Their First Mistake
Ultimately a satire of the best friend as suckling babe in a circus mirror of a ménage (cp. Lloyd French’s That’s My Wife).
Towed in a Hole
Fish peddlers Stan and Ollie buy a boat to “eliminate the middleman”.
Visconti’s La terra trema is but a variant.
365 Nights in Hollywood
The assistant director directs a smash hit and wins the Oscar only to crap out as they all do from time to time and be persona non grata, picked up by The Delmar Academy of Motion Picture and Dramatic Arts as “world’s foremost motion picture director”, which is where Michael Sarne comes in with Myra Breckinridge.
But this is 42nd Street (dir. Lloyd Bacon) out West.
Frank S. Nugent of the New York Times did not see the resemblance, vaguely noted James Dunn’s magnificent portrayal, and made mention of Alice Faye as the girl from Peoria, “nothing remains to be said,” the fine surreality escaped him, too. Leonard Maltin, “cheerfully mediocre”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “slight and casually developed”, citing Variety, “no punch and little appeal.”
A brilliant sendup of Tinseltown’s seamier side, “imitations of imitations”, Karloffs and Gables, Garbos and Hepburns by the carload on “cash terms”.
The Goldwyn Follies
A mythical studio, Oliver Merlin Productions.
Films are no longer real, one takes no interest in them.
Humanity’s opinion is invited, “that’s amazing,” says the producer.
Romeo and Juliet live, which was Lubitsch’s idea, the Russian ballerina gets Charlie McCarthy, the tenor in the diner gets a five-year contract, the girl next door gets him.
For this, the Ritz Brothers, Gregg Toland in Technicolor, George Balanchine in Hollywood, Vera Zorina (“fill my bath with whipped cream”), George & Ira Gershwin, Vernon Duke in fine fettle, Adolphe Menjou, Andrea Leeds, Kenny Baker, Helen Jepson, Phil Baker et al. in a meticulous color composition from first to last, a real work of art as they say in the trade, screenplay by Ben Hecht.
Halliwell’s Film Guide cites “a lack of humour in the script,” Variety “the astute Samuel Goldwyn” and “a lavish production.”
Don Druker (Chicago Reader) says, “unevenly directed”. The Catholic News Service Media Review Office gets quite upset, “overblown, undernourished... aimless grab bag... pleasing almost no one.”
TV Guide, “sheer silliness.”
You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man
Whipsnade’s Circus Giganticus.
A day at the circus of W.C. Fields.
The Great Edgar vs. the Bel-Goodies.
Go away, critic, you draw flies.
Destry Rides Again
A crooked card game wangles a land grab at the Last Chance Saloon in Bottleneck.
A small town, crooks loom large. Destry puts ‘em in jail where they belong.
A spoof it ain’t. Casting was the prize at first, Dietrich as Frenchy, Stewart as Destry, Samuel S. Hinds as the crooked mayor.
Hollander & Loesser wrote the songs, that’s another one. The screenplay is built up into a system of jokes cut by seriousness of purpose, it’s a frivolous town.
Marshall does whatever he sets his mind to, figuring the material. Here he mounts a full-blown Western musical successfully emulated by Kane at Republic (Young Bill Hickok, Flame of Barbary Coast) and Buñuel in Mexico (Gran Casino).
The characters include henpecked Stavrogin and Werewolf (“Loupgerou”) the barkeep and Bugs and Gyp and Washington “Wash” Dimsdale the town drunk made sheriff under the regime and Thomas Jefferson Destry, Jr. (for “Max Brand”, Frederick Schiller Faust).
Pot o’ Gold
A Marshall musical, somewhat recherché (like The Perils of Pauline) and all the better for it. One gag shows the director’s touch unadorned, young Haskell in a corner reading his uncle’s radio copy has a door open behind him at a fruity phrase, and he drops out of the picture. A beautifully filmed Shakespearean gag has him get into jail by slipping through a door at the courthouse to avoid the elder Haskell, and then through another little door which puts him in the paddy wagon.
There’s an element of abstraction in the gag where Horace Heidt and His Musical Knights “haunt” the Haskell manse, and this ensemble is nobly featured in the collegiate parody of the “Knife, a Fork and a Spoon” number.
The plot carries Marshall into slightly more recognizable musical realms as the “Haskell Happiness Hour” is broadcast from the Eastchester Country Club with a Latin number (“Broadway Caballero”).
