Archive for the literature Category

Yellow Chamber Journalism

Posted in literature with tags , , , on January 18, 2022 by dcairns

My first NEW piece for the new Chiseler is UP. Deals with master of the locked room mystery John Dickson Carr, AKA Carter Dickson AKA Roger Fairbairn.

Republished at the same site is a piece on the First Mrs Bogart, Maya Methot, written with Phoebe Green.

Page Seventeen III: The End of Innocence

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2022 by dcairns

“Slaver, pound to a penny!” yells our young Nelson. “Bosun, clear away the gun. Tomkins, open the arms chest! Sir Harry, I’d be obliged if your fellows would take station two either side, ready to fire if need be. Tally-ho!” And he seized the wheel while his engineer thundered his motor and our little sloop fairly flew over the water. Ballantyne’s dozen tars were diving below deck and emerging with pieces and cutlasses, and I directed my sergeant to place his fellows at the rail as requested, and shocked his military soul by countermanding his order to them to put on their hats and coats. You shoot straighter in shirt sleeves when there’s an African sun blazing down on you.

Sir Harry leaned his head close to Faulks’ ear and whispered: “Keep looking at it for as long as you can, old man. Try not to let it get away.” Then in his normal, conversational tone, which was a kind of cheerful roar, he spoke to Archer: “Seems you have a bit of a sticky problem here, what?”

‘Adzooks!’ exclaimed the bailiff–‘sure Harry Wakefield, the nattiest lad at Whitson Tryste, Wooler Fair, Carlisle Sands, or Stagshaw Bank, is not going to show white feather? Ah, this comes of living so long with kilts and bonnets–men forget the use of their daddles.’

The child disdained to reply; she had heard it too often. She waited patiently until she had been tucked, clean and sweet-smelling, into a white-painted crib. Then she favored her mother with a smile that inevitably made her mother think of the sun bursting into a rosy pre-dawn. She remembered Hank’s reaction to the color pictures of his beautiful daughter, and with the thought, realized how late it was.

Well, the idea of Harry the Horse and Spanish John and Little Isadore looking for Judge Goldfobber sounds somewhat alarming to me, and I figure maybe the job Judge Goldfobber gives them turns out bad and they wish to take Judge Goldfobber apart, but the next minute Harry says to me like this:

The day ended when the light became yellow. The cast was given the call for next day and dismissed. Griffith would go this office to meet with Frank Woods, Albert Banzhaf (his lawyer), someone named Harry Aitken, who had something to do with money, and another named J.A. Barry, who seemed to be a manager of sorts. These were not secret, closed-door meetings; they were merely private business meetings. Nobody snooped or listened at doorways. Privacy was privacy, not to be invaded. What they discussed and what they planned was their business. In fact, I learned very one never to listen to secrets of any kind. Then, if the matter ever became public, it could never be traced to me. So I added one extra beatitude to the Biblical list: blessed are the ignorant, for they shall never be called to account.

Ruth Bryan Owen, who was the Ambassador to Sweden or Norway or something, and Mr. And Mrs. Harry Winston were there too. Jim was very fond of Mrs. Winston. As for the rest of the people, although it was a very small group, I didn’t even know their names. I wasn’t interested in them one bit. But I knew that they were supposed to be the social elite of Miami.

Seven passages with seven men called Harry from seven books stacked in a teetering pile with many others by my armchair.

Flashman on the March by George MacDonald Fraser; ⤝✤⤞ by Gahan Wilson, from Again, Dangerous Visions Book 2 edited by Harlan Ellison; The Two Drovers by Sir Walter Scott, from Selected English Short Stories (Nineteenth Century); That Only a Mother by Judith Merrill from Science Fiction Hall of Fame II edited by Robert Silverberg; Breach of Promise from Runyon on Broadway by Damon Runyon; Adventures with D.W. Griffith by Karl Brown; The Times We Had: Life with William Randolph Heart by Marion Davies.

