Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on November 18, 2010
The cast of PASSAGE TO MARSEILLES (1943)
PASSAGE TO MARSEILLES isn’t the type of film that normally sparks my interest. I have an aversion to propaganda films and I’m not particularly fond of prison break movies but I love Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre so I’ll watch them in anything. I’ve seen all the films that the two actors made together but for one reason or another I’ve managed to overlook PASSAGE TO MARSEILLES until now. Maybe it was all the lackluster reviews I read? I finally caught up with the movie last weekend and I’m happy to report that PASSAGE TO MARSEILLES surpassed my low expectations. It wasn’t the overlooked masterpiece I wanted it to be but I think it’s well worth recommending.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on August 24, 2010
My hopscotching education in Raoul Walsh skitters on this week, with five gut-punching thrillers. I’m jumping through his career haphazardly, watching whatever I can easily acquire. Last week led me from 1930 to 1955, but today I’m mired in the 1940s, thanks to the Warner Bros.-TCM box set, Errol Flynn Adventures (feel free to ignore this post if you think the TCM branding compromises my objectivity). Along with Lewis Milestone’s Edge of Darkness, it includes the Walsh-directed Desperate Journey (1942), Northern Pursuit (1943), Uncertain Glory (1944) and Objective, Burma! (1945). I supplemented these with the Warner Archive disc of Manpower (1941).
The images at the top present two communities of wisecracking men, and Marlene Dietrich, sending off one of their own. They are from Manpower and Desperate Journey, two mournful studies of male camaraderie. Manpower takes the love triangle (and Edward G. Robinson) from Howard Hawks’ Tiger Shark (1932) and moves it from a fishing village to the road crew for a power company. It’s there that Robinson and buddy George Raft tell tall tales about their amorous accomplishments with fellow boozers Alan Hale, Ward Bond and a group of other grinning mugs. Walsh packs the frame with group shots, of leering, laughing and impulsive men. They gather in semi-circles to trade quips, and end the film in the same group formations saying their final goodbyes.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on August 17, 2010
Raoul Walsh was nothing if not adaptable. As a teenager, he tagged along with his uncle on a trading mission to Cuba and Mexico. The schooner was damaged in a storm and had a long layover in Vera Cruz. It was there, Walsh claimed, that he learned roping from a man he only knew as Ramirez, whom he paid in Cuban rum. He stayed ashore when the ship returned to NYC, and was soon hired as a cowboy to drive cattle into Texas. His accidentally gained expertise landed him a horse riding gig on Broadway (in a version of THE CLANSMAN, later filmed by D.W. Griffith as THE BIRTH OF A NATION, in which Walsh played John Wilkes Booth), and later got him hired at the Pathe Film Studios, who also needed a horseman. Once he was primed to break out as a leading man in IN OLD ARIZONA, a jackrabbit flew through his windshield, and the glass shards gouged out an eye (he was replaced by Warner Baxter). Hence his eyepatch, and his practically-minded move behind the camera.
Dave Kehr commented on on his blog, relating to his NY Times piece on the Errol Flynn Adventures box set that TCM released with Warner Bros., that “for me Walsh belongs with Ford and Hawks as one of the Big Three American directors, but there has been surprisingly little of substance written about him in English or in French.” I felt I should be as practical as the director and take this as a sign to dig further into Walsh’s work. There was further discussion of how little he’s esteemed in the under-30 crowd, of which I’m a member for the next few months. And it’s undeniably true. I’ve never had a conversation about Walsh with anyone of my own age group. So until I hit that magic number in February, I’ll be assessing and re-assessing his work, to find my way through Walsh’s massive filmography and hopefully spark further discussion about this major figure in film history.
