Moira in Wonderland

An artist's rendering of the Atlanta of my dreams

“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” – Henry James

Those words keep echoing in my mind whenever I think of my trip to TCM a few months ago. I was asked to be one of the Morlocks who appeared as a guest programmer on the evening of Friday, November 30th earlier this year.  Saying “Yes” to this experience was transformative. I used to just be a hardcore fan of old movies. After this visit, I am also a fan of the people who work at Turner Classic Movies–and with good reason.

Getting to know the people who make Turner Classic Movies the network that inspires so much intense joy among its viewers has been a long learning experience. That the network does this by continuously striving to offer a feast of classic films to a world starved for storytelling that speaks directly to the human experience is key to the network’s success. The overwhelming kindness of the individuals associated with the network both in person and online has brightened a life that has taken more than a few hairpin turns in the last few years.

Of course the initial excitement, terror and “who, me?” quality of the whole thing was pretty overwhelming. It became even more surreal after a series of medical emergencies almost led me to miss this opportunity. I had originally been scheduled to visit Atlanta with my fellow Morlocks, Susan Doll, Richard Harland Smith, and Pablo Kjolseth, who will be seen with Robert Osborne this evening introducing three films they cherish: The Locket (1946), Dracula’s Daughter (1936) and Five Million Years to Earth (1968).

After notifying the TCM staff that I was a.) in the hospital after an operation and b.) taking medications that left me feeling (and looking) like a very large wet noodle, they generously rearranged the date of my visit to Atlanta to film my segment.

Still not fully recovered several weeks later, I was exhilarated to finally glide into Atlanta for a whirlwind visit.

In the 24 hours I was there, I knew there would never be time enough for me to catch such Atlanta visitor “must-sees” as  the spot where Gone With the Wind premiered in ’39, the Margaret Mitchell house, The World of Coca-Cola, or even the spots where Sherman marched to the sea, but I was immediately taken with the way that this often beautiful, bustling place had lush flowers and greenery everywhere in between the modern and older brick buildings, which included rose-colored crepe myrtle,   apricot-colored trumpet vines, and wild infestations of kudzu strangling telephone poles that softened even the outlines of a highway overpass.

My experience with the unexpected kindness of strangers began almost immediately with the gentleman named Moses who was behind the wheel of my ride to TCM. He wasn’t wielding any stone tablets, but he had a fine sense of humor, and shared info about the landmarks we passed, such as The Martin Luther King Memorial, The Varsity Hot Dog stand (believe me, it’s big there–even attracting another visitor that same day named Barack Obama), and. Moses also demonstrated a bizarre insistence that I allow him to do things like haul my bag out of the trunk and open car doors for me. After looking over my shoulder to see who Moses could possibly be talking to, I just decided to try to go with the flow, concluding that this might be some quaint Southern custom.

My regret that I would not be able to meet several of the people whose writing I admire on this blog was real. (Someday, I am hoping that we’ll each find our way to the TCM Classic Film Festival at the same time, Suzi, Richard & Pablo). However, I was overjoyed to finally meet two of the Morlocks during my first evening there when I had such a great time sharing  HighHurdler (Mark) and MorlockJeff (Jeff). None of us had ever met one another, though we had each corresponded in the past and got a kick out of each other’s work online.

Our  discussion that evening bounced from topics as diverse as pre-code bad boy Monroe Owsley as husband material, the brothers actor Ricardo and cinematographer Stanley Cortez, acting legend Lionel Barrymore‘s obscure non-acting careers as a director, composer and artist, Dorothy Mckaill‘s life in a Hawaiian hotel room, and all things TCM. One of us confessed a bit of an aversion to Vertigo, another didn’t get the enduring appeal of Double Indemnity and each of us made the others laugh, (my face hurt from smiling so much). We parted with some regret but delighted to discover much more about each other’s taste, background and knowledge.

After not much sleep in a glorious hotel (thank you, TCM!), but lots of anticipation while I practiced trying to put into words the many (well, too many, actually) things I had to say about my choice as a guest programmer, this keyed up Morlock emerged at 8 AM for a limo ride to TCM Central.

First stop after admission to the Turner complex, was the Green Room, where I finally met TCM staffer’s Sean Cameron, Courtney O’Brien, and Amanda Dabbas, in person, each of whom had helped to arrange my trip in the first place. The encouraging wardrobe and makeup ladies gently helped me to choose the best item to wear on camera from my bag. Never having had professional makeup applied before, this brave new world became far less daunting for me thanks to the consideration, skill and patience of the young women who so deftly worked to make me look presentable.

On the set with Robert Osborne!

