Lucifer

Started watching DARLING LILI — I’m on a Blake Edwards kick. WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, DADDY? led to THE PARTY which led to SKIN DEEP and before you know it… well, I don’t know what shows more extreme depths of morbid curiosity that watching SKIN DEEP. (It was kind of rewarding, though.)

So, DL begins with Julie Andrews, Edwards’ wife of course, singing a lovely number called “Whistling in the Dark” (not the They Might Be Giants tune) amid dazzling anamorphic flares and halations upon the lens. It’s like a portal into J.J. Abrams’ wet dreams.

Then she launches into “It’s a Long Way to Tiperary,” “Pack Up Your Troubles,” which has the line “While you’ve a Lucifer to light your fag…” — a Lucifer being a brand of match and a fag being a cigarette. Anyhow, on that last syllable, THIS happens ~

Timing Rock’s credit to land exactly on the word “fag” — it CAN’T be an accident, and even if it were, who’s minding the store? Given that Edwards suffered continual interference from Paramount and was basically locked out of the edit (his own, decades-later director’s cut is 29 minutes shorter than the roadshow version), this is either the work of some not-so-merry prankster or a fuck-you Mona Lisa mustache doodled by the director on his own creation. But aren’t there people paid to look at edits? Surely the word in question is MORE likely to pop out for an American viewer?

Edwards’ work tends to be quite gay-friendly — lots of sympathetic gay characters, jokes which are smutty without being nasty. There were even longstanding rumours — well, more like speculations –about the Edwards-Andrews marriage at least partly being one of convenience. One can even, without too much strain, read movies like 10, THE MAN WHO LOVED WOMEN and SKIN DEEP as “protest too much” smokescreens on the one hand and gender-swapped confessions on the other.

Who knows? With regard to this unique jape-slur, Edwards is gone, as is editor Peter Zinner, who only cut two unsuccessful Edwards films before going on to THE GODFATHER.

I seem to recall somebody — and it may have been the less-than-reliable F. Gwyneplaine MacIntyre — telling me something about “Edwards and Andrews fag-baiting Rock Hudson on DARLING LILI” — but that may have been an obscure reference merely to this credit, or just the usual MacIntyre baloney. Anybody know anything?

19 Responses to “Lucifer”

  1. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Reportedly Edward and Hudson didn’t get along. How and why is lost to history as both are gone. Edwards’ real trouble was with the studio — principally Robert Evans. He got his own back with “S.O.B.” — one of his best films and one of the best satires of Hollywood ever made– in which Evans is mercilessly lampooned.

    I got a chance to meet and chat with Edwards when “Victor /Victoria” (a sort of masterpiece) was released and he told me — without prodding of any kid on my part — that there had bee “rumors” about him over the years that greatly upset him. “Doth protest too much” perchance? I suspect so. But the proof is in the pudding and the gay-friendliness exhibited in “10” (Robert Webber as Dudley Moore’s screenwriter friend hopelessly in love with a young man who’s all wrong for him) is remindful of Truffaut who in his late-period films always made a point of including gay characters.

    But back to Julie —

  2. Skin Deep (1989) has Peter Donat as an acid-tongued gay agent who commits suicide after contracting “a terrible kind of cancer”. Simultaneously bold and cowardly writing choices.

    In the Backstory 4 interview which is only skin deep – Edwards career is just too extensive for the format – he volunteers that his daughter complimented him on the gay characters. It’s nice he lived long enough for that to be something he was praised for.

  3. David Melville Wingrove Says:

    Interesting to read David Ehrensetein’s reaction because I actually do find 10 to be quite vulgar and homophobic. When Dudley Moore refers to Robert Webber’s gay friends as ‘the Malibu chapter of the Sugar Plum Fairies’ or marvels that some people prefer ‘a life of faggotry’ to obsessively lusting after young women…are we meant to be appalled or are we meant to laugh along with the joke? I would like to believe the former but I strongly suspect the latter.

    The fact that Edwards was married to (arguably) the Biggest Gay Icon Since the Death of Judy Garland can only make the sexual attitudes in his films more confusing. DARLING LILI is a film I have always loved and I do think SOB is a masterpiece. But VICTOR/VICTORIA is so full of antiquated gay stereotypes that surely it can only have been made by heterosexuals? Again, that is just my personal reaction. I enjoy it but find it vaguely embarrassing at the same time.

    For me the only film that gets to the heart of Julie Andrews’ status as a gay icon is not a Blake Edwards film at all. It’s the Rupert Everett/Kathy Bates comedy UNCONDITIONAL LOVE in which Julie plays a small but hilarious cameo as herself. We are led to believe that Rupert’s deceased lover (Jonathan Pryce) was a little boy who longed to grow up to be Julie Andrews. I can empathise entirely with this because most gay men of my generation did.

