The artwork in The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)

October 09, 2018

I love artwork in movies -- from the portrait of Laura to the Portrait of Dorian Gray -- and my absolute favorite movie art is from the movie The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947) starring Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck.

Bogart plays a married artist, Geoffrey Carroll, who begins imagining his wife as the Angel of Death after he meets and falls in love with Barbara Stanwyck's Sally. He feels compelled to paint the image that's seared into his brain, all the while making the deathly vision become a reality by slowly poisoning his wife so that he can marry Sally instead.

Here he is showing his daughter the portrait in progress, which illustrates her mother as the Angel of Death. The daughter is played by Ann Carter, who you might recognize (if you watch the movie, not just from the back of her head) as the little girl from The Curse of the Cat People. Here she is playing a very adult-like child, kind of like the kids from The Innocents, except I promise she isn't possessed. It adds just one more creepy layer to an already eerie movie.

Here is the finished portrait, displayed in the house that Geoffrey now shares with the second Mrs. Carroll, Sally (Stanwyck.) Standing next to him is Alexis Smith, playing a woman who would very much like to be the third Mrs. Carroll.

This is the first time that we see a portrait Geoffrey has painted of Sally. It has an ethereal quality, almost the complete opposite of the dark expressionist style he used to depict his dearly departed first wife as the Angel of Death.

But as he grows closer to Alexis Smith's Cecily, those dark visions come back again and we learn that he once again feels compelled to depict his wife as the Angel of Death. Only this time it's Barbara Stanwyck.

And here it is! My favorite classic movie painting of all time. According to the book The Dark Galleries (I highly recommend it if you're interested in classic film art. I only wish I had thought to write it first!) this piece was actually painted by Hollywood caricaturist, artist and set designer John Decker. If you liked the portrait of Joan Bennett in Scarlet Street, that was by Decker as well!

I can vividly remember the first time that I saw this movie, and the scene in which Barbara Stanwyck discovers this portrait gave me actual shivers. It is so sinister and unnerving, and the reflection of the rain in the window pouring down the painting is hair-raising. I love the outline of the skeleton peeking through the shorn clothing (I wonder, by the way, if this was partially the inspiration for Barbara Steele's look in Black Sunday?) and the few strands of hair that resemble wilted stems. I love how the painting almost looks as though it started out as a glamorous portrait and slowly, as Carroll's visions grew stronger, the portrait grew darker and darker, the scent of Duke of Wellington roses replaced with a reeking stench of decay.

Not many people seem to like this movie, which always puzzles me because I think it's such a gloriously macabre film with a peculiar vibe that is perfect for this time of year. Humphrey Bogart overacts a bit, but I LOVE IT. You can tell that he's having fun with the role (there's even a funny reference to Casablanca at one point!) but he is also so intense in some scenes that the sense of danger practically leaps off the screen. And of course Barbara Stanwyck is a delight. If you like her in Sorry, Wrong Number, this is a great one to check out next! Her "sick woman in danger" skills are on full display and she's excellent as always.

I love this painting so much that I printed out a copy and framed it as a Halloween decoration (but let's be real, I'm definitely leaving this up all year now.) If you want to print one too, I uploaded the image right here.

Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge

June 27, 2018

It's time for Raquel's annual Summer Reading Challenge! Last year I only completed two of the books I wanted to read -- and only reviewed one of them, yikes! -- but I'm determined to do better this year. I picked out five books that I want to read this summer, and I also have a Susan Hayward biography that I started during the winter and never finished, so I'm hoping to work that into the challenge as well.

I'm most excited about the How to Steal a Million novelization, and the Truffaut Notebook. I hope that publishers release some more Truffaut books soon because I'm getting close to having finished all of the Truffaut books that I can find (at least the English language ones!) There is nobody that I enjoy reading about more. In every book that I've read - whether it was written by him or about him - his love for cinema shines through, and you can tell what a gentle and sensitive soul he was. I always feel like I'm reading about a close friend, and I'm always disappointed when I reach the end. I'm really looking forward to reconnecting with him again this summer.

If you want to join along in Raquel's challenge, you can sign up on her blog, Out of the Past, right here!

