Archive for Rouben Mamoulian

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-White

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on February 26, 2016 by dcairns

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Film detective time again!

Arch-Shadowplayer Randy Cook sent me a discovery — what appears to be a nubile Wilfred Hyde-White in Rouben Mamoulian’s 1932 DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE, spotted leaving Fredric March’s opening lecture.

This is Big News in that it;s unlisted on the IMDb and would put WHW in the movies two years earlier than the IMDb would have it — and making his debut in Hollywood rather than Cricklewood.

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Biographical info on the silvery one is somewhat sparse, but we are told he embarked on a tour of South Africa in 1932. Very well — either he decided to keep travelling and took a crack at the movie capital, or else South Africa was a cover story, something young Wilfred (!) thought sounded more respectable than moviedom.

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But hang on — is it him? It looks like him, and who else could? I also applied my forensic identification expertise, which consists of one helpful tip, acquired making NATAN, in which we had to differentiate, to our own satisfaction, between a distinguished French movie producer and a series of porno actors, one with a passing resemblance. The hint is that, socially, we concentrate on the middle of the face, the eyes nose and mouth, and the general shape. But the ears have much to tell us — though they grow throughout a person’s life, they do not naturally acquire or discard lobes, and the crenellations within remain broadly consistent.

This Hyde-White-alike not only has a similar elongated visage, with similar, distinctly shaped features, his ears are a pretty close match too. What are the chances?

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The only snag is the voice, which seems not to have yet acquired the reedy, fluting, querulous, nasal, professorial tone we know from later movies — I should hate to think it was an affectation! In REMBRANDT (1936), the earliest confirmed WHW movie I have to hand, he already has it, in rudimentary form anyway. Playing a medical student, he may have thought it unhelpful and suppressed it. Anyway, your views are welcome — if you have the DVD, the scene in question is right at the start, and it’s always worth revisiting this classic anyway.

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The Wizard of Osric

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2012 by dcairns

A lovely Dublin bookshop had a large collection of second-hand film books, all dealing with British or Hollywood topics — I got The Westmores of Hollywood (from which much classic movie lore and gossip derives), The Celluloid Mistress or The Custard Pie of Dr Caligari, which I don’t yet know how to describe, and The Film HAMLET, which deals with Olivier’s movie in a pretty in-depth way for 1948, and for such a slender volume.

I was taken with the stuff pertaining to Peter Cushing’s Osric (the film features both Cushing and Christopher Lee, though Lee’s role is minute and they never meet onscreen) ~

“Osric, that sinister Beau Brummell of the Danish Court, fell pat into place. Casting our stage production of ‘Born Yesterday,’ in the autumn of 1946, Laurence and I had seen a clutch of young actors for the juvenile lead, among them a striking looking character, Peter Cushing, who stuck in our minds by a frank refusal even to attempt an American accent. Weeks later, watching another actor at the Q Theatre, I was struck by a performance of the Frenchman in ‘Where the Sun Shines,’ so true in style and accent that I looked for a French name on the programme. It was Mr. Cushing, and he speaks no French. Here evidently was an actor, and his test for Osric disposed of the last of our problems on the male side.”

Casting director Anthony Bushell there.

Cushing must have been thrilled, being a great Olivier fan — he admired Larry’s athletic approach, and you can see his emulation of it in the vigorous climaxes of CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA, and the swashbuckling approach he takes to playing Sherlock Holmes in HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES. Holmes is constantly exulted by his own intelligence, so that he spends the film on an adrenalin high.

Here’s costume and production designer Roger Furse’s sketch of Osric ~

My late friend Lawrie was an assistant on HAMLET, and described the ghost’s appearance in the opening scene — Olivier had wanted a pounding heart on the soundtrack, like Rouben Mamoulian’s in DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE (the director recorded his own elevated heartbeat after charging up and down a flight of stairs), so a junior employee was sent racing around the sound stage to get his pulse pounding. A microphone was pressed to his abdomen — “Nothing but indigestion,” reported Lawrie. When you see the film, the role of the heartbeat is played by a big bass drum.

But the cool thing is the way they’ve used an optical printer to make the shot throb in and out of focus each time the infernal heart beats…

People Will Talk

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on July 22, 2011 by dcairns

A little more from me on the subject of pre-code cinema over at The Daily Notebook, where I find myself in extremely good company — other contributors include Kent Jones, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Dan Sallitt, Dave Kehr, Zach Campbell, Kevin Lee and Ben Sachs. “Zowie!” as Joe E. Brown is always saying.

If you haven’t seen the above scene from ROMAN SCANDALS before, keep a glass of water to hand to catch your eyeballs when they pop out of your skull in amazement. If you have seen it before, you KNOW you want to see it again. And best keep the glass of water handy, just in case.