Archive for Kiss Me Kate

Scaramouche / Scaramouche

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2016 by dcairns

Can you do the fandango?

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All the fops love me. I am down with the fops.

I watched both versions of SCARAMOUCHE, the Metro silent and the MGM talkie. Fiona bailed on both after ten minutes apiece. You have to be in the right mood for fencing and foppery.

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Rex Ingram helmed the 1923 version, starring his discovery Ramon Novarro and his wife Ellen Terry. It’s apparently more faithful to Rafael Sabatini’s novel, which one senses while watching because the plot makes sense and doesn’t depend on outlandish coincidence. Not so the remake.

Lewis Stone (below, left) is in both versions. I like when that happens. He’s the big baddie in the Ingram but is demoted to a lesser Frenchman in George Sidney’s 1952 swashbuckler. (It was seeing and enjoying Sidney’s KISS ME KATE that got me onto this SCARAMOUCHE kick.)

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In the remake, the title character is actually a drunken, disfigured actor who wears a mask to perform. Stewart Granger steals his identity and we never see him again. The makeup, we are told, is created by William Tuttle. “Created,” you note. Not just slapped on. CREATED. Tuttle does that weird thing he does (his brushwork is very recognizable) where the lines of the face seem like whorls, layers of liquid solidified in the act of pouring on like thick cream.

The role is played by Henry Corden, and he’s uncredited. In the title role! Poor bastard. He actually IS Scaramouche. Granger just takes his name and costume, the cheeky sod.

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The leads: in the silent, the cast are all equally decent and equally a bit miscast. Novarro reminds himself to laugh cynically upon occasion to remind us he was born with a sense the world was mad. In the Technicolor talkie, Stewart Granger is required to play the hero as a total dick for quite a lot of screen time. He does it with aplomb. Mel Ferrer is his opponent, and the plot has been rejigged to make their backstory suitable for contemporaries. Now, Ferrer’s character is also a dick, and one notices that he’s more than usually appealing in the role. In fact, either of these guys could have played the baddie, but neither is right for the hero. They have a kind of charisma but not a likability. I never really noticed Ferrer’s charisma anywhere else because the prevailing feeling was that I didn’t like him. Being a villain liberates him.

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Kudos to those two lugs also for committing to the really terrific duels, which Sidney shoots like musical numbers, sweeping crane shots broken up with a few static compositions that pop in contrast. The business looks physically exhausting and a little risky. The final sword fight is supposed to be the longest ever, but doesn’t feel protracted, just satisfyingly thorough. PRINCESS BRIDE fans may notice a bit of business.

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Much of the deforming of the storyline seems to be intended to favour Eleanor Parker as “Lenore,” a role seemingly created especially for her (note the name). The equivalent role in the silent is a fairly small bit by comparison. But the real female lead is Janet Leigh (above), the only American cast who doesn’t bother trying to change her natural accent, and as a result the most natural player in the film (Nina Foch does wonders, though, as Marie Antoinette). Best scene is probably Granger hitting on Leigh and then discovering she’s his long-lost sister. Well-played, Jimmy! (Granger’s birth name was Jimmy Stewart, which for obvious reasons he had to change, but everyone still called him Jimmy. Why didn’t he choose Jimmy Granger?)

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Both movies showcase dramatic glass shots.

As mentioned in comments earlier, the MGM movie surprisingly omits the French Revolution, which is built up to and then dropped as an apparently still-hot potato. Structurally, this is acceptable because it allows the movie to climax with the splendid duel, but it does seem to imply that the (off-screen) King’s democratic compromises were successful in appeasing the people. The Metro version takes the more mature line that the Revolution was good but the Rein of terror bad, but this means that it kind of lacks a strong ending, fizzling out with the hero and his new-found family simply running away. But it finds a more satisfying fate for its bad guy (whereas Mel Ferrer simply evaporates, an odd result in a film driven entirely by the hero’s thirst for revenge).

A new version could be interesting. Neither movie quite joins the dots between the hero’s politics, his revenge quest and his career as a clown, whereas the first sentence of Sabatini’s book already gives me confidence that he’s working on a Unified Theory of Revolutionary Swashbuckling.

