Showing posts with label You Otto See It. Show all posts
Showing posts with label You Otto See It. Show all posts

Monday, July 31, 2017

On the Making of River of No Return (1954)

Tommy Rettig and Robert Mitchum in River of No Return (1954)

River of No Return (1954) was supposed to be a small picture; a simple B Western shot on the cheap in Idaho with a small cast and a skeleton crew. Writer Louis Lantz had the idea of taking Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief and turning it into a Western. Producer Stanley Rubin worked with Lantz and writer Frank Fenton on developing the story for Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Production was moving forward until Zanuck decided to up the ante and add Fox's biggest star Marilyn Monroe to the mix. Everything had to be brought up a notch. Robert Mitchum and Rory Calhoun were added to the cast as was child actor Tommy Rettig. It would be shot in color with Cinemascope, a new technology Fox had invested a lot of money in. And Otto Preminger, who was under contract to the studio, would be directing the film whether he liked it or not.

Preminger was an interesting choice for the film. He had enjoyed some artistic freedom and independence with previous projects. In this case the script was ready to go when Preminger got on board. Producer Stanley Rubin didn't like Zanuck's choice of director. According to Preminger biography Chris Fujiwara, Stanley Rubin said "I thought of River of No Return as a piece of Americana, and I thought it needed a director who had worked in that area, which Preminger had not done... I was thinking of somebody like Raoul Walsh."

The production moved from Idaho up into Canada. The film got an upgrade with on-location shooting in Jasper and Banff, Alberta. There were the Banff Springs, Bow River, Lake Louise and the Rocky Mountains. This region of the world is simply stunning as anyone who's ever been there, myself included, will tell you.

The setting was perfect for visuals but treacherous for filming. Monroe, Mitchum and Rettig had stunt doubles and stand-ins. Three of the stunt actors almost lost their lives on the Bow River during the shooting of the escape scene on a raft. Monroe injured her leg on set and had to take it easy at the Banff Springs Hotel. Her publicist made a big spectacle of the event. Monroe was photographed around Banff limping around with a wrapped ankle. Her soon-to-be husband Joe DiMaggio came to visit. (Check out this collection of photos from the shoot.) Monroe's good friend Shelley Winters claims Monroe faked the whole thing. Producer Stanley Rubin claims the injury was real but that it might have been exaggerated.

Stanley Rubin, Marilyn Monroe, Otto Preminger and the crew on the set of River of No Return (1954)

The cast of characters Zanuck threw together proved to be a volatile mix. Otto Preminger and Robert Mitchum butted heads on their previous film together Angel Face (1952). Mitchum joked that he thought Preminger was a funny guy and a great producer but "not a very good director". According to producer Stanley Rubin, Mitchum played it cool but behind-the-scenes did a lot of digging into the production and was invested in making the film turn out well. Preminger and Monroe clashed almost instantly. He was an overbearing director and Monroe was sensitive to this sort of treatment. Her acting coach Natasha Lytess proved to be a thorn in the side of the cast and crew. Her coaching style included teaching Monroe how to over-enunciate her words. When Monroe put this into practice it drove Preminger mad. Lytess convinced Tommy Rettig that he'd reached the age when child actors lose their natural talents. The otherwise self-assured and prepared Rettig was now a blubbering mess and couldn't remember his lines. Preminger had enough and barred Lytess. Zanuck had to step in because without Lytess there was no Monroe and with no Monroe there would be no big box office draw. Everyone would just have to put up with each other.

Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum on the set of River of No Return (1954)
Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum on the set of River of No Return (1954)

Let's quickly dispel the myth that Mitchum and Monroe did not get along while making this film. This couldn't be further from the truth. Mitchum took pity on Monroe and tried to help her on more than one occasion. Mitchum biographer Lee Server says, "Monroe's peccadilloes seemed never to bother Mitchum. He thought she was an essentially sweet and funny but often sad and confused person." He enjoyed her "sly humor". After filming Monroe said to the press, "Mitch is one of the most interesting, fascinating men I have ever known."

The cast was quite a draw for locals. Lee Server says, "a special train brought the cast and Preminger the eighty miles were from Calgary to Banff, a publicized event that brought out curious ogling Canadians all along the route." Due to the province's liquor laws, the only place for the actors to drink was the Banff Springs Hotel. Mitchum especially spent most of his free time there.

