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The Women (1939)
Clare Boothe was a brilliant woman; she married one of America's most successful men (Henry Luce, founder of Time-Life, Inc.). I've read her autobio. She had privilege, beauty and wealth. And her feet were firmly planted for most of her life. She was ambasadoress to Italy.
In my critique of The Women, it's important to separate today's greater sophistication from 1937 or '38's simpler times. (The Women also had a successful Broadway run.) However, I'm not going to bother following that rule, because it's too restrictive.
Brilliant dialogue, dramas and books long preceded The Women. Writers didn't have to make their points with one-dimensional characters, or near-slapstick hysteria. So why did she write a drama with such shallow, cliché characters? I have no quarrel with the storyline; it's linear in its simplicity: husband strays, wife sues for divorce, goes to Reno to establish residency, meets a gaggle of near-idiot friends, relatives and strangers; returns home to NYC, realizes that her husband is unhappy with the floozie that he married, and fights to gain him back.
Roz Russell should have been locked up, she maintained such a borderline frenzied attitude; the Countess de la Whatever, easily 60 (and looked even older) was straight out of a whorehouse and with the libido of an alley cat; Paulette Goddard (smart enough to have married Charley Chaplin) always passing marital advice on to others, yet has her claws out to cat fight with Roz; Marjorie Maine (astonishingly pretty), housekeeper in Reno who sang at the top of her lungs with a voice like a parrot being strangled. --And, god, who else? Joan Crawford: already getting on some - being bitchy and manipulative.
I didn't like The Women. It thought itself alarmingly funny, when it was more like the Marx bros. in drag. Anita Loos helped with the dialogue. Ms. Loos and Frances Marion were the kingpins of MGM's writers. Deservedly. But not for this over-baked, over-perfumed, heavy-handed romp. Loos gave us Lorili Lee (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), so she was highly capable of complex characters and subtlety. The Women characters were like a clutch of actresses in orgasmic seizures when they delivered their lines. Norma Shearar, widow of Irving Thalberg, and almost always worthy of praise in her contemporary beauty, wasn't as peripatetic as the others, thank goodness. But, oh! that final party scene when the women throw Russell into a closet, then drag her out to confront her nemesis, was so over the top that one wanted to bury oneself under the couch cushion.
The Outlaw (1943)
a legendary and fascinating mess
Not too many movies create myths.
Anyone who read Harold Robbins', "The Carpetbaggers", (some 40 years ago) which in turn spawned "Nevada Smith", gets a superbly fictionalized accounting of Howard Hughes. Such fiction prefixes reality. It took a great number of years before I finally saw "The Outlaw" - an eagerly awaited event.
I've attempted to view the AMC-aired movie some three times - but got so antsy that I abandoned it. Few movies of this caliber have been so uneven. And yet it endures. Vintage alone gives the film status.
There's nothing wrong with anecdotal (vignette) - points-of-view movies, but in "The Outlaw", it was like watching one of those lumbering, exasperating silent films: where the actors stand across from each other, and each speaks their lines as if orchestrated by an off-stage conductor. Spontaneity is not this movie's long suit.
The actors: Jack Beutel is one of the most beautiful men to ever stand before a camera. His eyes are smoldering, his gaze laconic, his smile cheeky one moment and sensuous the next. Walter Huston is a young man in a middle-aged body; Thomas Mitchell (Scarlet's daddy in 'Gone With the Wind') is shifty, Irish, as conniving as Wally Beery, sniveling and crafty. And then there's the statuesque Jane Russell. Robbins gave us the intimate details of the suspension bridge-designed brassier - and Jane herself speaks of how she finally pulled the damn thing off and lined her breasts with a few Kleenex. She is as luscious as a near-nude Barbie doll, she is 19 years old, her lips inspire poetry - yet her voice is as monotonous as the Valley-inspired Val-speak of 25 years ago.
I wouldn't hazard to guess Howard Hughes' emotional consistency in the movie, however something went hellishly wrong. Someone fell on his face when it came to editing and scoring. Take the music, for example. It's Scoring 101, embarrassingly manipulative, often overriding the dialogue and ranging from 'Pathetique' to 'The Lone Prairie' mélange.
And then there's the acting: the Mexican senora rolls her eyes with all the panache of a 1940-Mexican B-movie bit actress. There is no spontaneity; she delivers her lines badly and with burning self-consciousness. And when Huston shoots Beutel in the hand, the latter doesn't even flinch; ditto, when he pierces both his ears with bullets. Staggering disbelief.
As to the scene where Jane Russell falls for Jack Beutel and kisses him, it's like watching two trains headed straight for each other. Overblown, top-heavy, agonizingly overreaching...it nonetheless has the sexual potency of an orgasm. The music, the god-awful Close-CLOse-CLOSE UP of Jane's lips bearing down on the half-delirious Beutel. Wow, what power! The men watching this film back in (ca) 1940 must have had to cover their laps.
I leave it to those with a sense of adventure to debate the movie's homoeroticism. There's no such implications from Beutel toward the two older men.
The movie, finally, has to be taken for the time in which it was made. The cinematography is as splendid as if it were turned 10 years ago. It is impossibly uneven, anecdotal, horrifyingly edited, pathetically scored, wretchedly acted...yet the actors are painful in their beauty. Many of the IMDb comments suggest that the film wants watching several times. I second that. It can be slow, cantankerous, giddy, sullen - but Jane's and Jack's beauty are undeniable, Walter is everybody's favorite grandfather. Toland can be thanked for giving us the movie's clarity. --And Howard... Howard was just having fun.
Raintree County (1957)
sumptuous and nostalgic
An individual's life is formed by his memories. Books, music and - yes, movies - influence us. We remember the situations and the dialogue, we remember the sweet melodies. These memories enable us to react, as well as give us the ability to identify situations as they occur.
I saw "Raintree County" when I was 15. Orphaned at six, I'd just departed from an orphans home in Dallas, after nearly nine years. Knowing virtually nothing of the outside world, I was receptive to everything, every person that I encountered. That summer of 1958, I sneaked into the Forest Park Drive-In to see Elizabeth Taylor, of whom I knew little, other than that she was a breath-taking beauty, and had been recently widowed when Michael Todd's chartered plane had crashed.
The characters in the movie (when I was 15) were literal, if not visceral: the magnificence of Miss Taylor's satin gowns encased over crinoline, Lee Marvin's sharp, smart-alecky wit, the professor's lechery, Montgomery Clift's Yankee stoicism, Agnes Moorehead's curious detachment, were all primary colors.
Forty-five years have passed. Those primary colors are now a multitude of blendings and shadings of secondary colors. Montgomery Clift's character is now a beautifully controlled young man who reflects his parents' stoicism, a young man whose intelligence and self control are at the core of the film, and upon whom all characters revolve.
Originally, I thought that "Raintree County" was strictly Taylor's vehicle. She is the burr under the saddle, the exquisite seductress that interfers with Clift's heretofore regulated, almost predestined lifestyle upon his college graduation.
'Raintree' is an achingly beautiful film, and Miss Taylor, who is the most gifted in her portrayal of anguished characters, blesses the movie. Norma Shearer could be beautiful in 'Marie Antoinette", but she lacked depth. Betty Davis portrayed Sturm und Drang, but was never a clothes horse. Taylor combines the two.
Having read some of the other's comments, most of whom disliked the story, perhaps it helps to be Southern to truly love this film. And also, one wants to realize that it depicts two diametrically opposed cultures: North and South. When Northern chill mixes with Southern humidity, chaos results. And so it did, and it was known as The War Between the States.
In conclusion, one wants to luxuriate in this film: Lockridge wrote a brilliant story, and for the most part, it is well delivered. It is rich in history and characterization.
Mondo cane (1962)
I saw this movie when I was 20. I better remember the girl that I went with to the drive-in, than the movie itself. It meant very little, and I half wondered why there was such a fuss about it.
Tonight, I saw it again - 38 years later. What I've learned in this lifetime is that cruelty to animals is one of the great sins. A splendid, 75-year-old turtle's natural instincts were eviscerated by the radio activity on the Bikini Atoll (rendered by America's War Dept.).Instead of laying her eggs and then returning to the sea, she instead wanders inland and dies a horrid, painful death, her eyes dried and coated with sand, her breathing labored, her movements in slow motion. Nearly 40 years ago, this meant nothing. Today, I am sickened, as if watching a child being tortured.
"Mondo Cane" seemingly has no redemptive qualities; like green mucous hawked onto the sidewalk, "M.C." gives the morbid voyeur every aspect of what is grotesque. From the opening, when a dog is half dragged outside a kennel filled with half-crazed canines, only to be thrust into the pack and apparently to its death (judging by the ensuing yipping at the close of the sequence), the viewer gets an idea of what to expect.
A bit of silliness was diners eating roasted insects. Who cares what their culinary pecadilloes are. If it's on the menu, what's the big deal...?
The self-flagellation was highly disturbing: doe-eyed Italian male zealots no more than 15 lacerate themselves so to become worthy to the reinactment of Jesus carrying the cross. The camera wants the viewer to see every blow they inflict upon themselves, to carefully note the copious blood letting, to see the boys' martyrdom.
I couldn't watch the dog bazaar. Those poor little creatures in their cages...only wanting something to eat - while all around them, Oriental chefs are gutting, rendering, stripping, boiling and stuffing dogs preparatory to serving them to their customers.
We're taken into the Roman catacombs, where children are given brushes and clothes so to clean the skeletal remains. One of them blows off a cloud of dust: --powdery flesh? which obviously they all inhale.
A too brutal vignette of Africans driven by self-induced starvation go on a grotesquely brutal slaughter of wild pigs. The squealing, the quivering death spasms, the blood gushing from their mouths due to internal injuries...all there, all for the voyeurs' enjoyment.
One reaches a saturation point for punishment and gore and masochism. I turned off the tape, unable to finish it. Don't bother to buy this movie. Blood lust, I've concluded, is juvenile and brutish. Rachel Carson's "The Silent Spring", and the Green Party are proof that mankind has emerged from the primeval bog of "Mondo Cane".
The Magic of Marseilles
Who can say why we love the films we chose to love. Perhaps it's one's age as much as anything else.
`Life' magazine was once a highly influential American periodical, and it arrived weekly at my home. I can still recall, in 1961, the feature article on 'Fanny'. That article in itself left me desperate to see the movie. It struck me as an ultimately sophisticated film.
'Fanny', its literary history notwithstanding, ranks as one of my five most favorite films. There is the plot - which, while valid enough, is somewhat bland: youth experiences amorous sexuality with local beauty, but throws her over for the call of the sea. Now pregnant, she realizes that her most logical option is to marry an elderly businessman.
What I loved about 'Fanny' was the setting. Le Vieux Port of Marseilles is the size of a few city blocks. It is whipped into froth by the Mistral. Beyond, lies the Chateau d' If (home of the Count of Monte Cristo). On the highest point of the city is the cathedral, built atop the succeeding ruins of a Phoenician alter.
This sweet little port supports a thriving habitat of friends, neighbors and relatives. It's an exotic commune. Marius, the hero (played by Horst Buckhholtz - why was a German cast as a Frenchman--?) is Charles Boyer's son. Boyer owns a café-bar. Its habitués are a charming collection of local eccentrics, artisans and ordinary bourgeoisie. There's the passenger ferry's captain, the postman, the entrepreneur (Maurice Chevalier) and of course there's the exquisite Leslie Caron. Me. Caron was elfin, une gamine, a poppet: lithesome in her sheer dress that moved with her. When she torqued her body, the dress flowed over her hips and breasts and abdomen and buttocks like water. Indelibly French, she makes every male glad that he's male. Her hair is auburn, her smile adolescent.and yet when the moment comes to seduce Marius, she is suddenly a woman with womanly needs, and her needs affect the viewer's groin.
The mother, for her brutality, is wonderful if not clothed tonnage. Maurice Chevalier is ancient to the point of creaking, and his smile, engaging 50 years earlier, is sinister as he attempts to woo Fanny.
Charles Boyer's role is highly sympathetic and warm, even if he is impatient and abrupt with his son for being so obstinate.
It's my impression that Pagnol's trilogy that comprises 'Fanny' was published around the turn of last century, therefore there might be an occasional about-face in the plot that was acceptable back then. Today, I find Marius' sudden and overwhelming urge to become a marine to be unconvincing - despite his occasional glance toward the sea with slit- eyed longing. And I strongly disliked his fawning copain. Any youth that weak, with such puppy dog devotion, was either gay, or a dithering idiot.
The story for its contrivance is acceptable, and - Jeez Louise - the setting magnificent. In finish, a viewer has to be a lover of sagas to appreciate this movie. As with 'Gone With the Wind' and 'Dr. Zhivago', 'Fanny' is a saga, where character counts as much as plot - if not more. Decidedly a 'woman's picture', that doesn't mean that a man can't appreciate the location, the old men's grumpy personalities, the city of Marseilles and that gamine, Leslie Caron.
The Culpepper Cattle Co. (1972)
In the Sam Peckinpah genre
Contain Spoilers!! Since the age of 16, I have sat through only one Western movie. Which is kinda like hell, cause I was born in Texas. I didn't like Westerns for the same reason that I didn't like Bluegrass, pinto beans, cornbread and Southern Baptists all of which I was weaned on. They were bland, predictable and I had a surfeit of it all. The scripts were all the same, the language all the same, the scenery ah jeez, you get the picture.
Surprise and originality of character are what I spend my time on.
Today I happened upon The Culpepper Cattle Co.' probably 10 minutes late into the movie. The single reason that I stayed with it was that two decades ago I wrote a rambling story about a cattle drive (understand that you don't have to like your subject to write about it but it doesn't hurt). I was instantly struck with the dirt, the anger and the Sam Peckinpah-esque brutality. This was the WEST, this was filth and fury and hostility and don't-give-a-god-damn mentality. You get shot, your body becomes crow food. `Shoulda knowed how to duck, dumb b*****d,' is the men's mentality.
So here's this kid gawky, apologetic, filthy who joined the cattle drive of one Mr. Culpepper. The man doesn't like the kid, he flubs every job he's given. After a blood-and-guts shoot-out (which is where I came in), Culpepper sends the kid on a day's ride to get some replacement cowpokes. Okay, fine. Now the kid should be able to do that. Halfway to town, he stops, drops his holster and pants, reaches over for a few leaves off a tree and then squats. Here, now, is a bit of reality.
What happens next? Up pop two deranged creatures looking like the original hillbillies from Deliverance' who fortunately want only the boy's gun and horse. They take both, without exchanging a single word.
So he gets into town, asks for the man he was sent to find and comes upon one of the squirrel-iest sons of a bitches ever seen on a movie screen. His eyes are wild, and he spends the next hour shrieking at the kid. Paranoid would be a graceful description.
Alright, to get to the juice of the script there's only one point, and Culpepper proves it again and again: `Don't matter what nobody wants or expects, I got one job, and that's to get these cattle to Missouri.' He has not a sympathetic hair on his head. And while the new recruits don't plague the boy unnecessarily, he's treated like the stuff that cattle leave in their wake and unsuspecting men step in. The boy only wants to do good.
The cattle drivers come upon a lush pasture with ample water. When Culpepper offers payment to the empirical landowner, the man demands far more than C'pepper offers. When C'pepper refuses, his men's guns are confiscated and his tough hombres are sent off followed by waves of jeering henchmen. At the next watering place, the drivers are greeted by a group of religious advocates expecting to settle there. No sooner than the cattle are watering, the same land-grabber shows up again, claiming that not only is this also his land, and the zealots are trespassing, but he'll give them and Culpepper an hour to disperse.
Culpepper doesn't give a damn about the religious folk, no matter their determination. He and his men mount up, and leave. All but the kid. The minister's attitude is so gentle and moral, that the boy feels an obligation to defend them. He straps on a pistol. The cattle drivers acknowledge the boy with a backward glance of farewell. He has finally proven himself a worthy apprentice.
And then, one after the other, each man returns even Culpepper.
The landowner comes galloping toward the encampment. The drivers are ready. The shoot-out is dreadful even horrifying. Here these men have transformed from half-mad, less than half civilized, and they resolve that the boy won't have to face the tyrant alone.
Each and every man, including Culpepper, is killed. Only the boy survived. With tears cutting through the dust on his face, he goes from man to man - each who gave up his life not just to aid him, but for a group of pioneers who wanted to bring peace into the West.
And then the irony. The minister, with his haunted eyes and emaciated face declares that he cannot stay in this valley of death,' and is leaving. I don't know how the boy kept from bursting into tears, but he pushes his pistol into the minister's throat and tells him that no one will leave until these men, `these friends,' are buried.
As the music swells, the boy leaves the five graves and walks away, his hands unclasping his gun belt so that it falls to the ground.
The one movie I did watch, incidentally, was `The Cowboy'.
Satan Never Sleeps (1962)
quirky & hammy acting
Well mounted; dazzling sets, sumptuous photography.
I confess to missing bits & pieces of the movie during its showing tonight on Turner Movie Classics, so my comments might not be entirely objective. "Satan Never Sleeps" is a movie I'd heard alluded to, so thought I'd give it a go.
Further confessing, I don't usually indulge in religious movies. Somehow, one always can predict their endings. It was more for Clifton Webb, and the importance of the movie itself, that I stayed with it.
My two major complaints are Holden's mugging (a lot of 'du-u-uh'... grimacing) and the inconsistency in the actors. As to the latter, actors didn't write the story, neither their lines, so they aren't entirely to blame. As the lines are written, so they must be delivered. But hell's bells, (Weaver Lee?) lies, berates, demolishes, defiles and beats the two priests, then imprisions them. He plays flirtatious when he needs a favor, dipping his chin and deepening his dimples - and is only effective when he barks out orders.
What might have been intended as levity only struck me as indecisive.
France Nuyen is gorgeous. I wish that I knew more about her. She must be Eurasian. And she handled her implausible character shifts/inconsistencies with aplomb. She's new to me, and I was smitten.
Getting back to Webb - here is an incredible actor. Off-camera, he was as effeminate as a drag queen. But on camera, he is crisp as a new dollar bill. Effective, believable; ...a consummate actor. Every time I'm ready to chuckle at him and his well-known homosexuality, he wins me over.
Finally, movies in the early Fifties did a lot of manipulation. Consistency was never a strong point. Personally, blatant manipulation infuriates me. And "Satan Never Sleeps" is guilty as charged.
East of Eden (1955)
Why do we like what we like?
Is it identification with an actor we admire, a wonderful story, a colorful character? Is it respect for a director, superb editing and technical proficiency?
Or, as sometimes happens, does the drumbeat of others' opinions disable personal points of view, and we we like a movie because we're told to like it?
Is it because of all the above?
Personally, I want to love or hate something because I feel independently capable of making up my own mind - intelligent and informed.
I have gone through life loving John Steinbeck's "East of Eden". I love it for a multitude of reasons. I love it first of all, because the
pungency of his two most important novels ("Eden" & "Grapes of Wrath") turn me into jelly.
"East of Eden" was the first book I ever read as an adult that was relevant to me, whose characters were like my own family: I was Aaron; an older brother of mine was Cal. Even though the sentiment/bias was toward Cal, it was Aaron that was morally pure. My brother, who was eventually diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and committed suicide at 26, was a brother out of hell. Cal's cruelty toward Aaron described my brother absolutely.
I loved the story also because my mother died when I was six, and so to have a character who'd grown up believing that his mother was dead only to find her alive and well...for me, was a dream come true.
To those who cast aspersions upon James Dean and do so not with malice but in an objective belief that he was professionally limited - more power to their sense of independence. I was 13 when I found a tattered and discarded movie magazine. Being a vociferous reader, I luxuriated in every paragraph of its content. The featured article was about young James Dean's death exactly one month earlier. I didn't know who he was. Yet I bled, emotionally, to read of a youth who'd died. My own eldest brother had died three years earlier at 19. I had a kindredship with death. Dean's own mother had died when he was nine. I developed such a strong sense of identity with young Dean that I read everything I could lay my hands on. A few months later, I went to see "Giant". James Dean was like an old friend, to me. The way he hung his head when he spoke, the crucified image he projected when he hooked his arms over his rifle in one scene, his need to be liked by Elizabeth Taylor, the flat planes of his Scandinavian face--all projected such sincerity that he was like a brother, a reflection of someone dear that I could idolize vicariously.
James Dean was handsome, Aaron was almost angelic in presentation, Abra was sweet and intelligent - and Jo Van Fleet figuratively speaking became nitro glycerine on the screen. She was a procurer of human flesh and she was a heroine addict. She was amoral. She was no one's mother. Yet, for a few moments she portrayed a humanity toward Cal. But Cal was evil. The woman was nothing more to him than a tool to destroy his brother. My feeling was that he turned on her out of revenge for having discarded him 17 years earlier.
Few need to be told that "East of Eden" is Greek tragedy in scope. That explains its potency. I reserve it as close to great literature as a writer can achieve.
Viewing a film 40 years later
I saw this film some years after it came out, in a Texas Baptist orphans home, as a preadolescent. In the years to follow, I developed a fascination for Ethel Waters, esp. when I saw her interpretation of Carson McCuller's "A Member of the Wedding".
When I saw the film tonight on American Movie Classics, a lot of years had passed since first having seen it. Ethel Waters' performance struck me as cowed and subservient. In the court scene while being questioned by the plaintiff's council, she actually flinched when he raised his voice. ...And I'm thinking, 'Damn, that woman is really intimidated.' Having read her autobio, as well as a bio on her, I'm aware that not one woman in a million suffered through a similar childhood: a b*****d born of a 13-year-old rape victim - unwanted and shuffled from pillar to post to eventually become a washerwoman...it's a wonder she survived.
Yet survive she did. Not surprisingly, she had a monster chip on her shoulder. It is my understanding that John Ford, the man who was to direct "Pinky", had such a run-in with Miss Waters that he quit, and Kazan took over. The word is that neither could stand the sight of the other.
The movie is an important one - and I'd like to think that the reason goes beyond the juxtapositioning of America's treatment of blacks in the Forties with today's suffocating PC standards. There is the understated acting, for one thing. Ethel Barrymore always played the dignified albiet intimidating elderly lady in her later years. Yet in "Pinky", she is strong without being absurdly powerful. How well that woman delivers her lines...!
What I also liked was, while the white majority were unkind to Pinky, I can attest as a Southerner (well, Texan), that Kazan presented them truthfully. He only demonized one woman: the older cousin-plaintiff.
It is surprising that this film wasn't presented in a more gritty format; that there wasn't more preaching in it, that it wasn't condescending to whites. None of these failings mar this splendid film. Forty years after having seen it, I realize a superb gentleness that isn't to be found in American films. At a guess, that's because a generation ago most films were made for 30-and-over adults, whereas today they're almost exclusively made for 13 - 25 year olds.
I will give "Pinky" my highest compliment: It is literary.
Goodbye Charlie (1964)
a change in attitude
I saw, "Goodbye, Charlie" when I was about 20. That's a hard age to please. "Been there, done it, seen it; yet another piece of trite," was my attitude.
Debbie Reynolds was beige-haired, Tony Curtis, getting on. Overly-mounted pastel-colored movies bored me - hitless, and this was another end-of-an-era white-bread piece of rubbish. Doris Day and Sandra Dee were what the Sixties had degenerated into: broad, trite and forced.
Besides, there were well-known rumors about Debbie's pinch-hitting proclivities. The premise of "Goodbye Charlie" was awkward and perverse. I suspected that Hollywood was presenting it as an inside joke.
So 35 years later, I tried it again on TMC. ...And I LOVED it. Well, much of it. I loved gorgeous Ellen Burstyn and Joanna Barnes - indeed, the scene at The Bistro Restaurant with these latter two and Reynolds had me p******g myself, if you'll forgive the vulgarity. Ms. Barnes can do no wrong as a character playing straight when someone is putting the screws to her. Her slant-eyed, cool demeanor is pure joy.
The fact that Vincent Minnelli directed it and that George Axelrod wrote the script was an important revelation.
What's more, I thought that the ladies' dresses were magnificent. How well they dressed, back then!
And when Walter Matthau said, "If I weren't Hungarian, I'd be speechless!" is a classic retort. I loved his character, also - and he's a man who's garnered so much praise over the years that I usually just roll my eyes when I see him. He looked smart as paint in his black tie and toupee - and the way he worked the room when he's sprung from jail was utterly delicious.
In the final quarter hour, when I saw where the film was headed, I switched stations, unwilling to have my favorable impressions destroyed.
Axlerod is a master, and I'm sorry to have given him short shrift for so many years. Those who want to see a quintessential Sixties movie, along with some rib-tickling one-liners, want to go with this one.
Made for Each Other (1971)
A poignant love affair that proves that we marry our parents
Saw this film for the first time tonight, on Turner Movie Classics.
Having missed the first few minutes, and altogether ignorant of the film, I didn't know that it was 30 years old. But the principal's bright orange, full-length coat of an unidentified material, brought on a rush of uncertainty. She is no beauty, this woman - yet she reminds me of (somebody) Derisher, of "Nanny", only rubber-faced and unpretty.
There's a great deal in common and feel with Neil Simmon's plays - the pain and torment of love among the unloveable, e.g., the girl friend kicks her boy friend in the groin and asks, "How much do you love me now?").
The parental years of the principals are identical to "Torchlight Trilogy" - grotesque and self-parody. The principal's vulnerability is totally believable and rather marvelous.
Thirty years on, there's a lot of elemental clinical psychology
to "Made for Each Other". And one wants to keep that in mind.
The Neil Simmon-like crying scene at the end was highly effective and moving until a moment before the clench, when one realized that one was a voyeur to a dreadful, cathartic and eventually successful, if not somewhat mangled, love match.
I agree that this is "Like real life" but it's also Felinni-esque and somewhat grotesque. Probably the most moving scene for me was the New Year's Eve dinner scene when the mother gets hysterical, and her son leaves the room to tell her to friggin' SHUT UP! Killing. --And yet highly poignant with the poor Jewish guest sitting there getting slayed.
I didn't dislike the movie, and did laugh out loud at times. It was utterly professional at all times, never manipulative - but there is a sense of passe to it that goes beyond the orange lip stick and tomato-red bola. En fin, glad that I saw it.
Women in Love (1969)
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** "Women In Love" opens, as I recall, with two sisters, Gudren and Ursula, rushing from their small house. Minutes later they are watching a wedding party arrive at the village church. One presumes that the sisters would be starry-eyed and agog at the wealthy and their high fashions.
But these two are much much more than a couple of envious groupies. They are quickly drawn into the circle of the groom's brother (Oliver Reed) and Oliver's best friend (Alan Bates). Gudren and Ursula are two young women as only Lawrence could fashion them: Gudren wastes no time departing from her teacher-father's somber lifestyle for the riches offered by Oliver Reed. --And Ursula by default follows in her wake.
Gudren, played by the strongest female actress at the time, Glenda Jackson, is like a praying mantis, a predator. Her head is held high, and her eyes are bright and her brain latent predacious. She quickly challenges and competes with the young man whose father owns coal mines. We watch their relationship develop. While he is quizzical and uncertain of her, yet strong and resentful in the way that moneyed youth are strong and resentful, she is a giantess in her brilliance - an arch ego of Lawrence. She digs, she routs, she emasculates - and she stands by to watch the young collier die, eventually. --Whereas Ursula is sweet, golden blond and willing to accept traditional love.
There are several scenes that are indelible: the drowning scene of the quintessentially beautiful bride, the sheer horror when her young husband's laughter changes from amusement to realize that she has submerged - the gurgling as he chokes on water in his hysteria, pleading for help, and sinks. The only thing to approach it is in "Jaws", when the swimmer is bitten in half by the shark before the viewer quite realizes what is happening.
