Archive for John Carradine

Kings

Posted in Dance, FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2019 by dcairns

WAIT TILL THE SUN SHINES, NELLIE stars Bensinger; Lena Lamont; Dr. Cyclops; Dr. Russell A. Marvin; Phoebe Dinsmore; and Lt. ‘Doc’ Ostrow.

Missed this in Bologna — the Leon Shamroy Technicolor would have been worthwhile — Youtube’s copy, though good by Youtube standards, is terribly dark at times.

But I don’t know what the film’s thesis is — what it’s trying to demonstrate, explicate or make us feel, except on a scene-by-scene basis. David Wayne’s small-town barber is from the “variations on an asshole school of characterisation, but to what end? The final line, after fifty years of story have been covered, celebrates the virtues of a good shave, and that does seem to be the chief lesson imparted. Actually, I kind of liked that bit.

We do, however, get to view the second and third most terrifying shaves in screen history (after THE COLOR PURPLE), one where Wayne is so drunk he can’t walk, and one where he’s contemplating murdering the man in the chair.

King is celebrated for his Americana, the nearest thing to a personal interest displayed in his cinema. There’s more of it in ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND (1938).

King claimed his staging of the musical numbers in IN OLD CHICAGO got him this gig, which reunites stars Power, Faye and Ameche from the earlier quake-fest, but his song-and-dance stuff here is far, far better. IOC basically observed Faye in three shot sizes as she transmitted a bunch of oldy-time standards from her big face. This one has proper PRODUCTION NUMBERS and I became a fan of capering imp Wally Vernon.

You also get a chance to contrast the performing styles of Alice Faye and Ethel Merman. Merman at this point is not an actor, but she speaks her lines with an appealing and convincing simplicity. And she sings the same way, only of course she has that powerhouse voice. Faye, giving the best performance in the best role I’ve seen her in, can do a lot more with inflection and phrasing and meaning, but lacks the ability to vibrate an iron bridge to pieces with her vocal cords.

The IMDb promised us cameos by Rondo Hatton (memorable in IN OLD CHICAGO in the role of “Rondo”) as a barfly, and Lon Chaney Jr as “photographer on stage,” but the on-stage photographer we see clearly ain’t Chaney and Hatton’ s barfly does not appear (how could you miss him?) so it’s left to John Carradine to bring the horror (which no fantasy about the birth of a musical movement should be without). John does not disappoint.

Carradine’s role is officially that of cabbie, but his plot function is to play Cupid, and who better? Picture him nude with a little bow and arrow. Charm itself! Hired by Power, he basically abducts Faye to bring her to his Carnegie Hall concert. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? You let John Carradine kidnap you.

JC’ s laidback manner is terrifying: the more relaxed he gets, the more death seems imminent, and preferable to his company. His Dracula was never this alarming. He was really a fine actor, but needed to be aimed in the right direction. King appears to have launched him straight up, to land wherever he may.

At first, we suspected John was probably going to drive Alice Faye to a lock-up somewhere and torture her to death with pliers.

But, as the sequence went on, we became sure of it. An improbable end to a musical, but the only thing that would have made sense of his performance.

The actual ending is quite a bit happier than that. But as for the history of ragtime, its origins and purpose are still a total mystery.

ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND stars Leonard Vole; June Mills; Mortimer Duke; Lieutenant Hurwitz; The Tin Man; Dr. Paul Christian; Parthy Ann Hawks; Maj. Cassius Starbuckle; Larry Talbot and the Hoxton Creeper.

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The Sunday Intertitle: Personally Embroidered by Darryl F. Zanuck

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on April 28, 2019 by dcairns

The embroidered intertitle is a rare enough beast to be worth remarking on. This one features in John Ford’s DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK, and the fact that it’s 1939 (yet also, simultaneously, the American Revolution), makes the appearance of such hand-crafted text all the more remarkable.

The movie needs to fall back on silent narrational technique, (OK still very much a thing in the pre-code era) it turns out, because of its uncommonly loose, baggy structure, itself at least in part a consequence of the shapelessness of the historical events covered. I found that, while I could appreciate the reasons for the episodic approach, I prefer Ford when he has a tighter story to weave (or sew). I’m not a keen enough Fordian to indulge his more rambling yarns, though it was nice to see an Indian character (Chief John Big Tree) treated, despite the inevitable ethnic humour, with enough sympathy that he could be entrusted with the kind of jovial domestic violence joke usually reserved by Ford for the Irish.

“Sir!… Sir!… Here’s a good stick, to beat the lovely lady.”

Henry Fonda is well suited to the frontiersmanship etc, but Ford gets rather an overwrought turn from Claudette Colbert: she perhaps has her limitations, but I have never seen her be shrill and grating and hysterical as she is here. It might be understandable, given the situations, but it’s hardly appealing or fun to watch.

In common with BLOOD AND SAND, the movie delivers quite a lot of value for John Carradine fans, who did great work for Ford the same year in STAGECOACH.

