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About bogeyboy

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  1. bogeyboy

    Judy Garland

    Hi Guys and Dolls, why not start out a tribute to Judy Garland with the title of a classic Broadway musical (not to mention a pretty decent film). Frank Sinatra once said of our subject, "She's the only one they'll remember, the rest of us will be forgotten." I don't know if Frank really said that but I like to think he did. I know I will never forget her and have been a star struck fan ever since my youth when I first watched her in "The Wizard of Oz." Of course it may go back even earlier when I was just an infant of six months when my mother used to watch "The Judy Garland Show"; I was in the cradle beside her possibly absorbing the genius of Judy while just a babe in arms. I obviously don't remember that time but I do remember her in "Wizard." I recall thinking even at the tender age of six or seven feeling this little girl is in trouble (well she did have a wicked witch after her!) and I need to help her. Maybe I could not articulate that but I like to think I was on a Judy wave length intuitively sensing her hurt and vulnerability. But like the Frank Sinatra story maybe it is just a myth, a wish, a distorted memory. Like so much that concerns our girl, stories are distorted, truths are memory realigned, and reality drifts into myth. I watched "Thoroughbreds Don't Cry" this morning, one of the few Judy movies I have not seen. It is just a so so film its only merit in cinema history is that it is the first pairing of Judy and Mickey Rooney-and the chemistry between them is palpable. I will save my detailed review of that less than a movie masterpiece for another time, I am hear to discourse fondly, wax adoringly on my favorite film personality, my absolute favorite live performer, the greatest entertainer of the twentieth century Miss Frances Ethel Gumm! What can I say about this woman that won't cry out: "Cliché!" Why did she become to Gay men of my generation (and the generations before) such an important, meaningful icon who resonated and in some wildly absurd way spoke for us? I can't speak for the other "friends of Dorothy" (code for Gay) only myself. I respect, venerate, admire and stand in awe of talent. And boy did this broad have it! I never saw her live (I was six when she died) but we have enough representation of her enormous, out of this world, awe inspiring gifts as a performer in film. Thank God for MGM! Whatever else they may have done to her(the pills, the relentless work load) they gave her a milieu,, a platform, literally a (sound ) stage to unleash the tremendous life force, the almost limitless and all encompassing spark that was Judy Garland. It is there before "The Wizard of OZ" (I caught glimpses of this morning) but "Oz" was the perfect forum to let it unfurl. It is 77 years later and she still owns THAT SONG. I used to get into verbal spats with my friend Ray. He insisted Patti Labelle did a better job. Hah! I love Miss Patti and she does a strong, stirring rendition at singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" but it lacks the gravitas, the unspoken meaning and history that Garland brings to that ballad. She is the little girl who needs protection and the young woman that yearns for a kinder, safer world. That's it! I wanted the same thing as a young gay boy. Safety and protection. The mystery has been solved! Judy and Danny wanted the same damn thing...Okay I better CDG (code for calm down girl!) and resume the trajectory I began: Judy's talent in film. After "The Wizard of Oz" she continued to dazzle us, beguile us bewitch us and bother us in an oh so wonderful way. There were the Mickey/Judy musicals (I saw "Babes in Arms" in a library in Manhattan a few years back and the audience was enchanted), "For Me and My Gal" (Gene Kelly was forever grateful for the kindness and patience Judy displayed toward him on his first movie. Gene would return the favor eight years later during the making of "Summer Stock" when a very sick Judy needed his help). Some of my favorites: the opening ballad in "The Harvey Girls", and the crowd pleasing Oscar winning song "On The Atchison,Topeka and the Santa Fe, the heartbreaking Christmas song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" in "Meet Me In St Louis", her pairing with Fred Astaire in "Easter Parade" (she is his absolute equal and you better believe Fred knew it!), all of "In The Good Old Summertime" not because it is her best movie but because she is much better than her leading man Van Johnson; the director wisely hands all the musical numbers over to her-and she delivers. Let's stop at the aforementioned "Summer Stock", her last film for MGM. As I mentioned before she was not well while making this movie. Plump, puffy and fairly worn out, never the less after "Oz" and "A Star is Born" it is my favorite Garland film. Tarnished truth meets celluloid fiction here and the result is fascinating. Judy was winding down ,her days at the fantasy dream factory were numbered. MGM would not tolerate her misbehavior and Garland herself was out growing the stifling studio system. A six week shoot turns into six months. Judy is late! Judy is sick! Judy is AWOL! Judy is still effing brilliant! She manages to keep up with Gene Kelly in the dance numbers, breaks our hearts with another mournful ballad, "Friendly Star" and finally kicks butt with her swan song to MGM the fantastic, rousing, stunning "Get Happy." From rainbows to railroads to cheeky farewells, Judy never fails to disappoint. she is the ultimate Gay icon, a superbly talented lady with a real life story of triumph and heartbreak, comebacks and failures, resilience and finally a well deserved eternal rest. Yes she finally succumbed; the internal demons won but that is almost besides the point. She gave us her most precious gift: herself. And I will always cherish it. Thank you Frances Ethel as a performer you offered the world your soul and I am grateful and honored to be one be of the many who is a privileged keeper of that priceless gift. Adieu
