Two-color Doug, Euro-Curtiz and Borzage on Demand

Filmed in two-color Technicolor, Douglas Fairbanks’ 1926 swashbuckler “The Black Pirate” looks mighty fine in a new Blu-ray from Kino. Michael Curtiz finds Vienna on the backlot in the medical melodrama “Alias the Doctor,” leading a nice selection of pre-code titles from the Warner Archive Collection. And Frank Borzage’s anti-war allegory of 1931, “No Greater Glory,” is a highlight of Sony Pictures Home Entertainments new manufactured-on-demand service, Screen Classics by Request — all in this week’s potpourri column for the New York Times.

84 comments to Two-color Doug, Euro-Curtiz and Borzage on Demand

  • Brian Dauth

    Jean-Pierre: I am with you in liking TEA AND SYMPATHY no matter what, since for me it too is a Minnelli masterpiece (and my favorite Minnelli along with THE BAND WAGON). The film is full of more grace notes per ‘Scope inch than almost anything Minnelli ever did.

  • Barry Putterman

    To give credit where it is due, Jaime did mention the Minnelli films coming to DVD release very early in this thread. I suspect we will hear more about them in a New York Times column some time soon. THE COBWEB struck me as an astonishing film even when I first saw it in 16mm pan and scan. But it took on a whole new dimension when I saw it at the Museum of Modern Art with its original stereo soundtrack. There was a whole other world of off screen conversations taking place which commented on the continuing on-screen story. I have no idea whether that will show up on the Warner Archive disc, but it was just another reminder of what I have missed by not being old enough to have seen so many of the great films in their initial release.

    Dave, I would say that there is definate self-conscious irony in the The Sportsman’s Quartet’s song in “Tom and Jerry.” After all, the Sportsmen were well known to the radio and TV audience for their ironic singing commercials on “The Jack Benny Program.” I would further claim that this song combining with Marie Windsor’s heckling and The Sportsmen’s directions to the Ladies Room as if it were a song performance gesture leads the way towards future Tashlin films—and RALLY ROUND THE FLAG BOYS.

  • nicolas saada

    Glad to see the mention of “Alias the doctor” which almost equals the intensity of Borzage, perhaps because of the german set plot, an the overall dark mood of the film: it’s one of Curtiz’ best.
    Minnelli : few people mention THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE which is to me one of the great comedies of that period, alongside works by Cukor. It’s so effortlessly brilliant that it makes most comedies dull. The pleasure I take watching films by Minnelli reminds me of the enjoyment of listening to Mel Torme. The singing was cool, detached and always pleasant, but the form of the songs, the arrangements, were sophisticated to a point where you did not know if the orchestra was built around his voice, or if the voice was just part of the orchestra.
    Minnellli’s secret elegance has the same merits. And sorry for the clumsy English.

  • Peter Henne

    SPOILERS BELOW

    I count 471 shots for TEA AND SYMPATHY. I might be off by a few but it probably doesn’t matter too much. At 122 minutes, that number gives an average shot of 15.5 seconds, or around 15 seconds to round it off. I’d say the film nonetheless lends an impression of longer takes in general. It feels to me like Minnelli is stretching things out at strategic places, to explore a different staging and pacing and permit closer contemplation of beauty and moral conflict. In exteriors, the cutting is faster and the actions taken by the characters are more nervous: there’s a lot of anxiety running through the two consecutive scenes at the beach, also at the bonfire. People are outright agitated over how to play their social roles. But in interiors (including the house’s garden) people are trying to use reason more, and the film slows down for that. Maybe it could be said the film spotlights those efforts, in a gentle way and not overly stated. Not everybody who uses reason is being true to themselves or even playing fair–Tom’s father, for instance. But it’s as though in the outside world, where people go without domestic constraints, they panic. There are gradations–and contradictions–to what I’m saying. What brings outside and inside together is the glade at the end of the past-tense story, where Tom and Laura make love. There’s a rightness to their having this time (thus reasonable) but at the same time the meeting is passionate. The grove is an enclosure, like a house is, but also part of the outside world. It makes a dramatic contrast to the beach with the wide-open expanses of land, sea and sky, and where it seems people are most shocked and at a loss how to handle what is unfamiliar to them. Tom and Laura don’t act like that at all in this late scene. There’s an important sense in which they’re sheltered at this moment, beyond the simple fact they are under trees. The evident quotation from art history of many Boucher pastorals for this scene, images which many Americans could see in magazines, survey books of art, and even on wallpaper, lends a sense of playing out an exchange within a familiar setting and form and thus further enwraps the couple, in the civility of Old World art.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    nicolas, I love Torme too (especially his series of recordings with Shearing) so maybe I should listen to some of his songs while watching RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE again in order to discover the film’s greatness. Actually I’m going to watch it this very instant (with or without Mel).

