The Tell-Tale Heart
Dassin has a dramatization, not a madman and an eye but an idiot and his oppressor. This is very touching, it anticipates Wyler’s The Heiress. It produces a cinematic expression of pity and revenge, and calibrates the watchful eye (as in Beckett’s Film) toward a Biblical injunction.
Joseph Schildkraut has the leading part.
“A career that verges on the grotesque,” thought Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema).
The Man in the Iron Mask, Conrad Veidt twice over, and at that a small masterpiece to rank with the greatest.
He is a German-American shlub brought up with his twin brother, a baron now the Nazi consul in New York and head of a greatly destructive sabotage ring.
Litvak’s Confessions of a Nazi Spy covers the same subject. The shlub sells stamps and rare books, the Nazis use his shop as a front, push comes to shove and he takes his late brother’s place to uncover the plot, which culminates in a freighter bound for the Panama Canal with high explosives.
The “lever of love” operates on a Dutch girl set free by this maneuver, and an old bayonet scar shows the relationship to Sekely’s Hollow Triumph.
As Crowther acknowledged in his New York Times review, an electrifying film.
The Affairs of Martha
Maid gets New York publishing contract, whose is she? Long Island, exclusive...
Dassin’s technique in the beautiful exposition is practically silent film at its most expressive, five minutes of perfection, several films in miniature, and bespeaks long study. “Anyone who can write could write a book, the thing to find out is whether she would write a book.”
“Have you noticed,” says Martha, “the birches look like ballet dancers in the morning mist.” When that bombshell has exploded, the film begins.
The source might be The Philadelphia Story (dir. George Cukor), “one of the servants has been at the sherry again” (also with Virginia Weidler). There is a certain bearing upon Lubitsch’s Cluny Brown and no mistake. The hushed fistfight in Martha’s room is monumentally elaborated in Get Smart, Again! (dir. Gary Nelson).
A fantastic joke from Hitchcock’s Rich and Strange takes longer to describe than to watch, a characteristic of that film. Question of romance delayed, a cigarette tossed away unlighted, a fellow walks into the scene and picks it up, “I got a whole mile o’ beach to patrol,” he says, and of course this is an odd echo of Rebecca...
Hal Erickson (Rovi), “from the MGM B-picture mills.” TV Guide, “very funny in spots and humorous throughout.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “fairly amusing... ingratiating”.
The poetic theme is a lover’s complaint, wedded to an Arctic anthropologist who’s “collected dementia præcox symptoms among the northern Eskimos, very interesting.”
Reunion in France
The mistress of an industrialist learns shortly after the fall of France that he is a Nazi.
This is only half the story, or about a third, but it serves to define the problem. There is a downed American pilot (RAF Eagle Squadron), and a Paris fashion house, and the Gestapo.
The New York Times thought John Wayne incredible for the flier, Irene’s gowns too rich, Joan Crawford out of place, and so forth. The piece was nonsense, but it ran.
The confusing part for critics is that a ritzy dame makes off with her chauffeur (the flier in disguise), the hot jazz band sings “I’ll be glad when you’re dead you rascal you” at a fat German couple (who don’t understand), the Gestapo is everywhere checking and double-checking, and then Dassin and his screenwriters figure the whole thing out from a different angle.
The romantic carelessness of the opening prepares the amazingly descriptive montage of the invasion.
Asquith’s The Yellow Rolls-Royce, among other films such as Sternberg’s Jet Pilot, did the analytical work required for an understanding. The lady’s return to her Paris home, where people line up for their coal allotment under the Occupation, is a foreglimpse of Lean’s Doctor Zhivago.
“It’s amusing. What is it?”
Nabokov’s “Cloud, Castle, Lake” as a New York publishing program, x dollars when X lectures, the widow’s off in love somewhere with the bluebirds in autumn, you get the picture, her literary agent sends her kids after her, nearly grown and narrow as the day is long.
Naturally this is very brilliant, the literati to the life and the rest of it as well, given a long look for maximum amusement ahead of Negulesco’s The Best of Everything and Kubrick’s Lolita.
Academia has its own ideas about art, to be sure, her new husband is a professor of chemistry, what if that Paris book of hers really truly happened, what price glory then (cp. Getting Straight, dir. Richard Rush)?
There was a war on... Preminger’s Angel Face is another look at the situation, if you like, from a literary standpoint.