  2. In my pursuit of all things Jules Dassin I set my internal clock the other night for 1 am harboring the erroneous belief that Mr. Dassin had directed the 1943 film "Hitler's Children". I quickly learned as the opening credits rolled that it was not My Man Jules that helmed this particular piece of pot boiler propaganda (sorry but I am a sucker for alliteration) but another Hollywood director famed for his excursions into the film noir genre Edward Dmytryk. Wait The plot thickens, in typical film noir fashion- Dmytryk is the man responsible for Dassin being blacklisted, having denounced him in 1951. I decided to watch the film made by the man responsible for my pal Jules forced ejection from the Hollywood film biz. I want to qualify what I am about to write with a few basic facts. I do not own my own computer. I am at the mercy of the local library and a community center here in New Haven. Therefore I am always under a severe time constraint writing these simple slices of cinema insight (too much?). Please forgive any errors that may result because of my inability to access the computer fully. I also cannot research my "essays" (for lack of a better word) as deeply as I'd like, often relying on the facile Wikipedia site. Hopefully some of these impediments will be resolved in time. Now! On to... "HITLER'S CHILDREN"!! I have always wanted to watch this movie if only for the title alone. And for all of you who question my writing this bit in the film noir-gangster category who but the Nazi's were the greatest gangsters in the history of man! I hate getting bogged done in plot; let's get that out of the way as quickly as possible. Our very own Nancy Drew, Bonita Granville plays Anna, a young lass at the American school in Berlin. It is 1933, not a good year to be a German born Yank residing in the Deutschland (not a good year for anyone to be there). As our flicker opens our freedom loving friends are fighting a bunch of Nazi Youth. During the fracas Tim Holt, a strapping example of Germany's future meets the spunky Bonita. He quickly succumbs to her cheeky charms and after a bit of resistance Bonita returns his affection. Time passes and Holt rises in the Nazi machine while Bonita remains in Germany (why didn't she leave? Because then we would have no movie) Eventually Bonita ends up in a labor camp unwillingly to renounce her loyalty to the good Ol' USA and suffers fierce reprisals for her stubbornness. Holt ultimately allows his love for her to trump (ugh, a word currently as ugly in this political climate as fascism) his Nazi leanings and they both end up victims of Hitler's tyranny. That's it in a smarmy nutshell, now let us talk about the essentials-not a great film! It made a lot of money for RKO but I was not impressed. An obvious piece of wartime propaganda, melodramatic and shrill but a few interesting moments. A close-up of Holt and Granville embracing in shadow was beautiful and a fine example of German Expressionism. There were scenes of Anna fleeing her enemies in the woods. These were lovely and evoked again those fabulous Universal horror films of the thirties. Nice film noir touches. Bonita ends up seeking refuge in a Catholic Church and is fortified by a particularly stirring speech by priest H B Warner (I cried a few salty tears but then I'm an easy mark for this brand of schmaltz!) Granville's flogging by the Nazi's was appropriately brutal; (First "Rififii" and now this! Two women being whipped in two consecutive movies. Enough, I am not a sadist) her and Holt's death at the end was fairly gripping for this piece of claptrap. And Otto Kruger and Hand Conried are always a welcome addition to any movie. But, and I have a couple starting off with actor Kent Smith's butt! As broad as George Brent's and equally unappealing I just don't like this guy as an actor (for the record he plays a teacher in the American school Bonita attends). I remember watching "Nora Prentiss" a while back with the lovely Ann Sheridan and thinking, poor Ann gets saddled with this ****! The same for the sexy Simone Simon in "The Cat People"; he is truly a lackluster leading man. Fortunately we have scrumptious Tim Holt- he is a dish and a pretty good actor as well. He fills out that Nazi uniform quite deliciously. For the record I am a gay guy and a male star's sex appeal is often an important aspect of his watchability for me. I have straight male friends who hate Barbara Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity" because they feel she lacks desirability-hell payback's a b, boys! what's good for he gander...you know what I mean. Which brings me to the conclusion of this dubious piece of film criticism-Tim is prettier than Bonita! Miss Granville has committed the ultimate sin of a child actor-she is just not that appealing as an adult. She would have made a fine character actress but does not have the necessary attributes to be a leading lady. One flawed man's opinion. I am happy to report Miss Granville made the smart career move of marrying millionaire,getting involved in the production end of the business and eventually returning as a character actress before her death from lung cancer at the age of 65 in 1988. Good for you, Nancy Drew!
