CINEMONDO series on Link TV

Link TV, the national independent non-commercial satellite television network, announced today the premiere of a new weekly international film series called CINEMONDO that brings cinema from around the world to foreign movie fans. The new weekly Link TV series will be one of the few destinations for cinephiles to watch quality foreign films that were produced to bridge worldly gaps and promote in viewers a better understanding of the broader world. Promising to
bring audiences great artistic, cultural and political value, CINEMONDO will premiere on Link TV Thurs., Dec. 6 at 9 p.m. ET/PT with each title streaming for seven days following the broadcast at [ http://www.linktv.org/cinemondo ]linktv.org/cinemondo.

An award-winning and internationally acclaimed lineup includes films dating back to 1964 that feature Academy Award®-nominated Directors Federico Fellini and Ziad Doueiri as well as actors Diane Kruger and Gabrielle Byrne. The new Thursday night series will run through 2019 with a common thread of connecting people through film by highlighting portrayals of diverse human experiences around the world. The entire CINEMONDO schedule can be viewed at [ http://www.linktv.org/cinemondo ]linktv.org/cinemondo.

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WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD (1933)

 

The reckless, fast story of  WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD made in the delightful the precode late period of 1933 by William Wellman is wonderful if not under appreciated example of Warner Brothers (Actually First National) reading “today’s  headlines”.  This  current approach was used even in advertising and publicity lending authenticity.

Director Wellman shot the  story much like a pulp adventure novel with speed, finesse and love for the subject matter all within  sixty eight minutes although the version i saw  was seventy five minutes.    The picture also features some wonderful performances from many “B’ level actors particularly  Frankie Darro as  Eddie and Edwin Phillips as his lifelong friend Tommy.

The picture opens in wise cracking 1930’s fashion with  Eddie and Tommy going to  a dance actually a  frolic  with there female friends  Grace (Rochelle Hudson who also was in  ARE THESE OUR CHILDREN? made in 1931 reviewed earlier) and  good time  girl Lola (Ann Hovey). The bunch arrive in a clapped out open top car  decorated with witty sayings like  “Rolls Royce bought and paid for, no brakes” or  “Bear hunter mostly teddy bears.”    This  the picture of  carefree youth with snappy clothes yet there is  still the  chill of not having money.   This is mentioned when Tommy reveals  that he cant afford the entrance fee as mother  has been out of work for months. This is the  thirties and as my father once told me  you ‘Bid high and sleep in the street.”  You put on the show and  find  a way to do things .     Eddie tells him his father could get Tommy job at  the Cement factory in spite of the fact he doesn’t think Tommy could lift a heavy bag.

Its made  clear these two are young, somewhat sheltered chums  for life as  they still think their parents can fix anything.    The four scheme to get Tommy into the frolic by borrowing a hat and coat (Girls are free to enter) and proceed through the line duping the  door people.     It is only when Tommy slips off to a side room to change that he is caught by a strange old fellow Mr Cadman  (Charlie Grapewin) lurking in the backroom causing all four to be kicked out.   This is the first time Eddie steps into the spotlight as a leader when he  says  that his friend  will  ‘walk out on his own.” It is first of many encounters that will happen as  minor criminal act causes  older figure (Mr Cadman) to either harm someone  or cause a  change in circumstances

The picture turns  darker when Eddie returns home to  find his father James Smith (Grant Williams) and his Mother (Claire McDowell) sitting up as  a  desk going over bills.  Eddie notices his mother has been crying which she tries to hide from him.   Eddie asks his father  to help fine Tommy a job when his Dad tells him he has been laid off.  It will also not be easy for a man of his age to step into another position so they will have  to economize.

Eddie begin cutting back by asking  his mother to return a new suit that was ordered that his father insists on getting anyway.   Eddie gives his mother a playful wink that he really didn’t like the suit so it is returned along with the huge sliver of pie Eddie took from the fridge. This is the first of many sacrifice that will happen in the story as  things begin to change for the worst.

The months progress and still no work for any of the people so Eddie and Tommy hatch a plan to hit the road by rail  to find work also not be  burden to their families.  This is not before Eddie  tearfully sells his beloved car to junk man to give the money to his father.  The  scene  in reminiscent of many Andy Hardy series moments between Mickey Rooney and Lewis Stone with hidden tears and hugs.

