Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

01 May 2008

Sunburnt Barbary

I've been nursing a sunburn the past couple of days, but I've been working too. I have almost finished my syllabus for my Play Analysis class that I begin teaching on May 12th, and I finished cutting the script for Midsummer, which has its first rehearsal on May 12th.

I've also watched a couple films. First, Torch Song with Joan Crawford as a crazy bitch actress/dancer/singer woman who hates everyone and is mean to everyone. Then a blind piano player walks into her life and everything changes. And by everything, I mean nothing. But she loves the piano player. It's a weird movie because it isn't that interesting, and the whole blind love-interest thing comes across as more token than anything else. Director Charles Walters doesn't understand points of view, either, and he gives us Joan's and then her lover's and then the other people in Joan's world. Because of this we never really feel for Joan and her bitchy self; she just comes across as a gorgon. There is a bizarre blackface number that might be worth the price of a rental, though. Joan sings a song called "Two-faced Woman" in blackface with a chorus in blackface and I have no idea why.

P.S. Marjorie Rambeau was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Joan's mother in this movie. Again, there is no explanation that suffices. The part is no more than a cameo and Rambeau's acting is hardly remarkable. So strange.

Today I watched Henry Hathaway's Kiss of Death from 1947 with Victor Mature and the late Richard Widmark. It's a fairly good noir about a crook who decides to go good and rats out some other criminals, specifically Tommy Udo, a grinning, giggling murderer of old ladies played by Widmark. The plot of this film is cool and Hathaway does a great job with both light and tension, but the dialogue doesn't quite sparkle, the plot lags near the halfway point, and it felt a tad predictable at times. Still, the performances are really superb. Victor Mature gives what is probably his best performance (the scene when he first squeals is extraordinary) and it gets better the more I think about it. Richard Widmark has the flashiest part and his is the one you really remember when the picture is over. This one is definitely worth the rental if you're into film noir.