Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How the Heart Approaches What it Yearns


A couple of weeks ago I was tagged by the inimitable Fox of Tractor Facts for another 12-movies meme and politely declined having just finished up a 12 movies meme for another inimitable blogger, Mr. Pat Piper. Then I was tagged for the same meme again by the ... hmmm, what's a good adjective I can use here... oh, I got it! - inimitable Dennis Cozzalio of Sergio Leone and the Boston Red Sox Rule. So, I'm finally going to do it but like Dennis, I don't really care about following the rules on these things. The original meme can be viewed here, courtesy of MovieMan0283 of The Dancing Image.

Okay, first, I'm just glad I've got all that linking out of the way. Second, I'm listing 12 movies I haven't seen but I don't know how available or unavailable they are, just that I want to see them and still haven't. Also, in a twist on the rules, I gave myself a twelve year period from which to choose, 1928 - 1939. Some years are not represented at all while others have multiple listings. Let's get started. Here they are in chronological order with a short blurb for each:

Sadie Thompson 1928 - I thought of this for two reasons. One, Dennis mentioned Raoul Walsh's White Heat as one he hadn't seen and this is directed by Walsh as well. Second, I haven't seen a lot of Gloria Swanson's classic silent work and this is one of her most famous.

Atlantic 1929 - Is this movie any good? Probably not. I've never heard anything particularly good about it and the first two years of the sound period produced some real duds but it's got Madeleine Carroll and is a fictionalized telling of the Titanic so that's enough for me. It's curiosity more than anything else.

The Big House 1930 - See my post here.

M├Ądchen in Uniform 1931 - No, I've never seen it. Not even the remake. And unfortunately, from what I've read, the film was cut and censored so heavily after it's initial release that a good original print no longer exists. It's been released on video in the U.S. but this is not the complete original version.

Blonde Venus 1932 - Morocco, seen it. The Blue Angel, seen it. Shanghai Express, seen it. The Scarlet Empress, seen it. Blonde Venus, haven't seen it. It's a gap in the Josef von Sternberg, Marlene Dietrich catalog that I hope to fill soon.

The Count of Monte Cristo 1934 - I love adventure movies and I love this story but I've never seen this version. I saw the 2002 version. Couldn't. Stand. It.

Death Takes a Holiday 1934 - Fantasy film about Death coming to Earth in human form as played by Frederic March. Like Cristo, also remade but that one I avoided.

The Gay Bride 1934 - Carole Lombard with the recently discussed here on Cinema Styles, Chester Morris. Interestingly The Gay Divorcee was released the same year and became a smash hit, thus destroying any chance The Gay Bride had of using the title for a sequel.

Werewolf of London 1935 - I love horror movies of the thirties but this represents a definite gap in my viewing. The estimable Jack Pierce did the make-up, giving the werewolf a sleeker look than the makeup he used six years later for The Wolfman with Lon Chaney, Jr.

Secret Agent 1936 - There's not much Hitchcock I haven't seen. This is one.

Of Mice and Men 1939 - No strong urge here, but curiosity. Definitely curiosity. Especially to see Lon Chaney, Jr play Lennie, a role he seems perfectly suited for with his size, voice and demeanor.

Beau Geste 1939 - And we finish up with another adventure film, this one Beau Geste from 1939. It was directed by one of my favorite directors on the twenties and thirties, William "Wild Bill" Wellman, although no one talks about him or remembers him much these days. But he had a great talent for pacing and getting a story across in stripped down form that never made it feel unfinished or rushed.

So there's my list. This is usually the point where I tag everyone in general because I hate tagging people and forcing them to do something they don't want to do. And so I'll tag everyone again, but to keep the classic movie motif alive I'd like to offer up a completely optional tag to any classic film blogger that wants to do a list themselves, from Raquelle at Out of the Past and Carrie at Classic Montgomery to Amy-Jeane at It'll Take the Snap Out of Your Garter (actually Amy-Jeane never does stuff like this but I just wanted to put the link there because if you're not visiting her site and you love old movie and celebrity stills, you're missing out). Start listing.

44 comments:

Peter Nellhaus said...

Two reasons to see Blonde Venus - Marlene Dietrich has a nude swim, and the sight of her in a gorilla costume. It's been many years since I've seen The Secret Agent, and several since I was able to catch The Big House one night on TCM. I have the remake of Madchen in Uniform - part of a four DVD set of films starring Romy Schneider that I bought for myself in Berlin.