TCMFF 2018

May 10, 2018

TCM host Eddie Muller interviewing Juliet Mills

Another TCM Film Festival is here and gone! I didn't cover this one very extensively, no live-tweeting or watching interviews through the lens of my camera, but I did want to do a quick little round-up of the movies I saw, and document my experience at the 2018 festival.

I went with the least expensive pass this year (the $299 Palace Pass, which gets you into The Egyptian, The TCL Chinese Theater IMAX, and the poolside screenings) and ended up paying for standby for a decent amount of the screenings since a lot of the movies I wanted to see were in the multiplex. I'm not actually planning on attending the festival again, but if I were, I'd skip a pass and just do standby. If you have a TCM Backlot membership card the price is only $10 per ticket! Sure you might not get into absolutely everything you want, but even if you saw 25 movies it would still be cheaper than the cheapest pass that TCM offers. Most of the pre-codes seem to screen in the multiplex and all of the midnight movies are in the multiplex, so that would definitely factor into my decision. I don't think I could ever afford the $649 pass level again, so the most affordable and realistic path in my opinion would be standby. The only screening that I missed out on this year was None Shall Escape, every other standby attempt was successful!

In previous years I pretty much bought the pass to hedge my bets -- no way I was missing out on Anna Karina in person (!!) so I got a pass that would guarantee entry if I just stood in line early enough (cough... four hours... cough.) Maybe I'm just more cost-conscious since my finances aren't as great nowadays, but even if Julie Freaking Christie was at the festival I still think I'd go the standby route.

Anyway. You didn't come here to read about what a movie-going cheapskate I am! You came for movie reviews! Festival shenanigans! Complaints about Hollywood Boulevard!

As usual my movie intake was about 70% less than that of the average food-forgoing festival goer, but I thoroughly enjoyed most of the films I consumed. I started off the festival with a screening of My Brilliant Career, introduced by the movie's director Gillian Armstrong. Armstrong directed one of my family's favorite movies, Starstruck, so I was.. ahem.. starstruck to see her in person. (ANTS! ANTS! ANTS!)

My Brilliant Career is one of my favorite post-60's movies. I love the independence of the main character, and seeing 1979 Sam Neill with that million watt smile on the big screen was enjoyable to say the least. Gillian Armstrong revealed in the interview that her favorite scene in the movie is the pillow fight sequence and I think if you've seen the movie you'll probably agree with her! It was so fun revisiting that part of the movie knowing how much she enjoys it herself. This was the world premiere of the restored print so hopefully that means it'll be making the rounds in repertory theaters this year!

I followed that up with the poolside screening of The Roaring Twenties at The Roosevelt. I thought it started at 8:30 but it started at 8:00 (oops!!) and it was f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g cold but I enjoyed this so much! I'd never been to a poolside screening before, so I'm glad I finally got one under my belt. Sometimes my eyes would wander to the glistening pool, and the palm trees framing the twilight sky, and I'd just feel grateful for the experience.

I had seen The Roaring Twenties before but it'd been years so it felt like a brand new movie. I loved Gladys George (I love her in anything and everything) and James Cagney is always great as the tough guy with a soft spot for a good gal. Oh, and I loved all of Priscilla Lane's songs! I'd buy the soundtrack, I loved it so much. Great modern (at the time) arrangements of classic 20's songs, like the songs Frank Sinatra sings in The Joker is Wild. All in all this was a really great gangster film with a lot of heart.

I was dead tired on Friday night but I pressed on for the midnight screening, The World's Greatest Sinner. Sometimes I think you might have to be a little tipsy to really enjoy some of these midnight movies because this one, while it was definitely super weird, kind of bored me? UGH, I hate saying movies bored me. I think it's the most uncultured complaint you can make about a film and I feel like it's sort of rude but... it bored me. I was really tired and I definitely drifted in and out of consciousness. I really enjoyed the Q&A afterwards with the filmmaker/star's son. He was much more fun than the movie and kept taking the Q&A in his own direction. I was barely awake for the film but I could have stayed awake for another hour of questions (or actually, mostly answers.)

Saturday began with a rare film by one of my favorite directors, Jean-Pierre Melville. It was introduced by the director Taylor Hackford, who's a member of the Jean-Pierre Melville Foundation. It's a testament to the scarcity of this film that Hackford himself had only just watched it for the first time in preparation for his introduction! He gave a lot of great background on Melville and passionately explained why the director is so important to him. It might just be because Melville also means so much to *me*, but it was one of my favorite introductions from all of my years at TCMFF.

