Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Amanda’s Cinema Survey (A Noodle in a Haystack)
Amanda at A Noodle in a Haystack has posted a Cinema Survey, the questions of which are of particular interest and can be difficult because there are no correct answers. She has a diverse following, which makes for an entertaining kaleidoscope of preferences. And, as one would expect from her site, the discourse is civil and collegial. (I commented to Amanda that I think her survey questions tell us as much about her film tastes as her answers,)
I responded in Amanda’s Comment section, but am inclined also to post on this site. It provides an opportunity to append a few additional remarks and to reflect on a few comments Amanda received (including her own choices) which refreshed my memory. It also allows me to include photos of players past and players present to whom I am particularly partial.
1. What is your favorite movie starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, excluding all of The Thin Man films?
Manhattan Melodrama because of them and for the rare depiction of the General Slocum disaster. There is also the Dillinger connection that was used to good effect in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies.
2. Name a screen team that appeared in only one film together but are still noteworthy for how well they complemented each other.
Gloria Grahame and Humphrey Bogart: In a Lonely Place.
3. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' best film together?
4. Your favorite actor named "Robert"?
5. An actor/actress who, when you see one of their movies, you always wish that someone else was in his/her role?
6. An actor/actress that someone close to you really loves that you can't stand or vice versa?
None that fits “can’t stand”.
7. An actor/actress that you both agree on completely?
Bette Davis and James Cagney.
8. Complete this sentence: Virginia O'Brien is to Ethel Merman as...
Mrs. Danvers is to Bullwinkle.
9. What is your favorite film starring Ray Milland?
The Major and the Minor.
10. You had to have seen this one coming: what is your favorite movie of the 1960s?
Easier than I thought: Le samouraï. Mythical Monkey’s comment, however, reminded me of The Apartment. So I will include both and categorize one as favorite foreign and one as favorite American.
11. An actor/actress that you would take out of one film and put into a different movie that was released the same year?
Alan Curtis in Phantom Lady. Get him away from Ella Raines. There were four East Side Kids movies in 1944. Put him in one of those.
12. Who was your favorite of Robert Montgomery's leading ladies?
13. You think it would have been a disaster if what movie starred the actor/actress who was originally asked to star in it?
Fredric March in the Cary Grant role in Bringing Up Baby. Oh God! Source: Todd McCarthy in Howard Hawks: the Grey Fox of Hollywood.
14. An actor/actress who you will watch in any or almost any movie?
Ethel Barrymore. Any. No almosts. Just going to the Broadway theatre named after her is splendor.
15. Your favorite Leslie Howard film and role?
The Scarlet Pimpernel (with ‘Pimpernel’ Smith as a chaser).
16. You have been asked to host a marathon of four Barbara Stanwyck films. Which ones do you choose?
Double Indemnity / Meet John Doe / Baby Face / Ball of Fire. I am a Sturges fan but had to leave something out.
17. What is, in your mind, the nearest to perfect comedy you have ever seen? Why?
Bringing Up Baby. On board were the following. One of our greatest actresses. One of our greatest actors. One of our finest American directors. And Dudley Nichols writing. Stellar supporting cast. Hawks thought a flaw was that there were no normal people in the movie – virtually all were screwballs. I think it matters not. He did, though, try to temper his next great comedy (His Girl Friday) with the introduction of the Ralph Bellamy character.
18. You will brook no criticism of what film?
I Know Where I'm Going!
19. Who is your favorite Irish actress?
20. Your favorite 1940s movie starring Ginger Rogers?
I’ll Be Seeing You. This is a very personal favorite. It is one of a quartet of films done by William Dieterle in a seven year period (1944-1950) all of which included Joseph Cottten. The other three are: Love Letters, Portrait of Jennie, and September Affair.
21. Do you enjoy silent movies?
Yes. But I came late. When younger, I had inexcusable and ill informed prejudices about silent films.
22. What is your favorite Bette Davis film?
23. Your favorite onscreen Hollywood couple?
Linda Darnell and Paul Douglas. Tough edges but perfect pairing. Only three films that I know.
24. This one is for the girls, but, of course, the guys are welcome to answer, too: who is your favorite Hollywood costume designer?
25. To even things out a bit, here's something the boys will enjoy: what is your favorite tough action film?
The Wild Bunch.