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In the 70s, when Richard Lester was having a lot of success with, broadly speaking, this kind of material, Dustin Hoffman, of all people, approached him with the idea of a remake. Part of his obsession with playing superannuated students, I guess. Lester met him and they got on well, but politely declined the job, feeling that Hoffman’s perfectionism and we might call his own kick-scramble-bollocks approach were ill-matched and bound to end in heartache or nervous breakdowns.

 

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The Sunday Intertitle: Missing Bologna

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2015 by dcairns

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I have to get organized and raise some cash so I can go to Bologna next year. Cinema Ritrovato is an annual event and I need to be present at it annually. At least.

This year, there was no A HARD DAY’S NIGHT to lure me — that seemed an unmissable way of closing the book on my Richard Lester piece, PICTUREWISE. But there are a lot of things on which are pretty unrepeatable. Today, on Facebook, accompanist Neil Brand posted that RAPSODICA SATANICA, which has had its original score by Mascagni carefully reconstructed by Timothy Brock, only works with this music. Above is a fab intertitle plucked from my un-scored disc. And here is an image —

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AAARGH! It’s another of those creepy portraits that come to life! I love/hate those things. Here, the use of tinting is fantastic — it both accentuates and erases the difference between the three-dimensional, physical world and the flat world of the portrait. See also THIS.

They are also showing KISS ME KATE in 3D — there’s some hope that such an event will be repeated nearer me, but you never know. The only place likely to screen it would be Filmhouse, which bought expensive 3D apparatus and then decided “Our audience doesn’t like 3D.” Which is true for a lot of people who go to Filmhouse, I guess, particularly the retirees. But they have never shown PINA and CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS in 3D, so do they really know?

Meredith Brody informs me that Renato Castellani is one of the great discoveries this year. I can do a bit of armchair discovering of his oeuvre, I guess.

I would certainly be checking out some of the rare Leo McCareys.

Have I ever seen ANY Jacques Tourneur on the big screen? GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING would be a wonderful start.

At long last — Julien Duvivier’s submerged cinema starts to resurface. During the Great Duvivier Giveaway I allowed more than a hundred readers to experience LA FIN DU JOUR in a scrappy off-air recording from the eighties. Now it can be seen projected in pristine-o-scope. And they say there’s no such thing as progress.

Quite a few filmmakers of particular importance to Shadowplay are featured — Duvivier, Anthony Mann, Joseph Losey. MON GOSSE DE PERE is a 1931 film from Pathe-Natan — I own a fuzzy off-air recording, but it’s unsubtitled so I haven’t explored it in any depth.

Buster Keaton! SHERLOCK JNR and ONE WEEK on the vast open-air screen of the Piazza Maggiore!

Oddly enough, I feel OK about missing 2001 because I don’t know that the occasional distractions of police sirens and barking dogs you hear in the open-air environment would enhance Kubrick’s vision. They don’t seem to matter in silents or in chatty films.

There’s a surprise movie! Surprise movies often don’t work — Edinburgh abandoned the practice as the majority of punters always seemed discontented with what they got. I think typically the film would be a last-minute offering grabbed opportunistically after the programme went to press. But since EVERYTHING IS AWESOME IN BOLOGNA, and all the films are rediscoveries, restorations and possible classics deserving further study, it can be guaranteed that whatever the surprise was, it was a good ‘un.

Now I’m starting to feel melancholic. Apart from anything else, Bologna is a fantastic PLACE…

Still, next year I think I can get some cash from my place of work under the heading of “research”. So that will be just ~

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Imagination Time

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Theatre with tags , , , , , , on October 6, 2009 by dcairns

You’ll just have to imagine Bob Fosse in KISS ME KATE is in 3D, as originally released.

Shouldn’t be too hard.

In other news, my 3D clip from THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is finally up on YouTube, I think, having passed the “fair use” test. Put on your glasses NOW.

Which also serves as a reminder of the approaching Halloween Film Club, where we will all be watching THE HAUNTING (version originale), I hope. I may presage this with one of Robert Wise’s Val Lewton horrors. They’re all good.