Archive for Fay Wray

For the woman, the kiss! For the man, the sword!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2017 by dcairns

THE AFFAIRS OF CELLINI is a very odd affair. It’s a Gregory La Cava pre-code, or thereabouts (1934, so on the cusp). The opening titles give us the sense it’s going to be a rip-roaring historical melodrama, but it’s much stranger than that — it’s a broad farce whose main jokes are about torture, murder and mutilation or the threat thereof. It stars two actors who worked well for La Cava in more conducive material, arch-ditherer Frank Morgan (THE HALF-NAKED TRUTH) and Constance Bennett (BED OF ROSES) plus a third, Fredric March, who one doesn’t associate with this sort of material at all. Wait, WHAT sort of material? The murder, torture and mutilation farce genre?

It’s a Fox picture, under Zanuck, and it makes sense to consider it as a similar kind of thing to that indefensible, stomach-turning “romp” THE BOWERY, only projected further back into the past. Portraying terrible historical events “light-heartedly” — with no moral attitude whatsoever, no matter how ghastly things get. As when Morgan, wooing artist’s model Fay Wray, tells her not to worry about the servants overhearing as he’s had them all deafened so he can enjoy privacy and service at the same time.

La Cava certainly had a dark sense of humour and willingness to disquieten his audience — the horrible ending of THE HALF-NAKED TRUTH proves that (Lee Tracy slowly makes a fist at a terrified Lupe Velez as the Wedding March plays us out). But Zanuck may be more relevant here, his output at Warners having shown a similarly carnivalesque attitude to social horrors. We can attribute the rambunctious tone of THE BOWERY to director Raoul Walsh (“Walsh’s idea of light comedy is to burn down a whorehouse”) but Zanuck oversaw that one too (and Fay Wray was in both, come to think of it).

Jessie Ralph (DOUBLE WEDDING) plays Wray’s mother, mocked for having whiskers. Louis “the walking fontanelle” Calhern looks suave and saturnine in whiskers of his own. The only sense of the Code coming into effect, amid all the talk of men having hot eggs placed in their armpits, is that nobody ever actually gets laid, not even during the darkened lull betwixt fade-out and fade-in: March and Morgan both chase Wray, Bennett chases March, nobody is sympathetic and there’s no reason to care. But Morgan gets laughs just by breaking off his sentences, and it’s amusing to see Fay play dumb (and brunette!).

Also: ugly at heart, it’s bee-yoo-tee-ful on the surface.

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Monster-out-law

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on October 3, 2013 by dcairns

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A Lon Chaney double feature over at The Notebook, with OUTSIDE THE LAW (Tod Browning) and THE MONSTER (Roland West) paired up on a crazy whim. For all that it doesn’t have much story not nearly enough Chaney, the latter film clearly inspired the climax of MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM, where Fay Wray (above) is strapped to a slab, naked under a sheet, like Gertrude Olmstead before her. It’s a good way to end any movie — can there be any doubt that such a scene would much have improved any film in the career of Ken Loach? And most Mike Leigh joints too.

UK: Lon Chaney: The Warner Archive Classics Collection [DVD] [1930] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

US: Lon Chaney: The Warner Archive Classics Collection (He Who Gets Slapped / Mockery / The Monster / Mr. Wu / The Unholy Three / The Unholy 3)

Meanwhile, at Apocalypse Now, the ’68 Comeback Special continues its journey through the Cannes Film Festival entries for that year looking at the largely forgotten Hungarian film THE UPTHROWN STONE — with no subtitles available, Scout Tafoya has had to assess Sandor Sara’s film using somewhat different criteria, but what he finds is fascinating.

Fay Wray Story

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2013 by dcairns

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The last film to date by Pierre Etaix, and a very late (as in posthumous) work by Georges Melies, featuring the late Fay Wray, over at The Daily Notebook in this week’s edition of The Forgotten. And you can not only read about the film, but see it.

Meanwhile, at Limerwrecks, here’s one I prepared earlier. Subject: SON OF FRANKENSTEIN.

Etaix’s more significant work of the sixties and seventies is about to appear on disc from the Criterion Collection, and can be pre-ordered here ~

Blu-ray: Pierre Etaix (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

DVD: Pierre Etaix (Criterion Collection)