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Rinaldo

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  1. Thank you for the names, and I clearly need to do more research before generalizing like that. Maybe we differ in our definition of "leading man" (I mean someone in a starring position, who's being used to sell the project) or maybe my only moderate familiarity with the current movie landscape is putting me in an ill-informed position. (I've encountered Luke Evans only in ensemble roles, for instance.) But Neil Patrick Harris, for instance, came out in the middle of the run HIMYM, long after he was cast; and his role in Gone Girl was a weird/eccentric supporting one, not a lead. But I guess I've missed other work of his.
  2. I'd had inklings too, from people I knew in the NY theater world who knew people who knew him, that sort of thing. Nothing dramatic, and I try to discount second- or third-hand talk like that... but the news doesn't come as a total surprise. The real test will be whether he continues to get cast in leading heterosexual roles now, after going public. I don't recall of an instance of that in US tv or movies yet, but I have the feeling we're close to a tipping point there.
  3. The Late Show has long occupied a place in my person Top Twenty All-time Movies for decades; even as others have been moved off (Tom Jones) or onto (Dodsworth, The Talented Mr. Ripley) the list, it always stays there. And each time I rewatch it (as I did this time), it stands up. Art Carney and Lily Tomlin turned out to be an unexpectedly perfect pairing, in roles that might have conceived expressly for them (though as far as I've been able to tell, they weren't). And while I understand the "as if" part of the description of Tomlin's performance, make no mistake: this script is as tightly written as anything writer-director Robert Benton ever created. But she certainly was able to inhabit it, and (at time of release) confirm what Nashville had just indicated, that she wasn't just a sketch comedian but a versatile first-rate actress. What a wonderful collection of supporting people, too: Bill Macy, yes, but also Eugene Roche, John Considine, Howard Duff, Ruth Nelson, and especially Joanna Cassidy (forgoing her usual infectious laugh to play a perfectly convincing seductive liar of a noir-ish femme fatale). One tiny bit of background trivia that I haven't seen documented elsewhere: When it was first shown as a network Sunday Night Movie (remember when that used to happen?), it wasn't quite long enough, even with commercials, to fill a 3-hour time slot, so a couple of short scenes (evidently deleted before its initial release) were added in to pad the timing: the one I remember is a bit of the early police interrogation in Carney's living room, in which Tomlin echoes the remark he'd earlier made to her, "I play by the house percentages." I suppose those addenda were seen on that one occasion and never again; they're certainly not DVD extras.
  4. As @Mibbitmaker said, it's not really Purgatory (in Catholic doctrine, Purgatory is for people who are definitely Heaven-bound but need further purification -- in the proposed scheme, it's conceded that there will be some who never make any improvement, and go to the Bad Place eventually after repeated testing). But it does have resemblance to the idea of reincarnation... or, as several have said, Defending Your Life. The Judge definitely has a "type," what with her past obsessions with Mark Harmon and Kyle Chandler, before moving on to Timothy Olyphant this season. Craggy courtly gentlemen of a certain age.
  5. To me, that's not little-known! (Though I suppose it is, by now.) All the names you mentioned are right on, and it's also a second film role for Chris Makepeace, the protagonist (after Meatballs). Also making his movie debut in a small unnamed role is Dean Devlin (now better known as a mega-producer, but he had a decent acting career before that). The presence of Wendt and Kazurinsky and a couple of Cusacks shows that director Tony Bill was really availing himself of local Chicago talent. Also making his debut is Dick Cusack (father of John, Joan, and Ann) as the principal -- he had just left a career in advertising to become a writer and actor. My father, who directed TV commercials, had known him in that connection, and they stayed in touch to the end of their lives, meeting every Tuesday for lunch with other Chicago old-timers in the biz. (Another member of the group was the writer of the "Mr. Clean" jingle, who continued to get royalties from it all his life.) Another admirer of Cusack's is another Chicago person, Bonnie Hunt, who cast him in the movie she directed there, Return To Me. In her DVD commentary, she can never refer to him in any other way but "Mr. Cusack."
  6. Here is a brief tribute to Buck Henry from Sheila O'Malley's blog. Also, coincidentally, involving What's Up, Doc? "There needs to be one more bag."
  7. It was, and it is. I just watched it. Inevitably at this date, most of the interviews have to be with people who, however expert in their own fields, are repeating only what they've read and heard (and I personally could do without psychologists analyzing motives from 80 years ago). But they did have Astor's daughter, and William Wyler's son, and some insightful film experts, and the newspaper clips from the time. The film Dodsworth emerges as central to this story. I'm astonished to recall that before last summer I had never seen and had barely heard of it. It's now one of my all-time favorite movies, and Mary Astor's performance (along with Walter Huston's) extraordinarily fine.