Finally, I was guided me to the strangely familiar setting in the studio.  Sure, I knew where I was (like hell I did!). But yes, this setting was  where Robert Osborne has led so many of us into a deeper understanding of the art, fun and fancy of great and not-so-great movies.  Beautifully lit, the studio set looked like a cozy New York loft with old exposed brick (as one of the crew pointed out, though it was explained that it is actually made from the same material used on the exterior of mobile homes), real wooden shutters with a scrim showing a glowing night time cityscape behind it, and, oh, yes, those beautiful red leather chairs set at an angle toward one another. The familiar fixtures were all there–the cerulean blue ceramic vases, stairs going up to a landing with a bench and pillows, and best of all, a French neo-classical style lamp I’ve always coveted with the base in the shape of a mythical griffin. The tolerant crew members even let me touch these things, all of which probably came from Pottery Barn (or someplace a bit more upscale, but similar).

Finally, I was introduced to the very tall man being readied for the camera–Robert Osborne.  Warmly greeting me and then studying his notes about our segment, our brief conversation soon included Sean Cameron, who described what they wanted to do, how this should go, and when to look at Robert and the camera. Since I am quite short and very round at the moment (damn those steroids), a board was placed under the seat to make me appear taller, enabling me to sit comfortably while we filmed the intro.   Robert explained that he would let me pronounce the French words, while he tackled the English and guided me through this high wire act that he does every day. “Yeah, sure, Mr. Osborne. You bet…I’ll be glad pronounce the French…(*gulp*),” I smiled like an idiot.

I had chosen to introduce the French film, Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (1954) for my segment since my first encounter with this fascinating movie, which took the genre of the gangster movie and gave it a unique French twist.

The title of the film, drawn from French slang for “Don’t Touch the Loot,”  marked a new phase in the career of French actor Jean Gabin (1904-1976). Formerly associated with the poetic realism of the pre-war period, expemplified by the work of such directors as Julien Duvivier in  Pépé le Moko (1937) and Jean Renoir in La Bête Humaine (1938), Gabin had excelled at imbuing his working class characters with a blend of lyricism and masculinity that helped to make him a truly international star.

Jean Gabin in Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (1954)

The  postwar period (and critics) had been less kind to the visibly older Gabin,  but when I first saw Touchez Pas Au Grisbi, it struck me as both an engaging gangster movie, and a superbly acted character study about a  middle-aged man sorting through the things (and people) he has picked up along the way. The film, directed by Jacques Becker and drawn from a novel by Albert Simonin, has a deliberate, yet almost contemplative quality that evolves into an unexpected conclusion. The action and character of the central figure was given even greater resonance because of the thoughtful, laid back style of the leading man and his past history on screen. (Who but Gabin could make a scene showing the deft preparation of a midnight snack into a revelation of the aesthetic underpinning of a weary romantic’s way of life?).

Jean Gabin plays a smooth, disciplined character who has apparently been quite successful in ordering his underworld fiefdom. Younger gangsters seek him out to learn from him how to navigate the alleys and byways of being a crook.  He dresses well, lives sensibly, and only slowly reveals his inner life to the viewer or to his closest friend, and believes that a fortune in gold (a heist that occurs off-screen, as if the film wants to remind us that crime is really beside the point here).  It is only when a threat to Max’s not overly bright cohort, (Rene Dary) is revealed that the inner life of Max begins to show. Eveb Max seems a bit chagrined that the person he has shared so much of his life with turns out to be his henchman.

Jeanne Moreau in a small role tangles briefly with Gabin in Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (1954)

Yet Max the Mentor (Gabin) becomes increasingly aware that the neatness of his world is going awry. As he points out to his less imaginative henchman as they breathe in the air of an amusingly tawdry nightclub, the pursuit of the same things as they did in the past has grown stale. More importantly, they have grown older. Its time to reap that one last reward . As the film chronicles Max’s business-like disposal of stolen goods, the almost complete absence of the police from daily affairs, his somewhat lackadaisical flirtations with (apparently) every female in this movie, (who include a 24-year-old Jeanne Moreau), and the intrusion of a new, and needlessly vicious generation of gangsters are all incidents that conspire to make Max reflect on his life in a uniquely Gallic manner and ultimately, to take (explosive) action when the one thing that truly mattered to Max was threatened in this bleak world.  All of this is conveyed in a minimalist style by the actor and the viewer is left surprised at times, amused (the movie is quite funny sometimes, especially in the exchanges between Max and his hapless pal, Riton), and perhaps quite moved by the stoicism of the central character.

Writing when I can for the Movie Morlocks Blog has been both daunting and enlightening.  Speaking about a movie I loved (in front of Robert Osborne yet!) was another thing. I know that I had a million things I wanted to say about Touchez Pas Au Grisbi, actor Jean Gabin and director Jacques Becker, the influence of French film on the world (!) and my love of classic film, I also knew that I have never harbored a desire to be on television-though this trip was just too sweet to miss.

