Archive for Warner Bros

Doctor, Lawyer, Beggar Man, Thief

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2020 by dcairns

With a nod to Tom Waits’ Heart Attack and Vine, I conceived the idea of a Warren William Weekend Quadruple Feature — Since pre-code Warner Bros were in the process of producing a Mighty Tapestry of works documenting every aspect of American life, it’s easy to find any of their stars in roles embodying the roles Waits sings of. One could make the same series with William Powell, with a little studio-hopping (THE EX-MRS. BRADFORD, LAWYER MAN, MY MAN GODFREY, JEWEL THIEF), to name one.

Warren W. appears in BEDSIDE, THE MOUTHPIECE, THE MIND READER and THE DARK HORSE — I’ve had to stretch the definition of “beggar man” considerably, though — I would LOVE to see WW playing a shabby-genteel hobo, but I have to settle for a high society psychic, a profession that relates to sideshow charlatanry, but it’s definitely a cheat. On the other hand, for “thief” we could have had any of the LONE WOLF films and several others. The main reason for the exercise was to look at BEDSIDE again in the company of THE MOUTHPIECE, which I’d never seen… My suspicion was that they’d be basically the same film.

David Landau appears in losing hand of cards.

Not so! Although of course both have WW in rogue mode. Both are tales of sinners redeemed. But in BEDSIDE (Robert Florey), he’s so disgustingly corrupt (in a charming way) that his ultimate escape from any consequences for his actions as a phony doc — the medical profession closes ranks to avoid a scandal — comes off (and may have been sneakily intended) as satire. Whereas THE MOUTHPIECE ends on a stunningly ambiguous note — will WW pay the ultimate price for his misdeeds?

It’s hilarious to me that THE MOUTHPIECE shows our perennial rogue quitting the DA’s office in a fit of ethical revulsion after accidentally sending an innocent man to the electric chair, and then becoming, in reaction, a mob lawyer. Corruption awaits him in every direction, he just happens to fall into it. He saves J. Carroll Naish AND Jack La Rue, that’s how bad he is. He also has Aline McMahon as secretary/better angel, which is a sure sign of a man with a troubled conscience — see also FIVE STAR FINAL.

Both films have very good hangover scenes — WW had that slicked back hair — ruffle him, and a shaggy squid wafts loose its tendrils.

I can’t absolutely decide if the daringly open ending of MOUTHPIECE — there are strong indications that our hero will (a) die and (b) live — as the end title fades up he’s a virtual Schrödinger’s shyster — is the result of cunning or fumbling. The film has several writers and two directors (Elliott Nugent and James Flood). Did they all get together and come up with something clever, or all fight each other and come up with something muddled? The result is really interesting, whatever the process.

WW also lawyers up as Perry Mason, four times, and in James Whale’s WIVES UNDER SUSPICION, where his DA has an abacus of little skulls documenting/celebrating each killer he’s sent to the chair.

Rushin’ with Concussion

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2020 by dcairns

This is a nice documentary on Robert McKimson, who I always thought of us around about the number four man at Termite Terrace, home of the Looney Tunes, dwarfed by Jones, Clampett, Freleng (and Avery, though he did his best work at MGM). (Oh, and Tashlin, though he did his best work in features.) Probably my-ish low opinion of McKimson is due to seeing his name mainly on late-period toons, when Warners animation was in decline.

The startling bit in the doc is where we learn that McKimson, who would handle Speedy Gonzalez, suffered a traumatic brain injury after which he found he could drawn and animate better and faster. That’s remarkable and unlikely. What was damaged? Some inner critical voice that had been holding him back? How many brain cells would he have had to lose to overtake Freleng?

You Are Elmer Fudd

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on September 26, 2019 by dcairns

First person shooter — from RABBIT FIRE (1951).

A brilliant, one-joke cartoon on the same theme as RABBIT SEASONING (1952) and DUCK, RABBIT! DUCK! (1953): Elmer Fudd gets be-fudd-led about whether it’s duck season or rabbit season.

Interesting early example of direct cutting, before the nouvelle vague: Daffy accuses Bugs: “You’re dethpicable.”

Jump-cut to the pair walking along, Daffy elaborating on his theme. Continuity is sacrificed on the altar of forward momentum.

Most baffling bit is when Bugs opens a cook book of duck recipes to make Elmer want t kill, cook and eat Daffy. Daffy retaliates by snatching up a rival cook book devoted to rabbit-based cuisine. But he produces the volume from Bugs’ rabbit-hole. Why does Bugs own this book? Is there a long-suppressed cartoon dedicated to our grey-furred hero’s cannibalistic lifestyle? If so, is it called DONNER PARTY ANIMAL or BUNNY BOILER?