Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ten Random Thoughts on the Tenth: March

--- We’re told that when Molly Haskell married Andrew Sarris, Pauline Kael declined to attend the ceremony saying she would attend Molly’s next wedding.

--- Stephen Lang's Stonewall Jackson in Gods and Generals gets me every time.

--- Once, in the MOMA cafeteria, after a Fellini film, the table next to me had three Italian women speaking their language animatedly – and my eyes glanced below their table, looking for subtitles.

--- When I was much younger, Andrew Sarris helped me realize that it is all right not to like The Ox-Bow Incident.

--- Marilyn Monroe after entertaining the troops during the Korean War purportedly told Joe DiMaggio “Joe, you’ve never heard such cheering.” To which The Yankee Clipper replied “Yes … I have.”

--- I prefer the Julien Duvivier / Vivien Leigh Anna Karenina
to the Clarence Brown / Greta Garbo version.

--- When I was around fifty, I took a vacation day from work and went to see a daytime showing of The Purple Rose of Cairo at which a woman on the ticket line asked me: “Why is a young man like you going to a movie when you should be working?”

--- I revere Now Voyageur and Dark Victory and do not object to the term "woman’s pictures," but recoil from the phrase “chick flicks.”

--- When I asked my English friend, Nicholas, who worked in Malaysia for decades, the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane, he told me it was the spelling.

--- I first saw Frances McDormand in Blood Simple but she opened my eyes in Short Cuts.

Note: “Random thoughts” pieces bring to mind the great Jimmy Cannon, whose “Nobody Asked Me, But” set the form. Any similarity stops there.


  1. I love the Fellini story; and my wife would agree with you wholeheartedly about Anna Karenina.

  2. Looking for subtitles! Haha!

    The Monroe story is also hilarious, though gut-wrenching since this is a marriage heading for the rocks.

    I cringe with both the term "Woman's pictures" and the term "chick flicks," but at least the former assumes the audience is comprised of adults.

    I thoroughly enjoy your ten random things series. Please continue.

    - Java

  3. Thank you Matthew: The subtitle story actually happened at MOMA – my wife remembers me coming home and telling her. The old MOMA was glorious. The cafeteria was ordinary and comfortable. You could sit by a large window overlooking the Sculpture Garden, while having a cup of tea or coffee and a simple sandwich. Tourists were in abundance. This was my break between the film programs which went on, in sessions, throughout the day -- two primary theatres. And there was always the art and the lectures.

    All of this was without cost because my company was a major MOMA supporter and any employee and retiree (and a guest) were (still are) admitted free. Unlike England, our museums do charge admission and it was not inexpensive – especially if one went daily. Once MOMA expanded, the cafeteria was moved and became more of an upscale eating venue. Never the same. Alas. But the film programs were (and are) almost always of interest. Best. Gerald.

  4. Gerald, do you remember what your response was to the woman in the ticket line? If there was ever a movie to take off from work to see, it would be that one, which happens to be my favorite Woody Allen picture.

  5. Thank you Java. Appreciate your comment. I enjoy doing these: fragments of anecdotes past, bits and pieces come across reading books, a personal favorite or peeve. I understand your take on the “woman’s pictures” label. I think it was a phrase I grew up with. The studios had other terms but what was on the screen counts. So many films that were initially put under that verbal umbrella were far better than those that were not. I like your distinction between adult and otherwise. Best. Gerald.

  6. Hello Tom and thank you. Like you, I love “The Purple Rose of Cairo.” I do not remember how I responded, but I am sure it was in an amused manner. I would like to think my response was witty and delivered with flair. Alas, my history would indicate otherwise (not much Noel Coward within this frame). I was very much amused and I am sure my reaction was polite if likely too earnest. The woman was very pleasant as I recall. Those New York movie houses were usually quiet in the afternoons and perfect places to watch a film alone and in peace. Best wishes. Gerald.

  7. Gerald, while we are on the subject of Woody Allen I wanted to ask you if you were familiar with or have ever been to the theater in "Hannah and Her Sisters" where Allen takes his niece to see classic cinema. Is the theater still there? It wouldn't happen to be the same one where you saw "Cairo", would it?

  8. Tom: Interesting questions. I remembered the movie house where I saw “Purple Rose” as being the Beekman (the one that appears in “Annie Hall”). But uncertain, I delved for verification. (Memory bars the door at times.) It was on the east side on sixty-something Street. But to be sure I checked the “New York Times” original review -- and it was the Beekman. (The Times film reviews, free in archive, are a good source for which film opened where in New York.) And when I then saw the theatre’s picture on Cinema Treasures I knew from looking at it.

    I believe the scene with the Woody character leaving the Bleecker Street Cinema with his niece was from “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Over the years I had also been there with some regularity (that was down in the West Village). My wife and I had (still have) a small flat in the twenties off Second Avenue – it’s about the size of a rail compartment in a thirties film. But it was within reach of retro houses at a great time.

    Alas, both theatres are gone. The Beekman name is still used in a new theatre nearby.

    While fishing around to verify my memory I came across an excellent interview Roger Ebert did with Allen, that as a fan of Allen and “Purple Rose” you might know and certainly find of interest. In case you missed it (as I had) it is at:

  9. Thank you Gerald for sharing the article, which I'd never seen, and will save for future reference. I enjoyed reading about Allen's memories of Van Johnson.

    You're correct, the picture I was thinking of was indeed "Crimes"; my memory slipped. I wrote about this movie a few months ago on my blog, and have now updated that post with information on the Bleecker. Thanks. It's neat that you got the chance to attend those theaters (as well as the Pageant Book Shop as featured in "Hannah"), and that Allen was able to capture them on film at the time.


  10. Thank you Tom. Those were great years. I enjoy rooting back to help my recollections. It corrects memories that I have recalled incorrectly -- and I come across other information that I never knew. Such as the Ebert/Allen interview. I loved the section to which you allude (re Van Johnson). I want to extend that into a posting, citing the article and that particular section. And I want to do a posting on Sid Solomon of Pageant whom I knew rather well – we had a great book collector/bookseller relationship. He was a tough New Yorker, a World War Two veteran and a gentleman in every aspect of his being. Thank God (or whomever his deity is) for Woody. Best. Gerald.