Relying on Mr. O. for guidance through the segment (I had to speak up since I am very soft spoken), Sean and the crew were great as I stumbled a few times over words that came tumbling out. Even Robert Osborne fluffed a few lines, perhaps to make me feel more at ease (or maybe because my slight nerves were contagious?). Gradually, something like a conversation emerged and it was a wrap—though I could have expounded for an hour or more about the topic, in my amateurish but enthusiastic way. It was over faster than I expected, though I knew that TCM’s editors would have their work cut out for her editing my segment.

Everyone assured me that I (strangely) didn’t look nervous and was very articulate. (Could they possibly have been in in the same room as I?). In any case, it was a delightful experience to have behind me. Best of all, meeting four of the fantastically creative people who were to follow me filming their guest programmer segments with Mr. Osborne were not individuals I ever would have met without this hastily rescheduled visit.

The very animated Jerry Beck of Cartoon Brew

One of them, Jerry Beck, the animator, animation historian, author of fifteen books, and one of the creators of the website, Cartoon Brew, was introduced to me just before my segment was filmed.  Jerry was at TCM to film with Robert Osborne an introduction and discuss an evening of the UPA Jolly Frolics Cartoons that was recently featured on TCM. He modestly refused to take credit for saving cartoons, but admitted that he had helped curate some of the cartoons selected for inclusion on the recently issued three disc set of 38 UPA (United Productions of America) cartoons under the banner of the TCM Vault collection. These DVDs include Gerald McBoing-Boing, The Tell Tale Heart and The Unicorn in the Garden, among other animated classics created by artists who approached animation in the 1950s from a different, somewhat more contemporary aesthetic than previously presented on film.

Jerry was very personable, funny, and reassuring, even as he asked if his very nice new shirt (a navy blue Ralph Lauren) and jacket were okay for the camera. Discovering that we both felt a bit fluttery about the day’s events, I immediately bonded and pelted the poor man with a million questions about cartoons as we discussed everything from Betty Boop to Georgie and the Dragon until it was his turn to sit in the big red, chair too. 

Ben Burtt (left), Friend, & Craig Barron preparing for one of their sound and special effects presentations (courtesy: Oscar..org)

Next, I encountered two more fascinating gentlemen, both of whom are innovators in their fields, and multiple Oscar nominees and winners. Craig Barron, a visual effects specialist whose career began with his groundbreaking matte work on Star Wars and has developed enormously since then (you know his work, believe me!),  and Ben Burtt, a sound engineer (currently the voice designer at Pixar) who was responsible for creating the sounds of aliens such as Chewbacca, E.T. and many others. Both individuals were visiting TCM to discuss on camera with Mr. O. their studies of the sounds and sights in classic films. Ben showed me his replication of the specially designed arrow used by archer Harold Hill to create that singularly satisfying “whoosh” sound of the arrows in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1937), which is described here in detail. We also discussed the unique Warner Bros. sounds of bullets, briefly. Both guys have given lectures on that film as well as Forbidden Planet (1956), quite recently at AMPAS, described here.

Lastly, I met Debra Levine, a delightful dance historian whose blog arts*meme explores the arts with a special attention to the work of choreographer Jack Cole. His innovative jazz-inspired dance routines were showcased on TCM on in September when Debra was the guest programmer who introduced  four of the movies that Cole worked on during his Hollywood years.

Debra Levine as TCM Guest Programmer (Photo: Mark Hill of TCM)

I never would have been able to meet any of these exciting people or to have spent as much time one on one with TCM’s friendly staffers if I had come earlier in the year to record my intro. Needless to say, I hardly needed a plane to fly back home. I was already walking on air.

Perhaps it was a touch of Cinderella at work in my sub-conscious when I packed up to leave TCM and catch my plane back to reality. I left behind one of the sandals I wore on the air with Robert Osborne in The Green Room (They over-nighted  it to me, but I honestly have no memory of leaving this) But at least I have some great memories of fun, a fish out of her water, and the kindness of those who helped her. Thank you, everyone, for your kindness.

Now, if I may suggest an appropriate introduction for this evening’s lineup of my colleagues…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-t8PngHgWY&w=480&h=360]

48 Responses Moira in Wonderland
Posted By april : November 30, 2012 10:54 pm

Wonderful “Wonderland” tour…I feel like you brought us along for the ride. And how touching that this “Cinderella” left behind her slipper. :)

Posted By april : November 30, 2012 10:54 pm

Wonderful “Wonderland” tour…I feel like you brought us along for the ride. And how touching that this “Cinderella” left behind her slipper. :)

Posted By Susan Doll : December 1, 2012 1:03 am

Great job, Moira. I am watching your movie now.

And, I squeezed in the Margaret Mitchell House while I was there. I only got to see the outside and the downstairs museum, but at least I got there.

Posted By Susan Doll : December 1, 2012 1:03 am

Great job, Moira. I am watching your movie now.