Fox said...

I haven't seen any of those (or even heard of half of them) so you did your job well!

I'd also never seen (or heard of) "I'll Take The Snap Out Of Your Garter", but it instantly became my new favorite blog title. I will go visit it now.

And thanks for calling me inimitable... but then you called Piper the same thing, which kind of cancels out the complinent... don't it?

Marilyn said...

I've seen Sadie Thompson. at Ebertfest. It's a good one!

Jonathan Lapper said...

Peter - Marlene is the gorilla costume is all I've ever seen from this movie, that clip being fairly ubiquitous and it's always intrigued me. But for whatever reason, I haven't gotten around to it. But let me just say that of all the great director/actor teams out there through cinema history, von Sternberg/Dietrich has not disappointed me yet.

And Madchen I'd love to see in the original form but I don't think that will ever be possible.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Fox - You're still inimitable even if Piper and Dennis are too. But to make the compliment more meaningful - You're the inimitablest!

And "It'll Take the Snap Out of Your Garter" shames me as far as my old movie scans go.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Marilyn - Lucky you! You got to see with a full orchestral accompiement! I hadn't read that review before (I wasn't doing much blog surfing back in April 07) but now I'm even more excited to see it. Thanks.

Flickhead said...

I'll second Peter on Blonde Venus -- it's a must!

Jonathan Lapper said...

Flickhead - Unfortunately, Universal has chosen to release Blonde Venus, along with Morocco, The Devil is a Woman, Flame of New Orleans, & Golden Earrings all crammed onto two dual-sided, dual layer DVDs which because of their cheap compression often freeze-up on playback in even the best DVD players, so I'm not buying it for now. It isn't available on its own DVD right now so I have to wait until TCM runs it again. Dammit.

Pat said...

"Madchen in Uniform" used to show up occasionally on either IFC or the Sundance Channel (can't remember which now.) I've found it while channel surging, but never managed to see it in its entirety, and have no idea if it was the original or the censored version.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Pat - Just to mention one on your list: I've actually seen Fedora two or three times and many more times in bits and pieces. When cable first became big in the early eighties they picked up seventies flops that could be bought on the cheap and one of the channels, either Showtime, The Movie Channel or HBO showed Fedora regularly. I haven't seen it since but at the time I liked it. It's kind of silly (very silly really) and has a stilted melodramatic feel (as opposed to the great melodramas of the forties and fifties) but it was fun to watch, if you watch intending to have fun. And poor Billy Wilder. Preview audiences laughed derisively throughout and the studios passed it to one another like a diseased animal they didn't want to touch. It's not that bad and don't forget: Preview audiences are notoriously bad judges of what does and doesn't work in a movie (because they are almost never comprised of cinephiles).

Neil Sarver said...

I just want to say thank you for not tagging me. I suppose I fell through on a tag or two you gave me, so that could explain it.

Mind you, I'm not unwilling or uninterested in answering, just not ready. I suppose by the time I am, people will be done passing this around... and I guess I'll just have to tag myself.

I'm noticing how many more posts from my favorite bloggers in recent months, notably your previous 12 movie meme. I'm not even sure how I missed some of them... *sigh*

Oh, and great list! I've seen Of Mice and Men, and I'm quite fond of it. Lon Chaney, Jr. is quite good, part of me wishes he'd gotten more chances in the mainstream... the other part of me is a dork and is glad to have all the hours of weird, quirky and otherwise outside the mainstream stuff he did over the years. Tough call.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Neil - I always avoid tagging people because I don't want them to feel obligated but consider yourself tagged for whenever you get around to it.

One of the reasons I want to see Of Mice and Men is precisely because I've always heard how great Lon Chaney, Jr was in it. I love a lot of movies the big lug did but I think he could've done more. He was no Karloff as an actor but he always had a warm and honest quality to him that I liked.

Pat said...

What you say about preview audiences is interesting, especially since I recall reading somewhere that the preview audiences for "Some Like it Hot" hated it and didn't laugh at all. (I don't recall if Wilder made any changes after those test screenings - I like to believe he didn't.)

Jonathan Lapper said...

Pat, I'd never heard about the Some Like it Hot preview audience reaction. What a bunch of weirdos.

