Thursday, September 3, 2009

Reading Was Always Fundamental...Part Five

Day Five of our book tour of the great, near great, graceful, and disgraceful caught in the act of reading rolls on...All aboard.

The talented Orson Welles hides behind a biography of Walt Whitman, looking a bit grumpy to be interrupted by something off camera. Welles, who brought great stories to the masses in innovative ways in the theater, on the radio, and in the cinema, was many things, including one of the most literate of American public figures in the arts in his day. He almost looks as though he might intone these words, using that magnificent voice and the intelligence behind it to speak this poet's words on "Greatness," which seem all too apropos for a man who conquered so many worlds before he was 30:
"Youth, large, lusty, loving--Youth, full of grace, force, fascination!
Do you know that Old Age may come after you, with equal grace, force, fascination?
Day, full-blown and splendid--Day of the immense sun, action, ambition, laughter,
The Night follows close, with millions of suns, and sleep, and restoring darkness."

Why does Charlton Heston look so skeptical about the reading habits of noir femme fatale Lizabeth Scott, a lady he first bumped into in his debut in the Dark City (1950-William Dieterle)? Could be Chuck is wondering if the poker-faced tough gal and he might be Bad For Each Other, the 1953 Irving Rapper film the pair were working on when this still was taken. The conclusion must have been "yes", since they never appeared together again.

Kim Novak, appearing in Pal Joey, seems to be trying to catch up with the latest adventures of Dick Tracy in the funny papers while lounging in her bath. Too bad that pesky Pal Joey (Frank Sinatra) keeps interrupting her damp leisure time pursuit of the comics by knocking on the door.

Director Anatole Litvak (1902-1974) was among the more erudite directors who honeycombed Hollywood in his heyday, making some better-than-average entertainments from Mayerling (1936) to Tovarich (1937) to City for Conquest (1940) to The Snake Pit (1948) to Anastasia (1956) and beyond. Perhaps part of the reason he was able to add such a lively variety of films to his résumé was his skill at multi-tasking, which he demonstrates here in a projection room as he reads the paper and peruses some dailies. Hmm, from the look of things, either the projectionist is a demon smoker or the nitrate based film may require a fire extinguisher soon.


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