Greed or Blindness ?
WHAT is it that makes film actors of repute suddenly take a dive and act in drivel ? Is it greed the fear of losing another ten thousand pounds, or of annoying the studio to which they are under contract; or is it just the blunting of the perception brought on by too constant living in the film atmosphere? It •is, I think, a ,mixture of both. And yet we have seen, time and time again, an actor's reputation soar sky-high after a dingsdong row with the studio over the part he (or she) has been asked to play. Bette Davis is, perhaps, the classic example. In the late thirties, when she was being typed by Warner's as just another blond juvenile lead, she was brave enough to weather litigation on the subject. The result we all know. With Garbo out of the way, she almost became the " grandc dame " of the cinema.
Talking to Trevor Howard one day-it was after the Press showing of The Third Man-I said to him: " Of course, you, have been lucky in the parts you have played."
" Lucky, nothing," he replied for something like that). " I never take a part unless I have the whole script to study beforehand. I simply won't appear in films I don't like! " The two latest " big names that have taken a dive are David Niven (stooge to Shirley Temple) and Orsen Welles, one of the intellectuals of film land, who has lent his talents to yet another of those period costume
history-cum-fiction extravaganzas that Hollywood does so badly.
Black Magic (LONDoN PavntioN) Director : Gregory Ratoff
I can scarcely believe that Orson Welles approved the script of this story of Cagliostro, the 18th century " magician " when be agreed to be starred in it. After all. he is a cosmopolite who should shudder when Marie Antoinette says to the Dauphin : " Louis, you heard." With Louis answering : " It's beyond me, Marie. You tackle it." You may observe, however, if you see the film, that Mr. Welles has been careful to exclude such laughtermaking phrases from his own dialogue. Indeed, in this sorry hotch-potch, he can't quite conceal the fact that he is a very good film actor.
As for the casting, Nancy Guild, a mid-twentieth century Hollywood cutie if ever there was one, is a sorry choice for the calculating Lorenza (who, if you delve into this spot of 18th century high jinks you will find was as adept at hoodwinking the public as Cagliostro). She doubles the part of Marie Antoinette.
Margot Grahame brings the film nearer. to sanity with her astringent portrait of Madame du Barry and the research department has not been altogether idle for it shows us the Dauphin at his favourite pastime, dismantling clocks.
Now. just to show you this film is no pinchbeck affair, here are some production notes.
Through the cooperation of the Italian Government (the film was made in Italy), the Quirinale Palace was put at the disposal of the studio.
Priceless tapestries and antiques were allowed to remain as " props." The cameraman is Ubaldo Arato, of Open City fame and, since money was no object, 300 of Rome's most beautiful women were secured to appear in what the publicity sheet describes as " the lavish court scenes."
Moonrise (AcADErviy) Director : Frank Bm-zage Into the stark category of Hollywood offerings comes this study of a young man haunted by the knowledge that his father was hanged for murder. A macabre opening, showing three pairs of feet walking to the scaffold, then the noose being fixed. the switch operated, the hanging silhouetted and dissolving into the shadow of a noose playing over the cot of a child as he sleeps.
Second development is the cruelty of children. The boy is constantly taunted by his schoolfellows and by one in particular, who never lets a chance go by to clutch himself by the throat and make horrible choking noises in order to remind poor Danny (the murderer's son) of his father's fate.
Third development is a searing and horrible fight between these two, now grown men, which ends in Danny beconiing the second murderer in the family-going straight from the murder to make love to the girl in the case.
After this somewhat repellent sequence of events, the film moves into the normal world of everyday small town life with Mr. Borzage assembling interesting and on the whole lovable characters the sort of American background that is always welcome on the screen and which is here handled with imagination and skill.
Danny has one more lapse into brutality as he nearly kills a deaf mute. But from that point, he begins to take stock of himself, taking mental and physical refuge with an old coloured man-this part finely played by that great negro actor Rex Ingram.
Dane Clark as the introspective, brooding Danny is well cast and so is Gail Russell as the girl who persuades him to give himself up. This he does, after a manhunt with yelping dogs through and around a swam p.
This is recommended for all who have had a surfeit of over-sweet confectionery :end want to get a lick of salt. With it is a welcome reshowing of Louisiana Story.