Marilyn Monroe, Tommy Rettig and Robert Mitchum get hosed in preparation for their studio scenes. River of No Return (1954)

The crew returned to Los Angeles to film the remaining scenes at the studio. According to Lee Server, this is "where Mitchum and Monroe would do their white-water rafting indoors on a hydraulic platform in front of a giant process screen, while men stood to the sides and splashed them with buckets of water and shot steel-headed arrows into the solid oak logs at their feet." At one point Otto Preminger abandoned the project and left for Europe. Director Jean Negulescu was recruited to pick up where Preminger left off. He did not receive a credit for his work.

River of No Return was a box office hit and earned Fox $2 million in profits. Zanuck was right. Marilyn Monroe was the film's biggest draw and the reason for it's success. The reason why River of No Return has enjoyed decades worth of screenings, home video releases, interviews, discussions and even Tumblr fandom is mostly because of Marilyn Monroe. If another actress had starred in the film it might have been another Western relegated to the vaults.

August 6th is the 100th anniversary of Robert Mitchum's birth. River of No Return is available on DVD and Blu-Ray. TCM will be screening this movie as part of the Marilyn Monroe day for their Summer Under the Stars series starting tomorrow.

Robert Mitchum: Baby I Don't Care by Lee Server
Robert Mitchum: In His Own Words edited by Jerry Roberts
The World and Its Double: The Life and Work of Otto Preminger by Chris Fujiwara
Leonard Maltin's interview with Stanley Rubin, TCM Classic Film Festival 2013

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bonjour Tristesse

Bonjour Tristesse
by Francoise Sagan
Harper Modern Perennial Classics
$12.99 US
Buy at

I had watched the Otto Preminger film Bonjour Tristesse (1958) a while back for my You Otto See It series, and was very impressed by it. (See my post about it here) The film stars Jean Seberg, David Niven and Deborah Kerr. Seberg plays Cecile, a 17-year old who is living it up on the French Riviera with her bachelor father Raymond (David Niven). When an old family friend, Anne (Deborah Kerr), threatens their bohemian lifestyle by bringing structure and morality to their lives, Cecile becomes desperate to hold on to her free lifestyle at all costs. Even if it means breaking up Raymond and Anne's engagement.

The film is based on the Francoise Sagan novel published in 1954. Sagan is from France and wrote the novel in French at the age of 17. It was an instant hit and it only took a couple of years for the film rights to be snagged up and for the movie to be created. Many folks think that the novel is autobiographical considering the fact that both Sagan and her character Cecile are 17 years old and living in France. The novel is written in first-person narrative in Cecile's perspective and at times it did feel that I was reading a short memoir.

The book can be classified as a novella as it's only about 130 pages long. It's separated into two sections. The first part is when Anne comes into the lives of Raymond and Cecile. The second part is when Cecile puts into place her elaborate scheme to separate Raymond and Anne. It's a light, melancholy story and although it feels subdued it really makes you think about the consequences of people's actions. This story is very much about manipulation, aversion to change and the numbness and boredom experienced by the rich. Our present society is very fascinated by this, as you can see by the plethora of reality shows that follow rich people around. I think a story like Bonjour Tristesse is more eye-opening and intellectually stimulating.

Reading this book make realize not only how much I love this story but how excellent a job Otto Preminger did in adapting this novella for the screen. The 1958 film version is visually stunning bringing the characters and the setting alive before our eyes. Preminger stayed very true to the story and did little to change it. In fact, the film added to the story in a way that enhanced it. The novella is very linear chronologically. Preminger's film shifts from present day to past back to present day and did this by representing present day as black & white (the sad aftermath) and past day as color (the carefree happy days before the incident). There are a lot of little subtleties in the text that Preminger kept and showed on screen. For example, one of my favorite scenes involved Cecile being caught in the arms of her lover by Anne. Her lover kisses her shoulder and Cecile kisses the same spot. This very subtle and short moment, the shoulder-kissing, is in the novella! Preminger had picked up on a lot of the nuances of the novella and weaved them into the film. While Preminger stayed very close to the original book, I feel like he improved upon it by adding a few extra scenes and by adding a layer of social commentary. The novella is written in the perspective of Cecile so she is not capable the level of social awareness that Preminger added to the movie. I think this just enhances the story. For example, there is a scene when one of the two interchangeable maids gulps down champagne why the rich folk go about their amusement. This really shows the differences between the two classes, especially the obliviousness of the upperclass. This isn't in the book. Also, the novella was famous for being blunt sexually, with an outright reference to abortion. Preminger didn't include the abortion reference but he kept the language in the film sexy in an indirect way.

