Archive for Bette Davis

Page Seventeen IV: Ernest Goes to Jail

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2022 by dcairns

In my earliest baby-boy memories, the man’s either looming and glum–not drunk enough–or bug-eyed and stubbly after a three-day bender, so liquored up he tilts when he leans down to snatch me off the burlap rags my brothers and sisters piled on the floor of our Kansas shack and called our “sleepy blankets.” I’d blink awake in the air, shaking cold, my face so close to Daddy’s the rye fumes burned my eyeballs. He’d rattle me till my teeth clacked, then start ranting in that high, Hoosier whine he only got when he was blotto and wanted to hurt something.

Pig had moved aside two dozen beer glasses and seated himself on a ledge behind the bar. In times of crisis he preferred to sit in as voyeur. He gazed eagerly as his shipmates grappled shoatlike after th seven geysers below him. Beer had soaked down most of the sawdust behind the bar: skirmishes and amateur footwork were now scribbling it into alien hieroglyphics.

That’s how my character was born.

Joe never tired of finding new ways to identify his Buster as an altogether unique personality in American show business. He liked to experiment with teasing tag lines to get people’s attention. One such line appeared in hundred of papers all over the country in 1909: KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE KID KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE KID KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE KID. He tried to interest the females in the audience with the announcement that Buster was “the cutest little bundle of jollity that ever wriggled into the hearts of audiences.”

3780009 Little Red Riding Hood, engraving by Gustave Doré. by Dore, Gustave (1832-83); (add.info.: Charles Perrault \’s, Little Red Riding Hood: Little Red Riding Hood with the wolf, engraving by Gustave Doré. Little Red Riding Hood sits in the bed next to the wolf, disguised in her grandmother \’s night-cap. Drawn by Gustave Doré, French artist, b January 6, 1832 – January 23, 1883. Engraved by Pannemaker. From Charles Perrault \’s Les Contes de Perrault / Perrault \’s Fairy Tales; CP: French writer, b January 12,1628 – May 16, 1703. From Cassell \’s \’Doré \’s Gallery\’ by Edmund Ollier, published Cassell & Company, Ltd., p. 106.); Lebrecht History.

Was that the way B.D. and my son, Michael, felt when they visited me after the stroke? Did I look so different and act so different that this is the mother they would remember, and not the mother they had always known. Since leaving the hospital Kathryn has told me many times about the way I looked. One of my oldest friends said, “The first time I saw you after the stroke, Bette Davis wasn’t in that bed. She was gone.” He was crying.

‘I’ll try the pills. I like that Xanax is spelled the same backwards and forwards,’ She didn’t want to have the suicide/fate discussion right now. For weeks she’d been feeling as if someone or something was fucking with her norepinephrine levels. She was exhausted from the effort to stay alive when she wasn’t motivated. Like an involuntary reflex, Kate’s face flipped onto the vid-screen she carried at all times in her head. It used to be a movie screen, but that was in the seventies.

She had been having trouble with her voice. It was never strong, and the slightest cold brought on laryngitis which lasted for weeks; but she was obliged to keep working, so that her voice grew progressively worse. She could not rely on it. In the middle of singing it would crack or suddenly disappear into a whisper, and the audience would laugh and start booing. The worry of it impaired her health and made her a nervous wreck. As a consequence, her theatrical engagements fell off until they were practically nil.

Seven paragraphs from seven page seventeens from seven books recently acquired or else rediscovered on forgotten shelves in the Shadowplayhouse.

I, Fatty by Jerry Stahl; V by Thomas Pynchon; Some Like It Hot: Me, Marilyn and the Movie by Tony Curtis with Mark A. Vieira; Keaton: The Man Who Wouldn’t Lie Down by Tom Dardis; This ‘n That by Bette Davis with Michael Herskowitz; You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again by Julia Phillips; My Autobiography by Charles Chaplin,

Route of all evil

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2022 by dcairns

Following Danger Man back to the native land of Bond, we discover Richard Johnson, who would play Bulldog Drummond in a couple of passable spy romps, working in a much more sombre and hard-edged thriller, DANGER ROUTE. Forgettable, generic title, and nearly a forgettable film, but it has moments.

It has a proper filmmaker in the director’s chair, too, though one in decline. Seth Holt would die during the shooting of his next production, BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB — an amusingly persistent case of hiccups turned out to presage a massive coronary. He’s on intermittently good form here — the inconsistent MUMMY movie is more persistently engaging, but he brings his talent fully to bear on the movie’s bitter climax.

The film is pitched somewhere between the brutality of Bond and the morose Le Carre worldview. Not so seedy, but grey and downbeat. Our anti-hero is a government assassin, and the first scene depicts two spymasters planning his final mission in a cinema (on the screen is the director’s previous film, STATION SIX SAHARA, an amusing in-joke though not as pointedly meta as the moment in CAPRICE where Doris Day hides from enemy agents in a cinema showing… CAPRICE), and the make it clear that if agent “Jonas Wilde” survives the job, a female agent has been put in position to destroy him afterwards.

