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March 28, 2012

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Robert Cashill

As I recall from A LIFE, Kazan asked Mayer, "When do we go on location?" To which Mayer responded, "Location? Look here!" Whereupon Kazan was ushered into a screening room, where a bazillion miles of footage of the plains had been prepared for the film's use. That, and that the two stars had set their performances in stone before the shoot began, convinced Kazan that he had signed onto a dud.

STATE OF THE UNION should be more to your mutual liking.

jbryant

Good stuff. Looking forward to your STATE OF THE UNION post.

I recently saw Robert Siodmak's THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF UNCLE HARRY, and was surprised that Angela Lansbury's mother, Moyna McGill, had a good supporting role as one of the title character's sisters. I had somehow forgotten that she had a Hollywood career contemporaneous with her daughter's (they're both in THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY).

Brian

Hooray! I was just wondering when this feature would reappear, and I'm very glad to see it here. Also can't wait to hear your thoughts about STATE OF THE UNION, which I think is really underrated.

David Ehrenstein

A film this lugubrious and weird is not without interest. As for Kazan's feeligns about it, he was clearly being employed as a traffic cop, rather than a director. All the important decisions on what the film was abotu and how it was to be directed were etched in stone before he set foot on the project.

While I'm sure your dealing with the on-screen performances and not the off-screen ones of those Great Fakes, Tracy and Hepburn, I'd love to hear your take on Scotty Bowers, Glenn.

D

Non-transcendence in an artwork can offer many aesthetic delights (unless a viewer's taste demands transcendence). I remember the first time I watched SEA OF GRASS, it was more to "cross it off the list" than anything else, and I was surprised by how much pleasure I experienced. The second time I saw it, it still interested me, but not as much: I remember asking myself "What happened?"

Unlike late Visconti, the non-transcendence/non-coherence on display here is not intentional, it is a by-product of talented people (and systems) neither agreeing nor agreeing to disagree.

Petey

While I haven't seen The Sea of Grass, I can't imagine it'd be worse than Splendor in the Grass or America, America.

Elia's final act didn't go well, and I'd guess an early work, even if he just came on to play traffic cop, would be better than the tripe he turned out late. But, like I say, I haven't seen the movie in question....

The Siren

Ooh, I have been waiting for this one, and am so pleased by the Plunkett love, natch. All that said, it's a remarkably dull movie. As I recall, the footage that was shot of the Plains is quite gorgeous and in several spots it's more interesting than the characters. I blame the script, myself--this is a very standard women's picture plot with absolutely nothing there to dress it up. I can't believe Claire managed to see it twice.

It's remarkable how often Spencer Tracy, who to this has a reputation for being a beloved crusty presence, played deeply unpleasant men. And how often Katharine Hepburn, with that feisty rep of hers, played doormats, or feisty women who willingly give themselves over to doormat-dom...

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