It has the hallucinatory accuracy of a dream, and certain shots (Rains and Davis outdoors in a long tête-à-tête at the sanitarium later on, for example) are crystal clear to the point of obscurity in just the manner of a dream or second sight. Whitman’s “The untold want” is carefully modeled from this picture into Fellini’s Giulietta degli Spiriti, and Bergman also wore gloves (or, if you prefer, took them off) to transport Now, Voyager’s mortal contents into Autumn Sonata. Edward Ruscha grasped the whole thing bag and baggage for Miracle. Nothing escapes his eye there, above all the minute camera work in Charlotte’s room at the opening.
Add to the list of Kubrick’s myriad borrowings for 2001: A Space Odyssey a dolly-in through a porthole in one of the montages (assembled by Don Siegel), which is by way of Renoir’s La Grande Illusion.
The point of Rapper’s oneiric mise en scène is to set off (or not to set off) the Shakespearean double artifice of Bette Davis’s Charlotte Vale, which is his whole concern from first to last. Again, like Bergman’s stage version of A Doll’s House, all the other characters are brought into relation with this one like cutters on a lathe, and Rapper’s art may be gauged by the precision of his work with Mary Wickes, Paul Henreid and Gladys Cooper, among others, each handled separately as a prize tool.
The Adventures of Mark Twain
Two things, what it looks like, the Mississippi River and steamboats, out West, all that truck. And then, in the second half (critics don’t mention how long this picture is), what it looks like to Samuel L. Clemens, that is the consecration after the illustration.
No director ever took better photographs, made them good enough to give Orson Welles a sneezing fit, they all serve a purpose.
Somebody made Bosley Crowther a critic, he had the good grace to wear it badly and disgrace the profession. “Lengthy and desultory”, he starts out, giving this writer the lie to begin with, “spotty and often inaccurate... a jumble of episodic snatches... with little sustained significance... largely inconsistent with the facts... abrupt and superficial... strangely inconsistent... colorless and conventional... rodomontade” etc.
The direction is very fast, none faster. J. Lee Thompson borrows the Twain-busting gadget for What a Way to Go!, Huston the ending for Moulin Rouge.
“One of the best of the Warner biopics” (Time Out Film Guide) does not quite cover it.
Joseph and His Brethren
The two main performances are those of Robert Morley as Potiphar, and Belinda Lee as his wife, Henet. Potiphar is a great caricature of the slavemaster as bully and fool, on the wiry armature of a man with a grasping sense of position. This is in some senses an intensified rendition of a Morley specialty (cp. Beat the Devil), with more continuous playing to the camera. Its comic vortex tinged with violence serves to focus the relatively direct turn of Belinda Lee, a sharply-chiseled English beauty of the Shirley Eaton type, who must simply incarnate desire frustrated as realistically as possible, and that she is able to do with great command and responsiveness, turning on a dime and wasting no frames on preparation, but instantaneously variable.
Geoffrey Horne, the subaltern of The Bridge on the River Kwai, has a rarefied presentation of a nice Jewish boy in a place like this, Joseph is said to make excellent wine, and as he samples the vintage before serving it to Pharaoh at Potiphar’s feast, he tilts his head to the side with a long swift look of calculation, the way Vladimir Horowitz sometimes ended a performance.
As Grand Vizier, Joseph repels Syrian invaders after Egyptian grain by opening the floodgates and drowning them. Before this, before his imprisonment, Potiphar goes hunting, and there is intercut footage of an African elephant hunt with spears.
Finlay Currie plays Jacob as a great patriarch of limitless resources.