Archive for Cary Grant

Essay Time

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

Essays by other people. The magical appearance of The Community Bookshop on my nearest main thoroughfare (Great Junction Street) has affected me much as the brief flowering of the All-You-Can Eat Bookshop slightly further away on Ferry Road did — I go in and feel obliged to buy something, and it leads to me picking up things I might not otherwise have tried.

There’s almost never anything worth getting in TCB’s film section, but it has everything else a growing boy needs. I picked up Tom Robbins’ Wild Ducks Flying Backwards, a collection of the novelist’s short writings, and will now be seeking out his longer works. This one, in an ode to Leonard Cohen, produces the finest poetic image I’ve ever read, in a completely throwaway fashion:

“Now, thirty years later, as society staggers towards the millennium, flailing and screeching all the while, like an orangutan with a steak knife in its side […]”

A grisly, hilarious image that imposes itself on the mind’s eye and also still seems like THE image for our times, almost another thirty years on.

Robbins includes panegyrics to Diane Keaton (“a kachina, a wondernik, a jill-o’-lantern”) Jennifer Jason Leigh (“I want to tell you about the Lizard Queen.”), Debra Winger (“She’s walked a tightrope between fire and honey.”) and the films of Alan Rudolph (“Horizontal layers of lust and angst crisscross with vertical layers of wit and beauty.”)

Terrific, terrific.

I’m an unfaithful follower of the wrings of Todd McEwen, who lives in Edinburgh but whom I have never knowingly met. How Not To Be American is a bunch of essays not so much loosely as falsely grouped, though I guess everything in there has something to do with than unwieldy continent. There’s a nice appreciation of HARVEY, in which all the comments apply equally to the film and the source play, but the one that wowed me is Cary Grant’s Suit, which views NORTH BY NORTHWEST from the standpoint of Grant’s grey Madison Ave. attire, once voted the finest suit in film history. McEwen views the suit as a kind of superhero, invulnerable and godlike, and Grant’s heroic quest is to be worthy of it. The suit starts the film empty, with Grant as a vapid streak of hype occupying it undeservingly — by the end he has shown the right stuff and after losing both suit and girl, gets them back in the much-celebrated final scene transition.

Imaginative, funny, and mostly completely CORRECT. He’s not reaching here, about everything he says is accurate and insightful and opens up the movie in fresh ways, even though the movie and the suit have invited a great deal of commentary.

There’s a bit about Godzilla coming up and also a chapter proposing how to film unfilmable books, with suggested cast and crew, eg.

Civilisation and its Discontents 1940 dr. Rene Clair. Fred MacMurray, Greta Garbo, Robert Benchley (as Jung). A timid European doctor is haunted by his own penis.

But I haven’t read those bits yet.

Granta 86, the film edition, is the odd one out, since it came from a charity shop in Stockbridge. They had a stack of Grantas and were selling them at £1 each. I’ll buy almost anything for a quid so I grabbed this one. Some of the literary types weighing in on an alien medium are not as enlightening or amusing as Robbins and McEwen, but Karl French produces a section on Art by Directors, featuring Hitchcock prep sketches, Kurosawa painting-storyboards, Takeshi Kitano’s fun canvases, Mike Figgis’ photographs and sketches, Satyajit Ray’s really gorgeous art in various media, Greenaway abstracts and John Huston paintings and sketches, finishing up with Scorsese’s childish storyboards which don’t really belong in such august company. They’re undoubtedly useful for MS, and so we can be glad of their existence, but it puzzles me that he doesn’t even draw in the right aspect ratio. Never mind the human figures (carefully shaded, blindly staring dwarfs), he can’t draw the right rectangle.

But, as Kurosawa put it, explaining his weakness as a self-pitying golfer, “It is enough for a person to be good at one thing.”

The best article, of those I’ve read, is Atom Egoyan’s Dr. Gonad, documenting the career of Paul Thomas, who played Peter in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, then went on to act in and/or direct over three hundred pornos. it’s an amusing piece, even if most of the hilarity comes from simply naming the films Thomas has been mixed up in. Beautifully structured, too, reminding me that Egoyan used to be quite good at structure.

The piece really calls out for a sequel, though, in which Thomas would consider Egoyan’s equally skew-whiff career (or, as we Scots sometimes say, squee-hook). Whereas Egoyan simply quotes from the Thomas filmography and pseudonyms, and that’s enough to get the laughs, Thomas would have to actually sit through WHERE THE TRUTH LIES and CHLOE. Since I assume he earns a decent living doing what he does, nobody’s likely to be able to pay him enough to consume the Armenian-Canadian eroticist’s oeuvre.

Book Fair

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2022 by dcairns

Some of these were too good to pass up, some were too cheap to pass up. There are some hints here as to a forthcoming project, but YOU’LL NEVER GUESS.

Probably some good page seventeens in here too.

Things I Read Off the Screen in The Crime Doctor’s Strangest Case

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2021 by dcairns

PROFESSIONAL BUILDING. Well,what kind of Crime Doctor would operate out of an Amateur Building?

