Grace Conway on Films
H OLLYWOODIANA — sweet and
sour—continues to pile up in the booksellers' lists. The place is fair game to the satirist and an inexhaustible well to all the others.
But now a woman anthropologist has spent a year there— has put the place under the microscope and .has found some very peculiar things moving across the little glass slide. She has recorded them in a book which is being reviewed shortly by Alcuin. So while not wishing to Step on his toes, I would like to take a look at some of the slides and tell you what is on them.
Murder and Reatings-up: As I have been a voice crying in the wilderness under this heading for a long time I pick this one out first. The anthropologist says:
" What seems definitely harmful is the continuous portrayal of violent, aggressive and criminal behaviour by aotors who register no emotion.
"Murder is committed by passive robots without the flicker of an eyebrow or a change of inflection of the voice. Feeling of any kind, whether anxiety, guilt, exhilaration, is lacking. Most of today's stars, particularly the younger ones, carefully cultivate a passivity of face and voice, giving the impression of complete callousness."
And here is the operative sentence: "The constant portrayal by admired stars of people without feelings, unconcernedly murdering their fellow human beings, leaves an impression of cold disregard for human life which remains even if the murderer is punished."
That, I feel, cannot be said often enough—and should he framed and hung in all the offices of the movie moguls.
ART: The artist in Hollywood is " still considered peculiar, abnormal, sometimes feminine, and unimportant unless he achieves a commercial success comparable to that of a business man."
TOO MANY COOKS
" abounds with
HOLLYWOOD" clever stories, with witty re marks, with groans about frustrations and with tirades against the Production Code ...But there is almost no thoughtful analysis, by writer, producer, or front office, of this situation in which the large majority of writers write about life, not as they know it, but as the producer or front office understands it, in dull imitation of the last box-office success and to suit the whims or personality of the star."
How true this is—and how many intelligent films that have dared to strike out on their own have had an un-ending list of camp-followers----in which the prescription is repeated ad nauseam!
This is a severe and, largely, an unsympathetic treatise of Hollywood —hut if even a few drops of corrosive acid eat their way into the " front offices," it should do something to remedy the more obvious sins of assembly-line productions.
nF late there has been much groaning in the cinema world about the falling off in attendances— but, as the author reminds us that this may very well be because the audiences now are better educated and more sophisticated than they were—and that high-school girls and boys have been heard to mutter the devastating word "corny" as they have come out after seeing some of the " B minor" pictures.
Not much sympathy is shown for Hollywood censorship — including the " kowtowing " to the Legion of Decency. But with such a set-up, one wonders where the movies would stop if there was not a threatening body of public opinion in the background.
We have to rerhember that this censorship is self-imposed—and I remember Daryl Zanuck, of 20th Century Fox—a man who has done so much to make the industry act its age—telling me how important he considers it to be.
Finally, I am one hundred per cent. with the author in what she says about the exploitation of sex on those revolting, inartistic, and thoroughly crude cinema 'posters— and the clauses in the female stars' contracts—that insist on what they so disarmingly call "cheesecake " photographs—i.e. cleavage, legs, torso, to be sent out with the publicity stories.
CROSSWINDS (PLAZA: Certificate U) Director : Lewis R. Foster
The main excuse for making this must have been to photograph the really lovely under-water swimming in colour. All the rest is " coincidental."
For it is a rambling story about the New Guineas and the sea round about in which John Payne, as the owner of a schooner, gets involved with (a) a youthful swallower of bright red gin-slings (Rhonda Fleming), (b) Forrest Tucker as an unscrupulous trader in pearls, and (c) an English remittance man (very beefy looking Alan Mowbray) and his Cockney accomplice, who are out for anything they can get.
Heavy casualty list leaves only— no, you guess, for the final clinch.
VALLEY OF EAGLES (LEICESTERSQUARE THF.ATRE: Certificate U) Director : Terence Young Q UCH an exciting adventure in " camera work in which an avalanche is photographed in close-up and which brings to the screen for the first time a wolf massacre by a flock of terrifying eagles, scarcely deserves the stilted story and dialogue that accompany it.
But the grandeur of the northern Norwegian winter landscape, the panic of a reindeer herd, the general "feel" of the frozen wastes of Lapland, the dog teams — and those screaming eagles—more than make up for any histrionic deficiencies.
When the story opens—in Stockholm—there is all the promise of a great spy thriller with John McCallum as a nuclear fission scientist demonstrating a wonderful new invention to a group of professors. He loses both the invention and his wife to his assistant—who make for the Finnish border.
But this only turns out to be the excuse for the chase Mr. Nat flronsten, the producer, describes the film as a semi-documentary. If he had made it a complete documentary it would have been even better. Jack Warner as a police officer had little to do and like the rest of the cast (except for the Lapp players recruited on the spot—and especially the wild hunters are exceptional) looks as though he didn't quite belong.