Where Marshall really gets going, for anyone’s money, is the big finish, with a radio giveaway scheme begun as a joke but immediately involving the Government. This opens with a gag described by young Haskell himself as “beautiful” (a Haskell flunkey getting the silent butler treatment right out the door). The whole sequence is Marshallesque beyond description, it dashes down to Coney Island for a needed prop, and returns to the radio studio in less than a minute to redeem old Haskell and save the day.
The Blue Dahlia
The screenplay is the basis of great characterizations by the actors. Marshall frames every shot perfectly, without exception.
The Blue Dahlia is a nightclub on the Sunset Strip and the proprietor’s favorite flower, he even sends them to himself, it is observed. His partnership with a mobster has estranged his wife, he’s seeing the wife of a Navy flier on active service in the South Pacific.
The film opens on Hollywood Boulevard, the demobilized flier and two crewmen get off a bus for “Hollywood” and dive into a bar for “bourbon straight with a bourbon chaser”. Buzz (William Bendix) gets into a fracas with a uniformed corporal playing the jukebox, Buzz has a plate in his head bigger than a barman’s brains, he doesn’t like “monkey music”. Peace is made, the corporal leaves. Housing is hard to come by, Buzz and George (Hugh Beaumont) hope to rent George’s old place. Lt. Cmdr. Morrison (Alan Ladd) has a wife in Bungalow 93 at Cavendish Court, where he announces himself at the desk.
There’s a wild party in the bungalow, Morrison’s wife (Doris Dowling) is with Harwood of the Blue Dahlia (Howard Da Silva). Their farewell kiss is seen by her husband, who tells Harwood, “you’re wearing the wrong lipstick, mister,” and punches him. Harwood simply says, “you’re right,” and is unpleasantly surprised when Morrison apologizes.
Husband and wife have it out, interrupted once by the house detective, “Dad” Newell (Will Wright). She goes her own way, their little son didn’t die of diphtheria, he was killed in a car wreck while she was drunk. He gets his bag, takes out a .45, says, “that’s what I ought to do, but you’re not worth it,” tosses the weapon on an armchair and steps out into the rainy night.
Buzz and George are ensconced in the old apartment, beating out “nineteen other guys”. Buzz goes over to Cavendish Court, has a drink with Mrs. Morrison at the bar without recognizing her, they go to the bungalow so she can change for a drink at a better place.
Morrison is picked up in the rain on Sunset by Mrs. Harwood (Veronica Lake). She’s headed to Malibu, at the toss of a coin she might go to Laguna. If it stands on end, he wants to know, then Long Beach.
They meet over breakfast at the Royal Beach Inn. A radio in the lobby tells him he’s the suspect in his wife’s murder.
He takes a bus back to Sunset, there are no accommodations to be had, two men on the street know a place and have a car. It’s a walkup flophouse on Santa Monica Boulevard, which nevertheless charges ten dollars a night, in advance, the men ask the same for themselves as “commission”. There is a scuffle, interrupted by a patrolman walking up the stairs, somebody’s fender’s been dented out front. It’s their car, it’s hot, a fast bit of gunplay gets them both arrested. Morrison goes to his room.
The manager, Corelli, knows he’s on the lam, puts the squeeze on and is knocked out. Morrison removes the pictures from a double frame smashed in the fray, one of himself in uniform and the other of his son, with a message on the back from his wife “in case anything happens to me”, Harwood’s name is Bauer, he’s wanted for a New Jersey murder.
112 missions breed a camaraderie, Buzz and George back their pilot up for the murder. The mobster Leo and a man with a phony badge pick up Morrison. The house detective makes enquiries, tries to shake a few bucks loose.
Morrison’s held not in Harwood’s posh apartment at Granada Towers but a country place, Leo’s ranch, where Leo’s man finds the message and is blackjacked for it, “there’s ethics in this business same as any other.” Morrison literally turns a table on the mobster as Harwood walks in, the Passaic bank messenger was a youthful lark he blundered into, like marrying the wrong woman, he didn’t kill Mrs. Morrison.
The police have Buzz at the Blue Dahlia saying he did it. They’re in the office, the “monkey music” drives Buzz to distraction, same as in the Morrison bungalow, Mrs. Harwood is picking petals from the dahlias same as the other woman. Morrison arrives, hands Buzz a .45, holds up a wooden match. Buzz concentrates, lights the match with a shot. No, he didn’t do it, his mind is clear. The police call it a night, send everybody home, then a statement by the house detective in the background minutes before rings a bell. He’d been taking money from Mrs. Morrison, blackmail of course, obviously with her husband back he could ask for more, she refused, threatened him, he killed her. “Dad” draws a pistol, a side door opens into him, knocking him off balance, the police kill him.
