Archive for Jean Dixon

World of Weariness

Posted in FILM with tags , , on May 23, 2017 by dcairns

At The Chiseler. An article celebrating Jean Dixon, also Ruth Donnelly, also the whole phenomenon of wisecracking dames blessed with omniscient cynicism rather than glamour.

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Sadie McKee’s Story

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2017 by dcairns

As opposed to Robert McKee’s Story.

This piece is ALL spoilers.

SADIE MCKEE is MGM and 1934 — right on the join between pre-code and post-code. So Joan Crawford can sleep with a man out of wedlock, marry another man for money, divorce him, and still end up alive at the end, ready to win the man she always wanted (Franchot Tone, art doing its best to imitate life, life not being quite up to the challenge).

Still, MGM’s class-consciousness is apparent. Like Joanie’s early soundies and talkies (OUR BLUSHING BRIDES, OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS), the movie is indecently obsessed with analysing the right and wrong way to marry money. Sadie is the daughter of a cook who ends up a rich lady, and in the end she has her mum come and live with her — as cook. And her best friend, the inestimable Jean Dixon, clearly coded as a prostitute, is now the maid. That’s kind of odd.

That aside, what a terrific film. Clarence Brown was one of MGM’s finest directors, and though somewhat known as a woman’s director (which at MGM meant Joanie and Garbo) works wonders with the leading men. Franchot is always pretty good, of course, though he always looks like some kind of reptile — a gecko or a turtle perhaps. Mellifluous voice. By playing a blue-blood blue-nose stiff-necked moralist who’s wrong on all counts he allows the film to shake loose at least some of its Metro dignity.

Gene Raymond as a louse helps some more — great musical moments, singing “All I Do Is Dream of You.” A love rat who’s convincingly romantic, until Esther Ralston, channelling Mae West, steals him off. He’s even better than Franchot.

I like the first version best, but the second one has the marvelous DRAWER FULL OF CHORINES that slides out from the stage, like something from the morgue at the Copacobana. You didn’t know they had one there, did you? But of course they do — gotta keep the customers on ice until they can figure out Who shot who?

And then Edward Arnold, as the drunken millionaire — one of his best turns, encapsulating in quick succession how nice it would be to be drunk all the time and then how horrible it would be to be drunk all the time. Really surprising how brutal they let him get, after considerable screen time spent on establishing him as a sweet-natured souse. The only part that’s unconvincing is his reformation, but I guess they were saddled with that. He also gets a musical bit, snoozing through a great rendition of “After You’ve Gone” performed by Gene Austin and novelty jazz act Coco & Candy.

This bar is one of my favourite places in the film. The sleek Cedric Gibbons automat is pretty amazing too, like a porcelain spaceship, but the bar has Akim Tamiroff as the very enthusiastic manager. When Arnold orders champagne for everyone, Tamiroff has a giggling fit like he’s been pumped full of helium and nitrous oxide. Elated to the point almost of BURSTING. He’s a happy fellow.

Huge swathes of Joanie’s career are unfamiliar to me — one thing I’ll allow the rather shabby Feud — it’s got us watching Joan. Good as her three menfolk are in this, they’re all there to bask in her light.

I don’t want to go to bed I’m having too much fun

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , on July 7, 2012 by dcairns

The important bit is Scene 2 at 1:07. You have to watch it first otherwise my singing won’t make sense.

SHE MARRIED HER BOSS. Yes, more La Cava, with Claudette Colbert and Melvyn Douglas. But the scene I have in mind, around 1.50, involves Claudette and Michael Bartlett (who’s really good in this), little Edith Fellows, and the magnificent Jean Dixon. A shame Bartlett and Dixon had such short careers, but they pixellated the thirties alright.

Leave it to La Cava to have a child write the world’s greatest drinking song. I have this number going round and round in my head and I keep inventing new and ever more inane lyrics.

I have a toy piano and I wear it round my neck

The personal note I give with it is better than a cheque.

I don’t want to go to bed I’m having too much fun!

The film sets home life against the workplace to see which is more importance, before concluding that the answer to life’s problems is really at the bottom of a bottle — I don’t recall seeing the alcoholic rampage quite so earnestly celebrated in any other movie. By the time of UNFINISHED BUSINESS, La Cava, a sadder and wiser man, was concluding that sobriety might have its uses, but for now it’s all wine and roses, women and song. Lots of songs!

Mary ran away from home she said she had to scram

With a jar of very nice mint sauce she took it on the lamb

I don’t want to go to bed I’m having too much fun!

There’s also a young and dapper Raymond Walburn as a comic butler, and numerous other pleasures. Even a more serious kind of recital, starting around 5.20 ~

The great non sequiturs (“Because you’ve got freckles”) call to mind Mischa Auer in MY MAN GODFREY (“I like onions, they make me sleepy.”) La Cava had a gift for irrelevance, surely as important as irreverence in a comedy director. I think what’s so miraculous about his best scenes is how they seem tight — the comedy crackles, the timing is exquisite — and loose — everybody seems naturally themselves, responding to what’s happening in a spontaneous manner.

In common with the darker PRIMROSE PATH, we learn that savage corporal punishment is the way to tame unruly children and that anything involving the people and language of Portugal is inherently amusing.

They say the squid has tentacles but they are only eight

They ought to call them eightacles and get a discount rate

I don’t want to go to bed I’m having too much fun!