Archive for Frank Tashlin

Tish Tash

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on January 19, 2022 by dcairns

Newly forthcoming from Criterion — Frank Tashlin’s rock ‘n’ roll live action cartoon THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT. I was delighted to be asked to celebrated the film’s widescreen colour photography (by Leon Shamroy) in a visual essay edited by Stephen C. Horne.

Bad timing prevented me from including the following passage:

Hired to shoot a test of Janet Gaynor for The Young in Heart, Shamroy was disgruntled to learn that other cinematographers were competing for the job. While the great Karl Struss took twelve hours to light his test, Shamroy knocked his off in twenty minutes, and got the job.
Shamroy was gruff, short-tempered, and had a high opinion of his own skill: “Lee Garmes will never see the day that he’s as good as I am, and that goes for anybody in the motion picture business,” he declared. He only acknowledged one possible superior talent: “God was a great photographer. He’d only gotten one light.”

So here it is for you to enjoy.

The disc streets in April.

Saw some NEW films this week — look out for reactions to THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH and LIQUORICE PIZZA, both of which I substantially dug.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold — Cream

Posted in Fashion, FILM, MUSIC, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2021 by dcairns

Here’s Shadowplayer Chris Schneider on a late, and underappreciated Frank Tashlin/Doris Day picture…

” … I forgot to mention the sexuality, the anarchy — and the fashion.”~ FB friend Larry Frascella talking of CAPRICE

When I think of CAPRICE, a Frank Tashlin comedy-thriller from the late Sixties, it usually involves one of three things. One: Doris Day in an out-of-control helicopter whose pilot has just been shot, the thought of which terrifies this fear-of-heights sufferer.Two: the unsettling sight of Michael J. Pollard, soon to appear in BONNIE AND CLYDE, with his hand venturing up Doris Day’s leg. Three: Ray Walston in drag. 

“Cary Grant or Rock Hudson maybe,” I say to myself, “but Michael J. Pollard?”

(An Aside: You’ll find so-called “spoilers” in this piece. My reasoning is that, some fifty years after its premiere, anyone interested in CAPRICE is unlikely to be concerned with plot.)

You could say that CAPRICE has an autumnal feel, in that it’s the next-to-last film to be shot in Cinemascope and the third-from-last theatrical film to feature Doris Day. Soon, for Day, it would be strictly television. But that doesn’t fit, ’cause the palette on display in CAPRICE is determinedly bright. Day’s Ray Aghayan wardrobe pretty much never varies from white or red or buttercup yellow, and to go with that there’s music by Robert Aldrich’s pet composer De Vol. (“Smile when you say that name, stranger.”

Yet this is, nevertheless, a spy story, and therein lies the balance. Day plays an industrial spy for one, if not two, rival cosmetics firms.  “The spy who came in from the cold — cream,” she calls herself at one point. The story’s shifting alliances fit in with a mid-’60s John Le Carre world-view, for all the emphasis on comedy and the fact that a man is asked to remove his trousers within the film’s first six minutes. Does Day work for Edward Mulhare, an industrial toff with his own private jet, or rival honcho Jack Kruschen? Answer: What time is it? There’s a Wham! Slam! Ka-Boom! triple-cross in the final reel. There’s also, lest we forget, Ray Walston in washerwoman drag looking mean as he holds a gun.

Nor should we forget that the romantic interest, Richard Harris as an industrial spy and/or Interpol agent who also does Olivier and Richard Burton imitations, jabs Day early on with a non-consensual hypo full of Sodium Pentothal. A tad “rapey,” you say? Perhaps the vigilant will be glad to learn that the last reel’s “romantic” fade-out has Day giving Harris his own non-consensual Sodium Pentothal jab, intoning to him about “a consummation devoutly to be wished.”

Much of CAPRICE is “funny odd” rather than “funny ha-ha.” It’s also highly self-conscious, Ouroboros-like in willingness to comment upon itself like a snake devouring its own tail. Not a surprise, in that other Tashlin-directed films include a poodle named Shamroy (after CAPRICE cinematographer Leon Shamroy) and name-checking of star Jayne Mansfield’s non-Tashlin films. But this one has a BATMAN-like chase running past a television that’s playing BATMAN, Day tailing Irene Tsu (who plays Walston’s secretary) to a theater where the fare is CAPRICE with Doris Day and Richard Harris — that’s where the Pollard scene happens — and the revelation that a supposedly inaccessible parlay is being filmed when we see the film’s image running out. Is it unexpected, given the presence of Shanghai-born Tsu, that the movie encounter happens in the Cathay theater? Or that half of a nearby couple attempting a li’l movie-house grope is Barbara Feldon of the spy comedy series GET SMART? 

CAPRICE was not popular.  The NY Times’ Bosley Crowther dismissed it, saying that “nutty clothes and acrobatics cannot conceal the fact that [Day] is no longer a boy.” As if anyone ever mistook Day for a boy! Or went to Day when looking for one!

I think the problem, rather, is that CAPRICE — like its central performer — is all too strenuously perky. Sorta like the protagonist of that John Cheever story, the one who insists on lining up chairs at parties and jumping over them like hurdles … long after his athletic prowess is a thing of the past.  See television adaptations involving Gary Merrill and, later, Michael Murphy. 

Like that out-of-control helicopter, CAPRICE has the capacity to be scary.  Then, too, like what happens to the helicopter, CAPRICE settles for cute and “endearing” plot solutions. Alas.

Rushin’ with Concussion

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2020 by dcairns

This is a nice documentary on Robert McKimson, who I always thought of us around about the number four man at Termite Terrace, home of the Looney Tunes, dwarfed by Jones, Clampett, Freleng (and Avery, though he did his best work at MGM). (Oh, and Tashlin, though he did his best work in features.) Probably my-ish low opinion of McKimson is due to seeing his name mainly on late-period toons, when Warners animation was in decline.

The startling bit in the doc is where we learn that McKimson, who would handle Speedy Gonzalez, suffered a traumatic brain injury after which he found he could drawn and animate better and faster. That’s remarkable and unlikely. What was damaged? Some inner critical voice that had been holding him back? How many brain cells would he have had to lose to overtake Freleng?