Archive for People Will Talk

Pg. 17, #4

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


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.


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.

Books 6: Who the — ?

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2009 by dcairns


NO, Mr Bogdanovich, the cravat shall never replace the eyepatch as sartorial symbol of the great filmmaker. Nice try, though.

I love interview books, oral histories, gabfests. I love The Parade’s Gone By and People Will Talk and the Backstory series on screenwriters. I may yet include one or more of those fine volumes in my ongoing series of film books I love. (I can’t call this a list of books that made me a cinephile: MOVIES made me a cinephile.)

Peter Bogdanovich has given us some fine films, as well as ILLEGALLY YOURS with Rob Lowe, and his work as a critic and pundit has also been invaluable. But his interviews I really like. He found many of the most interesting old-timers in Hollywood, and let them talk (if they were willing: Sternberg clams up sullenly), and mainly let the results speak for themselves. Of course, knowing his stuff, PB is able to nudge them along with intelligent questions, too.

Who the Devil Made It and Who the Hell’s In It? (I hear he’s working on a third, Who the Fuck did the Catering?) are great books for dipping into or devouring in marathon sessions, as suits your taste. After you’ve read your favourites, you’ll get onto the people you know less about, and find them just as fascinating. For me, the first volume, dealing with directors, is the most appealing.


Fritz Lang ~

In these days, when people are afraid about so many things — look at the newspapers — I think that a happy ending, or what we call a happy ending, is more satisfactory for an audience than a terribly sad one. The end of DESTINY, for example, is that Death guides the boy and girl up to a heavenly meadow with lots of showers and sunshine, into which they walk off together. A business friend of mine asked, “You think that’s a happy ending?” I said, “Yes.” Do you know his answer? “But they can no longer fuck each other in heaven.” That’s one attitude.

Howard Hawks (on Katherine Hepburn and BRINGING UP BABY) ~

I remember another time we were making a scene and Katie was talking so much she didn’t hear me. We called “Quiet!” She didn’t hear that. Called “Quiet!” again, and she didn’t hear it, so I just stopped everybody, and all of a sudden, in the middle of talking, she stopped and said, “What’s the matter?” I said, “I just wondered how long you were going to keep up this imitation of a parrot.” She said, “I’d like to talk to you,” and she led me around to the back. She said, “You mustn’t say things like that to me. Somebody’ll drop a lamp on you. These are my friends around here.” I looked up at the man on the lamp. When I was a prop man, this fellow had been an electrician — I’d known him for God knows how many years. I said, “Pete, if you had a choice of dropping a lamp on Miss Hepburn or me, who would you drop it on?” He said, “Get out of the way, will you, Mr Hawks?”

Edgar Ulmer ~

Outside of GONE WITH THE WIND — which is an American disease, it took the place of BIRTH OF A NATION in our heritage — all your great pictures have been originals: written, conceived, felt for the screen.