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The Shootist

Portrait in Black

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"She was her own universe" is right, but I think that's part of the problem with Lana in this movie. We differ a little on the appropriateness of this film for an actress who bordered on being a matron. Two years later she'd make the leap with Peyton Place for another studio, but MGM was still trying to milk their cash cow in the kind of role which would have been more appropriate for Green Dolphin Street-era Lana, if at all. I've said it before: I love the missteps as well as the triumphs and I'll happily watch her in anything, but I shudder to think what would have been next for Lana if she hadn't parted ways with MGM when she did. 

You mentioned The Egyptian and its shadow is all over The Prodigal, which in my opinion suffers in the comparison. In both Edmund Purdom played the blindly smitten suitor of an ice queen who led him to ruin, but MGM tried to tamp down the "B" factor by giving Lana "moments" where her supposed compassion could shine through, such as the mommie dearest scene with the young girl she's grooming as a human sacrifice. They wanted a siren but not a monster, so the script leapfrogs all over the place to have it both ways.

The big selling point, which was front and center on the poster, was the barely-there costume of strands of pearls (and strategic netting, of course) in which Lana "reverently" circled the crowd in a tent show right out of Elmer Gantry. MGM gets points for this costume because, at the time, the Production Code guys were on the warpath about this very matter, having hounded Howard Hughes the year before for Jane Russell's notorious three-pronged cutout on her The French Line costume, which was also immortalized on the poster as an fu to the censors. I remember hearing about Lana's costume before I ever saw the movie. I may be attributing this wrongly, but I think it was Harvey Fierstein who said that it was seeing this costume at an early age which made him gay. Ah, the power of cinema.

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Yes, "The Prodigal" does suffer in comparison with "The Egyptian".

Now, Bella Darvi was a genuine temptress - cold, calculating, heartless.

The moment Edmund Purdom met her, he was a goner.

I wonder if Daryl F. Zanuck's own relationship with Bella Darvi seeped into the screenplay/movie.

But Edmund Purdom's own beauty tipped the scales in his favor.

Bella Darvi could not get in his way.

In "The Prodigal", he was not allowed to out-dazzle Miss Turner.

Despite her stoning, she went out "like a goddess".

 

 

 

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I hadnt seen the movie in some years, so decided to watch it. It's just SO BAD. Anthony Quinn in particular. Ridiculous plot; red herrings/plot holes galore. Can see why it bombed. Lightning doesnt always strike twice (Imitation of Life). Sad to see Anna May Wong finish out her career playing another servant. :( It DOES have great production values.......too bad the script wasnt better.

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On 12/30/2017 at 2:03 PM, DougieB said:

It's a good question about why Lana Turner (or the other few holdovers from the golden era still working at the time) would agree to participate in a film like The Big Cube. My guess was that she miscalculated the amount of added value her name would bring to what was essentially a youth market exploitation film. The counterculture of that era was especially vulnerable to misrepresentation by the press and by Hollywood in particular, so though Lana may have expected to "speak" to a new generation of moviegoers, she was caught in yet another cynical and ultimately failed ripoff of "hippie" culture. The hippies themselves had declared the death of hippie at the end of the much-hyped "summer of Love" in 1967, so a movie like this in 1969 was way wide of the mark.

Vanity probably entered into it too, as rayban suggested. She may have thought of it as her turn to do a Let's-scare-the-old-lady movie like Lady in a Cage or Baby Jane, which had been relative hits but whose genre had run its course by 1969. Plus the movie was schizoid, with old-timers Turner, Richard Egan and Dan O'Herlihey split against a much younger cast, appealing to an audience of probably nobody. The idea that her character was a much-revered actress supposedly at the top of her game probably piqued Lana's vanity too. 

It was definitely a miscalculation on Lana's part and it's a shame she couldn't have channeled her desire to keep working into more worthy projects the way Bette Davis was able to do, with a string of television "movie of the week"-type films which only enhanced her reputation. Madame X had only been three years before The Big Cube so she would have still been capable of better work. I guess it's the curse of the actor to not really know what a film will be until it's ready to present to the public, but Lana should have had the good sense to steer clear of this embarrassment, which apparently did effectively end her movie career. 

