Archive for Joseph L Mankiewicz

Cleopatter

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2018 by dcairns

YES! The Cleopatra Papers is every bit as good as David Ehrenstein has suggested. Basically, two Twentieth Century Fox publicity men preserved and edited their correspondence accumulated during the production of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s epic gabfest, CLEOPATRA, and the result is a unique window into the life of that embattled studio and production. Along the way, the authors, who are profoundly sympathetic to Mank’s approach and genuinely seem to think he’s making a masterpiece (we’ll agree to differ), get in pot-shots at the (other) turkeys on the Fox roster, including obscurities I’ve written about there.

LISA aka THE INSPECTOR is dismissed as a bunch of shots of people getting on and off barges on Dutch canals, which is a brisker dismissal than the one i managed HERE and hilariously accurate. Reductive in a way, yes, but as I look back on the film I can’t seem to remember much else. “What can I say? You won’t believe me if I tell you. All right, I’ll tell you. Dolores Hart and Stephen Boyd getting on and off barges in Amsterdam canals. Philip Dunne, on whom we can always rely, has directed one of Fox’s all-time stiffs. Charlie is readying an all-out sex campaign for the picture though, and if it doesn’t save the picture at least it’ll probably get him investigated by some congressional committee.”

Leo McCarey’s SATAN NEVER SLEEPS is viewed with appropriate through-the-fingers dismay. McCarey himself hated the film, and its true that William Holden’s (uncharacteristic) refusal to die onscreen harms it, but the whole thing is a disaster, a burning hay-cart of a film trundling ever so slowly and wretchedly forwards while torching the credibility of everyone involved and the entire medium of cinema itself. “I just saw the ad in the Sunday Times on SATAN NEVER SLEEPS, and it needs no comment. A Chinese girl raped in front of a priest and Fox is trying to tell the world it’s another GOING MY WAY!” And “The reviews are enough to begin bankruptcy hearings here.”

“It never stops. Yesterday we saw CALIGARI. Not the CALIGARI but the Bob Lippert reproduction. Charlie, deadpan, told the meeting that the picture was better than PSYCHO — which Martin Moskowitz thought it only as good as — and Charlie said the picture is baffling and therefore will be all the rage, just like LA DOLCE VITA and L’AVVENTURA. SPS said, ‘You’re right, Charlie. We’re better than all those Europeans and I don’t know why people talk so much about them.'”

Other movies I haven’t seen: “Saw THE COMANCHEROS last night. We may not make it to Christmas.” “We haven’t seen TENDER IS THE NIGHT as yet […] but saw the trailer today and it’s not to be believed — this middle-aged, twitching woman (a serious Alice Pearce) rolling on floors, on beds, on beaches, in clinch after clinch with world-weary, grat, lined and creased Jason Robards jr. (JUNIOR!) It’s going to hurt this company, I tell you!” Later: “It is so awful. Can Henry King have read the book? Don’t they know this in’t Fannie Hunt, man, this is Scott Fitzgerald?”On CLEOPATRA, the writers are of interest less for their middlebrow enthusiasm than for the gossip and observations about the central players. Rex Harrison gets off lightly, apart from a nasty jab he made at Roddy McDowall (how could ANYONE be nasty to Roddy?) — RM asked him to take his picture and Sexy Rexy is reported as replying, “I’m terribly sorry and everything but I just don’t like you.” Seems typical of Rex that he would be gratuitously offensive in an apologetic, polite way.

 

Of course it’s Burton and Taylor who come in for close analysis. It’s observed that Taylor has grown up in movies and so in a way hasn’t grown up at all, has a very strange, distant, starry view of reality. We learn that, when offered a script, she only ever looks at her part, which might help explain some of her later career choices. Though nothing can really explain the Losey films. I guess she doesn’t play her character as dying in BOOM! because the scenes where her illness is established are scenes where other characters are discussing her in her absence, and so she simply never knew that was the intention.

Burton confuses them a bit because he’s clearly both smitten with her and hitching a ride cynically on her fame. For a while it’s expected he’ll go back to his wife because he always has in the past. At some point, his career move became an amour fou, and maybe it always was.

ANYWAY — highly recommended. I got it for cheap in a reprint with a blank green cover and maybe you can too?

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Bookletter

Posted in FILM with tags , , on February 14, 2017 by dcairns

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I wrote the liner essay for Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s A LETTER TO THREE WIVES for Masters of Cinema’s dual-format edition of same. Then I forgot to get my complimentary copy. Now I have it!

You can too: A Letter to Three Wives (1949) [Masters of Cinema] Dual Format (DVD & Blu-ray)

Happy Valentines!

In the end

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on November 30, 2015 by dcairns

joseph-mankiewicz on cleopatra set

From Richard Burton’s intro to Pictures Will Talk, a fine study of the work of Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Best read in a rumbling Burton voice (try it: you can probably do it in your head as long as you don’t try to make any actual sound). Interesting for possible humour value (though I imagine Mankiewicz told this better than Burton’s account) and for the fact that it seems to reveal Mankiewicz joking in a ribald fashion about the death of Marilyn Monroe within hours of the event.

“Above all, he is witty. Witty with the kind of wit that makes people laugh and retell his tales, not merely smile and admire. His mind has an elaborate, paradoxically practical capacity for fantasy. For instance, some notable figure in our mad business had committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills — perhaps it was Monroe, I can’t remember — whereupon Joe mused that if some sort of pill were invented, a sleeping pill, I mean, which could only be taken rectally, a great many of these beautiful would-be suicides would find it not only boring but supremely undignified to stuff twenty or thirty suppositories up his or her beautiful ass. That was, of course, only the bare bones of his tale. He elaborated and wove around each pill a world of increasing tedium on the part of the pill taker until the beautiful one by, shall we say, pill six, said, “Oh, to hell with it, I’ll go and get me an enema.” The image he created in my mind — the bending over, missing the entrance, dropping the thing on the floor and carefully washing it before trying again, for the beauty must be hygienic even in death — reduced me to hysteria.”