“Murdering Doesn’t Improve One’s Manners”, uh Mannons

For over thirty years, I have unsuccessfully searched for Mourning Becomes Electra and, today, have finally seen it. My anticipation grew exponentially this morning as I readied to view the 1947 movie and its unfold of the saga Mannon.

Yes, TCM would be featuring the Dudley Nichols effort that had miserable box office returns. In fact, receipts back then totaled what would one ultimately amount to less than today’s average price for a here house in Raleigh.

Well, I can see how Russell was nominated for an Academy Award. I can see how she lost, although her appetite was surely well-whet from scenery. And we all remember that Loretta Young twinkle.

The adaptation of the O’Neill cycle drama based on the Oedipal tragedy, here, becomes quite the Greek farce. The altogether dated movie, beginning with the once relevant but today made trite “Shenandoah” overture, is chock full of Thursday’s anachronisms.

The score was undoubtedly perfect when the drama premiered on Broadway. It today, however, falls as flat as the backdrop painted with the immediate front view of the Mannon mansion.

To its credit, the story combines timeless themes such as: the savagery of war, family disfunction gone awry,  suicide, murder, and incest. The little-veiled theme of the latter is surprisingly titillating and modern, not in its occurrence. O’Neill certainly doesn’t shy away from the various Sophoclean relationships and any combination therein.  Henry and Marigold are well aware of such proclivities but only from afar … as they spy on the outdoor pusses and their cohorts.

Iconic Greek actress and Academy Award winner, Katina Paxinou, is dreadfully miscast and distracting as Christine in her flouncy hoop skirts and unabashed accent.

I’ll give you Sir Michael Redgrave and Raymond Massey, both giving adequate performances and playing against type. In fact, Sir Mike is perhaps the best part of MBE, at least according to Henry.

Finally and most generally, It was difficult to even remember that it was set in post Civil War Maine. That, though, suggests the cruel wear of time, not any fault of direction, script, or acting.

Fiddle-De-Dee. (OOPS. Wrong movie. Wrong side.) The 173 minutes were nonetheless happily spent. MBE was fun to watch and at least my Pop Culture bucket list is now shorter by one.

Now “go fasten all the shutters and throw out the flowers!”

Forgive me, Sr Edward Patricia. I titled this post with a playful take on one of the better known O’Neill quotes.

Forgive me, Gentle Readers for my unbridled and slightly caustic pre-weekend ramblings. It’s been far too long since my beloved and I have actually stepped inside a movie theater.

Cocktails, Claws, and Flying Fur: A Favorite Film

As I am an avowed aficionado of the film, it was always assumed that Henry would eventually grow fond of the 1962 classic “Walk on the Wild Side.” Mind you, I was never able to see the film until I was a teenager, as prostitution, lesbianism, alcoholism, (and many other mid-century “isms”) were neither simple to gently explain nor within a six year old’s ken. Yet, by the time I was an adult, I could: quote much of the dialogue, had studied the curricula vitae of the cast, and had aged out of both the “closet” as well as any temperance league. Such melodramatic gems as this one and, to a lesser extent, almost anything written by Fannie Hurst offered a caché of divine camp, best accompanied by a martini. The lovely Capucine, brooding Laurence Harvey, the ever-nubile Jane Fonda, and a rather butch Miss Barbara Stanwyck all seasoned Nelson Algren’s 1956 novel with a relative buffet of sleaze, tawdry gratuitousness, and excess. Time has aged the film quite well, but sadly not its players. Perhaps, a moment of silence is warranted.

But I digress. Today’s afternoon chat involved my marmalade puss Henry and not any justification or merits of a cinematic potboiler.

Henry, it seems, is extremely fond of the magnificent “titles” that introduce the B&W movie. Its slinking and brassy theme scores a single lens focus of a provocative black cat as it maneuvers pipes, tires, and the backstreet crags. The black cat perfectly lures us in and is never properly acknowledged for its performance although, as with Beatrice Straight in her Oscar-winning turn, it is only in a fast three minute segment. Henry places the unnamed cat among his small group of the uncredited “best of the best” feline film performances of the 20th and 21st centuries along with: the wonderfully featured Pyewacket (“Bell, Book, and Candle”), Cat (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s“), and Mr. Bigglesworth (“Austin Powers“). He has heard a great deal about the purr-fect delivery and charm of Modigliana (“Feral TV“) but has never had access to any footage.

During a break from his grooming  this afternoon, Henry confided that he hails from a long line of thespians. Modesty and lack of either Pounce or catnip, however, keep them from bestowing accolades in some back alley, unlike some of the folk he’s noticed were penciled into my address book.

This weekend, Henry and I are planning to view “Back Street”, of course not the Susan Hayward remake. Who knows? “Madame X” might follow.

His fondness for “Walk on the Wild Side” is nonetheless special and ironic. He had read an old Bosley Crowther review that mentioned that most of the scenes take place in a New Orleans “cathouse”, which Henry assumed was likely similar to Dr Markle’s Finishing School for Wayward and Erstwhile Pusses. He now knows better.

“Destino”: A Joint Synergy Between Dalí and Disney

The historic collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí, “Destino”, was side-tracked and, later, abandoned in 1946. Reviving the project in 1999, French animator Dominique Monfréy guided a team of over twenty-five animators. Painstakingly, they deciphered Dalí’s elaborate journals and sketches, as well as the labyrinthine storyboards of John Hench, the original animator.

The six-minute short follows the doomed love story of Chronos and a mortal woman. The narrative continues as the woman dances through surreal scenery clearly inspired by Dalí’s mid-century paintings. Disney flairs abound in both the sweeping, billowy movements and the constant interplay between the back- and foreground. There is no dialogue. However, the soundtrack includes music by the Mexican composer Armando Dominguez.

While the short does have the mystique and verve of a lost “Fantasia” segment, it depends primarily on the Dalí-esque imagery and linear movement; with the score, subliminal. With each view, I always find there to be a compulsive challenge to identify motifs and actual works created by that saucy Spaniard. Henry reminds me that I should always refer to such genius with a proper name. Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marqués de Dalí de Pubol.

Laughing at School Belles

It’s a grim day here at Marklewood. My beloved and I are both dealing with frustrating but crucial issues, lowering our already battered threshold of patience and tolerance. But as it is yet a hopeful and virginal year, we will play the Universe’s game, actively playing our own hands and foregoing those of the dummy.
Surprisingly, however, this clip made me laugh out loud, a rare occurrence I assure you. The thought of
such whimsy and dear Alistair in drag as Miss Fritton join to boost my spirits and imagination … especially when I reflect on my high school chemistry partner. I was the type of A student who beat himself up when he received an A and not an A+. I had, however, learned to hold back the swell of tears several years earlier. My partner was, at best and only if you squint, a C- scholar. He was constantly saying: “oh, let’s mix these two!” As far as I know he is still alive.
Enjoy. And make merry.

“The Belles of St Trinian’s”, 1954