    PS: what clumsy English?

  • Brian Dauth

    Peter: how can a spectator be sure that Laura and Tom make love? There may well be no consummation. One of Minnelli’s great achievements in the movie is to allow a viewer to understand the scene either way: the civility you remark on is the civility of sexual possibility and freedom (a recent New York production incorporated several of Minnelli’s insights into its production).

    I believe that Minnelli attempted to make a film for both 1956 audiences and future ones. I think he knew the framing device was phony (and would swell in phoniness with the passing years): it was the price extracted from MGM so the film could be made. But by treating it with the same intensity/sincerity that he lavished on the rest of the film (and not winking at the audience), Minnelli destabilizes this frame, highlighting both its fraudulence as a device and truthfulness as a gloss on the sexual panic of the 1950’s (queers forced into marriage under the cudgel of compulsory heterosexuality; and sexually/socially transgressive women exiled to somewhere outside of Chicago – a region of hell Dante forgot to mention).

    I also agree that T&S is a gentle film, in contrast to Minnelli’s more operatic melodramas. As a movie, it feels to me sui generis – a melodrama daringly directed as if it were a comedy. When I watch the bonfire sequence, for all its panic, I smile at Minnelli’s ability to put at the center of a film designed not to be about homosexuality, a scene of homosex desire. Minnelli made T&S into an example of what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick called the spectacle of the closet, where what is supposed to be silenced sounds louder than almost anything else. It is a remarkable film.

  • Peter Henne

    Brian, I’ll just comment on two parts of your interesting post. As I recall, you can’t be completely sure Tom has sexual intercourse with Laura, but doesn’t the letter’s tone at the end give some strong hint of this? Plus, there are myriad scenes in films where we can’t be completely sure, either, but for a good number of them we believe anyway that… well, I’m not as clever as Barry, but you know what I’m talking about. Besides, it seems like the important thing is that there is a serious romantic encounter between these two brought about by mutual attraction that the film audience has seen percolating from their first encounter, and one with life-changing consequences for both. Depending on the generosity of definition, I think that can be called “making love.” I’m romantic enough to use the description, at any rate, and I’ll stand by it. What’s important to me is that the intent is sexual and has profound meaning for their lives.

    Secondly, I wonder if you are taking a tortuous course reading off sincerity as actually phony in the way you have. It doesn’t seem to be any stronger than the face-value case to be made, and if that’s right, then why not go with the simplest explanation?

  • Peter Henne

    I want to quickly add, Brian, as my time out from my work day quickly dwindles, that I agree with the last 17 words of your post. In my view, by shifting to the presentation of homosexuality perceived instead of homosexuality that is actual, Minnelli didn’t squelch the essential topic. He did what he could get away with, but an attentive audience wouldn’t overlook that repression of homosexuality is still a miserable thing.

  • Brian Dauth

    Peter: For me, the letter at the end is not meant to be believed – its presence is a symptom of the conditions under which the film had to be made (if it was to be made at all). This is why Minnelli’s sincerity works for me: he is sincere about the letter as symptom/symbol of 1950’s sex panic, but not as truthful narrative device. It is as if the sex panic of the characters within the film is mirrored/multiplied by a framing device imposed by the panic of the culture/system in which the film was made. It is a perfect feedback loop of anxiety (no queers allowed, but we would love to make money off people’s fear that they might actually exist). MGM’s trailer for the film starts off with these words: “Even the most daring story can be brought to the screen when done with COURAGE, HONESTY, and GOOD TASTE.”

    The film’s producer, Pandro Berman, said in an interview at the time that “We never say in the film that the boy has homosexual tendencies . . . but any adult who has ever heard of the word and understands its meaning will clearly understand this suspicion in the film.” Of course, this interview got the Legion of Decency’s knickers in a knot, but here you have the film’s producer giving the lie to the notion that Tom is straight. I think Tom and Laura can be understood as attracted to each other (and that this attraction is sexual on Laura’s part), but for me Tom is what we would call today a questioning youth.