  3. I continue in my pursuit of watching and blogging about the films of Jules Dassin. I watched "Rififi" (1955) last night. It was not my first time catching this intriguing and very well made heist film but it was the first time I studied the movie. I can't just watch a movie if I am going to write about it, I need to absorb it, take it in, chew on it and then hopefully spit it out and discourse about it with some intelligence. I want to begin with a fitting nihilistic question: does any of this matter? Will these films and the men (and women) who made them survive? Will people be talking about them fifty years from now? A hundred? A thousand? I love film and think it is an important, relevant art form. I imagine anyone reading this feels the same way. I hope others do too and that those who follow after us will treat these movies with reverence and respect and most of all enjoy them. On to Rififi... "RIFIFI" (love that title but still not quite sure what the appropriate English translation is: "rough and tumble"? "pitched battle" ?)) is a 1955 French heist film directed by the American Jules Dassin. It opens in typical nourish fashion, a smoky room where a card game is in full swing. Our (anti) hero Tony "le Stephanois" is losing badly and contacts his godson Jo (Carl Mohner) for help. Jo convinces him to abandon the game and proposes another way to make money: robbing the baubles in the window of a jewelry store. Thus the story is set in motion. After initial hesitation Tony agrees and proposes they steal not the jewels but the contents in the safe which will be a more lucrative payoff. Already Dassin has made us aware that there will be a cost to this endeavor. He juxtaposes the card game with the cozy, warm, light filled home life of Jo the Swede. He is happy with his wife and child but a price will be paid for his return to crime. They enlist two more men to help with the heist: Mario, a goofy Italian with an adoring mate and Cesar (played by Dassin himself) a safecracker who is beckoned by Mario and comes from Italy. I liked Jean Servais who is the epitome of "world weary". Bags under his eyes, cigarette hanging out of his mouth this guy has been to hell and back. He is just out of prison and seemingly has nothing to lose. There is a shocking scene where he confronts his unfaithful girlfriend and brutally horse whips her. Wow! What is the role of women in film noir? Is there an underlying theme of misogyny in these movies? In Dassin's films? Googie Withers in "Night and the City"? Barbara Lawrence in "Thieves Highway"? I would say maybe not because he likes to balance the treacherous or unfaithful dame with the "Good" one: Gene Tierney, Valentina Cortese, the wife in "Rififi" Even Mado, Tony's unfaithful girl chooses to return to him. She is the balance contained within one woman. These films are so male driven that women often get reduced to playing secondary roles or are scheming, deceitful leads (Barbara Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity"). As a self proclaiming feminist when are the ladies gonna knock off the safe, pull off the heist or rip off the racetrack. Not during the Golden Age of Hollywood; not even in Europe during the fifties. We would have to wait for 1991's "Thelma and Louise" or 1996's "Bound." I am digressing but I love movies and could spend all day writing about them. Back to "Rififi." Our boys are successful with the heist; it is choreographed beautifully without dialogue and limited sound. Better film critics than I have written about this most famous of scenes. I prefer the human elements of this movie. Plus I have to be going five minutes. How to wrap this up in an intelligent and worthwhile way? The whole thing unravels of course ending in the deaths of all four of our protagonists. That the reason for their demise lies indirectly at the feet of a female is worth noting. Sandwiched between John Huston's "The Asphalt Jungle" (1950) and Stanley Kubrick's "The Killing" (1956) "Rififi" completes the third side of this triangle of great heist movies