26. You are currently gaining a greater appreciation for which actor(s)/actress (es)?
Classic: Jean Harlow
Modern: Rebecca Pidgeon (realizing I am in a distinct minority)
27. Franchot Tone: yes or no?
Slightly enthusiastic yes. Just having been in Phantom Lady helps.
28. Which actors and/or actresses do you think are underrated?
Jean Hagen. Particularly in Asphalt Jungle. (Afterthought: Dawn’s mention of Spring Byington is perfect.)
29. Which actors and/or actresses do you think are overrated?
Jack Nicholson. Grimace and shout.
30. Favorite actor?
Joseph Cotten. He was in so many landmark films: Citizen Kane, The Third Man, The Magnificent Ambersons, and Shadow of a Doubt for starters. Then the four personal favorites as listed in my answer to Question 20. And so many more.
31. Favorite actress?
Bette Davis. There was a time when I thought it was Katharine Hepburn -- but then I found myself saying “I always think Kate is our best film actress – until I see another Bette Davis movie.”
32. Of those listed, who is the coolest: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, or Patrick Stewart?
Sorry -- but I must go off path. Elizabeth of “Oh by Jingo” enlightened me in the past with her choice of Hoagy Carmichael. Flawless choice.
33. What is your favorite movie from each of these genres:
Comedy: Bringing Up Baby.
Swashbuckler: The Mark of Zorro (Tyrone Power)
Film noir: Criss Cross
Musical: Gold Diggers of 1933 (I just love Aline MacMahon)
Holiday: It’s a Wonderful Life
Amanda’s Cinema Survey (A Noodle in a Haystack)
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Bonita Granville (on the right)
Priscilla Lane (on the left)
Or is it the other way around?
Note: I used this pairing earlier this year (in April) in response to a question in Millie and Kate’s Brilliantly Evil Asthmatic Survey. I enter it now as earlier intended in the Like Unto series.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
As the story goes, an actor is on stage as the curtain rises and the drama is to begin with a telephone ringing. But as will happen in theatre, someone has not done their job. The telephone is not on stage. Hence, no ringing. The actor looks at an empty end table, looks at the audience and then offstage at a stagehand.
The stagehand, realizing what is amiss, picks up the nearby telephone prop and walks onstage. “Hello” he says to the actor “I’m from the telephone company -- where should I install the phone?" The actor gestures. The stagehand places the phone on the end table, sticks a wire somewhere below and departs. Once he is offstage, the telephone rings. The play begins.
Retold from Theatrical Disasters by Gyles Bandreth.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Hastings Pier: burning yesterdays
Hastings Pier burned last night. I can claim neither a history with Hastings, nor any specific connectivity. A few days only in a lifetime. But the image lingers.
My wife and I had spent some time in Southampton in May 2006, while immersed in one of our annual peregrinations around our favorite island. As planned earlier, we decided to take a train over to Hastings for a few days: a journey of approximately three hours.
We stayed at The White Rock Hotel, across the promenade from the pier. (Later that year the pier was closed for safety reasons.) My wife took the accompanying photograph from our room. During our stay, as was the case during last night’s conflagration, Hastings was buffeted with high winds. (My wife’s diary has an entry which states: “… a big window looking out at the old Victorian pier and at the water … great wind blowing … furious waves … high waves breaking under the pier across the road.”)
I have trawled my mind for remembrances of Hastings Pier in film. Without research, I can think of none, but television is likely another matter. My wife and I are partial to Foyle’s War. We have seen the complete series at least three times. But it has been a while since last we watched, so we cannot recall in which episode (or episodes) the pier might have been shown. But we suspect the pier is evident somewhere along his rounds, as Inspector Foyle roams the region, maintaining order on the home front while his nation is at peril. (The pier seemed too iconographic not to have been used.)
So Hastings Pier is in my mind this morning. Another vestige of another yesterday that is not what it was. There is a sadness about burning yesterdays. So I will not add a picture of last night’s carnage but rather leave the photograph as our remembrance of a few windy days in Hastings. And, were some juxtaposition of time and reality possible, I can picture the good Inspector Foyle standing on the promenade this morning and watching the fire subside, manifesting that little facial tic of his, and showing just a glint of sadness in his eyes.
(A note for our English friends only. If early reports are true, the fire which destroyed a century-and-a-half old pier was attributed to arson caused by two yobs. That might qualify for an Asbo each.)