After the Fox

Yes indeed, there’s some interesting stuff in Henry King’s swashbuckler, even if the drama itself isn’t always that engaging. Tyrone Power does his usual bad-boy-turns-good thing. Orson has a spectacular first scene, with some extraordinary expressions playing across his massive mug, then normalizes a bit into just a good Welles villain role. Rewriting the script on location he bolstered Everett Sloane’s role…

…with this feather.

The whole film looks beautiful, thanks to stunning Italian locations and Leon Shamroy’s cinematography, which raises my estimation of him even higher. (In THE BRAVADOS he showcases his usual Deluxe Color palette, with orange light and blue shadows, sometimes ignoring logic and light sources altogether, just routinely doing what he does, so that the imagery so stunning in LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN came to seem slightly tired.)

Was Orson whispering suggestions to King? He had dominated the experienced Robert Stevens on JANE AYRE, and he still had the vestiges of Hollywood stardom to give him clout. I commend to you, at the very least, the film’s second scene (commencing 2.47).

There are low angles: when Welles mounts the podium, we view him from below, like a member of his entourage, but the reactions shots of them are taken EVEN LOWER. There’s a tracking shot running counter to the movement of Welles as he sweeps in. Those shots of the reacting listeners, at around 4.55, with the camera sweeping from one face to another in fast pans and pushy track-ins, are really extraordinary. It feels like Welles exerts more influence here than anywhere else, but it’s perhaps not PURE Welles.

The restlessness of the camera, not quite in sync with story values, driven purely by its own enthusiasm, has an early thirties vibe to me. And King hasn’t indulged in this kind of brio SINCE the early thirties. He’s back at the Fox Film Corporation, channeling the house style with youthful enthusiasm, prodded along impatiently by his Cesare Borgia…

PRINCE OF FOXES features Leonard Vole; Hank Quinlan; Pila; Pilar; Polonius: Flavia; Mr. Bernstein; and Dr. Satan.

11 Responses to “After the Fox”

  1. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Jayne Mansfield’s poodle in “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?” is named “Shamroy”

  2. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Here’s another example of Shamroy’s work

  3. I think Shamroy is one of two credited DOPs on Cleo.

    I’m wrong! Jack Hildyard is uncredited, and probably only shot scenes for the original Joan Collins version, so none of his work is included.

    He didn’t even shoot Rock Hunter, but Tashlin is obviously recollecting his work as Mansfield’s lapdog on The Girl Can’t Help It…

  4. revelator60 Says:

    Will your King retrospective include “Tol’able David”? It’s an over-obvious suggestion, but the film’s reputation is deserved. I’ve also heard good things about “Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie” and “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain” but haven’t yet seen them.

  5. I missed the King silents at Bologna so I’m curious to catch some. And I heard about Tol’abe while researching my piece on Harold Lloyd’s The Kid Brother, which was somewhat inspired by it.

  6. DBenson Says:

    Recalling a college showing in the 70s.

    There’s a moment when Power is thoughtfully regarding the noble old man he’s been sent to execute. He asks Sloane, rhetorically, “Could you kill that man?” Sloane answers in the affirmative and slips away. It takes a few beats for Power to realize he took it as a directive, and scrambles to stop him.

    In the seconds before Power realized, the college crowd hissed. For a moment they thought Power meant it as an order. Relieved laugh when he intercepts Sloane.

    The real crowd pleaser was the scene with the grapes.

  7. Yes, the grape scene is outstanding! A bit of a King Lear paraphrase from Welles, too.

    It was obvious to me Power wasn’t thinking of ordering Sloane, but I felt he waited a ridiculous amount of time to react to Sloane’s perfectly unambiguous reply…

  8. Randy Cook Says:

    Oh, you found NELLIE! Can’t watch now; is it as soapy as i remember? Last saw it 50 years ago, ironically enough— was very eager to see anything w/ David Wayne (whose best work was probably on stage—Og, Pulver and Sakini, I mean). I remember a bit of spry pantomime at film’s close, and jumped ahead to see that. Exactly as I remembered it (my memory doesn’t always work that way, as you know). Hope the rest of the picture is a bit better than I remember…

  9. I haven’t gotten around to watching it yet — differing reviews in Bologna, but a strong ‘yes’ frm Meredith Brody, which counts for plenty.

  10. chris schneider Says:

    Have you written about the King-directed CAROUSEL, David? I hated it when I saw it as an adolescent — which had a lot to do with the material — and nowadays, now that I’ve developed a taste for the musical, I haven’t seen it recently enough to determine my reaction. It struck me as entirely too Technicolor (not Shamroy, btw) and too hearty by half. I miss the sense of fatalism and darkness that one gets from photos of the original production. I’ll also say that Gordon MacRae ain’t half as expressive as the man who originated that role, John Raitt.

  11. The play is certainly problematic – I’ve seen the Lang but not the Borzage. And not the musical. In the TV doc, King talks about shooting a scene on location, but when we see it, it’s clearly a studio with rear-pro. I guess the background plate is the location he meant…

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