When You Read This Letter was a departure from Melville's usual repertoire of gangsters and French Resistance fighters but you could definitely see his fingerprints all over it. There was one beautiful scene shot at night with two of the characters framed in shadow against the ocean and its striking simplicity was breathtaking. I'm so sad though because now I only have three Melville movies left un-watched! Being a completist, I love it when I've seen every single offering from one of my favorites, but there's also a certain thrill in knowing you still have something new waiting for you in the future.

Girls About Town was, hands down, my favorite movie of the festival. Going in, I actually didn't know anything about it except that it starred Kay Francis and Joel McCrea. I was texting my mom while I was in line, and when I told her what movie I was about to see she replied "It should be fun! I hope you actually laugh out loud!' I was like "wait, it's a comedy??" I literally had done zero research (Joel McCrea's name alone is enough to sell me on a movie, to be honest.) but she was right. I did laugh out loud -- A LOT. And although I came for Joel and Kay, this movie made me purchase every Lilyan Tashman movie that I could find when I got home. She was a sassy comedic powerhouse and I'm completely heartbroken that she passed away only a few years later in 1934. She would have been amazing in late 30's screwball comedies.

I'm sure this link will stop working at some point soon but right now this movie is on youtube here, and I highly recommend it!

This isn't one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, but it was delightful seeing Spellbound at the festival. The audience was the worst I encountered this year, often laughing at things that weren't funny or getting a little too much amusement from the sexist remarks Ingrid Bergman's coworkers were hurtling at her. I don't even think they were meant to inspire that kind of reaction 60 years ago, let alone today.

But despite the regressive snickers it was an enjoyable screening. While I *still* can't really tell what makes nitrate different (ducks from fellow movie fans pelleting popcorn in my direction) I can definitely appreciate the difference between watching something on my tv or watching it in The Egyptian Theater, and seeing Dali's sequence on the big screen was awe-inspiring.

For some reason I thought that Night of the Living Dead was going to be a corny movie, light on actual scares. BOY was I mistaken! This movie was so taught and suspenseful, scary and eerily politically relevant today. I was terrified watching it and absolutely thrilled that it wasn't the joke I always thought it to be (probably due to those "They're coming to get you, Barbara!" promos they used to promote TCM Underground back in the day.)

This was probably my favorite midnight screening ever (I've seen Eraserhead, Freaks, Roar, Zardoz, and The World's Greatest Sinner) Personally I'd rather the midnight movie scare me out of my wits than make me laugh at somebody's work, so this was definitely right up my alley.

In accordance with my reputation as "the worst classic movie fan at the festival" I skipped out on Sunday almost entirely and went to Disneyland instead. I love Disney practically as much as I love classic movies, so it's hard to be that close to Anaheim without popping over for a visit!

I had Disney planned over a month in advance, but then TCM made a last minute addition to the Tunes of Glory screening on Sunday morning -- Juliet Mills. MY HEART! John, Juliet, and Hayley are all so important to me. There was no way I was missing this, but I also couldn't cancel or push back my Disney trip, so I made the devastatingly embarrassing and shameful decision to stay for Juliet Mills and then duck out when the movie started. I hate myself for it, but I'm also so glad that I got to see her. She is so adorable in person (I love her voice!) and hearing her talk about "Daddy" and how much he loved Tunes of Glory (it was in his top five favorites of his own movies) made my day/week/month/year. She talked about filming Twice Round the Daffodils, and how it was the only time that she, Hayley, and John were all filming at the same studio at the same time so they used to meet for lunch on the lot everyday. The Mills' are my favorite film family and this experience made me happy in so many ways, I can't even explain.

I felt horrible for leaving afterwards, especially since Juliet Mills was so excited about the screening (she brought her whole family to see it!) but Tunes of Glory is at the top of my to-watch list now and I can't wait to see it now that I've heard her sing its praises.

When I left Disneyland around 6pm, I was cutting it so close that I actually had my Lyft driver drop me off right at the Egyptian for the last movie of the festival. I still had a box of chicken fingers and fries stuffed into my giant oversized Disney souvenir bag, but I toted it all in with me and snacked a little before A Star is Born began.

