The Lives of a Bengal Lancer
He is the Colonel’s son, a graduate of Sandhurst, hopelessly green. A poetical transfer from the Blues, very humorous. An unalloyed soldier on the frontier.
Hathaway steals a march on Stevens’ Gunga Din and Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King in several details.
Andre Sennwald in his New York Times review speaks of “Kipling’s fatally objectionable preoccupation with the white man’s burden”.
“A triumph of surrealist thought”, Halliwell quotes Breton, likewise Buñuel, “one of the world’s ten best films”, best of all Variety, “it just isn’t in the cards”.
Sennwald of the New York Times was highly appreciative, so was Time Out Film Guide.
It became De Sica’s Miracolo a Milano and Resnais’ L’Année dernière à Marienbad in the course of things, even Kurosawa’s Dodesukaden in a way, quite a number of films, none perhaps quite so precise and vivid in just this way.
The statement of the theme in childhood, its resumption and resolution in adulthood, where St. Paul has described the various stages, “a song of the degrees”.
Go West Young Man
Mavis (rhymes with rara avis strictly speaking) Arden, star of Purity and the Maiden, Puzzled Peacocks and her latest, Drifting Lady, in which she sings and dances just like Ava Gardner in John Huston’s The Night of the Iguana, and furthermore addresses the audience in person on the twin themes of her producer “A.K. Greenfield, President of Superfine Pictures Incorporated” and her “little Eye-talian villa in Hollywood,” she’s really “a veddy human person like yourselves.”
The French maid observes, “you were a beeg eet tonight, Miss Arden,” vd. Jean-Pierre Melville in America (L’Ainé des Ferchaux). “Ye-es,” replies the rare bird shifting her finery, “there was a great crowd out there, full o’ politicians. I felt I was puttin’ a bill before Congress.”
Her press agent, whose job is to protect her purity, wards off a “ward heeler” and a rustic “Einsteen”, thus giving you a work on the order of Renoir’s Le Carrosse d’or, hers breaks down on the road to Harrisburg where Paul Revere no less is called into play. “You and your evil-minded innurendoes... mm, you haven’t done anything, my dear, and nothing’s happened, only that our—our little interlude—is ended.”
“Our—what?” Screenplay by the star from Personal Appearance on Broadway “as presented by Brock Pemberton and Antoinette Perry”, cinematography Karl Struss (a great one for moonlight), music Arthur Johnston and lyrics Johnny Burke (“I Was Saying to the Moon”). For the title, cf. Resnais’ Pas sur la bouche, and for the rest Fleming’s Bombshell.
“The movies were never the ideal medium for such bawdy Broadway clowns as Miss West” (Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema). J.M.T. of the New York Times, “has lost little in Miss West’s edition.” Variety, “hindered by the limitations of screen censorship.” Leonard Maltin, “not top-notch... still fun.” Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “Mae West is moderately amusing”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “all rather boring,” citing Graham Greene, “quite incredibly tedious,” and displaying a grizzled farmer-type in an original advert. “Yup! It’s her all right!”
The Real Glory
The Sultan of Mindanao appears with an army of Moros to proclaim his rulership, he is a certain Alipang.
It’s up to the people, not the U.S. Army, that’s an order. Four officers and a medical man are left behind to train the Philippine Constabulary.
A great work of art, closely related to Stevens’ Gunga Din the same year, as Punch and Halliwell noted.
“More action, suspense and melodrama than even a juramentado could shake his bolo at,” said Frank S. Nugent (New York Times), he could hardly say less.
“An innocuous melodramatic yarn” (Variety).
“Boy’s own adventure” (Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide).
Halliwell’s Film Guide quotes the New Statesman’s reviewer, “recommended to adolescents of all ages”.
The title is a very complicated premise drawn out in many meanings throughout the film right to the end (a parallel of Wyler’s Mrs. Miniver).
Jesus walked on the water, the Germans travel by land on the African continent, thanks to the Royal Navy.
A post in Kenya, headquarters is Nairobi. The District Commissioner, “best we have”, is Canadian.
Hathaway’s film is based on such exploits as Stevens’ Gunga Din and King’s Marie Galante, two of the best films at this time.