    When I first read the play (before I saw the movie), I never thought that any sex occurs. For me, Laura is attracted to men who are strongly homosocial/homosexual. Her curtain line is too good – it has a canned quality indicating that this is a path she has trod before. What makes the work interesting is that Laura is both concerned with helping Tom, and at the same time wants to work out her own fetish vis a vis Tom. Stephen Harvey points out the slight woodenness of Deborah Kerr’s performance which for me is a subtle hint that Laura is not the sweet angel she might appear at first glance. There is a whole lot of perversion going on in T&S, and Minnelli handles it with extraordinary grace and nuance.

  • Alex Hicks

    jean-pierre coursodon,

    CSI, CSI: MIAMI and CSI: NEW YORK all have their merits. CSI: MIAMI is probably the best cinematgraphically, jut gorgeous. However, CSI seems to me tyo have better character development and appeal; and CSI: NEW YORK tens yo have better scripts eposode by episode.

    It’s my impression that the plain CSI has been pretty consistently the most popular, and I’d say it’s because viewers especially like TV series for their characters, which seems to me okay for TV. For example, I can and occasionally do enjoy BONES for the Emily Deschanel character and her relation to her sidekick, despite lame plots and no particular stylistic appeal (beyond what the show does with Deschanel and her face).

    Can’t say I liked any of the “Screen Directors Playhouse” episodes much besides the Ford one. “Tom and Jerry” was just okay for me. But then I can’t say I like any 1950s McCarey film much: the comic sparkle an sentimental freshness seem lost to me. I don’t find the thematic variations that interesting once those virtues are muted, don’t especially think that great film directors are necessarily very intellectually interesting, even as self commentators.. As a sucker for Wellesian self-reflection, and to a lesser extent Eastwood’s self reflection, I can see how other directors might be for others viewers. For intellectual payoff beyond his art, I don’t personally see much I n McCarey to save an artistically dull film, just a sort of dashing, quick-witted, big hearted Irishman not unlike a number of persons who once inhabited my childhood world (or, more specifically, my Father’s and childhood friends’ fathers’ largely Irish Catholic worlds) – except for his great, but not imperishable, artictic gifts.

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, on the other hand, I doubt whether Louis Armstrong was ever mistaken for Jean-Paul Sartre.

  • Alex Hicks

    Barry,

    Did Louis Armstrong ever write choral program music on non-musical themes, complete with lyrics or librettos by Armstrong. No if he’d done some substance laden analogue to Copeland’s Lincoln portrait –say “A Fanfare for Stalin” it might have gotten tricky.

    It’s pretty basic in literature that a work can’t be fully assessed on in terms of style or poetics as it has contents (the old poetics/history Janus face). One weakness of “For Whom the Bell” tolls is that Hemingway can’t really integrate the basic Robert Jordan story with a coherent view of the Republican/loyalist terror and the Soviet anti-Franco role in a way that doesn’t leave Jordon looking naive, and Hemingway confused. No such middles mar the early stories or The Sun Also Rises. I don’t see how film is any different, though come to think of it, a purely style-centered auteur theory does.

    In any case I don’t much like 50’s McCarey on artistic grounds.
    I presume that proponents of 50s McCarey’s work like it partly because he is SOOO McCarey (like some few Hemingway critics/scholars like Old Man and the Sea and even Across the River in the Tress a lot because they are SOOO Hemingway — or maybe like I tend to think Mr. Arcading is great because I can get into it being SOOO Wellesian).

    I don’t much like An Affair to Remember because I think it’s leaden (II suppose it could be spun as the Gertrude of romantic comedies. Actually, I do think that Cukor’s A Star is Born works as a kind of Antonionian musical on failed lovely, but An Affair to Remember seems to me not some deepening of genre work but a partial failure at it (if hardly, unlike My Son John, a bad movie).

    (I think Tarantino is always a stylistic treat but I find some Tarantino –just TOOOO silly to think it’s great, quite unlike the best Tarantino.)

    Lucky for me I like the Ford Plahouse, film or I could REALLY get mmyself into trouble.

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, I don’t believe that Armstrong ever got around to choral program music. However, Wynton Marsalis, who has dabbled a bit your area, said that he tried to play some of Armstrong’s recording and found them a bit tricky. In any event, you seem to be saying here that form (classical vs. jazz) is more important than content. It is rather basically understood that Armstong’s accomplishments in music are considered to be more artistically successful than Copeland’s, but possibly you haven’t read that chapter yet.