I think Bonjour Tristesse the novella and the film could be used as an example of a book-to-movie adaptation that went really well. Because an adaptation should do two things: it should stay true to the original story and improve upon it. What we get today is film directors trying change too much of the story or they are pressured by film studios to make the film in a way that makes it generate the big bucks. What ends up happening is they bastardize the story and lots of folks who loved the original book are outright disgusted by the movie adaptation (::cough ~Talented Mr. Ripley ~ cough::). I think classic film book adaptations worked a lot better even though they had the same pressures: money, pleasing film studios, time, etc.

I highly recommend you read the Sagan novella then watch the Otto Preminger film, and in that order.

Full Disclosure: A friend lent me her copy of this book.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Otto Preminger Lecture 11/13/2008

What I learned at the Otto Preminger lecture (and from Kevin in general)...

1) Otto Preminger employed Dalton Trumbo to write the movie Exodus (1960), even though Trumbo was blacklisted.

2) Leonard Maltin once said something to the effect of: Otto the director should tell Otto the actor not to overact.

3) Otto did two all black musicals, both starring Dorothy Dandridge. Carmen Jones (1955) and Porgy & Bess (1959).

4) It's speculated amongst film historians that Dana Andrews was Otto's favorite actor. They made 5 films together.

5) Otto often kept the camera on groups of people. He was an objective filmmaker and trusted the audience's intelligence to form opinions of their own. You'll see very few reaction shots in Preminger films.

6) Otto was all about realism. He also liked to cast real life people in their real life roles in his movies. For example, the conductor Shorty Rogers and his band Shorty Rogers and His Giants were in the film The Man with the Golden Arm (1956).

7) Jean Simmons had 4 weeks left of her RKO contract with Howard Hughes and had to make Angel Face (1953) against her wishes. Otto was hired since he was very efficient. Simmons cut her hair in protest.

8) In the film Laura (1944), an artist had done a painting that was to be used as a central point in the film. When Otto took on the project, he got rid of that painting and had Gene Tierney photographed. The photo was painted over to make it look like a real painting.

9) Martin Luther King, Jr. was asked by Otto to play a cameo role in Advise & Consent (1962). He was interested, but ultimately declined due to negative publicity that ensued from the offer.

Below is a picture of Kevin (left), me (middle) and Bob (right) shortly before the lecture started. Close friends Frank and Blythe attended too. The lecture turned out great. Kevin managed to provide a lot of information in just an hour. He showed clips from Man with the Golden Arm, Anatomy of a Murder and Fallen Angel and had a kick-ass Powerpoint presentation. Go Kevin!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You Otto See It: Stalag 17 (1953)

Gutten Morgen, Sergeants. Nasty weather we're having, eh? And I so much hoped we could give you a white Christmas... just like the ones you used to know...

This is my last entry before the lecture, which is today. This project was a lot of fun and I'm a little sad it's almost over. My next post will be what I learned from Kevin's lecture, in the same style from the one I did last year for Elia Kazan. I still have a few more Otto Preminger films on my Netflix queue, and I can post about them in the future, but for now this series is complete.

I have one big, gigantic, enormous reason why you Otto see Stalag 17 (1953). Because Otto Preminger is in it! He plays Oberst von Sherbach, the Kommondant of a German prisoner of war camp. Preminger did so well with his Nazi type roles that it became part of his image, even though he was Jewish and very anti-Nazi. He also played Nazis in The Pied Piper (1942), Margin for Error (1943), They Got Me Covered (1943) and Where Do We Go From Here (1945) (I'm not 100% sure on the last one). Mind you, Stalag 17 is not directed or produced by Otto Preminger. This is Billy Wilder's film. But after watching so many Preminger-directed films, it was a nice change to see him acting in one.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You Otto See It: Bonjour Tristesse (1958)