Kehr’s erudite readers also took up the challenge, especially Blake Lucas, who wrote an essay-long breakdown of Walsh’s career. Spring 2011 promises a flood of material, with an essay on Walsh in Kehr’s eagerly awaited collection When Movies Mattered, and a forthcoming biography, Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood’s Legendary Director (University Press of Kentucky), by Marilyn Ann Moss. I’m adding my rather undigested thoughts here, and will contribute more in the coming weeks the more I see. I watched The Big Trail (1930), The Strawberry Blonde (1941), Battle Cry (1955), and The Tall Men (1955) in quick succession with comment below, and my bits on Me and My Gal (1932) and Colorado Territory (1949) are here and here.
Posted by medusamorlock on June 9, 2010
I was gratified to see the 1950 Warner Bros. title The Hasty Heart scheduled tonight at 8pm on TCM as one of Bob Osborne’s personal favorites. I’m not sure why Bob is so crazy about it, but I’ll bet we share some of the same respect and affection for the movie. Based on a Broadway play by dramatist John Patrick, The Hasty Heart tells the tale of an irascible Scottish soldier in WWII whose stay at a British military hospital in 1944 Burma brings him face-to-face with the consequences of his prickly personality and ultimately his own mortality. READ MORE
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on May 25, 2010
“This isn’t going to be some goddamned two-bit propaganda flick.”
-John Ford to Vice Admiral John Bulkeley, USN
John Ford put off making They Were Expendable for over two years. He was busy with his Field Photo Unit making war documentaries, and he wasn’t eager to to go off active service. He was completing post-production on The Battle of Midway (1942), and dealing with the negative reaction to December 7th (directed by Gregg Toland), a Pearl Harbor re-enactment whose depiction of a less than prepared Navy led to its shelving, and to the future censoring of the Photo Unit’s output. Joseph McBride, in his magisterial biography Searching for John Ford, writes that “the navy reacted to the long version of December 7th ‘by confiscating the print and ordering Ford to lock up the negative.”
Posted by moirafinnie on February 17, 2010
Last year, in part because of the celebrations surrounding the films of 1939, I had a chance to introduce Gone With the Wind to younger viewers in my family who had never seen the film. It’s not a favorite movie of mine, so I could understand their appalled reactions to the innate racism of the story that implied that a slave’s first loyalty was to the families that owned them, (even after the Civil War and emancipation). Seen at a glance in GWTW, maybe the antebellum South’s biggest problems may only seem to be uppity white trash like Victor Jory’s oily Jonas Wilkerson, or the need for rebellious girls like Scarlett to maintain their hypocritical poses in a rigid social structure, while secretly acting on their own half-understood impulses, and the upheaval caused by those damn Yankees. But look a bit closer and you can see the story of changing attitudes and a brave woman struggling to make her mark in a world that both rejected and accepted her. I don’t mean Scarlett Katie O’Hara, either.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on February 16, 2010
The Movie Morlocks Oscar blog-a-thon continues today and goes through the end of the week. Suzi kicked things off yesterday with a look at actors who were nominated for historical roles. Today I look at the Best Picture race from 1944′s Academy Award ceremony (for the films of ’43).
The big news at this year’s Oscar ceremony is the expansion of the Best Picture category from five nominees to ten. After the near shutout of THE DARK KNIGHT from major awards in 2009, it’s an effort by the Academy to shoehorn some money makers onto the show to goose ratings. And while the world-devouring AVATAR would have been nominated in a field of one, hits like DISTRICT 9 and THE BLIND SIDE certainly benefited from the change. This is no innovation however – there were ten best picture nominees from 1937 – 1944 (it varied between 3 – 12 before then). They cut it down to five nominations in ’45 for the first national radio telecast on ABC, perhaps to trim a few seconds off the program. Over the next two weeks, I’ll watch all the nominees (except for the out-of-print HUMAN COMEDY), from immortal classics to forgotten curios. It’s an attempt to take the pulse of mainstream film-making of the era with fresh eyes. The list of nominees is after the break.