Hitchcock is sent up in the scene at the bungalow when Mrs. Morrison’s body is discovered by the maid, who thinks the tenant in the gold lamé pantsuit has passed out again on the davenport with the radio on. A closer look apprises her of the facts, and she says with mild astonishment, “oh, brother!”
In the general run of things, says Agee, as good as anything Hollywood ever made, “a good ballet” he compares it with.
Here, on the other hand, Agee betrays his own indecision in critical matters. “Whether you yawn or rather wearily laugh depends chiefly on your chance state of mind,” which is rather a picture of one of those sleepy or arbitrary villains in a Chaplin or Hope picture.
The Perils of Pauline
The inestimable serial transmuted into a fictional biography of its star, Pearl White.
Songs by Frank Loesser.
Marshall was there in the silents, Gasnier is a technical advisor.
Betty Hutton, John Lund. Constance Collier, Billy De Wolfe, William Demarest (her director).
Fuller’s Run of the Arrow is a thoroughgoing analysis, and the opening is practically that of Penn’s Little Big Man, here the white man raised by Indians finds himself fighting on both sides in the course of events, a kind of understanding is reached.
H.H.T. of the New York Times didn’t like movies or understand them much, this one was a “Hollywood semi-sermon” redeemed by Heston’s “spunky, laconic emoting” and a little plain talk.
“Charlton Heston has a fairly confused role”, according to Variety, which goes to show that even professionals can be a bit thick. “The femme interest is slight,” it goes on.
“Solemn,” says Halliwell’s Film Guide, “rather tedious”.
The question is put, what do these tricks and illusions mean, these escapes?
The classic answer (Cool Hand Luke, dir. Stuart Rosenberg) is they give the audience a thrill, an experience, something to remember.
The construction of the film does more, it presents the speaking language of the magician’s bag of tricks as the representation of a life.
Marshall’s quiet set and flawless imagery went buried in the imagination of critics, the New York Times reviewer saw a biopic of usual stamp, whatever that is, and chided the studio.
Hocus-pocus, hoc est corpus.
The German courtroom scene antedates Bergman’s Ansiktet by several years, likewise the scene at the Miner’s Hall in West Virginia.
Money from Home
The comedy team is depicted in the opening credits on two medallions below their names as caricatures. The adaptation by Kanter and Allardice retains a voiceover prologue in Runyonese, then Kanters throughout as streamlined dialogue. Thus, when veterinarian intern Virgil (Jerry Lewis) is called upon to impersonate foppish English jockey Bertie (Richard Haydn, wearing horsey teeth), he gets described as “the John Barrymore of the clamdiggers.” A bitter rival (Gerald Mohr) is derided in these terms by Virgil as Bertie, “they tell me when you ride you ride as if you were a part of the horse. Would that be a compliment, Sir?”
“Honey Talk” Nelson (Dean Martin) also ribs Mohr, “every dog has his day, but the nights are mine.” The Dalian image of a butterfly in the team’s hotel room (Virgil’s pet caterpillar all grown up) is supplemented by another of ants (from Virgil’s Ant Farm) spilling out amongst the guests at a cocktail party in a sterling homage to The Three Stooges.
The faux Bertie speaks of eating Bloated Oaties for breakfast, and of an acquaintance, the Duchess of Muchess. The real Bertie is a lush, and when he and the thoroughbred My Sheba are found in the stable incapacitated by drink, Honey Talk sums up the situation, “a crocked jock and a bagged nag.”
Marshall’s ideal of modest inwardness flowering as comedy is perfectly extended by the 3-D camera, which furthermore permits Virgil and one of the hoods working for Jumbo Schneider (Sheldon Leonard) to wrestle over a pistol in the stables and have it move back and forth perceptibly in an arc along the line of sight within the middle ground.
The great steeplechase results in a photo finish on one horse. “So do me sump’n,” says Virgil, making a face at the close like My Sheba in her cups.
It Started With a Kiss
The proper foundation of a marriage, that’s all. She sees “a beautiful set of things to marry,” regardless of the man. He sees her.