I haven't even seen the subsequent remakes of this movie, but just by the credits I can already assume this one would be my favorite anyway. I adore Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. I forgot how funny March is in this, how witty and charismatic and just all around fantastic. He's such a natural, so at ease in every role he ever stepped into, but this one is just absolute perfection. This was the only movie this year that managed to coax some tears out of me, and that's entirely March.

And Janet Gaynor imitating Hollywood icons while serving hors d'oeuvres at the industry party is one of my all-time favorite movie moments. It's adorable and hilarious and she really does a mean imitation!

And that's about it! And, oh, I just realized I didn't supply my promised complaints about Hollywood Boulevard! Suffice to say, it's as grimy and loud and unglamorous as usual. There was a guy with a real snake, somebody selling turtles on the street corner, dozens of competing singers with amplifiers turned up as high as they could go, knock-off superheroes and Elvises and cartoon characters, and a healthy does of urine. It's the single most compelling reason that I probably won't be doing another festival. I just can't stand the location. Now I've heard rumors that they might bring back the cruise, though, and that is something I'd be on board with!

Finally, for much more professional, extensive, and behind-the-scenes coverage of the festival, I'd highly recommend checking out the fantastic coverage from my friends Raquel at Out of the Past, Jessica at Comet Over Hollywood, and Laura at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings!

Alain Delon in America

February 21, 2018

While he may be best known for his work in arthouse classics like L'Eclisse, Plein Soleil, and Le Samouraï, Alain Delon also flirted with mainstream Hollywood stardom in the 60's and 70's. Although the effort was ultimately unsuccessful, there are a handful of English-language films that showcase Alain's talents and, lucky for us, they are all readily available! For anyone who wants to get into his work but isn't quite ready for subtitles, or if you're just interested in discovering some of his lesser-known movies, I'm sharing the full roster here in this post, along with links to the films. They may not be on the same level as Rocco and His Brothers but they're all solid, enjoyable movies and -- considering how few there are -- they really showcase Alain Delon's considerable range as an actor.

Alain Delon's first foray into English language films was the UK production The Yellow Rolls Royce. An anthology film with three distinct plots, Alain Delon features in the middle third of the movie alongside Shirley MacLaine. In what would become a recurring theme among his English movies, the French Alain Delon plays an Italian.

Gangster's moll Shirley MacLaine is stuck in Italy while her mobster boyfriend, George C. Scott, is tending to business in the US. Alain plays an Italian photographer who sweet-talks lady tourists into having their photo taken in front of popular landmarks. When he tries his act on Shirley MacLaine, she is having none of it at first, but I mean, come on. It's Alain Delon. Was there ever any doubt she'd end up falling for him? Who wouldn't!

This ends up being a surprisingly bittersweet story and -- even if my favorite actor wasn't in it -- it's my favorite of the three segments in the movie. It comically takes place in the 1920's, with the filmmakers haphazardly deciding to stay true to the era's style one moment (ie. Alain Delon's one piece swimsuit) and then casting aside all period detail the next (ie. Shirley MacLaine's hair.) But Alain Delon and Shirley MacLaine make such a perfect cinematic pair that it's hardly noticeable. I wish they had made more films together -- or even a full-length one, at that!

The Yellow Rolls Royce on DVD
The Yellow Rolls Royce streaming on Amazon

Once a Thief marks Alain Delon's second English-language movie and his first Hollywood production. Co-starring Ann Margaret, Once a Thief is a modern take on the Les Miserables story. Alain Delon plays a reformed Italian hoodlum who is incessantly hounded by a cop, played by Van Heflin, who is convinced that Delon is the one who shot him years ago. All of his attempts at leading a quiet crime-free life are foiled by Heflin's determination to see him locked up, and the return of Delon's no-good brother, Jack Palance (Alain Delon's sole competition for the "most defined cheekbones of the 1960's" award.)

This is a heavy, harsh movie shot on location in San Francisco. Although it was released in 1965, it reminds me so much of 1940's and 50's crime dramas filmed on location in New York, like The Naked City (1948.) It has a kind of raw energy to it, and for Alain's first "polished" Hollywood movie, the only things that glisten about it are the sweaty foreheads and wet sidewalks.