Marilyn said...

Pat tagged me for this one, but I just can't seem to think of films that I'm totally dying to see. That's not how I approach movie-watching. I like seeing what's around that piques my interest. My favorite finds are the ones I've never heard of.

Sorry, Pat.

Neil Sarver said...

I'm trying to recall about previews (or specific previews) and Wilder from what he said in the Cameron Crowe book. I recall that he was one of the people who watched the audience and merely trimmed and such to suit the pacing of how they reacted or didn't to moments, which I can totally understand, especially with comedy.

But, yes, anyone who hated Some Like It Hot was an idiot, regardless. A rougher cut may not have been as well timed and brilliant, but still...

Jonathan Lapper said...

Marilyn, I hope one day Pat will forgive you. I shan't!

Okay, maybe, I guess.

Jonathan Lapper said...

I know Wilder refused to make any changes after the Fedora preview. He was very upset with the whole thing but pleased with his movie. All in all, it's clearly not one of his best but it's interesting to see a seventies movie with such a forties sensibility and style about it.

Pat said...

Marilyn, all is forgiven.

Anonymous said...

Is "How the Heart Approaches What it Yearns" a quotation from something? And, whether it's a quotation or not, isn't the word "For" missing from the end of it?
Sorry to give the impression that I care more about linguistic niggles than about films - or that I think anyone else should! - but it just makes me hear a vocie from a certain film (mentioned here), saying "*Nobody" talks like *that*!"

Anonymous said...

"A vocie"? What the hell is "a vocie"? I hate my keyboard. Or it hates me.

Anonymous said...

And the quotation mark after Nobody should be an asterisk, right? Oh God, the keys, they're conspiring against me! I yearn FOR a new keyboard ...

Jonathan Lapper said...

Anonymous, the title of the post is taken from the title of a Paul Simon song, How the Heart Approaches What it Yearns. Paul does not have a "for" at the end in either the title or the lyrics. And it's from the movie he did, One Trick Pony. That's why I have Paul Simon listed in the labels beneath the post. A great many of my post titles come from songs. Too many.

Neil Sarver said...

Oh, and I'll accept "he was no Karloff as an actor" to be among the most mild statements that can be made against any actor.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Neil, I take your point in that I didn't say Brando or Hepburn but that's because I was trying to keep it within the horror genre actors set. And within that set I think watching Boris in Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy and especially The Body Snatcher gives evidence of a very fine actor indeed. Really. Look at some of the other monsters of Frankenstein portrayals. Karloff's has more humanity and emotional need than any of them. De Niro didn't even come close to matching Karloff's performance in my opinion.

And really, in The Body Snatcher he's just superb. The scene where he takes out Joseph (excellently portrayed by Bela who also shows in that same movie that he could have played so much more) is just menacing.

So I get the point, no one uses Karloff as a marker for great acting, but I just want to go on the record that I do indeed think he was quite accomplished.

Neil Sarver said...

No, I really did mean the opposite. "One of the most mild statements that can be made against any actor."

I know that while some might have no clear understanding of how great Karloff was, I assumed that you did.

It happens that The Body Snatcher is among my favorite movies of all time, probably my favorite of the Val Lewton movies, although making a choice between it and I Walked with a Zombie would probably prove fruitless for me.

As it goes, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessments and feel the temptation to add Targets as another performance that demonstrates the level of subtlety he was capable of.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Oops my bad. I thought it was a little odd that you of all people wouldn't appreciate Karloff, so I'm glad to know I completely misread you.

And now that that's settled let's go back to The Body Snatcher. He is so, as I said, superb in that movie. He feels like the predecessor to the stalker characters of later decades, someone you just can't get rid of.

And I've never seen Targets but now I must! And sorry I misunderstood you on your statement.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the explanation of the title. I haven't seen ONe-Trick Pony.
I have seen Targets, however, and I'd also recommend it highly, - for Karloff, as it's one of his finest performances, but also for Bogdanovich, whose own acting in it is nicely understated, and whose script and directing put it up there with The Last Picture Show (and make his subsequent decline still more baffling and disappointing).

Neil Sarver said...

No, Karloff may indeed be the finest actor predominently known for horror, and that puts him right among the greats. In fact, I'd say most of those classic horror actors are underrated. Even Lugosi, who even horror fans like to deride, is a better actor than most give him credit for, look again at The Island of Lost Souls, Son of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man or returning to The Body Snatcher. His range isn't high, but given a chance, he can do some shit.

