The epic saga of a frontier family, Cimarron starts with the Oklahoma Land Rush on 22 April 1889. The Cravet family builds their newspaper Oklahoma Wigwam into a business empire and Yancey ... See full summary »
At breakfast, Jane announces that she and Ralph are getting married the next week. All Jane and Ralph want is a small wedding with the immediate family and no reception. This is because ... See full summary »
At the Doll House, a 1930's New Orleans bordello, Hallie is the main attraction both for clients and for Jo, the madame. Her comfortable if tedious life is disrupted by the arrival in town ... See full summary »
Self-absorbed Dr. Lee Johnson enlists with the Army medical corps during World War II, more out of a feeling that it's "the thing to do" rather than deep-seated patriotism. On his first day... See full summary »
The lives of a close-knit group of brothers growing up in Iowa during the days of the Great Depression and of World War II and their eventual deaths in action in the Pacific theater are ... See full summary »
Job or family? This perennial conflict portrayed in this drama about a draftsman, able to free himself from the job for a very overdue family vacation, who is threatened with the sack if he doesn't return to work mid-holiday.
Ray Henderson joins Buddy De Sylva and Lew Brown to form a successful 1920s musical show writing team. They soon have several hits on Broadway but De Sylva's personal ambition leads to ... See full summary »
Two men are released from the Arizona Territorial Prison at Yuma in 1898. One, the Dutchman, is out to get both gold and revenge from the people of a small mining town who had him ... See full summary »
Many years ago I unwisely took part in an amateur production of Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker". I can still hear the mayhem created by those of us who tried, and failed miserably, to achieve an American accent and those (including, bizarrely, a stray Welshman) who just gave up and spoke their native idiom. Luckily out home-town audience was very forgiving and the local rag took pity on us.
This dire experience came back to me when I saw "Summer of the Seventeenth Doll", but even so, not having seen the original stage play by Ray Lawler, I didn't realise how badly it had been butchered until I saw a TV performance by the Melbourne Theatre Company. The first reaction of an Australian audience will be to switch off because of the hilarious mangling of their native speech by an all-star cast who deserved better and would have been more gainfully employed on another project. Maybe that wouldn't matter to a foreign audience, but then again, perhaps the resultant strange mixture of assorted Cockney, Bronx and other sounds would have a subtly disturbing effect on any listener.
Of more concern is the fact that the play's essence can't be divorced from its Australian roots, which include deceptively dry, laconic and understated speech cadences, without making it pretty meaningless. In fact it's the very antithesis of the overwrought, borderline- histrionic style of "serious" Hollywood films of the era. Anyone less like a laconic Queensland canecutter than the furiously emoting Ernest Borgnine would be hard to imagine. And switching the location from Melbourne to more photogenic Sydney settings, while trivial in itself, is symptomatic of the filmmakers' imperfect understanding of their vehicle.
I don't know that "Doll" is a great play, but it is a good one. However, given the need for some audience-pulling names there was no real prospect of doing it properly in 1959. The accent problem, which is just part of the underlying cultural mismatch, is not to be dismissed, and I've never heard an American or British actor come close to a convincing Australian accent - even Meryl Streep. Even nowadays, with many high-visibility Australians in Hollywood, it would be a problematic vehicle because at bottom it's pretty stagy. It's just one of those movies that shouldn't have been made.
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