The second-hand DVD I picked up turned out to be a fuzzy, out-of-sync Korean bootleg (“An enjoyable film that is still very good!” cries the blurb) but curious and dedicated Fordians are recommended to the Twilight Time Blu-ray, which purportedly does astonishing justice to the Technicolor work of Ray Rennehan & Bert Glennon.

Vlad to meet you, hope you guessed my name

Posted in Fashion, FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2018 by dcairns

Good morning, I’m Francis Ford Coppola and I’m speaking to you from the Bohemian community of North Beach, and I’m going to talk to you a little bit today about my connection to Dracula.

Not really, of course! I’m not Francis Ford Coppola, I’m not actually speaking to you from North Beach (never been, no idea how Bohemian it is), and I have no actual connection to Dracula. But I was thrilled to see that the DVD of Francis Ford Coppola’s BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA has a feature on the menu labeled Watch BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA With Francis Coppola. Nothing could thrill me more that to watch this beautiful, silly film, in the company of its director, though I suppose I’m slightly afraid that he’ll call me a whore to help my motivation, as he did to Winona Ryder. But I can take it!

How is this visionary illusion created? First, by an apparition of the Great Man in a violently pink shirt, appearing before us as if from the tomb. He talks at you from the screen, as if he can really see you. He knows it’s morning!

At 1:19 we get Uncle Francis’s first factual error when he says that John Carradine plays Dracula in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN. But kudos for being bold enough to admit that Carradine was his favourite screen Dracula. That’s just insane. But already BSD is making more sense to me.

So join with me on this adventure, I will tell you some of my thoughts concerning why I made it in the way I did

How I Did It by Victor Frankenstein

and hopefully share those experiences with you.

Then he goes away and the film plays, but his disembodied voice continues to eerily comment on the action, as if he were sitting beside you in the darkened auditorium, ruining his own movie. Oh no, if he calls me a whore in this setting I’m not sure I could handle it. I confess, I mainly wanted to join Uncle Francis on this adventure to see how long it would take him to say something funny, and he already has before the commentary even started.

Did you know that in the original Columbia Pictures logo it was Irene Dunne that was photographed standing there holding the torch?

WOW! Literally the first line, spoken over the logo, is a factual error! Though it’s nice to get an Irene Dunne reference into a Dracula film. THE AWFUL TOOTH? And I guess an Evelyn Venables reference wouldn’t have the same cachet.

Uncle Francis launches into a history lesson at this point. I don’t know as much as he does about this time and place — the backstory of Vlad Tepes — but I’m going to assume he’s making one Irene Dunne-type mistake every eight seconds, if that’s OK with you.

I love the imagery in this sequence, though it’s slightly uneven — maybe TOO MUCH BEAUTY? But hats off to the shadow puppetry. Bold. Taps foot waiting for Uncle F. to say something I can fact-check.

This prologue was pretty much created after the fact by my son Roman

Okay, that’s nice to know. Hats off to Roman and filmmaker/VFX artist/titles guy Gary Gutierrez.

Sudden sound change and Uncle Francie launches into a sentence that sounds like a continuation of a missing thought —

So when the young actress Winona Ryder

Glad he’s explaining who she is.

came to see me and the purpose of our discussion was really about the fact of how she had dropped out of working on GODFATHER III, you know

I think Winona may have had an ulterior motive in arranging that meeting.

Winona was supposed to play the young daughter of the GODFATHER III story and when she came she didn’t feel well and she basically withdrew from the film leaving me in a tough spot for GODFATHER III.

But I’m not bitter. I’m definitely not going to call her a whore.

Much later we talked about it and I didn’t want to have a grudge against a young person so I tried to be nice to her and say “Yes I understand what happened,”

I’m a bad person for finding all this funny. I in no sense foresee this relationship turning sour owing to Francis’s subconscious rage at the young whore actor Winona Ryder.

and she said, “Well, good, because I have this script of DRACULA, would you consider doing it?” and of course that was a magic word to me

Maybe the trouble with this sequence — and the film as a whole (or one of them) — is that it’s full of beautiful shots that don’t necessarily cut together, and these shots are quite extreme — they all feel like CLIMAXES — and they break into much more conventional coverage and create an odd, stop-start effect, rather like me with the pause button transcribing Uncle Francis Ford Coppola’s words of wisdom.

I agreed to do it, it was really sort of putting my life back together after some of the big financial setbacks that I had had, which was what led me to make the third GODFATHER and the DRACULA picture and kind of stabilise my life at that time when it had been pretty rocky.

This works particularly well as a commentary while a visibly inebriated Gary Oldman is pledging his soul to the Devil and drinking from a golden goblet of stigmata-juice. I’m running out of hats to take off but this astonishing frankness deserves a fresh head-baring.

Still on the prologue and costume designer/genius Eiko Ishioka gets a mention. After the young actress Winona Ryder and son Roman, but still, prominently up there, which is good. Now it’s late, and I have an edit tomorrow, so I’m going to have to say

TO BE CONTINUED