    Personally, I have no problem with anybody disliking McCarey or Ford or anybody else on whatever aesthetic grounds they choose. However, to say that somebody’s art fails because they were insufficiently intellectual strikes me as ridiculous. Particularly when he who is making that charge is championing an unmade movie called MR. ARCADING.

  • Alex Hicks

    Barry,

    I’d written “But then I can’t say I like any 1950s McCarey film much: the comic sparkle an sentimental freshness seem lost to me. I don’t find the thematic variations that interesting once those virtues are muted, don’t especially think that great film directors are necessarily very intellectually interesting, even as self commentators.”

    I don’t think this amount to saying that “somebody’s art fails because they were insufficiently intellectual,” so much as that it fails because the filmmakers strengths (here “comic sparkle an sentimental freshness”) are lacking.. In praise of “Tom and Jerry,” Dave K. had stressed the filmlet as a “digest of McCarey’s principal themes,.” which seemed to me as praise for “Tom and Jerry” for being “ intellectually interesting, not enough to salvage the aesthetically fading 50’s McCarey for me. (No, I never said I didn’t like McCarey either, just the 1950s McCarey.) Though you are strictly speaking correct concerning the unmade character of “Mr. Arcading,” I wasn’t exactly championing the “Mr Arkakin” that history as left us as so much as noting that I could see how one might find merit in a film as thematic digest, even amidst artistic lapses, for I suspected myself of doing so with Welles’s “Arkadin.”)

    I don’t see how the relevance of relative artistic merit of Armstrong and Copeland can be read into to anything I wrote, though the statement that “It is rather basically understood that Armstong’s accomplishments in music are considered to be more artistically successful than Copeland’s” strikes me, though a tad tendentious, not altogehter unreasonable.

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, if your challenging of Armstrong to have written the kind of pieces that Copeland did in your first paragraph does not call into question their relative artistic merits, I don;t know what does. And if your second paragraph (and later comments about Tarantino) aren’t saying that works fail because their creators lacked an intellectual understanding of their subject matter, than it means nothing at all. Which is something that you full well understand, since you found it necessary to open your third paragraph with “In any case, I don’t much like 50s McCarey on aesthetic grounds” as a transition.

    Selectively quoting from your posts does not negate what you said in the parts that you don’t quote.

  • On Screen Directors Playhouse, thought the Ford episode was good, and the Dwan show was very good. Dwan’s “High Air” tied in with all the engineering projects in his films. Both the “water works” and the “sand works”, constructions that are everywhere in his movies. Plus his father-son themes.

    The Ford show had many subject and theme links to both The Searchers and The Last Hurrah.

  • Rookie of the Year (John Ford, 1955) is a 25-minute TV show, an episode of Screen Directors Playhouse.
    SPOILERS.

    According to Tag Gallagher’s book, Rookie of the Year was shot in Summer 1955, which would be either immediately before or at the same time as the filming of The Searchers. Rookie of the Year has many of the same cast members as The Searchers: John Wayne, his son Patrick Wayne, Ward Bond, Vera Miles.
    Most importantly, its basic situation and characters have elements in common with The Searchers. John Wayne, typically a hero in other films, plays bitter, morally corrupt anti-heroes in both. In both, he is planning and scheming throughout the whole film to destroy an innocent young person: the baseball player in Rookie of the Year, his niece Debbie in The Searchers. Both films move towards a similar moment in their finale, which resolves the drama. Both moments have Wayne embracing a young woman.

    Wayne makes his discovery about the rookie through visual analysis. He watches and watches the rookie, partly because it’s his job as sportswriter, and partly through personal fascination. Suddenly, Wayne notices visual patterns in the rookie, that reveal the truth to him. This recalls other scenes of “viewing” in Ford, such as When Willie Comes Marching Home.

