Ain’t no party like a Gatsby party T-shirt [courtesy Skreened]
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
Ten of the many reasons I am glad there is a major disconnect between film and reality.
10 Movies That Make Writing Look Incredibly Dangerous [courtesy of Flavorwire]
- Title: The Decline of Sentiment American Film in the 1920s
- Author: Lea Jacobs
- Year Published: 2008 (University of California Press)
- Year Purchased: 2011
- Source: Half Price Books
- About: I like film criticism that comes with a healthy side of broader cultural and intellectual analysis. It is, admittedly, how I approach the subject, and view the world in general. Before proceeding, know that this review comes with a Warning. Lea Jacobs’ writing is from the crumbling cracker school: dry and without any excess flavour. If you cannot reconcile yourself to the mere thought of reading 313 pages of humourless but acutely insightful commentary, or this review about it, then move on with your bad self. No, really. I won’t be offended. As long as you promise to come back for #227. We’re still cool, right? For the 3 of you left, where were we? Ah, yes. Her writing. If you’re passionate or curious about silent cinema, The Decline of Sentiment is worth your time. Your head will eventually fall into rhythm with her writing style, and by the end of the book you will have a more comprehensive view of the subject even if, like me, you have studied and written about it for years. Continue reading
- Title: Merchant of Dreams Louis B. Mayer, M.G.M., and the Secret Hollywood
- Author: Charles Higham
- Year Published: 1993 (A Laurel Book)
- Year Purchased: 2000?
- Source: Unknown
- About: This is not a nice, unicorns and rainbows biography; nor does it go to great lengths to throw dirt on its subject. Any dirt tossed about was thoroughly earned by the actions of Mayer. It relies heavily on interviews with people who worked with the M.G.M. head who, although willing to engage in breathtakingly awful antics to further his studio, made an incomparable contribution to Hollywood history. He was one of the leading architects in making it a place of mind, and not just a spot on the map. The mythology that he helped put in place is still screwing with our minds a century later. Merchant of Dreams also succeeds in humanizing Mayer. Even if he isn’t likable or particularly respectable, he is interesting, controversial and successful-three qualities that would make him an ideal subject for a biopic of his own.
- Motivation: My passion for cinema history goes deeper than knowing films and their players; I love the machinations and inner workings of the entire system, down to every behind the scenes contributor–no matter how obscure or powerful. Mayer was definitely the latter.
- Times Read: 1
- Random Excerpt/Page 25: “Work, constant work was the Puritan solution for grief, and the young Louis B. Mayer worked desperately hard in the first months of 1914. He was determined to build himself up as a motion picture distributor, taking on all comers.”
- Happiness Scale: 9