ALL THAT JAZZ (1979)

STARDUST AND SHADOWS is currently enjoying the MAD  ABOUT MUSICALS free online course presented by Ball State University and  TCM.   In keeping with that theme, my brain went back to  the Bob Fosse Directed  film ALL THE JAZZ which perhaps will get mentioned in this course.

ALL THAT JAZZ is a huge favorite of mine since it  came out in the  theatre.  I have seen it many time and  still marvel at the sheer audacity of it’s  story,  the  musical numbers and  the  thought  of  choreographing one’s  death on stage and  screen

The picture  stars  non musical Roy Scheider as  self  destructive Theatre Director Joe  Gideon during  his final days.    Scheider gets some high powered Broadway help in the persons  of  Fosse dancer/lover  Ann Reinking  and Leland Palmer  and  Ben Vereen plsu a host of others  that populate this wickedly  cynical music  fantasy.  Without  going into plot: ALL THAT JAZZ features some wonderful  hellish moments  of  venom and  sadness all climaxed with  a  brilliant final musical number.

One  wonders why Bob Fosse  would cast an ex boxer/non musical actor like Roy Scheider in the lead  role but it  succeeds.   Scheider’s weary  face  and laconic delivery of some of the best single lines in the  film make it a  good  choice.  Being an ex fighter Scheider would have the physical look for this look brutal, sweaty world of  Dance and the stage.   Performers,  sweat here,  the  cry here,  the  get injured in both their body and their hearts here. Pills get popped, wine  gets drunk and  relationships mutate. Roy Scheider’s  thin  sinewy frame  seems to hold it all in while reliving his past and  flirting with the embodiment of  Death itself in the person of  white dressed   Jessica  Lange

The  cinematography  of  Italian Giuseppe Rotunno is without a doubt  some of the best to be shot in the small world of the Theatre.   Dark gloss blacks, bright lights, Neon signs. mirrors, smoke plus  brief moments  on the real streets of  New York make it a  real treat. Interesting to  note  that Rotunno also worked on the  1966  disjointed yet notorious  fantasy film CANDY.

The  costumes all work.  The use of  solid black for  Joe Gideon except when he goes outside he wears  white goat.   All the brights and  dark colors have  delicious urban used  feel to them like the characters these people inhabit.

The  crowd  scenes backstage when  Gideon is  confronted by a irrate yet in effective  film producer and is  chastised  for  ‘going over budget on  editing a  movie while  Gideon is  cutting about a stand up Comic routine is priceless.

The music (yes  there are songs)  all fit with  the  Bob Fosse “Jazz Hands”  dance  moves along with the  “Busby Berkeley on speed” inspired  staging.

ALL THAT JAZZ (1979) caused some trouble(Like he didn’t  already have  enough problems) in Director Bob Fosse’s life as it was thought some of the portrayals of the Broadway people particularly the producers hit a little  to close to home.  Then again Fosse  didn’t  seem to care.

ALL THAT JAZZ (1979) is not  ‘happy musical” yet it has  a  strange  uplifting ending.  Very worthy of been scene  again on the wide screen.

 

 

 

 

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CRUEL GUN STORY (1964)

No these are not screen shots from the latest Neo Noir thriller of today but images  from 1964 Japanese picture  CRUEL GUN STORY.   A stylistic heist film made  in response to the coming “Spy Craze”  ignited by  DR NO (1963)  and the subsequent ending of the  Classic Film Noir cycle  in the  early fifties.     This picture was  directed by  Takumi Furukaw who was influence Sejuin  Suzuki to spin out his wonderful TOKYO DRIFTER (1966) and   and BRANDED TO KILL (1967).

These pictures  all feature fast editing,  action, gun play and  girls some  like the  Suzuki films  is  brilliant colors.   There were not well received in their native country when made and  did cost Suzuki his career there which was later  restarted  with more conservative fare.

CRUEL GUN STORY features lead actor   Joe  Shishido who recruits various unsavory types  to perform a bank heist involving the stealing of an armored vehicle.  Flashing guns,  fist fights (although some unconvincing) abound.    What is a highlight  is the  good  use of light and space in the  composed shots even something as  simple as  gravel on a  highway flying up.

Joe Shishido was a  “non descript” leading man in the industry at the time who had an operation  to augment his facial cheeks for more  menace and  distinction.  The idea  worked and  he  went on very long career in film  and  Television is Japan including the  already mention  BRANDED TO KILL (1967)

For an action difference that lead to the creation of the  ‘Hong Kong cool” of  Chow Yun Fat, Jackie Chan  and  Tony Leung why not enjoy this  high octane  blasts.

 

 

GOING HOLLYWOOD (1933)

 

Its summer time (IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME made in 1949) and that means  a  song in  some people’s hearts so why not enjoy a Hollywood musical. Take a  spin through the 1937 Raoul Walsh directed GOING HOLLYWOOD.   The one and only Bing Crosby and Marion  Davies are  featured along with  Canadian Born Fifi D”Orsey ( Born Yvonne Lussier  in Montreal Quebec) and Ned Sparks ( Born Ned Sparkman Guelph Ontario.)

D’ Orsey  has a wonderful musical number  that Sparks interrupts is one of  the  pictures best comic moments.

