Archive for Tony Curtis

Page Seventeen IV: Ernest Goes to Jail

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2022 by dcairns

In my earliest baby-boy memories, the man’s either looming and glum–not drunk enough–or bug-eyed and stubbly after a three-day bender, so liquored up he tilts when he leans down to snatch me off the burlap rags my brothers and sisters piled on the floor of our Kansas shack and called our “sleepy blankets.” I’d blink awake in the air, shaking cold, my face so close to Daddy’s the rye fumes burned my eyeballs. He’d rattle me till my teeth clacked, then start ranting in that high, Hoosier whine he only got when he was blotto and wanted to hurt something.

Pig had moved aside two dozen beer glasses and seated himself on a ledge behind the bar. In times of crisis he preferred to sit in as voyeur. He gazed eagerly as his shipmates grappled shoatlike after th seven geysers below him. Beer had soaked down most of the sawdust behind the bar: skirmishes and amateur footwork were now scribbling it into alien hieroglyphics.

That’s how my character was born.

Joe never tired of finding new ways to identify his Buster as an altogether unique personality in American show business. He liked to experiment with teasing tag lines to get people’s attention. One such line appeared in hundred of papers all over the country in 1909: KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE KID KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE KID KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE KID. He tried to interest the females in the audience with the announcement that Buster was “the cutest little bundle of jollity that ever wriggled into the hearts of audiences.”

3780009 Little Red Riding Hood, engraving by Gustave Doré. by Dore, Gustave (1832-83); (add.info.: Charles Perrault \’s, Little Red Riding Hood: Little Red Riding Hood with the wolf, engraving by Gustave Doré. Little Red Riding Hood sits in the bed next to the wolf, disguised in her grandmother \’s night-cap. Drawn by Gustave Doré, French artist, b January 6, 1832 – January 23, 1883. Engraved by Pannemaker. From Charles Perrault \’s Les Contes de Perrault / Perrault \’s Fairy Tales; CP: French writer, b January 12,1628 – May 16, 1703. From Cassell \’s \’Doré \’s Gallery\’ by Edmund Ollier, published Cassell & Company, Ltd., p. 106.); Lebrecht History.

Was that the way B.D. and my son, Michael, felt when they visited me after the stroke? Did I look so different and act so different that this is the mother they would remember, and not the mother they had always known. Since leaving the hospital Kathryn has told me many times about the way I looked. One of my oldest friends said, “The first time I saw you after the stroke, Bette Davis wasn’t in that bed. She was gone.” He was crying.

‘I’ll try the pills. I like that Xanax is spelled the same backwards and forwards,’ She didn’t want to have the suicide/fate discussion right now. For weeks she’d been feeling as if someone or something was fucking with her norepinephrine levels. She was exhausted from the effort to stay alive when she wasn’t motivated. Like an involuntary reflex, Kate’s face flipped onto the vid-screen she carried at all times in her head. It used to be a movie screen, but that was in the seventies.

She had been having trouble with her voice. It was never strong, and the slightest cold brought on laryngitis which lasted for weeks; but she was obliged to keep working, so that her voice grew progressively worse. She could not rely on it. In the middle of singing it would crack or suddenly disappear into a whisper, and the audience would laugh and start booing. The worry of it impaired her health and made her a nervous wreck. As a consequence, her theatrical engagements fell off until they were practically nil.

Seven paragraphs from seven page seventeens from seven books recently acquired or else rediscovered on forgotten shelves in the Shadowplayhouse.

I, Fatty by Jerry Stahl; V by Thomas Pynchon; Some Like It Hot: Me, Marilyn and the Movie by Tony Curtis with Mark A. Vieira; Keaton: The Man Who Wouldn’t Lie Down by Tom Dardis; This ‘n That by Bette Davis with Michael Herskowitz; You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again by Julia Phillips; My Autobiography by Charles Chaplin,

UN FILM DE ?????

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2019 by dcairns

Duvivier’s LA FETE A HENRIETTE has a neat premise and plays neat tricks, as its two screenwriters run through alternate possibilities for their romantic story. But the basic dynamic never satisfied me: the director sees the film as a light, charming, Rene Clair confection set on Bastille Day (Clair had in fact already made that film, as LE QUATORZE JUILLET, with Annabella in the ’30s). His writer keeps trying to turn it into a sexy melodrama full of underwear and killings. We see the alternative versions played out before us.

But it made me wonder why on earth the director keeps this writer around, since he hates all his ideas. And although we’re meant to sympathise with him, the writer’s bawdy caper with its Dutch tilts and lingerie looks a lot more fun. A more interesting dynamic might have been to give the power to the character with bad ideas, so we see a potentially sweet movie being wrecked.

