Archive for Preston Sturges

The Mystery of Morgan’s Creek

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on May 1, 2021 by dcairns

Here’s a strange one, A mystery introduced, investigated and solved in a single day (yesterday), but leaving a bigger mystery.

First, Dan Sallitt, filmmaker and friend, got in touch with a curious question. He was making up some film lists, and wanted to check the accuracy of THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN’S CREEK’S release date. The film was shot at the end of 1942, but release was held up a bit.

Dan wasn’t asking me as a Sturges scholar, but as a Scot: the IMDb gives the film’s first release date as December 1943, (Glasgow) (premiere). This seemed odd. Films don’t typically get even their UK premieres in Glasgow. Plus, the copyright date for the film in the US is January 1944. You wouldn’t expect Paramount to be screening the film before they copyrighted it.

Dan couldn’t learn much more without paying for the privilege, but he could see that the film was screening in Glasgow in December *1944*, a whole year later than the IMDb’s date, so maybe it was a simple typo that had gotten worked up into a whole alternative history?

I didn’t know the answer but thought I knew someone who could get it, ace researcher Diarmid Mogg. I fired him an email.

I got this back:

If you can tear your attention away from the discourse on the humourlessness of Scotsmen, you can see on the right mention of Betty Hutton premiering her new film in Glasgow. And the date is December 1943.

So it really happened. But why was Glasgow chosen? And why wasn’t the film’s copyright registered until a month after it began screening in the UK?

Diarmid was able to answer the odd point about the film still showing in 1944. It was still showing in *1951*, too, having proved so popular it simply didn’t stop running, here and there, all over the country.

So, for once, the Inaccurate Movie Database hasn’t lived down to its name, but we’re still left with a puzzle. Perhaps one of you has the answer?

Pg. 17, #3

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2020 by dcairns

Mackendrick accompanied Relph to Prague to scout locations. As always, his enthusiasm was tireless: Relph describes him “rushing up every steeple in Prague when you could see perfectly well from the ground that it wasn’t any good. But he would never take anybody else’s word.” Mackendrick, for his part, retorts that “Michael is covering up for the fact that he doesn’t like heights. One of the spires was very tall, with a tiny balcony and this terrific bird’s eye view of Prague. I managed to get Michael up the stairs, but when he got outside he turned his face to the wall and wouldn’t turn around. So he never saw the view.”

*

Checkmate. When you were interviewed by Bianco e Nero in 1958 you said that modern directors had eliminated the “problem of the bicycle.”

*

…Morning sunlight at the Onwentsia Club, where Father has just given me a beautiful pony of my own, a retired polo pony. I go riding with a groom from the club’s stables. My retired polo pony is, of course, neck-broken, he works with one hand, but I don’t know this and I must do something with the reins, because abruptly the pony has started back where we came from and I am swinging in the air on the other end of the reins doing the big loop.

*

It was altogether different in those days, because we had no dialogue or anything. I learned a great deal about pantomime from him, people telling the story just by their looks, their eyes and their hands. I learned about movement from him, of course, because most of his pictures were what we always called a “run-to-the-rescue.” That means that the girl is on the railroad tracks, the train is coming, her lover is coming on the horse and he gets her off just as the train goes by. All the pictures in the early days had that.

*

Most of the writers who have contributed to this dictionary belong either to the generation for whom Citizen Kane was the first great revelation of the cinema or to the generation for whom Godard’s A Bout de Souffle performed the same function. But they are alike in one very important respect: neither generation was brought up on silent film. Almost all the writers in the Dictionary discovered silent film after their experience of sound film. This is important, because they are therefore almost obliged to have a different view of montage.

*

The weird part of it is that it never occurred to anyone, including Clark and me, that all this might have had a bad effect on the mood, or on our ability to play a love scene convincingly. But that’s the way it was. The way it always is. The way it is today, on any movie set…

*

Of course, there was the zoo, with caged lions — that was before those ridiculous concrete rocks were built for them — and they made me cry. The seals, on the other hand, seemed to me to be happy; at least they had their water, and kilos of fish thrown to them by a keeper who addressed them only in German.

*

This week I excerpted only film books. It makes it harder to create a crazy mixed-up storyline or conversation, but what surprised me is that the coincidental connections created have little to do with film and more to do with transport.

They are: Lethal Innocence: The Cinema of Alexander Mackendrick, by Philip Kemp; Encountering Directors, by Charles Thomas Samuels (being flummoxed by Antonioni); Preston Sturges on Preston Sturges by Preston Sturges; Film Crazy: Interviews with Hollywood Legends, by Patrick McGilligan, interviewing Raoul Walsh (pictured) with Debra Weiner about D.W. Griffith; Cinema: A Critical Dictionary, edited by Richard Roud, from his introduction; Film Makers Speak, edited by Jan Leyda (the speaker is Mary Astor, referencing Clark Gable); Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used To Be, by Simone Signoret.

Eve Deceives

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on April 17, 2020 by dcairns

The_Lady_Eve_(1941_poster) (1)

I’m one of the very lucky ones — I can work from home. So when Criterion asked me to do a video essay on Preston Sturges’s THE LADY EVE, it would be an understatement to say I jumped at the chance. And recruited editor Stephen Horne, graphics/animator Danny Carr, and writer and Sturges enthusiast Alex Livingstone to help out.

The disc has just been announced and we’re pleased as Punch. You should be able to pre-order it soon.