  4. Hello to all you Noir aficionados, I am back with another Jules Dassin film-1949's "Thieves Highway." I am enjoying my exploration of Dassin's' movies; the guy made some great flicks and I am going to catch as many as I can. Everything he did in Hollywood pre "Brute Force" seems pretty negligible ("Reunion in France"?); I know "The Canterville Ghost" is considered a good movie but is it a Jules Dassin movie or just a well made product of the studio system? Someone with a little more knowledge on the subject can maybe help me with this. I have seen "Brute Force" and "The Naked City" but will watch them again and report back to you guys and hopefully gals (I hate to think film noir is a terrain just the male of the species trods). I am loathe to admit I have never seen "Never on Sunday" or "Topkapi"'; that situation will soon be rectified. As for "Rififi" I saw it a few years back and it is sitting (or reclining, DVD's don't sit do they?) at this very moment in my living room. It will be viewed this weekend. But let us move forward to..."Thieves Highway!" This is an excellent film shot mostly on location in the San Francisco, Oakland area. How can you include so much of sunny California and still remain a film noir? I don't know if I can answer that except to say that the subject matter (revenge) keeps this picture in the film noir category. Richard Conte plays Nick Garcos, a WWII vet returning home to find his father, a former truck driver, has been crippled by the ever heavy Lee J Cobb. Cobb is wonderful as Mike Figlia, a produce mob boss (who knew such a thing existed!) who tyrannizes and terrorizes all those decent folk trying to earn an honest buck hauling and buying apples, oranges and anything else the fertile soil of California grows. Conte is bent on payback and decides to haul a truckful of apples into the market in order to facilitate a showdown with the nefarious Cobb. That's the plot but there is a lot more going on here. I like Conte in this; I always thought he played a villain better than a hero (I think he is hapless in "The Blue Gardenia") but he redeems himself nicely in this picture. He is genuinely sympathetic and even may I say a little vulnerable. Dassin shows as he did in "Night and the City" that he loves character actors. This movie is full of great performers all of whom make a lasting impression: Millard Mitchell, Jack Oakie, Morris Carnovsky, Hope Emerson! These guys are good, they each in his/her own way is unforgettable (Mitchell: is it my imagination or is this guy channeling Charles Bickford). What is the theme here: Honor! We must all retain our sense of honor at all costs. Without it life has no value. Dassin retained his-he did not name names to save his own hide (Cobb unfortunately did ). Instead he chose to carve out a successful career in Europe as a film maker. I wasn't there when this country went haywire (HUAC, McCarthy, the Hollywood Ten) I don't want to cast aspersions on artists I admire immensely-Kazan, Jerome Robbins; Lee J Cobb said he did to feed his family. Maybe these guys are not the bad apples (keeping with our theme of produce) but the politicos in Washington who unleashed this madness. Let's get back to what is really important: movies! Dassin's film is about honor and the importance of maintaining it. Don't be deceived by stereotypes: Valentina Cortese (still living) as the "bad" girl turns out to be more honorable than Barbara Lawrence as the "good" gal. Cortese is fresh and brings a new slant on the **** with a heart of gold routine. She should have been a bigger star than she was. I am going to close with a Cortese story which is also about honor. Nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress in 1973's "Day for Night" (A Truffaut flick I caught on TCM not too long ago) she lost to Ingrid Bergman in "Murder on the Orient Express." Upon accepting her award Ingrid apologized saying she believed Valentina more richly deserved the prize! Gottta love that broad (my highest term of endearment for a woman) she was as honest as the day was long and when her **** was on the line by the powers that be she displayed incredible honor (wish Miss B did some film noir "Gaslight" doesn't count). I am going to continue to pursue Jules Dassin a man of honor who happened to make some great films. PS: Is there a biography about Mr. Dassin? Does anybody know the answer?
  5. Thanks for all those who responded to my review of "Night and the City." I cleaned it up and corrected any factual errors (Sullivan not Lom). I am going to post my review of "Thieves Highway, hope you like it. Ciao!
  6. Henry Fonda in "Young Mr. Lincoln" next: Arthur Conan Doyle
  7. I am going to pass the thread on (unable to come up with a challenging question worthy of such formidable peers)
  8. Christopher Plummer next: Eleanor Roosevelt (not Greer Garson)
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