The Pink Tiger is significantly remembered in Teacher’s Pet (dir. George Seaton) and The Nutty Professor (dir. Jerry Lewis).
Leonard Maltin, “dismal comedy”. TV Guide, “this is an amusing little film, lacking in any real weight but entertaining nevertheless.”
Says the agent, “if I could just keep love out of my business I’d be a wealthy man.”
The Canterville Ghost
Dunkirk figures in the family legend that requires a champion on the English side of the equation, for the Yank it’s the immediate proximity of a parachute mine to Lady Jessica de Canterville (six going on seven) and within range of his countrymen, thus he, a Canterville and cowardly as they come, must act.
Bosley Crowther thought this was a ghost story (cp. DeMille’s Joan the Woman) not well done, he told his New York Times readers. Variety was enthusiastic, Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader) fey, Halliwell’s Film Guide dismissive.
A Letter For Evie
Dassin begins by achieving the impossible, the sight of a man Stateside during the war, (cp. Backfire, dir. Vincent Sherman).
“What some dames’ll do to get a guy.”
There is an absolutely perfect match for him, a woman Stateside during the war, and on that 9944/100% pure comic basis Dassin goes to town.
This is sometimes referred to as a B picture.
She’s an office drip whose eyes go out of focus at the thought, he’s a dendrologist passing for a cad Casanova. “My favorite popular song is the one I’m listening to now, Jerome Kern’s ‘All the Things You Are’, it makes me think of moonlight, of rippling water, of everything beautiful, it makes me think of you.”
“It is a beautiful song, it makes me think of hyacinths...” Her office is in New York, “that’s part of Brooklyn!”
“Three and a half million dames.” Ken Russell remembers him at the “most impatient” door in The Devils.
As poetic as a bouquet of hyacinths and a special delivery letter from Cyrano to Roxanne signed Edgar.
John Carroll is the showboat, Hume Cronyn the scribe, Marsha Hunt the girl in the title, Norman Lloyd her amorous superior De Witt Pyncheon, Pamela Britton a lady baseball pitcher. A dendrologist is a tree surgeon, it’s explained.
A mighty comedy, when the worm turns it’s Modern Times (dir. Charles Chaplin), “he’s crazy! He drank my rubbing alcohol!” The deeply-skilled continuation is a single shot outside Evie’s brownstone.
“Buttonholes, stitching of,” shirts for the Army, “you look alert... in a Trojan Shirt”. The girls put love letters inside, To Whom It May Concern, that’s “kismet”.
To her kitten (its name is Homer) the cad says, “spread out, dogmeat,” dispersing it from the telephone. The great World War Two, something of what went on. “Tell her I was captured by the Free French.”
“That boy never did understand women.”
Two Smart People
The Treasury bond swindler and the lady art forger by train from Beverly Hills to Mardi Gras and nearly South America (he’s a pirate, she’s a princess), they both get the boot, it’s Sing Sing for him and a Hot Springs jail for her.
In Mexico en route they’re in love, Savarin’s the common tie, ortolans and prunes.
“That’ll teach you to have a college education,” she says.
Crime is a dead Harlequin, a Goya dummy.
A very satisfying comedy, quite on the order of Gilliat’s Left Right and Centre.
“Dreadfully boring hodgepodge”, opined T.M.P. of the New York Times, “suffers from lack of competent direction.”
Halliwell quotes him, “dog-eared”.
The point is made with brutal force that prison is sufficient punishment without torture, physical or mental.
The application of brute force or the threat used as a means of controlling or manipulating the populace beyond the mere fact of imprisonment creates a double reaction that is dramatically expressed in the attack on the main tower. Pressure on the warden is exerted from above and below (his guard captain is a Hitlerian sadist).
The men inside have girls outside who trap and befool them in various ways, or claim their allegiance, or must be seen to personally, and thus express finally the simple urge to escape that is the one true business of the warder.
The Naked City
The murder of a clothes model, her boyfriend used her to bait a middle-aged physician into giving her his party lists, the well-to-do guests returned home to find their jewelry missing.
It begins with the murder and ends like King Kong. Such a heterogeneity of styles and manners has left the critics in its wake.
The location filming is a famous effect. Kurosawa seems to have worked backward to achieve Stray Dog.
Raoul Walsh’s They Drive by Night, Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront and Dassin’s Thieves’ Highway are all Westerns and closely related.
The wagons are trucks, the gold is coffee, it’s all one.
A California apple orchard, the produce market in San Francisco, the four hundred miles from Los Angeles.