Bonjour Tristesse (1958) is my new obsession. In a nutshell, the story is about bored, rich people who play with other people's lives to pass the time. It reminded me a lot of the film My Man Godfrey. In Bonjour Tristesse, 17-year old Cecile (Jean Seberg) is staying with her father, Raymond (David Niven), at their vacation home on the French Riviera. He is openly having an affair with a French woman named Elsa (Mylene Demongeot), that is until Cecile's godmother, Anne (Deborah Kerr), comes to stay and he shifts his focus. Anne gets in the way of Cecile's two major relationships. The tight yet aloof bond with her father and the burgeoning romance with young law student, Philippe (Geoffrey Horne).

This film is probably the best example of Otto Preminger's keen attention to the details. If you don't pay close attention, you'll miss many important subtleties that are woven into the fabric of the story. And since I am all about the details, I thought I would dissect 3 short scenes from the film to show how Preminger used these subtleties to reveal elements of the character's personal dilemmas.

1) Champagne Scene

Before heading to a casino for a night of fun, the primary characters, all glammed up, drink some champagne. Distracted by their own charms, not one of them notices that the maid is serving herself very generous portions of champagne, which she guzzles down greedily as the party laughs away at their own jokes. It's an interesting commentary at the obliviousness of the upper class (and its moochers) to the state of the lower class. This is an ongoing theme throughout the movie.

2) The Shoulder Kiss Scene

All summer long, Cecile and Philippe frolick around in their bathing suits worshipping the sun, the ocean and each other. The lack of parental supervision has put their courtship into overdrive. That is, until Anne, Cecile's father's fiancee, catches them in a passionate embrace. Anne chastises them, demanding that they no longer see each other. Philippe leaves, but not before kissing Cecile on the shoulder. Enjoying the kiss, Cecile kisses that exact same spot on her shoulder. This is really the first instance we Cecile acknowledging some kind of real connection with someone other than her father. These people are to some extent numb and when one actually feels something real they are either excited or scared by it.

3) Sleep or Sex? Scene

Preminger got away with murder here. Anne and Raymond are engaged. Only a serious commitment from Raymond would allow for Anne to ignore her prudish nature and give into their mutual passion.

Raymond: Oh. Pig, pig, pig. I ate like a pig.
Anne: Sleepy?
Raymond: In a way.
Anne: [pause] No, I have to work.

Basically, Raymond just gave her an opportunity to sleep with him and she just turned it down. All of this in front of Raymond's daughter Cecile. It shows how wrecklessly Raymond treats sex and how this will affect not only Cecile but also Anne.

You definitely Otto see this film. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say that because there is so much in this film to take in, that I think you Otto see it twice! If anything, watch it for Saul Bass' beautiful title sequences. They are worth it on their own.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

You Otto See It: Carmen Jones (1954)

I do love de movie Carmen Jones. It's de best dat Preminger got!

Carmen Jones (1954 or 55) is by far my favorite Otto Preminger film yet. I just adore this film. What's not to love? It's an opera remake with an all black cast. It's gorgeous and the music, of course, is the best. Dorothy Dandridge is the femme fetale that lures the angelic soldier Harry Belafonte with her charms. They get into trouble along the way. You Otto see it!

Watching this film reminded me of my days in youth orchestra. I played violin to Bizet's Carmen many times and still have my sheet music (I wonder if I can still play it? hmmm). So listening to the music in the movie just brought back good memories. Also, some years ago I watched Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, with Halle Berry as Dandridge. It's quite a moving biopic of an actress who struggled with love, prejudice and her daughter's disabilities. Her story is quite sad but she did so much to show how a black woman could be beautiful, talented and independent. She had an affair with Otto Preminger in real life. I don't blame him. She was drop-dead gorgeous!

I think Carmen Jones is a great example of Preminger's range. Studios could throw anything his way and he could take it on and do it well. Film noir, war drama, Catholic epic, court drama and black opera, he could do it all. If you still need more reasons for why you "Otto" see it, I'll give you three more.

1) The famous "Dat's Love" musical number. It's da best!

2) Harry Belafonte + Sun + Oil - Shirt = All Good!

3) Dorothy Dandridge. She always stood out in every scene. Dandridge was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for this role (the first African-American woman to do so in history).

