Gloria Stuart, Miscellaneous Brits and Edward Dmytryk

Goodbye to Gloria Stuart at the age of 100. She was a lovely old lady in “Titanic,” but as the photo above suggests, she was something of a looker in her youth as well. This undated Universal publicity still clearly belongs to the period when she was competing with Mae Clarke as James Whale’s favorite leading lady: She didn’t have much to do but look frightened and pretty in “The Old Dark House” and “The Invisible Man,” but she was magnificent in the opening scene of “The Kiss Before the Mirror,” Whale’s dark, dreamlike melodrama of 1933, perhaps his most virtuosic film and one of the many pre-code Universal features that merit a major re-issue.

This week’s DVD column is something of a hodgepodge: a look at the new Blu-ray edition of John Mackenzie’s politically prescient, Thatcher-era gangster film “The Long Good Friday”; a quick review of some older British features from VCI, including Michael Anderson’s engaging genre mishmash “Hell Is Sold Out” (1951); and from Olive Films’ new batch of Paramount titles, Edward Dmytryk’s stoic campfest “Where Love Has Gone” (1964), which must have had him wondering whether that HUAC testimony was worth it. Reviews here, in the New York Times.

27 comments to Gloria Stuart, Miscellaneous Brits and Edward Dmytryk

  • Larry Kart

    That’s one of the most awesome pieces of cheesecake I’ve ever seen. The relationship (if that’s the way to put it) between Stuart’s face, her one-leg-lifted, hands-on-hips stance, and her semi-exposed chest — Lord have mercy.

  • mike schlesinger

    I remember when LONG GOOD FRIDAY opened here and almost everyone was kvetching about the impossible accents. A Variety stringer asked one of the producers what he thought about this, and his reply is one of my all-time favorite retorts: “You don’t hear us complain when you send us pictures like RAGING BULL.”

  • david hare

    Dave, a commendation from one who cares for your sterling attention to the nuances of 60s color schemes in the Dmytryk. I couldn’t have done it as well myself!

    Larry, you have to keep asking yourself what on earth is holding up the teatowel Gloria Stuart is wearing above.

  • D. K. Holm

    British cinema from the postwar years through the early ’60s definitely needs a critical revisit.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    I have now seen three film websites describe how Stuart’s career (not her life – her years working as an actress) spanned the history of Hollywood, as though the place and the industry didn’t exist before 1931.

    (Then I also read the Salon review of The Social Network, pretty much a rave like all other reviews, deservedly so, referred to the two MGM Thomas Edison movies, then bragged about not ever seeing them, and said straight out that none of his readers ever have either).

  • Tom, That is sad to read. After reading some of Thomas Edison’s writing, he has always mentioned that he would wanted cinema to move towards “education” instead of “entertainment”. He saw a lot of potential in cinema in creating and experimenting with visual memory and updating cognitive studies from being solely a study of linguistic memory. Thomas Edison was an early cognitive experimenter. I have not yet seen “The Social Network”, though I look forward too it when comes out in Canada on October 1st. I know a magazine like Film Comment wrote positively about it. That comment in Salon is contemptuous towards Edison, though I am not quite sure why. Thomas Edison, through my understanding, helped mould what Hollywood was to become through his emphasis on production. Though his approach at times was heavy-handed, he would have argued that he put in the work to create the format and that that should be reason enough to not have other people take advantage of that through bypassing his copyright. Is it me, or does this sound like an anti-social network? Anyways, I remember reading a well-written review of a couple of Mark Zukerberg books in the New York Review of Books sometime in Winter 2010 and I look forward to seeing the new David Fincher movie for the atmosphere he can hold within his films and his painterly attention to small detail.

    Btw, I love this picture of Gloria Stuart but, maybe it is my timidity speaking, I was a little embarrassed opening up this page to this image at work with my co-workers around. Yikes, it is more deserving of a post-movie beer/cocktail or something. She looks great! On a side-note, the only reason I purchased James Cameron’s “Ghost of the Abyss” – a companion piece to “Titanic” – was because on the back of the DVD was an inviting quote by our host, Dave Kehr.

  • That picture of Stuart is magnificent. She really looks like she’s on top of the situation, and will not take no for an answer.

    And Dave, I’ve already used a part of your review as my status update on my facebook film page: “A forgotten classic, it’s not. But “Hell Is Sold Out” is further proof that the British cinema was more rich and strange than it has generally been given credit for.”

    There’s so much wickedness and weirdness in British cinema, that put the lie to many of the usual misconceptions about it.

