Archive for Ted McCord

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).

Gold Fever

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2019 by dcairns

THE HANGING TREE is a fairly late Gary Cooper movie with “the Montana mule” atypically cast as a doctor treating a gold rush community (a ghost-town-in-waiting) and haunted by a dark secret. His past may not be as shady as in the startling MAN OF THE WEST, but it’s a more convincing fit for the man we see before us — the movie keeps it deniably ambiguous, but it’s pretty clear the Doc murdered his cheating wife and her lover before moving out to the badlands to gamble by night and heal the sick by day.

Since Gary is by now a touch long in the tooth (he’d just had a facelift but still looks rumpled), there’s a young sidekick in toe, a failed thief Coop saves from justice and blackmails into being his indentured servant. Ben Piazza (?) is excellent in this role, and I don’t know why he didn’t get bigger follow-up roles. Maybe because, when Hollywood paired its aging stars with young up-and-comers, the young u.a.c.’s always had to play callow, dopey characters, which isn’t good star-building experience. (The line “It’s nice to meet a SMART kid,” in RIO BRAVO seems to me to be a comment on this tendency.)

Anyhow, Maria Schell, Karl Malden and a debuting George C. Scott are also on hand, playing what you might expect, and Daves shoots the hell out of the thing. I first noticed his almost excessive zeal for getting the most cinematic value out of every scene in 3.10 TO YUMA. I use “cinematic” in its dumbest sense, I suppose: landscape spectacle, crane and tracking shots, looming close-ups, lots of coverage (but smart, impactful coverage, nothing wasteful or sloppy). So the movie is a feast for the eyes: Ted D. McCord shot it, and the compositions are frequently stunning. So although the plot development is mainly predictable, the few genre variations (by way of original author Dorothy M. Johnson, also the source of THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE) and the visual splendour kept me riveted, even though one would think some of the cast would be able to predict oncoming plot developments, what with Max Steiner signalling furiously to them with his baton.

 

TERRIBLE song at the start and finish does quite a bit of damage to an intriguing outcome.

Featuring Beau Geste; Helena Friese-Greene; Sheriff Dad Longworth; General Jack D. Ripper; Drunken doomsayer in diner; Morgan Ryker; Jack Belicec; and Darryl F. Zanuck.