HIS GIRL FRIDAY is a film that I hadn’t seen and hadn’t sought because it was one that I thought I would never have had an interest in. I like comedy, but I never had an interest in classic Hollywood screwball comedy. That is until earlier in 2018 when I watched Greta Garbo in NINOTCHKA via FilmStruck (RIP’). I found myself rolling with laughter at deadpan humor exhibited by the amazing Garbo. Had I been wrong all these years? Can I, a man born in the 1980s find humor in classic cinema? I love classic cinema and was surprised that this was an area that I never broke into. I purchased HIS GIRL FRIDAY, during the July 2018 sale at Barnes and Noble. Since this was not only an unopened Criterion, it was a film I never saw as well and therefore was perfect for this November 2018 prompt.
In the supplemental features of the Criterion edition of HIS GIRL FRIDAY, film scholar David Bordwell discusses how the film is one of the most American films ever made. This wasn’t just in terms of the ideology or sensibilities portrayed on screen, but in the filmmaking process. Director Howard Hawks was considered to be one of the great American directors who is not a household name. I can see why this is. Hawks manages to keep your eyes strictly on what is on screen without you paying attention to how he sets up, blocks, lights and all those things related to the process of filming. This is the opposite of someone like Stanley Kubrick (one of my favorite directors), who has your eyes on screen and you notice how he puts it on screen. While both ways work perfectly, you can see why a defined visual style sticks in folks memory much longer. However with HIS GIRL FRIDAY, you don’t need a visual style. For this film, the viewers are given one of the fastest, snappiest and wittiest films ever.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY, is the second adaptation of the play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. The first was directed by Lewis Milestone in 1931 under the same name. That film, also included on the Criterion, I felt had a bit more flourishes in regards to the direction as opposed to Hawks. It also felt like a filmed stage play. Yet while entertaining it lacks Rosalind Russell who outshines Cary Grant like the sun sitting next to a light bulb. Her breakneck delivery of the film’s razor sharp dialogue is one of the best performances I’ve seen. It’s also quite physical without becoming slapstick. This is where my eyes opened to classical Hollywood comedy. It was the delivery that made me laugh, even if the joke itself was outdated. I will say, the Ralph Bellamy bit was a fantastic piece of fourth wall breaking.
This film also doesn’t let you forget that it’s based around the world of newspapers and newspaper writing. The film’s humor never detracts from this premise and also manages to never go into parody no matter what left turns the story takes. Hawks excelled in keeping the whole thing balanced and none of the film’s strengths ever got so high that it felt it was covering up a weakness.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY, is a great piece of cinema comedy and engaging as a look into the journalism business. The back and forth humor was some of the best I’ve ever seen in a film and the world of classic Hollywood comedy is a bit broader to me now and something I seek to understand much more thoroughly.
Great to be a part of another year of Shame! I actually accomplished quite a bit. I knocked off a good deal of horror films with Friday the 13th being the big one I wrote about. I also watched and wrote about Straw Dogs which was a very unique viewing experience. Now here we are at 2018 and I have a new list of films to partake of for the first time. This year I want to try for a themed approach. This year I want to focus on westerns, my favorite genre. Not every Shame will be a western though. But I do want to add some more of this genre to my cinematic talking points.
Yojimbo/Sanjuro – Akira Kurosawa
The Hidden Fortress – Akira Kurosawa
The Shooting/Ride the Whirlwind – Monte Hellman
The Revenant – Alejandro G. Inarritu
Romancing the Stone – Robert Zemeckis
A History of Violence – David Cronenberg
Hang em High – Ted Post
One Eyed Jacks – Marlon Brando
McCabe and Mrs Miller – Robert Altman (pray for me here as I typically can not stand Altman films)
Pan’s Labyrinth – Guillermo Del Toro
Ghost in the Shell – Mamoru Oshii
Death Rides a Horse – Giulio Petroni – Complete
Wyatt Earp – Lawrence Kasdan
The end of Straw Dogs has Dustin Hoffman’s David Sumner driving an uncredited David Warner’s Henry Niles back to town after the climatic showdown in the Sumner house. Henry tells David, “I don’t know my way home.” To which David responds, “That’s okay. I don’t either.” This final exchange sums up the entirety of what Straw Dogs conveys. At the end of the day, just what are we?
