Day 3 of Cinecon was my first full day. Well, almost full anyway, I missed the last feature because I got tired, and 1 or 2 films I started dozing off and didn’t pick up on enough of the film to really talk about it). But it was a great day. Today I met Samantha Eggar, who costarred as the lead female character in Cary Grant’s final feature “Walk, Don’t Run”. She was wonderful. It was kind of amusing, because she seemed to star in a lot of films that were swan songs for famous actors, including Rex Harrison in Dr. Doolittle. But I had some exposure to her from television as she played Captain Picards sister in law in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Family”, one of my favorite TNG episodes. I was proud to tell her that, and she had a terrific time as well working with Patrick Stewart.
But on with the show though. Today there were quite a few silent films, at least one drama, “The Goose Woman”, which looked fascinating, but unfortunately was one of the films I started dozing off in. It wasn’t because the film was boring, far from it, but we saw it after lunch and my caffeine buzz was wearing off at that point. I’ll have to catch it another time and talk about it because it did have some extraordinary performances. But I looked forward today because there were some GREAT comedies that were shown.
The first feature was the Harold Lloyd comedy, “Hot Water”. Terrific film. Harold Lloyd is one of the few comic actors of the silent era that can be listed along the top greats including Keaton and Chaplin. His films have great style and structure, and Lloyd is most definitely a comedy genius. A couple of great sequences had Lloyd trying to make his way home covered in groceries, and add to that a live prized turkey he wins by chance (not a dummy turkey, it’s real and alive) that crawls all over him as he walks through traffic and onto a trolley. But the film has a terrific build and climax as Lloyd thinks he’s killed his mother-in-law, who also happens to be prone to sleepwalking, and as this happens to her, he thinks she’s come back from the dead to come after him. I have seen Lloyd in some great shorts, and personally I think its a little unfair to compare him to Keaton or Chaplin, because what made him great was that his character had its own persona as a kind of happy go lucky, gullible guy who always has trouble follow him. This ones a classic.
Speaking of classics, the next film was the one I was most looking forward to, the Laurel and Hardy comedy feature, “Way Out West”. I had seen this film for the first time about a year ago, but this is one of the duo’s best. And to top it all off, it casts one of my favorite comic actors, James Finlyason as the villain. I think Laurel and Hardy features worked so much better when the villains were so over the top, as it was with their greatest nemesis Barnaby from March of the Wooden Soldiers (played by Henry Brandon). But Finny is great in this. The boys find themselves in the old west with a deed to a gold mine they’re supposed to deliver to a young woman, whose grandfather owned the mine and now she’s inherited it after his death. Of course, Finny and his wife find out about the mine and plot to steal the deed. The only thing this film could have used was a little more development on the granddaughter, who appears when she’s needed, but isn’t really given much to do in the story. But it’s a simple setup for the boys to get themselves into deeper trouble, and the gags are abound in this great comedy. Looking at many of these films over the past few days, the one thing I love is that there aren’t any morals or messages plugged in these comedies, forcing the main characters to have to “learn something” from their experiences. This is pure entertainment. And watching characters get into situations and how we see them get out of them (or at least try to get out of them) says everything we need to know about them…which is all the truth we really need. A film can still be about something without having to say a word regarding what its about. This is one of my favorite films, and I was glad to finally see it on a large screen.
The next feature was “Walk, Don’t Run”. This was the first widescreen and color feature that was shown. It was also Cary Grants last film. Despite some great performances, I have to say I was disappointed in the story. The film revolves around Grant, a knighted englishman in Tokyo during the summer Olympics trying to find a place to stay when every hotel is booked solid. At the British Embassy he sees an ad for an English woman looking for a roommate at her apartment in Tokyo (played by Samantha Eggar). Of course, the woman forgot to specify she was looking for a woman roommate, but of course that doesn’t stop Grant from imposing on her anyway (the heel!). And of course a third male roommate shows up who is a US Olympic contender. While the setup leads to a majority of the comic moments and mishaps during the second act as Eggar puts up with her roommates, the story drags most of the time. The story doesn’t really give us any idea where its going, and I kept wondering what having the film set in Tokyo and the Olympics really had to do with this storyline about three roommates getting along. The Olympics eventually comes into the story by the third act, which ties everything together, but getting there is a chore to sit through. Watching the roommates try to get along has some amusing moments, but there’s no tension or anything really holding this together (For instance, Cary’s wife in England knows he’s staying with a strange woman in Tokyo, and she’s fine with it. Eggar is nervous when she has to introduce her roommates to her visiting friend. But she’s pretty much honest about whats going on.) There’s a lot of comic stuff going on, but nothing really “happens” to the characters, at least until the third act, and by then it feels a little late. But there are a couple of really cool things about this film…one of them being an appearance from George Takei playing a police captain (this film was a year before he started on Star Trek). And it’s a fairly important part too, not just a quick scene. The film is well shot, with some good performances, and a few good gags. It’s just I wish there was more holding the story together.
After dinner, the next feature was the hilarious Wheeler and Woolsey comedy, Hips Hips Hooray, also costarring the gorgeous and funny Thelma Todd! I had seen this film a little over a year ago at my friend Stan’s house, but it’s a terrific pre code RKO comedy, as there’s plenty of scenes with half dressed women (some practically nude), and the two main characters are just complete shysters. There’s also some memorable songs, such as the great “Keep on Doi’n what you’re Do’in”. This is a hilarious, risque, and sexy. It’s great classic film I recommend anyone to check out. Here’s a clip below of the films signature song and dance number:
Last film for the night was a REAL TREAT. John Ford’s 1927 silent feature was lost until it was found in 2010 and preserved by New Zealand film laboratories. It’s probably considered the least John Fordian of all his films. But it is a great comedy about a boarding house full of vaudeville actors, and centers around one actor, who is terrible actor, but is asked to play Hamlet in London because of his family’s respected name in the theatrical industry. He gets training from an old acting master at the boarding house, but once his performance becomes a success and he achieves fame, the man he once was becomes corrupted. He becomes completely self absorbed and lacks in all humility for those who helped him achieve his success in the first place. The great (and tragic) thing about the ending is that the man doesn’t change despite visiting the boarding house after his success and after his acting mentor gives him cutting words about the truth of what he’s become. I suppose I found something truthful in this, having thought of some people I went to Cal Arts with who achieved some success in the film industry (after only working on one film), and watching a person became self absorbed and unfriendly…especially for some who could be really condescending to their fans. The man in “Upstream” is no exception as he rises to fame based on one production, only to believe his new position came from himself without the help of others. And as one of my favorite characters on Six Feet Under put it…”And so it all begins. With the first success, corruption.” I think this film says it perfectly.
|Still from John Ford’s previously lost film, “Upstream”
More great films coming tomorrow as Cinecon continues through to Monday. Something fun I did during the dinner hour, I found on Hollywood Blvd the Snow White Bar/Cafe (yes, Disney’s Snow White, but unofficial!) with paintings of all the characters and scenes decorated around the restaurant. It was really great. The restaurant apparently opened in 1946, and the artwork was done by a Disney artist at the time who did it for the owner as a favor (or something like that). But despite having the Disney owned El Capitan theater right down the street, Disney apparently allowed them to continue displaying the characters because it was done by a former Disney artist who worked on the original film…so I guess someone at the studio considers it a piece of history, and there were no issues regarding licensing of the characters. And they make a pretty good tuna sandwich too! Definitely check it out if you’re ever in the Hollywood area.