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Coleen Gray Interview & Kubrick's The Killing (1956)


kingrat
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{font:Calibri}Before The Killing was shown at the festival, Dennis Bartok interviewed Coleen Gray. She needed assistance getting on and off stage, but mentally was quite sharp and seemed very much like the sweet character she often played. Though it’s only hearsay, she has heard that Stanley Kubrick was looking for a “Coleen Gray type” and someone said, “What about Coleen Gray?” He did not interview her.{font}

 

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{font:Calibri}She had heard he was a brilliant up-and-comer, so she went to see Killer’s Kiss, which was playing in Inglewood on the lower half of a double bill with Summertime. [You have to love the way Hollywood marketed their films.] At the end of Killer’s Kiss, there was spontaneous applause, which hadn’t occurred for Summertime.{font}

 

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{font:Calibri}Sterling Hayden had been in the OSS. He was quiet and she was quiet; her code of conduct was not to interrupt another actor’s train of thought. Hayden was a gentleman who knew what he was supposed to do. She thought he was perfect in the movie. As she said, her scenes were “bookends” in the film, so she didn’t work with actors like Timothy Carey. She hadn’t met him before but had seen him baring his teeth in films.{font}

 

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{font:Calibri}Kubrick’s wife, Ruth Slobotka, was the art director. She remembers that Ruth Slobotka wanted the curtains to hang at a certain angle, then the set man later came by and straightened them, RS later came back on set and re-arranged them, etc. She said she wanted to watch the movie again to see how the curtains finally looked. (Darn it, I forgot to look for this.){font}

 

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{font:Calibri}She had imagined that this new genius would invest her with new qualities. In actuality, Kubrick didn’t give her notes. He just printed the scene. (My take is that Coleen Gray gave the qualities her character needed, so Kubrick didn’t interfere with something that worked.) Kubrick did do a good bit of work with Marie Windsor, who has, as Coleen Gray noted, the leading female role.{font}

 

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{font:Calibri}Coleen Gray suggested that a good story is the apex of the triangle with the director at the left of the base and the actors on the right. She was thrilled and delighted by the finished film—which was indeed the reaction of the audience at the festival.{font}

 

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{font:Calibri}Really, what’s not to like about The Killing? I could note that the ending is taken from a famous John Huston film, but it works well here, too. Sterling Hayden is at his best (he did not seem remarkable to me in Johnny Guitar or The Asphalt Jungle, or maybe he just got overshadowed by gifted co-stars in the latter film). Coleen Gray is right as the nice girl who’ll go along with her man even against her better judgment. The script is a well-oiled machine. Hey, someone has to play a wacko killer: how about Timothy Carey? The audience loved him, just as they loved Elisha Cook, Jr. and Marie Windsor as a less than perfect couple. We relished every line and every glance. People left the theater talking about Cook and Windsor. I also loved Kola Kariani as the combination chessmaster/thug. What a marvelous conception.{font}

 

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{font:Calibri}CineMaven and I chatted after the film about the Jay C. Flippen character. She asked if I thought he seemed to have a crush on Sterling Hayden when he suggests that the two of them go off together and disparages the idea of Hayden marrying. Yes, that’s exactly what I saw, and I have little doubt that’s what the actor and director intended. {font}

 

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{font:Calibri}Kubrick’s direction is outstanding. Notice, for instance, the way he introduces several characters with panning shots which carry them past places which will be significant in the story. Some of the scenes with Marie Windsor and Elisha Cook, Jr. are done in long takes, which you may not notice because the dialogue is so good. One woman who teaches film said that The Killing changed her view of Kubrick, and I agreed. This is definitely my favorite; I prefer the films before 2001: A Space Odyssey where actors and story are as important as directorial effects. Concepts become much more important than characters in his later films, but The Killing is one of those fortunate films where everything seems to have gone right.{font}

 

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I have seen The Killing maybe 5 times. Every time I see it, I notice the suitcase opens up before it hits the ground. I imagine they didn't want to do it over but the suitcase has to Break open. Not just Be open. Who would transport an open suitcase? & they put it on top in such a way that it was rocking back & forth. Baggage guys are not fools. They don't get paid to drop suitcases on the runway. They will pack the cart a certain way to Avoid breaking a bag. Thats the only thing that bugs me.

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