There will be spoilers here.
Prior to my viewing of Straw Dogs, the only film by Sam Peckinpah I’ve seen was The Wild Bunch. I took that film as a more visceral version of a Leone western. However having only seen it once, I didn’t get the themes that are prevalent with Peckinpah’s work. This film is rife with controversy and complications and interpretations. It is not an easy watch. Things do not resolve themselves. People are not good and don’t nescesarily become better people by the end of this.
This film is certainly one that earned its controversial status. It raises questions. Even if you answer one question, you may not answer the next question the same way. Is Straw Dogs a condemnation of violent masculinity? One may interpret it that way. Or is it a celebration of that? It may be as well. Is Peckinpah blaming women for the violence that occurs against them? It seems that way, at least to me it did. Early on David asks his wife Amy (a heartbreaking performance by Susan George) why doesn’t she wear a bra if she doesn’t want the leering eyes of her ex-boyfriend and his cohorts focused on her chest. This moment is actually one of many that show her husband is not only meek, but part of the overall problem. He disrespects his wife at times and belittles her. He blames her sexual freedom for the attention she did not ask for. By time we reach the climax, you’ll see David is no better than the brutes who invade their home. It just took him a little longer to get there.
The controversial rape of Amy is still a discussion point to this day. Becuase of how Peckinpah filmed the scene, there are indicators that Amy at first refuses but then acquiesces. Now I do not see it that way. I saw a woman trying to cope with the violation being committed against her. The scene is brutal and uncomfortable and I actually feel uncomfortable trying to discuss it. Yet this is film criticism and I’d be remiss to not mention it at all despite its notorious reputation.
This is a very complicated film, directed by a very complicated man. Did Peckinpah hate the violence within himself? Did he allow that to manifest in this film? Does he think David is a hero or antihero? So many questions. It’s fitting that this film came out in 1971, the same year as fellow controversial director Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Straw Dogs, like that film are not easily watched. Yet both films hold a mirror to the ghastly primal nature of humanity and at the very least, make you look inside and question just what are you. Straw Dogs, structurally is a time bomb, ticking away during its runtime until it explodes in the climax.
Is it just a matter of time for any of us? Just another of the many questions it forever brings. Endless questions and endless discussion.
2015 is here and I must admit I did not complete my penance for 2014 nor did I even watch a movie a month. For 2015 however I am making all attempts to rectify that. Behold my 2015 CinemaShame with some holdovers from last year.
1. Blade Runner
2. Do The Right Thing
4. 3:10 To Yuma (carryover from 2014)
5. A Clockwork Orange
6. Lethal Weapon (seen 2-4 but never the original)
7. Ace in the Hole
8. Friday The 13th. (Another 2014 carryover)
10. The Hustler
11. Marathon Man
12. The French Connection
This year I’ll be 30 years old. I haven’t completed a whole lot of things but I am determined to finish this list. I wish myself luck!
At this point with a little more than a month left on the year, I’m trying my best to get as many movies in as possible. So most likely my original list won’t be completed but I am certainly still watching. Here is a look at the gothic horror film The Innocents which I had never seen. I previously posted this on my personal blog, I felt this had to be added to my shame because this is a brilliant film. I don’t usually engage in hyperbole so this really resonated with me.
Looking at The Innocents for the first time.
Directed by Jack Clayton
I picked this up during the semi-annual Criterion Collection sale at Barnes and Noble. I have heard about this film’s legacy for years and had never seen it. I always like to hear of successful genre films from an older era because I feel viewers nowadays dismiss them unfairly. Here we have a nice and atmospheric gothic horror film that as you watch it is actually quite unsettling. Deborah Kerr plays a woman who becomes the governess for a wealthy man’s niece and nephew. I won’t go too much further into the plot as not to spoil anything but there is something suspicious about these kids. I know it sounds cliche, but the mystery behind this is quite intriguing.
