jaragon

"Fedora" (1978)

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Billy Wilder's film about an ageless movie queen barely got released in 1978 is now available in an uncut blu ray edition from Olive films. The script by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamonds is based on a story by Tom Tryon from his book "Crowned Heads". Barry Detweller (William Holden) a cynical producer wants  the elusive Garbo like Fedora( Marthe Keller) to star in his new film but his path is blocked by  an old Countess ( Hildergard  Knef), her companion Miss Balfour (Frances Sternhagen) and Doctor Vando (Jose Ferrer)  Henry Fonda and Michael York play themselves.  Stephen Collins plays a younger Barry in one of the films many flashbacks.  Wilder and Diamond intended this to be a companion to their masterpiece "Sunset Boulevard" but is never comes close but it still worth a look.

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2 hours ago, jaragon said:

Billy Wilder's film about an ageless movie queen barely got released in 1978 is now available in an uncut blu ray edition from Olive films. The script by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamonds is based on a story by Tom Tryon from his book "Crowned Heads". Barry Detweller (William Holden) a cynical producer wants  the elusive Garbo like Fedora( Marthe Keller) to star in his new film but his path is blocked by  an old Countess ( Hildergard  Knef), her companion Miss Balfour (Frances Sternhagen) and Doctor Vando (Jose Ferrer)  Henry Fonda and Michael York play themselves.  Stephen Collins plays a younger Barry in one of the films many flashbacks.  Wilder and Diamond intended this to be a companion to their masterpiece "Sunset Boulevard" but is never comes close but it still worth a look.

Thanks for the tantalizing preview. I've never seen this picture and have long been curious about it.

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23 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Thanks for the tantalizing preview. I've never seen this picture and have long been curious about it.

It's a movie made for a classic movie fan.  I wish Universal had backed the film and given it a proper release. Wilder wanted Faye Dunnaway and Marlene Dietrich for the the female leads- now that would have been something

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11 minutes ago, jaragon said:

It's a movie made for a classic movie fan.  I wish Universal had backed the film and given it a proper release. Wilder wanted Faye Dunnaway and Marlene Dietrich for the the female leads- now that would have been something

Yes, I agree. This is the type of film TCM should play as part of the Underground series.

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

Yes, I agree. This is the type of film TCM should play as part of the Underground series.

I can see an evening of films on Hollywood- or on a double bill with "Sunset Boulevard"

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1 minute ago, jaragon said:

I can see an evening of films on Hollywood- or on a double bill with "Sunset Boulevard"

Yes, that would certainly work. Usually when they do Billy Wilder tributes, they stick to his stuff from the 40s, 50s and early 60s. But I'd like to see TCM broadcast some of his later films from the 70s.

AVANTI! is another interesting one that never gets shown.

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I was fortunate to see this on the big screen a few years ago. It is expressly for classics fans; only classics fans would grasp all the nuances. The subtext I'm talking about are not even minor--they comprise the pinions of the plot itself.

There are a number of things to enjoy about the movie, and I'm glad I saw it. Tom Tryon's story is lurid and perhaps predictable to some. Astute viewers may be able to 'see the twist coming' at the finale. I had a glimmer of the outcome but nothing was ruined for me, even so. The tale succeeds with its atmosphere: charming and downbeat and fey, all as intended.

The chief pleasure for me was seeing Holden (my fave classic star) working with Wilder again. Holden is always so consistently good in everything. He has few memorable lines to enjoy in this script, I admit. Focus is all on the females. But he looked fine and conjured up his usual wry cynicism.

Supporting cast: the always underrated Marthe Keller carried off her duties ably; and it was gratifying too, seeing Frances Sternhagen and Stephen Collins.

The real treat of course, was the presence of legendary Jose Ferrer, Michael York, and Henry Fonda. Fascinating to see them in this strange project.  The only misstep in the deployment of all these extra-ammo stars was that the end of the flick has a lengthy 'wrapup' scene, presumably to ensure that the audience 'understood' the story which had just transpired.

Overall direction: Wilder did not miss a beat in his overall delivery and handling of the endproduct. The quintessential "Wilder style" was in full evidence. But that in itself was odd; and it may even be the root 'problem' of the film (if there can be said to be one). The movie seemed as if it belonged in an earlier era, unlike most other movies of its type.

