Archive for Marietta Canty

Breakaway Props

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2019 by dcairns

Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne make a surprising duo, yet they made three films together (and didn’t really get on — Marlene seems to have been the difficult one).

The films have a lot of brawling in them. SEVEN SINNERS is my favourite, although Wayne’s character is kind of a self-destructive dope. Strong support from Mischa Auer, Marlene’s DESTRY co-star, a comparatively slim Broderick Crawford (pictured) and a villainous Oscar Homolka.

THE SPOILERS casts Randolph Scott against type as a louse, which like Wayne as a dope is unconventional but not particularly pleasing. I guess I’m like a 1940s audience member, unwilling to accept my stars out of type-casting.

Mind you, what it does to Wayne’s persona is positively dizzying, and I didn’t mind that so much. Even the blackface gag seemed… not as offensive as it should be. Marietta Canty’s sensitive playing keeps the humour just the right side of awful.

PITTSBURGH — and how weird is it that Universal made a film called PITTSBURGH and expected people to like it? — is my least favourite. Wayne plays an absolute louse, the worst character he ever played. He’s like Charles Foster Kane with anthracite. And I’m reminded of what Billy Wilder said about coal mining films — “I don’t leave the theater… elated.”

Also there’s not enough brawling. Does Pennsylvania lack conducive saloons?

A friend told me a story that’s movie punch-up related. His dad was a merchant seaman or something like that. First time at sea. They stopped in an exotic port and hit some seedy dive on shore leave. Somewhere like the Seven Sinners. A fight broke out.

The young not-yet dad immediately knew what to do — he’d seen the right movies. He grabbed a chair and swung it down on somebody’s back. There was a snapping sound, the guy fell to the floor — but the chair remained in his hands, unbroken.

He ran back to the ship and didn’t leave it for the rest of his leave.

The respective directors of these epics are Tay Garnett (kind of replaying HER MAN), Ray Enright, Lewis Seiler.

SEVEN SINNERS stars Lola Lola; the Ringo Kid; Dr. Cyclops; Harry Brock; Bronwyn; Prince Nikita Starloff; Professor Von Schwartzenhoffen; Col. Stok; Commodore Schmidlapp; Charleston; Blake of Scotland Yard; and Jabez Stone.

THE SPOILERS stars Lola Lola; Gil Westrum; the Ringo Kid; Millie Ray; Trader Horn; Bat MacPherson; Pa Bailey; Pa Joad; Tubal; James R. Smoke; Dobosh; and the Frankenstein Monster.

PITTSBURGH stars Lola Lola; Gil Westrum; the Ringo Kid; Doctor Harry Brewster; Prof. Shemp Howard; Captain Edward Teach aka Blackbeard; Pop Gehrig; Pa Bailey; Mr. Manleigh; and Mrs. Laurel.

The New Look Duke

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 12, 2009 by dcairns


As part of my extraordinarily protracted birthday celebrations, we had my folks round for tea two days before the Big Event, and ended up watching THE SPOILERS, as you do, a loud Alaskan punch-up starring John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich and Randolph Scott (in an uncharacteristic oleaginous bad-guy role — he pulls it off nicely) which, while not as amiably daffy as SEVEN SINNERS, the other Wayne-Dietrich collision (essentially the same film, only with more gags and lugubrious White Russian campster Mischa Auer), is a pretty good time-waster.

But the sight of Wayne blacking up with burnt cork to steal his money back from the bank is a little uneasy… when he puts his white hat on, the camouflage idea is rather ruined, and when he subsequently flirts with Frau Dietrich’s maid, Marietta Canty (REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE) who knows Wayne well but is somehow fooled into thinking he’s a newly arrived “coloured man,” and when he refers to his “Alabama tan,” the mind somewhat boggles/flips/splutters.


The racial masquerade is somewhat redeemed by the Duke’s later appearance in drag, eating a hard-boiled egg. Something about this image diffuses any previous offense — to the extent that if we all carried it around mentally at the front of our minds, there would be no more war.

Try it and see!