Archive for George Bancroft

Red Scare

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , on December 19, 2016 by dcairns

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First Cromwell entry of the week — THE WORLD AND THE FLESH, over at The Chiseler. This delirious slice of sex and Bolshevism stars Miriam Hopkins and George Bancroft (she gives him sex and he gives her Bolshevism, but good) and has to be seen to be believed, which is unfortunate, since it’s almost impossible to see. I realised I had a copy of this oddity, and hastened to view, but my disc is pretty damn fuzzy. It looks like the above image, when it ought to look more like the below ~

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Don’t forget to click through to experience the madness.

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The Sunday Intertitle: A Devil’s Carnival

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2016 by dcairns

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Josef Von Sternberg’s UNDERWORLD (1927) brought the gangster picture back from obscurity — if Griffith’s MUSKETEERS OF PIG ALLEY is the first wave, and Walsh’s REGENERATION inaugurates the second, this one starts another torrent which continues almost unbroken into the Warner Bros talking era.

Now that great confabulator Howard Hawks, a quasi-friend and sometime collaborator of Sternberg’s (they shared the screenwriter Jules Furthman) claimed that when he proposed a gangster pic to Ben Hecht, Hecht wasn’t interested because he felt the genre was played out. Hawks pitch of “the Borgias in Chicago” is said to have changed his mind. But if Hecht was afraid of repeating himself with SCARFACE (1932), would he have reprised so many of the earlier film’s tropes?

Bull Weed (the repulsive George Bancroft) looks up at a neon advertisement promising “The City is Yours.” Tony (Paul Muni) admires a sign which declares “The World is Yours.” Arguably, the second version is an improvement: Bancroft feels vindicated by a statement which is practically true, or feels true. Muni sees an unfulfillable promise, the lie of the American dream, of life.

Hawks stages a party aftermath strewn with streamers which closely matches the dying hours of the ball which Hecht had concocted for UNDERWORLD. Though I’m inclined to give Sternberg a little credit here — the idea of a society engagement for the underworld is delightful, whimsical. Hecht knew gangland from his newspaper days. Sternberg decried research and liked to work from a position of romantic ignorance.

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There’s a contest for moll of the year. I love all the nicknames.

Hawks also claimed to have suggested Dietrich’s tuxedo in MOROCCO, which is possible, I guess. But, though some rumours suggest Hawks was bi, and he gave several of his leading ladies a masculine edge, perversity is really more of a Sternberg thing, and Dietrich’s girl-girl kiss would seem more up his street. But who knows? Hawks’ anecdotes all revolve, in a way that would be monotonous if he wasn’t such a good storyteller, around his own mastery of every situation, his brilliant creative decision-making and his ability to get everybody to do exactly what he wants. Then again, his films are usually good enough to make you believe he really was that proficient.

Did Hawks invent the money thrown in the spittoon in UNDERWORLD? Is that why he felt entitled to basically just steal it for RIO BRAVO? Or did he just figure it was worth doing again, thirty years later, since the audience has a short memory? At any rate, RIO BRAVO improves on the idea since it gives John Wayne more motivation to intervene in Dean Martin’s alcoholic degradation than George Bancroft had in pulling Clive Brook out of the gutter.

Funny, Fiona hates stuffed shirt Brook in SHANGHAI EXPRESS (“He’s a chin,” explained Sternberg to Dietrich, when she asked what he new leading man was like), but since enjoying his one directorial effort, ON APPROVAL, she is open to liking him. She liked him in this, and was rooting for him and Evelyn Brent (as “Feathers”). It helps that George Bancroft really is disgusting.

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Where the Buffalo Roam

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on February 26, 2009 by dcairns

George Sanders sings! God, I love George. He’s really taking the mickey here.

His vocal partner is George Bancroft, from the early thrillers of Josef Von Sternberg, who seems to have loosened up enormously since THUNDERBOLT. Maybe Sternberg was responsible for his hypnotically slow delivery in that film. At any rate, he doesn’t look any older. Must’ve had some kind of Fountain of Middle Age.

The film is GREEN HELL, directed by James Whale. Despite the stellar cast (Douglas Fairbanks Jnr and Joan Bennett are top-billed), co-star Vincent Price described it as “about four of the worst movies ever made,” but it resolutely refuses to enter the domain of So-Bad-It’s-Good-ness. That “about four” crack is a fair assessment of the shapeless narrative, blame for which seems to fall, alas, on Frances Marion, once one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, responsible for great films like Sjostrom’s THE WIND and THE SCARLET LETTER, but considered by many to have declined lamentably during the talkie era. James Whale himself was on the slide, not due to any traumatic loss of talent, but simply due to the vagaries of showbusiness and Hollywood politics.

Still, this was worth seeing, right?