Otto Smash

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2022 by dcairns

BONJOUR TRISTESSE is beautiful, odd, trashy at times — it perfectly captures the feeling if an endless summer, but brackets its lustrous Saint-Tropez Technicolor with monochrome scenes in Paris that make it all too clear the idyll is doomed. Preminger only mixed colour with b&w this one time, but it seems appropriate to his perversity that he used monochrome for the present tense. Of course it makes a clear emotional point about the joy having drained from our young protagonist’s life (and suits the particular looks of St Tropez and Paris) but of course it doesn’t withstand a literal-minded interpretation, and at the same time it’s too obvious to sublimate into symbolism.

Somewhat random side-note — just stumbled upon the fact that, while filming the Great Fire of London for FOREVER AMBER, Otto nearly incinerated Linda Darnell, eerily anticipating her eventual tragic fate by some years. It was a piece of collapsing set that did it, or nearly. And I thought, My God, Otto had form, because he nearly burned Jean Seberg to death making JOAN OF ARC, and did in fact take her eyebrows off. It may be unfair to blame him wholly, since a director is somewhat at the mercy of what the pyrotechnics people say is safe, but on the other hand, fish stinks from the head, and a director is quite able to say “That sounds kinda risky,” or “I’d like some more safety measures in place.” Otto instead follows in the tradition of his fellow Viennese Fritz Lang, who came close to creating Brigitte Helm on METROPOLIS.

There’s a smouldering death here, too, but off-screen, represented by a great black smoke signal against the azure Mediterranean sky, produced by car crash (see also ANGEL FACE), and anticipating Otto’s own accident when he was struck down and badly injured by a car (I imagine the driver’s astonishment at Mr. Freeze suddenly impacting his windscreen).

We’re in the world of Françoise Sagan, based on the novel she published at nineteen. Her youth seems to grant her a strong insight into the thought processes of teenage Cecile (Jean Seberg), with the slight disadvantage that everyone else behaves like an adolescent too. The one real adult, supposedly, Deborah Kerr’s character, is as extreme as everyone else, really, just in a different direction.

I wonder what the shoot was like? I mean, it looks like heaven: Paris and the Côte d’Azur (with Otto now starting his later shoot-it-all-on-location phase), attractive people, and David Niven on hand to stop Otto getting too beastly — Niv had stood up to Michael Curtiz (“Vhere is your script?” “I don’t need it.” “Run and get it!” “YOU fucking run and get it.”) and knew that all bullies are cowards. (It’s possible that everybody’s a coward, and bullies have just discovered a peculiarly extrovert way of handling it. It [a] works for them and [b] makes the world a more hideous place.)

The movie is a fashion show (Givenchy, Hermès, Cartier), and an art show, and a parade of beautiful, rich, foolish people we shouldn’t have any sympathy for and mostly don’t. But I found I still felt for Seberg’s spoilt brat a little, perhaps because Seberg herself was so tragic. Otto was determined to make her a star — she’d been roasted for JOAN OF ARC and the American critics wouldn’t accept her as French here either, as if it mattered. You accept she’s Niven’s daughter even though he’s English playing French. And if they’re French, what is the heavily-accented Mylene Demongeot? Doesn’t matter.

Critical hostility to Seberg was probably mostly about her flat Iowan accent, which Austrian Otto was perhaps not sensitive to — she can seem bad even when she’s emotionally on point — I remember her being wooden in THE MOUSE THAT ROARED, which came after this. Efforts to deaden the accent add layers of self-consciousness to someone whose charm ought to be in their naturalness. This is the movie where it all kind of fits.

Niven is very fine also, in a role with uncomfortable echoes of his own life — not the creepy Elektra complex stuff, the idea of the playboy who finally tries to settle down, only for fate to knife him in the back. Deborah Kerr seems like the kind of woman who could reform him. And here’s Martita Hunt, maybe the only actor to appear for Otto in the forties, fifties and sixties?

BONJOUR TRISTESSE stars Sister Clodagh; Squadron Leader Peter Carter; St. Joan of Arc; Milady de Winter; Lieutenant Joyce; Georgette Aubin; Mr. Silence; Miss Havisham; Lord Desham; Jackson’s Doxy; Sir Hugo Baskerville; Adrian Baskerville; and the Fiddler on the Roof.