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WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

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srowley75
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby srowley75 » September 2nd, 2011, 11:03 am

By the way, I do appreciate the offers from those who said they'd help with the Jean Gabins I missed. I'll keep you mind if I need anything - as it is right now, with school starting again (and a thesis plus numerous projects due this year), I have almost no time for movie-watching. But thank you all for your offers!

feaito

Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby feaito » September 3rd, 2011, 11:05 am

I watched the amusing comedy "Piccadilly Jim" (1936) which stars Bob Montgomery and Madge Evans. Frank Morgan and Billie Burke co star, but Cora Witherspoon and Eric Blore are at her best in this film, almost stealing the show. Enjoyable.

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CineMaven
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby CineMaven » September 3rd, 2011, 11:09 am

JackaaaAaaay, your review has brought me to board the Shanghai Express.

"SHANGHAI EXPRESS" (1932) DIETRICH, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong, Warner Oland. Directed by Joseph von Sternberg.

WoW!! That train trip to Shanghai reminded me a lot of my Amtrak trip from New York City to Los Angeles for TCM's film festival. Well...maybe not.

The world depicted in "SHANGHAI EXPRESS" is far beyond anything I've ever experienced. Now to be honest, I had to get used to the cadence and artificiality of the words and gestures. There was this kind of postering and affected stylized way of speaking that was a bit off-putting. The dialogue felt written to me. It was not the way people really just spoke to each other. It didn't quite bring the movie close to me, but made me watch it at arm's length. So I did have to work a little to put all that aside and be comfortable with things...settle into 1932 and von Sternberg's world-view. But I did settle in. And doing that made me enjoy the goings on on that train.

The movie was so rich and full and packed with detail. von Sternberg did create another world. The train was a character itself, don't you think...all round and bellowing billowy steam and smoke. It looked so glamorous...and helpless when those rebels boarded it amidst the steam. There was something romantic about that train; its whistle was a plaintive cry and the locomotive sounds were a constant throughout the entire movie. (Was that my crazy little Willie Fung at the helm?) But it was the people, wasn’t it? A tiny bit of "Grand Hotel." Oh I don't mean peopled with every one who was a Star...but people with ev'ry Character Type:

* The judgmental minister
* The disgraced military man
* The stiff-upper lipped prig
* The self-centered busybody
* The evil rapacious Other
* The stubbornly ignorant and impotent American

And then there is Dietrich. And it's the second time this week she surprised me.

"It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily."

And I believe it too! It is 1932 and I am trying to think of WHO was in movies at the time...trying to picture a general sense of WHO the stars of the day were; you know, those who made the transition from Silents to the Talkies. And I guess no one here in America was any thing like Dietrich or Garbo. And as much as I like Garbo... Dietrich seemed more regular...more accessible...more down to earth in her World-Weary Exoticism. I can get closer to Dietrich though I like Garbo more. But "Shanghai Express" is Dietrich'’s picture so I'’ll bid adieu to Garbo for now.

I see why Madeleine Kahn could parody her so easily in "Blazing Saddles" b'cuz there's so much there that Dietrich gives you. She's so rich with personality: her poses, her looks, her accent. I love her putting both hands on one hip...I loved the gesture she made with her hands when she thanks Clive Brook for saving her. She kind of holds onto him. He says he'd do this for anybody. As he pulls away from her, watch her handwave gesture. No one can tell you to do that. It's your instinct as an Actor. When the Minister can only offer Dietrich to pray instead of him taking up arms to help Clive Brook from Warner Oland's evil clutches...I loved Dietrich's angered look. Smoke practically comes out of her nose she's so steamed. She does pray, and Von Sternberg has Dietrich in the shadows with only her clasped hands visible.

"One of them is yellow the other one, white. But both their souls are rotten!!"

And in the same sentence with Dietrich, with the same breath, and I must say carrying the same weight, I must laud the great ANNA MAY WONG. Good golly Miss Molly she was farely smoldering. I love her darkness and her deep voice. She's as sleek and beautiful as satin. When we first see her she's smoking a cigarette. PLEASE go back and take a look at the beginning of the movie when von Sternberg first introduces Anna May Wong. She's in the background while the Minister rants for a different compartment. Look at her back there, a bit in soft focus. Are you looking? With the subtle flick of her cigarette...she shows contempt. She is truly a sister under the mink with Dietrich's Shanghai Lily. They bond, unspokenly. I think back to Theresa Harris with Stanwyck in "Baby Face"b and how they were kind of on equal footing in the beginning of the movie but not later on. I can see Wong and Dietrich tearing up the coast of China...or partying in the casinos and palaces of Monte Carlo. I see them both ordering room service and drinking champagne. I see men in top hat and tails calling on both women. I can see Dietrich and Wong in spectacularly different gowns, laughing at men and smoking cigarettes. Wong commands attention. She's not less than Dietrich. And if the times had given her a real solid chance...

