the lead in ELMER GANTRY.

I like the idea of his character keeping a model of the near-fatal derrick as a kind of trophy. Hingle plays his character as the kind of man who would do that — a roaring bully-boy, a proto-Nolte, communicating in a brutish semaphore of arm-punching and back-slapping.

His screen son, Warren Beatty, keeps a much smaller derrick in his bedroom.

We just watched SPLENDOR for the first time — I’m still way behind on Kazan. It’s pretty great, even if the story is barely a sentence-worth. It has emotion, star power, sharp observation, beautiful photography and design, brilliant casting down to the smallest role — Godfrey Cambridge plays a chauffeur in one shot… we keep cutting to Sandy Dennis, barely more than an extra…

It also has a real sense of period. Natalie Wood even does period-specific gestures, like that semi-circular wave, palm out, close to the face, that you see in ’20s movies. It’s all a great contrast to INSIDE DAISY CLOVER’S shunning of period costume.

8 Responses to “Indoor Derricks”

  1. John Warthen Says:

    It also has Wm. Inge’s tone-deaf self-explicating script which is why I never get through seeing the thing. Attempts to promote his work as being comparable to the best of A. Miller and T. Williams strikes me as critical desperation.

  2. I disagree. Inge may fall short of his friend Tennessee, but he’s “up there.” The story, BTW, is a recreation of a tragic real-life love affair between two school classmates of Inge’s who were destroyed by their families.

    Demy “borrowed” the ending of “Splendor” for the ending of “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”

  3. Splendor in the Grass is brilliant. Natalie Wood’s best performance and one of the few movies in Ye Olde Hollywoode that is honest about love and sex. And a rare positive depiction of psychoanalysis, fitting since Kazan was a devotee to a shrink (for all kinds of reasons, some obvious, and others less so).

    But I will say that Splendor is mostly about that final scene which raises the rest of a film to a higher level and it’s one of the movies’ great endings.

  4. Inge’s importance as playwright doesn’t matter to my assessment of the film, which I found moving and cinematic. It isn’t stuffed full of layers of ambiguity but there’s a place for simplicity too. Everybody gets that it’s a film about well-meaning parents screwing up their kids’ chance of happiness due to perncious beliefs about sexuality, and nobody in the film points that out or is even aware of it, necessariy.

    I really liked that shrink too!

  5. Everybody’s good in it (Zhora Lampert is perfect in her one scene), but Barbara Loden is on a plane above everyone else. When I saw that she’s directed her own film, I almost did a somersault, though I still haven’t caught up with WANDA – still waiting for someone to issue it on a good print.

  6. Lampert has two good scenes, and yes, she’s excellent. And Loden is wonderful here and in her small role in Wild River. It’s a shame the film despenses with her so early, but it maybe had to, to find space for Wood and Beatty.

  7. I’ve never made it through “Splendor in the Grass”. I just sort of got that denying wholesome sex to beautiful couples would cause the economy to collapse. Do recall there was one more derrick at a party, inflating a com … inflating a balloon.

    “Written on the Wind” I did see. Before she settles down with a derrick, Dorothy Malone goes to gas stations seeking guys to fill’er up. Am I misremembering, or was there a shot of the gas nozzle being inserted in her car?

  8. There might well be a dribbling gas nozzle, yeah.

    You’re right, Hingle’s New Year’s party features a derrick with a balloon dispensing booze.

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