  • Oliver_C

    “I have now seen three film websites describe how Stuart’s career (not her life – her years working as an actress) spanned the history of Hollywood, as though the place and the industry didn’t exist before 1931.”

    And yet, isn’t it so appropriate that, however coincidentally, Stuart was born the year Griffith and Biograph went on their first filming expedition to the then-sleepy hamlet of Hollywood?

  • The Kiss Behind the Mirror has turned up a couple of times on TCM, unfortunately in a somewhat murky print, but nevertheless, it does turn up to be seen– and absolutely should be. It’s one of Whale’s finest films and quite a dark and disturbing one (Dave says dreamlike, but not what kind of dream it is). I wrote a longer piece about it at Nitrateville here: http://www.nitrateville.com/viewtopic.php?t=3834

  • Tom Brueggemann

    David -

    I took the Salon comment not so much as being contemptuous to Edison as to older movies in general.

    The context was that Mark Zuckerberg is somewhat similar to Edison to bringing a new medium to the masses, and Hollywood has done movies about him as well, and although it was a very favorable review, wondered if 70 years from now anyone would remember TSN.

    The ignorance of the comparison (yes, Edison the Man and Young Tom Edison are known today, but any comparison between them and TSN is not particularly relevant to the discussion) was striking.

  • Barry Putterman

    One could also claim that any comparison between EDISON THE MAN and Edison, the man are not particularly relevant to the historical record. It remains to be seen how THE SOCIAL NETWORK will stack up on that score over the course of time.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Mike Gebert, thanks for the link! THE KISS BEFORE THE MIRROR is a movie I’ve wanted to see ever since it was left out of a James Whale retrospective in Stockholm in the 80s, and it still eludes me. And the similarities you point out with HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE (which I also like a lot) doesn’t make me any less curious.

    However I don’t agree with you that Whale couldn’t get away from the horror genre. I think WATERLOO BRIDGE (melodrama), SHOW BOAT (musical) and REMEMBER LAST NIGHT? (screwball comedy) are all very good.

  • R.I.P. another talented lady of cinema, who tragically didn’t come near Stuart’s longevity — Sally Menke, Tarantino’s regular and able editor.

  • Blake Lucas

    One more voice here for Whale’s non-horror films (though alas I haven’t seen THE KISS BEFORE THE MIRROR yet). His WATERLOO BRIDGE is indeed striking and much the finer version, and has anyone here seen ONE MORE RIVER from Galsworthy?–one more movie that shows how adult Hollywood really was years before it supposedly “grew up.”

    In another vein, I really enjoyed GREEN HELL when I saw it–maybe I have a weakness for this kind of matinee adventure but I just thought he did it especally well.

  • Jonah

    Gloria Stuart is quite sympathetic in one of John Ford’s most underrated (and under-seen) films, AIR MAIL, where she is beautifully photographed by Karl Freund.

    Stuart radiated intelligence and self-containment, in a way that I think may have actually hampered her career a bit.

  • pat graham

    somewhere in my foggy, foggy past, there’s ONE MORE RIVER–unfortunately can’t remember anything about it

  • Shawn Stone

    They screened a beautiful print of KISS BEFORE THE MIRROR at the Capitol Theatre in Rome (NY) a few years ago. The opening sequence is a stunner, and the rest of the film lives up to it. There is something dreamlike–nightmarish–in a man seeing the tragic circumstances of his friend’s life becoming his own. (And since the unhappily leads are played by Frank Morgan and Nancy Carroll, this would make a nice double-feature with LAUGHTER.)

    WHERE LOVE HAS GONE seemed like a mini “camp apocalypse” in the broadcast version I saw years ago, panned-and-scanned and washed-out colors notwithstanding. Looking forward to seeing it in its full puce ‘n’ plum glory.

  • Barry Putterman

    In some respects, the distinctions between Whale’s horror and non-horror films all but become indecipherable de to the Universal house style of that period. Mostly culled through the influences of the Germanic Pauls (Leni and Fejos), it was vastly different from the effect that Murnau had at Fox, producing the kind of twilight sleep “dreamlike—nightmare” aura that Shawn accurately describes. It dominates all of Universal’s films in the first half of the 30s. You can see it in Cahn (AFRAID TO TALK, LAW AND ORDER), IN WYLER (A HOUSE DIVIDED, COUNSELLOR AT LAW) and down through the ranks. It even seeps all over Stahl’s version of IMITATION OF LIFE. Eventually the mood of the times changed, the studio ownership changed hands, and all of those directors went off in different directions. Only Ulmer (who was unceremoniously given the boot after THE BLACK CAT) managed to re-create this mood through other cinematic means in his Poverty Row epics.

