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Questions for Scott Eyman

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Scott_Eyman
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Postby Scott_Eyman » October 19th, 2007, 10:40 am

I've a couple of questions too:
1.) In "Mary Pickford, America's Sweetheart" you trace the way that the actress took her archetypal character of the sweet and vulnerable yet spunky girl as far as she could go on film, and contrasted that with her usually sound business sense off screen.

Do you think that her phenomenal success led her to became less able to listen to advice from others as time went on?

2.) Also, I recently saw Mary Pickford's first talkie, Coquette (1929) for the first time, in which she played a character who is a sensual young woman, for once, even though she was fighting Father Time and the new Talkie technology that pitched her voice very high and made filming alot more complicated. It was sad to see Pickford, who could be so effective in conveying several, subtle emotions at once in her silent films, playing a fairly one note, borderline hysterical character. At the time, I believe that you quote Douglas Fairbanks as commenting that she really should've taken voice lessons, but wouldn't listen to such advice.

Do you think that by this point in her career she could've made a more successful transition to sound movies?

3.) I love John Ford's movies, but always winced a bit at two things: --those long, buffoonish "comic" sequences that he almost always inserted into his movies.
--his portrayal of almost all Englishmen as pompous and incompetent twits.

Did anyone such as a screenwriter or producer ever try to suggest to Ford that the horseplay stuff had gotten old and do you think that his view of the English softened a bit as he grew older?

Thank you.

1. Probably. At the same time, her growing reliance on liquor would have made her simultaneously belligerent and unsure of herself. (Drunks tend to be egomanioacs with inferiority complexes...)

2. It was a successful play, and she had been a success on the stage. In that sense, it was a conservative, smart choice. The problem was that she gave a very theatrical performance, although nearly everybody was in that era. She only really figured out how to act in sound in her last picture, Secrets, and by that time the audience had moved on to newer, younger actresses with more aptitude for the new medium. Doug Fairbanks case is actually more interesting - he got sound immediately - he's great in Taming of the Shrew. He just didn't seem to want to make an effort.

3. If the suggestion was made, it was made gingerly. Remember, Ford was a very successful director, who had won a boatload of Oscars. In the movie business, men like that are generally deferred to, even in their weaknesses. Zanuck kept a weather eye out for that stuff, but after Ford left Fox he was free to do what he wanted. And, in fairness, that's part of what makes Ford Ford. You love artists for their faults as well as their strengths, because they're not easily separated.
I don't think Ford's attitude toward the English in general ever went past "grudging." Individuals were another matter, of course - he had lots of English friends.

S.E.

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Postby Scott_Eyman » October 19th, 2007, 10:43 am

Miss G,

Mary was tough and funny. Yes, she came from Carolina - I think - aristocracy all the way back to the Revolution. And yes, since Ford was shanty Irish he had perhaps too great a respect for bloodlines. By profession she was a nurse, which probably came in handy - she was patient with his idiosyncracies, as any woman who was going to play a long distance game with Ford had to be. She also loved being Mrs. John Ford, loved the Araner (Ford's schooner), loved the summers in Hawaii, which is why, despite the affair with Kate Hepburn, he would never have been able to get a divorce. That's assuming that he could have gotten past his Catholicism to ask for one.
Basically, I think it was a good marriage - not for me, and maybe not for you, but it worked for them, if you know what I mean. They were together for more than 50 years, and they're still together at Holy Cross Cemetery, and that counts for something.

S.E.

Thanks so much, Mr E! I liked reading that---I wanted to believe they had a real marriage in their own terms, that's wonderful. I didn't know she loved the boat, too, that's points for her. She seemed very down to earth in the little bit of home movies I saw. A nice face.

By the way, alot of us are sooooo excited about the upcoming Ford at Fox set and I was wondering if you participated in the Becoming John Ford documentary as well?

Miss G

Nope, nothing to do with it, which is terrible, because it means I'll have to pay full price.