George Axelrod and Richard Quine’s remake, PARIS… WHEN IT SIZZLES (most sources omit the ellipsis but it’s there in the title sequence) explodes the original concept in a number of ways. There’s only one writer, and he’s at war with himself, which is already more interesting. He has a stenographer with whom a romance blooms as the script is, falteringly, shaped. The real-life relationship merges with the characters in the film, with Audrey Hepburn and William Holden playing the leads in both “reality” and the film-within-the-film, which is called THE GIRL WHO STOLE THE EIFFEL TOWER and, unlike nearly all such meta-movies (the dire-looking MEET PAMELA in DAY FOR NIGHT being the prime example), actually looks like it might be diverting — in fact, it looks very much like HOW TO STEAL A MILLION. Fluffy, pointless, enjoyably diverting.

It even has Mel Ferrer changing from Jekyll to Hyde, as was his wont.

The mixing of reality and fantasy allows Axelrod and Quine to set up a lot of fun running gags, as the fictional avatars of our protagonist plagiarise their lines from real life, and get them stolen right back. Though it’s stuffed with pointless excess, both to parody gaudy Hollywood confections and to become one, it also has a narrative and manages to explain its impossible title quite neatly (there’s a film-within-the-film-within-the-film, you see, and it’s also called THE GIRL WHO STOLE THE EIFFEL TOWER — which, obviously, ought to have been the title of PARIS… WHEN IT SIZZLES too, and then we wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not to include the ellipsis — and the FWTFWTF gets stolen, so…).

A startling throwaway moment. This is 1964, people!

This leads us to Tony Curtis. While Marlene and Mel have uncredited cameos, Tony’s bit is actually quite substantial. When the real Audrey tells the real Bill that she has a date with an actor on Bastille Day, Holden gives his disgusted impression of the profession, summing up the Brando school of thespian as a bunch of preening slobs. He then begins his script with Audrey’s meta-character being dumped by her date, played by Curtis as an absurd, eye-lash fluttering, pouting, pose-striking, slouching Brando parody. Only also French. But with Tony Curtis’s Bronx accent.

As the plot progresses, though, Holden decides that the Curtis character is really an undercover cop. His boss, Gregoire “Coco” Aslan, keeps referring to him by his cover name rather than his real one, then scathingly tells him that really he’s just “second policeman.” So the gag becomes Tony Curtis, movie star, gamely allowing himself to play a humiliated bit actor in a nameless role. But there’s more! Maurice/Philippe (Tony) actually gets, probably, the biggest character/s arc of the movie. And reminds us of his astonishing comic skills.

Give this one a try! As a Parisian romp with Audrey, it ought to be frothy and charming, but it’s slightly too bitter, too Tashlinesque-zany, and salacious and shambling to be what, by rights, it ought to be aspiring to be. It’s too much like a Deluxe Color nervous breakdown. But, as such, it’s very interesting and often very funny.

The Sunday Intertitle: Snubbed

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2017 by dcairns

Snub Pollard (and unidentified frail) in YOUNG MR. JAZZ, a Harold Lloyd-Bebe Daniels comedy from 1919. Very nice, slightly disposable sort of film. To be really memorable, Harold needs more at stake, and he needs to suffer more. In this one he’s beset by an entire bar-room full of plug-uglies, and it just isn’t enough.

But Snub turning up like this reminded me of his surprise appearance in 1960’s WHO WAS THAT LADY?, playing a terrifying illustrated man. He has the job of tattooing the sole of Tony Curtis’ foot for plot reasons, which he sets about with grim relish.

Wasn’t going to write about WWTL? because we really couldn’t get on with it. It’s full of the sexism of that era, courtesy of scribe Norman Krasna. George Sidney directs with appropriate vulgarity, but the whole thing is too sinister, Snub’s alarming appearance being an early symptom.

New York chemistry professor Tony Curtis (!) is caught kissing or, as he argues it, being kissed by, a foreign exchange student. The one who catches him is Mrs. Curtis, AKA Janet Leigh. Curtis turns to TV scenarist friend Dean Martin to invent an alibi. Dino proposes that Tony is in reality and FBI agent and that he was kissing the girl as part of a mission. Of course, this pretense leads to real spy stuff (eventually) and lots of stress for the real FBI, who are all presented as chronically dyspeptic and long-suffering schmoes.

The main interests, in the absence of laughs, are the strange inverted resemblance to TRUE LIES (in which Arnie really IS a secret agent but his wife thinks he’s cheating on him, if memory serves, and she’s played by Janet & Tony’s daughter) and the deeply unpleasant nature of Dino’s character, which of course he plays to the hilt while apparently thinking he’s being charming. Having invented the foolproof cover story for infidelity, he then blackmails Tony into joining him on a double date (with the pneumatic Joi Lansing and her wobbleganger). Dino’s unseemly interest in forcing his best friend to have extramarital sex leads Tony to denounce him, quite accurately so far as we can see, as a psychopath. Superficial charm, pathological lying, complete lack of moral compass… yep, that’s Dino, or at any rate his screen persona in so many films one starts to wonder.

The whole thing ends with a kind of mushroom cloud hovering over the Empire State Building — just as the comedy terrorists in TRUE LIES are probably part of the reason that movie seems to have been written out of James Cameron’s CV, this lively yet ugly entry from George Sidney seems unfortunate whenever it’s interesting, and boring whenever it’s on track. Need to watch his SHOWBOAT or something as a palate cleanser.