And, I squeezed in the Margaret Mitchell House while I was there. I only got to see the outside and the downstairs museum, but at least I got there.

Posted By Jeannie Weller Cooper : December 1, 2012 1:25 am

Hi, Moria, Just wanted to thank you for this movie. Your expert support of this film should lead the way for even more programming variety on TCM. We thought you did a great job on air, especially with the title pronunciation. I’ve never been on this page before, but your sincerity won us over. I hope you get to go back to Atlanta some time- let us know and maybe we can set you up with a tour! Have a great rest of the evening watching your pick! JWC PC, FL

Posted By Jeannie Weller Cooper : December 1, 2012 1:25 am

Hi, Moria, Just wanted to thank you for this movie. Your expert support of this film should lead the way for even more programming variety on TCM. We thought you did a great job on air, especially with the title pronunciation. I’ve never been on this page before, but your sincerity won us over. I hope you get to go back to Atlanta some time- let us know and maybe we can set you up with a tour! Have a great rest of the evening watching your pick! JWC PC, FL

Posted By mason boyd : December 1, 2012 2:11 am

Thank you so much for introducing the wonderful Jean Gabin film which I had never seem. He and the film are both treasures. I hope you come back with more of your favorites. Thoroughly enjoyed your insights and your infectious love of film.
All the best, Mason

Posted By mason boyd : December 1, 2012 2:11 am

Thank you so much for introducing the wonderful Jean Gabin film which I had never seem. He and the film are both treasures. I hope you come back with more of your favorites. Thoroughly enjoyed your insights and your infectious love of film.
All the best, Mason

Posted By John Saunders : December 1, 2012 2:43 am

Hey! Loved the comments on TCM before Five Million Years to Earth. The movie creates a mystery and escalates as it goes. Watching it now. The actors were great with the subject.
There are some other movies that I would love TCM to run.
Monolith Monsters and Crack in the World. Interesting movies that were silly theory concepts but actors and music was great.

Posted By John Saunders : December 1, 2012 2:43 am

Hey! Loved the comments on TCM before Five Million Years to Earth. The movie creates a mystery and escalates as it goes. Watching it now. The actors were great with the subject.
There are some other movies that I would love TCM to run.
Monolith Monsters and Crack in the World. Interesting movies that were silly theory concepts but actors and music was great.

Posted By Jacqueline T Lynch : December 1, 2012 9:53 am

Moira, your work on camera was great. So wonderful to see your TCM debut! You’re a natural, and very articulate. Thanks for writing this piece about your experience and sharing the big event with us.

Posted By Jacqueline T Lynch : December 1, 2012 9:53 am

Moira, your work on camera was great. So wonderful to see your TCM debut! You’re a natural, and very articulate. Thanks for writing this piece about your experience and sharing the big event with us.

Posted By Patricia Nolan-Hall (Caftan Woman) : December 1, 2012 10:04 am

Sadly, yours was the only segment that didn’t air on TCM Canada. I imagine it was some sort of rights issue, but how odd for a Jean Gabin film not to run in an officially bilingual country. Thank you for letting us share the moment through your eyes.

Posted By Patricia Nolan-Hall (Caftan Woman) : December 1, 2012 10:04 am

Sadly, yours was the only segment that didn’t air on TCM Canada. I imagine it was some sort of rights issue, but how odd for a Jean Gabin film not to run in an officially bilingual country. Thank you for letting us share the moment through your eyes.

Posted By david : December 1, 2012 12:29 pm

hello you was great and the film superb , your insight to his less dialogue i could see. and a french film or gangster film it was a great pic.

Posted By david : December 1, 2012 12:29 pm

hello you was great and the film superb , your insight to his less dialogue i could see. and a french film or gangster film it was a great pic.

Posted By Jack Stephenson : December 1, 2012 1:21 pm

M-I-W

Thank you for selecting and introducing “Touchez Pas Au Grisbi.” Like your co-host, Mr. Osborne, I was unaware of this film. Hope you are invited for another movie introduction. This is a great film.

It seemed to be filmed in glorious grey and white.

JS

Posted By Jack Stephenson : December 1, 2012 1:21 pm

M-I-W

Thank you for selecting and introducing “Touchez Pas Au Grisbi.” Like your co-host, Mr. Osborne, I was unaware of this film. Hope you are invited for another movie introduction. This is a great film.

It seemed to be filmed in glorious grey and white.