 

Movies of the week tv movies enhanced Bette's reputation?? I saw most of them and with a few exceptions they were pretty BAD. They werent worthy of her.

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9 minutes ago, Hibi said:

 

Movies of the week tv movies enhanced Bette's reputation?? I saw most of them and with a few exceptions they were pretty BAD. They werent worthy of her.

I don't recall Bette Davis 'made for TV movies' but I just saw Bette on Wagon Train and she was just wonderful.   It was clear that she was a first rate actor and she really elevated the quality of this episode. 

The story was that the wagon train got a case of the spotted fever and Bette acted as hero and nurse to take care of people.   There was one scene where Ward Bond said he knew about the fever because he had experienced it and Bette replied that she had experienced it in New Orleans.   This was a clear tie to her role as Jezebel (the film where she won her second Oscar for best actress).     

While this was somewhat of a camp \ insider line of dialog,  it was great to see Bette say it!

 

 

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32 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I don't recall Bette Davis 'made for TV movies' but I just saw Bette on Wagon Train and she was just wonderful.   It was clear that she was a first rate actor and she really elevated the quality of this episode. 

The story was that the wagon train got a case of the spotted fever and Bette acted as hero and nurse to take care of people.   There was one scene where Ward Bond said he knew about the fever because he had experienced it and Bette replied that she had experienced it in New Orleans.   This was a clear tie to her role as Jezebel (the film where she won her second Oscar for best actress).     

While this was somewhat of a camp \ insider line of dialog,  it was great to see Bette say it!

 

 

 

Yes, she was in a couple of Wagon Trains, I think. And a Gunsmoke. She was in a good episode of Alfred Hitchcock's show, too, now that I think of it (the half hour show). I was talking about the tv movies she appeared in from the 70s and 80s. Most were just routine, if not outright bad.

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It's so interesting that so many actors and actresses, whose careers were fading, went into televison, and, taking full advantage of these opportunities, really did well with their roles.

I saw Bette Davis filling in for Raymond Burr on a "Perry Mason" episode and, playing opposite Michael Parks, she was just fine.

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Yes, I've seen that one too. I think Burr was out for a time due to an operation and they had celebrity guest lawyers pitching in!

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18 hours ago, Hibi said:

 

Movies of the week tv movies enhanced Bette's reputation?? I saw most of them and with a few exceptions they were pretty BAD. They werent worthy of her.

Bette won an Emmy for Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter with Gena Rowlands. She was also nominated for White Mama in which she fostered a troubled black child. though she didn't win. A Piano for Mrs. Cimino was a well-received story about ageism and senile dementia. She also did Right of Way with Jimmy Stewart for HBO. All of them I would consider worthy of this dynamic actress who wanted to work until the end of her life and I can't see how those TV movies didn't enhance her reputation. Perhaps you're thinking of Bunny O'Hare , her silly motorcylcle-buddy epic with Ernest Borgnine, which I believe was a theatrical film, not for television.

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40 minutes ago, DougieB said:

Bette won an Emmy for Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter with Gena Rowlands. She was also nominated for White Mama in which she fostered a troubled black child. though she didn't win. A Piano for Mrs. Cimino was a well-received story about ageism and senile dementia. She also did Right of Way with Jimmy Stewart for HBO. All of them I would consider worthy of this dynamic actress who wanted to work until the end of her life and I can't see how those TV movies didn't enhance her reputation. Perhaps you're thinking of Bunny O'Hare , her silly motorcylcle-buddy epic with Ernest Borgnine, which I believe was a theatrical film, not for television.

One of the problems I think she faced is that she was a very specialized actress with a very specific acting style, and very typecast in the 70s and 80s because of the roles she had played earlier in her career. Most people in those years probably didn't know how to separate the real person from the type she was known for playing. So I think this limited her opportunities, and while she still found good parts that brought her recognition, she also had periods where she wasn't working because Hollywood was not telling stories about her "type" of woman.