This sendup is rigorously explained to the last degree of clarity and completeness by Tennessee Williams in The Last of the Mobile Hotshots (dir. Sidney Lumet).
The scene is Spain, he’s USAF, cloud castles built in New York.
Zing is the key, the key is zing (Operation Pacific, dir. George Waggner).
Marshall takes his actors to the heights of comedy, “oh, I was meant for beautiful things, I really was.”
What he wants to know is, “are you smarter than Freud?”
The Marquesa and the bullfighter are a sideline of the matrimonial buggy ride in an orange-bright chrome-domed dreamobile, the grand prize of a charity raffle for Stateside millionaires at a dollar a ticket.
A.H. Weiler of the New York Times thought it was “silly”.
Variety was naturally more astute, “highly amusing”.
The writer’s “gaze-bo” comes from Lang’s House by the River, the inept crime from Sturges’ Unfaithfully Yours, there is a deus ex machina in the person of Alfred Hitchcock by telephone (Einstein in Whorf’s Champagne for Caesar), “good old Hitch” also supplies the basis of the structure in Blackmail, here it is the husband who does the deed.
“A run of flighty nonsense” (Bosley Crowther, New York Times).
“A frisky blend of suspense and tomfoolery” (Variety).
“An amiable black comedy” (Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide).
“Must have worked better on the stage” (Halliwell’s Film Guide).
A writer’s naked words are All’s Well That Ends Well on the stage, but a film is “a succession of images”.
Cry For Happy
U.S. Navy Combat Camera Unit in geisha house under false pretenses in 1952. Pretty they are, “like Cony Turtis.”
Diminutive quarters in the Kobe Bank Building (where the darkroom’s a vault) are forsaken in this deal with a Japanese film producer who “rides in Navy equipment”, as the saying goes.
Why are we fighting in Korea? Soldiers and gyrenes and airmen say our “beloved ones” in the homeland, the Navy bids an orphanage.
The pretense isn’t one, at the premiere it’s The Rice Rustlers of Yokohama Gulch, meant for the American market, “this very serious picture!”
The leaky roof goes into Losey’s Steaming. There has to be an orphanage, the press and brass will have it so, “he’s just so full of it!”
Bosley Crowther (New York Times), “a moderately serviceable comedy.” Eleanor Mannikka (All Movie Guide), “predictable and demeaned by low-brow humor.”
The neighborhood kids come in out of The Bridge on the River Kwai but whistling “Three Blind Mice”, which made Crowther think of The Three Stooges, “no worse”, he thought. “You wish to adopt booby?”
The American Occupation, not to put too fine a point on it for pointy-headed film critics.
Ozu has the Imperial Navy man in An Autumn Afternoon.
“Repellent”, says Halliwell’s Film Guide, citing the Monthly Film Bulletin, “charmless and witless”. The particular elegant transformations at the close irked Crowther most particularly.
The Happy Thieves
John Gay undertook what the New York Times called the “diabolical brilliance” of Richard Condon’s “devastating first novel”, this went “down the film drain.”
The stars were disparaged, though Harrison is perfectly astute in the role and Hayworth a world of femininity.
The Rokeby Venus is knocked down at a Spanish castle and purloined again for blackmail, the 2nd of May, 1808 (The Mamelukes’ Charge) is wanted by a dedicated foe... the reason is marvelous, the mastermind’s family went for Napoleon and suffered by it.
The Duchess and the Torero, who will not give up the corrida.
In New York, at the Times film desk, this was lousy, not even Nascimbene’s happy score was a help.
“Oh, we forgot to tell you,” Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide) could not quite get the plot, he follows the Times. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “dreary”.
Papa’s Delicate Condition
He clears away train wrecks on the Lone Star Railroad and walks on eggshells at home, in Grangeville.
The sidewalks are in but the streets aren’t paved, as Lenny Bruce would say. Papa drives a coach and four through the small town to raise up a little daughter, his wife moves away to Texarkana where her father is the mayor, she takes both daughters with her.
You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, also The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (dir. Preston Sturges).
A very terse, elliptical screenplay cut to an extremely fine degree of sharpness, evidently overlooked in the critical estimation. Ladies, please. Bread and circuses and the political family, the title character above it all, gingerly.
The art appraiser’s assistant on a job in Italy for the Count, whose daughter hit a tree while skiing.
Not his daughter, his wife, the one with the money.
The main feint is toward Jane Eyre with some notable landscapes for the romance.
