Archive for Jean Negulesco

Maiden Voyage

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on April 1, 2020 by dcairns

Vol. II of The Shadowcast begins with a voyage on the unsinkable Titanic. There will be shuffleboard, and dancing in steerage.

Dress warm.

Here.

 

Swapping Deckchairs

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2020 by dcairns

Nice of Brian Aherne, in the Jean Negulesco TITANIC, to proudly display the name of his favourite Bob Fosse film.

Though I would have put him down as more of a LENNY man.

Working on a new Shadowcast, or at least talking about doing so… I realise if we’re going to make this podcast thing a success we’ll have to make some actual podcasts… thinking of theming it around movies about the Titanic. There are quite a few. We’ll just talk about the ones we’re interested in. Probably these:

ATLANTIC. EA Dupont, Britain, 1929. Stars Thomas Cromwell; Princess Flavia; Sir Henry Baskerville; Harry Blump, the Window Washer; Needle Nugent; Detective Frank Webber; Gen. Mercier; Emily Hill; Duke of Orleans; and One-Round

The Nazi TITANIC. Gervert Selpin, Germany, 1943. Stars Léone; Chef von Scotland Yard; Elephant Keeper Kellerman; Inspector Groeber; and Inspector Karl Lohmann.

TITANIC. Jean Negulesco, USA, 1953 which stars Waldo Lydecker; Martha Ivers; Jonathan Hart; Louise Kendall; Moe Williams; Maximilian I of Mexico; Ishmael; Cousin Albert Van Cleve; Lord Alfred Douglas; the Dear One; Herod the Great; and the voice of Klaatu.

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER. Roy Ward Baker, Britain, 1958, Which stars Douglas Bader; Cmdr. Fortune; John Quincy Adams; Pussy Galore; Hylas the Glaswegian argonaut; Don Jarvis; Ieuan Jenkins; David Copperfield; Illya Kuryakin; Chief Inspector Tim Oxford: Argos the Surrey Argonaut; Peter Coffin; Dickie Winslow; Catweazle; Lenin; Prof. Bernard Quatermass; Takyan; Det. Chief Supt. Charles Barlow; Q; Prince Otto; Sandy Youth; Norm; Tumak; Vivian Darkbloom; the Duke of Wuertemberg; Captain Winston Havelock; and Boba Fett.

And I guess we won’t be able to entirely avoid James Cameron’s TITANIC (USA, 1998) which stars Rick Dalton; Young Iris Murdoch; The Phantom; Annie Wilkes; Strawberry Alice; Margaret Waverton; Private Hudson; King Theoden; Henry Niles; Herbert Arthur Runcible Cadbury; Reed Richards; Jeremy Secker; Pontius Pilate; and Captain Winston Havelock again.

Why, it’s Captain Smith! The real one, seemingly. The little white blotch to the right of his head seems to be where somebody’s scratched out the name of another ship, for what reason I’m uncertain. All through this documentary short, frequently mislabeled as SAVED FROM THE TITANIC, the names of ships are erased.

The real SAVED FROM THE TITANIC is, I believe, lost. It was the first Titanic drama, released in 1912 to cash in quick, and it starred a real survivor of the disaster, Dorothy Gibson.

Well, you can’t really blame her for trying to salvage something from the experience.

One-Way River

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

SHOW THEM NO MERCY! was originally going to be directed by Otto Preminger and star Wallace Beery, until Beery announced that he refused to be directed by anyone whose name he couldn’t pronounce.

RIVER OF NO RETURN was Preminger’s first Cinemascope film and a biggish hole in my Preminger viewing. Watching it on the Toshiba, I wished I’d been to see it restored in Bologna — the widescreen scenic images have a fantastic grandeur even on DVD, and on a big screen must be overwhelming.

Anyway, it’s a good film: Preminger’s long take sensibility is immediately a good match for ‘Scope, and he does a lot of impressive work with tricky elements like rafts, horses, etc. How many suitcases did they have to send downriver for this famous shot?