JS

Posted By Jenni : December 1, 2012 5:51 pm

I started your film choice, but had to pause it due to an event I have to attend. Planning on getting back into it later tonight. I did make a point of watching your interview with Mr. O. As I posted on RHS’s site, I think this was a superb idea of TCM’s to let some of the Movie Morlocks be the guest programmers. I hope they do this again! I lived in SC for 5 years, and there is still a touch of chivalry there-doors being held open for the ladies, etc. It is nice that good manners still exist! :)

Posted By Jenni : December 1, 2012 5:51 pm

I started your film choice, but had to pause it due to an event I have to attend. Planning on getting back into it later tonight. I did make a point of watching your interview with Mr. O. As I posted on RHS’s site, I think this was a superb idea of TCM’s to let some of the Movie Morlocks be the guest programmers. I hope they do this again! I lived in SC for 5 years, and there is still a touch of chivalry there-doors being held open for the ladies, etc. It is nice that good manners still exist! :)

Posted By Jett : December 2, 2012 4:31 am

I have to say I only caught the last half of the movie you picked out but I was absolutely fascinated by it. It was a take on gangster life that maybe only the French could come up with but the acting performances were really something and Jean Gabin – whom I don’t think I ever saw before – was really great in this movie. I’ve only really seen more modern French films. You were talking about comparing Gabin to Bogart (my fav) and some other actors but he actually reminded me of George Raft with maybe a bit more kewlness and less melodrama. Anyway, glad you had a good time on the trip and thanks for this awesome film pick which I hope to add to my collection at some point.

Posted By Jett : December 2, 2012 4:31 am

I have to say I only caught the last half of the movie you picked out but I was absolutely fascinated by it. It was a take on gangster life that maybe only the French could come up with but the acting performances were really something and Jean Gabin – whom I don’t think I ever saw before – was really great in this movie. I’ve only really seen more modern French films. You were talking about comparing Gabin to Bogart (my fav) and some other actors but he actually reminded me of George Raft with maybe a bit more kewlness and less melodrama. Anyway, glad you had a good time on the trip and thanks for this awesome film pick which I hope to add to my collection at some point.

Posted By Tom Eitnier : December 2, 2012 11:10 am

Moira, Merci and Thanks that you were able to bring the film Touchez Pas au Grisbi aka “Don’t Touch The Loot” back to TCM (I taped it last year the FIRST TIME it was ever shown on the channel)- I know the film from my days of living in Germany back in the 1980′s and I’m really surprised that Robert Osborne didn’t? know this film……it was the “comeback” for Jean Gabin and it made him a legend (which he already was) but it made for solid work all the way until his death. (I’m a big Jean Gabin fan – La Grande Illusion (in the upper 5 titles of the Greatest films ever made) La Bête Humaine, Leur dernière nuit, Des gens sans importance, Voici le temps des assassins and Le désordre et la nuit (with the legendary Austrian film goddess Nadja Tiller) are just some of my favorite Gabin films, they are all highly worth watching.

But back to Touchez Pas au Grisbi……..the movie is simply amazing, shot so clean and so French, the late night meals, the fancy clubs and Goose pâte on toast bread and white wine (I eat this every time that scene comes up, so it’s a ritual) seems to me that it’s easy to see that Max, Henri and Pierrot are all old friends (I have this romantic notion that all three were Resistance fighters in the FFI during the war) this all is pretty apparent when the Sten and Thompson sub machine guns come into view and the guys really mean business, also another great French legend was made in this movie as well (and I’m not talking about Jeanne Moreau though she was meant for greatness and became a legend in her own write) no I’m talking about a car of all things, that black Citroën 11CV that the three permanently borrowed from FiFi, it was this movie where the 11CV would get it’s beloved nickname as the “Gangster Citroën” and the car’s reputation of being fast and reliable helped many a Resistance fighter out of a tough spot with the Occupying Germans and was a popular car with criminals thoughtout France in the late 1940′s into the early 1960′s.
Also have to mention the soundtrack from Jean Wiener with “Max’s Theme” that keeps on popping up during the entire film, like I heard you say it’s the quietiest Gangster film ever made, certainly the scene is calm, but there’s lot’s of dirty water running under the bridge thanks to Lino Ventura and Vittorio Sanipoli

It’s so good to have seen this movie again, each time I see it it’s a thrill, I mean who else but Jean Gabin could successfully pull off a Polka dotted tie with a Striped suit?

Now that’s just class, something that only the French could pull off in a gangster film……. :) au revoir and goodbye!
Tom in Winter Haven, Florida

Posted By Tom Eitnier : December 2, 2012 11:10 am

Moira, Merci and Thanks that you were able to bring the film Touchez Pas au Grisbi aka “Don’t Touch The Loot” back to TCM (I taped it last year the FIRST TIME it was ever shown on the channel)- I know the film from my days of living in Germany back in the 1980′s and I’m really surprised that Robert Osborne didn’t? know this film……it was the “comeback” for Jean Gabin and it made him a legend (which he already was) but it made for solid work all the way until his death. (I’m a big Jean Gabin fan – La Grande Illusion (in the upper 5 titles of the Greatest films ever made) La Bête Humaine, Leur dernière nuit, Des gens sans importance, Voici le temps des assassins and Le désordre et la nuit (with the legendary Austrian film goddess Nadja Tiller) are just some of my favorite Gabin films, they are all highly worth watching.

