Dinner at the Ritz

Dinner at the Ritz has from the start presented something of a critical problem, and one that still obtains even now, to a degree, because it is a masterpiece of style out of and ahead of its time, and thus can only be compared to a work like Henry King’s Marie Galante in a similar position.

Let us note the critical response. A contemporary reviewer, who may not actually have seen the picture, describes it as moving with “Old World decorum and a touch of gout.” Now, the editing (Schuster is the editor of F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise) is probably what baffled him, it’s often in increments of less than a second, and misses nothing. Coupled, indeed united with a genuine feeling for locations, and a great eye for actors, this builds up by subtle variety and rhythmic nuance into a compositional technique all its own (it’s a funny thing about reviewers).

It is possible to trace its influence in each succeeding decade down to the present, beginning with, say, John Huston’s Across the Pacific and Beat the Devil on to The Mackintosh Man. You can see it in the first two Bond films and on to Irvin Kershner’s Never Say Never Again. Ronald Neame’s Gambit is a flowering of the style, and there are flashes of Ealing in it.

 

Kid Monk Baroni

Ugly kid from East 106th Street takes boxing lessons from a priest at St. Dominic’s, turns pro as a syndicate heavy, gets his face fixed and cashes in.

The script is a running analysis that went over some heads, the Billy Goat Gang are stealing a staircase out of a condemned tenement in the opening scene, for firewood (whatever the landlord collects in rent is described as “velvet”). The new face and prize money win the affections of a gold-digger. Baroni marries a nice girl and settles down to work as an athletic director for St. Dominic’s new recreation center.

 

Loophole

A critical analysis of Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life along the lines of the purloined bank deposit (distracted by Violet, pilfered by Potter) in the manner of a policier, to divine the root of menace on the other side of the ledger, and finding it in Boleslawski’s or anyone’s Les MisÚrables.

“That is why the Irish policeman is the best policeman in the world. He never sleeps on duty. He dreams wide awake. And the gangster has little chance” (Acting: The First Six Lessons).

The pivotal reference will be seen to be The Wrong Man (dir. Alfred Hitchcock), adduced by Schuster in advance, as it were. A terrifically unstated masterpiece, extremely astute, beautifully filmed in the City of Angels.

The title is never explained, for example, though it obviously refers to a flaw in the bank examiners’ regimen.

O.A.G. of the New York Times, “just what the title Loophole is supposed to mean is never made quite clear in the Palace’s new offering, but one thing is sure: it’s the tag on a mighty respectable little melodrama.” Leonard Maltin, “imaginative”. TV Guide, “wouldn’t even make a good TV movie these days.Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “never loosens its grip on the viewer for a single second.

 

Dragoon Wells Massacre

The director of Dinner at the Ritz is a witty man, a U.S. Cavalry captain loses his men and then, after regaining consciousness, he loses his girl as well, she’s riding East with a “nice, rich man”.

Apaches all around, the fort miles away, a marshal and two prisoners along, two deputies, and another man, who found the captain unconscious and carries whiskey and rifles in his wagon for the Indians.

 

The Hunt
The Twilight Zone

The best analysis of De Sica’s Umberto D.

Earl Hamner in his capacity as a writer carries things to a conclusion and no mistake, as will be seen also with “A Piano in the House” (dir. David Greene) for The Twilight Zone.

A backwoodsman’s wife doesn’t care much for his hound, having it in the house and all, feeding it and the like.

She sees a little bird light on his side of the bed, and sure as you’re born he does die after a while, him and his hound too out hunting in the piney woods, and go to Hell where a man’s dog just isn’t welcome, then on a piece down the road to Heaven where that isn’t so at all, and wait for her there.