Archive for John O’Hara

Screwball Yoga

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2013 by dcairns

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Elisha Cook Jnr, disturbingly buff, demonstrates Hollywood’s idea of the lotus position in HE MARRIED HIS WIFE.

This is a fun 1940 screwball comedy from Roy Del Ruth, with a Wodehousian country house setting and the deliriously dithering Mary Boland as hostess. Good support from Cesar Romero as a Latin Lothario. Joel McCrea has plenty experience of this kind of thing, and Nancy Kelly shows herself more than capable of joining in the fun — if her career had taken off she could have made some classics.

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I’m a little concerned with the film’s treatment of its shnook character, played by Lyle Talbot. Firstly, I think you can assess a film’s goodheartedness by how it treats its schnook. If the schnook is obnoxious, all bets are off. But if he’s basically blameless, and guilty of no more than not being the hero, then I want him to have some kind of happy ending, like Ralph Bellamy in HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE, or Rudy Vallee in THE PALM BEACH STORY. An exception to this is HIS GIRL FRIDAY, where Ralph Bellamy (schnook again) is shamefully mistreated, but then that film doesn’t have a very good heart, and it wants you to know it.

Secondly, Talbot doesn’t have form as a schnook. He’s a faded thirties star, going soft, but nothing in his persona tells us that we should find him funny. He’s unhappily in love with Joel McCrea’s ex-wife, and woos her with McCrea’s enthusiastic encouragement (Joel just wants to be able to stop paying alimony so he can spend his money on horses). Nothing about this scenario inclines me to want to see the guy mistreated.

But that’s the only cloud in the sky, here. The script, by six different scribes including John O’Hara (!), is pretty funny, and the playing of the likes of Boland, with her oblivious fluting dither, amplifies that. Asides from the strange yogic practices of Mr Cook, Jnr, the movie also has one other enduringly odd moment. William Edmunds, looking rather like the High Lama, plays a nightclub waiter who takes a tip from Joel McCrea on his horse, and loses his rent money. There’s a bitter confrontation between the two as McCrea is hauled of for non-payment of alimony, after which Edmunds very visibly mouths the words “Fuck you!”

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At least, that’s what *I* think he’s saying. My lip-reading may be defective — I would welcome second, and third opinions.

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The Ben Gazzarra Memorial Barn

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on November 8, 2012 by dcairns

You can still visit this barn, although I believe by now the lettering is quite faded.

Yes, we watched A RAGE TO LIVE, from the novel by John O’Hara. Suzanne Pleshette is the principle reason for watching, as she’s so damn watchable, but Bradford Dillman and the Gazz are also very good. But this film seems to have no reason to be. It’s dull soap opera and the story demonstrates nothing. Director Walter Grauman is best known for LADY IN A CAGE, which at least is memorably nasty, but equally pointless. Both stories seem like carefully designed torture devices to make their heroines suffer, only this one is a melodrama and the other is a home invasion horror piece.

This also suffers from being 1965’s idea of “racy” — an idea that would rapidly be overtaken just a year or so later when Hollywood discovered that costumes could actually be detached from actors. Still, whoever so carefully positioned the titles did a fine job — usually only Saul Bass fits his lettering so neatly within the compositions.