Lovely Rita

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment finally does right by the Queen of Columbia with a nice box set of Rita Hayworth vehicles, which includes the two Charles Vidor classics “Cover Girl” and “Gilda” (though surely both of those would merit Blu-ray releases) as well as newly remastered versions of Victor Saville’s “Tonight and Every Night” (1945), William Dieterle’s “Salome” (1953) and Curtis Bernhardt’s “Miss Sadie Thompson” (1953). My New York Times review is here.

The National Society of Film Critics voted on Saturday, and the results were largely in line with the other major critics groups: a powerful drift toward “The Social Network,” with “Carlos” leading the charge for foreign language films. One nice surprise was the best actress award for Giovanna Mezzogiorno, of Bellochio’s “Vincere.” There was nothing for local boy Darren Aronofsky, whose “Black Swan” seems to be encountering some serious critical backlash. With its elaborate backstage metaphors and overscaled female characters struggling with mysterious primal forces, it’s a film that kept reminding me of golden age Jacques Rivette, but these days we seem to prefer our anima in the more benign form of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in “The Kids Are All Right.” The complete results of the NSFC voting can be found at www.nationalsocietyoffilmcritics.com, a site that bears a curiously strong resemblance to this one.

Finally, by popular demand (by which I mean, Blake’s), here a link to my NYT obit for Hideko Takamine.

82 comments to Lovely Rita

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Barry P

    I actually have seen My Pal Gus, but honestly have no memory of it. I’d like to get the chance to resee.

    And I share your frustration on the p/s 50s scope films they show, but in the next few days alone they do have Boy on a Dolpin, There’s No Business Like Show Business, Let’s Make Love, The Robe, A Man Called Peter and Carmen Jones letterboxed. Unfortunately, the have others that I still await proper presentation (Adventures of Haijii Baba, Fraulein, The Best Things in Life Are Free) which they regularly have in rotation P/S. A Man Called Peter is an example of a film they showed P/S for years, then one day it just popped up correctly.

  • Alex Hicks

    RE “Rita’s ‘not bad – she’s merely drawn that way!’”

    Well, maybe, but not in THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI.

    In SHANGHAI, Rita’s Elsa Bannister is involved in the killings of horrific villains (Arthur Bannister, Broom, and finally Grisby), and aims to make Welles’ Michael O’Hara scapegoat for her crimes. In the words of Michael’s recollections at the madhouse that is the film’s final locale, Elsa “had to kill [Arthur] Bannister and Grisby was to do it for a share of Bannister’s money. That’s what Grisby thought, but of course she was to kill Grisby too after he’d served his purpose….” She “had to shut up Grisby quick” –because he’d exceeded the plan and killed Broom, an act that could get back to Grisby and Elsa in turn– “and I was the fall guy.” After the famed room of mirrors shoot out at the FunHouse, Michael say to Elsa as one of the Bannister bunch of which she is, with Bannister, Broom and Grisby a part, that they were ” like sharks, mad with their own blood, feeding on themselves.”

    ” It’s true. I made a lot of mistakes,” the gasping Elsa responds. Michael replies back that a sage has said “the world is bad” but adds that she [Elsa] had said “we must fight it, we must deal with the badness, make terms.” And adds that “then the badness …deals with you and makes its own terms, surely.” To this Elsa responds: “You can fight, but what good is it? …goodbye.”

    By my transcription, Michael says back “You mean we can’t win” to which Elsa responds amidst her final gasps “No, we can’t win….Give my love to the sunrise…. Oh, Michael, I’m afraid. Oh, Michael, come back here, please, I don’t want to die.” Michael turns away from the still gasping Elsa. He leaves the Fun House through a turnstile whose shadows project the image of interlocking sharks teeth toward Elsa. Although Michael does say he called the police (to no avail), his rejection is decisive. What innocence the film finally reveals is Michael’s, reduced to fond memories of Elsa before the disillusionment for which she has been the principal cause and messenger. ( “Everybody is somebody’s fool. The only way to stay out of trouble is to grow old. Maybe I’d forget her. Maybe I’d get old trying.”)

    Bye bye, California aspirations. Bye bye, Rita.

  • Barry Putterman

    Tom, we kid because we care. I actually recorded GOOD MORNING, MISS DOVE in scope off of Fox Movie Channel this morning (speaking of sentimentality). If we did not live in hope that those other titles might some day join A MAN CALLED PETER, or that MY PAL GUS or Claude Binyon’s STELLA or some other Fox films that I’d like to see again might some day turn up I wouldn’t bother venting some spleen. Come to think of it, when was the last time they ran CLAUDIA?

  • Blake Lucas

    And don’t forget CIRCLE OF DECEPTION. I really do so want to see that unknown but haunting movie again but they’ve only shown it p/s so I just wouldn’t do it. Jack Lee directed and I’m not sure Suzy Parker and Bradford Dillman are in another movie together.