  8. I've now made it through I Died a Thousand Times, and I would call it the least of the High Sierras, despite the advantage of color and widescreen for those mountain vistas. It is, rather to my surprise, a very close remake of the Bogart film -- not shot-for-shot (which some websites claim), but following the same scenario and using all the same character names (even including Pard -- who, by the way, is a perfectly nice dog but doesn't inspire the same affection as his predecessor). The biggest departure, probably, is the beginning, which catches Roy en route to the west, weaving the Goodhue family in early and leaving us to learn about the pardon in quick references later. The motel caretaker trades in one ethnic stereotype for another; the character Chico might be marginally less bothersome if only the music didn't keep jumping in to underline his movements. The biggest reasons it doesn't work are the script and the star. But I said the script wasn't changed much? Right, and there's the problem. Where Colorado Territory reimagined all the details in terms of a different time and situation, IDATT leaves most details intact, though it's all happening 14 years later (14 crucial years in terms of travel, economics, attitudes, and so on). And the hotel heist just doesn't feel believable in the 50s, even in terms of movie make-believe -- the brilliant plan is just to walk in without masks or disguises, in front of staff and guests, empty the strongboxes, and leave all those witnesses behind? As for Jack Palance, he just doesn't convey the layers, the constant mixed emotions, the futile wishes that he could have a different life; he just a stone-faced tough guy who gives us no reason to want to see what happens to him. There are incidental pleasures, though. A whole raft of the Intense Young Actors of the 1950s are on hand, and it's at least diverting to spot them all: Earl Holliman and Lee Marvin as the henchmen, Richard Davalos, Nick Adams, Dennis Hopper. And if we must have the Poor Crippled Girl story line, I much prefer Lori Nelson's take (abetted by some good rewriting, for a change). She's an ordinary nice kid at the start, then when Roy visits during recuperation her Velma knows how to express proper gratitude, but conveys awareness that Roy may be about to propose and she wants none of it -- she hesitates a moment before putting on a convincing happy face and accepting a kiss on the cheek. But when the proposal comes, she's (properly) unhesitating about shutting him down. And later when he shows up while she's dancing with friends, she's really had enough and lets him know it. Which isn't as nice as she might have been, but is very human and real. Good work, Lori Nelson! I'm glad I saw all three for the sake of comparison and general movie-savvy, but despite nice elements here or there in the later two, it's High Sierra original brand for me. If I'm going to watch it at all.
  9. OK, but isn't that pretty much what we're all saying? I don't see any real disagreement among us here.
  10. Yeah, I didn't see anyone here saying Velma should have accepted him. (Or that Roy was a misunderstood swell guy, either.) I do agree with @AuntiePam that there was some nice nuance in the writing, that just as in life, nobody's 100% good or evil. A basically nice girl could have her thoughtless and shallow side (she could have expressed a commensurate degree of gratitude for the really huge gift he gave her; but she didn't owe any more than that), that a person with a disability isn't necessarily a saint, and that even a career criminal can have a yearning toward a different life, even as he kind of knows he isn't going to get it. In fact, the latter sort of combination, the softness within the hard guy, was kind of the Bogart specialty, wasn't it? That "yearning toward a different life" was the undercurrent of the Velma subplot, which I didn't acknowledge above, or perhaps really understand until I saw Colorado Territory (which I've now done), where I think that thread was handled better, his hope not unraveling till the last minute (but truly shattered then, by her venal behavior). And having Dorothy Malone meant that there was more texture in her character. The two make an interesting pair for comparison. Overall, I do find High Sierra the more classic statement of the story, but certain elements are handled better in Colorado Territory; and even when they aren't, it's refreshing to see a remake that was intelligently enough made (same director, Raoul Walsh) to rethink details appropriately for the new period and situation. Both movies can live side by side very well. I'm not sure about Joel McCrea as a trade for Bogart. I'm on record as being a fan, considering him underappreciated for the sparkle he brought to Sullivan's Travels, The More the Merrier, and especially The Palm Beach Story. But he spent the majority of his long career in Westerns, and in the ones I've seen, I miss the leavening of humor that completes him for me. (Though he finished strong, in the magnificent Ride the High Country.) There's a repeat cast member from the first movie, but not as the same character. Henry Hull, the doctor who arranged the operation on Velma, shows up 8 years later looking younger and healthier as Julianne's father. The former role sported some of the most unconvincing old-man facial hair I've seen, so I was relieved to discover that it wasn't his own, just bad makeup. Also, after what @AuntiePam said, I couldn't help noticing Virginia Mayo's insistence (really her director's, of course) on pulling her blouse off one shoulder all the damn time. I was also delighted to see, as the "literate" henchman, the great dancer James Mitchell, pulling off a straight acting role with total aplomb. I may take a little break before I Died a Thousand Times; there are other things I want to see, and Jack Palance isn't a huge magnet for me. But I've watched the main titles, and one curious feature already stands out to me as a musician: it was scored by the same composer as Colorado Territory, David Buttolph (using the same orchestrator, too). So I assumed that Warners was just economizing, reusing the same tracks -- but no! at least the main title music is totally different in all respects. Is there a story there, or just coincidence?
