Archive for Otto Preminger

Uh-oh

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2010 by dcairns

An epidemic of axe murders grips Chicago! Victims found with heads split open! Killers found beside bodies in state of catatonic schizophrenia! And so, the above is not an encouraging thing to find in your hotel.

FINGERS AT THE WINDOW is a rather delightful comedy-thriller from MGM, with poor old Lew Ayres as a crime-solving out-of-work actor and Laraine Day as a dumb dancer (“She hasn’t the brains of a pancake!”) and, all too briefly, Basil Rathbone as the Mabusean mastermind who hypnotises his incurable subjects and sends them forth to kill! Kill! Kill!

Always with the pleasure, a little malaise: the cops speak of rounding up every “derelict and moron” in the city, a mission later referred to as a “moron hunt.” At a conference on psychiatry a paper is read about insulin shock therapy, the brilliant and human procedure whereby the mentally ill were deliberately overdosed with insulin to put them in a coma, for weeks sometimes. All of which adds an uncomfortable tincture of historical nastiness to a basically light-hearted yarn.

In one amusing scene, Ayres must use his powers of dramaturgy to fake madness, convincing a Viennese quack played by Miles Mander, the only man wirier than his own hair. This kind of scene ALWAYS works, folks. It works when Cary Grant does it in NORTH BY NORTHWEST, and it works when Richard Carlson does it in Siodmak’s FLY-BY-NIGHT ~

Mr. Carlson shows of his collection of wedding bands in FLY-BY-NIGHT.

Mr Ayres serves as role model for the chimp in the end credits of Police Squad. “He’ll stop when he’s tired.”

And it certainly works when Ayres does it. He’s more convincing here than as a shrink in THE DARK MIRROR. And in fact he also gets to impersonate a head doctor here, adopting the name of Dr. Stephen Dedalus — perhaps the only James Joyce reference to appear in an MGM noirball? It’s part of a run of Irish gags, which extends to making all the cops in the film exceptionally dense.

This seems to be the only screenplay by Rose Caylor (playwright and wife of Ben Hecht) working with Lawrence P Bachmann, a specialist in medical subjects who reprised elements of this idea for Otto Preminger’s WHIRLPOOL. But this one is better! Director is Charles Lederer, better known for co-writing The Front Page with Hecht. Only an occasional director, Lederer does a good enough job here to make me wish he’d done more. The movie isn’t as ambitious as Hecht’s co-directing efforts, but it hits its modest targets more frequently.

Hear Your Heart Beat.

Pigs Might Fly

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on April 10, 2010 by dcairns

Me and a prosthetic pig, made for NANNY MCPHEE AND THE BIG BANG (but never used).

Photo by Sue Osmond. Possibly the best picture I’ve ever been in.

Emma Thompson is a big fat liar!

Here she is talking about the field of barley grown for her (very enjoyable) new movie:

“Afterwards they harvested it by hand. It had to look like it was harvested in the era the movie’s set in. Now it’s all been sold, because I think it was about £11,000 worth of barley that was there. I said, ‘Can’t we make Nanny McPhee beer?’ But they told me that was inappropriate. So they sold it to thatchers.”

In fact, all the barley rotted as soon as it was harvested.

The pigs used on the movie were successfully recycled, however. As sausages. It’s true! They could only shoot the piglets for a few weeks each, as they grew too fast, so they had a constant influx of fresh piggies and the overgrown ones went back to the farm and hence into the food chain. Hearing about how bright and cooperative the pigs were on set, hitting their marks and learning their lines (“Oink!” isn’t too hard to memorize, but I bet Val Kilmer could still screw it up), so that the prefab prosthetic porkers were barely needed, it’s enough to make me contemplate giving up bacon. I mean, who eats actors for breakfast?  Now that Otto Preminger’s gone?

Bashful Film Directors With Their Shirts Off

Posted in FILM with tags , , on March 18, 2010 by dcairns

Otto Preminger preserves some mystery.

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