  • Patrick Henry

    Years ago I acted in a movie with Ralph Meeker (never released, as far as I know.)
    Some of us younger actors were asking him about Kiss Me Deadly. He had seen it recently on TV and it bothered him that the scene where he is crushing Percy Helton’s hand in the drawer of his desk was less brutal than he remembered it. He said something like, “I was really knocking the shit out of that guy’s hand. But they cut so much of it you don’t get the full impact.” Of course, to most viewers the scene seems plenty brutal as it is.
    He mentioned Aldrich as his favorite director in films, Harold Clurman his favorite stage director. Clurman had directed him in a production of Two For the Seesaw.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Some positive Universal programming news -

    Jerzy Skowlimowski’s great Moonlighting, never released on video or laser disk matted, or on DVD at all in the US, is showing this month on one is the Showtime channels (not the main one). The second one is early morning next Wednesday 1/19. (This Showcase channel normally shows fullscreen, so it looks like the folks at both places made an effort).

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Patrick, it’s one of the most convincingly brutal scene I’ve ever seen, and as far as I am concerned it feels long enough! Also very convincing: Helton’s screams. Meeker’s sadistic grin as he pushes the drawer always gives me the creeps.

  • Alex,
    Your points about Rita Hayworth in THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI are most convincing.
    I was just trying to talk about some other films, like GILDA.
    The good-bad woman seems to be an audience favorite. Like William S. Hart and his good-bad man.
    *
    Jean-Pierre,
    Ralph Meeker has always looked plenty tough to me too!

  • jbryant

    Would love to see MOONLIGHTING again (my fave of that year), especially in proper AR of course. But I dropped Showtime for HBO back in May. Oh well, maybe it’ll pop up on Instant Watch or something.

    I just saw Percy Helton a couple of nights ago on an episode of THE GREEN HORNET on SyFy, directed by William “One Shot” Beaudine! Always loved Helton’s excitable wheeze of a voice.

  • dan

    MOONLIGHTING had everything going against it (Jerermy Irons as a polish worker!), and still came out of it a masterpiece. Skolimowski can do no wrong, I even like THE LIGHTSHIP, a film that is regarded by many as a compromise of some sort.

  • skelly

    And I just saw Percy Helton a couple of nights ago in HEAD (a film that in the end portion includes some Rita Hayworth clips – it’s all connected!!). I don’t have Showtime either but happen to have a DVD of MOONLIGHTING out on rent (must have had a R1 release at some point)!

  • Barry Putterman

    Percy Helton! We will never see his likes again! In the 60s I once saw him on”The Merv Griffin Show” where he explained that as a young man he was in a Broadway play where his part called for him to run off the stage and out of the theater on to the street, and then run back into the theater and back on to the stage. He said that doing this night after night had had the effect of changing his voice into when we came to know and love. But can anyone adequately explain how that voice combined with that face and that back to create the poetry, the rapture, the sheer genius that is Percy Helton? Percy Helton in WICKED WOMAN. Who could ask for anything more?

  • Tom Brueggemann

    The lovely and talented Susannah York – who had the jump on most of the great English screen actresses of the 1960s, but never seemed to gain the attention of them – has died at 72 of cancer.

    Looking over her credits, it is clear she attracted a diverse group of talented directors and was attracted to a lot of riskier projects (her directors included Ronald Neame, John Huston, Tony Richardson, Fred Zinnemann, Robert Aldrich, Richard Attenborough, Sydney Pollack, Mark Robson, Robert Altman, Delbert Mann, Clive Donner, Jerzy Skolimowski, Richard Lester, Franklin J. Schaffner).

  • I’ve never been able to get a good overview of Burt Kennedy’s oeuvre. Among the works that seem best:

    Lawman: The Long Gun (1962)
    The Money Trap (1965)
    Support Your Local Gunfighter! (1971)
    Hannie Caulder (1971)
    The Train Robbers (1973)
    Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid (1978)
    Simon & Simon: The List (1983)

    The Encore Western Channel will soon be showing Kennedy’s other three Lawman episodes, which I haven’t seen yet.
    Sarris had Kennedy (in 1968) in Lightly Likable. This seems a fair assessment, as far as I can tell.
    I still haven’t seen “Welcome to Hard Times” (although I read and disliked the novel many years ago). Or many other Kennedy’s.

  • Looking over Susannah York’s filmography, it is clear how many literary adaptations she appeared in, typically of high brow writers. Perhaps this hurt her box office appeal. Would love to see some of the ITV Play of the Week episodes. Many of these are theatrical classics, and it sure would be interesting to see British thespians of the era having a go.