Perhaps only a film director could appreciate Hathaway’s successful and fortunate direction. Certainly the New York Times could not.
Ken Adam proceeds from the Portuguese slave-traders’ cavern fortress in the early Bond films.
Ten Gentlemen from West Point
From another point of view, again the departure.
Wing and a Prayer
A sucker punch to the Japs between Pearl Harbor and Midway.
The guy in the other berth, taking losses, preparing the blow.
Hathaway’s technique is the same as in The Dark Corner, perfect for this requirement, deep-breathed, sharply pointed, ready for all comers.
The House on 92nd Street
An authentic case of the FBI against a Nazi spy ring that bribed congressmen and did a lot of other things, attempted espionage was the big caper.
Realism is the point of the exercise, locations, extras, so as to set off the astounding finale of Hitchcockisms.
The tale turns on a Gedächtniskünstler or “memory artist” in a secret war plant (The 39 Steps), the man who heads the ring is a woman (Sabotage).
The Dark Corner
One thing understood by Hathaway and Hitchcock is that there is a dramatic suspense not available to aficionados of genre, the Grecian idea of a hero not in the know.
This is not a utilitarian idea, Marlowe or Spade plowing through to a conclusion. The surprise when it comes is on the screen or the stage, not in the minds of the audience.
The technical story Hathaway presents is of a rich art collector whose wife is having an affair, he plots a murder. The film is constructed from a second point of view, that of the patsy for this murder, who has been framed once before, and by the victim.
Such a work of art as this is meant to take the film noir and make it fully useful in the artistic sense with no bones about it, therefore Hathaway takes such a model as The Maltese Falcon or Laura and deliberately makes a film ten thousand times better, in homage, only to equal it.
Crowther reviewed it gratefully on the same day as Marshall’s The Blue Dahlia, criticized Webb for repeating himself, and sounded exactly like Waldo Lydecker.
The Laura motif is actually another, the Old Master portrait that resembles the girl.
The patsy is a private investigator who stumbles and fumbles his way to the answer. “Mr. Galt,” says his tormentor, “your imagination is beginning to bore me.”
13 Rue Madeleine
The incredible velocity of Hathaway’s direction at least partially stems from an element in his style, he is perfectly willing to dress a set however large and considerable (or, as in Niagara, to set up a shot on location) that only appears on film for a few seconds, he even makes this thematic here, a piece of film is shown to the candidates for military intelligence service to elicit their quick analysis.
1944, the Second Front. Duclois is building rockets for the Germans in France, he must be captured alive to reveal their location before D-Day. One of the candidates is a Nazi spy fed disinformation and sent along on the mission. He sees through his green American colleagues and kills one, their training officer parachutes in as a Vichy insurance man, completes the mission but is left behind, caught and tortured by the spy at Gestapo headquarters in Le Havre. The address is bombed, obliterated by Allied planes to stop him from talking.
Critics saw the film go by much too fast for them, but directors spent decades catching up. Losey in particular noticed Hathaway’s characteristic pan right from a scenic construction to another in the shot that completes it, the example here is the office with plans and maps on the wall behind a desk, from this the camera escorts the candidate past a large fireplace to the door, out of the frying pan (a shot emulated in The Go-Between, Ted’s tea things left, the great stove right).
Another example is a Renoir view through an open farmhouse doorway onto the countryside (La Grande illusion), the camera pans right to show the ruined walls of this “safe house” and finally the communicator tapping out a vital message in a corner.
Kiss of Death
Crime kills the criminal, robs him of life and goods and all. “Damon Magoffin” is the name on the obituary page in the Sing Sing library.
Academy ratio is a thing understood by Hathaway as well as Ozu. The thing is perfect in its disposition of all the elements of the frame throughout the picture. Right, left, up, down, foreground, background, everything figures into a complete language of film.
This is what Joseph Losey strained to achieve in The Go-Between.
Call Northside 777
The two major analyses are Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man and Antonioni’s Blowup.
Critics were perplexed. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times wrote, “as much of an insult to the intelligence of a reporter as it is to the virtue of the state,” Variety to the same effect. For Geoff Andrew in Time Out Film Guide, “an absorbingly intelligent thriller.”
The Black Rose
This picaresque epic is equally marvelous in itself and as the forerunner, eventually, of Nevada Smith.