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19 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I don't recall Bette Davis 'made for TV movies' but I just saw Bette on Wagon Train and she was just wonderful.   It was clear that she was a first rate actor and she really elevated the quality of this episode. 

The story was that the wagon train got a case of the spotted fever and Bette acted as hero and nurse to take care of people.   There was one scene where Ward Bond said he knew about the fever because he had experienced it and Bette replied that she had experienced it in New Orleans.   This was a clear tie to her role as Jezebel (the film where she won her second Oscar for best actress).     

While this was somewhat of a camp \ insider line of dialog,  it was great to see Bette say it!

 

 

Don't mean to nit pick but I fail to see how an inside joke of this nature qualifies as 'camp."

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1 hour ago, DougieB said:

Bette won an Emmy for Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter with Gena Rowlands. She was also nominated for White Mama in which she fostered a troubled black child. though she didn't win. A Piano for Mrs. Cimino was a well-received story about ageism and senile dementia. She also did Right of Way with Jimmy Stewart for HBO. All of them I would consider worthy of this dynamic actress who wanted to work until the end of her life and I can't see how those TV movies didn't enhance her reputation. Perhaps you're thinking of Bunny O'Hare , her silly motorcylcle-buddy epic with Ernest Borgnine, which I believe was a theatrical film, not for television.

 

I said with a FEW exceptions. Believe me, I saw almost all of them. Scream, Pretty Peggy? She made many. Compare the tv movies Bette made with the quality of the ones Katharine Hepburn made. Case closed.

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On 1/2/2018 at 5:41 PM, rayban said:

Yes, "The Prodigal" does suffer in comparison with "The Egyptian".

Now, Bella Darvi was a genuine temptress - cold, calculating, heartless.

The moment Edmund Purdom met her, he was a goner.

I wonder if Daryl F. Zanuck's own relationship with Bella Darvi seeped into the screenplay/movie.

But Edmund Purdom's own beauty tipped the scales in his favor.

Bella Darvi could not get in his way.

In "The Prodigal", he was not allowed to out-dazzle Miss Turner.

Despite her stoning, she went out "like a goddess".

 

 

 

I think sinoray should have had his head examined ruining his whole life for that. I didn't think she was all that pretty. I guess it's a matter of taste.

Image result for bella darvi the egyptian

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22 minutes ago, Hibi said:

 

I said with a FEW exceptions. Believe me, I saw almost all of them. Scream, Pretty Peggy? She made many. Compare the tv movies Bette made with the quality of the ones Katharine Hepburn made. Case closed.

I don't think the unnecessary comparison to Katharine Hepburn closes your case. Yes, there were stinkers like "Peggy" and Madame Sin but I think they were the exception, rather than the reverse. What you initially objected to was my statement that the TV movies enhanced Bette's reputation and though you've seen them and have rejected them, I still maintain that she made a very respectable showing in her new chosen medium and that they added to rather than detracted from her status as a viable actress. Agree to disagree?

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Yes, we will have to agree to disagree then. I know Bette wanted to work, but I think it would have been better had she worked LESS and held out for better material like Katharine Hepburn did. I never understood why Bette toiled so often in mediocre tv projects while Hepburn's were always classy A list material (though the last few started slipping)........

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49 minutes ago, NipkowDisc said:

I think sinoray should have had his head examined ruining his whole life for that. I didn't think she was all that pretty. I guess it's a matter of taste.

Image result for bella darvi the egyptian

REALLY, Nip?! Sorry, but while she's maybe not "pretty", I always thought Bella Darvi was sexy and sultry as hell.

(...and evidently so did Darryl F. Zanuck, if ya know what I mean)

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2 hours ago, TomJH said:

Don't mean to nit pick but I fail to see how an inside joke of this nature qualifies as 'camp."

When Bette said 'New Orleans' she briefly took on that Jezebel persona.    Those that had seen her play the role (which I just did since it was on TCM a few days before) would 'get that'.    So that 'look' she gave was 'camp' similar to how the Road movies (as an example) would use such references.

