Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
At a time when many litterateurs were decrying the ugly American, Sinclair Lewis went the other way with his romantic depiction of a man called Dodsworth, a successful businessman who has recently retired to his home in the American midwest. But he's not there for long.
The real ugly American is Mrs. Dodsworth, a foolish, prattling snob who treasures the fact that she's younger than he, but probably not by much. She engineers a lengthy voyage to Europe with its cultured sophistication and proceeds to betray herself by horribly incremental degrees. It's she who wrecks the marriage through her assumptions, vanity and silly aspirations.
Dodsworth, 1936, on Turner's Classic Movies Oct. 21 at 5 p.m., is directed by William Wyler, whose legendary tyranny paid off with some magnificent portrayals, by Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton and Mary Astor (the character actress Maria Ouspenskaya plays an Austrian this time).
One of the best lines: Astor's character is shocked to hear Mrs. Dodsworth accidentally claim that she is younger than she, though this is clearly not true.
Mrs. Dodsworth: "I hope I look as good as you when I reach your age."
Astor: "Oh my dear, you're almost bound to."
— Lloyd Dykk
Posted by lee bacchus at 12:55 PM
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Imagine never having heard of the Marx Brothers and suddenly discovering them by accident. I only use the Marx Brothers as the obvious example. I've never found them funny, and that goes double for Charlie Chaplin. I'm more partial to Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton but there are two men who outdid them all.
One recent night came as a sort of miracle. Turner Classic Movies was airing three 1930/31 comedies by Wheeler and Woolsey, a sublime comic duo each of whom started out on Broadway. I ate up every minute, then googled them for more.
At first I took Robert Woolsey to be George Burns, then dismissed the possibility since it would have made Burns too old too young. It turns out Burns patterned himself after Woolsey down to the omnipresent cigar, vest and speech patterns. Bert Wheeler gave me another start: he's the image of Lee Bacchus, and I'm not just saying that because he runs this blog.
Wheeler and Woolsey were anarchs in the true sense. Immensely popular but almost unknown today, they ran afoul of the more priggish critics of the times, who accused them of being vulgar and deprived them of their rightful place as classics in the pantheon of American comedy. Vulgar they certainly could be. Woolsey eyes the legs of a primly coquettish woman who says, "Are you looking at these?" Woolsey says, "I had higher things in mind." They were pre-Code and would never have got away with this stuff after 1934. There's a long scene with Wheeler in drag (to escape a thug) in Peach O'Reno, 1931, in which a line says something about making a football team. Silent, Wheeler rolls his eyes saucily. It was one of many times that I burst out laughing.
Google them — you'll get some idea of what they're about though you'll probably get just a musical number. But even those were wonderful, and never overdone. Maybe write a letter. They were too great to be overlooked. Maybe they were penalized for being so flighty and air-borne. They make today's idea of humor look dull and Victorian.
— Lloyd Dykk
Posted by lee bacchus at 5:02 PM