 

 

The odyssey is one  filled with danger and adventure as Eddie and Tommy meet Sally (Dorothy Coonan) who’s mother is dead and on her way to Chicago to live with a  relative.   This  does not  go so well as once again the police intervene caused  Eddie , Sally and Tommy to flee out a window carrying  their chocolate cake meal.   Eddie and  Tommy continue to ride the rails meeting others kids in a growing group all looking for work or  running away.    The constant  harassment by the Law at every stop forces violence  and  fear of capture.  One  young girl rather than run stays in a freight car with a fire only to be  assaulted by a railway brakeman (Ward Bond) to which the gang of boys exact revenge.  The stakes have now grown as murder has been committed so society must now be paid.

 

Desperate times as the  adventures grow  and the cost in magnitude triggered by still one of the most horrific railway accident on film causing Tommy to loose his limb.

 

The  full force of the Law intervenes later when Eddie become unknowingly involved  in a full fledged crime resulting in  a speech that could have been done by James Cagney or Pat O’brien.   Interesting sequence is an escape from police between Eddie and the police in a Movie theater complete with audience and  James Cagney Picture on screen.

 

The picture is similar in theme with HEROS FOR SALE  made in (1933) also directed by William Wellman with bigger stars Richard Barthelmess, the underappreciated Aline MacMahon and Loretta Young.

 

WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD features some wonderful individual performances beside the  interplay between Frankie Darro , Edwin Phillips  and  Dorothy Coonan which is the key.   Stirling Holloway soaking his feet in  pail of milk while waiting for a train.   He  is harassed by  Black children also waiting for  a train that he will have pretty feet.  Holloway in a poignant  moment looks at his distinctive face saying he may have put the “wrong end” in.

 

 

Frankie Darro is wonderful at fifteen when he  did this role.  One can see the physical power he as in the picture with various jumps and slides.   Darro may have been a  ‘Poor mans James Cagney to some yet he as a distinctive style and movement that did furnish him well in a career  Edwin Phillips  was played Tommy has a good face and screen presence  to continue yet sadly he only made three  pictures  ending in 1954.

 

 

Dorothy Coonan who was a “Ziegfeld Girl”  at the time gets to exhibit her skills  in tap in brief scene to beg money accompanied by harmonica.  You can also catch a small glimpse of Alan Hale  Jr (Left side of frame) as one of the train boys long before  he became “The Skipper Jonas Grumby” on GILLIGAN’S ISLAND.

 

It is also the thirties so the treatment of some of the types is not always correct such as the black children also on the  run are left out the solutions.   Most likely put in the picture  to show the problem of lack of work was universal to all or that horrid thought of the “White society” being in similar low circumstance.  Dorothy Coonan’s  character  of  Sally is dressed as a man thought out the picture   even when tap dancing for money. Sally is also seen still inhabiting the “Pink Ghetto”  as  she is seen sweeping and  doing housework in whatever  shack they live in.  Dorothy also gets to give a cute, turn of the nose smile even at the film conclusion that is mimicked by an authority figure.  Sally doesn’t change but both Eddie, Tommy and the other males all do.

 

 

WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD packs a lot of story and action in its brief running time.  The  dialogue moves with pace that was the style of  film making back then.  Strong choices of locations  in rail yards and  freight cars that one cal almost taste the dust in your throat as you make this journey.   Well worth trip even in a box car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE (1921)

 

Early weekend mornings or very late at night are the perfect time to watch a silent  film. You can treat yourself to images and music without crushing sound levels  calculated to raise awareness levels. One such recent morning I viewed the Swedish  Ghost Story picture  THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE (1921) of which I was most pleasantly surprised.

We all know that it is close to Christmas season for those who celebrate that holiday.   THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE – while not a story concerning Christmas directly – does follow a plot similar to the THE CHRISTMAS CAROL of ghostly visits and a redemption.   The titles are in Swedish with translation; the masterful images deliver on their own.

 

 

THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE opens on New Year’s Eve. The dying Salvation Army girl named  Edit has one last wish: to speak with David Holm. David, an alcoholic, is sitting in a graveyard with two drinking buddies, talking about his old friend Georges who told him about Death’s carriage—the legend that the last person to die each year has to work under the “strict master” Death and collect the souls of everybody who dies the following year. Georges himself died on New Year’s Eve last year.

Gustafsson, a friend of  who is looking for David, finds him and tries to convince him to go and see her, but David refuses. When his friends also try to convince him, a fight breaks out where David is accidentally killed just before the clock strikes twelve. The carriage appears, and the driver is revealed as Georges.

