Combat Fatigue Irritability
A restricted training film from the U.S. Navy, Bureau of Aeronautics, that might have been seen by Capra at the War Department and treated as a foundation stone for It’s a Wonderful Life the following year.
Invitation to the Dance
The falling clown, the wayward wife, the genie of the lamp.
The urge to dance, the vicious circle, the dance of life.
Barrault and Nijinsky (Petrushka). Bells on, the attributes of art. The tightrope walker.
“Ring Around the Rosy”
The Husband gives the Wife a wristlet, she gives it to the Artist, from him it passes to the Model and the Sharpie and the Femme Fatale and the Crooner and the Hatcheck Girl and the Marine and the Girl on the Stairs and back to the Husband, who hands it to his butler to present to the Wife. The gay social whirl collapses.
“Sinbad the Sailor”
The diamond dragon quelled by the genie. The palace guards danced into balls. The harem girl a WAVE, the genie Sinbad, Jr.
The work was completely misunderstood as a compendium of the dance, which accounts for its failure.
The scenario is exceptionally well-conceived, the three parts of “Circus” mirror the overall structure, “Sinbad the Sailor” is “Ring Around the Rosy” in reverse (the buying of the bracelet, the buying of the lamp).
Among the film’s champions is Robert Stevenson, who studied it very closely or invented it for Mary Poppins. Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema), “an uneasy mixture of Hollywood formulas and European pretensions.”
The Happy Road
An American in Paris with the only water cooler replacing a statue in his new Manhattan Mart (cf. Antonioni’s Le Amiche), “it’s the only place left for the water cooler...” The younger generation lams out of Swiss boarding school with, by dint of her tears, a French girl whose mother is in Paree.
There it is, Renoir’s window on the countryside in La Grande illusion, the kid like a young Gene Kelly lets himself down on a rope into it (he resembles Alfalfa as well, also from Renoir is a sense of the sublime and the ridiculous at once, or nearly). The girl is Brigitte Fossey and she speaks English, so does her mother. Maurice Chevalier sings the title number.
“Smartest thing I ever did was to send my boy to school up there in Switzerland, I wouldn’t have him in a French school if they guaranteed me he’d wind up President, the Swiss get things done!” Kelly has a down-angle on the wee English earl, a schoolchum and roommate and conspirator, the reverse shot is a corresponding up-angle, the script finds itself reflected in Simon Gray’s Butley (dir. Harold Pinter), “he’s wearing my socks. My mother always sends me the wrong size, but they fit Danny!” The déjeuner sur l’herbe is picked up by Truffaut in L’Argent de poche (and there is Malle’s Au revoir les enfants).
A motard de province, “I am in England when there was the war... cheers, pip-pip, n’est-ce pas,” to which the Yank’s beamish reply is, “top-hole!” A tale of the Resistance as une petite bande (cf. Charles Crichton’s Hue and Cry or Peter Tewksbury’s Emil and the Detectives) and Vigo’s L’Atalante... “What a way I picked to learn French... you big clod, you couldn’t find your own nose with both hands, a full moon and radar... Pous-sez! Pous-sez!” Madame is getting married in Monte Carlo and briefly invents the celebrated Segway on a truncated motor scooter.
“Manœuvres militaires” are an impediment (cf. Val Guest’s The Runaway Bus), the English commanding general’s batman is a Sgt. Emerson. “Good man, Armbruster,” aide-de-camp, Major.
For a minute or so it evokes Jeux interdits (dir. René Clément), “Operation Meat Loaf... this plan that I’m activating is one that we had not intended using until the Red Army was actually in Trafalgar Square,” cf. Roy & John Boulting’s Seven Days to Noon (“impenetrable ring of steel”) or for that matter Ken Russell’s Vaughan Williams: A Symphonic Portrait (tanks and terrain) or Bud Yorkin’s The Thief Who Came to Dinner (M-1’s exasperation).
The woodcutter’s caravan pirouettes quite swiftly on Griffith’s Broken Blossoms and is vividly remembered by Robert Mulligan in To Kill a Mockingbird, demonstrating a kind of cinematic provenance. An international bicycle race echoes De Sica’s Ladri di biciclette in its give and take of “goodwill”.
Three pairs of skilled hands turned out the parallel constructions of the screenplay, the director and principal actor of Combat Fatigue Irritability draws a lesson on ulcers (cf. Cukor’s The Marrying Kind) and the inspiration for Gigot (cf. Truffaut & Godard’s Une Histoire d’eau, Alexander Mackendrick’s Sammy going South, George Roy Hill’s A Little Romance).
Arthur Knight (The Saturday Review), “hilarious”. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “strained to the point of juvenile simplicity.” Leonard Maltin, “minor”. Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “tends to bludgeon its audience”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “fails to come off”.
“The charm and brilliance of Gene Kelly’s dancing has not carried over to his direction since the dissolution of his partnership with Donen. If Donen has since diminished, Kelly has completely disintegrated...” (Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema).
As poor as a poet, as silent as a modern one, and twice as put upon.
The authority for the work comes from Jackie Gleason, who penned the story fleshed out by John Patrick, and wrote the music.
Bosley Crowther squirmed, as well he might. Gigot’s mourners, seeing him alive, forget their encomiums and pursue him through the streets of Paris once again. Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema), “pure slop out of the gutters”.
A Guide for the Married Man
To every loophole, by a skillful lawyer (Robert Morse), instructing an investment counselor (Walter Matthau).
An exhaustive manual of deceit, fraud, treachery and cunning, merely to serve an idle temptation (the wife is Inger Stevens, and she can cook).
Ebert opined that it was all “a waste of talent.”
In the spirit of Cornelius Hackl, the colossal production is entirely thrown away.
This entails skilled effort on the part of the director, the choreographer, and the orchestrators to sink the performers and the music and Thornton Wilder.
The essence of the thing, then, is all that was sought and achieved. The bet was made for life and all, a fair one.
The Cheyenne Social Club
Kelly’s masterpiece on the Old West is a Republican-and-Democrat thing, both Democrats really.
One inherits a whorehouse and is a “Republican businessman” for the nonce, in Bostonian duds.
Both cowpokes, truth be told.
Rex Reed’s aphorism was the dullest thing since James Agee stumbled over Wellman’s The Ox-Bow Incident.
That’s Entertainment, Part II
The authorship of the film isn’t delineated, Kelly (with Astaire and Cahn) acts Sir Kenneth Clark in the galleries.
An exaltation of the muse.