The volatility of genius is made into a study, the stage actress who invents everything immediately gets compared with the society architect and his estate plans in escrow. “Poetry”, said René Char, “is the side of man refractory to calculated projects.”
She is “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” failure is her world, fortunes have been lost, a leading man has died, no producer will hire her. The real and its counterpoison are further analyzed as the grass widow and the bookkeeper who won’t divorce her. He is now an employee of his own firm.
A suicide pact is formed in a speeding car, she smashes them into a tree, let one live or die, free or annihilated. She recovers, he’s badly hurt.
The opening of a new play financed by the architect at considerable risk to his fame and fortune is canceled, she hears the rebuke. There is no jinx, it’s time to pay her debts. The play is rescheduled, the insufferable husband, a bandaged milksop, sees from his hospital window the wife ascend the steps outside, a bouquet of flowers in her arm.
The major theme of ennui introduces the picture with Mr. Farnsworth at his club fortifying himself against Mrs. Farnsworth’s dull dinner guests. At the party, rich young folks (architect, sweetheart, and polo-playing chum) slip away to sideshow amusements. In a low dive where they do not stay to drink, the architect lingers to address the gin-swilling actress who inspired him to art. He marries his high school sweetheart after all is said and done, and resumes his practice.
The trailer almost suggests a taming of the hellcat with Franchot Tone and Bette Davis. The critics saw a tedious melodrama. Green, Haller and Orry-Kelly in concert with the actors have put together a masterpiece of constant fascination by creating a space in which Laird Doyle’s script operates to the last degree of efficiency and expression. Genius is practically defined as an element visible onscreen (Haller’s cinematography is one invention after another), its bearer gathers herself to “climb the bitter steps” rather than fly apart into a zillion quarks.
Davis received an Oscar for her brilliance, modestly praised Katharine Hepburn, and deserved it for her heroism. As so often in her career, the film was not understood but Variety and the New York Times held the general opinion that she carried it well.
The Gracie Allen Murder Case
The millwheel of justice slowly grinds out “The Buzzard”, but when Philo Vance takes the case, exceedingly fine.
A study of nonplussedness, with Kent Taylor in the George Burns role, the diapason of ecstasy is reached when Warren William walks into it, “obviously the witness is in a perpetual state of confusion.”
“Oh, thank you, Fido.” The title character on her own is so formidable, she frightens herself.
The mob eats its own, to spare the wealth. “Irrefragable judgement,” says Fido.
The two bodyguards are cited in Whorf’s Champagne for Caesar, their dance with Vance’s new “silent partner” is a thing of grrreat beauty.
“One of the blackest” of the black arts, Frank S. Nugent of the New York Times called the cinema, on the same day pronouncing against the star and this picture, “probably just about what you think.”
Leonard Maltin, “fitfully amusing”.
TV Guide, “silly but fun”.
Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader) notes the director is “underrated”.
Halliwell’s Film Guide is unimpressed, but cites Variety memorably, “smacko for general audiences... one of the top comedies of the season.”
The Fabulous Dorseys
This is intriguingly constructed in several ways. First, it’s a terrifically funny, easy, entertaining film, which saves its note of tragedy for a modulation at the end. At the same time, it borrows a MacGuffin from Reisner’s The Big Store to make the love and musical side interest a functional part of the film itself. The three units (Arthur Shields/Sara Allgood, William Lundigan/Janet Blair, Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey) are kept in constant play. The model is Laurel and Hardy, and the set pieces (dance hall, jazz club, “Green Eyes”) are complete in themselves. The silent movie theater scene is a masterpiece in its own right, probably remembered by Russell in Song of Summer.
Paul Whiteman, Art Tatum, Ziggy Elman, Bob Eberly, Helen O’Connell—it’s one of the most musically aware films from Hollywood, from a thoroughly professional perspective. It’s the original of Davies’ The Benny Goodman Story, an inspiration (the opening shot’s here, for example) of Scorsese’s New York, New York, and maybe is recalled in Malle’s Au Revoir les enfants.
A new act for the Copa, where the girls on the floor wait for “Leo McCarey and the rest” to adore them, a brilliant idea.
“The most untalented man I’ve ever seen.” Devereaux and Navarro, strictly from hunger pangs.
Mlle. Fifi and agent and Navarro. “Say, for a man with no education you’ve done all right.” Carmen Miranda, a continent in the Southern Hemisphere, a very able comedienne, a fine chanteuse.
A rival agent brimming with clientele, “this guy must handle a flea circus.” A night at the celebrated nightspot, a fact much complained of in Crowther’s hand-me-down review, silly ass, Abel Green is there, Louis Sobol and Earl Wilson, too.
A sublime film, Groucho Marx ringmaster, a little New York glamor and sophistication, with Andy Russell, Steve Cochran, Gloria Jean (a notable daydream sequence begins with a dolly-in to her mind) et al. “Envy him,” says Stoppard, “his twofold security.”
Anatole Murphy, the Hollywood producer. “Well, if it isn’t Mr. Liggett, almost the biggest agent in town.”
“You’re the first star in the history of show business who’s ever said a nice thing about another star.”
“You’re lookin’ at the smartest agent in this whole town, I just pulled the deal o’ the century.”
You can ride a bucking bronco or a pony, you can cut a calf in half and make baloney.
“Oh, come on honey, spit it out, womens to womens, uh?”
“Mademoiselle Fifi is now floating down the East River, including her veil and the whole outfit.”
“The last address I had for her was at the Casbah,” ŕ la Boyer.
Green’s study of Marshall’s The Goldwyn Follies is a natural, it winged past the critics with amazing speed and legerity, leaving them covered in fairy dust all over.
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “hand-me-down musical frolic.” Leonard Maltin, “unengrossing musical comedy.” TV Guide, “silly farce”. Billy Mowbray (Film4), “uninspired direction of a lacklustre script”. Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “lame musical comedy”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “thinly produced comedy”.
“The People’s Government of America will take the wealth from the greedy, the speculators, and the capitalistic bourgeoisie, and distribute it among the workers, whose labor will never again be exploited for the benefit of the warmongers of Wall Street.”
A very precise forecast, down from Alaska to Puget Sound, Oregon and California, which burns like Napoleon’s Moscow. Boulder Dam is bombed, a defense is made at Washington, D.C., but New York falls...
Homage to Orson Welles (the Mercury Theatre broadcast of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds).
“Tomorrow springs from today, like—like water from a rock.”
O.A.G. of the New York Times, “it is a ‘message’ picture.” TV Guide, “interesting piece... still offers a provocative message.” Mark Deming (Rovi), “spectacularly paranoid”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “ludicrous, dangerous, hilarious”.
What the title signifies in burlesque terms, a great work of art devoted to its subject, “what the hey!”
This naturally is one of the works that Friedkin has to draw on for The Night They Raided Minsky’s.
The critical response may no doubt be understood in view of precious snobbism on the part of reviewers.