I love her slow movements in this film. Keep your eyes peeled on Wong when she re-enters the compartment while Dietrich turns on the gramophone. Is it my imagination or do you see the quiet admiration; look at her indifference to Old Lady Haggerty in their compartment. Why, Anna May doesn't even bother looking at the woman's business card, just tossing it on the table while continuing to play Solitaire. And when she does speak, she slams the old gal:

"I don’t...quite...know the standard of respectability that you demand in your boarding house Mrs. Haggerty."

It's the first time she speaks in the film and what a wallop. I imagine for 1932 audiences it might be the clarity and perfect diction from this Asian woman that was surprising. For me, it's her mellifluous voice that washes over me. Her economy of gesture draws me in. Later in the movie she doesn't escape Oland’s advances as Dietrich does; she has no protector against the "fate-worse-than-death" that befalls her. Still, a little later in the film, she gets a lost in the shuffle when the big commotion ensues. But not to worry. You know what they say about payback.
Hmmm...I wonder how "THE LETTER" would fare with Anna May Wong staring down Bette Davis.

But at the core of "Shanghai Express" it is a love story between Dietrich's and Clive Brook's characters and how they inch back toward each other. For the life of me, I can't see what she sees in Clive Brook. I suppose he represents Upper Class Respectability and he does love her...yet he seems like such a stick-in-the-mud to me.

BROOK: It was difficult to find someone to take your place.

DIETRICH: Did you try very hard?

BROOK: Not particularly. I didn't want to be hurt again.

DIETRICH: Always a bit selfish Doc, thinking of your own hurt.

BROOK: I can't accept your reproach. I was the only one hurt.

DIETRICH: You left me without a word purely because I indulged in a woman's trick to make you jealous. I wanted to be certain that you loved me and instead I lost you. I suffered quite a bit and I probably deserved it.


Typical in movies of the day to make love's sacrifices without the other party knowing the real reasons. But if you truly forgive without knowing why...if you truly forgive based on your faith in that person, I guess you've got something there.

I marvelled at the movie's ending. The music playing underneath salutations to each character whom we've spent time with on the train. The pathos of the military man. Mrs. Haggerty still as stuck up as she wanted to be, not changing a whit. The tracking shot of von Sternberg's as we follow Dietrich's walk against the crowd, all men turning their heads to take a look at her. (Gee whiz...I can only dream of garnering such attention). Dietrich and Brook finally come together in the crowded station. I liked how she tells him that there is no one there but them (isn't that the way love is for lovers?)

I absolutely loved the way Brook puts her arms around his neck for the final clinch.

< (Sigh! ) > What a movie!
"You build my gallows high, baby."

http://www.megramsey.com

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JackFavell
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » September 3rd, 2011, 11:31 am

Oh, Sister! FANTASTIC write-up!

I am so with you on Shanghai Express. This is my favorite Von Sternberg now.

I really enjoyed what you said about the train being a character - I felt that too - I thought that no one but David Lean could make a train appear that stunning , but I was wrong:

Image

And your words about Anna May Wong are priceless, I couldn't add anything, except to say that the relationship between Wong and DIetrich feels so modern. Sometimes I think we'd be miles ahead in our thoughts on racism had the production code never been introduced.

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Mr. Arkadin
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby Mr. Arkadin » September 3rd, 2011, 3:07 pm

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Shanghai Express CM.

While I've heard it described as a "Grand Hotel on wheels", I personally feel Sternburg created a denser work which brims with complexity and layers that simply don't exist in Goulding's star drama. Couple this film with the previous year's Dishonored, and the one that started it all (The Blue Angel [1930]) and you have the all the elements that would define Marlene's later work. However, it's not just Dietrich, or the visuals (stunning as they may be), but the incredible storytelling, where plots open up like Russian dolls and initial perspectives--as well as characters-- freely twist in the wind.