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Postby movieman1957 » October 19th, 2007, 10:44 am

Mr. Eyman:

First, thank you so much for being with us this week. If you should find time we hope you'll drop and join in with us in the future. Anyway, I appreciate your time and willingness to talk with us.

This may be a pedestrian question but the silent era is not a strong suit of mine. Apart from the impending investments by the sudios and the theaters was the notion that "talkies" might not work due to wishful thinking, the potential complications of switching or some combination? Did the studios thinks things were fine the way they were? Did the public, in a sense, finally force their hand?

Thanks
Chris

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."

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Postby Scott_Eyman » October 19th, 2007, 10:50 am

Hey, Mr Eyman,

Thanks so much for answering my question concerning The Iron Horse. I really appreciate it, especially being from Nevada and all.

I was wondering if you could talk a bit about The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. It is one of my favorite Ford westerns and I love that the film is shot in black and white. I love the whole myth vs reality as well as the iintense memory play.

Did Ford intend for this to be his last western? Also, I was hoping you could share some of your thoughts about the film. We've had some lively debates here about the film and I look forward to your thoughts!

I love it too. Ford insisted on black and white - Bill Clothier, the cameraman, wanted to shoot it in color, and I'm sure Paramount would have been happier with it in color as well, but Ford insisted. Color would have made Stewart and Wayne's ages too obvious, would have robbed the story of its memory-play aspect. Color would have made it too literal. It needs to be stylized and it is.
No director wants to retire. I'm sure Ford, in his mind, was always preparing his next picture. He was just too far gone physically, and the industry didn't want to hire him. Liberty Valance was his last profitable picture, and it wasn't anywhere near as profitable as concurrent Wayne pictures like McLintock. The last couple of Ford's movies were out and out commercial disasters. You can ride those out when you're 40, not when you're 70.

S.E.

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Postby moira finnie » October 19th, 2007, 11:51 am

A few more Ford Questions:
1.) Do you think that Ford exaggerated his connections to the Sinn Féin?

2.) How do you think the Irish in his time and now view his work?

3.) How much evidence did you unearth about John Ford's civilian role collecting info for the U.S. govenment during his travels on the Araner to the Pacific prior to WWII?

4.) Do you have a favorite non-Western directed by John Ford?

Thank you.
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Postby SSO Admins » October 19th, 2007, 12:01 pm

Unfortunately, I've been in the middle of several work crises, and haven't been able to get in much today.

I do want to thank Mr. Eyman for coming. The idea of guest stars was an experiment on our part, and I hope it has been a successful one. I've learned something from the experience, and I hope others have as well.

I'm very grateful to you for taking the time to talk to us. As movieman said, you are always welcome here, and please keep us informed of future projects.

One last question and a comment.

Can you give us an idea of how you became interested in classic film, and further, how you became interested in documenting the lives of those involved?

And a comment. I think one of the most interesting facts I derived from reading the books was that Ford had been influenced heavily by Murnau at Fox. Murnau is my favorite director, and I have Hangman's House in my waiting-to-be-watched stack. Now it's at the top, actually.

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Postby MissGoddess » October 19th, 2007, 12:05 pm

It certainly has been a pleasure and very enlightening having you join us, Mr. E.

I'll bother you only with a couple more questions:

1) Was Jennifer Jones the original choice for Cluny Brown, or had Lubitsch anyone else in mind?

2) Were there ever plans for Lubitsch and Garbo to work together again? I thought he directed her exquisitely in Ninotchka. I understand Gary Cooper had been originally hoped for the role Melvyn Douglas took---it takes my breath away to imagine Coop and Garbo together on screen! At least it would prove they really were two different people. :wink:

2) What, in your opinion, is the best recently produced movie you've seen?

Merci,

Mlle G

P.S. That is disappointing you're not in the Becoming John Ford documentary. :(

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Postby Scott_Eyman » October 19th, 2007, 1:41 pm

Mr. Eyman:

First, thank you so much for being with us this week. If you should find time we hope you'll drop and join in with us in the future. Anyway, I appreciate your time and willingness to talk with us.

