The View

This shot in ALL THE KING’S MEN (1949) is so extreme in its wide-angle distortion (enhancing the fact that John Ireland really was enormous and Mercedes McCambridge really was tiny) that I wished the whole film was like that. Serious TOUCH OF EVIL vibes, and of course MM would go on to appear in TOE.

In fact, the rest of the film isn’t that much less distorted: so much of the action is big sweaty men crammed into small hotel rooms. Director Robert Rossen and DP Burnett Guffey crowd the frame with different-sized figures. Welles has to have been the inspiration. Rossen looks at CITIZEN KANE and then Welles comes along and borrows McCambridge ten years later.

I liked the movie — Ireland and McCambridge together before THE SCARF — Broderick Crawford in the role he was born for — but I didn’t love it. Maybe because the assassination of Huey Long, a dramatic twist in real life, feels like a cop-out in a fictionized version. I don’t know of any real-life political stories with satisfying climaxes. Stories of revolution are quite satisfying, but then you have to leave out what comes after (generally, disillusion). How the hell does Costa-Gavras do it?

Actually, this week I’ve been mainly listening to political history podcasts. Leon Neyfakh created the first two series of Slow Burn over at Slate, which dealt with Watergate and the Clinton Impeachment, and now he does Fiasco, which so far has covered Bush V Gore, the Iran-Contra scandal, school desegregation (“busing” as it got termed, a very successful piece of objuscation), and the Benghazi tragedy and its fall-out. Really terrific stuff. You could compare them to Adam Curtis documentaries for the ears, but if you don’t like Curtis I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of loving these.

16 Responses to “The View”

  1. David Ehrenstein Says:

  2. Tony Williams Says:

    Mercedes worked with Orson in Mercury Theatre Radio Days.

  3. Ah, of course!

  4. Ever see Mercedes in that amazing Western? Forgetting the name, music by Frank Zappa — oh Run Home Slow — it’s her nastiest and most raw perf. Makes her turn in Johnny Guitar look hetero.

  5. She watches her brother having sex, un-sshowered for days in the desert… “nasty nasty (grunts in the most indecorous fashion imaginable).

  6. David Ehrenstein Says:

    Mercedes is at her dykiest in “Touch of Evil” She also pops up in the misbegotten “The Other Side of the Wind”

  7. Tony Williams Says:

    One of the three stars of the 50s TV show WIRE SERVICE, the others being Dane Clark and George Brent.

  8. Saw a baby shark in Red Hook today. Fisherman pulled it up and I’m thinking: “That’s a baby shark.” But I was 20 feet away, no glasses on. Then the crowd muttered “shark” and I yelled “Is that a baby shark?” Fisherman: “Yup. Shark.” He threw it back. I heard William F. Buckley tell this tale with that appalling accent of his, a physiotherapy tank of Mid-Atlantic hauteur.

  9. I find it mindboggling to think of Mercedes being on weekly TV.

    Must see Run Home Slow. Wish I was still doing The Forgotten.

  10. David Ehrenstein Says:

  11. Tony Williams Says:

    DC, The show ran weekly on BBC in the late 50s with Mercedes appearing in the credits but each episode devoted to one of the stars. The late Larry Pennell wrote to me about how much he enjoyed working with George Brent. Mercedes guested on WAGON TRAIN (that ran on ITV) with Clu Gulager playing her son.

  12. I’ve made a video essay for Masters of Cinema’s forthcoming Blu-ray of Johnny Guitar. Which was fun.

  13. Tony Williams Says:

    Too late for the previous Olive DVD version (or Kono?) but yours may be worth the wait.

  14. Geoff Andrew is doing a commentary which I’m curious about.

  15. I watched this right when I was getting “into” movies, when I was 14 or 15, and it made a big impression — perhaps partly because I hadn’t seen that many films from the period, and also because it was so clearly *directed*, with all those crowded shots, among other things. It’d be interesting to rewatch 30+ years later with a great deal more cinematic context.

  16. I wonder if it was the origin of the Billy Wilder story: “Terrible news. Bob Rossen made a good movie.”

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