But, yeah, put Targets on a list somewhere, it's definitely worth checking out.

And seriously no big deal on the misread, my phrasing was awkward.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Anon and Neil - This is now a 13 movies list because I really do want to see Targets very much now. And fortunately, Netflix has it so it's now at the top of the queue. Thanks.

And I agree with Lugosi. I think he's very underrated. His role as Joseph is small in The Body Snatcher but he plays it excellently. The thing is, his parts were so small if he wasn't playing the lead in a horror film. Even in other horror films like The Wolfman his part is tiny but he's great for the very short bits he is given.

Marilyn said...

Karloff is indeed superb in Targets, but Bogdanovich??? I thought he was terrible - shrill, obvious, and I guess just the opposite of subtle.

Jonathan Lapper said...

I haven't seen Bogdanovich act much outside of some tv guest spots in which he was okay I guess but now I have more reason to see Targets to get a better impression of him as an actor. I have seen that awful clip from The Other Side of the Wind with Huston and Bogdanovich at the press conference. But god the clip looks so amateurish and poorly acted, I hope the finished version, if Bogdanovich ever finishes editing it from Welles' notes, looks a lot better. It's hard to believe watching it that Welles was behind the camera.

ARBOGAST said...

I love Werewolf of London. My favorite line in the whole movie is Warner Oland's rather sad "Buy yourself a pot of primroses... or something..."

Jonathan Lapper said...

I've pushed three movies to the top of my queue thanks to this post with Werewolf of London being the latest. All I know is, damn that werewolf looks cool!

ARBOGAST said...

Targets is wonderful too. Like me, you'll probably fall in love with Nancy Hsueh but be warned ... she died in 1980.

Jonathan Lapper said...

At least this time I'll know going in. Thanks.

Fred said...

The Werewolf of London is definitely worth seeing. It used to show on Creature Features all the time in NYC back in the 60s and 70s (they had the Universal package). The rumor about the makeup was that Henry Hull was uncomfortable with a more extensive makeup and Jack Pierce had to accomodate him. In any event, it went well with the film since the werewolf is more manlike than the pure beast of Lon Chaney's the Wolfman. He also looks quite dapper in his evening coat and deerstalker.

By the way, thanks for posting the picture. My son will get a kick out of seeing this since he looks just like him when he gets angry. He'll thinks it's a birthday present from the Internet.

Jonathan Lapper said...

He also looks quite dapper in his evening coat and deerstalker.

As do I.

And your son... is his hair still perfect?

houseofmirthandmovies said...

I've seen a few of these, Sadie Thompson, The Big House, Beau Geste and Death Takes a Holiday. The last of which, I actually wrote a review of a while back. Unfortunately, it's mostly dissapointing... like you, I'd been wanting to see it for a very long time, I even watched the ABYSMAL Meet Joe Black... and while better, it doesn't quite live up to the premise. I think Beau Geste is the very best of those, with Sadie Thompson a little behind.

Jonathan Lapper said...

You've seen four of these? I envy you. As for Death Takes a Holiday I suppose I don't expect all of these to be great but I still want to see it. But it's good to hear you think so highly of Beau Geste and Sadie Thompson because I want to see those more anyway.

Kimberly said...

The only ones I've seen on your list are Werewolf of London, Secret Agent and Blond Venus but I'm eager to see Madchen in Uniform too.

Werewolf of London is a must and I know you'd enjoy it! Oddly enough I'm currently writing about one of my favorite films that happens to contain a fantastic performance by the often overlooked Henry Hull. Its' given me the urge to see many more of his early films. Hopefully I'll get the piece finished soon.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Werewolf of London has been moved to the top of my queue along with Targets. I know I didn't bring up Targets on my list but I'm feverish to see it now. And I can't wait to see which Henry Hull performance you'll be writing up.

Raquelle said...

Thanks for the tag! I'll definitely do another 12 movies meme. It was fun.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Thanks Raquelle, I'd like to know which twelve you'd come up with. I'm glad you got the tag, I wasn't sure if the technorati link would ever show up. But again, thanks for saying "yes", I always feel bad tagging someone and then thinking they will feel obligated even if they don't want to.