Archive for Ann-Margret

Ed Sullivan’s Travels

Posted in Dance, FILM, MUSIC, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2017 by dcairns

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I don’t know if George Sidney needs to be elevated up a few notches among the cognoscenti, but he definitely deserves to be better known in general. his problem may be that his good bits — brazen, stunning musical cinema — are often contained in the same flawed films as his bad bits, but his good bits are transcendent.

Andrew Sarris lobs more backhanded compliments at Sidney in The American Cinema than you can shake Ann-Margret at, from the heading “lightly likable” to the specific putdowns (“has ruined more good musicals with more gusto than any director in history” and “There is a point at which brassiness, vulgarity, and downright badness become virtues”) which are very funny, but don’t do justice to the creativity and dynamism Sidney brings to his work.

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BYE BYE BIRDIE (1963), adapted from a Broadway show and reaching the screen rather too late to be topical about Elvis entering the army (five years previously), isn’t particularly clued up about the rock ‘n’ roll it attempts to satirize, but its gigantic parodies of pop culture still left us gaping at the screen like the first night audience of Springtime for Hitler.

The film stars Dick Van Dyke (his first movie), Janet Leigh and Ann-Margret, with Paul Lynde as secret weapon. Jesse Pearson plays Conrad Birdie, the Elvisalike, with roughly the same appeal Alberto Sordi brought to THE WHITE SHEIK — hard to spoof sex appeal when you’re mainly repulsive, but credit is deserved for courage and shamelessness.

First jaw-dropper: Pearson causes all the girls in a small Ohio town to faint, and Sidney cranes up a mile high, blasphemously parodying the giant pull-back of Confederate wounded in GONE WITH THE WIND.

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Second jaw-dropper: Lynde, who overplays like a starving actor seeing scenery for the first time in a year, is transfixed by the thought of appearing on television with Ed Sullivan (“My favourite human!”) and has a Grouchoesque Strange Interlude, wandering into the foreground and provoking a ripple-dissolve by sheer overintensity, leading to a musical dream sequence in which he and his family, attired as a heavenly choir, sing “Ed Sullivan” ad nauseam and Lynde’s face becomes progressively more purple, like Luca Brasi getting strangled in THE GODFATHER.

Third jaw-dropper: when Lynde refuses to let his daughter kiss the rock star, Mrs. Lynde worries about the kid losing face. “If he stays here, that won’t be all she -” begins Lynde, before choking off in an excess of emotion. The censorship of the word “loses” actually makes this mildly smutty joke seem about six times more obscene.

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Fourth jaw-dropper: Janet Leigh, frustrated by her mother-obsessed fiancé’s failure to propose, crashes a meeting of some random fraternal society (dressed like The Sons of the Desert) and basically rapes most of them under a table. Or so it would seem: hard to know how else we’re meant to interpret it, as one shriner after another is yanked out of frame below the furniture as if beset by Bruce the Shark.

I think Van Dyke basically inventing super-powered Benzedrine and giving it to a tortoise who then jet-propels from the room probably counts too.

Elsewhere, there are less startling pleasures: “Put on a Happy Face” and “I’ve Got a Lot of Livin’ To Do” are the most recognizable numbers. Maureen Stapleton plays Dick’s domineering mom, improbably enough — she was exactly his age, joining a select club with Jesse Royce Landis, whose character in NORTH BY NORTHWEST must have given birth to Cary Grant just as she was leaving the womb herself, like a kind of Russian doll, or a variant on that cartoon of three fish swallowing one another.

Sidney loses out on the chance to be a less sexist Frank Tashlin by staging a long, not-too-funny sequence where the conductor of the Russian ballet is slipped a capsule of Van Dyke’s speed, and proceeds to lead the production at 400% velocity. The anti-Americanism is funny, but this stuff is neither a sufficiently robust response to Kruschev, nor a questioning of the Cold War. It just dilutes the acerbic gusto (that word again) of the rest — but the prolonged, Hitchcockian build-up to the slapstick IS pretty funny, so outrageously does Sidney extend the wait.

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Oh, and there’s Ed Sullivan himself, who always looked to me like a version of Richard Nixon with third-degree burns, and it turns out the low-resolution TV picture was flattering him.

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Janet Leigh reprises her bra routine from PSYCHO, and Ann-Margret is alternately cute and terrifying (when her lips retract, yikes!), ending the picture by rattling her tits right at the camera. I think female viewers, or gay male viewers (at a musical?? surely not!) are slightly short-changed in the pulchritude department, since DVD is one of those hetero actors who projects no particular sexuality — he’s straight without ever seeming to want to do anything about it. I guess that’s a useful quality, since he has to be able to share screen time with “teenage” Ann-Margret without looking like he’s going to rip his shirt off and run amongst her.

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52 F*ck Up

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2013 by dcairns

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Real Corinthian leather.

Fiona was feeling fragile so I made her watch John Frankenheimer’s 80s Elmore Leonard sleaze-fest 52 PICK-UP (a Golan-Globus Production). Hey, it’s kill or cure.

When it was over, she summed it up nicely: “The End. And everyone felt dirty.”

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The movie seems designed either as a future trivia quiz question (“What movie features Ann-Margaret, Vanity, and Ron “Porn Hedgehog” Jeremy?”) or else to put a nasty taste in the mouth which will still be palpable when our cities are dust in the wind. But HEY it does have a hilarious, creepy, and eye-popping perf from John Glover (the Donald Trump parody guy in GREMLINS 2) as the very bad bad guy (you can’t do that kind of thing to Kelly Preston and maintain the audience’s warm sympathy) and it also features a wacky shot-reverse-shot sequence destined to live in infamy.

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Glover’s business partner threatens him —

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— and Frankenheimer obligingly serves up a shot taken from the viewpoint of Glover’s penis. This has fascinating implications. It encourages one to read every low-angle shot (and there are plenty) as being taken from the vantage point of Glover’s penis. Who knows, perhaps the whole film is a dream sequence passing through the slumbering mind of Glover’s penis. It would certainly account for a few of Frankenheimer’s filming choices, which might otherwise be inexplicable from the director of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and SECONDS.

It might not be going too far to speculate that Frankenheimer’s entire 1980s output might have been a dream in the eye of John Glover’s penis. His mutant bear horror movie PROPHECY becomes, for the first time, genuinely frightening when considered in this light.

Pin-up of the Day: Ann-Margret

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on October 14, 2008 by dcairns

Another woman who has achieved legendary feats of drawn-out movie eroticism…

I’m not sure what my teenage self thought of the following, other than “Why didn’t I think of that?” and “I wonder what the discussions with the director were like?” Said director being Ken Russell, I’m sure they were ebullient and highly persuasive.

From THE SWINGER. Which I haven’t seen.

The particular kink illustrated here, if we consider it as a kink, is known in the UK as “sploshing”, as far as I’ve been able to discover. And it turns out Ann-Margret had past form in this activity: