Aug 29, 2010
Aug 22, 2010
Aug 17, 2010
I first became obsessed with classic movies at the age of thirteen, when I saw Dark Victory (1939) on broadcast TV. Bette Davis caught my eye—and that was it, I was hooked. I soon had a nice collection of classic flicks on VHS—all recorded from TV.
I must have watched them all several times, but the one I remember best is All About Eve (1950). For a while, I think I must have watched that movie once a week. It was irresistible to me. I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what it was about those impeccably dressed theater people that reached me. My best guess is that this was one of the first times that I recognized I was watching a well-made movie. Rather than being drawn to separate elements, like the star or the plot, on some level I realized I was seeing something that was more than the sum of the parts.
And so on lovely summer days, when I was on vacation from school, I watched Eve many times. Sure I’d hang out with my friends, and there were family vacations—but once I had all that free time, I chose to spend a great deal of it with this clever group of martini-sipping New Yorkers.
With the exception of a high school friend who would watch anything, and my dad—who liked to watch classic flicks while ironing his shirts—I didn’t know anyone else who liked these movies. I don’t recall being bothered by that, but on some level I must have wished I knew more people who enjoyed Eve as I did.
Years later, my boyfriend took me to an outdoor screening of All About Eve. I couldn’t believe it. In a series that usually screened Grease, Raiders of the Lost Ark and other crowd pleasers, they were showing this dialogue-driven flick in a parking lot on a warm summer night!
As I watched Eve for the first time with a crowd, I could have recited every line. That was nothing new. The thing that excited me was that I could see there were other people in the crowd who seemed to know the movie as well as I did. And it was a big crowd. The parking lot was full. There had to have been a couple of hundred people there. It was a marvelous night.
Aug 15, 2010
Aug 9, 2010
Goodbye to Patricia Neal. I couldn’t stand her the first time I saw her—as a sophisticated sugar mama in Breakfast at Tiffanys (1961). That voice drove me crazy. Then, it grew on me, and it became the thing I like most about her. I realized she had been so darn good in Tiffanys that I hadn’t been able to separate her from her character, and that voice was the most distinctive thing about her.
I know Hud (1963) was her big award-winning role, but I loved her in The Fountainhead (1949); it was satisfying to watch her play that wild-eyed over-the-top character. Not that she was ever capable of fading into the woodwork. Even in a movie like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), where she is only meant to prop up a host of sci-fi wonders, she grabs your attention. She projected such intelligence and strength that she could never be simply a damsel in distress. And I can’t forget A Face in the Crowd (1957)—she was the soul of that movie, an increasingly lucid force for good in a swirl of rottenness.
Here are some tributes I grabbed from my feed:
The Guardian always puts together such moving memorials--
David Thomson tribute
And a few more--
Motion Picture Gems
I'm sure there will be many more fine tributes as the day progresses.
Aug 8, 2010
Aug 5, 2010
Deadline at Dawn (1946) is finally available on DVD—and I’m so glad its purple prose is now readily available to the masses. I saw this offbeat noir flick for the first time in a theater—and the over-the-top dialogue made the audience giggle so much that I thought I must have missed half of what the actors were saying.
I don’t mean to disrespect the movie, because it’s a great mystery, with interesting twists, appealing actors and even some well-executed touching moments, but that Clifford Odets script is nutty. People just don’t talk the way he writes. If you Google “purple prose Odets”—you’ll find that I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Of all of Odets’ screenplays, I have the most affection for Deadline at Dawn. It’s the sweetest-tempered noir I’ve ever seen and a loveable mutt of a movie. The dialogue may make me laugh, but it is its own brand of clever and extremely entertaining.
The story is of a sailor (Bill Williams) on shore leave who finds himself mixed up in a murder. A weary taxi dancer (Susan Hayward) and a wordy taxi driver (Paul Lukas) try to help him clear his name.
I had to share some of the incredible things these characters say. The taxi driver had the craziest lines:
A blind man could see how many boyfriends she had. Evidently the water tasted good so she jumped down the well.
Stop zigging when we should be zagging and zagging when we should be zigging.
Remember Alex, speech was given to man to hide his thoughts.
Golly Wolly it’s hot tonight.
Statistics tell us we’ll see the stars again.
I read all the incriminating papers you are looking for and I bunked them away like a squirrel.
Mr. Bartelli the bedbugs will never forgive you. Your skin is made of iron.
Between you and me and the lamppost captain, happiness is no laughing matter.
[His advice to a pair of lovers] Push through the daily shell shock of life together.
The dancer's lines are slightly less outrageous:
This is New York, where hello means goodbye.
You’d better drop down on your bendified knees and pray.
He was nervous like every butcher, baker and candlestick-maker in the town.
And the rest:
If she cut off her head, she’d be very pretty.
-Val, the conman (Joseph Calleia)
She was no lullaby, but she had the brains like a man.
Gee, time takes so long and it goes so fast.
For some reason, this exchange really cracked me up:
Sailor: Do you hear anything?
Dancer: Only your breathing.
Sailor: Is that what that is?
Image Sources: Poster, Odets Photo