Poets are both clean and warm
And most are far above the norm
Whether here or on the roam
Have a poet in every home! #13
No. 3 in a series of 50 by Player's Navy Cut Cigarettes.
"Born on January 17th, 1902, in Copenhagen, Nils Asther is Swedish and was brought up in Malmo, Sweden. His parents were welathy and wanted him to enter the diplomatic service, but he preferred the stage and made his debut in Copenhagen. Here he attracted the attention of the late Mauritz Stiller, who gave him the leading role in one of his films. He won much popularity in Continental pictures before going to Hollywood in 1926. His latest talkies include Madame Spy, Behold We Love and The Right to Romance. His first British picture is Abdul Hamid for B.I.P."
No. 2 in a series of 50 from Player's Navy Cut Cigarettes
"Heather Angel (Fox) was born in Oxford on Feburary 9th, 1909. Her father, a Don at Christchurch College, died when she was eighteen. She was brought up on a farm when she was young, and educated at Wycombe Abbey. In 1926 she began her stage career as a student at the Old Vic and afterwards played in touring companies. Four years after her stage debut, she made her first film appearance in The City of Song, but British studios did not fully realize her ability, and in 1932 she signed a five-year contract which took her to Hollywood. Her films include: Murder in Trinidad, Springtime for Henry and Romance in the Rain."
Robert Altman (seen here doing what few did as well as he), has passed away at the age of 81. As one of a small number of artists in mainstream American filmmaking whose methods could justly be called revolutionary, he left a mark on all Cinema that is at once indelible and enigmatic to the point of critical frustration. Fixing a definition on his unusually vast body of work, quantifying and reaching conclusions about it as one would a set of statistics, is an errand only a fool would attempt and only a knave think honorable (which, of course, will do nothing to stop obit jockeys and movie reviewers; as I write this, there are no doubt hundreds who are literally giving it the old college try). But, at the risk of committing this not-venial sin, I think one observation is in order.
If we can look upon his labors, good and bad (and his films could reach extremes of both conditions), there is at least one thread running through all of it: Altman's aesthetic was, at bottom, one of constant examination. The dreamlike slow zooms and pans so omnipresent in his filmmaking were merely the immediate visual manifestations of an endless process; one that sought to discover within a given project those elements which might, in the end, prove most transcendent. He was both drawn to and repelled by mainstream Hollywood filmmaking, and in the 1970s it resulted in one of the greatest flourishings any artist in Cinema has yet managed.
After all, you simply cannot question the fundamentals of genre cinema as vigorously as he did without an almost bottomless understanding of it. That he built his art on moving beyond the then-prevailing standards of expression should have been greeted as sign of a faith in the potental of American cinema more abiding than any of its cheerleaders could muster with a straight face; that he succeded with it as often as he did only makes today's loss all the more incalculable.
Who would have guessed that another Blog-a-thon would be upon us so soon? Not I, for one. But thanks to the prodigious efforts of Squish over at The Film Vituperatem we here at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger . . . find ourselves once again unable to resist the essentially communal spirit of the hour. And what better (or easier) entry could there be for a Blog-a-thon devoted to Sir Alfred Hitchcock than a whole mess of images, a Musical Indulgence and . . . you guessed it . . . Part Twelve of The Hitchcock/Truffaut Tapes; entailing discussions of two films from 1942, Saboteur and Shadow of a Doubt.
Saboteur is a film that only those who go in for Alfred Hitchcock's by-then patented suspense mechanisms could think a major work. Clearly Hitchcock himself has little regard for the film, spending, as he does, most of his retrospective analysis on its failings; as if in this discussion, some two decades later, he were still trying to figure out what went wrong.
To use the term 'discussion' to describe what transpires in relation to Shadow of a Doubt is, however, stretching the term a bit, since Hitchcock really doesn't get to say very much.
If you've been following this series, then I don't have to tell you who does most of the talking, do I.
It is, of course, not the first instance where François Truffaut spends an inordinate amount of time explaining to Hitchcock his own movie (it's not the last, either). By now, the Master of Suspense probably realized this was going to be a regular feature these talks, something one sits through and endures as best as one can. Short of calling in Security gorillas to bounce the team of François and Helen off the Universal lot . . . then working them over with beaver-tail saps before dumping them in Griffith Park . . . there wasn't a whole lot he could do but wait for the next question to arrive (I imagine he spent these lulls actively fantasizing about how he'd change the menu at Chasen's if only they'd let him). As I say, this is not by now an unusual occurrence in these recordings, but it's an especially annoying one this time because Shadow of a Doubt may be the finest film Alfred Hitchcock directed in the 1940s.
Ostensibly the story of a young girl who slowly comes to discover that her elegant, charming, and most favored uncle is what we now call a serial killer, Shadow of a Doubt is at once a droll portrait of wholly American innocence and a night-filled document of its sundering. It has to be remembered that, despite the best efforts of novelists such as Sinclair Lewis and Sherwood Anderson, our popular culture had not yet even begun to exhaust the theme of foul, unutterable doings just beyond the facade of small-town American life. Indeed, Hitchcock's is really the first film to take up the theme full-on. And while there have been those who will argue that Thornton Wilder's presence as co-scenarist played more than a subordinate role in creating the film's sense of social dread . . . after all, Wilder was not that many years removed from his bleak stage masterpiece Our Town . . . it doesn't fully account for Hitchcock's absolute engagement with it. His shepherding of this fundamentally dark tale evinced, in a way no film of his had before, an intense focus not just on the mechanics of telling its story, but on bringing what light his art could bear to all of its larger implications.
The key question, of course, is exactly what it was that so inspired Alfred Hitchcock on this occasion; why this project and not, say, Foreign Correspondent? While avoiding an outright spoiler, I can safely say you will not learn the answer to that question here. François Truffaut, unfortunately, seems to have little interest in it. I daresay he thought he already knew everything he needed to know.
As part of today's Alfred Hitchcock blog-a-thon, our Musical Indulgence hails from Barry Adamson’s 1989 debut album and original soundtrack Moss Side Story.
Adamson gives us his re-working of the theme from Alfred Hitchcock Presents (drawn from Charles Gounod's 1873 composition, Funeral March of a Marionette). If you haven’t heard it, then you're in for a bit of a treat, as he takes something quite familiar and expands it. I won’t fail at trying to describe what he does but suffice to say I’m a huge admirer of Adamson's and I think he’s massively underrated.
This track wasn’t included on the vinyl editions of the album but was included on the CD along with ‘Chocolate Milkshake’ and ‘The Man With the Golden Arm’. If you’ve never heard this album, or any Barry Adamson, then Moss Side Story is as good a place as any to start.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
(Barry Adamson; from Moss Side Story, 1989)
for the series: Musical Indulgences