  11. I've finished only High Sierra -- I'll get to the later two versions over the weekend, but I wanted to get my thoughts down now. It's a really interesting crossroad planted in 1941, when the "gangster movie" is fading from prominence and the "noir" is rumbling into existence; High Sierra partakes of both, with the Notorious Criminal destined for a shootout, and on the way getting tangled up with a heist (that goes wrong, and ends up being a quick, casual incident) and a true-blue dame. "Noir" seems wrong because it's mostly sunlit, almost blindingly so in the mountains and rocky plains -- and set in great part among the then-new motor courts and high-roller resort hotels. It also encompasses hints of other genres, what with the sweet girl whose disability Bogie pays to cure (the inevitable Joan Leslie) but who won't marry him (honestly, this whole subplot feels like it could lift right out and not be missed), and the adorable dog who attaches himself to our antihero. (Pard, played by Zero, definitely challenged my loyalty to Asta and Benji, though I see he made only two pictures in this one year and was seen no more. No wonder -- he was Bogart's own dog!) Definitely. And that's really the classic Bogart combination, isn't it? If a real movie star is someone who shows us a mix we haven't seen before, that we want, and that we can't get from anyone else, that tough guy who keeps revealing his soft spots is Humphrey Bogart. (Casablanca wouldn't work, or be such a classic, without it.) And this movie is surely one of the decisive points where that persona came together. As to which: Billing is often a mystery (even now), and arcane matters of contracts and deals can be the explanation. In this case, though, on the basis of my cursory research it seems straightforward enough: at that particular moment, Ida Lupino was actually the bigger name, even if Bogart had the bigger role. On his way to leading man, he played a lot of secondary parts. He had done one just the year before in They Drive By Night, in which Ida Lupino was widely perceived as stealing the picture in a big way. So she was on a roll, while Bogart was at least third choice for Roy (after George Raft and Paul Muni), and director Raoul Walsh considered him a supporting player, not a star, and didn't want him. High Sierra opened in January 1941. The Maltese Falcon opened the following December, and that seems to mark the moment after which Bogart's career was never the same again.
  12. From stage plays, and from silent movies, when even the subtlest actor has to use his whole body to communicate what isn't being communicated by words. Of course some people do it more deftly than others. I wouldn't say (and I bet nobody has ever said!) that any of the Baldpate films is a landmark or must-see of cinema history. The 1929 one was made closest to the time of its real stage popularity, keeps all the framing metatheatrical devices that make this unlike other stories, and epitomizes the messed-up time of very early talkies when, in the absence of strong directors, nobody was sure how to make it work. For that reason, I'm glad I saw it. The later two just seemed like lazy attempts at "product" to keep the theaters going, cheap because RKO already owned the rights and could remake it anytime it want to, and because they could cast them without a single first-rank actor (Eric Blore perhaps came closest but he was always a supporting player; it was interesting to see the name Jason Robards (Sr.) in the 1947 cast, but I couldn't pick him out of a lineup). So that closes the Baldpate file, for me at least. As to the three Zendas at convenient 15-year intervals: this is one time common wisdom is absolutely correct. The 1937 version, despite having been parodied and paraphrased ever since it was made, is still smashing entertainment, with a great cast (and a great score by Alfred Newman). The 1922 one is hampered by, apparently, trying to include too much from the book (the others acknowledge the popular play as an additional source, and it seems to have slenderized the narrative helpfully), slowed all the more by the abundance of titles throughout. Ramon Novarro does what he can, but his character doesn't become really active tll the last half hour, and without sound he was unable to make his momentary skulking in the earlier scenes have any effect. Meanwhile, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in 1937 is just a delight! How did I ever get such a wrong image of what sort of performer he was? -- he's a goofball! It's a wonderful example of spoofing what you're doing, even while doing it very well. He's already almost all the way to a Cary Elwes spin on such a character, or even beyond to Gene Wilder gleefulness. Great stuff. And then the 1952 one is kind of a dud, which is surprising because it's a literal scene-by-scene remake. It uses the identical script from 1937, and the same music, and adds color. But aside from Deborah Kerr, always a pleasure, it's just not fun. Stewart Granger always seems like the British Rock Hudson to me: good looking, takes his work seriously and tries his best, but in the end not a major acting talent. (I know Hudson rose to the occasion a couple of times, as in Seconds, so maybe I do Granger an injustice here. But not in this particular movie. Look at him just lounging on his throne during the coronation, when he ought to be at his most proper and alert.) Even more puzzling is James Mason, who was a major acting talent: I don't know what went wrong here, but he's neither very menacing or very amusing, and Rupert needs to be one or there other, preferably both. He looks mostly uncomfortable, most of all during the sword fights. Maybe a contract trapped him in a part he didn't want, but there's still such a thing as professionalism. Anyway, this version is most interesting if seen right after the previous one, so the extent to which it's simply traced over the existing template stands out.