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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » September 3rd, 2011, 3:35 pm

Arkadin,

I think that SE was exceptional due to the combination of good actors, great direction and an excellent script. Characters change their alliances and at least one of them changes his entire mindset. We have our preconceptions about the characters changed during the course of the film. Mr. Salt (Eugene Palette) at first seems genuinely sympathetic and open-minded, but once he and the seemingly kind Mrs. Haggerty (Louise Closser Hale) get together, they feed off one another's prejudices. The Reverend Mr. Carmichael (very well played by Lawrence Grant) seems like an opinionated, closed-minded bigot, but turns out to be a much more enjoyable character - he actually finds himself confounded by Shanghai Lily, not understanding how a woman can encompass two opposing forces. And I thought that Warner Oland was a somewhat sympathetic villain, with his bureaucratic air of resignation, and his frustration with the westerners' prejudice. He just screamed middle management to me.

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Mr. Arkadin
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby Mr. Arkadin » September 3rd, 2011, 4:50 pm

JackFavell wrote:Arkadin,

I think that SE was exceptional due to the combination of good actors, great direction and an excellent script. Characters change their alliances and at least one of them changes his entire mindset.


Exactly. This is also what happens in The Blue Angel (where a supposed "moral" man becomes a voyeur and then is himself an object of gaze and ridicule) and Dishonored (a streetwalker becomes an undercover agent and falls for one of the enemy). Sternburg and Dietrich plumb the depths of human nature and teach us that man is rarely good or evil, but often a mixture of the two and appearances are rarely as they seem.

One of my favorite scenes in Dishonored is the opening, where Marlene brings a John to her apartment (he is actually an important general) and watches with amusement while he diddles on her piano. After he is ejected, he stares up at the window dumbfounded while listening to her running up and down the keyboard with amazing skill. :P
Last edited by Mr. Arkadin on September 3rd, 2011, 7:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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JackFavell
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » September 3rd, 2011, 5:26 pm

Ha!

I really love Marlene amused - she has such a delicious sense of irony. All my favorite Europeans have that same deftness with multiple meanings. Dietrich, Boyer (probably the most supremely ironic actor), Lederer and Veidt are all masters of the ironic touch.

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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby Fossy » September 3rd, 2011, 10:37 pm

Shanghai Express was ok as a film. The dog may have been a lhasa apso. There are probably a couple of other breeds which it could have been. Shih Tzu for example which is very much like a Lhasa, but with a softer coat which may have a kink in it. Lhasa Apsos have a straight coat. In an old black and white film one would not be able to tell the difference. One of my dogs is a Lhasa Apso and one is a crossbred Lhasa Apso

The name Anna May Wong is interesting. Anna May was born and died in USA and yet her name stayed “May”. One would have expected it to have the American spelling “Mae”. Consider Deanna Durbin whose name was actually Edna May Durbin, but despite her protests when she moved to USA the Americans insisted that her name was “Mae”.

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CineMaven
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby CineMaven » September 4th, 2011, 6:27 am

MR. ARKADIN:

“I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Shanghai Express CM.”


Thank you very much Mr. Arkadin. ‘Appreciate it. :-)

“While I've heard it described as a ‘Grand Hotel on wheels’, I personally feel Sternburg created a denser work which brims with complexity and layers that simply don't exist in Goulding's star drama...”

I never knew the movie had that moniker and am happy to see I’m thinking along the same lines as professional writers. I also agree with you about the density of “Shanghai Express”...layer upon layers of story and moments that made the movie feel full...like von Sternberg was presenting a whole world of characters enmeshed and interweaving with one another. I wonder if movie audiences at the time “got that” b’cuz our own American home grown griots, I feel, didn’t quite have that finesse; case in point “Grand Hotel” - segmented stories that intersected somewhat.

“One of my favorite scenes in "Dishonored" is the opening, where Marlene brings a John to her apartment (he is actually an important general) and watches with amusement while he diddles on her piano. After he is ejected, he stares up at the window dumbfounded while listening to her running up and down the keyboard with amazing skill.” :P

Ooooh Arkadin, you bad boy. You’ve NO idea how that metaphor has tickled and struck a chord with my salacious funny bone. So THAT is the trick, ey?! See how a man plays the piano... :P :P

********

JACK FAVELL:

Hey Jackie, d'ya remember when Dietrich receives a wire and Brook thought it was from a lover and she denies it? This piece of dialogue I believe is the crux of their relationship:

BROOK: "From one of your lovers?"

DIETRICH: "No."

BROOK: "I wish I could believe you."

DIETRICH: "Don’t you?"

BROOK: "No."

DIETRICH: Will you never learn to believe without proof?”

BROOK (with resignation): "I believe you Madeleine."


She shows him the letter...from a lover.

DIETRICH: "When I needed your faith you withheld it. And now when I don’t need it and don’t deserve it you give it to me."

This is a lesson (or a test) he’ll finally learn. I like how von Sternberg mirrors that in the end of the movie with Dietrich, Brook and the reasons the Minister has learned from Dietrich.

