Archive for Esther Williams

Magpies and Bagpipes

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , on August 7, 2021 by dcairns

“One for sorrow, two for joy”– this folks saying about magpies bothers me, because I like seeing magpies (once saw one repeatedly pecking a fox’s ass) and have no wish for a single one to be an ill omen.

Anyway, one evening I was diverted from my usual chip shop/pizzeria because it was closed for renovations, and found myself walking up Ferry Road, where I discovered a new bookshop — The Pay What You Like Bookshop. I immediately dubbed it The All You Can Eat Bookshop and resolved to visit it first thing in the morning when it was open.

En route next day, I passed two magpies (joy!), and was musing on the euphony of the word “magpie” and the word “bagpipe” and then immediately passed an establishment I’d never consciously noticed, devoted to the manufacture of bagpipes. The explanation, short of sheer coincidence, would presumably be that I’d taken in the sign on a previous occasion and, without consciously remembering it, my brain had shuffled the word bagpipe nearer the front of my brain when I saw the pair of magpies.

An insight into the shambolic maunderings of my mind.

Anyway, a good haul. Dipping in, the Sellers book has Blake Edwards plausibly calling the star and collaborator a paranoid schizophrenic, the Loren autohagiography feels ghostwritten and whitewashed, Under Milk Wood makes every sentence I’ve ever written seem pitifully inadequate, the Esther Williams book is awesome, I’ve read it before but it’s worth owning, and The Songs of Hollywood seems scholarly and fun, getting into the craft of songwriting in a useful way.

Dangerous Dan

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , , on May 4, 2021 by dcairns

Adventures in the land of Dan — like TEN COMMANMENTS, SAMSON AND DELILAH begins with some blisteringly bright, lurid images, and of course immediately gives up that promising aesthetic to show people standing around in Bronson Canyon or wherever.

Interesting that, as noted by Esther Williams, Victor Mature suffered from, or enjoyed, pica, the urge to eat things you’re not supposed to eat. The cardboard his shirt came back from the laundry wrapped around, anything. I wish he’d brought that into his portrayal of the biblical muscleman. The true source of his strength!

Somebody else wrestles the lion from HAROLD DIDDLEBOCK, while the Big Victor wrestles a taxidermy display, and C.B. DeMille optimistically and haphazardly splices the two sets of shots together. Obviously, one would think, the idea should be to shoot your stunt double sequence first, then cut it down to the best bits and film your star in a series of angles designed to fit with those highlights. Extremely obviously, that’s not what Cecil has done. Midway through he runs out of stuffed lion cut-ins and just jumpcuts the real lion fight all over the place. DeMille invented the nouvelle vague.

Checking Wikipedia I was shocked — shocked! — at how unfaithful all this is to the Book of Judges. Fiona loves this film because S & D’s relationship is “so fucked up.” Which is true. And because Delilah is an unusually smart and active female antagonist/protagonist. She can make things happen alright. If she could only decide what it is she wants to happen. Maybe Hedy Lamarr’s best role/perf, making her possibly the only actor ever to give their best perf in a DeMille picturization.

Groucho Marx, of course, gave this the perfect one-line review.

SAMSON AND DELILAH stars Tondelayo; the Big Victor; Addison DeWitt; Mrs. Eleanor Shaw Iselin; Pentaur; Miriam; Mrs. Hardy; Tom Thumb; Marcus Superbus; Magic Mirror (voice, uncredited); Joe Dakota (uncredited); Mug (uncredited); Jake the Rake (uncredited); Pontius Pilate – Governor; Franz Liszt; Moose Malloy; Superman; Captain Marvel; General Yen; Gordon Cole; Pendola Molloy; Obongo – Pygmy (uncredited); Knife-Throwing Dwarf (uncredited); and Fearless Fagan.

Hollywood, England Expects

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2020 by dcairns

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Two headlines, two movies. The top one is from MGM’s ABOVE SUSPICION, directed by scowling killjoy Richard Thorpe (at least, Esther Williams found him so, and I feel Esther can be believed), in which Fred MacMurray takes Joan Crawford spying on their honeymoon. The second comes out of CONFIRM OR DENY, a Fox wartime newspaper story originally authored by Sam Fuller, who knew war and newspapers. The big-budget recreations of the Blitz are pretty staggering ~

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But I mainly liked it for the thousand faces of Roddy McDowell. Here are some ~

Fritz Lang shot for two weeks on CONFIRM OR DENY before walking off, to be replaced by Archie Mayo. Lang might have enjoyed ABOVE SUSPICION more if he’d had a shot at it: it’s a mash-up of spy movie tropes including business nicked from the original MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (assassination timed to timpani).

The most arresting moment is when Conrad Veidt demonstrates the smooth hinges of an iron maiden — and it’s the very one he was pressed into at the start of THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, fifteen years before in his Hollywood starring role. This is his last film.

Picture Play Magazine had a piece about this prop in 1928, stating that it was now on display in a Hollywood museum: it evidently remained available to filmmakers at least into the forties.

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ABOVE SUSPICION stars Walter Neff; Blanche Hudson; Gwynplaine/Lord Clancharlie; Sherlock Holmes; Ebenezer Scrooge; Aunt Patsy; Miss Margaret Phillibrown; Aunt Milly; Comrade Buljanoff; Mistress Hibbins; Timmons; Adolf Hitler / Franz Huber; Henri Cassin; Evan Adams III; Mrs. Cruncher; and Young Lieutenant – Firing Squad.

CONFIRM OR DENY stars Alexander Graham Bell; Madame Blanc; Cornelius; Ianto; E.J. Waggleberry; Reverend Cyril Playfair; Sir Alfred MacGlennon-Keith; Velma Wall; Mrs. Troll; Uncle Arn; Inspector Lestrade; Sir Mortimer Fortescue; and Knuckles.