THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES (1941)

This picture Directed by Sam Wood for RKO STUDIOS is an odd film to view.  Not so much because of the  story which is of a Millionaire goes undercover at his own store to find the people responsible for hanging his effigy from a  street light as protest but  because of the main characters.

It follows  the genre of  the ‘Oppressed workers  against big business” which would  follow with other films giving rise  to what some would later  say were communist throughs

Actor Charles Coburn who’s distinctive speech style reminds me of  Fred Mac Murray in MY THREE SONS on television in the 1960’s(William Demarest who played “Uncle Charlie” in MY THREE SONS when William Frawley left is also in this  film in small role) to  chirpy, crusading Jean Arthur have this low  key chemistry that did not seem to make the picture go.

NIGHT FLIGHT (1933)  made by Clarence Brown and  starred  Clark Gable, Helen Hayes, Lionel Barrymore, Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy with a powerhouse story of flying serum over mountains  also suffered  from something not quite right feeling and  did not  do well.

The DEVIL IN MISS JONES features  dialogue which  very pointed and  exploitative almost one could say preachy in its  tone especially towards the  end .  The picture also opens with a contrived  Devil and  Hell fire prologue featuring  Jean Arthur.  Through the  film: Arthur does  her best as  the oppressed worker of  a  large  Department store who unknowingly befriends her undercover boss  on his mission.

What does lift the film is the  work of  screen  veteran Spring Byington as the older store  employee Elizabeth Ellis who becomes a love interest.  Her quiet mannered ways and  voice  add a  sincerity to the story as  boyish Robert Montgomery crashes about the beach scenes.

 

The  Coney Island  war time  crowded  beach  moments  really do add  a  different look to beach recreation.   People literally upon people in the sand trying to get  some  recreation  followed  by some  comedy bits  with Charles Coburn in a beach shop.

THE  DEVIL  AND MISS JONES  gave  Charles Coburn a Best Supporting actor nomination for the Academy awards along with Norman Krasna for best Original Screenplay

S. Z.  Sakall  is  a  standout in limited screen time as  the  butler of  Charles  Coburns  character.   Its a shame he did not get chance to play the role of the millionaire owner but he  was not a  box office star.

THE  DEVIL AND MISS JONES works on a  different  level due  it odd interaction  so settle back in your slippers you just bought: relax  and  see it  for  yourself. You will not need a  receipt.

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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.