You’re in the Navy Now
“In the early years of World War II...” trained men are at a premium, the metaphor is a high-speed steam turbine using “triple-distilled” seawater it converts on its own, an experimental proposition in a subchaser at Norfolk with a ship’s company of one embarrassed boatswain, the rest inductees and ninety-day wonders including the captain.
The climax coincides with the Battle of Midway and gives a convincing picture of a peacetime Navy hurled very heroically into circumstances that call for great effort and a good deal of improvisation, afterward the problem of course is returning to the dock safely with so much added velocity.
Gunpowder and steam are equated as dangerous if handled carelessly, expert comedians led by Gary Cooper dispense the material in best Navy form.
Richly enjoyed (as U.S.S. Teakettle) by Bosley Crowther of the New York Times and by Variety, which could not however discern a plot.
The Story of Rommel
The witness of Gen. Auchinleck, “undoubtedly very energetic and able,” is borne out in Hathaway’s representation on the field of battle.
Apart from this, and away from his family, Rommel (James Mason) is to the bitter end an extremely stupid man who doesn’t understand “politics”, as he calls any consideration of der Führer.
Consequently when the “maniac” (Churchill’s word) threatens legal action and demands suicide, Rommel proposes to stand up in court and be heard, oblivious of the situation in Germany.
These two main facts, Rommel’s skill and idiocy, sum up this work of biography.
Bosley Crowther’s incoherent New York Times review is a feast, Variety couldn’t understand the film, and so on. The unique perspective on Nazi Germany afforded by Rommel is the source of unforgettable scenes, Rommel in North Africa, Von Rundstedt (Leo G. Carroll) in France, the attempted assassination, etc.
O. Henry’s Full House
“The Clarion Call”, Hathaway’s bitter, recondite telling of the tale is a great one for surprised looks and untoward positions ahead of the long payoff for stopping crime.
Hathaway is, at this time, surely the most technically accomplished director in Hollywood. His Hitchcockisms richly merit the tribute of Vertigo, his only fault (if it be one) is the sheer ease with which he accomplishes the most fertile inventions in the briefest time without impressing A.W. of the New York Times, who takes Niagara for a cod wrapped in Marilyn Monroe.
The juvenility of critics is exacerbated, Niagara is in Halliwell’s words “slightly marred by the emphasis on Monroe’s wiggly walk (it was her first big part).” Pauline Kael has it that “this isn’t a good movie but it’s compellingly tawdry and nasty” and “the only movie that explored the mean, unsavory potential of Marilyn Monroe’s cuddly, infantile perversity.”
A trip to the Falls in every sense. Two couples, a shell-shocked company clerk (he enlisted to prove he was still young) back from Korea and an Army psychiatric hospital with his disaffected wife, and an executive in shredded wheat transferred from Ohio after winning a prize in sales, he and his wife are on a “delayed honeymoon”, he brings along volumes of Churchill to read and is anxious to meet the boss (played by Don Wilson, to counterbalance the veteran’s “occupational therapy”, a 1907 Maxwell scale model).
Hathaway’s documentary skills as a filmmaker set the Falls and the town as an integral contribution. The vet’s wife has her lover try to kill the husband, who lives to strangle her in the bell tower and go over the Falls in a boat. The second couple are witnesses and stooges, quite alarmed to be caught up in events so dramatic. And then there is the boss and his wife, jolly tourists.
Garden of Evil
“Nel mezzo del cammin...”
The Brash, the Bold, the Betting, the Broken, collapse into the Best.
So runs the allegory of the Broad with a gold mine.
Buñuel’s La Mort dans ce jardin comes into play. Walters’ Lili has the same idea of a character in component parts. Thompson has Mackenna’s Gold and Kennedy The Train Robbers for direct analyses from different angles.
Curiously enough, as later with North to Alaska, Variety and the New York Times couldn’t see the forest for the trees, “nothing but landscapes”.
Monte Carlo, the Mille Miglia...
“Well, winning one Mille Miglia doesn’t prove he’s a genius, in a Grand Prix car he may be nothing.”
