Hollywood Canteen

“I give so much of myself to my art and, there’d be so little left for you.”

“A crumb, would be a banquet.”

Two Purple Hearts from the South Pacific right off Hollywood and Vine meet Daves’ escalating powerhouse of cinematic virtues and identities, “Stanwyck”, “Johnny” (Garfield), “Mr. Sakall” and so forth bussing tables and entertaining the troops.

Variety saw the story carried, “and a human one it is, too.”

Garfield explains the history.

“But these two babes from Lockheed said they’d be at the Palladium hot or cold!”

A million men served.

“Elaborate hocus-pocus... an embarrassingly affected affair... a most distasteful show... stretches propriety to the limit... a most ungracious boast” to Bosley Crowther, film critic of the New York Times, “not a fairly distinguished song or turn of dialogue in the show.”

“Shoddily made but sociologically fascinating” (Halliwell’s Film Guide).

Bette Davis is the guiding light.

“New Guinea in the rain” with movie projector. The Mocambo on the Strip. Jimmy Dorsey, Jack Benny & Joseph Szigeti...

“When we get our leave I just want to sit in parks and watch people who aren’t trying to kill each other.”

Brooklyn tops Tokyo in the opening sequence.

“I always say a woman’s place is in the hotel room.”

Burbank. “Why, Mr. Warner sent word down that the whole studio is yours.”

If there were nothing else in this picture for critics to miss, there is Dane Clark’s performance. “All my life I dreamed o’ such a moment, ‘n’ I didn’t even know where I was AT!”

What is LeRoy Prinz doing on the set? Demonstrating “Eli’s magic crane” and an Oklahoma neon jitterbug ballet, set in a nightclub you could literally eat.

Saint-SaŰns “never seemed to get anywhere,” Benny explains, also, “it’s an old violin.”

Janis Paige explains to the RAF, “it’s merely a matter of instinct, old boy. And a little science helps sometimes.”

What was Daves getting at when he wrote what, after all, appears to be specifically a film of surfaces and Crowther’s “hocus-pocus”? Let us say the inner argument has escaped notice and is exactly the theme.

Robert Hutton as the millionth man, Corporal Slim Green, enamored of the girl on the screen, Joan Leslie.

So Olivier shares the crown of England with any “that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”




Dark Passage

The subjective camera on location demands a cunning technique, and carries the film to the rainy window dinner in Accident. The entire film is a foretaste of Vertigo and an aftertaste of Rebecca, with echoes and influences in and from The Maltese Falcon, The Great McGinty, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Getaway, even Sunrise makes a brief appearance on a San Francisco cable car.

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned...”


Task Force

Navy air power, from nothing in 1923 to Okinawa.

It goes to color from black-and-white to make the point, and there is battle footage.

You couldn’t ask for a better film before Preminger’s The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, and there is a joke on A Farewell to Arms, to boot.


Demetrius and the Gladiators

This great, noble, Roman and Christian film adopts a very different procedure from The Robe. Dunne once again sifts political calumny for a more objective position, but his Caligula is still mad, though more a hysterical tyrant.

The structure hinges on a plausible miracle not recognized as the answered prayer of Demetrius, who therefore scorns his God and all the gods alike. In his rage, he is victorious against the gladiators of Rome, the Emperor names him a tribune of the PrŠtorian Guard. Messalina entertains him, the apostle Peter summons him back to the faith, but only on the Emperor’s express order does he seek out the robe of Jesus and thus discover that Lucia is “not dead, but sleepeth”.

And he goes back into the arena as the sacrifice that was intended. The guards strike their cruel Emperor, Claudius receives the laurel, “not a god, nor likely to become one,” as he says.

Particularly the last scene achieves the natural grandeur of Rome.


Drum Beat

There is nothing so delightful to Daves as taking eloquence by the neck and wringing a good joke out of it, but in the wide open spaces his supersubtle direction is overawed by the landscape and focuses on individual performances, which are benefited thereby.

Here, the punchline is that the renegade Indian chief (Charles Bronson) is a Napoleon who envies the bluebellies their uniforms and rank and medals. Aside from his war party, even his own tribesmen think he’s nuts.

Daves has a quick, beautiful sketch of 1872 Washington, then swiftly moves out West where civilization is a general store and a thin silver wire to the telegraph office miles away.


3:10 to Yuma

An art of pictures, built on High Noon (note the triangular fašade on Main Street in Contention City, pointing up). Zinnemann abstracts, Daves composes.

Everything exists succinctly in a pictorial relation. Hathaway’s Kiss of Death exacts the moment of precision in flat spatial relationships on the screen, Florey’s Outpost in Morocco is made of famous paintings, 3:10 to Yuma is eloquent in the last degree as definitive pictures that give the facts.

These are characteristic, the cattle rancher in the frame of his roofed porch and support, the reverse shot of his wife against a large shrub in the desert. Or rhythmic, verticals articulate the wide screen. Pictorial, above all. After Ben Wade is captured, a lamp appears at the top of the screen. Sharply articulated hills like an anagram of the city, a woman standing between them and the town.

The gradations of dust and desert, riders, the stagecoach hurriedly glimpsed like a portable domicile, the sophisticated Hotel Contention with feminine statuary and upstairs refinements, all of it rigorous and logical, perfectly expressive.

Wade’s gang enter the saloon at Bisbee, the bar is a solid convention, a girl pours whiskey. Later, Wade returns alone, stark light and another angle show the bar a long trimmed plank merely set on barrels.

Even American critics call these concerns “formalism”, as Soviet commissars once did. Pictures worth a thousand words mean nothing to them. Crowther and Variety dismissed the film.

Small crosses dwarfed by cactus make the cemetery. Bare trees for the gang, those cactus again for the perdurability of nature next to town.

The bridal suite houses the rancher and his prisoner as the clock ticks, Wade takes the bed, almost feminine. An ornate expressiveness increases until a burst of violence breaks the spell, the room’s upper reaches have a cathedral nuance.

The drought is ended out of Malachi (High Noon), the final joke escaped every reviewer (but not Don Siegel, who saw the game and exacerbated it in Dirty Harry).

An advanced art of cinema. The variability of images is thematic, High Noon’s train appears as the great powerful nineteenth-century idea rather than a strait course of impending doom. An art of precise harmonies and decisive modulations like music or painting (Edward Hopper for the hotel window—an engraving of Custer’s Last Stand figures behind the rancher early on).


The Badlanders

An absolutely perfect Western, which must have been the intention.

It was ahead of its time by several years, as evinced by The War Wagon, but it was well-reviewed anyway.

A perfect injustice is perfectly righted in every one of its minute particulars, with the spirit of revolution aiding the conclusion.

From The Asphalt Jungle comes the pivot on an untrustworthy beam that drops the whole temple Ó la Samson. Then Alan Ladd rides off in a stagecoach with Claire Kelly for a June meeting with the smelted gold.


A Summer Place

Variety and the New York Times concurred that Steiner’s score was not to be understood in an ironic sense with its sham dramatics marking the interminable sturm und drang of lovelessness quite outside his typical inspired style but punctuated with a theme not so little as the Verdurin’s yet accompanying all that is of worth, the summer place of fleeting romance that falls by the wayside else and dies.

“Los Angeles isn’t a city,” said Gertrud Schoenberg to Glenn Gould, correcting his view of it as deficient in some respects, “it’s a resort town.”