Archive for Zanuck

Tales of the Riverbank

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2016 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2016-12-21-10h35m42s214

So, my enjoyment of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA led me to investigate the often-overlooked John Cromwell a bit, flipping through my heap of unwatched discs to see what I might have of his lying about. BANJO ON MY KNEE came up — Stanwyck, McCrea? What’s not to like? Walter Brennan in support? Screenplay by Nunnally Johnson? All good.

vlcsnap-2016-12-21-10h36m32s844

Plus Walter Catlett in the role of Harold Lloyd’s dirty uncle.

It’s not all good, though, but it has definite pleasures. It begins with a wedding, and the impetus gained by starting with the leads already tying the knot gives a sense of plunging right in. The story world is a novel one — the main characters are Mississippi river-folk, dwelling on boats anchored to tiny islands in the great river. The only unfortunate thing about this is it brings in a lot of rowdy humour of the kind Johnson would supply to John Ford, a little of which goes a long way. As the movie goes on, preventing McCrea and Stanwyck from consummating their wedding takes quite a lot of plot ingenuity, and where that fails, the movie resorts to making McCrea an obnoxious lout. Now, it takes quite a lot to render the laid-back McCrea dislikable, but at times this movie definitely manages it.

vlcsnap-2016-12-21-10h32m45s342

Brennan fulfills his allotted role as Mr. Entertainment, playing McCrea’s old dad, lugging around his one-man-band “contraption,” and there’s amusing support from Buddy Ebsen and the sullen, feisty Katherine DeMille (adopted daughter of Cecil, wife of Anthony Quinn). Tony Martin suddenly turns up. “Who the hell is that?” asked Fiona. “A bar of soap,” I suggested. But do you know, by the end, we quite liked him. But, just when he’s become more of a hero than McCrea, the movie forgets he’s there.

Theresa Harris from David Cairns on Vimeo.

Brennan’s contraption and Martin’s crooning combine to make this a kind of stealth musical. All the numbers are diegetic, performed in situations where they might be performed, and the plot to some extent revolves around Brennan’s desire to serenade his son and daughter-in-law on their first night of passion, that he might become a grandfather. The biggest number, and the one that feels most on the verge of breaking the fourth wall, is a rendition of St Louis Woman by the great Theresa Harris. I swear you can actually see the splice where this whole scene could be removed for screenings in the south, so that residents of the film’s locales wouldn’t have to be offended by the sight of a black person being talented.

In a way, music goes beyond being a feature in the film and becomes a theme, a plot point and a character.

Cromwell’s skill with striking compositions is much in evidence, so even though the surly hero and incessant brawling get you down a bit, the visuals and the music and the players sustain interest and provide lashings of entertainment, with a slightly unusual flavour. And Katherine DeMille, in a magnificently mean and moody supporting role, produces a surprising burst of wet slip action which puts Annabella in the shade. Or it would if Annabella stood next to her and crouched. Seems to be a Zanuck fetish.

vlcsnap-2016-12-21-10h33m28s636

 

Advertisements

Quote of the Day: The Bosses of it all

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , on March 31, 2008 by dcairns

Ben 

‘Of all the bosses with whom I collaborated, Selznick and Zanuck and Goldwyn were the brightest. David, in the days he loved movie-making, was a brilliant plotter. He could think of twenty different permutations of any given scene without stopping to catch his breath. Darryl was also quick and sharp and plotted at the top of his voice, like a man hollering for help. Goldwyn as a collaborator was inarticulate but stimulating. He filled the room with wonderful panic and beat at your mind like a man in front of a slot-machine shaking it for change.’

~ Ben Hecht, A Child of the Century.

Gotta get this book. A kind-hearted student once photocopied an entire chapter of it, in which Hecht talks about movie censorship. He says that since movies always faded out just as characters were about to have sex, it’s natural to imagine that EVERY fade-out is a prelude to unbridled coupling. Next time you’re watching a 30s or 40s film and it’s proving a disappointment (maybe one of those BOSTON BLACKIE things, they’re dull as all hell), this might be a nice way to enliven it — imaginary intersticial pornography.

Bob and carol and Ted and Blackie