    Ward Bond plays another Ford character with a hoax and a double life. See:
    fake family: Just Pals,
    hero’s alleged honest job: Born Reckless,
    hero pretends to be abroad, prisoner pretends to be Englishman, escaped convicts pretend to be friends: Up the River,
    mystery ship, panic drill: Seas Beneath,
    Hatfield’s new name out West: Stagecoach,
    trick about suit played on McLaglen: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,
    claims woman likes McLaglen, hero’s painted house: The Quiet Man,
    Ward Bond’s new identity: Rookie of the Year,
    television political spot and its phony imagery: The Last Hurrah,
    shooting: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

    Wayne’s working environment at his two-bit newspaper is nearly as bad as Edward G. Robinson’s office in The Whole Town’s Talking. Wayne might not be opposed to routine work, like so many Ford heroes, but he definitely wants to move up to a bigger paper. His rotten boss emphasizes micro-control over Wayne’s working hours.
    Wayne’s good opportunity at the end involves travel to East Asia, just like Robinson at the end of The Whole Town’s Talking. While Wayne doesn’t talk about such changes-to-routine-work in his dialogue – he only wants to be a success – such an opportunity for adventure is seen by Ford and the film as a positive outcome. It seems more important in the film, than “success”, which the writer also gets a little of.

    There is much in Rookie of the Year about media of communication: newspaper, teletype, long distance phone, discussion of radio and television. This seems to be Ford’s first work for television, so some of the discussion is perhaps a bit self-referential. Media will return in The Last Hurrah, with another, more sympathetic newspaper writer (Jeffrey Hunter) and a satire on television.

    Several Ford films look at the harm lying in the press does to democracy and society (Fort Apache, The Last Hurrah, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Cheyenne Autumn). Rookie of the Year looks at a related but different issue: should the press publish true information that might harm an innocent person’s life?

    James Gleason, an archetypal urban actor, will return in Ford’s big city portrait The Last Hurrah.

    There are little vignettes showing sportswriters’ life. These take the place of the ethnographic looks at other cultures found in many Ford films.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Barry and Alex: Armstrong and Copeland, isn’t that a bit like apples and oranges?

  • Alex Hicks

    Barry,

    I used Copeland instead of Armstrong as an example because Copeland wrote a little program music and thus seemed more relevant to discussion of film, which generally has content as well as form. I was not comparing their quality, though I think you’d have a far case for judging Armstrong better or better received (if the comparison of the too is not simply an odious one as jean-pierre coursodon suggests)..

    My reference to Tarantino’s sometimes deliberating silliness was meant to refer to stuff like the centrality of contents like martial arts blood letting in Kill Bill One, and a cartoonishly motivated yet core Car Chase in Death Proof. I wasn’t questioning Tarantino’s intellectual understanding of his subject matter, but his choice of it.

    I don’t see how saying “In any case I don’t much like 50′s McCarey on artistic grounds” itself relates to a statement about McCarey’s “intellectual understanding of his subject matter” although I do in fact think he had a poor understanding of the subject matter of My Son John.

    I guess we’ve been talking past each other and I hope I’m not extending this boring pattern any further with this post.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    I keep putting off rewatching My Son John, but my recollection is what in part gives the film what power and merit it has is that McCarey, despite his political leans, does indeed in part have anything but a poor understanding of the subject matter if, as for me seems perfectly clear, the subject matter extends to what is far more important to McCarey – the ripping apart of a family because of outside factors, not dissimilar to Make Way for Tomorrow, or even in a different setting The Bells of St. Mary’s (even extend it to the not-yet-established family of Love Affair and An Affair to Remember).

  • Barry Putterman

    Tom, I also have yet to give MY SON JOHN another look. However, my memory jibes with yours in thinking that the core of the film is the crisis within the family rather than the McGuffin igniting it. I expect that McCarey’s view of Communism is no more complex than his view of educational theory in FOR WHOM THE BELLS OF ST,MARY’S TOLL, but there we need to consider the primal filmic importance of Crosby’s choral music which would have been so far beyond the grasp of his friend Armstrong.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    I don’t readily excuse or overlook the McGuffin in My Son John – to do so would be to dismiss and patronize McCarey’s reason for including it. Just wanted to suggest the film can be viewed through other prisms than just political and ideological.

  • Blake Lucas

    I did see MY SON JOHN again last year and have posted on it already relation to what’s said about the family, indeed the part of it that draws the best of McCarey’s creativity and directorial gifts, even if torturously at times. McCarey is too much of an artist to make a simplistic movie, and what’s interesting–no matter one’s politics, and my own in relation to the period are emphatically not McCarey’s–is that it is this all-American family, actually highly neurotic, that has made Walker the traitor he is. I believe that’s meant to be very clear in the film.

    It is for me a fascinating and compelling film, definitely not unflawed, but Walker’s own unexpected death (and he looks ill throughout, which makes for tough going) is at least one factor accounting for this, and the reality is that most films are flawed, even great ones, but most are not so challenging to people’s political views as this one.

