Archive for Sophia Loren

Magpies and Bagpipes

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , on August 7, 2021 by dcairns

“One for sorrow, two for joy”– this folks saying about magpies bothers me, because I like seeing magpies (once saw one repeatedly pecking a fox’s ass) and have no wish for a single one to be an ill omen.

Anyway, one evening I was diverted from my usual chip shop/pizzeria because it was closed for renovations, and found myself walking up Ferry Road, where I discovered a new bookshop — The Pay What You Like Bookshop. I immediately dubbed it The All You Can Eat Bookshop and resolved to visit it first thing in the morning when it was open.

En route next day, I passed two magpies (joy!), and was musing on the euphony of the word “magpie” and the word “bagpipe” and then immediately passed an establishment I’d never consciously noticed, devoted to the manufacture of bagpipes. The explanation, short of sheer coincidence, would presumably be that I’d taken in the sign on a previous occasion and, without consciously remembering it, my brain had shuffled the word bagpipe nearer the front of my brain when I saw the pair of magpies.

An insight into the shambolic maunderings of my mind.

Anyway, a good haul. Dipping in, the Sellers book has Blake Edwards plausibly calling the star and collaborator a paranoid schizophrenic, the Loren autohagiography feels ghostwritten and whitewashed, Under Milk Wood makes every sentence I’ve ever written seem pitifully inadequate, the Esther Williams book is awesome, I’ve read it before but it’s worth owning, and The Songs of Hollywood seems scholarly and fun, getting into the craft of songwriting in a useful way.

Eventful Horizon

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2021 by dcairns

Nova Scotia! Where they build so close to the horizon line they have to put fences along it to stop people falling off.

The clifftop settings of Jean Negulesco’s JOHNNY BELINDA are so striking — this is a mysterious director, alternating between visually striking films like this, and sometimes wildly experimental ones like his episode of O. HENRY’S FULL HOUSE — and really boring stuff like pretty much all his Cinemascopic output (BOY ON A DOLPHIN is supported only by Sophia Loren’s gravity-defying breasts). He was a skilled channeler of the Warner Bros house style — this is my favourite of those I’ve seen. Anyone have any recommendations?

JB was also of interest because of the presence amid the writers of Irma Von Cube, who, apart from her wonderful name was a collaborator of Anatole Litvak’s during his early career in Europe. Her credits are sporadic but I should check out her Schumann biopic, SONG OF LOVE, directed by Clarence Brown.

It’s the story of a deaf girl who grows upon a poor farm, unable to communicate, then a new doctor teaches her sign language. But it throws in rape and murder, with typical Warners excess.

Jane Wyman is fantastic in this. Jan Sterling, a one-of-a-kind, is great too. Lew Ayres is as lovely a character as 1948 movies could conceive, though perhaps a little mansplainy for modern tastes, puffing the pipe of self-satisfaction. But it’s a much better variation on that kind of figure than THE DARK MIRROR, say, where his pipe-puffing comes with an overlay of smug misogyny.

I associate Negulesco’s triumph here with his skills as a graphic artist: the low horizons are a great gift to him. Credit also to cinematographer Ted McCord (TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE) and production designer Robert Haas (THE MALTESE FALCON).

His Third-to-Last Breath

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on December 7, 2019 by dcairns

It’s getting to be a tradition — watch a late Curtiz every December. Since Curtiz had such an extraordinarily long career (1912-1961!), he’s entitled to more late films than most people. This one is from 1960 — he would make three more and die in spring ’62.

A BREATH OF SCANDAL is from a play by Ferenc Molnar, frequent source for Lubitsch, Wilder, et al, so it allows Curtiz to visit Vienna, in sorta-kinda his native land (it was capital of Austria-Hungary when he was born in Budapest seventy-three years before).

Aaand the first joke is about senility, as an old geezer hears the Emperor referenced and rises, saluting. “Don’t try to get up,” says his somewhat younger wife, “We’ll only have to put you down again.”

I’ve been trying to locate the point where Curtiz’s films stop moving, become inert, dead things. The first half hour of this is relatively spritely, though there are markedly fewer of those elegant gliding tracking shots. But Sophia Loren, a nimble comedian as we all know, gets some laughs, blasting away with a rifle from the tower to which she’s been exiled for excess sexiness — no moping Rapunzel, she. At one point, the film makes it seem as if she’s shooting at a little girl, which made me chuckle.

Then John Gavin turns up in a jalopy — you expect the film is going to collapse into terminal petrification as he fixes the scenery with his gorgon’s gaze, but NO — even though there’s no Chinese white slavers on hand to shoot him full of curare, which generally brings out the best in him, he’s reasonably effective as a stuffy, repressed American interloper. Tiresomely virtuous, someone Loren can run rings around — a good, stiff foil for her moral flexibility.

But once the film decamps to Vienna, despite some terrific locations it heads rapidly into total sclerosis. Chevalier is on hand to provide some vespertine twinkle, but now the script requires both Gavin AND Loren to be priggish and petulant, and I got tired of both of them.

Look, Angela Lansbury!

So, Curtiz’s ability to keep a movie conscious arguably lasted until half an hour into this one, though there are decent moments in his HUCK FINN. I’m going to keep working my way back — I haven’t seen anything between this one and WE’RE NO ANGELS, which is so far the latest-period Curtiz I would rewatch for pleasure. But there are eight films in there, including several in b&w. Curtiz is generally best in b&w. It affects him like curare affects John Gavin — by subtracting something, it releases something else, and the result is entertainment.

The hats are very good in this one.

A BREATH OF SCANDAL stars Filumena Marturano; Prince Danilo; Sam Loomis; Mrs. Eleanor Shaw Iselin; Aunt Alicia; Detective Moletti; Lisa Bolkonskaya; Aramis; and Queequeg.