Or, why did the French poodle cross the deadly racecourse? To get at the cat on the other side, a ballerina admired by her impresario at Les Grands Ballets de Monte-Carlo, presenting
One of the great CinemaScope works (Joe MacDonald).
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “it is something for racing fans to see. But the business that passes for a story in between and among the racing scenes is depressingly unoriginal and banal.” Leonard Maltin, “hackneyed”. TV Guide, “its very exciting racing footage almost compensates for the slim plot.” Hal Erickson (Rovi), “the CinemaScope process gets a rugged workout”.
At Nürburgring, the image is twice the width of the screen, Hathaway pans to accommodate it. Francorchamps (Grand Prix de Belgique)...
The considerable process work and a second theme are from The Big Wheel (dir. Edward Ludwig). “One centimeter more rubber and I’da had you, one centimeter more!” The “rest home champion” is portrayed by Paul Newman in Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie. “Now I’ll show you the Grand Prix of Italy.”
Halliwell’s Film Guide, “totally unmemorable”.
“Signorina Navel Orange of 1952.” Grand Prix di Monza (Corsa 12 Ore)... Frankenheimer and Katzin fared no better, critically speaking. Headlines... another theme (cf. Goldstone’s Winning)... the collector...
Return to Nürburgring for the great compound image that might have inspired Grand Prix, newcomer on the make, champion holding his own, retirement in a muddy ditch, an embittered opponent.
Paris, le Ballet de l'Opéra. “Oh, that—that critic who said you’d never be great? He’s crazy.” Reims, Genevieve (dir. Henry Cornelius). Saul Bass gives cast and crew the checkered flag. Huston finds the structure useful in Moulin Rouge, a triumph twice over.
The Bottom of the Bottle
Cain and Abel, “but which one’s which?”
Thus far the film explains itself translucently, yet the reviews go from Variety’s dull appreciation to Crowther’s dismissal and Halliwell’s disgust.
Hathaway’s beautiful, precise abstractions frame and elide the CinemaScope image at times in the most remarkable of styles.
23 Paces to Baker Street
“Good night, Mr. Doyle.”
Big Ben’s up for repairs, like an American play tinkered with in London by the playwright, blind.
His elevated flat in Portman Square looks out on the Thames surrealistically, as Halliwell noted.
Lady Syrett has lost a nursemaid for her grandchildren, it’s a question of Plaisir d’Amour perfume, very expensive.
At a pub called the Eagle, the playwright overhears a conversation and subsequently dictates it from memory into one of his two tape recorders.
A former secretary, the Unity Domestic Bureau, the Queen Mary bearing an Argentinean couple with “an invalid, a child who never grew up,” and the nursemaid’s Irish father leading the blind man up a bomb-wrecked building about to be demolished, are among the pivotal images.
Rear Window and Wait Until Dark also have been noted.
The title is directions in the fog, “behind you.”
“No man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” an angry Jehovah drives the new wife into concern for her son, intimidation breeds fear, the one thing most abhorred.
This is enacted on a small farm in Quonset, Saskatchewan, with much incident. “An utterly foolish film,” Crowther pronounced it.
The husband dies in a forest fire, the widow takes a hired hand to run the farm, eventually they marry (Susan Hayward, Stephen Boyd).
Conditions are primitive for the allegory, one signal flare summons help, two a Mountie.
Hathaway’s great masterpiece on the roads that lead to Rome, by Sydney Boehm out of Max Catto.
It was dismissed by the New York Times (Bosley Crowther) as clever but insignificant, the Catholic News Service Media Review Office says “muddled”, Halliwell’s Film Guide doesn’t get it either.
Excellent score by Dominic Frontiere, right in the mold of Steiner and Deutsch, etc.
The elements of crime depicted in the gang are akin to Welles’ analysis (Mr. Arkadin), there’s even a nice anticipation of Dearden (Woman of Straw).
The magnificent scaling of the Monte Carlo heights by moonlight is the signature of Hathaway’s prowess, the theme subsequently pivots on Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde to Peckinpah’s The Getaway.
North to Alaska
The dramatic construction is hidden behind Nome, a seacoast town in 1900 where two partners have a gold mine in the Yukon rush, and Seattle of the fleshpots where one of the two goes to fetch digging equipment and a bride.