    Her Jerzy Skolimowski film, THE SHOUT, is based on a very good fantasy short story by Robert Graves.

    Speaking of Skolimowski, his Turgenev adaptation TORRENTS OF SPRING (1989) is an under-rated gem. It’s made in something of the style of a British “heritage film”, a genre that often gets dismissed.

  • mike schlesinger

    Many people consider SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF Kennedy’s masterpiece, and it’s tough to disagree, though I have a certain greater fondness for GUNFIGHTER. DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE is a picture that’s generally maligned but is actually quite rich, and THE GOOD GUYS AND THE BAD GUYS is also worthy of reappraisal. I wrote a practically-book-length dissertation on his work to that time (1972) in college, and when I told him about it years later he was immensely flattered that “someone so young” cared that much about his work.

  • I liked Gunfighter much more than Sheriff. Minority opinion, maybe.

    Mike, I hope you still have your Kennedy book! Maybe you could publish it on the Internet.

  • Blake Lucas

    “I still haven’t seen “Welcome to Hard Times” (although I read and disliked the novel many years ago.”

    I haven’t read the novel, Mike G., but Burt Kennedy told me the movie as he wrote and directed it is very different in some ways.

    It’s not one of his comedies, which I know he personally enjoyed most, but neither is “The Money Trap.”

    I will say that along with those two movies and the charming “Mail Order Bride,” the two comedies of his I most enjoy are the two “Support Your Local…” ones, about equally. They really suited his sense of humor, James Garner the ideal comedy hero (he definitely reminds of his MAVERICK character in these) and wonderful parts for the great Jack Elam.

    Mike S., didn’t know about your book-length disseration on Kennedy; that’s really great to hear.

  • Blake and Mike,

    Will definitely check out your Kennedy recommendations. Thank you!
    I should give Sheriff another chance. Haven’t seen it in decades.
    Jack Elam had a triumph in Gunfighter.

    Kennedy seems to be a filmmaker like Joseph H. Lewis: he had a major in Westerns and a minor in crime films.
    Kennedy made a lot of episodes of “Simon & Simon”, a TV comedy-mystery series. I’ve only seen a little of his work there. “The List” stands out, a mystery with plenty of moody atmosphere and good story telling.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    I remember WELCOME TO HARD TIMES as one of Kennedy’s most ambitious and best films (he wrote the script). I saw it in 1967 when it came out but don’t think I watched it again since. I don’t remember whether or not I read Doctorow’s novel — from what I wrote in 50 ANS it seems I had read it (unless Tavernier had, and inserted the remarks about the book into the entry, which is a joint effort). The cast of weird characters was impressive, with Aldo Ray as evil personified, who suddently appears in town ( the appropriately named Hard Times, which consists of just about four houses and a barn), kills, rapes and burns the town to the ground, never saying a word, then rides away. There’s a strange contrast between the realism of the set and of many details and the abstract nature of an improbable plot that more and more tends to turn into a parable as it unfolds. The survivors rebuild the “town” until the bad man returns and wrecks avoc again. Henry Fonda plays one of the most anti-heroic western protagonists in the genre’s history.

    I read that the film was retitled “Killer on a Horse” for overseas but it never was released in France.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Kennedy’s one unfortunate mistep was his 1976 adaptation of Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me (redone by Michael Winterbottom last year).

    This was clearly a labor of love for him, done at a time when Thompson was out of print in the US (although having been adapted in France and more appreciated at that time there).

    The film was an unmitigated commercial disaster – barely released, pulled after one week. I saw it in 35mm, and was impressed at the very least by the scope images. The film is out and about these days, but unfortunately, I don’t think ever in anything but p/s.

    At this point, it’s strange that no one has mentioned his close ties to Budd Boetticher – Kennedy was initially a screenwriter (and indeed wrote some of his own films), and is credited on four of the Boetticher/Scott westerns.

  • Blake Lucas

    “At this point, it’s strange that no one has mentioned his close ties to Budd Boetticher – Kennedy was initially a screenwriter (and indeed wrote some of his own films), and is credited on four of the Boetticher/Scott westerns.”

    I almost mentioned it but then just felt it was too well-known and didn’t need to be. Kennedy’s contribution to the Ranown cycle is immense (and 7 MEN FROM NOW was his very first screenplay), even if it’s right to discuss the films most of all as Budd Boetticher’s, and the director himself would definitely agree with that. For those who don’t know this, the two men remained lifelong friends, and were both keenly aware of what they had contributed to each other’s careers

  • Barry Putterman

    For me, Burt Kennedy’s career has its own kind of cyclical irony. The films he wrote in the 50s and directed in the 60s had an enormous influence on Leone and Peckinpah, yet try as he did, he never seemed to be able to adjust to the changes they brought to the 70a westerns. I would think that the the kind of film he made could have made a big comeback in the post-Jarmusch “independent film” world, (WELCOME TO HARD TIMES with a new age cast might have been a big hit in the 80s) if genre films had not been considered anathema in that world. Although, Jarmusch himself might have liked 80s Burt Kennedy films very much.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Happy birthday to Popeye, who made his debut in E. C. Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theater on January 17 1929, and then went on to conquer all popular media, including of course the movies with animated shorts by the Fleischers and a feature by Robert Altman.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Popeyfirst.png

    And with all this talk about westerns, it’s no wonder that he asks: “’Ja think I’m a Cowboy?”

