Archive for WC Fields

Drowning in a Sea of Bliss

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2021 by dcairns

ON SUCH A NIGHT might not qualify as a forgotten gem but its certainly a curio. Grant Richards (as “Nicky Last”) is going to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit but a flood gives him a second chance. His new wife, Karen Morley tries to rescue him with Alan Mowbray’s travelling magic show but they’re pursued by the real killer, Eduardo Ciannelli (as “Ice Richards”) and a fast-talking newspaperman (Roscoe Karns) and they all end up stranded by the flood in a southern mansion full of stereotypes of one kind or another (white-bearded colonel, superstitious black servants).

The verbose and ebullient Mowbray (as Professor Ricardo Montrose Candle) seems to be inhabited a role conceived for WC Fields — florid speech, including “comic” racism (“My suntanned friend”), elaborate endearments, legerdemaine, perhaps with Lupe Velez as the missus ( “My little cactus flower.”) Here, she’s played by Milly, much later in THE CONFORMIST as Trintignant’s mum. Such recasting would have moved this movie towards INTERNATIONAL HOUSE territory. Despite the thriller aspects — which show signs of promise early on — it’s halfway to such lunacy anyway. WC Fields in a disaster movie is an inspiring thought. You could get him to say the title: “Why, it’s a veritable towering inferno.” “My, my, my, this is quite the Poseidon adventure.”

And yes, E.A. Dupont directs. There’s a bit of unchained camera business going on, but it doesn’t rise to the spectacular. Still, it’s a peculiar and different film, an independent production now seemingly extant only in a ratty, fuzzy form. I’ll take what I can get: several of Dupont’s US films aren’t discoverable at all…

Oh, and Mowbray speaks of composing a song to be entitled “Drowning in a Sea of Bliss,” but since he never gets anywhere with it, I’m attempting a set of lyrics.

I’m drowning in a sea of bliss

Sinking down for your liquid kiss

It’s not that surprising

The water is rising

With the sound of a terrible hiss

A dum-dee dee dum…

ON SUCH A NIGHT stars Philo Vance; Pendola Molloy; Oscar Shapeley; Dr. Satan; Madre di Marcello Clerici; Granville Thorndyke; Dr. Lupus Crumm; Mrs. Leeson; Himmelstoss: Capt. Englehorn; Teeler Yacey; ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ Brewster; Uncle Cato; Black Mammy (uncredited); Little Joe Jackson; Yankee on Street (uncredited); and Fantastic Brown.

Kidnapping, murder and plagiarism

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2020 by dcairns

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I plonked the top image on Twitter because I thought it was a striking line, and Fredrik Gustaffson immediately spotted where it was stolen from and posted the original.

FOLLI A TUER and FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. They don’t really have anything to do with one another so I’d call it a swipe rather than a hommage. But swipes are, in a way, more admirable: the filmmaker is simply trying to make his film better than he’d be able to do using his own imagination alone. Hommages are a bit masturbatory.

So, follow Fredrik, you are unlikely to regret it.

Yves Boisset, the swiper in question (unless he got the line from his source novel, Jean-Patrick Manchette’s O Dingos…O Chateaux), seems unable to frame an attractive shot, and crams his compositions with ugly sets, costumes and a few ugly people, but this is in fact a very good thriller with a little extra philosophy/character.

 

Marlene Jobert, last seen (by me) in René Clement’s RIDER ON THE RAIN, always seems to be having rather a hard time of it. She’s released from a psychiatric hospital some years after killing a man in (as yet) unexplained circs, goes to work for millionaire Michael Lonsdale (seems nice enough, what could go wrong?) as nanny to his disturbed charge, Thomas Waintrop. A terrific little actor but a bit of a handful. Plus, all of Lonsdale’s domestic staff seem to have been recruited from the asylum or the penitentiary: his elevator boy was a cat killer, and his chauffeur a serial rapist. What’s going on here?

Then Jobert and Waintrop are kidnapped by Tomas Milian and things get really bad. I can’t offhand recall a child or child actor being put through so much slapping and threatening in a film. The movie seems misanthropic (and opens with a quote from WC Fields) but has a lot of heart, too. Diseased heart, possibly.

 

Worth a peek.

FOLIE A TUER stars Mélancolie Mau; Tepepa; Hugo Drax; Gustave Dominici; Warok; and Col. Günther Reza.

Pg. 17, #4

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2020 by dcairns

fields

De Laurentis inspects Kong’s skeleton.

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Vaudeville was born at approximately the same time as W.C. Fields and in approximately the same place. An outgrowth of the British music hall tradition, variety performances were initially used to draw customers into American beer halls in the 1870s. The first vaudeville theater, Tony Pastor’s, was opened in New York in 1881, and the trend to clean shows that could play to “double audiences” (meaning men and women) spread to other cities. By 1885, there were more than twenty such houses in Philadelphia, which was to become known as “the Cradle of Vaudeville” for all the important acts that got their starts there.

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What vaudeville had to teach its practitioners was a discipline and method. The vaudeville act had to put itself over to a critical and not very patient audience, in a strictly limited time–it could be sixteen minutes or it could be eight–against relentless competition and without the benefit of a favourable context (a dramatic monologuist might be sandwiched between knockabout comics and performing seals).

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The leaning towards violent contrast — which in Expressionist literature can be seen in the use of staccato sentences — and the inborn German liking for chiaroscuro and shadow, obviously found an ideal artistic outlet in the cinema. Visions nourished by moods of vague and troubled yearning could have found no more apt mode of expression, at once concrete and unreal.

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Your world appeared to have everything. You grew up in Hollywood, you had the kind of adulation that people live lifetimes trying to achieve without ever attaining.

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That June, I spent my first night alone in a hotel (at Grand Rapids), and so, a little more than a month before my sixteenth birthday, I was into a ten-week season–one production a week–during which I would end up playing leads not only in the children’s shows (for instance, the Lion in The Wizard of Oz), but in the regular Equity company too (Signe Hasso’s teenage son in Glad Tidings). I played a butler with Sylvia Sidney, worked with Edward Everett Horton (as his dresser), Veronica Lake and ZaSu Pitts (moving furniture around). I also received my first credit as director–of the Children’s Variety Show. That winter, I got special permission from my school to miss athletics so I could take afternoon and early-evening acting classes with the legendary Stella Adler, who became so dear to me in so many ways.

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‘We were able to do that much for Bitsy, buster,’ Harry snarled. ‘We were able to get the Joint Chiefs to lean hard enough to get you an honorable discharge.’

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Seven passages from seven page seventeens found in seven books in my living room, randomly but mostly on the same shelf. I like the mix of film and non-film here. It tells a kind of story, doesn’t it? Well, in roughly the same way that MARIENBAD does.

W.C. Fields, a Biography, by James Curtis, Buster Keaton, by David Robinson, The Creation of Dino De Laurentiis’ King Kong, by Bruce Bahrenburg, The Haunted Screen, by Lotte H. Eisner, People Will Talk, by John Kobal (interviewing Gloria Swanson), Who the Devil Made It, by Peter Bogdanovich, and Arigato, by Richard Condon.