Note we have discussed this before;  to me 'camp' doesn't equal BAD.   I.e. my comment wasn't a criticism.      

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1 minute ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

When Bette said 'New Orleans' she briefly took on that Jezebel persona.    Those that had seen her play the role (which I just did since it was on TCM a few days before) would 'get that'.    So that 'look' she gave was 'camp' similar to how the Road movies (as an example) would use such references.

Note we have discussed this before;  to me 'camp' doesn't equal BAD.   I.e. my comment wasn't a criticism.      

We still have a difference of opinion about what qualifies as camp, it seems. I haven't seen the Wagon Train episode so I'll take your word about her adopting a persona which, I assume, was exaggerated.

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1 minute ago, TomJH said:

We still have a difference of opinion about what qualifies as camp, it seems. I haven't seen the Wagon Train episode so I'll take your word about her adopting a persona which, I assume, was exaggerated.

I guess it really wasn't 'camp' but more breaking the 'third wall' (is that the right term???).

She clearly was winking to the audience when she said 'New Orleans'.     

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14 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I guess it really wasn't 'camp' but more breaking the 'third wall' (is that the right term???).

She clearly was winking to the audience when she said 'New Orleans'.     

Turning to the camera and addressing the audience or giving it a knowing look would qualify as breaking the fourth wall. Bing and Bob did that a lot. Didn't know Bette ever did it.

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2 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I guess it really wasn't 'camp' but more breaking the 'third wall' (is that the right term???).

She clearly was winking to the audience when she said 'New Orleans'.     

Sounds to me like she did not break the fourth wall, that she did stay in character.

But as you indicated, the audience would get the reference to her earlier role.

In postmodern art it's called self-reflexive. And in literary terms, it's called an allusion to a previous work.

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6 hours ago, Hibi said:

Yes, we will have to agree to disagree then. I know Bette wanted to work, but I think it would have been better had she worked LESS and held out for better material like Katharine Hepburn did. I never understood why Bette toiled so often in mediocre tv projects while Hepburn's were always classy A list material (though the last few started slipping)........

I think it was equally true that Bette not only wanted to work but that she had to work in a way that Hepburn, due to good investments and savvier movie deals, didn't necessarily. (Daughter Margo apparently racked up some substantial bills for care and board and, Yankee sensibility aside, Bette could live large.)  Bette's lack of vanity in terms of her choice of roles...(Personal vanity was another matter.)...allowed her to accept what could be seen as fairly routine roles, done in a wham/bam style of TV moviemaking that had to be foreign to her, but in which she generally acquitted herself well (in my opinion). I think the salary was more important to Davis than to Hepburn. It doesn't excuse bad work and I understand that my opinion of the work is higher than yours, but I still think that overall Bette was able to maintain her stature as an actress in the process.

P.S. You'll get no argument from me about the general classiness of Hepburn's work.

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Yes, and probably Bette had to foot the bills for B.D. and her husband too until late in life when Bette's health started to fail..........I never said Bette's performances were routine,  just that she was better than the material in most cases and deserved better.

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58 minutes ago, Hibi said:

Yes, and probably Bette had to foot the bills for B.D. and her husband too until late in life when Bette's health started to fail..........I never said Bette's performances were routine,  just that she was better than the material in most cases and deserved better.

The Wagon Train that I saw a few years ago had obviously been patterned to suit Bette, but it was such a bizarre plot.

Bette had a Cheaper by the Dozen brood and her husband was dead. They're there on the wagon train to go to California and she finds out that she's dying of cancer.  So Bette has to find family, friends or marriage for her numerous children so that they can be secure after she's dead.

As silly as the plot seemed to me --with Bette having all these kids--there was something so Bette Davis about the script. The mother had a steadfast  stoic perseverance despite her diagnosis and then used all her Yankee Ingenuity to get  her kids safely settled for the future.

So I guess you could say this episode was kind of a Dark Victory. LOL

BTW She was good!

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