The other scene was the unexpected eroticism immediately following the drowning, after the lake has been drained, when the two young men disrobe and wrestle. It was magnificently evocative, telling us of Lawrence's freedom to engage his two heroes in something so intimate - a solution to allow the men to relieve the dreadfulness of the tragedy. Whether they engaged in sex or not is almost incidental. The fireplace highlighting their masculine prowess as each struggles against the other, was not only beautiful but orgasmically satisfying. The only way Reed can find consolation is to engage in this love-repulsion with his best friend, whom he loves.
Yet another scene is when Hermione dashes Alan Bates with a paper weight, and he rushes from the great hall, blood streaming down his face and smearing his ivory trousers as he sheds his suit. It was the rush of Hermione's unexpected hatred when only a moment earlier her self-indulgent Grecian dance had deteriorated into a scene out of "The Great Gatsby".
The final scene of wonder was of course poor Olive Reed's death, and he died because Gudren, that inquisitive, challenging harridan had left him for a glamorous, decadent German in a Zermat ski-lodge. This physically strong man curled up in the snow and the next morning was found, hoary and frozen.
Overall, this movie offers a magical entree into Lawrence's senses. It is rich, quixotic - of the Twenties. I still can't say if the dialogue makes the greatest sense, or if the characters are simply talking psycho-babble and cant. There is lushness throughout, one small example being when at luncheon al fresco, Bates delicately quarters a fig, pulls it open and compares it to a vulva, deliberately taunting the shy Ursula. And, like Debussy/Stravinsky, Lawrence moves the viewer out of the traditional England, into the cacophonous new world of sensuality and reality.
alistar sim shines
Just as with the other commentators, I too saw this film decades ago. It had already been in release for a couple of years, so there was a muzzy sense of age to it, even then.
I'm taking a guess here, but I'd be willing to wager that those who remember this film best, are males. We remember the wee Scots lad with his wire-hanger-thin arms and his knobby knees; and then we remember the fine figure of a man that he grew into. Yet, in retrospect, it is Geordie's slightly puzzled reactions to the incidentals that happen as a young man that makes him an endearing character.
While filmed in black and white, at the risk of a pun, this is one of the most colorful films ever made. What took it past a Cinderella-esque sort of movie, was Alistar Sim playing the foil. Who will forget the gorgeous old codger when he and Geordie are traipsing in the highlands, shooting for grouse. Feeling a call to nature, Sim discretely tells Geordie to go on ahead, and that he will join him momentarily. "Don't, if you please, shoot into the bushes," he warns Geordie. The young man wanders away, passing time - only to suddenly see a flock of grouse rush for the bush. Taking quick aim, he blasts away with both barrels. Not two seconds later, we see Sim, hobbled with his pants around his knees, thrusting his fist into the air and shouting, "Didn't I tell you to shoot anywhere but into the bushes!" The scene still makes me laugh.
Bill Travers went on to achieve considerable star power with "Born Free", and unless I'm mistaken, became an environmental activist.
One curiosity: "Geordie" is a term of endearment of the name, George, in the city/district of Newcastle. I haven't been able to reckon out why a Scots lad should bear such an English name. --Any suggestions?
Edward, My Son (1949)
kerr's tour de force
For years I resisted this movie because of the sobbing title. I expected a maudlin, embarrassing tale.
I should have known better. And while I've never been a particular fan of Spencer Tracy (his emotional range never interested me), this time he worked okay, in that he wasn't a god-damned hero, and there wasn't a bevy of minor actors sucking up to him. I liked him being a bad guy; I liked his covert, vaguely whimsical smile. For the first time, I found him believable, more than stock characterization.
Also, the movie was so well crafted that Tracy's ambitions were always credible. And when you understand the motivation, usually, you are sympathetic.
It was Deborah Kerr who stole my interest. Her character, toward the end of the film, is so broken, that she approached Greek classicism. She was ugly, tear-stained, stooped - and her lamentation carried throughout that great barn of a mansion of a home. She couldn't have been more than 35 (ca.), but she had become 80, in spirit. One knew, when she went upstairs that final time, that she would not be seen again, and would only be spoken of in past tense.
Although Kerr is a favorite, there's only one other film of hers that knocked me out: for her beauty, her rawness and her intact feminity - and that of course is "The Sundowners". These two films place her at the pinnacle of Britain's actors.