But back to Touchez Pas au Grisbi……..the movie is simply amazing, shot so clean and so French, the late night meals, the fancy clubs and Goose pâte on toast bread and white wine (I eat this every time that scene comes up, so it’s a ritual) seems to me that it’s easy to see that Max, Henri and Pierrot are all old friends (I have this romantic notion that all three were Resistance fighters in the FFI during the war) this all is pretty apparent when the Sten and Thompson sub machine guns come into view and the guys really mean business, also another great French legend was made in this movie as well (and I’m not talking about Jeanne Moreau though she was meant for greatness and became a legend in her own write) no I’m talking about a car of all things, that black Citroën 11CV that the three permanently borrowed from FiFi, it was this movie where the 11CV would get it’s beloved nickname as the “Gangster Citroën” and the car’s reputation of being fast and reliable helped many a Resistance fighter out of a tough spot with the Occupying Germans and was a popular car with criminals thoughtout France in the late 1940′s into the early 1960′s.
Also have to mention the soundtrack from Jean Wiener with “Max’s Theme” that keeps on popping up during the entire film, like I heard you say it’s the quietiest Gangster film ever made, certainly the scene is calm, but there’s lot’s of dirty water running under the bridge thanks to Lino Ventura and Vittorio Sanipoli

It’s so good to have seen this movie again, each time I see it it’s a thrill, I mean who else but Jean Gabin could successfully pull off a Polka dotted tie with a Striped suit?

Now that’s just class, something that only the French could pull off in a gangster film……. :) au revoir and goodbye!
Tom in Winter Haven, Florida

Posted By moirafinnie : December 2, 2012 12:06 pm

It is great to see people who relished having a chance to see Jean Gabin again or for the first time in this very French take on a gangster film.

I particularly liked Jack’s remark above about Touchez Pas Au Grisbi being filmed in “glorious grey and white”, which seems to have been appropriate for the fluorescently-lit interiors in the urban settings in this night-drenched movie.

Actually, director Jacques Becker’s raffish valentines to the underworld on film (such as Casque d’Or and Le Trou) are each unique visual feasts in their different ways. (I had seen Casque d’Or as a child and was surprised that it turned out to be a black and white film–I could have sworn that Simone Signoret was bathed in a golden Renoiresque light).

Patricia,
I’m sorry that Canadian TCM viewers were not able to see this movie, though TCM does include Gabin films in their schedule over time (including a splendid 24 hours of his rarely seen movies in 2011 during Summer Under the Stars)–and I hope more continue to show up on the network.

I agree with the comment that comparing Gabin to Bogart (or Tracy, as is also common) is not really adequate. Nationality aside, I believe that Gabin did influence a generation of American actors who learned from the naturalism he brought to the screen in a time when more stylized histrionics were giving way to realism. His capacity to convey concentrated thought and emotion with a minimal amount of theatricality, expressing a lifetime of earthy experience, humor, and fatalism makes him fascinating and unique.

Tom–Thanks for your insightful take on this movie. You’re right, the bold style of Gabin’s suits required a man with a certain élan to carry off that sartorial edginess of polka dots and pin stripes!

Thanks to those who recommended a return to Atlanta sometime. It was a very quick visit but I was impressed with what I saw of the city, and especially with all the people I encountered at TCM (who made this stammering neophyte feel at ease and look better–thanks to their patience and great editing).

Posted By moirafinnie : December 2, 2012 12:06 pm

It is great to see people who relished having a chance to see Jean Gabin again or for the first time in this very French take on a gangster film.

I particularly liked Jack’s remark above about Touchez Pas Au Grisbi being filmed in “glorious grey and white”, which seems to have been appropriate for the fluorescently-lit interiors in the urban settings in this night-drenched movie.

Actually, director Jacques Becker’s raffish valentines to the underworld on film (such as Casque d’Or and Le Trou) are each unique visual feasts in their different ways. (I had seen Casque d’Or as a child and was surprised that it turned out to be a black and white film–I could have sworn that Simone Signoret was bathed in a golden Renoiresque light).

Patricia,
I’m sorry that Canadian TCM viewers were not able to see this movie, though TCM does include Gabin films in their schedule over time (including a splendid 24 hours of his rarely seen movies in 2011 during Summer Under the Stars)–and I hope more continue to show up on the network.

I agree with the comment that comparing Gabin to Bogart (or Tracy, as is also common) is not really adequate. Nationality aside, I believe that Gabin did influence a generation of American actors who learned from the naturalism he brought to the screen in a time when more stylized histrionics were giving way to realism. His capacity to convey concentrated thought and emotion with a minimal amount of theatricality, expressing a lifetime of earthy experience, humor, and fatalism makes him fascinating and unique.

