Archive for Alfred Werker

Werker B

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 3, 2019 by dcairns

Poor Alfred Werker! His best-loved film — or credit, anyway — is HE WALKED BY NIGHT, which everyone know was substantially directed by Anthony Mann, and anyway shot by John Alton which accounts for a lot of its flash.

But here’s a post-war war film with a leaden, uninspiring title — SEALED CARGO — and it’s got a lot in its favour, including moody prowling by flashlight on various ships on misty seas. Dana Andrews, noir paragon, is our hero, and Claude Rains is a salty Danish sea dog who may not be all he seems. And he seems to be a German agent.

George Diskant (THE NARROW MARGIN, ON DANGEROUS GROUND) photographed it and all the murky ocean-going and below-decks stuff is highly atmospheric.

Alas, when the ships get into a little Newfoundland port (an impressive set), a lot of the suspense associated with the rolling dry ice, dark shadows and limbo-like uncertainty about who is who and what is afoot, is dissipated by the bright studio sunshine and throngs of Central Casting Newfies. But it had me going there.

The best shot in the film, actually, takes place under the main titles:

SEALED CARGO stars Joe Lilac; the former Sally Bliss; Captain Louis Renault; Renault; Dr. Franz Edlemann; Melakon; Johnny Gallagher; the Reverend Cyril Playfair; the Reverend Dr. Mahin; and Prof. Teenage Frankenstein.

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It’s Alan Dinehart’s Festival, the rest of us just live in it

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2018 by dcairns

BACHELOR’S AFFAIRS, a 1932 Fox comedy, woke us up on Monday morning at the aptly-named Cinema Jolly (where the air conditioning now WORKS, making consciousness a joy rather than a distant possibility). It stars Adolph Menjou, Joan Marsh. Minna Gombell, and Alan Dinehart, even funnier and more Matthauesque than he was in THE BRAT. A very witty script and a glamorous deco look — ocean liners and masqued balls, a theme of the festival established in DAINAH LA METISSE, present and correct.

The New Year’s Eve party motif introduced in this one was picked up in the next entry, John Stahl’s silent melo THE WOMAN UNDER OATH, which dressed May McAvoy as a Columbine, a look also on show in CAROSELLO NAPOLETANO. The plot was ludicrous, the performances enjoyably theatrical, the lighting and framing at times extremely striking. Pamela Hutchinson introduced it with aplomb, setting the context admirably.

Getting up at this point seemed all too ambitious, so we experienced the ecstasy of Erik Charell’s CARAVAN again. Our second Charles Boyer film of the fest (he’s an aging roué in LUCKY TO BE A WOMAN, dubbed in Italian, those luscious lips moving much more slowly than the dialogue assigned him). Phillips Holmes is so good they named him twice. Loretta Young received today’s spanking, on horseback no less. Will there be a daily spanking? It’s shaping up that way.

Doing our laundry took longer than expected, but apparently Rene Clair’s LE SILENCE EST D’OR was packed out — Chevalier! — so we’d never have made it. Lovely film, but I have seen it, so I guess it’s less of a heartbreaker than some of the stuff I’ll be missing today…

Luciano Emmer’s LA RAGAZZA IN VETRINA was astonishing, and deserves a big long installment of The Forgotten all to itself — next week, I suspect. Star Marina Vlady, still stunning and charismatic, introduced it in person. Emmer is being retrospected all week, and now we know we must check out as many of the others as possible.

And then we finished with another John Stahl, IMMORTAL SERGEANT, which felt like the ur-text of HOW I WON THE WAR, a British army WWII tale with an unlikely assortment of accents. Featuring Tom Joad, Uncle Billy, Esmeralda, Hilary Aimes, the High Sheriff of Nottingham and a very young Heironymous Merkin.

We were back at the hotel before midnight, for once, and yet again failed to sleep soundly — I never do when traveling, and Fiona has a complicated releationship with sleep at the best of the time. So we’ll be out again today, two happy zombies, caffeinated and confused…

Films without people

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by dcairns

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GENTLEMEN OF THE PRESS (Millard Webb, 1929) Designed by William Saulter.

When the 1930s movie studio closes for the night, what do the empty sets dream of?

Designing Dreams, Modern Architecture in the Movies by Donald Albrecht reproduces some fantastic stills showing just the sets, actors long fled or not yet arrived. And when Albrecht says “modern,” you can be sure the silent “e” on the end is at least implied. These dreams are deco through and through.

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The offices of McGloin Enterprises Inc, from RACKETY RAX, directed by Alfred Werker in 1932 and designed by Gordon Wiles.

One thing that’s great about the book is that it uses not only famous examples like METROPOLIS, or obscure but deserving ones like Marcel L’Herbier’s dazzling LE VERTIGE (giddy modernist decor being very much a favourite L’Herbier trope), but truly unknown Hollywood entries like these, on which spectacular elegance has been lavished even though the movies were destined for the dustbin of film history. Though who knows, they may yet be rediscovered and appreciated anew.

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This is from MEN MUST FIGHT, which I previously wrote about here. Directed by Edgar Selwyn in 1933, with Cedric Gibbons as the credited supervisory art director.

Why don’t we live in these films? Or at least in these rooms? Life would be so much more… elegant.