  • Some thoughts on the settings in Borzage’s “No Greater Glory”.

    The scenes at the botanical garden at night recall a film that influenced Borzage, Sunrise (F. W. Murnau, 1927). Both films show rowboats moving over water at night. Both water scenes show people hunting for a person, using lanterns.

    The glass-walled greenhouse in the botanical garden, also recalls the glass-walled cafe and dance halls in Sunrise. Borzage would go on to include the glass-walled garage in Big City.

    The construction of the apartment house at the end of No Greater Glory, recalls a bit the building of the bridge in Borzage’s Stranded. Even before the construction starts, the lumber yard also recalls such building zones, as locale surrounding the bridge going up in Stranded.

    The lumber yard is notably geometric. We see both individual piles of wood, with regularly jutting boards, and also multiple piles of wood arranged in grids.
    *
    Metaphorical “wars” in Borzage:

    kids gang up on illegitimate child: Lazybones,
    teen gang war: No Greater Glory,
    taxi cab war: Big City,
    repair firms, political street fights: Three Comrades

    Young men heroes who fail to fit in with military groups:

    No Greater Glory,
    Shipmates Forever,
    Flight Command

    Geometric environments:

    dam: Lazybones,
    fountain, ceiling, room, arcade: A Farewell to Arms,
    restaurant: Man’s Castle,
    lumber yard: No Greater Glory,
    summer house: Hearts Divided,
    circular equipment in operating room: Green Light)

    Buildings with clear walls:

    river pavilion at end: Lazybones,
    hospital foyer at start: A Farewell to Arms,
    store window, watchman’s office at plant: Man’s Castle,
    greenhouse: No Greater Glory,
    garage: Big City

  • Jean-Pierre and Brian, I’m glad to read kind words about TEA AND SYMPATHY. I haven’t seen it, and I’ve only heard bad things about it before, but Minnelli is one of my absolute favourite filmmakers so I want to see it, no, I need to see it.

    I’ve been watching some Borzage over the weekend. 7th HEAVEN, THE MORTAL STORM and HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT. They were all very good, but THE MORTAL STORM was amazing. I watched it almost like in trance, all the way to the unusual and deeply moving ending. Borzage’s camera has a way of looking at actors, just to see what they are feeling, not what they are doing, which transcends whatever crappy script he’s working with.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    From Deadline Hollywood, quoting The Guardian just now (interrupting their Sundance coverage):

    UK newspapers report that director Orson Welles’s unseen 1972 film The Other Side of the Wind could now see the light of day. The unedited film has been hidden away in a vault and been the subject of an ownership dispute. Now Los Angeles attorney Kenneth Sidle, who reps one of the film’s producers, tells The Guardian that negotiations for its release may be concluded soon. Among those who appear in the film are directors John Huston and Peter Bogdanovich. Now the question is whether the footage should be shown raw or edited.

    Here’s the link to the Guardian article:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/jan/23/orson-welles-last-film-release

  • jbryant

    I saw that Guardian article earlier today, and it doesn’t sound to me like much real progress has been made since the last such announcement (didn’t Bogdanovich make the same claim a year or so ago?). I’m at the point where I’ll believe it when I’m taking my seat, popcorn in hand.

  • jbryant

    Nicholas and j-p: I shared your kind words about Mel Torme with one of his daughters, who is a friend of mine. She was very pleased.

  • Alex Hicks

    There’s a 01-28-2011 post at Wellesnet.com saying that the Observer report on improved chances of seeing THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (and its Guardian spin-off) is a hoax. Where, the observer report on owner negotiation accurate, chances of seeing at least the raw footage for WIND would seem to have recently improved (at least assuming no credible Beatrice Welles suit, and no new monkey wrenches in the works).

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘chances of seeing at least the raw footage for WIND would seem to have recently improved’

    Raw footage has been screened many times. I saw at Los Angeles Cinematheque 60 minutes presented by Gary Graver. Maybe there is 80 minutes shown so far at different place and at internet.

  • Alex Hicks

    Junko,

    Sure, “Raw footage has been screened many times” –in a sense. However, in this context I think the idea is a release of all available footage (in best available form) assembled together as a film, but without new editing within stretches of footage not already edited by Welles. — a complete, or nearly complete movie of sorts, but not the projected Bogdanovich “Fully edited” “completion.” Of course arrangements of stretches of raw footage involves editing of a sort and , in fact, there are stretches of footage that have been argued to have to be intercut with other stretches, (and not just where more than one camera or take was involved in a scene).