Once a Thief on DVD
Once a Thief streaming on YouTube

After Once a Thief, Alain Delon's next movie was Lost Command, an Anthony Quinn war movie about the conflict in Algeria. Considering the fact that I'm not a big fan of war movies and Alain Delon isn't technically the star here, it's my least favorite of his American output. But, putting those two personal preferences aside, it is a very well made movie and I'd definitely recommend it if you enjoy war movies. And if you're like me and prefer your films with as few army maneuvers as possible, there are plenty of scenes featuring the soldiers at home or socializing in Algeria. And Alain Delon strikes up a brief romance with Claudia Cardinale, reuniting three years after they costarred in Visconti's epic The Leopard. In a strange twist, Alain Delon is finally playing a Frenchman here but his Italian costar suffers the "Europeans can pass for any nationality in American films" fate, and is cast as an Arab.

Very unscholarly side note: Despite my lack of enthusiasm for this movie or for war films in general, I have returned to it numerous times because Alain Delon looks pretty darn good. Exhibit A.

Lost Command on DVD

I am so excited to tell you about this next one. When I first started devouring Alain Delon's filmography and stumbled upon a 1966 western spoof co-starring Dean Martin and Joey Bishop I had to do a double take. What. On. Earth. Is. This.

It's a delight is what it is! An unexpected delight.

Alain Delon plays a (Spanish this time!) nobleman who's betrothed to a wealthy Louisiana woman, but ends up on the lam heading for the Texas border when he thinks he killed her former lover in a duel on their wedding day. Along his journey he runs into Dean Martin and Joey Bishop, and a random bull fight, snake bites, wife-swapping, a very funny duel, and lots of hi-jinx ensue.

The most surprising thing to come out of this movie is Alain Delon's comedic talent. While there is evidence of it in some of his very early roles, like Three Murderesses and Che gioia vivere, it's largely absent from the entirety of his acting career. But he's downright funny in this movie. His character is clearly meant to be a suave charmer, but he's also a total doofus. And he doesn't play it up so much that it becomes irritating -- he hits the sweet spot of "over the top" without actually bubbling over.

Texas Across the River on DVD

After Texas Across the River, Alain Delon went back to Paris and didn't make another American film again for seven years, returning to US screens with the 1973 spy thriller Scorpio. Scorpio reunited him with another one of his The Leopard co-stars, Burt Lancaster. This time around they are playing an assassin and a government agent, caught up in a web of cold war intrigue.

As much as I enjoy Alain's earlier American movies, I feel like Hollywood just wasn't really sure what to do with him. That indecisiveness helped showcase Delon's range (comedy! western! melodrama! war! romance!) but in Scorpio he's allowed to hone the tough-guy image he had, by this point, already established in France. This would be his penultimate American movie and I think it's a darn shame because with Scorpio they finally found the type of movie and the type of role that suited him perfectly. 1970's American cinema was chock-full of spy/crime thrillers that could have benefited from his intense, cool screen presence.

The real selling point of Scorpio, though, is the fact that Alain Delon's character is an assassin with a soft spot for cats. I shared gifs of some of my favorite Scorpio scenes of Delon + cats right here.

Scorpio on DVD
Scorpio streaming on Amazon

Alain Delon's final American movie was The Concorde: Airport '79. This is one of the few Alain Delon movies that I have yet to watch (mainly because I'm not sure if you need to have seen the other Airplane movies in order to get it, and I haven't seen any of them -- any advice on that subject would be greatly appreciated!) This was the final entry in the Airport movie series, and sadly also marked the end of Alain Delon's short career in Hollywood.

The Concorde: Airport '79 on DVD
The Concorde: Airport '79 streaming on Amazon

In addition to his six English language movies, Alain Delon also did his own dubbing for many of his French films. Technically you can almost count Joy House as his first English movie, since he dubbed it himself and co-starred with American actress Jane Fonda! You can also hear him in the English dub of Farewell Friend.

I should add that my DVD copies of Red Sun (1971) and Zorro (1975) are both in English, but it's unclear to me which language they were originally filmed in. I think they are both coproductions so it's possible that multiple languages were spoken on set. I consulted the book "Alain Delon: Style, Stardom, and Masculinity" for this post and these two films are not included in their chapter on Delon's English language movies so I'm going to refrain from including them in this post. But if you're just looking to watch some Alain Delon without subtitles, those are two more titles that you can seek out! :)