As David’s soul steps out of his body, in an interesting bleak double exposure moment,  Georges reminds him of what he once had, how he once lived a happy family life with his wife Anna before ending up in bad company with Georges and others.  David’s life has changed as it is revealed Anna left him after he was jailed for intoxication. He reminds him how David exactly one year ago was taken care of by Edit, and while treating her badly, he gave her his promise to find her the following year so she would find out whether her prayers for him had worked or not.

It is an interesting start to a picture dealing with moral consequences of poor choices that films dealt with at that time.  It can be said that films are products of their time so you have THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE produced a mere six years before METROPOLIS (1927).  These pictures has common theme of the ordinary people in everyday life or “the Poor” facing a crisis of faith of spiritual or moral ideas. Choices are made to rebel in both films with consequences. That may paint the themes in broad strokes for these pictures yet in spite of geographical difference of the respective countries (THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE is from Sweden. METROPOLIS is from pre- war 1927 Germany.) both have an insight into the current state of life and thought.

THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE, while it may seem a simplistic tale, has influenced many film makers both Horror and otherwise.   Ingmar Bergman’s picture THE SEVENTH SEAL (1957) contains a figure of Death that plays chess with a Knight having a crisis of faith. Bergman’s central themes were the approach of death and age in some form and its effects.  Stanley Kubrick  in THE SHINING (1980) paid homage to THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE with the sequence of Jack Nicholson’s character chopping his way through the bathroom door.

The appearances of the carriage and the driver may seem dated today with double exposures yet they are effective due to the stark loneliness of the streets and graveyards.  The effects of fog; an almost ‘Noir’ quality shadows blend with a musical score to make for an interesting excursion without dialogue.

This picture was remade in 1939 Directed by Frenchman Julian Duvivier. Judging from the stills and marketing campaign there is a physical resemblance to  Boris Karloff by one actor likely capitalizing on his popularity. The  images of the poster suggest REBECCA (1940)  or Karloff/ Lugosi film THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)

 

 

Mr Duviver made such diverse pictures as FLESH AND FANTASY with Edward  G. Robinson and Charles Boyer and Barbara Stanwyck to  TALES OF MANHATTAN (1942) before returning to his native country.  His ambitious French film: the if not too dark PANIQUE 1946) chronicling the lowest of human instincts was not well received by critics or the public.   He  is  continue to work in France with occasional  trips back to America till 1950.

THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE is a tale of lies, violence, resulting in a price exacted for living a less then moral life contrasted by the values of the righteous. Its characters deal with real problems of poverty, lack of prospects and desperate things that people do against a fantasy background.  Good triumphs over Evil which is usually what happens in these films. THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE would make an interesting addition to a holiday film list.  Silent films are a kiss for the imagination that changed with the coming of sound.  Throw another log on the fire and enjoy it.

 

 

NO CHEAP IMITATION OF LIFE

Film making of this style requires that something new be added to a story, not just in terms of CGI, but material not previously used from a source. Better yet, bring a story forward to today’s audience without sacrificing its integrity. The 1934 version of IMITATION OF LIFE with Claudette Colbert and the 1959 version with Lana Turner to be a shining example of how to do a remake.

The John Stahl directed 1934 version seems to be neglected these days; yet I found it to be grittier of the two perhaps because it was in black and white.

Claudette Colbert in a different role for her played widowed single mother Bea Pullman who gets by maintaining her late husband’s business selling syrup to shops.  One morning while getting her daughter ready for the day and juggling many tasks, she hears a knock at the door. It is Delilah Johnson, who has come in reply to an ad for a housekeeper – except she has come to the wrong address. Deliah is played by the vastly underappreciated actress Louise Beavers, who helped with Hattie McDaniel to set a pattern for Black actors in Hollywood.

Delilah has no money for ‘car fare,’ as Bea refers her to the fact of the difference between streets and avenues in the city. Through some wonderful dialogue a friendship begins as Delilah offers her services as maid and housekeeper for free in exchange for room and board for herself and her daughter Peola, because it looks like Bea could use the help. In a touching moment Delilah says that she will not ‘eat much’ in spite of her size.  Peola is found to be ‘light skinned’ as her father was white when she is called to come to the door as she is waiting outside.  This is a brilliant simple short scene that establishes relationships between the people plus the audience as it sets up the identity crisis for Peola of her” Black heritage” and  the growing friendship between Bea and Delilah.

