Thursday, November 26, 2009

Craig Rice; Astaire-Rogers; Ugly covers

Carol and my daughter-in-law Mitsue are in Japan for ten days meeting up with our oldest granddaughter Shannon who is studying there. Since Mitsue grew up in Tokyo she's able to show Carol places ordinary tourists might not see.

I'm home alone but with so much work to do I don't mind. For Thanksgiving dinner I had three eggs, soy bacon, a large helping of spinach and a diet Pepsi. Gobble gobble.

Late this afternoon I quit working and watched, thanks to my buddy James Reasoner, Home Sweet Homicide, the comic mystery Craig Rice wrote about a crime novelist, who not unlike herself, tries to write with her three children as a distraction. This is a real charmer. Lynn Bari and Randolph Scott are the adult stars but thirteen-year-old Peggy Anne Garner is top billed with a very little Dean Stockwell and a true find Connie Marshall as the youngest daughter. There is a murder in the neighborhood and the kids decide to solve it themselves, hiding information from detectives Randolph Scott and James Gleason because in all of their mother's books cops are stupid and/or crooked.

I can't remember a movie where the child actors carried so much of story. The first ten minutes introduce us to the three children. Peggy Ann Garner was a big star at the time (though in 1946 her star was fading fast) but she was upstaged, for me at least, by both Stockwell and Marshall. You don't expect seven and ten year olds to do perfect line readings, with the emphasis in the right place, but these two only miss when the script gives them a clumsy line.

I don't think I've ever seen Randolph Scott play a detective. He does a good job, folding his Southern Gentleman charm into a hard-eyed cop persona. Gleason's part is broadly comic and forgettable. It's nice to see Lynn Bari without a gun in her hand. Here's she not a femme fatale but a hard-working mother. She was talented working actress if never a star. Her IMDB indicates that she worked steadily in movies for decade then switched to TV and after 1952 vanished. Too bad, as the bio writer notes, because she was indisputably talented. The camera loved her. She was in the news again only in 2002 when she died. No idea of where she'd spent her after-Hwood years.

Cute but not cutesy is the best way to describe Home Sweet Homicide, with two child actors giving remarkable performances. You'll enjoy it.

----------------------------Fred and Ginger

I get all the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies confused as to titles. I'd actually rather Astaire sing than dance but I do enjoy watching Rogers dance. So elegant ala the old Pauline Kael line-"Astaire gave Rogers class and she gave him sex." Turner ran a bunch of them this morning and I believe it was in the Gay Divorce (which I watched about twenty minutes of at breakfast) that I saw one of the strangest and most excessive ensemble dancing pieces ever put on film. Hermes Pan directed Astaire and Rogers as usual but somebody named Dave Gould choreographed and directed the ensemble piece. An enormous++++ set on a sound stage and maybe fifty or sixty dancers constantly shifting from one scene, one costume to another. I started laughing out loud. This wasn't campy--it was just awful, a military battle lost after the first shot. I wish I would've timed it. It threatened to never end. More and more excess and also a few quick shots that were out of focus. I'm sure they had to use them because in all the frenzy on stage they had nothing else in this ninety-car smash-up on Dancers Highway....

---------------------------Ugly Giant Heads

ugliest giant heads on science fiction book covers

among other things this site has a list of sf's grossest foods


pattinase (abbott) said...

Soy bacon? I bet it was yummy. But no guilt. Happy Thanksgiving!

Jeff Marks said...

Peggy Ann Garner did have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Not sure if it's still there.

I had a chance to watch HSH with 2 of the Rice children. All fiction they said.

Unknown said...

Pretty funny what you said about the ensemble dance "The Continental" in Gay Divorcee. It was strange, but not as strange as some of Busby Berkley's extravaganzas in the 1930's. This was nothing compared with them. Some are like wet dreams, with naked women in provocative poses and lots of Freudian symbols. But, at least in "The Continental" you have Astaire and Rogers, who swirl and soar and glide and are simply magical. Who cares about the rest? BTW, the choreography of the Astaire/Rogers duet dance was done by Astaire and Pan, while the ensemble dance was done by Pan. Gould was nominally in charge of the dance ensembles, but did not do much.