[Alternative Muses] Two for the Road: Erich Maria Remarque/Mary Astor Mashup

“Life is a disease, and death begins already at birth. Every breath, every heartbeat, is a moment of dying-a little shove toward the end.”-Erich Maria Remarque (died on 25 September 1970)

Mary Astor, Stars of the Photoplay, 1924

Stars of the Photoplay, 1924: Mary Astor (died on 25 September 1987)

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[The Mary Astor Blogathon] Red Dust: Who Knew That Rubber Plantations Were So, So Sexy?

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.

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 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