Archive for August 29th, 2011

by Allan Fish

(USA 1933 93m) DVD2 (Spain only)

Oedipus Wrecks

p  Samuel Goldwyn  d  Frank Tuttle  w  George Oppenheimer, William Anthony McGuire, Arthur Sheekman, Nat Perrin  story  George S.Kaufman, Robert E.Sherwood  ph  Gregg Toland  chariot sequ.  Ralph Cedar  ed  Stuart Heisler  m  Alfred Newman  ch  Busby Berkeley  m/ly  Harry Warren, Al Dubin, L.Wolfe Gilbert  art  Richard Day  cos  John Harkrider

Eddie Cantor (Eddie/Oedipus), Verree Teasdale (Empress Agrippa), Edward Arnold (Valerius Caesar), David Manners (Josephus), Ruth Etting (Olga), Gloria Stuart (Princess Sylvia), Alan Mowbray (Majordomo), Willard Robertson (Warren Finlay Cooper), Stanley Fields (slave trader), Clarence Wilson (Boggs, the museum keeper), Lucille Ball,

Nearly eighty years on, the star vehicles of Eddie Cantor now seem to belong to another era, rather like the Danny Kaye vehicles a decade later.  The comparison is not idly invoked as both were the flagship comedic talents of Samuel Goldwyn in their respective eras.  And there’s even a link from Kaye back to Cantor by way of homage which seems to have been missed by most reviewers.  Cantor’s star reign was from around 1930-1935, like many other comedians he lost his lustre with the killjoy enforcement of the hays Code.  He would make a comeback in the likes of Thank Your Lucky Stars and Show Business, the latter the first of a successful partnership with Joan Davis, but they’re diluted, almost self-mocking Cantor.  Despite the incidental pleasures of Whoopee (in which he sang ‘Making Whoopee’ as only he could), The Kid from Spain and Kid Millions, there’s only one of his films that comes close to the level of classic.

            Eddie plays Eddie, living in West Rome, a small American town with corrupt politicians trying to put up prisons and museums of Roman artefacts and evicting the local poor in the process.  Eddie stands up for them and gets himself marched to the city limits and told to keep walking.  This he does, but a mile or so outside town he imagines himself back in Ancient Rome (after one assumes a bang on the head).  Sold to friend of the people Josephus in a slave auction, he quickly finds himself in trouble with the tyrannical emperor Valerius.  After a flirtation with the lions and then with torture, he finds himself food taster at the Imperial Court, a position so precarious it amounts to being an ‘Official Sacrifice’.  Throw in an English princess blackmailed into being the emperor’s concubine and an empress trying desperately to poison her husband.  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Irene’s bark was worse than her bite.  What was initially seen as a monster hurricane as menacing as any in well over a hundred years, was downgraded to a tropical storm, that was mainly notable for it’s eight-to-ten inch rain, and a wind display that was no worse than medium-strength noreasters.  But those of us living in the NYC area aren’t gloating by a long-shot.  We’re actually grateful the prognosticators overplayed their hand, rather than the other way around, especially as the most dire forecasters had envisioned downed power lines, falling trees and flooded homes.  A little bit of each did occur in a number of areas, but thankfully not in Northeast New Jersey and in the city, where Maurizio Roca, Joel Bocko and Bob Clark are presently residing.  Here in Fairview, New Jersey, power stayed on all through Saturday night, into Sunday, and only a nagging house leak in our first floor bedroom was a reminder of the storm’s wrath.  As I pen this part of the diary, the storm is practically gone, heading in a diminished state to New England, leaving behind dampness and overcast skies.  Monday and Tuesday will be sunny days according to weathermen.  But the harrowing experience made everyone wiser to cope with nature’s surprises and threats to our way of life.  It’s an episode that brings to mind what was recently, suffered by our friends in Tokyo and New Orleans, and how everything must truly be placed in the proper context.  I’d like to thank my dear friend Dee Dee, and so many others who asked for updates during the night and offered their well-wishes: dear people like Laurie Buchanan, Terrill Welch, Pierre de Plume, Michael Harford, Maurizio Roca, John Greco, Tony d’Ambra, Jamie Uhler, Joel Bocko, Craig Kennedy, Sachin Gandhi, Pat Perry, Judy Geater, Jaime Grijalba, Jim Clark,  Jon Warner, Jason Marshall, R.D. Finch, Roderick Heath, my very good friend Alan Hardy at the Film Forum, Branko C., and of course Alan Fish, and several others.  I beg everyone’s indulgence too for the incessant updates, which I could well understand coming off as redundant and a supreme annoyance.

The musical countdown is well underway, and the comments are flying in fast and furious.  It’s been great to have Dee Dee’s remarkable sidebar contributions, which have unearthed some amazing foreign posters of the selections, and links to some of the more renowned clips, and essays from guest writers Brandie Ashe, Kevin Deany and Brian (a.k.a. Classic Film Boy) as well as Judy Geater’s stellar piece on Guys and Dolls, which inspired one of the site’s all-time monter threads.  The site remains deeply indebted to Richard “R.D.” Finch, of The Movie Projector for his spectacular work in promoting the project, finding writers, and offering up his usual brand of incomparable thread comments that get right to the heart of every film and essay presented.  His work for WitD deserves a medal.  He’s been a long-time friend, and his own site writing has been exceedingly first-rate, but only now have we seen the true breath of his kindness and unwavering support.  His inspiration and ceaseless energy will never be forgotten, and are prime reasons why the countdown has gotten off to such an extraordinary start.  Today’s selection is a repeat of an Allan Fish review that originally appeared in the still-running pre-code series of the delightful Roman Scandals, which I recently saw at the Film Forum’s “Pre-Code” Festival. (more…)

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