The Apartments

My card, sir.

LOVE NEST caught my eye because (a) it’s early I.A.L. Diamond (b) it’s late Frank Fay (c) it’s directed by Joseph M. Newman of THIS ISLAND EARTH and (d) it’s early Marilyn Monroe. The latter is the only reason it’s available on DVD, an attempt to wring $ from die-hard fans who’ll watch her in anything.

It’s… OK. Interesting to see Fay, still at it. He gets the only laughs — he plays an aging conman who seduces and robs wealthy widows. He happens to move into the brownstone acquired by bland leads William Lundigan and June Haver (too cutesy, both of them).

Since the general terrain is similar to that of THE APARTMENT, it’s interesting to see how uninteresting Diamond’s writing is — mechanically skilled but without sparkle (I’ve yet to see anything of his I liked apart from his Billy Wilders — which I adore, or most of them). It definitely hasn’t occurred to anyone to make the main characters in any way interesting, as if surrounding them with eccentrics would defray the need for any characterisation as far as they were concerned.

Monroe, of course, gives her usual performance, an excess of lust seething through her carefully arranged smiles, giving the impression she’s ready to rip the pants off any of her co-stars or else leap past the camera and ravish a random crewmember. No shortage of enthusiasm.

Amusing, of course, to hear Lundigan say that if Frank Fay were a little younger he wouldn’t trust him alone with his wife. I’m always sad that there aren’t more FF films, since he’s so skilled and weird, but not as much as I am amazed that there any at all, since he’s so swishy and kind of creepy and doesn’t really have the kind of face photography was meant for. It’s a face that looks as though it’s been dropped on the floor a few times. But issuing from it is that peculiar timbre and that immaculate, unexpected comic timing:

“Would you like a facial massage?”

“Well, it won’t do any good, but it may give me confidence DO IT!”

11 Responses to “The Apartments”

  1. chris schneider Says:

    The non-Wilder Diamond that comes to mind *before* looking at IMDb, the one that I like, is ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS. Awkward, at times, but stuff goin’ on. [pause for consultation] I wouldn’t attribute much of Diamond to the Hawks MONKEY BUSINESS … and CACTUS FLOWER is just plain gruesome. MURDER IN THE BLUE ROOM, with late June Preisser, sounds promising.

  2. ehrenstein47 Says:

    “Monkey Business” has Marilyn (who you’re apparently not at all taken with) and a plot that mirrors Cary’s off-screen escapades with LSD which he was taking to try and go straight (or as “Seinfeld” would have it “Switch Teams”) at the very same time. Rivette cites it as a key inspiration for “Celine and Julie Go Boating”

    On his own Izzy Diamond had talent. But his partnership with Billy Wilder resulted in a rare alchemy.

  3. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Fay starred in “God’s Gift To Women” which Louise Brooks flitted through briefly.

    I’m surprised you don’t mention Jack Paar. He switched from acting to what we call today “Reality Television” and has been much-discussed lately thanks to his marvelous TV interviews with Judy Garland.

  4. Jack Paar is an important figure I only became aware of in the last few years. But he doesn’t make much impression as an actor. I was much more interested to see Leatrice Joy.

    I like Marilyn! This movie doesn’t know how to contain her explosive sexuality or make her a credible character, though one can see her role as neighbourly temptation anticipating The Seven Year Itch.

    Fay’s two pre-code star vehicles (for Curtiz, connecting us up nicely with Romance on the High Seas, which MUST be interesting) are terrific and very odd. He’s all wrong for the movies but incredibly nimble as a farceur.

    I’ve seen the pre-code version of Murder in the Blue Room, but not the Diamond iteration. Will look into it!

  5. Matthew Clark Says:

    Frank Fay is credited as being the creator of what we call “stand up” comedy. Bob Hope, Jack Benny and others point to him as the first comic who just stood on stage and talked to an audience. He moved to Hollywood at the start of the sound era with his young bride Barbara Stanwyck . His film career was not very big. Many point to his outspoken antisemitism, couple with a bit of a drinking problem, as the main reasons.

  6. bensondonald Says:

    Once Frank Fay rose to legit stage stardom in the play “Harvey” he supposedly spent a lot of time ragging on “low comics”. One story — maybe it was in the Bert Lahr biography — claims Bert Wheeler joined Fay onstage for a comedy bit and was assailed with a string of unexpected insult jokes, making him look like a stooge in front of a mostly inside crowd. Wheeler finally had enough and said he could get bigger laughs than Fay without saying a word. Fay invited him to try, and Wheeler punched him, hard, in the nose. It brought down the house.

  7. Wow. Fred Allen did a lot of anti-Fay jokes. “I just passed lovers’ lane and I saw Frank Fay, walking hand in hand with himself.”

    Called to testify at a court case, Fay gave his profession as “world’s greatest comedian.” When a friend asked him, in a pained kind of way, “Why did you do that?” FF replied, “I had to, I was under oath.”

    And of course, he was married to Barbara Stanwyck, make of that what you will.

  8. Fiona Watson Says:

    Here’s Frank in the amazing Nothing Sacred. “Show them the finger, babe.”

    And here he is again being fought over by the unlikely combo of Louise Brooks, Joan Blondell and Yola d’Avril. (Louise’s friends thought she would have made the perfect Nora Charles and you can sort of see that here. Unfortunately, the constant hangovers in the first Thin Man film would have been real!)

  9. ehrenstein47 Says:

    I’m guessing Stanwyck “needed a husband” at that point and Fay obliged. Later on she married Robert Taylor who like her was primarily disposed to members of his own sex.

    RJ also claims to have had an affair with her during the making of “Titanic.” She was probably helping him to fend off Clifton Webb

  10. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Hard to imagine but “Nothing Sacred” was remade as a Martin and Lewis vehicle with Jerry playing the Carole Lobard role Here’s the best scene:

  11. Great dance number. I wish Sheree North had done more with Lewis (and/or been a bigger star).

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