Archive for Stanley Cortez

Selznick roasting on an open fire

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on December 25, 2016 by dcairns



Well, there’s your problem right there.

I love, in an ironic way, the idea that the ultimate in David O Selznick’s perennial quest for QUALITY was to dispense with the services of Ben Hecht, Robert E. Sherwood and all the other top writing talent he could so readily afford, roll up his shirtsleeves and get down to work at the typewriter himself. His time being more valuable than anybody’s, the results would have to be impressive. Leave aside the fact that if Selznick wasn’t Selznick, there’s no way Selznick would hire him to write a screenplay.


SINCE YOU WENT AWAY, his wartime epic about the home front, build on the MRS MINIVER model, is stuffed with goodies. EVERYBODY seems to be in it, and to be fair, Selznick finds something for them all to do. Just listing the favourite actors in the cast would make this piece too long. There are TWO top-notch cinematographers, Stanley Cortez to make it beautiful, and Lee Garmes to also make it beautiful and maybe get it all shot before the war is over. (Director John Cromwell had uncredited assists from THREE colleagues, including DOS himself.) The film deserves praise for making epic scenes out of an inherently small-scale, domestic story. Compare with the lovely THIS HAPPY BREED, directed by the future Mr. Epic himself, David Lean, which keeps everything simple and understated which is also a good way to go. But it must have been kind of thrilling for Americans to see their daily struggles turned into the stuff of Hollywood super-production.



Some good scenes — some very good scenes — some scenes which work despite being unbearably schmaltzy — and some scenes which are just unbearably schmaltzy. It all ends at Christmas, and this is the best time of year for it because you’re more likely to find the icky sentimental bits bearable. Rather than the starry and excellent cast, I’m concentrating on Jack Cosgrove’s FESTIVE GLASS SHOTS. Because what is Christmas without in-camera optical effects?

A wet Sunday in Edinburgh, that’s what.



That upper one MIGHT be a miniature, not sure — the last shot of the film is a model, with Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple projected on a tiny screen in the upper window, transforming them into dollhouse residents for the occasion.

…and you know who else…

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2011 by dcairns

…has been looking at Charles Laughton’s NIGHT OF THE HUNTER? Only William Friedkin, around the time he was making THE EXORCIST.

Or if not, it’s a w ild coincidence.

Of course, Friedkin has talked about how the famous poster shot of Father Merrin arriving at the house in Georgetown was influenced by René Magritte’s painting The Empire of Light (above), but I think it’s that close. Maybe he used that as a cue when discussing the scene with DoP Owen Roizman, and maybe Roizman thought of Charles Laughton and Stanley Cortez’s imagery. Or maybe Friedkin saw Bernardo Bertolucci making the much more reasonable claim that Magritte’s “day for night” painting was a reference point for Vittorio Storaro’s THE SPIDER’S STRATAGEM — the thought stuck in the sausage-meat electrical storm of Friedkin’s brain, and he later “originated” it by the simple procedure of opening his yap.

Then there’s this ~

Okay, not that close, and one might fairly ask how many ways there are of shooting somebody standing over somebody else who’s lying in a bed? Actually, quite a few, and most of them are in THE EXORCIST. So much of that damn film takes place in a single bedroom… I’m convinced that’s why they cast Max Von S: one look at him reminds you that long static scenes in rooms CAN be cinematically compelling.

At any rate, these two images have so much in common viscerally that leafing through film books as a kid, I think I somehow confused or conflated the two movies, imagining some kind of NIGHT OF THE EXORCIST.

What a messed-up film that would be. For, with its horror of female sexuality and the body, THE EXORCIST is more like the film preacher Harry Powell would have made if Warners gave him the money.

The Night of the Hunter (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

The Night of the Hunter (Criterion Collection)