Grand Bette, Outside Guignol

DATELINE: All-Star Schlock!

 Miss Bette Davis.

Harold Robbins is a name you don’t hear much anymore. He wrote some of the trashiest, sleaziest, soap-opera sex-scandal novels of the 1960s. And, one of his prize gems was Where Love Has Gone…There is no question mark after it.

Based on this flamboyant mess, love went to the dogs. You may bark out loud, or you may just hoot. The cast will gag you with its sheer perfection. The under-stars are notables and familiar faces that deliver exactly what they knew was needed.

Where do you begin…Whit Bissell as a college professor, DeForrest Kelley as a drama critic, Jane Greer as a social worker, George Macready as a snooty lawyer, Willis Bouchey as a judge: the faces are worth it. And they are mugs of the highest order.

The main cast features Susan Hayward as a version of Lana Turner, and Joey Heatherton as her daughter. The real Lana and daughter were involved in the murder of a mobster boyfriend: Harold Robbins takes the topic and runs with it. He puts cement shoes on Hayward, even as she careens through the hills of San Fran like Steve McQueen.

Bette Davis is grand. She had played a series of hags in the 1960s, and she was offered the role of a rich, aristocratic monster, in beautiful clothes and looking magnificent. She jumped at it, and she delivered lines like no one in the world! There is only one Miss Davis.

The movie is melodramatic stinker set in San Francisco with its Golden Gate everywhere. Mike Connors is a Medal of Honor winning war hero and architect, and Susan Hayward is a rich sculptor—and to see her in goggles trying to chisel is worth the entire movie price.

It’s so tawdry and over-sensational that you will not believe the dialogue or the portrait slashing performance of its star. If you are housebound with viral threats, you need escapism of this level. They don’t make’em like this anymore. What a pity!

 

 

 

 

Reel History: Paths of Glory

DATELINE: Kubrick & Menjou  

remarkable Adolphe Menjou

The Remarkable Mr. Menjou

Between the Korean War and the Vietnam War came an anti-war film, starring and produced by Kirk Douglas. It was called Paths of Glory.

It was notable for its brazen genius direction by Stanley Kubrick and its stunning location sets, doubling for a French chateau. It actually introduced us to the hotel used in Last Year in Marienbad.

The opulence contrasted greatly with the sordid moral play as French soldiers during World War I are randomly selected for execution as an example of cowardice under fire.

You couldn’t ask for two of the most extraordinary actors to play the bad guys: George Macready (later Martin Peyton of Peyton Place) and the always debonair Adolphe Menjou. Kubrick loved Menjou’s face: it is filmed exquisitely like a punctuation mark wrapped in rococo counterpoint.

They are insufferable in different ways as French generals ready to sacrifice anyone for their political and military duty. It surely gives angry Kirk Douglas the marvelous climactic moment to tear into Menjou as a “moral degenerate.”

These were the days when Kirk Douglas wanted to make “important” movies with the death of the studio system. And, he did for a time for which he should be praised mightily.

Kubrick had won some recognition by 1957, but it was Douglas who brought him back to direct Spartacus that sent Kubrick into the stratosphere of legendary directors.

Douglas loved to chew the scenery with his intensity, but it is the vain and effete underplaying of Macready and Menjou that drives the movie. Menjou had a marvelous style of regarding everyone from the corners of his eyes, with a sparkle of disdain.

In stark black and white, this movie has “status” written all over it. Short, cruel, punctuated with righteous indignation, the movie defies you to oppose it. They don’t make’em like this anymore.