The film opens with the 20th Century Fox logo, but no fanfare. It’s just a stark black and white image with the sound of a little girl singing. Very unnerving. I had previously thought that the opening to Alien 3 was very dark and foreboding but this takes the cake. The film oozes menace throughout which really makes it a horror film and not just some scare machine which one would think having seen its trailer. Honestly it doesn’t help sell the film at all. It makes it look like some 60s B-movie and this is far more than that.
As I watched the film, I took note of the splendid craftsmanship in the cinematography. It really reminded me of the work of Stanley Kubrick. Combine that with the tension that permeates the story which is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock, this is probably why I responded so well to the picture.
A prime example of knowing how to scare people without making them jump. I would recommend The Innocents to anyone who hasn’t seen it or to those who profess to be horror movie buffs. This is a fantastic film, with quality acting and it’s also very well crafted. It’s a shame I did not see this film sooner.
I know, I know. I’ve been out for a while. Since March I believe.
At this very moment across the country, various Barnes and Noble locations are having a sale on Criterion Collection titles. If you are unfamiliar, The Criterion Collection is a distribution group that collects classic and contemporary films and markets them to cinephiles moreso than the general public. Since Criterion releases are usually higher priced than regular films, I use this opportunity to collect as many as I can during the sale.
One gem I managed to pick up was “The Most Dangerous Game.” The film was directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and Irving Pichel and produced by Merian C. Cooper. Cooper and Schoedsack would soon move on after this film to create the landmark adventure film “King Kong.” In fact the sets of this film were used in “King Kong.” The movie stars Joel McCrea and Fay Wray as two people who are shipwrecked on an island owned by Zaroff, played by Leslie Banks. Zaroff is a man who hunts other humans for sport, hence the most dangerous game. McCrea’s character, Bob Rainsford is also a big game hunter and is selected to provide ample challenge.
I must say for a film that’s only 67 minutes long, it certainly does not waste any time. There’s basically no exposition and I still feel I know enough about the characters we should be focused on. Also with this being a Pre-Code film, the violence feels a little more tangible.
I also did not expect to be drawn in with the level of suspense that this movie has. Once the hunt begins you feel part of the battle of with between the two hunters and how a calm head really is the greatest weapon you can possess in a situation like that. I certainly hope the short story that this film is based off of by Richard Connell is even more suspensful.
If you have the chance to watch this great adventure film, it reall is a gem and I would highly reccomend it. “The Most Dangerous Game” is currently available on Criterion Collection DVD, Hulu Plus and also on YouTube. This is a great example of classic Hollywood filmmaking.
Due to the sale, my list may most likely have some major changes coming soon. Stay Tuned. I won’t be gone as long again,
Oh 1968. A great year in film that brought us 2 seminal science fiction pictures, Planet of the Apes and 2001: A Space Odyssey. However we forget there was a third.
That mind shattering Science Fiction epic starring Academy Award winner Jane Fonda in a groundbreaking roll.
To answer your question, I did not use the incorrect word. I meant roll as in the opening credits that have Fonda rolling in zero-g as she removes her space suit.
As far as legitimate substance in the movie Fonda’s body is all you get. Which isn’t bad when you get a chance to see it. However you do have to go through portions of the actual movie to get there.
I know I’m being unfair, it was a bad movie that became a cult classic. I get that. For me however it just wasn’t fun to get through. Every movie doesn’t have to be The Godfather, but I do like to have fun. I’ve seen plenty of B Movies and love those as much as I love my classics.
One thing I will say about Barbarella. I don’t know what Fonda’s thoughts were while making the movie, but I don’t think for one second she phoned it in. Maybe that’s because of her bloodline or she legitimately had fun while making it. And if either one of those assessments are correct, then she certainly is one of our treasured acting gems.
Despite that I didn’t enjoy it I am glad that I have gotten this off my list of shame. It is a part of cinema lore and should be seen whether you like it or not.
This is pretty much all you need. Part of me wishes I could see Jane Fonda back in the 60s