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March 13, 2011

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D Cairns

Such a shame she never made a movie with Hitch.

The Siren

So the Siren really wants to know whatcha think of this one, Glenn. I adore it possibly more than I should, but those LEADS....

Glenn Kenny

@ The Siren: Oh, I (and TLW) like it just fine. One could argue that maybe Wyler's not the most natural choice for this kind of material, but he keeps it as light as it ought to be, and he's clearly still in love with his "Roman Holiday" ingenue. It's her show, too, and as a result O'Toole seems kind of relieved that very little is expected of him besides insouciance. The mechanics of the heist are kind of nifty, too. AND it's got Marcel Dalio. And Paris. And Hugh Griffith. And Eli Wallach. Etc. My only complaint from last night's viewing is that the DVD was on the soft side.

D Cairns

The story goes that Wyler refused the script unless they could get Hepburn, so the producer when to her and told her Wyler had said yes. She read the script, didn't think much of it, but assumed Wyler had some masterplan to fix it, so she said yes.

It's arguable that Wyler had too heavy a touch for this kind of romp, but I think the weaknesses are inherent in the material and he does fine with what he has to work with. Audrey's outrageous costumes certainly make it a diverting watch.

The Siren

That scene where they're hiding together SENDS me. I think that seeing Paris When It Sizzles directly after How to Steal a Million, as I did, gives you more appreciation for what Wyler accomplished. Man, Paris When It Sizzles was like a long series of variations on limp.

Roman Holiday was probably Wyler at his lightest. Hepburn brought it out in him, it seems, although he made her cry when they were filming that one, can you imagine? Making Audrey Hepburn cry? How do you live with yourself after that?

It's an Audrey kind of week. Last night I found myself sucked into TCM's showing of My Fair Lady, a movie I have to admit just isn't that great. But singing along with that glorious score was something I couldn't resist. And god Audrey looks gorgeous in it, especially for "Show Me," where the dubbing works better than it does for "I Could Have Danced All Night."

D Cairns

"It'd be nice to be nice. But you can't make pictures that way," Wyler confessed to Chuck Heston.

Roman Holiday is just magical -- there barely seems to be anything at stake dramatically, but it just floats by like a dream. There's also The Good Fairy, for the strange but pleasing combo of Wyler and Sturges.

Just acquired Paris When it Sizzles -- since I just saw La Fete a Henriette, I figured I should compare the two.

Asher

"It's arguable that Wyler had too heavy a touch for this kind of romp, but I think the weaknesses are inherent in the material and he does fine with what he has to work with."

I don't know; I think there's a pretty rich vein to be mined in the father-daughter relationship, and the film doesn't, at least from my recollections of the film, really get at that at all. My first thought, for who might be better, was Preminger and what he does with father-daughter relationships in ANGEL FACE and BONJOUR TRISTESSE. The obvious objection is his difficulties with comedy, though I think he's brilliant in THE MOON IS BLUE, a film with a couple father-daughter pairings, Niven and Dawn Addams, and McNamara and Tom Tully. Then of course, there's the man in the stills above, who definitely had the requisite light touch, a touch he could deploy while still mining darker undercurrents in the material. He'd certainly have made something more substantial of this. And how about the most obvious choice, Blake Edwards?

D Cairns

Asher: yes, but all that presupposes a rewriting of the script to get at the father-daughter relationship. The script is what I meant by "the material" -- of the directors you cite, only Blake Edwards was really a writer, so he might have been able to improve things all alone. Hitchcock certainly collaborated brilliantly with his writers, but so did Wyler, usually.

Found The Moon is Blue pretty well unbearable, and I love Preminger when he's in serious mode, so for me his comedy attempts are a complete wash-out. Bits of A Royal Scandal are OK, I guess -- having Lubitsch around would help anybody.

Chris O.

Off-topic, but... oh, man, the amazing, incomparable-to-the-point-of-frightening-and-almost-inhuman Joe Morello died.

John Svatek

Wait, wait,wait. The Siren thinks My Fair Lady "just isn't that great"?!?!? How can this be? Except dubbing Hepburn's voice and the (non) development of Freddie's character, what isn't great? I just don't understand. . .

John Svatek

Wait--is there another version of My Fair Lady of which I am unaware? Like with His Girl Friday and The Front Page? The Front Fella with Danny Kaye maybe? (No disrespect intended toward The Front Page there.)

MMA Shorts


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jbryant

MMA Shorts makes what I am sure is a good point, somewhere in the universe. If you're all like me, I'm sure you clicked on his name to learn more about his intriguing assertion. Oy. Seriously, are there people who fall for this crap?