There’s a horrible scene, though, where Robert Mitchum’s character tries to straight-up rape Marilyn Monroe’s. He’s interrupted by a cougar attack, and then by two guys who show up and think about killing him, and what with one thing and another the incident is never referred to again. There are more moments when they seem on the verge of discussing it, but it turns out this was merely projection on our part.

As always with Otto-related questions, the answer is to be found in Chris Fujiwara’s critical study The World and Its Double. When Preminger finished shooting, Fox boss Darryl Zanuck was dissatisfied with the film, which he felt was unnecessarily cryptic about its characters’ goals, relationships, motives. He insisted on adding three scenes.

(His ally in the dumbing-down is the soundtrack, which helpfully embarks on Calhoun’s theme tune whenever anyone discusses him. Elsewhere it’s stirring and atmospheric, and Cyric Mockridge and an uncredited Leigh Harline are apparently responsible.)One was a conversation between Monroe and Rory Calhoun near the start, which explains why they’re together. Unfortunately, this information had already been covered extensively by later dialogue from Monroe to Mitchum, so screenwriter Frank Fenton (OUT OF THE PAST) ends up shoving paraphrases into the actors’ mouths, rendering the later scenes dangerously repetitive. (He gets away with it only because Monroe justifying her relationship in the words Calhoun has previously used is new material as far as her dealings with Mitchum is concerned.)

Another was a scene where Mitchum massages Monroe after a particularly exhausting stint on the rapids (the process photography on the raft is the film’s weakest point other than the following scene: the POV shots going downstream are terribly grainy and I’m guessing the background plates were shot “flat” in 1:1.33, because they’re grainy, everything seems too big, like our heroes have sailed into Land of the Giants, and there’s a lot of Anamorphic-mumpsy rubberwalling, as the scenery bends, as if trying to wrap itself around the leads (and who could blame it?).The third scene is Mitchum’s sudden, out-of-character attack on Monroe. These three bits were directed by Jean Negulescu. So, you see, Monroe and Mitchum couldn’t discuss the matter afterwards because the footage wasn’t shot.

Going by Zanuck’s comments, the massage and the attempted rape were both inserted to make the characters’ relationship clearer. But they don’t really do that, at least for a non-rapey modern audience. I suppose the massage scene could be there to suggest sexual attraction, but although it works as a sexy treat for the audience, it’s presented in the story as a practical answer to Monroe being freezing cold and exhausted.

And Mitchum pouncing on Monroe… this seems to be Zanuck’s idea of showing that he’s attracted to her. I suppose the character point is that he doesn’t respect her, regards her as a good-time girl who will submit to a rough embrace, and when she doesn’t, he just carries on because he can’t figure that out. But it’s rubbish. Mitchum isn’t dumb or brutish anywhere else in the movie. And they never mention it again.I don’t know of any evidence that the scene ignited any controversy at the time. For me, it hurts the movie’s ending quite a bit: Mitchum takes Monroe away from her saloon-singing life, slinging her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. This is already a bit too caveman for us modern folks. But Monroe ditching her sparkly shoes shows that she is a fully consenting partner in this change of lifestyle. The filmmakers were balancing out the audience appeal of Mitchum’s he-man stuff with the requirement that the leading lady have a mind of her own.

Zanuck’s raunchy intrusion upsets that quite badly. Monroe is now being carried off by a man who previously tried to force her into sex (while his young son, and, as it turns out, a cougar, were mere yards away). We’ll probably make some allowance since after all it’s Mitchum (and he’s not in Max Cady mode… rivers seem to bring out the worst in him, though), but damage is certainly done.

(I would quite like to see a director’s cut of this offered, perhaps as a bonus on a Blu-ray. (I think you always need to keep the original around to illustrate the historical record: THIS is what audiences saw upon release…)