There’s a distinct lack of glamorous locations — the Channel Islands are the height of escapism in this film, and the production values, courtesy of Amicus, are on the thin side, with unconvincing dioramas ob view through every window. Harry THE THIRD MAN Waxman is cinematographer, and the shots are sometimes expressive in a subtle way, but it’s no thrill-ride. A single Deutsch tilt, on a cross-channel ferry. The plot moves forward with some bold elisions, which helps a bit.

“A mountain of evil,” was Bette Davis’ summation of Holt on THE NANNY (probably his best film), which seems to have baffled his friends on the crew. There’s an intriguing comment also from his widow, who said that when Holt worked as producer on THE LADYKILLERS, rather than calming one another down, which is what both needed, they would tend to hype each other into a frenzy. Possibly that was good for the film?

A better script would help this one: good actors make a limited impression with thick eared, hackneyed dialogue. It’s not overtly clumsy but nobody comes to life. Johnson seems at home being glum and angry, but hits that same note too hard and often; Carol Lynley is seductive and sweet; Barbara Bouchet effective when mysterious, but when the mask comes off, what’s underneath is unconvincing; Sylvia Sims, Diana Dors, are as professional as ever, same for Harry Andrews, Maurice Denham and Gordon Jackson.

MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT

The final betrayal comes with a slick reversal — Johnson, a creature of habit, has fixed himself a Bacardi. He’s told by his girlfriend, Carol Lynley, that the ice cubes were poisoned — he’ll start to notice the creeping paralysis now.

He replies that the ice cubes are in the goldfish tank — he’s anticipated the betrayal.

His assassin looks to the tank, where the fish are floating lifeless — a school of substitute Johnsons. And Holt shows the next action — Johnson slaying his lover with one mighty chop — only in the shadow on the glass.

DANGER ROUTE stars Dr. John Markway; Ann Lake; Moneypenny; the Queen Mother; Frau Poppendick; Lord Lucan; Filipenko; MacDonald ‘Intelligence’; Professor Henry Harrington; Mime; and Kreacher.

The Sunday Intertitle: All this, and Halloween too

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on October 25, 2020 by dcairns

“If l could get at Warner Bros a picture with Bette Davis, whom I considered an excellent actress,·or anybody of this kind, I was happy,
no matter how bad the subject was nor how little time I had to do the picture. The whole conception of picturemaking was not to do something too bad (this, already, made us very happy), for this weekly check we were getting.” ~ Anatole Litvak, Oral History.

The sense that the scenarists of ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO are not quite on top of things is reawakened by the surprise appearance of two seasonal intertitles well into the second act. Given that the story is being narrated by Bette Davis during a French class — those kids are going to be utterly at sea in Le Havre — one wonders, did Bette include the intertitle in her recounting of how her arrival as governess for the children of Charles Boyer and Barbara O’Neil (Scarlett O’Hara’s mum; quite bad in this) caused everyone to die. You definitely get a much better experience with this mostly stodgy, “quality” drama from WB if you imagine that Bette is lying her ass off and she’s totally murdered everyone, including her class. We could come out of flashback to find her surrounded by corpses at schooldesks.

The Halloween sequence abruptly allows Anatole Litvak to conjure some nice spooky atmosphere, then it’s back to the wretched plot. The interesting thing about the true story this derives from is that it helped inspire the 1848 revolution, but we don’t see any of that.

My cunning plan was, or should have been, to make Anatole Litvak Week One take us up to the war, which caused a dramatic shift in Litvak’s whole approach to his work. But I’ve run out of weekdays and I have pieces to write on CASTLE ON THE HUDSON, CITY FOR CONQUEST, OUT OF THE FOG, BLUES IN THE NIGHT and maybe THIS ABOVE ALL (dunno, haven’t watched yet). Three of the above are going to share a single post, though. To hell with THE SISTERS. So what I’ll maybe do is run a couple of pieces next week on their own, just to keep the cauldron simmering, and jump back into Week Two, as planned, in November.

Still, ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO stars Margo Channing; Adam Belinsky; Lloyd Hart; Ellen – his wife; Dinah Lord; Parthy Ann Hawks; Oliver Larrabee; Garbitsch; Colonel Skeffington; Walter Parks Thatcher; Lord Marshmorton; Mrs. Pike; Maureen Robinson; Randy Monaghan – as a Girl; Lars-Erik; Franz Liszt; Rameses I; Pa Dillinger (uncredited); Mrs. Stark – Jim’s grandmother; James Kirkham; and undetermined secondary role.