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  1. Of course Citizen Kane is one of the jewels in the Mankiewicz family crown. And the screenplay plays a big part in its stature: not just the ingenious multiple-narrative structure, but the wit and verve along the way. One of the surprises about it on first viewing (if one has at least a little familiarity with styles of its time) is how light and irreverent much of it is. It's a masterpiece in the form of a popular entertainment. Which is my favorite kind.
  2. As you say, the hazards of recollection can play a part, as can the inevitable simplifications of a quick interstitial discussion. The Honey Pot may have been left out for some such reason, or maybe (since it did so poorly) it may have been part of the process of Joseph being convinced he had dried as a writer. It was a multiple adaptation, a screenplay adapted from Frederick Knott's play adapted from someone else's novel ultimately derived from Jonson's Volpone. I remember it vanishing from theaters almost instantly (I'm tempted to say that it didn't even last the full week, though that may be my memory exaggerating because I'd hoped to see it and it was gone before I could). I never heard about it again till Warner Archive brought it out on DVD MOD, when I grabbed it. It is not, in fact, a lost gem. The most complete discussion of it that I've located online is actually on the TCM site; its author is more complimentary about its quality than I can be.
  3. Walter Huston was an absolutely great actor, something that I somehow never understood until I saw him last summer in Dodsworth. That movie and his performance in it (and that of Mary Astor in it too) immediately shot up to the top of my personal All-Time Best lists.
  4. The alternate-universe All About Eve starring Claudette Colbert and Jeanne Crain is interesting to contemplate, although I dare say we're better off with the one we have. I was interested to see the Mankiewicz discussion Friday evening. I like that though the cousins* clearly admire the work of their famous ancestors, they don't feel obligated to ignore or excuse their faults. (*For the genealogy-obsessed like me, Alex is Joseph's daughter while Ben is Herman's grandson; so they're first cousins once removed. But that's too much detail for a quick reference, "cousins" is completely correct.)
  5. Yes, something in that vein. It's just that one little element in the impersonation, which could easily be explained away; but I feel that Wilder enjoyed a tiny "innocent" twist of the knife like that. (And this is entirely independent of Grant's actual status, which with his four marriages and other relationships over the years could fairly be described as "it's complicated." I don't mean to be reductive about someone's whole life.)
  6. This ties in slightly with my recent remarks about Billy Wilder and Tony Curtis, I guess, because after repeated viewings over the years, I have to admit to myself that I don't enjoy Some Like It Hot all that much either. I don't care about the premise being realistic, but it's not innately hilarious to me either. I won't say it "leaves me cold" -- but my enjoyment is limited to brief moments: a smile-inducing line reading here, a nicely caught moment between characters there. But it seems widely accepted as this uproarious nonstop cavalcade of comedy, and for me it just isn't. Different strokes and all that... On which point, I guess it's a matter of personal definition whether Cary Elwes's career "went nowhere" or not; but an IMDb listing of 127 screen credits (almost exactly twice as many as Mandy Patinkin, as it happens), with no long-running TV series to boost the number, and with no period when he wasn't working, looks like a pretty successful career to me. He didn't achieve mega-star status, but after all very few do.
  7. My own feeling is that Curtis may well have been (most likely was) imitating Grant out of admiration and his own deep knowledge of Grant's work. But he was also doing it at the suggestion of Billy Wilder, and Wilder could be a mordant SOB with motives of his own. (I admit that my admiration of Wilder's work is partial at best; undoubtedly he has some fine achievements to his credit, but there are other instances where I feel he either missed the tone he was aiming for, or he achieved it but I don't like it. I suppose the answer is that I'm not really in tune with him.)
  8. I don't think I agree at all. The best spoofs I know are motivated by affection and admiration. (One example that comes to mind is The Princess Bride, book and movie.)
  9. That's a good choice. My own would be Albert Finney in Two for the Road. He was 7 years younger than she, and at the time the movie was released, the gap probably seemed wider because she had been a movie star so long already, whereas he was a relatively fresh face. Fortunately, at this distance in time that makes no difference, especially as the movie covers a substantial number of years. I've often gone on about how I love Two for the Road to distraction, and we're fortunate that the remake that was at one time publicized as "in the works" never happened. (Although Charade wasn't so lucky, the remake was forgotten the moment it appeared, so we don't need to worry about that either.) As to Cary Grant never being in a Wilder film, maybe he knew best. Here's the writer Dan Callahan on the subject, from his first book about American screen acting:
  10. Yeah, Dickens is not for the reader who balks at coincidence.
  11. Yes, the dubbing really hurts the character of Joe in this movie, partly because we know (even now, some will remember) what Harry Belafonte sounded like as a singer, and it isn't this. One interesting detail, though, is that his voice double, LaVern Hutcherson, was a bass-baritone who was one of the several Porgys in the popular tours of Gershwin's opera in the 1950s -- not the tenor required for this role. Yet he sounds pretty convincing in this music (ignoring the mismatch with Belafonte), and he did one of the stage tours of Carmen Jones too. He must have been a smart, resourceful singer to be able to function in either of two "legit" categories. I do think the dubbing works much better with Dorothy Dandridge. Marilyn Horne has written about the long practice sessions they put in together to match Dandridge's speaking (and pop-singing) voice so that the total effect would be unified, and I think they succeeded impressively. By contrast, the Cindy Lou sounds unconvincing even though it's her own voice.
  12. I was very impressed with this documentary too. Admittedly I hadn't looked up much about his life before, but I did learn a lot from it, very absorbingly. It was interesting to see how clear-eyed his children were about their parents' characters, and how big a deal he was to movie audiences. (At the time, it must have seemed a coup for GWTW to secure him as "second man" when he was a star in his own right.) Also, I've been guilty in the past of dismissing his co-directing credit on Pygmalion as a token courtesy to flatter him and secure his services (helped by the way some Shaw books do say that Asquith did all the directing). But this made it clear that he was seriously acquiring the craft of film directing; if he had lived, perhaps he might have transitioned eventually into primarily being a director (as other actors have done). That's my big complaint too. Valerie Hobson was in fact a considerable beauty in her own right (and was quite delightful in The Card, which TCM aired recently and hopefully will again), but in that "elegant remote English lady" manner; whereas Jean Simmons just exploded from the screen as the young Estella. It might have seemed strange for her to continue as an adult, while Herbert and Pip changed actors, but I think she could have carried it off. (It also occurred to me as I watched her be so Victorian and prim with her long smooth hair, that British filmdom missed a once-in-a-blue-moon chance by not casting her as Alice in Wonderland immediately.)
  13. Yes, what a shame that the casting of Jessie Matthews in A Damsel in Distress didn't happen. A pairing with her and Fred Astaire is something to dream about (and the movie, as filmed, certainly didn't do Joan Fontaine any favors), and surely the script and songs would have been reconceived to allow her plenty of dancing: besides actually being able to do something during "Things Are Looking Up," she might well have been worked into the famous fun-house sequence, and the concluding "Nice Work If You Can Get It" dance could have been made into a duet. Astaire was unique, but Matthews was close to his level in terms of an eccentric personality that came to life most when expressing itself through dancing.
  14. Or you can just settle for watching it on YouTube. The whole movie is there, in what seems to be a watchable print. Yes, as has often been recounted, the way that Inspector Clouseau (and the animated Panther) took over the first movie was not expected in advance. For me, the most interesting thing about A Shot in the Dark is that in origin, it's not a Clouseau story at all. A play of that title, set entirely in a courtroom (adapted from a French play titled The Idiot), had had a successful run on Broadway, and my understanding is that the studio had bought the rights without being quite sure how to use it as a film. Then with the success of The Pink Panther, they realized they had a ready-made French criminal-investigation story that could be quickly turned into a Clouseau sequel and filmed. The cast of the original Broadway production is especially interesting (to me, at least). The eminent actress Julie Harris had one of her great successes as the sexy French maid -- some who saw it consider it her greatest (partly, I guess, because a farce like this was so different for her: she often played great ladies of history onstage, like Mrs. Lincoln or Emily Dickinson). The inspector was played by William Shatner. And the elegant Benjamin Beaurevers was played by the not-yet-famous Walter Matthau, so convincingly that he won a Tony award for the role.
  15. The Card indeed turned out as charming and diverting as I'd hoped, sort of an Edwardian "How To Succeed...", with central character Denry (Alec Guinness) always keeping an eye out for the next chance to move up in the social scheme. Leading ladies Valerie Hobson, Glynis Johns (purring away while spending other people's money), and pretty young Petula Clark. Plus Veronica Turleigh, whose name keeps popping up in the British theatrical histories I read, as his mother. And cameos by the likes of Michael Hordern, Frank Pettingell, and Wilfrid Hyde-White. It moved along sharply under Ronald Neame's direction, and left me smiling throughout.
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