Bing Crosby makes  this picture  go with his crooning and  his presence.  Crosby was the  top selling male singer  in the  world then and  continued  even  as  rising star Frank Sinatra was  beginning to make  a  dint. Crosby was the  ‘Gold standard” in  radio play, record and sheet music sales plus lifestyle  with his clothes and  cars.

The clip shows  the  wonderful use of  crowds and   control that Raoul Walsh used in this song sequence of Bing’s character leaving for Hollywood.   This played a part in the action sequences Walsh was  to direct later in his career.

Marion Davies who was  William Randolph Hearst’s mistress was cast in an attempt to team here with the huge presence  that was Crosby and others in the picture.  Davis  does a credible job in GOING HOLLYWOOD  yet she appears  out of her  element in the  dance sequences.  She  tried hard and no doubt has  the best  teachers that money could buy to help.

GOING HOLLYWOOD (1937) may seem to be a spectacular musical in the MGM vein was  strong attempt at the formula by Warner Brothers.  The picture lacked  the MGM people behind the cameras and on set yet still worth a look only because it contains Crosby singing his heart out with ease.

THE SWIMMER (1968)

All I can say is  wow  after this one with Burt Lancaster take risks  as a performer  and for story content.    THE SWIMMER (1968)  Directed by Frank Perry  is  a  stylish  journey of  Man: in this case  Ned Merrill (Burt Lancaster) to ‘swim home” in his neighbor’s pools which are all in a basic line some distance apart: one summer day rural Connecticut.

The Journey consists of old  lovers and acquaintances from a life that slowly reveals itself as being not  quite what one thinks.   It is a bitter trip  filled with physical toil, isolation, lost love, rivalries, unfulfilled moments and  brilliant ecstasies.

I would  suggest its a  “Guy” film in that it  examines aging process in a  different light. Directed  with some ‘sixties” style  with  zooms, closeups,   slow mo  running in the  grass  filed shots all set to quirky pastoral score by Marvin Hamlisch.     The source material was a 12 page  short story by John Cheever who has been featured in many magazines such as  Esquire who often  wrote of  nostalgia of  a vanishing life and  alienation.

Its a quirky picture which I think fits right beside Mike Nichols Directed  THE GRADUATE (1967)  as a  portrait of male changing roles in the 1960’s.

Hard  to see  but worth the  time.

 

LAYERED MOMENTS FROM PICNIC (1956)

 

This sequence from PICNIC (1956) Directed by Joshua Logan has  good use of layers on par  with Tennessee Williams Southern use of men, women and  relationships gone  wrong or  embittered.

This sequence has been called one of the “sexiest dances”  in the  movies.  Yes it has the look,  the  smoldering feel of something passing between the glances between Kim Novak and  William Holden.  I say that its  Rosalind  Russell that steals the scene as  she tosses herself recklessly demanding affection in spite of the  “Small town morals”.  This is setup with Holden later  dancing with Arthur O Connell at before Russell’s burst out. Her character of the  old maid school teacher Rosemary Sidney wants William Holden’s  Hal Carter so much that she is stung by even the affection shown to everyone else but her.

 

 

Susan Strasberg  performance as  younger Millie Owen’s:  the  ‘ugly sister”   to Kim Novak’s older  Madge Owens also take  the scene with her background reaction.  She  as  well is infatuated with Hal Carter yet she takes her place with a  broken heart.  Well crafted scene which is more  than what it is known  for which was  the  ‘dance”

THE SEA WOLF (1941)

 

A good picture will allow  you to understand the story and the  roles  almost without  dialogue.  These moments from Michael Curtiz Directed version of  THE  SEA WOLF (1941) is a  wonderful example of  that technique.  Curtiz was  a story teller on par with John Ford even if  he moved  from genre to genre.  Curtiz was at home with the  ‘large  story” and the character  study.    Here he  works with a brilliant cast of  Edward  G  Robinson, Ida Lupino, John Garfield and  Alexander Knox.      The scenes  are  cut to music  yet  you can still understand the motives,  the churning ambitions and  passions of the people.     The  turmoil of the  sea water  that surrounds the  ship….The  Sea Wolf.

TOMORROW THE WORLD (1944)

 

STARDUST AND SHADOWS suggests  another off  the  path story in TOMORROW THE WORLD (1944) . The picture was Directed by Leslie Fenton who was married  to Anne Dvorak.   Its a story of a  German Boy Emil (Skip Homeier)who is  sent to America to live to live with  his Uncle  Mike Frame (Fredric March).  Emil has been exposed to the Hitler Youth training even struts around: spouting Nazi idealogy in a uniform complete with dagger.  Fredric March is wonderful as the  upright Mike Frame who is  going to marry Leona Richards (Betty Field) who is Jewish.   Agnes Moorhead has a  good  turn as  Frame’s sister Jessie.  The picture features some not  so typical strong roles  for children particularly Joan Carol in the role of Pat Frame.   The children have the distinction of solving Emils intigration into American society by doing many of the  actions adults had  done in  picture of the  time.  They hunt down Emil at the conclusion and show  him the  error of his ways.

TOMORROW THE WORLD (1944)  is one of  handful of  wartime films that tried to show the plight of the everyday German during, that time.  It was  was also a  successful play under the same title with Homeier in the role of Emil on Broadway.