In director Douglas Sirk’s 1959 version with Lana Turner and Juanita Moore, the meeting is handled quite differently.  Lana Turner plays aspiring out of work single actress/model Lora Meredith who meets homeless Annie Johnson (Moore) and her child on a sunny beach at Coney Island.

A handsome fellow, Steve Archer, played by John Gavin is also on hand as he is taking pictures of people and trying to sell them. The Archer role is different from the 1934 version played by personal favorite, neglected today Warren William whose occupation is a ‘Doctor of Fish’.

William comes in much later in the 1934 version and is at his devastating best as he as well as Colbert are both shown in a different light.  Colbert was more inclined to appear in comedies while William would grow in fame as an evil scheming gad in such pictures as EMPLOYEES ENTRANCE  (1933) and THE MATCH KING  (1932).

Annie’s daughter is Sarah Jane, who immediately hits it off with Lora’s child, Susie as the two run off to play for the entire day.  Annie and her child end up coming home to live with Lora as in the previous film.

This is the point where the versions deviate for no other reason that I can think of other than box office.  Lana Turner’s Lora Meredith gets bigger roles and becomes a huge star of the stage and screen.

Robert Alda as Allan Loomis plays a sleazy producer type that tries to turn himself in to Lora’s romantic interest yet at the same time sending her to after-hours parties for his male clients.  It was the time of ‘the casting couch’ (Has it ever or will it ever go away?) so this is not surprising which is curious as this role is a ‘nod’ to the “love ‘em and leave ‘em” style of Warren William.

Steve Archer comes back in as the love interest for Lora who is shown to have ruthless ambition to get to the top of her profession.

The 1934 Colbert/Beavers version features Bea Pullman going into the pancake business on the boardwalk when she discovers one morning that Delilah has a secret handed down  hotcake recipe that people cannot resist coupled with the already available maple syrup business lays the path to fame and fortune.

Both versions feature some wonderful supporting characters such as in the 1934 version you find a slightly serious yet comical Allan Hale as a furniture salesman who lets himself get talked out of money by Bea Pullman as she is setting up her first restaurant.  Guelph, Ontario born Ned Sparks appears as the cigar chomping, sarcastic Elmer Smith who simply tells Bea to ‘box’ her pancake mix to sell to more people and make millions.

Lora’s daughter, Susie played by Sandra Dee, falls in love with her mother’s older man Steve Archer.

Jessie Pullman (Rochelle Hudson) in the 1934 version grows to womanhood at boarding school and also falls in love with Warren William’s character of the same name.  Interesting that both characters would do this in different versions showing a link between what was thought to be an older father figure treating a young girl as a woman and showing her the world.   The Steve Archer roles were both suitors for Bea and Lora suggesting it is a mini identity schism of its own. Lora had given herself to her career and Bea had given herself to the business each neglecting their children.  Susie and Jessie both don’t know if they are child or woman yet both seek independence.

The spine of both versions is the denial of Delilah’s child Peola and Lora’s child Sarah Jane to acknowledge that they come from Black mother and a white father. At that time, they were considered to be Black children; which each grows to resent.  Each runs away, each wants the mother to not speak to them, not to come around them as they are ashamed of their heritage. The result of this schism is heartbreaking in both versions that in spite of the money and fame achieved it is nothing.

Delilah brings Peola’s raincoat to her school during a storm because she had forgotten it only to be told that she must be mistaken as there are no ‘colored’ children in the class.  Peola visibly shrinks in her seat and hides behind a book only to be pointed out by her mother as her ‘baby”.

Peola later works as a cashier at a lunch counter only to have Delilah find her causing her to lose her job due to her apparent Black heritage.  Sarah Jane ends up singing is at a dive bar only to lose her job as well.  Troy Donahue appears as Sarah Jane’s boyfriend Frankie in a pivotal moment in an alley as he literally beats the truth out her.

IMITATION OF LIFE (1934) is a sensitive film that was ahead of its time in handling the subject of race.  The Lana Turner 1959 version is a remake not a reboot that does bring the story closer to the time of the early 60’s and growing civil rights movement.  This version features a young Mahalia Jackson as a choir soloist who sings a stunning spiritual at the end of the film as only she could.