    Segar worked as projectionist in a movie house. Inspired by seeing Charlie Chaplin, he started creating comics.

  • Segar’s THIMBLE THEATER is a wonderful comic strip.
    This might sound heretical: but the comic strip is far more sophisticated and complex than any Popeye cartoons I’ve seen. Admittedly, haven’t seen these in a long time.

    I also think that Silver Age comic books about super-heroes such as Superman, Green Lantern and the Flash are far more complex and creative than most of the current super-hero movies.
    *
    I still haven’t seen Michel Gondry’s new version of THE GREEN HORNET.
    THE GREEN HORNET was created here in Detroit, for the radio. It thrills me that an artist from Paris takes an interest in Michigan art. As when Chabrol filmed books by Michigan suspense writer Charlotte Armstrong.

    This is not Gondry’s first connection with Detroit culture.
    Gondry’s music videos of the Detroit band “The White Stripes” are among his best works. (The White Stripes were also in “Coffee and Cigarettes” (Jim Jarmusch), in that film’s most poetic episode, about the Tesla Coil.)

    One video is made all out of Legos, “Fell In Love With a Girl” (2002), and shows dynamic rhythm.
    “The Hardest Button to Button” (2003) is a gem. Numerous copies of a drum keep
    materializing all over what looks like New York City’s Central Park, forming long
    lines of drums and geometric patterns. The materializations are in time with the beat of the music. This was “real cinema”: a film that shows visual qualities and visual style. Very nice!

  • Johan Andreasson

    Mike, I like the Fleischer cartoons a lot, but there’s nothing heretical in saying the comic strip is far more sophisticated and complex – it’s one of the true masterpieces of comic art!

  • Tintin similarly made his debut in 1929, and personally I’ve always considered Herge’s story The Castafiore Emerald — a bustling yet near-plotless comedy of errors, digressing along the way to explore the distorting nature of mass media and technology — to be excellently Altmanesque.

    (From Wikipedia:)

    “The slowest-moving and most sedate of The Adventures of Tintin, it was conceived as a narrative exercise by Hergé. Becoming disillusioned with his most famous creation, the cartoonist wanted to see if he could maintain suspense throughout sixty-two pages in which nothing much happens.[1] Consequently it is a story without villains, guns or danger, but rich in comic setpieces, red herrings, mistaken interpretations, and colourful characters.”

  • Oliver C. that is indeed one of Hergé’s greatest work. I like the comparison to Altman. It’s interesting that it was made directly after the magnificent and emotionally exhaustive “Tintin in Tibet”. They can both be seen as therapeutic work for Hergé.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Steven Spielberg’s take on Tintin opens next year – very curiously, it is set to open throughout Europe months before its US Xmas release (which is going to cause major piracy concerns) – but they clearly expected to do most of their business outside the US.

  • Johan Andreasson

    To bring up another movie parallel, the part of the story in “The Castafiore Emerald” where Captain Haddock suffers a broken bone and is confined to a house that’s invaded by a TV crew is so similar to what happens with Monty Woolley’s character in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER (but of course it’s radio there), that I’ve wondered for a long time if Hergé had seen the movie or the play it’s based on.

    I’m not sure how familiar Tintin is to American readers. David Bordwell wrote a piece about Hergé and his creation on his blog a while ago that can serve as an introduction from a movie perspective:

    http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?p=8749

  • Jenny

    Peter,
    Im really interested to know what was the film you made with Ralph Meeker that was never released?
    And why wasnt it released?
    I thought he was great, such an underrated actor, really handsome guy…….great speaking voice and commanding presence….had all it takes to be a leading man…what happend to his career……..was it just because he didnt want to sign studio contracts?
    Or did he prefer the medium of Tv, I had seen a variety of his movies, and while he was totally macho and had a great build..I wonder why he didnt appear in more “A” list roles.
    And he proved in movies such as “Code Two” , “The Naked Spur” and “Jeopardy”, he could play more roles than just the heavy.
    He shows his charisma in these.
    I would love to find out more about him……..the real guy………I have read he dated four women in one week in the 50′s, and Im not surprised!!
    Can anyone shed some light.
    Ive looked for books about him……..searched the internet…..but there is not much written about his real life.