This was my first CRIME DOCTOR film — pure B movie goodness. I’ll definitely watch more. William Castle directed a couple, but this one was by the noir-adjacent Eugene Forde, who throws in an expressionist-adjacent dream sequence:

POISON!

So, anyway, Warner Baxter is Dr. Robert Ordway from the radio programme Crime Doctor, where he was played by THE NAKED CITY’s House Jameson. For the movies, you need a movie star (radio adaptation I LOVE A MYSTERY ported over the audio actors from its source, and they were a tad disappointing to gaze upon). For a B-movie you will settle for a FORMER movie star. Enter Warner.

(Cary Grant described stardom as a crowded bus — he hung off the back for a few years, then squeezed inside, “then Warner Baxter fell off and I got to sit down.”)

ROBERT ORDWAY M.D. PRACTICE LIMITED TO PSYCHIATRY

And crime-solving, of course. Lloyd Bridges and Lynn Merrick, both staple supporting players in B pictures — he keeps turning up as waiters and stuff in the LONE WOLF films — are the nice young couple who come to ask Crime Doc’s advice. He was an innocent suspect in a previous murder case where his employer was offed, and Ordway got him off. The police still think he’s a little off. Soon, he’ll be a suspect again — perhaps he’s been hired precisely to divert suspicion from the real killer. This is roughly the plot of Carol Reed’s THE GIRL IN THE NEWS, made a few years earlier in the UK, and therefore suitable for re-arranging into a fresh plot.

POISON. Soon, even L. Merrick will be suspecting L. Bridges of being the poisoner. Hard not to, when he carries poison about with him. But that’s too simple for the Crime Doctor, who explains that a guilty man would have thrown the poison away. An innocent man suspected of murder might have done the same, but not our Lloyd.

PATRICIA GIRLS. GOLDEN NIGHTS. G ROOMS OFFICE. NO SMOKING. QUIET.

A flashback takes us into a vaguely Gay Nineties theatrical setting, which feels like a different movie. I joked that from now on the film would be a period musical and we’d never return to the detective story. B movies very rarely go that far awry but sometimes, out of sheer cheapniz, you get peculiar narrative strategies.

CAFE MAN DESERTS WIFE AND CHILD. A truly magnificent headline. Cafe man? I imagine the same editor’s other works: LAMP WOMAN SLAYS FOUR. FLASK PERSON IN WASP SHOCK. BANISTER THING DESTROYS IDAHO. They’ve also buried the lede: this is a case more of theft than abandonment. Unusually for the period, the full newspaper story has been typed up and printed by some Columbia employee, rather than just some Latin text or a cut-and-paste article about the Chamber of Commerce. So you can learn that the theft victim is one Walter Burns, so we’re back to Cary Grant again.

UNIONS. SUPER-SOFT SCHOLL’S NO-PADS.

BURNS PHARMACEUTICAL CO. ADDISON BLAKE PRESIDENT. 1128. FOR SALE. APPLY BUSINESS PROPERTIES INC. 916 WEST 18TH AVENUE. CITY CAB CO.

The B-movie world is full of Acme-type generic business names. City Cabs. Professional Buildings. Business Properties Inc. Looking forward to REPO MAN, where characters drink from cans labelled BEER, or buy tins of FOOD.

PHYSICIAN 7X 38 51.

The Warner Baxter we meet in this film (not pictured) is a strangely muted fellow — perhaps preferable to the barking bully of the 1930s. He’d suffered a nervous breakdown and was going to die pretty soon. Either this, or the underwritten character, makes him gentler and actually more appealing. But not very lively or interesting.

JOE’S LUNCH ROOM. SHORT ORDERS. OPEN ALL HOURS. “What the hell is a lunch room?” demanded Fiona. “A Room where you get Lunch,” I suggested. She felt any business opening only at lunchtime would be a failure, but the answer is painted on the window: the round-the-clock lunch, a great American invention. But is it really lunch if it’s all hours? Another mystery we’ll never solve.

Buncha names. MR. MRS. MALLORY CARTWRIGHT.

This charming couple supplies all the eccentricity the film can bear. She’s discovered working as a cook in the murdered man’s house, but she’s clearly not legit. The Crime Doctor catches her “pretending to cook.” She soon throws off her disguise and flees through an open window. Learning her real name, he tracks her to her home address, where alas she does NOT say “Come in, I was just pretending to make coffee.” We learn that she’s a process server, and was serving food in order to get close enough to her target. Her husband is played by Jerome Cowan, and he’s a sheet music salesman and unconscious pyromaniac — small fires break out whenever he’s around. This becomes a hilarious running gag. This couple have little to do with anything, they’re mainly herrings of a deep crimson hue, but they bring the entertainment. The fact that Cowan’s job requires him to play the piano to demonstrate songs, and he does this very, very badly, is also hilarious. Does he sell many songs to the people whose homes he ignites? THAT question may actually be the Crime Doctor’s Strangest Case, but there’s no time for a solution because this is —

COLUMBIA THE END