Tom–Thanks for your insightful take on this movie. You’re right, the bold style of Gabin’s suits required a man with a certain élan to carry off that sartorial edginess of polka dots and pin stripes!

Thanks to those who recommended a return to Atlanta sometime. It was a very quick visit but I was impressed with what I saw of the city, and especially with all the people I encountered at TCM (who made this stammering neophyte feel at ease and look better–thanks to their patience and great editing).

Posted By Jenni : December 2, 2012 1:22 pm

My husband is not as much of a movie buff as I am, and he patiently listened to Touchez last night while I watched it(he was on his computer.) He said that the harmonica riff that kept being aired reminded him of the theme music from The Godfather-the gangster film my husband does love to watch over and over… Anyhow, it got me to wondering if that song did make an influence on Coppola, who I am assuming probably saw Touchez Pas Au Grisbi in his formative years before venturing out as a director?

Posted By Jenni : December 2, 2012 1:22 pm

My husband is not as much of a movie buff as I am, and he patiently listened to Touchez last night while I watched it(he was on his computer.) He said that the harmonica riff that kept being aired reminded him of the theme music from The Godfather-the gangster film my husband does love to watch over and over… Anyhow, it got me to wondering if that song did make an influence on Coppola, who I am assuming probably saw Touchez Pas Au Grisbi in his formative years before venturing out as a director?

Posted By Walt : December 2, 2012 1:51 pm

Thanks for the reporting. One correction, “Gone with the Wind” premiered at the Loew’s Grand Theatre, not the Fox. The theater burned down in 1978; the site is currently occupied by the Georgia-Pacific Tower.

Posted By Walt : December 2, 2012 1:51 pm

Thanks for the reporting. One correction, “Gone with the Wind” premiered at the Loew’s Grand Theatre, not the Fox. The theater burned down in 1978; the site is currently occupied by the Georgia-Pacific Tower.

Posted By moirafinnie : December 2, 2012 2:58 pm

Jenni-I am not sure if the influence of the harmonica riff in Grisbi influenced composer Carmine Coppola for his son’s film, The Godfather directly, though it is certainly possible, since the theme by Jean Albert Wiener was a big hit in France and beyond in the ’50s. You can hear an excellent rendition of this tune here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOgnkX8laqQ&w=500&h=281

Walt-Thanks for the correction about the spot where GWTW premiered in Atlanta. I really appreciate your taking the time to share this here.

Posted By moirafinnie : December 2, 2012 2:58 pm

Jenni-I am not sure if the influence of the harmonica riff in Grisbi influenced composer Carmine Coppola for his son’s film, The Godfather directly, though it is certainly possible, since the theme by Jean Albert Wiener was a big hit in France and beyond in the ’50s. You can hear an excellent rendition of this tune here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOgnkX8laqQ&w=500&h=281

Walt-Thanks for the correction about the spot where GWTW premiered in Atlanta. I really appreciate your taking the time to share this here.

Posted By swac44 : December 3, 2012 10:54 am

Living in Nova Scotia, I was also denied the pleasure of seeing both this film and Ms. Moira’s introduction, which is a shame as I’m familiar with her own blog as well as her Morlocks appearances. Luckily I already have the film via the Criterion Collection, and think of it as a companion piece to Melville’s Bob le Flambeur, another fine film about an aging gangster hoping for one last shot at a big score. Touchez Pas au Grisbi gets bonus points though for its handful of fleeting shots of classic Vespa scooters zipping through the street scenes, as I am a Vespa owner who dreams of someday owning one of those vintage beauties. At least I can see them in wonderful European films (and yes, Roman Holiday, although I’d love it if TCM ran the 1960s film Jessica with Angie Dickenson driving around rural Italy on a Vespa. With luck it’ll turn up one of these days).

Posted By swac44 : December 3, 2012 10:54 am

Living in Nova Scotia, I was also denied the pleasure of seeing both this film and Ms. Moira’s introduction, which is a shame as I’m familiar with her own blog as well as her Morlocks appearances. Luckily I already have the film via the Criterion Collection, and think of it as a companion piece to Melville’s Bob le Flambeur, another fine film about an aging gangster hoping for one last shot at a big score. Touchez Pas au Grisbi gets bonus points though for its handful of fleeting shots of classic Vespa scooters zipping through the street scenes, as I am a Vespa owner who dreams of someday owning one of those vintage beauties. At least I can see them in wonderful European films (and yes, Roman Holiday, although I’d love it if TCM ran the 1960s film Jessica with Angie Dickenson driving around rural Italy on a Vespa. With luck it’ll turn up one of these days).

Posted By swac44 : December 3, 2012 10:59 am

As for the film itself not airing in Canada, it’s the fact that we’re bilingual that makes the airing of French films on TCM complicated, as many classic titles have different rights holders north of the border, often for distribution in Quebec only. But I don’t think they can have rights for just one province, and there is also the fact that we have a number of French TV channels that broadcast across the country via cable that ties everything up. I seem to recall setting my DVR to nab a Julien Duvivier film I hadn’t seen, only to find some public domain title airing in its place. Oh well, c’est la vie.