This may be a pedestrian question but the silent era is not a strong suit of mine. Apart from the impending investments by the sudios and the theaters was the notion that "talkies" might not work due to wishful thinking, the potential complications of switching or some combination? Did the studios thinks things were fine the way they were? Did the public, in a sense, finally force their hand?

Thanks

Look at it from the point of view of the producers. In 1927, everybody's making money - even Warner Bros, if they would only have stopped the money dump of sound experiments. Silent film technology is workable and familiar, the audiences are happy, the producers are happy. Along comes Jolson, and eight months later, the worst movie with sound is outgrossing the best silent films.
No, they didn't want sound, anymore than newspapers want the internet. In both cases, the sitting industry is forced to accomodate themselves to it, but at gunpoint. And to finance sound, they had to go to Wall Street, which meant a loss of control. New York began to hold the whip hand over Hollywood. It was a classic case of industrial 52-pick-up. But the moguls were very smart, ferally belligerent men; you'll note that sound caused many directors, writers, and stars to have radically shortened or aborted careers, but the movie moguls went serenely on. Only Jessie Lasky really suffered.

S.E.

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Postby Scott_Eyman » October 19th, 2007, 1:49 pm

]Unfortunately, I've been in the middle of several work crises, and haven't been able to get in much today.

I do want to thank Mr. Eyman for coming. The idea of guest stars was an experiment on our part, and I hope it has been a successful one. I've learned something from the experience, and I hope others have as well.

I'm very grateful to you for taking the time to talk to us. As movieman said, you are always welcome here, and please keep us informed of future projects.

One last question and a comment.

Can you give us an idea of how you became interested in classic film, and further, how you became interested in documenting the lives of those involved?

And a comment. I think one of the most interesting facts I derived from reading the books was that Ford had been influenced heavily by Murnau at Fox. Murnau is my favorite director, and I have Hangman's House in my waiting-to-be-watched stack. Now it's at the top, actually.

Blame Harold Lloyd. I went to see his compilation Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy when I was 12 or 13 at the Continental Art Theater in Cleveland, Ohio and fell in love with silent films. Ten or so years later, stimulated by Kevin Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, I started making trips to California to interview William Wellman, John Wayne, Jean Renoir and others. The interviews led to publishing in film magazines, and the logical progression was books. Ten years after that, I started writing books.
Beyond that, one of my youthful ambitions was to be an archaeologist or Egyptologist. When I got into it, I realized I wouldn't be able to handle the hardcore science. I think that writing about silent films and classic Hollywood is just a cross-breeding of two historical enthusiasms,

S.E.

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Postby Lzcutter » October 19th, 2007, 1:53 pm

Ten or so years later, stimulated by Kevin Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, I started making trips to California to interview William Wellman, John Wayne, Jean Renoir and others. >>

Mr Eyman,

I wonder if Kevin Brownlow realizes how many of us he inspired with his book and the subsequent series Hollywood?

I am a big Wild Bill Wellman fan and was wondering if you could share some insights about him from your interviews.

Thanks so much for spending the week with us!
Lynn in Lake Balboa

"Film is history. With every foot of film lost, we lose a link to our culture, to the world around us, to each other and to ourselves."

"For me, John Wayne has only become more impressive over time." Marty Scorsese

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Scott_Eyman
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Postby Scott_Eyman » October 19th, 2007, 1:59 pm

It certainly has been a pleasure and very enlightening having you join us, Mr. E.

I'll bother you only with a couple more questions:

1) Was Jennifer Jones the original choice for Cluny Brown, or had Lubitsch anyone else in mind?

2) Were there ever plans for Lubitsch and Garbo to work together again? I thought he directed her exquisitely in Ninotchka. I understand Gary Cooper had been originally hoped for the role Melvyn Douglas took---it takes my breath away to imagine Coop and Garbo together on screen! At least it would prove they really were two different people. :wink:

2) What, in your opinion, is the best recently produced movie you've seen?

Merci,

Mlle G

P.S. That is disappointing you're not in the Becoming John Ford documentary.