John: Love the Siren, but I'm with you on MY FAIR LADY. Even if the direction could be improved, the songs are genius, much of the dialogue is Shaw, and the actors aren't too shabby. I don't say it's Cukor's greatest, maybe not even in his top ten, but it's great enough. (And Siren, I will preemptively acknowledge that you don't say it's not a good film, and I'm glad you find the songs as "glorious" as I do.)

As for PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES, George Axelrod's script is so relentlessly tongue in cheek, and the story so inside-baseball, it's hard for the great Hepburn and Holden to give their characters much depth (though their very presence minimizes the problem). Quine and DP Charles Lang expertly swoop, zoom and track to provide visual interest, so on the whole I'll give it a pass as an enjoyable lark.

The Siren

Gentlemen: The impeccable politeness with which you express dismay is very much appreciated. I'm genuinely sorry to upset you, but...My Fair Lady is, in all likelihood and until someone shows up to argue with me, the greatest Broadway score of all time. Not a dud in the bunch. I grew up with the London recording and can sing it (badly) inflection for inflection. I love Cukor, I do, but this movie is just kind of inert, as though he is afraid to mess with anything; it's all dressed up, and very pretty, but nowhere to go. I hope I have made my abiding love for Audrey clear, but her dubbing is mostly bad and she is, as with Holly Golightly, damn near impossible to buy as a woman of the lower orders, exert herself mightily though she does. Leslie Howard is the definitive movie Higgins, not Harrison; Howard is about ten times sexier. And I don't care how much Shaw huffed and puffed to the contrary, Higgins HAS to be sexy. Jeremy Brett is sexier. That just ain't right.

It is one of those odd movies where, as I watch it for the umpteenth time, I think, "no, I'm right, it's really not that great. But I'm not about to click off, because I HAVE to hear this song..."

Brian

Siren, I love you, agree with everything you say about the film version of MY FAIR LADY, and also agree it's a superb score. But since you asked ("until someone shows up to argue with me"), do you mind if I put in a vote for SOUTH PACIFIC (another brilliant show that suffers from a disappointing movie version, as nearly all Rodgers and Hammerstein shows do), WEST SIDE STORY, KISS ME KATE, COMPANY or FOLLIES? But I can't argue that it is, however it compares to those other shows in my heart, a brilliant, brilliant score.

jbryant

Siren: But the man's nickname was "Sexy Rexy!" :)

Someone at Dave Kehr's blog, I think, made a nice defense of Cukor's work on MFL a while back, but I don't remember any specifics.

The Siren

@jbryant: Harrison was dead sexy in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and even in Unfaithfully Yours where he's playing a rotter, and he's far from unappealing in MFL, especially when he's really on his game with the witty lines; he doesn't get sparks off Hepburn, though, for whatever reason.

Stephen Whitty

Siren, I'm with you.

I have to admit to an obstinate fondness for Lerner and Loewe over Rodgers and Hammerstein (it is, in more stereotypically guy-world pursuits, the same contrarian urge that always had me root for Hagler over Leonard in the ring) but that score is deliriously, amazingly consistent. You think every song is the best you ever heard -- until the next.

And Harrison IS Mr. Higgins (although Howard makes an interestingly more prickly type, and I deeply regret not seeing the Peter O'Toole revival on Broadway, several decades past.)

As for "How To Steal A Million" -- I cannot judge that film rationally, as it is one of those movies I saw as a child, in Radio City Music Hall, in the company of my mother and grandmother (and followed, I'm sure, by a lunch at Patricia Murphy's Candlelight Restaurant, or Schrafft's, or some other long-gone tuna-surprise palace). So in my memory it's wonderful, and that's that.

But, more to the point, Glenn, what IS that book she's holding?

Brian Dauth

GYPSY or SWEENEY TODD may be the greatest musical scores of all time, and Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim are certainly Frederick Loewe's equals (if not betters). Also, "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" is not in the same league as GYPSY's 11 o'clock number, "Rose's Turn."

As for Cukor's MY FAIR LADY: his use of space is never less than sublime, and having Audrey dubbed is perfect for a text that is all about the altering of voices in order to change one's life. Dave Kehr calls the movie Cukor's testament, and he is right: all that Cukor believed in and cared about - theatricality; the playing of roles; the ability/need to change one's life - are on brilliant display. MY FAIR LADY is Cukor (and queer cinema) at their best. (BTW: I was the person at davekehr.com that defended MFL).

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