Archive for William Wyler

The Sunday Intertitle: Home and Deranged

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

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William Wyler, strangely for an acclaimed, Oscar-winning, AFI-certified master director (albeit one with shaky standing among highbrow cinephiles), suffers from a peculiar neglect of his early work. he cut his teeth doing tiny westerns, like Ford, but while Ford’s shorts are at least the object of some cinephile interest, and ripples of excitement are felt whenever one is rediscovered, Wyler’s juvenilia seems to inspire little curiosity and in any case there is no way to slake any if you have some.

“I used to lie awake at night trying to think of new ways to photograph a man getting off a horse,” recalled Wyler, who had been known as Worthless Willie, a Laemmle relative who had been handed a studio job based on genetics rather than merit, and made little splash apart from when he drove his motorbike off a friend’s diving board as a lark. His brother Robert was considered the promising one.

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Somewhere in between starting out on his sagebrush hackwork and making 1929’s THE SHAKEDOWN, the only pure silent of his I’ve been able to see, Wyler got good. The same year he made part-talkies THE LOVE TRAP and HELL’S HEROES, which are very good, once you get over the whole part-talkie thing. So the whole “learning his craft” part of the Wyler oeuvre is MIA. It might be very interesting, or totally uninteresting, but we don’t know until we see it, or at least until some reliable person sees it and reports back in detail.

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So I was chuffed to obtain THE STOLEN RANCH from 1926 — and then surprised to find it’s not a two-reel western but a fairly substantial piece of work, opening as it does in WWI — not a WINGS-scale super-epic version, admittedly, but a comparatively modest evocation of trench warfare with a few shell-bursts and squibs. We meet leading man Fred Humes (me neither) and his buddy, who has a breakdown under the strain, and then we flash forward to an unspecified postwar world, roughly contemporaneous…

A train passes and Fred covers his friend’s ears so he won’t be startled by the whistle — he still has shell-shock, we surmise. And Fred’s tenderness is touching. I’m immediately gripped. I want to know what happens to these fellows. I’ll let you know.

A Prophecy

Posted in FILM with tags , , on July 20, 2016 by dcairns

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“The world’s open for people like you and me. There’s thousands of us all over the world. We’ll own this country some day: they won’t try to stop us.”

THE LITTLE FOXES.

Commingling

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2016 by dcairns

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Already, after just one FULL day of viewing in Bologna, things are getting blurry. BATMAN: THE MOVIE was one of the last things I saw in Edinburgh, and here comes Cesar Romero, the Joker himself, as a stage-door Johnny in William Wyler’s Sturges-scripted THE GOOD FAIRY (“A lot of early Sturges scripts have only a few recognizably Sturgesian lines, but this one is all Sturges all the time,” is how I pitched it to a fellow patron) and here comes Alfred the butler in MARNIE, screening in an archival Technicolor print. Everything is intermingling.

Also viewed — Mariann Lewinsky introduced her Krazy Serial programme of serial installments from a hundred years ago, saying that she had been urged to commemorate the Futurist manifesto, published right here in Bologna in 1916, but “it’s a terrible document. And the futurists, who took a great deal from cinema, gave nothing back. Whereas the Dadaists, who took nothing from anywhere, gave a great deal back.” So by creating a collage of incomplete serials, she pays homage to Dada and to Krazy Kat, who is also celebrating his centenary.

Jacques Feyder’s LE PIED QUI ÉTREINT (THE CLUTCHING FOOT) is a parody of serials, and specifically THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE (I know this only because I saw a couple of episodes in Bologna two years ago), with that show’s Clutching Hand replaced by “the man in the green scarf”, a masked figure in an outsize baby carriage, limbs spasming in horrible spasticity, bare feet grasping at convenient props such as the old-fashioned car horn affixed to his perambulator. He’s my new role model.

More on this later, hopefully — it’s the greatest set of nonsense ever assembled.

These disconnected fragments of narrative have been assembled alongside one another to throw up precisely the kind of random connections that make film festivals so confusing — the final stage of this syndrome is when characters from the films seem to appear on the streets, or characters from the streets in the films. I’m not quite there yet, but it’s still early days.