Archive for Tay Garnett

Skin Games

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , on April 2, 2020 by dcairns


A gruesome twosome from what one departing filmmaker referred to as Sixteenth Century Fox, if I recall correctly. Here, at The Notebook.

HUMAN CARGO stars Dallas; Quatermass McGinty; Professor Marvel’s brother; Elsa Bannister; and Beard #1

SLAVE SHIP stars The Cisco Kid; Pancho Villa; Mrs. Copperfield; Mr. Yunioshi; Addison DeWitt; Ma Joad; Capt. Alfred Dreyfus; Leuwen Grayle; Victor Radin; Mimi Wynant Jorgenson; Uncle Arn; ‘Sourpuss’; Queen Tika; Emperor Ming; Snug – The Joiner; Dr. John Lanyon; Stymie; Gimpy Lamb; and Laurence Talbot.

Breakaway Props

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2019 by dcairns

Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne make a surprising duo, yet they made three films together (and didn’t really get on — Marlene seems to have been the difficult one).

The films have a lot of brawling in them. SEVEN SINNERS is my favourite, although Wayne’s character is kind of a self-destructive dope. Strong support from Mischa Auer, Marlene’s DESTRY co-star, a comparatively slim Broderick Crawford (pictured) and a villainous Oscar Homolka.

THE SPOILERS casts Randolph Scott against type as a louse, which like Wayne as a dope is unconventional but not particularly pleasing. I guess I’m like a 1940s audience member, unwilling to accept my stars out of type-casting.

Mind you, what it does to Wayne’s persona is positively dizzying, and I didn’t mind that so much. Even the blackface gag seemed… not as offensive as it should be. Marietta Canty’s sensitive playing keeps the humour just the right side of awful.

PITTSBURGH — and how weird is it that Universal made a film called PITTSBURGH and expected people to like it? — is my least favourite. Wayne plays an absolute louse, the worst character he ever played. He’s like Charles Foster Kane with anthracite. And I’m reminded of what Billy Wilder said about coal mining films — “I don’t leave the theater… elated.”

Also there’s not enough brawling. Does Pennsylvania lack conducive saloons?

A friend told me a story that’s movie punch-up related. His dad was a merchant seaman or something like that. First time at sea. They stopped in an exotic port and hit some seedy dive on shore leave. Somewhere like the Seven Sinners. A fight broke out.

The young not-yet dad immediately knew what to do — he’d seen the right movies. He grabbed a chair and swung it down on somebody’s back. There was a snapping sound, the guy fell to the floor — but the chair remained in his hands, unbroken.

He ran back to the ship and didn’t leave it for the rest of his leave.

The respective directors of these epics are Tay Garnett (kind of replaying HER MAN), Ray Enright, Lewis Seiler.

SEVEN SINNERS stars Lola Lola; the Ringo Kid; Dr. Cyclops; Harry Brock; Bronwyn; Prince Nikita Starloff; Professor Von Schwartzenhoffen; Col. Stok; Commodore Schmidlapp; Charleston; Blake of Scotland Yard; and Jabez Stone.

THE SPOILERS stars Lola Lola; Gil Westrum; the Ringo Kid; Millie Ray; Trader Horn; Bat MacPherson; Pa Bailey; Pa Joad; Tubal; James R. Smoke; Dobosh; and the Frankenstein Monster.

PITTSBURGH stars Lola Lola; Gil Westrum; the Ringo Kid; Doctor Harry Brewster; Prof. Shemp Howard; Captain Edward Teach aka Blackbeard; Pop Gehrig; Pa Bailey; Mr. Manleigh; and Mrs. Laurel.

The Sunday Intertitle: All Done with Mirrors

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on January 27, 2019 by dcairns

An intertitle written by the young Tay Garnett for Stan Laurel’s SOMEWHERE IN WRONG (1925). Stan plays a tramp in this, but does not essay a Chaplin impersonation, despite having understudied the Great Man. He’s more in the spirit of American hobodom, rural rather than urban, intent on snaffling doughnuts cooling on a sill while evading a watchdog…

Still, it seems like pallid stuff at first. Stan falls down and animated stars emanate from his head — this rotoscoping effect seems to be something he was addicted to at the time. Stan always had a cartoon side at war with his more “realistic” human sensibility, breaking out in those fantasy gags where he uses his thumb as a Zippo, or the grotesque physical distortions of Ollie’s body (which used to horrify me as a kid).

Then, midway, some brilliance does start to emerge. Stan is tempted to break into a safe.

He reaches for the handle, eyes watching the door. But, as in some fever dream, his fingers grasp at the safe but find no purchase. Stan, still looking the other way, can’t figure out what’s going wrong, and repeatedly snatches at thin air. Finally he confronts the problem head on ~

There’s your problem! It wasn’t a safe, merely the reflection of one on the far wall. Stan was trying to break into a mirror.

The perspectival trick involved wouldn’t deceive anybody in real life, of course: it depends on very careful placement of the camera, the mirror, and the real safe, which is MUCH too far away in reality (the opposite side of a medium-size room) to fit snugly into the looking-glass as it appears to in this shot. But it’s an EXCELLENT gag. I don’t know how you even begin to think of something like that.

Well, I know step one.

Step one: be Stan Laurel.

But as to what step two is, I couldn’t tell you.