Posted By swac44 : December 3, 2012 10:59 am

As for the film itself not airing in Canada, it’s the fact that we’re bilingual that makes the airing of French films on TCM complicated, as many classic titles have different rights holders north of the border, often for distribution in Quebec only. But I don’t think they can have rights for just one province, and there is also the fact that we have a number of French TV channels that broadcast across the country via cable that ties everything up. I seem to recall setting my DVR to nab a Julien Duvivier film I hadn’t seen, only to find some public domain title airing in its place. Oh well, c’est la vie.

Posted By Kingrat : December 3, 2012 3:08 pm

Moira, thanks for letting us into the world of TCM. You bring it all vividly to life. I really enjoyed seeing you and hearing you talk about TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI. An early Christmas present!

Posted By Kingrat : December 3, 2012 3:08 pm

Moira, thanks for letting us into the world of TCM. You bring it all vividly to life. I really enjoyed seeing you and hearing you talk about TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI. An early Christmas present!

Posted By klondike : December 3, 2012 5:30 pm

After reading this blog, M, I realize that half of everything I emailed you about this topic should be squared, & then cubed for emphasis.
I think even Mssr. Gabin would agree, from a moviegoer’s POV, that sharing those thoughts about your visit w/ RO has, in effect, brought the rest of us there along with you, in the way that perhaps matters the most.

Posted By klondike : December 3, 2012 5:30 pm

After reading this blog, M, I realize that half of everything I emailed you about this topic should be squared, & then cubed for emphasis.
I think even Mssr. Gabin would agree, from a moviegoer’s POV, that sharing those thoughts about your visit w/ RO has, in effect, brought the rest of us there along with you, in the way that perhaps matters the most.

Posted By bbp : December 6, 2012 5:05 am

Thanks, Moira, for a great selection. Now I must see more Gabin films. This was a revelation. Your introduction was excellent and you convinced me that TCM is better at finding programmers than anywhere else. What an original selection and what taste! Bravo!

Posted By bbp : December 6, 2012 5:05 am

Thanks, Moira, for a great selection. Now I must see more Gabin films. This was a revelation. Your introduction was excellent and you convinced me that TCM is better at finding programmers than anywhere else. What an original selection and what taste! Bravo!

Posted By JackFavell : December 6, 2012 10:45 am

Moira, all I can say is, you were superb on TCM. I very much enjoy hearing about all the ins and outs of working with Mr. Osborne and the rest of the TCM staff backstage. It sounds like a dream come true! I dearly hope that you can return for another segment. Great to see you blogging again!

Posted By JackFavell : December 6, 2012 10:45 am

Moira, all I can say is, you were superb on TCM. I very much enjoy hearing about all the ins and outs of working with Mr. Osborne and the rest of the TCM staff backstage. It sounds like a dream come true! I dearly hope that you can return for another segment. Great to see you blogging again!

Posted By Ellis Stewart : December 11, 2013 4:16 am

Since you are a kind person, and I am neither an intellectual, nor am I at all good with technology, would you be so kind as to tell the program directors how very much I enjoyed my day today, Dec.10th 2013. I’ve been even more shut in than usual, with my local temps. ranging from-15 to+15. I’ve spent it with TCM which is almost always on anyway. But the programming today was pure delight for me.I’m tired now and always spend time writing before I sleep…but not untill “3:10 to Yuma” is over, (last 2 films were both particular favorites of mine) neither are shown that often anymore. T.Y. and Goodnite……a very loyal TCM fan(because I Love all things FILM!!!

Posted By Moira Finnie : December 11, 2013 5:31 pm

Thanks, Ellis. I’m sure that the staff at TCM appreciates your comments and loyalty to their efforts. Personally, I always enjoy seeing Delmer Daves films such as the great Western, “3:10 to Yuma” (1957) on the schedule–he was rather under-rated, in my opinion.
Cheers,
moira

Posted By Mike : February 17, 2014 6:16 am

Moira thanks a thousand times for “Touchez pas au grizby” and your enthusisiam for it. I fortunately recorded it and have watched it and the pre and post discussions many times. I enjoy it more every time I see it….and how rare is that!
I’m very happy that I have the chance to tell you this. Very happy!
Mike McDonald
Palmdale, Calif.

Posted By Moira Finnie : February 17, 2014 2:12 pm

Hi Mike–Thanks for the feedback. I find that viewing Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (1954) more than once has revealed nuances too, but then, it was an exceptional moment when Jacques Becker and Jean Gabin caught something real as well as stylized in that film, expanding on the genre film and influencing films to this day.
Cheers,
Moira

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