Archive for The Cardinal

Bass relief

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2008 by dcairns


The start of the Bass-Preminger collaboration…


Title sequences by Saul Bass. It’s interesting that Otto Preminger, something of a control freak one might think, was happy to basically hand over the openings of his movies to somebody else to direct. I mean, no doubt Bass and Preminger discussed these sequences intensively. But they still smack of untrammelled creativity, so it would be astonishing to me if Otto interfered much after the concept was agreed.

But then, Otto was also able to collaborate effectively with some great composers, and of course there again the filmmaker must entrust a large part of the movie to somebody else, somebody who cannot be directed in quite the same way as an actor or cinematographer…

SAINT JOAN. Impressive how Bass’s hip work merges so well with the period flavour.



EXODUS. “Otto, let my people go!”


“When the Saul Bass credits conclude with the dome of the Capitol lifting to reveal Preminger’s name, the limitations of the whole enterprise are already apparent.” ~ Jonathan Rosenbaum.

THE CARDINAL. Again, simple but stunning due to the careful design of action and lettering together.

IN HARM’S WAY. Just the placement of the words over the image is beautiful, it makes it inexplicable why so many title sequences don’t seem to bother with composition at all.

BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING. Probably my favourite late Preminger, of those I’ve been able to see in decent form. The best ever Olivier film performance, and a superb turn from Noel Coward.


Preminger, a useful combination of artist and huckster, undoubtably borrowed from Hitchcock’s zesty promotional gimmickry, pushing himself forward as a personality, as a bigger star than those in his films, and even narrating his own movie trailers in a lugubrious fashion (Hitch was way better at that though). But Preminger was the first to use the iconic Saul Bass as titles designer (unity was achieved by having Bass design ALL the publicity material as well).

Quote of the Day: “Broadvay? I must tell ze birds!”

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , on March 18, 2008 by dcairns

 Otto exhausts

Sotto voce: quietly, under one’s breath, in a whisper.

Otto voce: very very loudly, at the top of one’s lungs, screaming purple-faced with forehead veins standing out like an orgy of earthworms.

Foam rubber cummerbund?

‘And I directed Margin for Error by Claire Booth Luce, which opened on November 3, 1939. I remember the date because a German actor called Rudolph Forster was to play a German count — he was a great star in Germany. (Much later he played a small part in THE CARDINAL.) One day I came to rehearsals and he wasn’t there. In the middle of rehearsals, just a week before we were to open out-of-town, he had left, writing a very funny note for me: “Dear Otto, I am leaving to rejoin Adolf. Love, Rudolf.”

‘… We couldn’t find anybody to play the part, so Claire Booth Luce suggested that I play it. She had watched me when I rehearsed the actors and she said I could very well play a nazi.’

~ from The Cinema of Otto Preminger, by Gerald Pratley.

Otto man empire

I was initially puzzled that Otto would re-hire Forster after being left in the lurch like that, and for such a dubious reason! Then I reflected that a) Preminger was perhaps grateful for the incident that sparked his acting career, a useful sideline, and b) Preminger must have been aware that working for him was NO TREAT, and this was perhaps his oportunity at long last to scream his head off at Forster, twenty years after the original offense.

Anyhow, Otto’s nazi was well-received, even garnering praise from Albert Einstein (great physicist, but was he a good judge of theatre?).

The play later became a film, which Otto directed, relaunching his stalled film career, with uncredited script work by Sam Fuller, still in uniform at the time — it’s arguably the first film Otto really put his heart and soul into, and it’s NOW AVAILABLE.

Quote of the Day: Poor Tom

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , on March 7, 2008 by dcairns


Otto Preminger: a man so mean he warms his hands with barbed wire.

John Huston, in his autobiography An Open Book, reminisces on acting in THE CARDINAL for director Otto Preminger ~

‘Otto is the kindest and most considerate of men in everyday life, but he is notorious for his behaviour on the set. His tirades are legendary. It usually turns out that a reputation like Otto’s has little basis in fact, but as I came onto the set the very first day I was to work, Otto was already roaring like a lion, and his roars never ceased. Most of his roaring was at Tom Tryon. They were a couple of weeks into the picture, and I was told he’d been roaring at Tom since the opening shot. Poor Tom was a wreck!

‘We had a scene where we entered a room together. Standing outside the door, waiting for the cue light to flash, I could actually feel Tom quaking beside me, and I put my arm around him to steady him. He said in an undertone, “I’m going to quit acting.” After we played the scene, I drew Otto aside and told him that I thought, as things were going, Tom was heading for a nervous breakdown. “He’s a nundle of nerves. If you don’t get him to relax, he might not even finish the picture.” Otto was astounded. he hadn’t even realised that he was raising his voice at Tom.

‘Tryon’s next scene was practically a monologue, and he wasn’t doing that well with it. He was tense. His eyes were desperate, and in a final rehearsal I heard him groan once between lines. He got through the scene somehow. Otto said, “Cut!” Then he rose, walked up behind Tom, who stood isolated and miserable, and screamed into his ear, “Relax!”

‘True to his word, Tom Tryon left acting and became a writer of best-sellers.”

One of those, THE OTHER, became a remarkable film directed by Richard Mulligan. It’s emotionally draining like very few “horror movies”, and the ending of is one of the most horrible I have ever seen.


So, maybe it was all worth it!


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