And there you have Mike Figlia and his mob and his fifty-dollar trick and his hatchet, to chop the legs out from under a man or rob him blind, with a cop on the beat in the market, yet, anxious for parking violations.
And the highway means death the way it does in Clouzot’s Le Salaire de la peur, with sharks around like The Old Man and the Sea, all of this as someone points out just to bring “golden delish” to market.
Dassin’s filming is famous and admired, even to the detriment of his later work.
Night and the City
Into the Soho of Pabst’s Die Dreigroschenoper, ruled by Macheath and Peachum, into this comes Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) the club tout with a chance plan to revive Greco-Roman wrestling, a lost art.
Critical opinion as to this masterpiece among the world’s cinema was very cold at first, and gradually reached its present lukewarm muddle. The comedy of it is Never on Sunday.
Du rififi chez les hommes
Truffaut suggested a tragedy in three acts, Godard for the minority opinion cried fraud. The structure simply counterposes two forces, both are destroyed, but with a difference.
The target for tonight is Mappin & Webb Ltd, the opposition takes a hostage. The terms of this define the film as such, a fact as remarkable as Rififi’s widespread influence (especially on Topkapi) and Dassin’s devotion to “elegance, science, violence”.
Celui qui doit mourir
From Kazantzakis, “a heavy-handed Christian allegory”, according to J.R. Jones of the Chicago Reader (“arty and pretentious parable”, Halliwell’s Film Guide).
Greek villagers decimated and burned out by the Turks for resisting take leave on foot to a neighboring village of collaborationists, where the annual Passion play is about to begin under the auspices of the local Agha.
The harsh criticism from Godard and Truffaut was simply explained by the latter in 1974, “Capra’s work is, unfortunately, not well known in France because of poor distribution,” their critiques are belied by the film. Fuller tells the story in Park Row, a can tied to a dog’s tail ain’t news, the dog stopping to turn around, untie the can and throw it away, that’s news.
The New York Times lauded it without reserve (as He Who Must Die) in Bosley Crowther’s review.
The law is a village bar game, the boss must be obeyed in all things. William Wyler’s Dead End is a main influence, Nicholas Ray’s Wind Across the Everglades contemporary.
Dassin’s tour de force brought the Cahiers out in hives, Godard saw nothing in it, “not one good shot in two hours of film.”
J. Hobeman (Village Voice) sings a song of “kitsch”.
Eric Hynes (Time Out) follows in his stylistic footsteps but finds instead “a damn good time.”
Wesley Morris (Boston Globe) concurs but “the resulting movie doesn’t entirely work.”
Ed Scheid (Boxoffice), “entertaining... not a rediscovered classic... enjoyable.”
Jef Burnham (Film Monthly) correctly notes “anything but a minor film.”
Dave Kehr, writing in Film Comment, “subtlety slips away at this point, never to return.”
Eleanor Mannikka (Rovi), “routine.”
Halliwell’s Film Guide, “hoary melodrama... long and tiresome.”
Never on Sunday
“They all go to the seashore” after the Greek tragedy, which is neither Medea nor Œdipus Rex but Somerset Maugham’s Rain in Bernhardt’s musical version, Miss Sadie Thompson, given another key by Dassin.
The cultural missionary is funded by the real estate pimp, the whores protest and are locked up and win a fifty percent reduction of their rent.
The men of Piraeus are boatbuilders and fishermen, the transposition is easy.
The effect of Homer Thrace’s arrival from America is to have a philosopher from antiquity among the bouzoukis and ouzo, he cuts a swath however feeble it appears, and that is the key from Cukor’s Born Yesterday.
Variety thought Dassin’s performance lacked the proper naïveté. The direction is at the forefront of the New Wave or Nouvelle Vague, and naturally this is Night and the City.
The tale is played out in modern-day Greece, a shipping magnate and his half-English son.
Dassin’s Hippolytus is a sometime student at the London School of Economics and a painter noted by the Observer.
The force of the drama comes from this, an overwhelming force, although Time Out said it was “risibly misbegotten”.
The generalized structure is made of several key images reflecting the main theme, a question of art forgery and theft.
Wyler’s How to Steal a Million and Neame’s Gambit are two of the subsequent analyses (on television, Mission: Impossible and I Spy give tribute).
Dassin goes to the nature of the crime at the outset, a rifle to kill the searchlight, gas for the guards, a seller of fake antiquities to transport the weapons. Turkish security understands a terrorist attack, the plan is changed to merely slowing down the searchlight.