Extra Bonus Reason: PEARL BAILEY!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

You Otto See It: Daisy Kenyon & Cardinal DVD extras

Warning: If you rent The Cardinal (1963) from Netflix, please make sure you also rent the 2nd DVD with special features.

The Cardinal DVD Extras
1) Preminger: Anatomy of a Film Maker (2 hours) - Hosted by Burgess Meredith
2) Behind-the-scenes Featurette
The 2 hour documentary was a delight indeed. For an Otto Preminger fan, it was the four course meal to the Fox documentary's appetizer. Burgess Meredith hosts and narrates the documentary.. There were a lot of people interviewed. Actors such as Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Deborah Kerr and Carol Lynley. Also, Saul Bass, the graphic designer for many of Otto Premingers films talked extensively about the title sequence and art for Man with the Golden Arm. Tom Tryon, whose relationship with Otto Preminger was the worst of any other actor in Preminger's career, spoke about the man who he believed was a tyrant. The documentary spends an appropriate amount of time on each of Premingers films. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes footage shown which was quite a delight (even more in the 5 minute featurette). Also, it was interesting to learn about Preminger's defiance of the Code and his various flirtations with controversial topics.

Daisy Kenyon DVD Extras
1) From Journeyman to Artist: Otto Preminger at Twentieth Century Fox
2) Life in the Shadows - The Making of Daisy Kenyon

The two documentaries are short and poorly styled. I mean what is with the cigarette smoke coming out of the left hand side? It was very distracting. But I do think you Otto see them because of who is in them. There are your film historians Foster Hirsch, Robert Osborne, etc plus your resident Preminger and Crawford experts. But what really makes this interesting are the family members. Preminger's daughter, Crawford's grandson and Dana Andrews' son and daughter were all interviewed. Preminger's daughter Victoria spoke extensively about her dad. I always think it's a treat to watch offspring of legends talk about their parents. It gives you a perspective that no historian or expert could provide. This isn't something often seen in Special Features, so take advantage of this and watch it!

Monday, November 3, 2008

You Otto See It: Daisy Kenyon (1947)

An earlier Otto Preminger film, Daisy Kenyon is a film about a working artist, played by a too-old Joan Crawford, who finds herself caught in a love triangle. There is the married lawyer, played by Dana Andrews. He's suave, charming and tough but has a frustrated wife and two scared daughters depending on him. Then there is the vet/widower, played by Henry Fonda, who is doting and caring and available but tormented by his war past and the suddent death of his first wife. Shot in lots of darkness and soft focus (mostly to hide Joan Crawford's age), it's a romantic drama with a noir twist.

It's funny how a single moment in a film can have such a great impact. I was particularly struck by one scene. Maybe because it's a slice of life from the late 1940s. To set it up for you, Henry Fonda just stood up Joan Crawford who then was stood up by Dana Andrews. Fed up with the both of them, she takes her friend out to a picture. Fonda tries to make up for it by inviting her out but she refuses. He follows her to the movies and enters a restaurant right across from the cinema to watch for her (can you say "stalker"?). You can see in the image below that the marquee lists the pictures showing as Mr. Lucky, a Cary Grant film as well as the Edward G. Robinson classic Woman in the Window.

The scene goes...

Henry Fonda: Scotch and soda please.

Waiter: This isn't a bar. This is a restaurant or haven't you noticed?

Fonda: In that case bring me a steak sandwich and a glass of milk.

Waiter: Who's in there buddy? Your wife? I can give you the name of a guy, he's very cheap and will save you all this trouble.

Fonda: If I had a wife, it would be when she wasn't at the movies that I'd worry not when she was.

Waiter: [muttering to himself] Steak sandwich and a glass of milk.

I still don't get it. Why can't I get this scene out of my head? Before I go on ranting any more, I'll just say that you Otto see Daisy Kenyon!

And this is for Ginger. You're welcome.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

You Otto See It: The Cardinal (1963)

Otto Preminger's 3 hour epic, The Cardinal (1963), tells the story of the Catholic church during the 1st half of the 20th century through the journey of one priest as he travels down the path to become a Cardinal. And what better way to tell such a humongous story than through the life of one man. That sort of tight focus makes it easier for this grand story to be taken ine in. And this film goes down smooth and easy. It deals with heavy topics such as premarital sex, abortion, racism, anti-semitism & fascism (Nazis) and the dealings between church & state. However, you don't feel the weight of them as you would expect. They are very serious subjects and are dealt with as so in the story, but the film's style, story and characters all have an approachable quality that make those 3 hours fly by.