Posted by moirafinnie on February 10, 2010
Captured! (1933-Roy Del Ruth) is a Warner Brothers film that was advertised in overheated ad copy of the time as a “cavalcade of human passions in the maelstrom of mankind’s great adventure”. This little known pre-code movie never reaches those hyperbolic proportions, and has largely been forgotten, but, despite its strengths and flaws, I suspect that the situations depicted among men isolated in the time of war may have had an unacknowledged impact on later depictions of POW camps on film, influencing everything from La Grande Illusion (1937-Jean Renoir) to The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943-Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger) to Stalag 17 (1953-Billy wilder) and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957-David Lean). The movie is an uneven look at the erosion of accepted values in the 20th century, and it is also an interesting glimpse of the changing public attitudes toward war, influenced by a rise of pacifism following World War I.
Posted by Susan Doll on December 7, 2009
When I was a little girl, my father taught me about Pearl Harbor Day. He was a World War II army veteran and had served in the Philippines and New Guinea. Like many vets of that generation, he did not talk much about his experiences, which I am sure were as horrific as they are in any war. However, on occasion, he would bring up something related to the war: For example, he loathed and despised General Douglas MacArthur for his “I have returned” moment when the general was recorded by dozens of news cameras marching onto the beach of Leyte Island in the Philippines. My Dad said that thousands of soldiers had been there hours before him and had cleared the way, making it safe for MacArthur to have his photo opportunity. The good general did not have the graciousness to acknowledge those soldiers, and my father thought MacArthur an ungrateful glory hound. He said that weeks later when his base showed the famous newsreel of MacArthur splashing through the water as he landed on Leyte Island, the audience of soldiers booed and threw things at the screen. I doubt if you will read about that one in the history books!!
MacArthur aside, my father was truly a patriotic man, though he never wore it on his sleeve or used patriotism to justify a political stance like we see so often today. After he explained Pearl Harbor to me, December 7th was generally acknowledged in our household with a “Hey, Bud, remember what happened on this day?” Currently, in the wake of 9/11, Pearl Harbor Day tends to be remembered only in comparison to the destruction of the Twin Towers eight years ago, and perhaps that is natural. After all, almost 70 years have passed since December 7, 1941, and contemporary hostilities in the Middle East have imprinted our culture with new fears and concerns. Still, I was happy to see that TCM is remembering Pearl Harbor today with Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series, beginning this morning and continuing throughout the afternoon. It reminded me of the tremendous role that the Hollywood industry played in the war effort. Hollywood was not only a ready source of information through newsreels and documentaries but a source of inspiration through narrative movies, bond drives, and USO tours. Hollywood’s massive participation in the war effort helped promote a sense of social and political unity in this country that I have yet to experience in my lifetime, and the way things are going, I don’t think I will. For this reason, I have a soft spot for this era of movie history.
Posted by moirafinnie on October 28, 2009
Careening across the countryside in a gypsy wagon, a lovesick hunchback cries out piteously for release from his twisted form. A hardworking Jewish-American father tries to appease his young son on his birthday, seeking to interest him in a baseball bat rather than an expensive violin.
A tired general on the Western frontier finds a few moments of solace in soldiers’ singing. An Italian soldier, willing to do anything to get back to his wife and baby, is stranded in the war-torn desert. A stoic Indian chief joins a wild west show, finding a way to keep his dignity despite his reduced circumstances. A broken matador tells an up and comer some hard truths. A Mexican dictator regretfully but decisively goes to war. A Japanese editor tries to correct his American-educated son’s corrupt Western ways. And a half-monkey, half-man broods endlessly about his plight, especially since he’s stuck being an unpaid houseboy for his creator.
What do each of these diverse (and sometimes pretty outlandish) characters and at least 200 more have in common? Character actor and changeling J. Carrol Naish (1896-1973). I can’t possibly touch on the range of Naish‘s roles in this blog, but his remarkably productive career includes an enormous range of characters, far beyond the roles as heavily accented types he is often best remembered for today.
MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
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