  • Alex Hicks

    “McCarey is too much of an artist to make a simplistic movie, and what’s interesting–no matter one’s politics, and my own in relation to the period are emphatically not McCarey’s–is that it is this all-American family, actually highly neurotic, that has made Walker the traitor he is. I believe that’s meant to be very clear in the film….It is for me a fascinating and compelling film, definitely not unflawed, but Walker’s own unexpected death (and he looks ill throughout, which makes for tough going) is at least one factor accounting for this, and the reality is that most films are flawed, even great ones, but most are not so challenging to people’s political views as this one.”

    McCarey’ s stress on a family conflict as also noted by other, most memorably by BarryP’s “the core of the film is the crisis within the family rather than the McGuffin igniting it” is certainly the case. However, I don’t think this family focus insulates McCarey from a need to understand something about his subject matter from something like what can imagine John’s point of view to have been.

    After all, the Communist pole of intra-family conflict is not simply a McGuffan as “what everyone is after.” It’s a complex set of motives that reaches out beyond a simple material goal (say a microfilm spool), it has the FBI reaching into John’s household of origin as well as his life and John’s mother reaching out to Washington and the FBI. There are intelligent and informed accounts of Communist conflicts with American culture, complete with some family dimensions (e.g., the non-fictional narratives of “The God that Failed and the fictional “ Middle of the Journey” (1947) andm – for far left though not “traitor’s view of young communists, J.T. Farrell’s Bernard Carr and late Danny O’Neill novels) .There is even a great narrative by a Soviet Communist Spy who as I recall was very much a Catholic in both his origins and his recanting, Whittaker Chambers’ “I Confess.” Sure, some family dynamics marked by parents who have not the cultural and/or intellectual resources to communicate well with their son – complete with perennially troublesome aloof, father – mark the narrative and the film had the mother’s insight –if you can call it that – that there’s an altruism in John like her on Catholic charity. But his all seems quite trite to me in the absence of any credible glimpse of John as much other than a distant, stigmatized Other, despite his final recanting. The film has less psychological acuity and cultural resources regarding John than n Guy Green’s “The Mark” has for the Stuart Whitman character. I doubt that the gay Whitakker Chambers’ would have any sympathy for McCarey’s concoction, all the less for McCarey’s portrayal of John as a “mincing Moma’s boy” (Thomas Doherty, 2003). I suspect that the Chambers – “National Review” conservative icon though he was– would have been no less disdainful of the inanities of “My Son John” than he was of those of “Atlas Shrugged”.

    “….too much of an artist to make a simplistic movie” Evidently not, I would say, not in this case of material beyond McCarey’s horizons. (Sure, the great, “Make Way for Tomorrow” get beyond comedy and romance – but not the experience if parents and grandparents. And “Make Way for Tomorrow” t never does , nor has to make connections beyond the worlds of Hal Roach, a dashing young success’s bushes with romantic and marital farce or parochial and grade school nostalgia in the spheres of national politics and international politics or in the arcane minds and souls of those who get even more involved in those sheres than Rufus T. Firefly.)

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, you’ve been beating this horse for some time now. But the basic point doesn’t get much more convincing with each new pass at it.

    Yes, McCarey used Communism as the initiating point for the family crisis for very specific reasons having to do with its topicality and his own views towards it. The same could be said about PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET and supposedly the French dub of the film substitutes jewel robbers for Communists without too much damage to what Fuller was getting at. I suspect that you could substitute the Mafia for Communism in MY SON JOHN and get similar results.

    Yes, McCarey’s anti-Communism is not very sophistocated on an intellectual level, but neither is Eisenstein’s pro-Communism in THE GENERAL LINE. One could be annoyed by that fact, take it as a limitation on some level or just enjoy the overall artistry despite that. McCarey never claimed to be James T. Farrell or Whitakker Chambers and I rather doubt that either of them would have been capable of making THE AWFUL TRUTH.

    But ultimately Alex, based on what you’ve said, your continuing insistence on this point actually seems to be more about your relations with the conservative Irish people you knew in your youth than what is actually taking place in MY SON JOHN.

  • alex hicks

    Oooopps! The title of Chambers’ memoir is “Witness,” not “I Confess.”