Could these pictures be made today? The answer to that is not important other than that they were made in the first place.  Each version has its merits as you get to see actors in roles different from their normal studio output. Those that know IMITATION OF LIFE will see it again in either version.  The 1959 version was featured at the 2014 TCM film festival that I attended yet I missed it. It would have been something to seem a glorious Technicolor print on screen but that will be for another time. Both versions have been called full box hankie movies. Enjoy them if you get the chance for their own merits.

ARE THESE OUR CHILDREN (1932)

The Pre code era continues to delight when one finds hidden delights.  Sounds like a  tagline on a picture yet it is also what the  Wesley Ruggles Directed ARE THESE OUR CHILDREN (1932) is.  Its another drama  about  good  youth falling under the influence to turn against society however like most typical stories it is the way  it is handled.

This picture is a tough one to find yes was able to watch a  good print on TCM network.  These lead is played by very capable slightly young Cagney looking Eric Linden as Eddie Brand.     Brand is  hard working, cookies and milk eating kind of guy that in  in love with the pretty neighborhood gal  Mary (Rochelle Hudson) .

Brand is  studious and caring as he lives  with his Grandmother (Beryl Mercer)     Naturally that changes that changes as  times  are tough to get ahead plus falling under the  influence of  drinking, smoking partying all night friends  and of course a  girl named  Flo Carnes played by Arline Judge.  The  result is  tragedy, thrill seeking pursuit of  all that is lazy resulting  in   a death and disintegration of a family.

 

Eric Linden at times can be  to innocent for some people yet he does  fit the bill well as  he  struts around the  dance floors  and restaurants with his buddies and  Flo Carnes and her  friends on his arm.  In spite of everything  Brand  returns home to eat his cookies and milk provided by his Grandmother in spite of stinking of booze and perfume.

 

The love interest in the  form of  the  “Good  girl” Mary ( Christian religious influence in the name except if  you were MIDNIGHT MARY  made in 1933) with Loretta Young)  doesn’t get much screen time except to establish her sanctity of  soul.  Brands Grand mother and  her plus  Brand’s Little brother Bobby (Billy Butts) watch the gradual changes happen.  What makes this picture compelling is the totally plausible  relationships that evolve and in this case devolve toward the  conclusion.

You have the  Eddie Brand /Mary relationship that changes to the Brand/Flo couple plus her friends  Maybelle known as  Giggles ( Roberta Gale) and Agnes known as  Dumbell (Mary Kornman) add to that the male friends Nick Crosby ( Ben Alexander) and  Bennie Gray (Bobby Quirk) that  urge  each other on to all sorts  of bad  decisions.  Each works in this small film without large name actors or faces which in this case  tend to give it the ‘every person’ look  and feel. This could and  did happen on any street in any  city if you stray from the beaten path of solid work.

The stakes get more as  Brand forsakes staying in to prove  ‘he is not a baby anymore’ finally spending the most of one snowy  night 1930’s style effects included in the embrace of Flo only to return to cookies. Not to be  outdone the  thrill seekers search out more liquor from a neighborhood store of family Heine friend played by William Orlamond with tragic  results for all.

 

 

The prison moments hold together well  even on par  with the stunning ending moments from  ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938).   Tearful moments between younger  brothers  and  Grandmother played well together.  The best if  not slightly over dramatic moment is Eddie Brand walking towards his fate and  the slight dissolve technique used in the background.  You don’t get  the  big speech or needless preaching of what we all know is about to happen you just get the cold hard facts of the fate.

 

 

Disturbing moments  in the  courtroom scenes as all must testify to the events  that occurred. Wesley Ruggles and the  Writer Howard Estabrook chose to make the owner of  the  Drinking and dancing establishment that is the focal point of these  events  an  Asian named Sam Kong (James Wang). It is as  if no ‘White person’ would allow these  kids  to do their nocturnal activities but  the  nefarious foreigner.   One wonders in this age of non Asians playing Asians that they chose a  real  Asian actor to do this.    Kind of not  putting forth a positive image while staying true  to race.

ARE THESE OUR CHILDREN (1932)  is a  solid “B” picture  filled with good performances, lovely street scene work especially at night in the  snow.  The  cast works  well together forming  strong if  slightly cliche relationships all to tell a  story we have seen before.  Yet  watch the cast work together  is  the  treat in itself with sexual innuendos  like Flo remarking to Eddie that he doesn’t  wear and undershirt as  she  blows  down his chest after  dancing.      Good  picture, hard to  see  but well worth it.