I was very impressed by Tom Tryon as Father StephenFermoyle. He had a serenity and natural gravity that lent itself well to the role of a priest. Yet you also knew his character cared very much for what he did through the facial expressions that seemed truly genuine. I heard that Otto Preminger gave Tom Tryon a very difficult time during this film. This role was to be Tryon's breakout performance to make him a major star. Unfortunately, it didn't happen as this film went on to tank at the box office. It however did get 6 Oscar Nominations and a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama in 1964. Tryon did some more acting roles but found that his writing career was more fruitful. And in the end, that career led to more successful films in the adaptations of his works.

I suggest you do two things. First is watch The Cardinal. You definitely Otto see it, especially if you have an interest in religion like I do or even if you enjoy a good story (and some Burgess Meredith). Second, go out and buy a copy of The Other, Tryon's novel which has just been reissued this month by Millipede Press (in paperback, hardcover and leatherbound editions).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You Otto See It: Advise & Consent (1962)

Otto Preminger's Advise & Consent (1962) wasn't necessarily an enjoyable film to watch. I found myself wondering what the heck was going on for the first 30-40 minutes only to get it, but not care until a good 80 minutes in. The story takes too long to get to the best story, the one of about Brigham "Brig" Anderson, the troubled Senator from Utah. A tighter focus on his story and having that thread be what binds the plot together would have made for a much more interesting and cohesive film. Controvery, something that Otto Preminger never shied away from, makes this film interesting today: corrupt politics, Gene Tierney saying the word "bitch" a few times and the famous scene at Club 602.

Even though I can't say this is one of my favorite films, I still think you "Otto" see it. Especially for the last 40 minutes which are amazing. The artwork promothing the film advertises this is a Henry Fonda movie. That is very misleading, since this film has a spectacular ensemble cast and although Fonda's character is very central to the plot, he's not given that much screen time. The wonderful cast includes Charles Laughton (awesome), Gene Tierney (still gorgeous), Franchot Tone (I call him "my oversized coat", I like him), Burgess Meredith (soft spot for him), Peter Lawford (Good News!), Don Murray (heart-throb), Lew Ayres (what a gentleman), Walter Pidgeon (he put up with Greer Garson), etc. The person to watch for is Charles Laughton, who plays the conniving North Carolina Senator with Southern charm. He's so fascinating to watch and they give him so many great lines.

At one point during the film, I nearly screamed when I heard the familiar voice of Betty White. Then when I saw the face to match the voice, I was ecstatic! Growing up watching the Golden Girls, I always really admired Betty White. It was superb to see her as the lone female Senator who stands up to the brash and outspoken Senator of Wyoming. Woot!

Update: After writing this piece, I found the movie grew on me. I think it at least deserves a second viewing! If you do watch it, don't give up on it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

You Otto See It: The Man With the Golden Arm

It was a strange coincidence that I watched Guys and Dolls (1955) and The Man with the Golden Arm (1956) back-to-back. Guys and Dolls is a musical about a gambler who gambles with love and stars Marlon Brando. Frank Sinatra co-stars as an illegal crap game organizer. Sinatra had been vying for the title role of Sky Masterson and lost out to Brando. Brando does most of the singing, which seems a utter shame given Sinatra's God-given talent. But Sinatra gave Brando his comeuppance the following year when he quickly snagged the role of Frankie Machine in The Man with the Golden Arm away from Brando, who was the first choice for the film. Sinatra steps out of his realm and does an amazing job as a dealer, finally clean from his heroin-addiction, trying to get his life back on track by becoming a drummer and staying away from drugs and cards. But his old life, and the people in it, keep getting in his way.

As I've said before, I absolutely love it when actors step out of their comfort zones and do something completely different. While it didn't work so much for Brando, it definitely worked for Sinatra. This is one of the best films I have ever seen and it has much to do with Sinatra's performance (which I'm sure Otto Preminger had a hand in).

