I’m taking the evening off to help my husband celebrate his birthday! Have a great Halloween!
“Both of the inventors of the visual glamour, Eickemeyer and Genthe, came from the ranks of the art photographers, that cadre of aesthetically ambitious cameramen and-women who in the 1890s organized into an international community intent on fighting the slapdash amateurism of the mass of Kodak-wielding weekend shutterbugs, the routine posing and eclectic composition of the professional portrait studio, and the condescension of a fine arts critical establishment that denigrated photography as a mechanical craft.”-STILL American Silent Motion Picture Photography, by David S. Shields
This is my contribution to The Mary Astor Blogathon. Since I write about classic films in real life, I am thrilled to be able to share a review with my dear ASPL readers. Thanks to Ruth of Silver Screenings and Dorian of Tales of the Easily Distracted for creating and hosting this delightful event.
Don’t let the melodramatic plot fool you. At its heart, and despite its classification, Red Dust (1932) is a sexy, scandalous, brilliant comedy. The dialogue is superb, fast-paced, irreverent, and witty. It’s punchy, and it flows with that rat-a-tat-tat quality so indicative of 1930s American cinema and our collective national psyche as aggressive, plucky go-getters. In many ways, it is a drawing-room comedy without the drawing-room, one transferred to an unlikely setting with its essence preserved: the comedy of manners element is very much in play as characters of different backgrounds, classes, and mores run verbal roughshod over each another. The slight plot of the film, resting comfortably on a triangle, and nicely augmented by the twin pillars of the Madonna-Whore argument and the fish-out-of-water gambit, gets the job done without going out of its way to be innovative. The real thrill is in the writing, the chemistry and playing of the cast, and the speed and leanness of the production. Nothing in the running time of 83 minutes is wasted, including your attention.
A rubber plantation during monsoon season is a dreadful place. When it is not raining, the red earth spreads viciously like a plague of locusts. There are beasts, tigers, quite literally outside the gates, where they roar from the shadows into the long hours of the night. Hungry eyes pierce the darkness. Watching. Socialization is limited, the work is hard, the crops are unpredictable, and women are scarce. Pleasures are few, and are taken as they come: without questions or expectations. Prayers are useless, and so is remorse. Continue reading
Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law.
Wuthering Heights, starring Kaya Scodelario and James Howson.
On the Road, starring Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund.
Call me conflicted. Go ahead, do it! I am openly ambiguous about F. Scott Fitzgerald as a writer, yet I have never been able to completely escape The Great Gatsby’s allure. Or that of Tender is the Night. Or This Side of Paradise. Or many of his short stories (I’m looking straight at you, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz). There is so much to admire, and so much to question. However, I am going to leave that for another day (as I am working on a new Fitzgerald essay). The Great Gatsby, for all of Hollywood’s money and resources, has never been satisfactorily adapted to film. The Alan Ladd/Betty Field version (directed by Elliot Nugent, 1949) and the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow iteration (directed by Jack Clayton, 1974) are both so-so. Although I write extensively on silent cinema, I have never seen the lost (?)1926 Herbert Brenon directed film starring my hometown movie star (and early Academy Award winner) Warner Baxter, with Lois Wilson as Daisy. Although a good actor, he seems entirely miscast. So much so, that I am really intrigued. Until then, we have this:
Make of it what you will. I’m not sold, but I will probably see it anyway. Unlike HBO’s Hemingway & Gellhorn, which looks so bad that my soul hurts.
I’m a niche writer. I don’t see eye-to-eye with the mainstream media, and that’s okay: I’m happy to go my own quirky way, even in a professional capacity. I’m fortunate to write about subjects that I truly love: dead writers, literary culture, weird short fiction and, of course, classic movies. I’ve been writing about the latter for a decade but, over those years, my focus has narrowed: I now write mostly on silent cinema. Oh, my beloved!
My home city has many amazing, memorable murals (hello, half-upside-down American Gothic!). My favourite-which I discovered a year ago as my mom was scouting out new apartments in this downtown neighborhood-is in the parking lot of a law school. It was so unexpected that I sucked in my breath before letting out a loud squeal. I may have jumped up and down but this is where the memory becomes foggy. Behold: Continue reading