  4. Tony Williams Says:

    Reminds me of Larry Cohen’s Hitchcock imitation when the younger talent asked The Master abut TORN CURTAIN – “Never again, Julie Andrews”!

  5. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Dudley Moore in “10” is in no way shape or form presented as admirable. He makes a complete fool of himself over Bo Derek, whereas Webber is sympathetic throughout. Dudley redeems himself only through physical comedy — rolling down a hill several tiems with the panache of Buster Keaton.

    Tuesday Weld who was once married to him recalls him being “An asshole. A REAL Asshole!”

  6. ehrenstein47 Says:

    The gays I “Victor/Victoria” may be “antiquated” but I found them charming and so did Vito Russo. I interviewed Preston at the time and he told me what fun everyone had making the film.

  7. Tony Williams Says:

    From one one viewing of 10, this was my impression about the Webber character. I believe an article in MOVIE also confirms this reading.

  8. Dud is clearly another stand-in for the author in 10 — he even lives with Julie Andrews. Edwards basically made the same lacerating self-portrait a half-dozen times. I haven’t seen his The Man Who Loved Women yet, but that title could apply to 10, Skin Deep, Switch and Sir Charles Lytton the notorious Phantom.

    I’m planning to see 10 again – watched it on TV once as a teenager and was disappointed in both the comedy and sexual content, but it’s due for a reviewing under better conditions.

  9. chris schneider Says:

    I suppose it’s my O.C.D. acting up again, but somebody oughta point out that the title of that goddam beautiful song is “Whistling Away the Dark.” (See video above.) Lyricist Johnny Mercer could get a tad soggy in later years — see, also, “Charade” — but this is one of the better examples.

  10. C. Jerry Kutner Says:

    Edwards’ THAT’S LIFE is another lacerating self-portrait. And mostly lousy. David Thomson commented that, “Life should have sued.”

  11. Tony Williams Says:

    I’ve just watched GUNN (1967). What a concoction, especially concerning Daisy Jane and I did not recognize the actress who played her as someone in Hawks’s I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE. So many associations there! JULIE GETS HER GUNN! Have you seen this one, David C? Comments, please.

  12. I’m just considering looking at Gunn. I watched the pilot of the original series (also written and directed by BE) and it seems to be the same damn story. Unfortunately I can’t locate a widescreen copy of the movie.

    I’m also intrigued by his 90s TV pilot, attempting to revive it, with his daughter in a lead role.

    What confused me about Whistling Away the Dark (David E correctly named it too) is that the lyrics say “whistling in the dark” about four times.

  13. Tony Williams Says:

    I don’t know about the format but it is available on rarefilmm.com

  14. ehrenstein47 Says:

    “Gunn” isn’t anywhere near as interesting as the TV series from which it was derived. Edwards’ “Mr. Lucky” TV series was also quite enjoyable.

    What find most interesting about “10” is that Dudley was a last minute replacement. Edwards began the project with George Segal — THE CINEMA’S MOST GRIEVOUSLY UDNERRATED ACTOR — in mind for the lead. They fought and Edwards had got Moore. I’m sure the Segal-starred version was conceived quite differently. I can’t see him doing slapstick bits, like rolling down Hollywood hills

  15. Tony Williams Says:

    David E, Very much agree with you over Segal. He was often not used to his best advantage. How would you rate his performance in THE BACK BIRD?

  16. I’ve never seen The Black Bird but have never understood how Segal managed to fade from prominence the way he did. Versatile, funny and appealing, though maybe not sexy…? WAOVirginia Woolf, King Rat, Born to Win, The Terminal Man, all favourites.

    I think he could have been good in “10” — he has a good body shape for slapstick. And Edwards could get visual comedy from unexpected sources — I’ve just paused Victor Victoria, and James Garner has some good creeping around hotel corridors stuff in it.

  17. ehrenstein47 Says:

    He was sexy in “the Owl ad the Pussycat” and he remains this day the only actor who can truly play opposite Babs without getting pushed off the screen by her. I also adore him in “The Quiller Memorandum” which sports one of Pinter’s best screenplays. More recently he was brilliant in the great and sadly little-seen “Heights” playing the Rabbi trying to counsel a couple who he’s supposed to marry but whose wedding — unbeknownst to him – ain’t gonna happen because the groom has been cheating on the bride with another man who lives in the same apartment building.

  18. I wonder if Streisand and Segal would be a bit of a handful, together, though?

    The Quiller Memorandum is aces.

  19. Tony Williams Says:

    David C. When you get to see GUNN I’d be interested in your observations. A femme fatale who once dated Hawks and narrative elements that match your discernment of Edwards. I’ve seen some of the episodes, agree with the comment about the film not matching up to the TV series but would television have allowed such a revelation at the end even in the late 60s. Lehrman anbd Luhr make some interesting comments on the film in their book on Edwards.

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