 

MY WICKED WICKED WAYS: The Legend of Errol Flynn (1985)

Firstly I can say  that I am a  big Errol Flynn  fan who doesn’t  think he  has gotten what he deserves   in terms of  recognition from Hollywood.   That doesn’t  cloud me in thinking that everything a  “Star” did was correct or wonderful that it  deserves  to be  given its  due.   This Don Taylor  Directed MY WICKED  WICKED  WAYS (1985) made for  TV  film  was an attempt to use  some  of Flynn’s  self penned   biography of the same  name as  source material.   Good  attempt that falls short.

Don Taylor  who Directed and  also listed as  writer for this  had a huge career as an actor in  films  like  STALAG 17  to Directing for  Television in a  number of  series  like  BURKE’S LAW  and THE WILD WILD  WEST. Taylor is well versed in the medium of  directing for the small screen and  handling fast moving story. If that was a decision as a  Writer or  Director this picture ignores many of  Flynn’s live moments in favor of focus on Lili Damita .

Flynn is  played  by Lethbridge  Alberta Canada born  Duncan Regehr  who has a slight  facial resemblance.  He also has  the physical background  as he was a champion skater when he was  young so  comfortable with the  athletic aspects  of  Flynn’s roles.   Regehr is also large  in body  to  Flynn who was  thinner but  you cant have everything.

Sadly missing are  Flynn’s real life moments  with Olivia de Havilland  played   quite well yet all to brief by Lee Purcell.

Lili Damita  is portrayed by Barbara Hershey who once  again has  physical resemblance again one  cant have it all when casting these.   The accent  she  tries through out is pretty much a  caricature  which does get in the  way of  her speech.

MY WICKED WICKED  WAYS  has  some other not some large roles that are actually better then the  two leads  the  first  is  Hal Linden as  Jack Warner. Linden  has  the age  and  the  background to pull this off  with relish yet  what is missing and  only hinted  at in the  screenplay  was  the actual fiery confrontations between  Warner  and  Flynn. Linden and  Regehr never  really  get the opportunity to  unleash.   Missing also  is  Flynn’s  utter contempt for  authority in any form  that he manifested  with his dislike for  Warner and the studio system in general.

The oddest role is  Darrin McGavin as  Dr. Gerrit Koets a  sort of German or  Austrian adventurer which is a corruption of  Flynn’s  real life  companion Dr Herman Erben who is  said to have been working for the  S.S.   This  was used in screenplay to not  draw attention  at the  time  Charles Higham wrote a controversial, unproven book ERROL FLYNN THE UNTOLD STORY  claiming Flynn was a Nazi  during the  Second World War.

Englishman Barry Ingham  does a  good turn as John Barrymore  in some wonderful scenes notably missing is frequent urination on the  Muholland Drive house fireplace.  There is a  delightful silly moment when Barrymore’s corpse is stolen for night of  fun which did happen.

Inaccuracies abound in MY WICKED WICKED WAYS not doubt many I am  did not see.  Firstly was  the  total omission of actor Alan Hale was  one of  Flynn’s greet buddies on and off the screen.  John Huston was not present  nor is  the  very famous punch up the two actually had at a party  that ran all over the property sending both to hospital.  David Niven is nowhere to be seen also since  both he  and  Flynn moved into together calling their home  “Cirrhosis  by the  Sea”

The sets are  slightly off in that  I do not believe Lili Damitia  had that style of  living arrangements  similar  to  Jean Harlow.   Mulholland house  was not  white inside it  was  wood grain through out with book cases filled  with literature.   Missing most  is the  thunderous arguments  between Errol and Lili that made them known as  the   “Fighting Flynn’s’ along with the  “Battling Bogart’s’.

MY WICKED  WICKED  WAYS ; THE LEGEND OF ERROL FLYNN is an attempt that falls  short. Too much  silly comedy and   poor characters other than the ones I mentioned. Situations are  deeply fictionalized  to the point of  what  is this about.   If  you can get by Duncan Regehr’s high pitched nasal tone in accent  you can enjoy this more. Like the book perhaps this is the best form for the story as  it was thought to be a fabrication of a  drug addled mind.    Still enjoyable if  not for the attempt. Now bring on  Kevin Cline and a proper production of this varied life.  Then again  the  title  does  say “Legend”

SHIP OF FOOLS (1965)

 These epic  pictures like ITS A MAD  MAD MAD  MAD  WORLD  (1965) also a  Stanley Kramer film  along with  HOW THE WEST WAS  WON (1962)  all make  for interesting watching.  Many things happen in these pictures or should happen that  make them special .    While  SHIP OF  FOOLS (1965) has been called  the  GRAND HOTEL (1932) on a  ship however I  found  it different in style and  content.

