Parnell

“The man whom his country betrayed.”

Stahl and his writers have the Depression as background to scenes of Ireland’s despoliation.

That is to say, Van Druten and Behrman, out of Mrs. Schauffler.

Evocatively filmed on location, and Russell could not do more with the opening scene in New York.

Arrest for “seditious utterances,” genteel incarceration (better than ungenteel, Auden would say).

“So that’s the great Parnell... ”

Harp flag (caryatid) raised and flying behind the titles and credits to begin.

Halliwell’s Film Guide blames the film’s failure on miscasting, it is otherwise “well-made”, according to Halliwell, who cites Variety (“dull and overlong”), Frank Nugent (“singularly pallid, tedious and unconvincing”) and Graham Greene (“virginal and high-minded”) in general excoriation. Critics do not like this sort of picture.

“... in defence of women’s honour.”

Honour? I always wondered why they called it that.”

It’s certainly not the casting, which is absurdly correct vis-Ó-vis Halliwell’s Film Guide, and the deep performances of Gable and Loy (surrounded by Marshal, Oliver, Burke, Crisp, Gwenn and Zucco et al.) must be regarded as dramatically interesting, to say the least.

Stahl’s direction is very curiously constructed in an unexpected rhythm of medium long shots (rather like Mamoulian’s Becky Sharp) with inserts almost like a chorus (a sudden close-up for an interjected line) that project the solitude of the lovers amidst public noise and political squabbles, or so it seems.

And so, the film that its critics betrayed, like so many others. Perhaps the abdication is another reason for the dismissal of a biographical drama taking as its subject “the uncrowned king of Ireland,” a timely reason for a picture rather ahead of its time.

Chez O’Shea, Clara bids, “do tell me, Mr. Parnell, what is a shillelagh?”

Willie answers in his stead, “it’s a sweetmeat, Clara.”

TV Guide has never seen the picture or would not have written that nonexistent “attempts” by Gable “at an Irish accent were laughable,” yet somehow “it’s slow, pretentious, expensive, and boring.”

The Phoenix Park murders. One of the great London fogs (a remarkable long take interrupted by ‘ottato).

Most critics lead lives of silent consternation, grant them the schadenfreude of a popular unsuccess.

Vindication and downfall, a typically Irish story about another man’s doxy.

 

Immortal Sergeant

A singularly bitter, triumphant film that explains Leave Her to Heaven.

The popular novelist is a Junkers full of jerries manning the waterhole.

It should be very easy to point out a line from Reed’s The Way Ahead to Mann’s Men in War and so forth. The more obscure and perhaps important comparison is to Cornelius’ I Am a Camera. This is a characteristic complexity of Stahl’s, one very nearly hit upon by Sarris in The American Cinema.

The title character is a soldier among civilians at war.

T.S. of the New York Times had not a clue, “hokum gets the best of it.”

Variety, “neatly-woven script” that “Stahl directs in deft style.”

Time Out, “standard WWII issue”.

TV Guide, “mediocre drama”.

Hal Erickson (Rovi) follows T.S. in speaking of “gratuitous” flashbacks.

Halliwell’s Film Guide has Time to back it up on “poetic leanings” and the like.

 

The Keys of the Kingdom

In spite of the excellent jokes, Mallett of Punch found it “long”.

The life of a Scottish priest in China, as read in his journals back home on the eve of his forced retirement.

The direction rises to a diapason of Millet’s Angelus in the bombed-out church and is capital with each of the many performances led by Gregory Peck, who this early on lends his talent for mimesis to the early and late scenes of the aged missionary with the Úlan and skill of Guinness as Father Brown.

Halliwell somehow contrived to find the film “undistinguished”.

Bosley Crowther led the critics, “the script, by Joseph Mankiewicz and Nunnally Johnson, is patently at fault” (New York Times).

Variety could not entirely agree. It will be noted that Father Chisholm’s two failed curacies are mirrored in the fallen woman and her daughter, the latter’s son goes fishing with him “near Tweedside, Scotland.”

 

Leave Her to Heaven

A dream produced by reading a bestseller in the club car and, naturally, dozing off, though perhaps the train in the desert is part of the dream, the sleeper awakes facing the author, hence Gene Tierney’s stare.

She marries him, daughter of James Joyce, kills the crippled kid brother he dotes on, kills the unborn child within her, kills herself and accuses her sister, who loves the wretch.

The point is, he (Cornel Wilde) is slapped on the wrist and returns to his readership.

A great lesson in art, not to be color-blind (he gave up painting) and a philistine and a money grub, the artist is stripped of these.

Consequently, one of the great achievements of the cinema by virtue of Shamroy & Stahl’s discovery, advanced from the tonal range and mastery of black-and-white cinematography, that with sufficient care and application a film can be made in Technicolor not by treating hues on a par with tonal values but by a consideration of the entire palette available as a conscientious system, in short the material for a work of art.

This Bosley Crowther dismissed as “a piece of cheap fiction... arbitrary, artificial and inane” (New York Times). Variety agreed, disparaging the actors. Such a line subsequent critics have certainly toed.