The intricacies of character as representation account for the peculiar performances. The crime is conceived by a nymphomaniac, planned out by a Swiss mastermind, executed by circus performers and a tinker of toy gadgets, aided by that same cheap swindler.
Famously, it descends from above like a Spanish castle, never touching the floor.
Alekan’s cinematography is replete with color, dazzling, sunlit, low-level, nocturnal, all kinds, with much location filming.
The alibi is a grand wrestling tourney, one of the national pastimes.
Criticism has never taken the serious view Dassin has, that is the real source of the amusement in this great work, which comes down to the indefinable, a forgery is sometimes as hard to detect as a fraud or a masterpiece, just look at the critics, “it is spiritually discerned” at times (as Blake would say), and here a little bird tells the great news.
10:30 P.M. Summer
The deceived wife and the deceived husband are simply equated in a small Spanish town and later Madrid, there is a considerable effort involved with two murders and a suicide, this is one of Dassin’s perfectly accomplished works, the recalcitrance of critics is utterly amazing.
A tour de force from first to last, so pellucid that in the face of reviewers’ contumely even Peter Finch, a supremely intelligent actor, felt obliged to dismiss it as “muddled”, impossibly.
The “absurd peasant” has shot his wife and her lover, the Englishman and his Greek wife and their little daughter and his new mistress are traveling through Spain, the Guardia Civil call the murderer’s name as later on the husband and the mistress call the vanished wife’s name.
“J’ai visité l’Espagne, d’une façon tout simple.”
Though critics denied it, Canby in particular, the force of Dassin’s transposition came home to them in the one way that was not intended, naively.
In other words, setting The Informer in Cleveland seemed to them a sociological document not without value, it is considerably more than that.
At the same time, it’s neither more nor less than Ford’s film with its strange mélange of Zealots and Jews and Christ the unworldly wine-bibber who is not the people’s choice.
Ruby Dee says they went back and added new footage toward the end of filming, so that the events are now laid precisely four days after Dr. King’s assassination.
The final scenes especially have a certain monumentality rarely seen since Sternberg’s The Salvation Hunters, all the filming is very brilliant, a great director on his own turf after many years in exile, a fortunate return.
“There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
Promise at Dawn
Romain Gary’s Yiddishe mama, a stage mother on the stage, his childhood.
“Don’t you see, that is not a boy, that is a goat.”
“Comrade faggot, that is Nijinsky!”
Two mainstays of the filming are David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago and Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers, a concurrence.
“Uh, the life of an actor, you play your heart out for audience, nothing. You tear your pants and they die laughing.”
Dassin as Mosjukine (as Perlo Vita).
“Mama made a lot of French hats, but there were no Polish heads to wear them. There was no business, no money, no coal, and as Mama said, a winter in Cracovie was enough to make an atheist believe in God.”
Life in Nice. “It’s a miracle you didn’t turn out to be a homosexual.”
“I’m still young...”
Fall of France. De Gaulle in London. War service.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, “rather impossible to stomach.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “scrappy... unnecessary... indulgent...”
Dassin commemorates the student uprising at Athens Polytechnic in 1973 that ended with tanks and machine guns.
The resemblance is reasonably strong to Hagmann’s The Strawberry Statement.
A Dream of Passion
By coincidence it was filmed around the same time as Cassavetes’ Opening Night, to which it bears a satisfactory resemblance.
The play is Medea here, in Athens, in Greek (modern and ancient) for the public and English for a BBC feature spot.
The actress studies a foreigner (American) in a Greek prison for the very crime she is supposed to represent.
The rehearsals are what they are supposed to be, the camera on reveals the drama, it boils down to a dragon ride per Euripides.
As fine a film as one is liable to see, with thanks to Ingmar Bergman for a clip from Persona studied by the cast and crew like Welles at RKO running Stagecoach religiously.
Circle of Two
The Canadian Lolita. It turns on an artist stung into retirement by a critic, and a literary-minded schoolgirl.
They meet in an X-rated theater, she has slipped away from her private academy, he is sitting a few rows ahead, his face on his fist, asleep (the story is that Burton had been released by Tony Richardson from Laughter in the Dark).
The theme is cowardice. One lives in Toronto and works in New York, Glenn Gould said, not vice versa.
Fernandez’ Maria Candelaria can be compared for its view of art in the provinces.