    Dave tells me that Universal claims not to have 35s of these films, yet they keep running them at Cinecon (Mike Schlesinger, that WAS a 35 of AFRAID TO TALK last year, wasn’t it?). This year we had a relatively minor item, Harry Lachman’s I LIKE IT THAT WAY. It featured our star of the week Gloria Stuart who is the mysterious good girl who is actually a bad girl but is really a good girl in the service of morally educating the redoubtable Roger Pryor. She also, in her capacity as nightclub “entertainer,” sings the film’s title song with it’s recurring refrain “Dish it out and I’ll take it/I like it that way.”

  • Alex Hicks

    Nice plug for “The Kiss Before the Mirror.” (Sounds like with its Viennese adultery melodrama it could have been aperfect addition to one an edition of “Eyes wide shut.”) Think I’ll request “The Kiss Behind the Mirror” at TCM.com.

    Nice review of “The Long Good Friday.” But is the film’s lineage so much noir as classic gangster yarn in the tradition of the Hawks, LeRoy and Wellman classics?

    Nice photo.

  • pete

    Can anyone offer their impression, one way or the other, of ISLAND IN THE SKY (1938), featuring a top-billed Miss Stuart? Looks to be coming up a few times on the Fox Movie schedule.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    A nearly complete unknown, new to FCM.

    Leonard Maltin gives it 2.5 stars, says it is a solid B film. Herbert Leeds was a Fox contract director for nearly all his career, never from what I’ve seen ever breaking out into anything distinctive, but there are still ones to be introduced to. Perhaps this will rise above the norm.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    I imagine Dave will have this up here shortly, but Arthur Penn has died.

    The NYTimes website just posted the obituary by Dave.

    Bonnie and Clyde changed my life – I saw it on my 15th birthday in 1967, and transformed me from a casual moviegoer (mostly theatrical, James Bond, comedies, mostly mainstream hits) into a budding cinephile. It was the first film I had real passion for and the one that made me curious to read about movies, to see the movies it was compared to, to think that movies mattered beyond entertainment.

  • Alex Hicks

    Seeing Bonnie and Clyde as a college sophomore, I remember being blown away by how “trippie” it was. This same quality now alienates me from the film, and seems to me to be linked to a certain amorality. One could say I’d more tellingly refer to the depth of the film’s empathy with its principal, but then again we are talking about empathy with Clyde’s gang. I now prefer Altman’s “Thieves like Us” with its less cosmic perspective.

    On the other hand, Bonnie and clye is a great landmark — the most influential door into the New Hollywood Cinema of 1967-1975(unless we must, lowering styandards, grant that to “The Graduate”) — an even more highly influential gateway into the new hyper,highly aestheticized violence of the modern action spectacle than “The Wild Bunch” and (at elast on the ultra-violence front) “Night of the Living Dead.”

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    I have fond memories of spending many hours interviewing Arthur Penn in New York on January 1977, going over his entire career. It was a wonderful experience. I had seen NIGHT MOVES several times in the two previous years and thought it was his best film (I still do). It was great to discuss it at length with Penn, who considered it one of his best efforts and was quite sad that it had been largely ignored (“Nobody has seen it,” he told me).

  • Enthralledberg

    Could it be that this inspired Russ Meyer to say, “I can do better?”

  • Yes, we are definitely up for a Whale retrospective in the form of a boxed set of restored prints. It’s surprising Showboat at least hasn’t been released on DVD or Blu-Ray, since it did exist on LaserDisc. It was considered, if not his masterpiece, the height of his success. Of the unreleased films, I’ve seen, mostly in grungy prints:

    1930 Journey’s End
    1932 The Impatient Maiden
    1933 By Candlelight
    1933 The Kiss Before the Mirror
    1935 Remember Last Night?
    1936 Show Boat
    1937 The Great Garrick
    1937 The Road Back
    1938 Sinners in Paradise
    1938 Wives Under Suspicion

    All of these have something to recommend them, except perhaps “Sinners in Paradise,” and most of them are enjoyable in their own right. Of the others, I’m especially curious about his setting of the Galsworthy novel, “One More River” (1934).

    I discussed Whale’s “Journey’s End” briefly at the conclusion of my review of the broadway revival in the Berkshire Review for the Arts: http://berkshirereview.net/theater/Journey's_End.html. This is a precious example of a popular stage classic preserved with its original director and much of its original cast.

  • Sorry, I included a bad link in my last comment. Journey’s end is reviewed at: http://berkshirereview.net/2007/03/r-c-sherriff-journeys-end-on-broadway/