A precisely detailed screenplay receives all Marshall’s voluminous sense of humor in the unraveling of the mystery, but there is one very funny joke on a dubious competition between a flowerseller in the piazza and an urchin on the fly.
Bosley Crowther ineptly reviewed this in the New York Times, “and, boy, is the melodrama vile!”
Advance to the Rear
An exceptionally fine comic allegory of the Civil War in every aspect.
The influence on Leone, Parolini and Tessari appears considerable.
Howard Thompson of the New York Times dismissed it as “a broad and dinky little comedy,” and that’s what you might call a high-pitched overlook.
“Quite sharply made,” says ‘Alliwell, in a rare tribute to any film capable of holding his interest for more than a quarter of an hour.
Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!
Marshall’s homage to Marilyn Monroe.
The cast and crew play down the comedy to rudiments, leaving the grand performance of Elke Sommer as the Divine Didi to carry all.
Buñuel has Susana in another key to predict the outcome, cf. Ken Russell’s French Dressing.
Critics were not receptive, the makers of this film can hardly be imagined caring.
Eight on the Lam
The point of departure is Mickey Shaughnessy’s counsel in The Marrying Kind (dir. George Cukor), leave the job at quitting time, go home to the wife and kids.
Altadena bank clerk, home at teatime, widower with seven children, smashing English mistress.
Which is to say he’s embezzled a fortune from the bank and must hide out with the entire menagerie in Phoenix (the dilemma is recent in Stevenson’s Mary Poppins).
The poem of a Caesar salad takes the lid off the real culprit.
A prime Surrealist comedy, “I know what it’s all about, I read Cosmopolitan!”
Howard Thompson of the New York Times, “a milling, slapstick marathon that four scenarists can't hold together.” Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), “a dull and sloppy comedy.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “feeble comedy punctuated by even feebler chases.”
The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz
The East German Athlete of the Year, overburdened with medals.
Ninotchka (dir. Ernst Lubitsch), Silk Stockings (dir. Rouben Mamoulian), Escape from East Berlin (dir. Robert Siodmak). Social Realism at the Propaganda Ministerium with Dr. Emma Klabfus, “running tractor” and all.
Comrade Schultz in a miniskirt, “another inch and nothing,” complains Assistant Minister Flabface amid portraits of Lenin and Marx in every room.
The Minister rejoices, clapping his hands together, “another inch and everything!” He tells the lovely representative of DDR females, “we both have the same bold, wild, imaginative hearts, the same lovely, extravagant, wicked dreams, n-not like those peasants we’re surrounded by!”
New digs in Ost-Berlin, plain but with a posh bed and vanity table etc. “I feel like I’m dreaming, somebody ought to pinch me.”
“It could happen, it could happen.” Mirror on the ceiling, bars on the windows, the Minister in an adjoining suite.
She goes over the wall on a pole and descends upon the Joy-Joy Club. An ostdeutscher bulldog is put on her tail, a bit dim, who styles himself a journalist with the West-Berliner Tageblatt at a pinch.
The anniversary couple, a CIA agent and his wife. “Honey, they have good food and a great show here.”
“Probably a bunch of nudies.”
An American border runner, who styles himself a journalist and whose contact at the Soviet embassy is shot by his own as a black marketeer pour encourager les autres, now out on a limb has Scotch and nylons by the ambulanceload im Osten with no buyer and a great reckoning.
His rather tacky hotel suite elicits an amusing comment from the defector, “how nice.”
“Eh, it’s not bad.” One might sell her back to the Ministerium, one owes the agent a wad as well, old platoon pal.
“So, love conquers all, huh?”
“Eh, it conquers nothin’.”
The brilliant joke is that East German propaganda is run by the staff of Stalag 13.
A late Marshall masterpiece, a masterwork of the Cold War with a sublime cast, Elke Sommer, Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer, John Banner, Leon Askin, Maureen Arthur, Joey Forman, Robert Carricart, Theo Marcuse, Larry D. Mann, John Myhers, Fritz Feld, Barbara Morrison, Benny Rubin, Benny Baker et al.
One of the great critical misunderstandings proceeded upon this rather monumentally, par for the course really over the long run of Marshall’s films.
Renata Adler of the New York Times, “I think you ought to skip The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz, because this first film of the year is so unrelievedly awful, in such a number of uninteresting ways... since no one involved in the film has any comic talent whatever—becomes grotesque.” TV Guide, “a witless comedy played without style”. The Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “morally offensive”.