“Oh, Sister! FANTASTIC write-up!”

You know I thank you...and I repeat, your heartfelt review spurred me to watch the film. I recorded it during Dietrich’s day...but it was destined to be one of those films I have on VHS that I would have to watch when I had the chance. Your review immediately made me seek and hope and pray it was on YouTube and I endured eight parts of my Mac's slow “streaming” process to get through it. I might have missed its visual acuity watching it that way, but my finer point is that your words... the way you express yourself have the power of Svengali and I was compelled.

Now if you would just write a nice little treatise on housekeeping, maybe I could get things settled over at my folks’ place and totally move into my own little maison. :-)
"You build my gallows high, baby."

http://www.megramsey.com

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JackFavell
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby JackFavell » September 4th, 2011, 9:51 am

Ha! You'll have to rely on someone else for housekeeping hints.... if you saw my house you wouldn't ask that of me. :D

Thanks so much for the complement on my writing, it means a lot coming from an excellent writer like you.

I think you cut right to the heart of the film with your quote. And I love what the minister says at the end, something about "love without faith". And it's all wrapped up in an erotic package, with lots of pre-code seriousness - the racial themes really resounded for me.

Only Dietrich and Garbo could make self sacrifice so impressive - they both are so strong, it makes what they are doing even more selfless...

When someone invests so much of their heart and soul into a movie - plus time, money, brains and effort, you have to be impressed. Von Sternberg was a filmmaker, above everything, and it's a shame we can't see this kind of movie ever coming to the fore again. The lushness, the romanticism are gone forever, like the old south in Gone with the Wind. Nowadays when they try for the romantic in films, we are inextricably linked with reality and naturalism. It's not an easy combination, though Hollywood seems to want to take the easy way out. Von Sternberg would never have taken the easy way.... perhaps with disastrous consequences for his career.

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CineMaven
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby CineMaven » September 4th, 2011, 12:41 pm

Let's not wear the rose-colored glasses when we think of the "Golden Age" of Hollywood and the studio system. The studios were factories. And Louis B., Warners, Laemmle, Goldwyn etc., would have done their darnedest to break von Sternberg. His creativity wouldn't have stood a chance in the face of "Andy Hardy Gets Horny-Pt. III."

To me, "Shanghai Express" is like the immovable object facing the irresistable force...a beautiful nonsensical paradox. (I'm saying the paradox is nonsensical...not the emotions of "Shanghai Express").

Might I throw in one more point about "Shanghai..."? Warner Oland makes a pass at Anna May Wong first in the beginning and is rebuffed, thrown out of her cabin. But remember when he makes a play for Dietrich, and Clive Brook saves her honor? Well, when Oland goes for Anna May this time...and succeeds, I'm afraid to say, it was like he made this transference from what he couldn't get from Dietrich...and WOULD get from Anna; any port in the storm would have sufficed for him at that moment. I felt really bad for Anna though I thought she looked pretty sexy all angered and disheveled...and with that knife in her hand. Just to be clear: No, I do not condone violence against women...let me put that out there. Do you know what I mean...I only say that 'cuz everything was such a heightened state of eroticism throughout that whole movie, Dietrich...the train...those sloooooooow dissolves.
"You build my gallows high, baby."

http://www.megramsey.com

MikeBSG
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Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » September 4th, 2011, 12:47 pm

I just watched "Love me Tonight" (1932) the other day.

I'll never be a Maurice Chevalier or Jeanette MacDonald fan, BUT I have to say that I enjoyed this film enormously. The "Isn't It Romantic" sequence, in which the song circulates from Paris out to the countryside is enormously inventive and fun. "the Son of a Gun is Nothing but a Tailor" is also marvelous in how it uses montage to tell the story/sing the song. "Love Me Tonight" just bursts with the joy of moviemaking. It is as good as its reputation.

Myrna Loy was a scream. I wish she had been given more to do, but she was a delight throughout the film.

feaito

Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby feaito » September 4th, 2011, 1:03 pm

I revisited two films I've seen many times: the landmark Billy Wilder comedy "The Seven Year Itch" (1955) with Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell and the very amusing "The Naked Jungle" (1954) with fantastic special effects by Georga Pal and one of the best chemistries between two actors I've ever witnessed: Eleanor Parker as the bride-to-order of Charlton Heston...The sexual tension between Heston's repressed and insecure landlord and Parker's sensuality and allure...Superb!

feaito

Re: WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby feaito » September 4th, 2011, 1:04 pm

I agree with you Mike, Love Me tonight is my favorite musical...and Myrna Loy is a delight.


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