The reconciliation is grand and brisk, the partners are dogged by a devil who cross-files on their claim, it all ends uproariously.
Variety and the New York Times saw nothing but uproar and chided some of the best performances.
Europe and America are matters of indifference to the circus world, theoretically, but certain superstitions are unwisely flouted, which indicates a rube mentality, and that’s no way to run a circus.
The fall of a performer sends the crowd rushing to see, the steamship Circus Maximus goes over on its side, one works in a Wild West show for some time, building up for a European tour, lions replaced by tigers to be tamed.
The late aerialist had a wife and left behind a brother, there is a daughter.
“Ben Hecht is the best screenwriter I have ever seen” (Godard), that seems to be the decisive name on a formidable list of writers, but compare the constellations of Hawks’ Hatari! and Bergman’s The Serpent’s Egg.
“To have a circus, you have to have artists flying through the air like musical notes, somebody making a tune with them, somebody with a calliope inside.”
The Sons of Katie Elder
A down and dirty Western in Hathaway’s best style on the theme of Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.
“We wanted to show that… while the democracies were completely disorganized, all of the Germans were clearly headed in the same direction.”
The epic tale of a revenge across the West and South, specially constructed for a concentrated exposition of Hathaway’s themes (Wing and a Prayer, The Dark Corner, Garden of Evil), a perfectly-composed masterpiece from start to finish, and a bildungsroman of a young ignorant half-breed making his way amongst the vicious types who killed his father, a squaw man with a hand-to-mouth gold mine, and his mother.
It gets pretty fancy in courtrooms and offices, and there are several removes of justice, personal, executive, what have you, but the plain and simple of it is stopping a rattlesnake about to bite a girl in the pit. Such are the Dantean degrees, the theme will bear consideration with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, not as an abstract exposé or an indictment if that were warranted, but because rats is rats.
The construction is a stalwart girl with a good lawyer and a murdered father, then a Texas Ranger sergeant after the murderer for killing a State Senator (and his dog, the story goes), finally a Deputy U.S. Marshal on the qui vive for an outlaw with whom the murderer has sought refuge.
So much of the analysis is presented as dialogue, and so much time is spent on horseback traversing the country, that Canby famously dictated his opinion as follows, it’s a Western starring the Duke.
The poles of his art are Kiss of Death and Nevada Smith, but Hathaway’s implications are far-reaching and not so obvious. So, for example, what was considered at the time a sentimental boost for a much-loved star is actually a rigorous and foreboding attempt to conjure the West in terms of language, of speech. This is a tight game, which demands great bravura from the actors and in that sense only can the casting be understood.
For the rest, this is a thematic development related to How The West Was Won.
Raid on Rommel
The central scene has Rommel (Wolfgang Preiss) and a British Army doctor (Clinton Greyn) in a friendly dispute concerning stamp issues from the Caroline Islands (a former German possession), two or three?
The three parts of the film are the uprising of the British prisoners in a convoy en route to Tobruk, their attack on a fuel dump in a cleft of the hills there, and the destruction of the shore guns (their original mission).
These correspond to the three dispositions of the Italian girl (Danielle de Metz) in the Afrika Korps convoy, mistress to one of Il Duce’s generals. She is haughty and contemptuous, then scopolamined and ardent, finally abandoned to sit on her suitcase by the side of the road with a foggy plaintive “ciao”.
The curious opening has Capt. Foster (Richard Burton) meet the convoy in a half-track with two stiffs, he’s laid on air support for the uprising, the prisoners are supposed to be a crack commando unit. Instead, they’re mostly medical corps with a Quaker corporal.
The itinerary is from prison to vengeance, along the way the mistress has however died and left a little girl “six going on seven”, father unknown.
The former partner in a bank robbery, now a respected businessman who got that way by putting a bullet in one’s back, hires three young hoorawers to scout the land ‘twixt prison and him, and bring him word.
The good widow en route is young and lonely, her fine young son hard-working and helpful.
The little girl, unloved, unwanted, is vexful and reluctant.
The title signifies not so much the partner, who gets his anyway, but the hoorawers for their game of William Tell with the girl and the widow’s china, they get their turn.
This was thought by critics to be quite mundane, generally.
As almost noticed by some, a variant of True Grit, among other things.