  13. Thanks, @AuntiePam, for writing about the trio of Baldpates so knowledgeably, so I don't have to. Just a few remarks, to expand or whatever. And then after THAT, there's an additional ending (called an Epilogue in the play, which is available online) which reveals that none of the events in the inn actually happened -- they're the story the writer invented as he worked steadily and alone for 24 hours. He delivers the completed manuscript as agreed, announces that its title is Seven Keys to Baldpate, and wins the bet (and the girl). (Unfortunately, this 1929 version kills the surprise by adding a prologue in a NYC restaurant where the bet is made and the writer meets the ingenue but has to run off to the inn -- and then she reappears as one of the arrivals at the inn as if they've never met.) This meta-theatrical double frame ("None of it was real!" "And none of THAT even happened!") must have seemed very modern and exciting in 1913, and probably explains why it was a staple of theaters for the next decade, and why so many silent movies of it were made. Unfortunately the 1935 and 1947 versions dropped all that completely, becoming just a story of mixups (and perhaps murder) in an isolated inn. I dare say between them they killed any further interest in the material, which was probably getting pretty out-of-date by then anyway. Back in 1913 it probably seemed a funny spoof on a certain kind of mystery melodrama, but that was no longer a recognizable target three decades later. I agree that Richard Dix was strange and off-putting in the 1929 film. And yes, its staging and framing is so primitive as to make us feel as if we're watching the amateurish birth of movies as a form. And yet, because it's the only one that kept those two fake-out endings, it's probably the only one I'd watch again (and then, only reluctantly).
  14. @AuntiePam, I'm tickled that you saw Edward, My Son and found it as unexpectedly enjoyable as I did when I caught it a year or two ago. Somehow I'd avoided it before, probably because (without consciously thinking so) the title made it sound like either a historical "King Edward" drama or a maudlin soap opera. It's in the vein of the "psychological plays" that were becoming popular at the time (and indeed, it began as a play), looking at the damage people's unconscious motives or, as in this case, twisted good intentions, can do. I have a book about George Cukor that barely mentions this at all, and I wonder why; it's a fine, subtle piece of work. Except, dare I say, in the casting of Spencer Tracy. That the character was rewritten as Canadian (in an otherwise very English milieu) so Tracy wouldn't have to attempt an accent... that wouldn't be a major issue if he delivered a compelling performance. But (IMO) he didn't; he's somehow too plain and straightforward for the role. It needed an actor who can make us feel the mixture of motivations that compel him (James Mason comes to mind). But Leueen McGrath was indeed a revelation. I had seen her only in TV drama, over a decade later, and seeing her be so effortlessly suave and sexy was a delight. And I agree about Deborah Kerr. Her whole career shows what a great actress she was, but this early, to be so quietly convincing... that's really something. "Drunk acting" is so often done badly, and this is one of the best examples I know.
  15. Eh, that's almost a given in noir, isn't it? And not just women staying with rotten men -- I can think of hapless men devoted to faithless dames too. I found the movie fascinating too, and I can see why people remembered it after all that time and wanted TCM to show it. Eddie Muller's background information was especially helpful in this case. The idea that the whole central couple was gender-reversed shortly before shooting is mind-boggling. (And kind of reiterates my first point.) And all because they got Joan Leslie; I'd be interested to see how it would have played the original way round, with Sylvia Sidney as planned (and Jules Dassin directing). Muller's information about the original conception of Richard Basehart's character was also fascinating, and I was glad to hear him acknowledge that the character William Williams still reads as gay, even without any words or behavior to that effect, because that's how it struck me too. Nice subtle acting by Basehart there, and it's not surprising that they expanded his role and signed him up for more movies after this debut.
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