Cluny Brown was Lubitsch's first picture after his major heart attack. Fox was not chock full of actresses who could play it - Linda Darnell? I don't think so...Gene Tierney? Not spirited enough - and Jennifer Jones was the hot young ingenue in town. Moreover, Selznick would have done anything to give her the seasoning of working with Lubitsch.
I've always thought that Zanuck might have enforced a quid pro quo - Zanuck paid for an expensive loan-out for Cluny Brown, so on Lubitsch's next picture, he went ahead like a good soldier and used Betty Grable.

Garbo worked exclusively at MGM; Lubitsch was only there for two years in sound, and after the war, Garbo never made another movie. Given their respective studio patterns, we should probably be grateful they got to make Ninotchka together.
Gary Cooper was at Goldwyn when Ninotchka was made; I found no evidence that MGM tried to borrow him. They were talking about Cary Grant, who would have been even better, but they decided to stick with the in-house Melvyn Douglas, who was a great character actor as an old man, but who always struck me as a dull leading man.

S.E.

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Scott_Eyman
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Postby Scott_Eyman » October 19th, 2007, 2:05 pm

Ten or so years later, stimulated by Kevin Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, I started making trips to California to interview William Wellman, John Wayne, Jean Renoir and others. >>

Mr Eyman,

I wonder if Kevin Brownlow realizes how many of us he inspired with his book and the subsequent series Hollywood?

I am a big Wild Bill Wellman fan and was wondering if you could share some insights about him from your interviews.

Thanks so much for spending the week with us!

He was a great character, not tall - maybe 5-9 - but forceful. He was all crippled with arthritis and moved stiffly, grumpily said he'd rather be watching golf on TV than talk to me, but did anyway. (He liked Lee Trevino, probably because he played a fast and improvisational game - the same way Wellman shot his films.) I got the feeling he didn't really mind talking to me. He lived on N. Barrington, a few doors down from Gene Fowler's old house. He loved Robert Mitchum, had ambivalent feelings about John Wayne - resented Wayne's habit of trying to take over any picture he was acting in - was proud of his own versatility, thought he had made a lot of bad movies, but not a lot of dull ones, which is pretty accurate. His great hate was Jack Warner; his great love was his wife and family.
I liked him a lot.

I've enjoyed our time together; I'll drop in from time to time.

S.E.

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Postby Scott_Eyman » October 19th, 2007, 2:12 pm

A few more Ford Questions:
1.) Do you think that Ford exaggerated his connections to the Sinn Féin?

2.) How do you think the Irish in his time and now view his work?

3.) How much evidence did you unearth about John Ford's civilian role collecting info for the U.S. govenment during his travels on the Araner to the Pacific prior to WWII?

4.) Do you have a favorite non-Western directed by John Ford?

Thank you.

1. Probably.
2. The Irish have always been vaguely embarassed by the stage Irish, Barry Fitzgerald-style Irishman, rather like the French feel about Maurice Chevalier. They're outsider's ideas of national characters. Ford makes the Irish nervous; always has, always will.
3. I think I term that phase of his life "light reconnaissance" in my books, and I think that's fair. During the war, he amassed a distinguished record, but before the wear he was keeping his eyes open and writing things down.
4. Hangman's House; Pilgrimage; The Quiet Man; How Green Was My Valley.

S.E.

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Postby pilgrimsoul » October 19th, 2007, 2:18 pm

Thanks so much for making time to be with us.

Three more questions, please:

When is TCM going to hire you as a Guest Programmer, or better yet, as the co-host for The Essentials? Your expertise, humor and perspective would be most welcome among their viewers :!:

Do you have any new books coming out soon?

Have you ever wanted to make a movie yourself?

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Postby MissGoddess » October 19th, 2007, 2:36 pm

Thanks again, Mr. E, for taking time to answer our questions---with so much expertise AND humor, I agree with Pilgrimsoul that TCM should tap you on the shoulder for The Essentials. How cool that would be!



Miss G

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