Archive for Lotte H Eisner

Pg. 17, #4

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2020 by dcairns

fields

De Laurentis inspects Kong’s skeleton.

*

Vaudeville was born at approximately the same time as W.C. Fields and in approximately the same place. An outgrowth of the British music hall tradition, variety performances were initially used to draw customers into American beer halls in the 1870s. The first vaudeville theater, Tony Pastor’s, was opened in New York in 1881, and the trend to clean shows that could play to “double audiences” (meaning men and women) spread to other cities. By 1885, there were more than twenty such houses in Philadelphia, which was to become known as “the Cradle of Vaudeville” for all the important acts that got their starts there.

*

What vaudeville had to teach its practitioners was a discipline and method. The vaudeville act had to put itself over to a critical and not very patient audience, in a strictly limited time–it could be sixteen minutes or it could be eight–against relentless competition and without the benefit of a favourable context (a dramatic monologuist might be sandwiched between knockabout comics and performing seals).

*

The leaning towards violent contrast — which in Expressionist literature can be seen in the use of staccato sentences — and the inborn German liking for chiaroscuro and shadow, obviously found an ideal artistic outlet in the cinema. Visions nourished by moods of vague and troubled yearning could have found no more apt mode of expression, at once concrete and unreal.

*

Your world appeared to have everything. You grew up in Hollywood, you had the kind of adulation that people live lifetimes trying to achieve without ever attaining.

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That June, I spent my first night alone in a hotel (at Grand Rapids), and so, a little more than a month before my sixteenth birthday, I was into a ten-week season–one production a week–during which I would end up playing leads not only in the children’s shows (for instance, the Lion in The Wizard of Oz), but in the regular Equity company too (Signe Hasso’s teenage son in Glad Tidings). I played a butler with Sylvia Sidney, worked with Edward Everett Horton (as his dresser), Veronica Lake and ZaSu Pitts (moving furniture around). I also received my first credit as director–of the Children’s Variety Show. That winter, I got special permission from my school to miss athletics so I could take afternoon and early-evening acting classes with the legendary Stella Adler, who became so dear to me in so many ways.

*

‘We were able to do that much for Bitsy, buster,’ Harry snarled. ‘We were able to get the Joint Chiefs to lean hard enough to get you an honorable discharge.’

*

Seven passages from seven page seventeens found in seven books in my living room, randomly but mostly on the same shelf. I like the mix of film and non-film here. It tells a kind of story, doesn’t it? Well, in roughly the same way that MARIENBAD does.

W.C. Fields, a Biography, by James Curtis, Buster Keaton, by David Robinson, The Creation of Dino De Laurentiis’ King Kong, by Bruce Bahrenburg, The Haunted Screen, by Lotte H. Eisner, People Will Talk, by John Kobal (interviewing Gloria Swanson), Who the Devil Made It, by Peter Bogdanovich, and Arigato, by Richard Condon.

Quote of the Day: Die, Nibelungen, Die!

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , on February 16, 2008 by dcairns

You Only Live Once 

‘And if you take a closer look at the Nibelungen-Lied you will see that it is not at all a heroic poem of the German people; that’s what the Rightist imbeciles before and after Hitler made it; their >prized possession< was Mein Kampf… not to even mention the hero.

‘Even Harbou, who is a thorn in your side as much as mine, realised this. (…)

‘It is a >heroic< poem of the ruling upper class! Where is there any reference to the people?!

‘I saw the Burgundian kings with their magnificent robes as a decadent social class which was already on the decline and determined to achieve its ends by any means. (…) And these decadent Burgundians proceed to perish as soon as they are confronted with a new, >savege< social stratum still in the making: the Huns.

‘No, dearest Lotte, it is not a heroic poem of the German people. There is no mention of the people anywhere in the song of the Nibelungs! How does the end go?

>…Hier hate die Mär eine Ende —

Das ist der Nibelungen Not!<

(…The tale ends here —

That is the Nibelungs’ distress!)

(Or are we to say today — but this is just between you and me, dear Lotte — capitalism ends here. That is capitalism’s distress.)’

~ Fritz Lang, to Lotte H. Eisner, 1968 letter excerpted in Fritz lang. His Life and Work. Photographs and Documents, edited by Rolf Aurich, Wolfgang Jacobsen and Cornelius Schnauber.

You and Me

Amazing how Lang reconfigures the film along left-wing lines, when it has nearly always  been regarded as a proto-nazi era epic. Lang, like a lot of Hollywood filmmakers, may well have been targeting his remarks to appeal to the sensibilities of his audience (here, the proudly left-wing film historian), but I do think his reading of the film makes more sense. After all, the 30s German re-issue of DIE NIBELUNGEN left off the entire second part, suggesting that considerable editorial intervention was necessary to make the film serve the purposes of fascism.

In the light of Lang’s groovy revolutionary comments, the film’s dedication To the German People, suddenly makes a fair bit of sense. The film is a gift to the German people, the proletariat, who will no doubt enjoy seeing their rulers hacked up and incinerated.