o/t: The Clock (1945)

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The Wonders in the Dark Romantic Movies Countdown continues. There was a panic last night when a contributor dropped out at the last moment, and, in a fit of stupidity, I said I’d cover. Finding our dusty copy of the movie (thank you, some forgotten yard sale) took the first hour (well, cooking and eating supper took the very first hour!), and then, of course, there was the job of actually watching it, taking notes, etc. The end result is, alas, a visibly rushed job; but, for what it’s worth, here it is.

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Wonders in the Dark

The Clock 1

by John Grant

US / 90 minutes / bw / MGM

Dir: Vincente Minnelli (reportedly helped by Fred Zinnemann)

Pr: Arthur Freed

Scr: Robert Nathan, Joseph Schrank

Story: Paul Gallico, Pauline Gallico

Cine: George Folsey

Cast: Judy Garland, Robert Walker, James Gleason, Keenan Wynn, Marshall Thompson, Lucile Gleason, Ruth Brady, Chester Clute.

Corporal Joe Allen (Walker), an Indiana boy home from the war on furlough with no knowledge of where next in the combat zone he’ll be posted, finds himself in New York’s Grand Central Station with no real clue as to what to do with himself. Just then, pretty office worker Alice Maybery (Garland) trips over his foot, breaking the heel on her shoe. The chance encounter leads them to a trip around the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in due course out on a date—she standing up her regular squeeze Freddy, her romance with whom, we soon understand…

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Cobweb, The (1955)

US / 124 minutes / color / MGM Dir: Vincente Minnelli Pr: John Houseman Scr: John Paxton, William Gibson Story: The Cobweb (1954) by William Gibson Cine: George Folsey Cast: Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Charles Boyer, Gloria Grahame, Lillian Gish, John Kerr, Susan Strasberg, Oscar Levant, Tommy Rettig, Paul Stewart, Dayton Lummis, Jarma Lewis, Adele Jergens, Edgar Stehli, Sandra Descher, Bert Freed, Mabel Albertson, Fay Wray, Oliver Blake, Olive Carey, Eve McVeagh, Virginia Christine, Jan Arvan, Ruth Clifford, Myra Marsh, Marjorie Bennett.

By the mid-1950s the studios were becoming seriously worried over losing their audience to the new kid on the block, TV. One stratagem they tried in response to this threat was the star-studded ensemble movie, of which The Cobweb is a prime example. This blackly comedic soap opera isn’t of much direct noir interest, if any, save for its astonishing cast, with noir icons like Widmark, Grahame and Bacall at the top but others like Jergens and Stewart further down as well as actors better known outside noir but who nevertheless made noir contributions, such as Boyer, Wray, Christine and even Bennett.

Dr. Stewart “Mac” McIver (Widmark) is the de facto chief of a psychiatric clinic, although the physician who ran it for many years, the boozy, philandering Dr. Douglas N. “Dev” Devanal (Boyer), is still formally its Medical Director. Mac has instituted a self-government policy for the patients as part of their therapy; in fact, the place seems more like a posh country hotel with psychotherapy laid on than a grim sanitarium.

Meg Rinehart (Bacall) views Stevie’s designs.

All are agreed that the clinic’s library requires new curtains. Victoria “Vicky” Inch (Gish), in charge of administration, assumes she should order something bland from the usual local supplier, Petlee & Sons. Before she can do so, however, two things happen. First, Mac’s seemingly spoilt, shrewish wife Karen (Grahame), visiting the clinic and discovering the situation, decides to take matters into her own hands and, with the connivance by telephone of the Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, the formidable Regina Mitchell-Smythe (Albertson), orders the most expensive drapes money could buy—to be delivered by special airmail, no less! Second, the extraordinarily repressed patient Sue Brett (Strasberg) suggests the patients should design the new drapes themselves, an idea picked up by the suicidal but artistically talented patient Stevie Holte (Kerr) and supported by the clinic’s art therapist, the widowed Meg Faversen Rinehart (Bacall).

Stevie produces his designs for the drapes, and they’re Continue reading

Bad and the Beautiful, The (1952)

US / 118 minutes / bw / MGM Dir: Vincente Minnelli Pr: John Houseman Scr: Charles Schnee Story: “Memorial to a Bad Man” (1951; Ladies’ Home Journal) by George Bradshaw Cine: Robert Surtees Cast: Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Walter Pidgeon, Dick Powell, Barry Sullivan, Gloria Grahame, Gilbert Roland, Leo G. Carroll, Vanessa Brown, Paul Stewart, Sammy White, Elaine Stewart, Ivan Triesault.

A love letter to Hollywood—or, at least, a letter expressing a love/hate relationship—with a very noirish cast and some noirish flourishes; it’s occasionally listed as a film noir, although that’s a classification that seems hard to justify.

Shields (left) and Fred find Georgia sloshed at the Crow’s Nest.

Movie mogul Harry Pebbel (Pidgeon) gathers together three major figures in the industry in an attempt to persuade them to participate in a new project that the producer Jonathan Shields (Douglas) is trying to float. All three of them have good reasons to tell Shields to get lost because of the way he treated them in the past, and in three extended flashbacks we learn what those reasons were: Continue reading