I decided, instead of gushing on and on about this film, that I would keep it short. I'll give you 5 reasons to watch this film.

1) Frank Sinatra's astounding performance. He was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for this film.

2) The opposition between motherly yet sizzling hot Molly (Kim Novak) and the pathetic and conniving Zosh (Eleanor Parker). They play off each other very well even though they don't share very many scenes.

3) The musical score by Elmer Bernstein. I hardly ever notice music, but I did with this film. The music interacts with the motions of the scenes. Beautiful.

4) Otto Preminger's direction and Sam Leavitt's cinematography. Everything just falls into place.

5) Saul Bass' title sequence art. It's beautiful. He's well known for the title sequences in numerous Preminger and Hitchcock films. For Man with the Golden Arm, Bass created a minimalist black background cut by moving white bars. It's beautiful for its simplicity. See below. (thanks to Frank & Kevin for their help on this!)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

You Otto See It: Angel Face (1953)

This is my first in a series of entries on the director Otto Preminger. I'm planning to watch 8 Preminger films (click here for the list) in preparation for my friend Kevin's lecture in November.

The first I watched was Angel Face (1953) , "presented" by Howard Hughes and starring Jean Simmons and Robert Mitchum. I'm not sure what this film is and after watching it I wasn't sure exactly what it was that I saw. I just know that Robert Mitchum looked hot and that he slapped Otto Preminger during production. Go Mitchum! I would have liked to have slapped Preminger too for having to sit through this film. Although I titled this series "You Otto See It", I don't really recommend it. It's boring, confusing and the only thing to look forward to is Mitchum's pretty mug.

I did, however, like the beginning of the movie. Mitchum plays an ambulance driver, Frank, who gets called to the scene of a potential smothering. A rich woman claims someone tried to suffocate her and already we are suspicious. Then there is the woman's step-daughter, Diane, played by Jean Simmons, who is beautiful, tormented, has an angel face, blah blah blah. Frank and Diane slap each other a few times (many re-takes compelled Mitchum to slap Preminger) and are thrusted into a hot and heavy affair. Trouble is Frank's got this girl, Mary, played by Mona Freeman, a nurse at the hospital he works for. She doesn't have the angel face but she's got an angel heart. He should be with Mary but Diane is the one who excites him. Mary is confronted by Diane and finds out about Frank's infidelity. Frank doesn't know that Mary knows about Frank & Diane's rendezvous the previous night. When Mary confronts Frank, this gem appears in the dialogue:

Frank: I would have been lousy company last night. Ten minutes after I left Harry's I was in the sack.

Mary: I can believe that. Well, you can head for that same sack tonight.

I don't know much about the social norms of dating and relationships in the 1950's. But from what I gather from this film and others like it is that a man is free to see who he wants until he gets married. There isn't really a concept of a "boyfriend" or a committed pre-marital relationship, as we have in our contemporary culture. Just a courtship, which if successful, leads to an engagement which is mercifully brief and followed by a quick marriage. Engagements sometimes last hours or a few days, unless the beau is really dragging his heels. Maybe fast courtships and engagements were a way to snag a guy before a dangerous angel face lures him away. Who knows?

It's not that this film answered any questions I had, it just got me thinking. So at least I have that. In the end, the moral of the story was that beauty is dangerous and don't teach a girl how to fix a car.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Susegado, Preminger-wise

It's been kind of quiet lately, classic film-wise (as Jack Lemmon would say in The Apartment). I'll be taking a brief hiatus for the Labor Day weekend and I hope to come up with lots of new posts!

In September, I'll be starting my new Otto Preminger series. It's to prepare for my friend Kevin's lecture in November. If it weren't for the postal office losing my Netflix movies, I would have already started! Alas, I shall have to wait.

Here are the films I plan on watching and posting about here. If you are saying to yourself, why in the name of Helios is she not watching such Preminger classics as Laura, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Whirlpool, Fallen Angel, River of No Return and Anatomy of Murder? That's because I've already seen them, Silly! With so many Preminger films to see, I can't afford any repeats.

Angel Face (1953)
Advise and Consent (1962)
The Cardinal (1963)
Man with the Golden Arm (1956)
Daisy Kenyon (1947)
Stalag 17 (1953)
Carmen Jones (1954)
Bonjour Tristess (1958)

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