Archive for Dan Duryea

Haskin For It

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

TOO LATE FOR TEARS has an insanely twisty plot — more flips and spins than THE NARROW MARGIN — as that film’s director, Richard Fleischer, put it, “everyone was wearing a different hat.” And it has a great noir cast, starting with Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea, but lesser darklight luminaries Don DeFore and Arthur Kennedy are fine too. The dialogue is unusually zippy — script is by Roy Huggins who also gave us The Fugitive on TV (and therefore, indirectly, The Invaders and The Incredible Hulk), and it’s based on his own novel. Only the gratuitous and dull romantic sub-subplot isn’t up to snuff. In short, it has everything but a director, since Byron Haskin is the man in charge. Someone once said that when a director dies, he becomes a photographer. Haskin started as a photographer and worked his way up to being a dead director.

I’m very fond of Haskin’s scifi movies, even THE POWER, but he had no visual style to speak of (odd, given his career arc — I’ll make an exception for the lambent hues of global destruction in WAR OF THE WORLDS). TLFT isn’t an effects movie, it’s mainly people in rooms talking, and Haskin’s approach is perfectly serviceable, sometimes suave. It might be his best film, in terms of story, performances, visuals. He doesn’t pick up on noir as an excuse to heighten the visuals to fever pitch, but he gets a little atmosphere going.

Also: stripes!

I feel like TREASURE ISLAND should be Exhibit A in making the case against Haskin as a real filmmaker: he makes his choices based on it being a Disney picture rather than on what’s actually happening at any given time. He has a great perf from Robert Newton but an unguided one from Bobby Driscoll. But here, happily, he has Lizabeth Scott at her husky, untrustworthy best/worst, and a lovely character arc for Duryea, sliding from his oily villain mode to his tremulous sap mode as he realises what kind of story he’s in.

God Goes West

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2020 by dcairns

One of our watch party gang requested westerns, and another didn’t like westerns, so I tried to find two westerns that weren’t.

Jacques Tourneur’s STARS IN MY CROWN is set in a small western town but doesn’t really have any of the expected action and Joel McCrea plays a parson. It’s wonderful, though.

WINCHESTER ’73 is pretty much a pure western but it’s wall-to-wall film noir people. Anthony Mann, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea. Seeing it on my little b&&w portable as a youngster was a decisive cinephile moment, I don’t know why. But I was immediately taken with Duryea.

I guess you could say these films offer contrasting visions of America. STARS is pretty timely, actually: McCrea considers his work so important he continues going door to door after his young ward comes down with typhus, and there’s reason to suspect he could be a super-spreader. McCrea comes to see this as a mistake — the film eventually lets him off the hook, rather, but it’s an interesting point.

Little Dean Stockwell complains of the quarantine lockdown — “It’s like we’re all in jail only we ain’t done nuthin’.”

Then there are these guys. I wish they didn’t seem equally timely.

I remembered McCrea’s great scene facing down the Klan armed only with a couple sheets of paper, to save Juano Hernandez from the noose. I’d forgotten it was the climax, but of course, how could they top it?

STARS gives the lie to the idea that a western can tell any kind of story. I don’t think it can tell a pacifist one. McCrea’s preacher has been a soldier, but he isn’t about to strap on his guns again, and so it never feels like SHANE or something, where the moment may be deferred, but is inevitably coming. So we have a film with all the accoutrements of a western, the period and the Americana, but we just can’t call it one.

WINCHESTER ’73, as the title implies, is one of the most gun-obsessed westerns ever made. Not the rootin’-tootin’est, but possibly the shootin’est. But at least it has an interesting female character. Mann’s westerns usually did. Unlike Ford he didn’t primarily regard women as homemakers…

It turns out to be an almost biblical tale of blood vengeance, and I realise now that not only is Duryea scary and crazy, but very hep and modern. And he can wheedle arrogantly, which is some trick. When he’s identified as the fastest gun in Texas, he wheedles, “Texas? Baby, why limit me?” Also, he’s the only person in the film who seems to be having a good time.

STARS IN MY CROWN stars John L. Sullivan; Sofia de Peralta-Reavis ‘The Baroness’; Doctor Wellington Yueh; Little John; Nayland Smith; Duke Harris; Miss Robin Crusoe; Lucas Beauchamp; Homer Higgins; Juror 10; Butch Cassidy; ‘Dum-Dum’ Clarke; Col. Edward Carruthers; ‘The Thing’; and Pee Wee.

WINCHESTER ’73 stars John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson; Charlotte Haze; Duke Pastrami; Sheriff Al Chambers; Senate Minority Leader; Marvin Unger; Jordan ‘Bick’ Benedict Jr.; ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ Brewster; Chota; and Sidney Falco.

Alliteration

Posted in FILM with tags , , on September 17, 2018 by dcairns