SHIP OF  FOOLS is a stark story dealing with people figuratively trapped on ship bound for the  unknown of  what was to become  Nazi Germany.  The story was  adapted by Katherine Anne  Porter’s  voluminous  novel was  adapted to the screen by none other than Abby Mann.   Mann was more  suited  to gritty investigative dramas usually and  cracking dialogue involving the police  or lawyers in some shape as  JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961) and being the creator  of  TV series KOJACK with Telly Savalas  are in his past and future.

The  film is  book ended by the  character of Karl Glocken played by small actor Michael Dunn for  which he  received a  Academy award nomination  for best supporting actor.   Glocken breaks the  “fourth wall”  setting  the  audience up with the mood onboard ship. Later in the picture  Glocken discusses the ways  of  German music with fellow staunch yet funny Heinz Ruhman who has a  snoring  problem that completely irritates his  forced bunk mate.

SHIP OF  FOOLS  use “fade to black” technique in between moments which gives  an  almost “French New wave”  feel  or  late  twenties to  early  thirties Hollywood when they didn’t  have any other transition techniques or camera movement.  This is enhanced by SHIP OF FOOLS being photographed in Black and White by Ernest Laszlo.  Mr Laszlo was the  cinematographer for  JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961): BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL (1965) and Kramer’s  ITS A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (1965)  among his large award winning credits.

What makes  SHIP OF FOOLS so watchable is the cast as  they all try to find Love in some form as they sail into the darkness  of  what was  wartime Germany.  You have Vivian Leigh her final on screen performance as  Mary Treadwell.

Treadwell is older woman feeling that years and  her torment of  a life passing.  She  refused  companionship offer Ltd Hubner played  by Werner Klemperer

Klemperer would be sent his own “doom” playing Colonel Klink in  TV series HOGAN’S HEROS.

Desperate to be  loved  again is some form as  she  paints her travesty of the makeup worn by the young Spanish women aboard ship  only to have a  surprise nocturnal visitor.

Simone Signoret as a  drug addicted Cuban Countess Le Condesa being sent to prison in Spain.

Jose ferrer as a  German Siegfred  Rieber who spouts prejudicial remarks yet claims  to pitifully ‘Need Love”  while laying in a  hammock with Lizzi  (Christiana Schmidtmer).

Elizabeth Ashley as Jenny and  George Segal as  David; a couple also need  a version of  love  that either of them seem capable of  giving.

Many other performances stand out as  each  gets a moment such as  Gila Golan as seventeen year old Elsa who is upset that no one wants to dancer with her because of how she looks much to the surprise of her parents.

Two performances for me  steal the  film and that is  the interaction between Simone  Signoret Countess La  Condesa and Oskar Werner as  Ship Doctor Schuman.

Werner’s  Schuman is a married crusading medical person concerned with the oppression of  people.  He is the one  who advocates  turning hoses on the poor people in steerage to cool them  during a  heat wave.

He also falls in love with the  Countess as  is  called  to  treat here which is  doomed as both must part as they have  duty and  obligation to  fulfill.     Their relationship features  some  amazingly subtle moments of character and acting especially when they must part.

George Segal as David is an all consumed  artist who demands  from his girlfriend played  by Elizabeth Ashley that  his work be all important.

They  reconcile on very  treacherous  grow but only after a moment of truth has both passed  through them.    Everyone wants love  on this ship be it paid  by money  or by the heart.

Lee Marvin is a total slime ball American Bill Tenny who is out for anything he can get out of women yet as he  said  He  can’t hit a baseball.   Tenny is  actually bested by Vivian Leigh as  Mary Treadwell in a moment  you will not soon forget.

 

SHIP OF  FOOLS has  compelling character if not  slightly  jaded outlook on Love  as one floats voluntarily towards oblivion. Whether its  Art, Music, carving of a figure,  denied love  because  you cant pay or  simply happiness  it  all has a price that is paid  here.  Each  find a  type of release, each loses something of themselves on the  trip to a land that one would lose a lot more.