The Debbie Reynolds Auction Recap/ Catalogs Still Available

If you weren't able to attend Debbie Reynolds'  December auction, then visit Christian Esqevin's recap of the event at  the following address:

The writer provides his own photos of the gowns and a running commentary on the movie in which  they were originally worn. (I did not know that Katharine Hepburn's black, red and white striped dress from Desk Set was in the auction. It's one of my favorites in movie casual wear!)

If you didn't get a catalog it seems the auction site, Profiles In History, is still allowing free downloads of them.

A Wilde Moment

When filmmakers adapt a play sometimes they overcompensate for the stodgy confines of the stage with frenetic energy, too many locations, an obnoxious score and frequent cuts that distract from the  brilliant dialogue and story arc.  [e.g.An Ideal Husband(1999)]

To the other extreme, some films do not take advantage of their more liberating media, and remain  charmingly, but laughably, set-bound. [e.g. The Importance of Being Earnest(1952)]

And then there’s Oliver Parker’s 2002 version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. It’s not a classic movie…yet, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t clever. For instance, there are reasons for splitting up the play’s dialogue  into different locations beyond just catering to a modern audience’s supposed restlessness.

2 points

1. The famous scene when Lady Bracknell interrogates her very nervous, prospective son-in-law, Mr. Worthing, is usually set in her nephew’s parlor. In Parker’s version, Worthing must visit Lady Bracknell’s house, passing through an enormous set of doors before stopping at the royal purple/blood-red inner sanctum. The experience is like being caught in a Venus fly trap. Perfect for the scene.     

2. Worthing’s big speech near the finale, accusing his best friend, Algernon, of using deceit to gain admission to his house and stir up everyone’s lives is another brilliant scene. This speech is rather a long-winded one,  and often onstage is spouted while standing in one spot. However, the director here has the character walk about, picking up various objects that serve as “evidence” of Algy’s misconduct. Worthing is rather like an attorney at closing arguments. A funny and clever framing of  potentially dry dialogue.

Yes, play-to-film adaptations can be wonderful when they’re done properly. Parker’s Earnest is one of the best.

The Heiress (1949): The Garden Muse

Inanimate objects seem to observe the main characters in movies, especially in dark, brooding, period dramas. In The Heiress (1949), Dr. Sloper’s late wife is a constant presence, not only in conversation, but in her portrait, her un-played piano, even in the color cherry red. These objects do not recall happy memories for the family; bittersweet, perhaps. These items haunt the widower and his overly shy young adult daughter, Catherine, who rarely make a move without “consulting” the vaunted image of a woman long dead.

Another, more passive, inanimate character, one that does not seem to impose its will on the family’s daily life is the garden muse - a brick archway with seating that leads from the backyard garden to the alleyway. The muse stands as an unwavering sentinel watching important story points.

The muse pops up three times in the film. 
  1. When the audience first meets the heiress as she buys fish in the alley, to her father’s chagrin
  2. When forbidden lover Morris comes to whisk her away for an elopement that doesn’t happen
  3. When  saying goodbye to visiting relatives whose lives have moved on  since we last saw them, while hers remains the same.

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the meaning of this garden muse.  “C‘mon, Java,” I said to myself, “Not everything in a film has to have deep meaning. Sometimes an archway is just an archway; you‘re Bogdanoviching again.” Then  it hit me (I hope you‘re not eating) - the muse is a symbolic womb.

Bear with me.

In that first scene father disapproves of the heiress carrying fish like a servant. There is no reason to have the first father-daughter conversation in the garden, but it‘s there with the archway framing the two characters. Her visible self-reproach for disappointing her father is quite childlike. Dr. Sloper - the adult - walks down the alley. Catherine - the child- reenters the house.

The next archway scene involves Catherine and forbidden fiancĂ© Morris finding shelter from the rain in the muse, giving birth to the idea of elopement. They share the passion and excitement of teens.  He leaves promising to return for her. It’s yet another scene of the other person - the less naive one - using the muse to venture away, and the cloistered heiress doing the opposite. Ultimately, he never returns for her.

The third and final muse scene occurs years later. Catherine, still single, has said goodbye to her cousin and her cousin’s young children, watching them drive out of the alley. Relatives have invited her for a visit but she always declines. Poised, she walks silently back to the house, slowly passing under the archway and gathering toys strewn about, almost like a mom. There is no doubt that she has emerged from her trials a woman.

However, she never leaves Washington Square, rarely ventures beyond the house, doesn‘t go far from that muse. She’s forever gestating.

Just a thought. What do you think?

Here's another Java's Journey post on The Heiress: Her Mother's Presence

Classic Movie Posters: January Releases

Today, Java journeys through old movie posters. We'll take a brief gander at those images designed to make us plop down cold, hard coinage, grab some Good and Plenty and become transported to another world. Let's have fun.

This Month's Theme: January Releases.  

You Only Live Once (1937)

United Artists released You Only Live Once 75 years ago this month. It's the story of an ex-convict (Henry Fonda) and his wife (Silvia Sidney) who go on the lam after being framed for murder. But you wouldn't guess that from the poster (on the left). 

This looks like the cover of a torrid romance novel where the most action you'll get is the lady fainting from a love that cannot be expressed for the man whose name must not be mentioned.... All that stuff.

The French poster (on the right) - with a prominent jail cell, police search light and an act of violence -  is a bit busy, but it does a better job of conveying urgency, danger and (best of all) the plot!

The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942)

On January 1st seventy years ago, moviegoers in the U.S. lined up to watch Bette Davis play indulgent secretary to Monty Woolley's bombastic radio star in The Man Who Came To Dinner.

This ad reads in part, "There never was a better reason for 'going to the movies.'" This suggests people might have been turning away from cinematic diversions for a bit. It's understandable that everyone's mind was now focused on more serious matters; the attack on Pearl Harbor was not even a full month before the premiere of Dinner.

With that in mind, it's no wonder the marketing department felt the need to give a reason for attending the theater. Every mouth on the poster is in mid-laugh. "Distract yourself," seems to be the message.

The Cimarron Kid (1952)
Another man-on-the-run tale was released in January fifteen years after You Only Live Once. This one involves the wild west, train robberies and Audie Murphy. It's The Cimarron Kid. Beating back the rise of black and white television westerns, this movie brings a cowboy story in Technicolor! Just to get your kiddies unglued from the boob tube, each poster or lobby card is almost its own comic strip. There are are guns drawn, horses rearing, Yvette Dugay doing her best Jane Russell impression.... You almost don't need to see the movie!

The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962)
Capitalizing on the sword and sandal movie fad of the time, the Three Stooges (via time machine) run into the son of Zeus. Most of the posters for this film carve the title out of giant 3D blocks, or have the demigod hovering above, flexing, which is fine. However, the most interesting ones have the myth interacting with Larry, Moe and Curly- all of whom are helpless before him. The French poster above is a case in point, where Herc's phenomenal power allows him to pull the comedy team from white space.

See you next month in Classic Movie Posters.
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