There was a deep sense of the anachronistic; as if the vision Wilder had for the film was resuscitated from that vanished heyday. The flick was extremely 'nice' and 'gentle'... no one curses; the camera stays fixed on the actors; you sit there watching this extremely redolent, dialogue-rich, 'Billy Wilder movie' in full color and kinda feel that it should have been shot in grainy, fluttering black-and-white.

Everything had an air of the 'misplaced'. After the flick was over, I felt that I would have enjoyed it more on a tiny 23" b&w curved screen set, sitting up late on a weeknight in an easy chair, battling insomnia --the way I first enjoyed many of Wilder's other works.

 

 

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In lesser hands it could have veered into the same lane as The Legend of Lylah Clare, but happily it didn't. Wilder's hand wasn't always as steady in some of his later films, but Fedora definitely reads as a Wilder movie. In a way it reminds me of Vincente Minnelli's swan song, A Matter of Time, from around the same time; that story also centers on an older woman (Ingrid Bergman) still in the thrall of past glories. For both directors there was a dwindling of power, in Minnelli's case involving oncoming dementia, but in neither case a lack of inherent talent. The Minnelli movie was taken from him and reedited, but Fedora seems to be Wilder's vision intact.

I'll look for the Olive Films release; they've done a good job on the couple of DVD's I have.

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Just to expand on my earlier comment: this may be the only Billy Wilder movie with nudity, right? Its one of the anachronisms I spoke of earlier. It just feels ...weird.

And the film's 'epilogue' scene is really so strange a decision that its worth mentioning again. It goes on forever-r-r-r. The way Simon Oakland goes on and on and on at the end of Hitchcock's "Psycho", explaining just what the Big Secret was. Why do this? So puzzling.

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3 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Just to expand on my earlier comment: this may be the only Billy Wilder movie with nudity, right? Its one of the anachronisms I spoke of earlier. It just feels ...weird.

And the film's 'epilogue' scene is really so strange a decision that its worth mentioning again. It goes on forever-r-r-r. The way Simon Oakland goes on and on and on at the end of Hitchcock's "Psycho", explaining just what the Big Secret was. Why do this? So puzzling.

Maybe he was pressured by suits or...did they still do previews in theaters then?...maybe preview audiences just didn't get it. Maybe in an environment which was dominated by much younger, "trendier" filmmakers like Scorsese and Coppola, Wilder started to second-guess himself. You're right, it's atypical and puzzling.

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Yeah. Good insight DougieB.

Of course, I steadfastly maintain that the film is done competently enough so that the viewer is left without any marked 'gripes'--you can't help but leave satisfied--but after the film is over, what you just saw presents these minor... 'oddities' that linger in your mind.

Its as if it is a sweet-hearted 1950s plot ...similar in ways to 'Sunset Blvd'...but the production itself, (the people making the flick)  leap forward in time (become 'unstuck' in time) to film a rather 'antique-style' story in a wholly different era...

(which I guess is exactly what it is).

It doesn't strike you until afterward; and then this aftertaste becomes (far more so than the Tryon plot itself) something that weighs on your mind. So all in all its really a film about 'Billy Wilder' rather than a film about 'Fedora'. It's about 'the way it was filmed' more than 'what' was filmed. Its 'about' your own familiarity with Wilder.

An example of the 'little weirdness': Holden is in Switzerland and he gets a room in a seedy hotel. The innkeeper is a rotund man with a pungent Akim Takimiroff manner; and as Holden beefs about his horrible room he nonetheless becomes best friends with this innkeeper and then...this "kindly old soul" quality in the performance of the innkeeper becomes overwhelming. It doesn't go away. The character doesn't leave the picture. He sticks around and this seedy scrofulous character becomes the salt-of-the-earth. Heart of gold. He's every Yanks' best friend.

But things like that just don't happen in the modern world,. In the modern day, Europeans roll-their-eyes at Americans and we Americans hate innkeepers who try to gyp us and stiff us with a roach-infested room. We pay our bill and ignore each other. Right?

But there's no such 'vicious hatreds' in a Billy Wilder film; 'everyone loves each other'; we're all human deep down inside; and 'everyone gets along'.

Just ...weird!

 

 

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