Archive for October 30th, 2011


by R.D.Finch

“Every once in a while I suddenly find myself dancing,” Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire) says to Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers) when they meet cute at a London hotel at the beginning of Top Hat (1935). Jerry, a song-and-dance man, has just arrived in London to star in a show for his producer pal Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton) and has been explaining to Horace his casual philosophy of romance. How else would Fred Astaire express his feelings in a musical film but through song and dance? Here the song is “No Strings (I’m Fancy Free)”—”No ties to my affections / I’m fancy free and free for anything fa-a-a-ncy”—and the dance is a raucous tap routine that has disturbed the sleep of the young woman in the room below, Dale. This is why Jerry feels the need to explain to her his occasional compulsion to sing and dance. At this first meeting, Dale responds to Jerry frostily. He responds to her with a level of interest that has him rethinking his no strings attitude to romance.

The rest of the movie might be described as Fred persists, Ginger resists, with complications. It’s those complications that are wrung for every last drop of plot to sustain this light-as-air confection of a movie. The main complication is one of the oldest in the book—mistaken identity. Just when Dale is beginning to reconsider her opinion of Jerry, circumstances lead her to believe that Jerry is actually Horace, who happens to be the husband of her best friend Madge (Helen Broderick), and narrative coincidences conspire to perpetuate her error. Naturally, she finds her pursuer a cad and continues to reject his advances, while Jerry can’t understand why she won’t thaw in the face of his tenacity. Things definitely reach an impasse when Dale impulsively decides to marry a sexually ambiguous dress designer to avoid Jerry. (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba

“Fixing a Hole” is a new series whose sole purpose is to review films that have not yet been covered on Wonders in the Dark. The theme for October is “Universal Horror.” Some spoilers are discussed below.

While Joel has selected all the titles, certain films have been assigned to guest writers. This week, Exodus 8:2‘s own Jaime Grijalba digs up the two Draculas: the English- and Spanish-language versions, shot simultaneously in 1931.

Dracula (1931/United States/directed by Tod Browning)

stars Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan, Helen Chandler, David Manners

written by Louis Bromfield, Tod Browning, Max Cohen, Dudley Murphey, Louis Stevens from the play by Hamilton Deane, John L. Balderston, Garret Fort from the novel by Bram Stoker • photographed by Karl Freund • designed by Charles D. Hall, John Hoffman, Herman Rosse • no music • edited by Milton Carruth

The Story: On a dark and stormy night, an Englishman arrives at a gloomy castle in Transylvania and meets Count Dracula, who would like to invite him for a drink.

Drácula (1931/United States/directed by George Melford)

stars Carlos Villarías, Pablo Álvarez Rubio, Eduardo Arozamena, Lupita Tovar, Barry Norton

written by B. Fernandez Cue, Dudley Murphey from the play by Hamilton Deane, John L. Balderston, Garret Fort from the novel by Bram Stoker • designed by Charles D. Hall • music by David Broekman • edited by Andrew Cohen

The Story: En una noche oscura y tormentosa, un inglés llega a un lúgubre castillo en Transilvania y cumple con el Conde Drácula, a quien le gustaría invitarlo a tomar una copa. (Forgive the Google translation! – Joel)


‘I am Dracula’/’Yo soy Drácula’

The only survivor of a practice that was more common than anyone would admit, Drácula, the Spanish version of the Tod Browning film Dracula, is also from 1931, filmed at the same time with the same sets and the same script, but with different actors, directors, DP’s, everything. Universal, of all the studios, used to do this all the time, not to expand the film to foreign Spanish-talking regions (that was more of a consequence) but more to appease the growing Latino population that began not only to populate the United States. And also to compensate with work the many Latino-related actors and actresses that came to Hollywood to find a work and a way to shine in the movies, even if they didn’t really speak any English, which I don’t know if it’s the case of this particular case, but I’m pretty sure there are some who are.

Anyway, back to the films. Dracula may be one of the most famous movies in the world, much like Frankenstein, because you don’t need to actually see it to know what it’s about. You can sometimes predict what the acting, the framing, the sets and all the little details will be: countless parodies, remakes and maybe a genetic memory have been important when we give this film the status of legend. Maybe it’s Lugosi, or Browning, or Frye, or who knows what it is, maybe the cinematography has something familiar that resonates with us when we see it for the first time, as if it were a world that we already know, but that we longed to return to, a film that has always played in our minds until we see it for the first time, and that’s when the film will start playing in your heart.


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No fuss, but here it is,the poster that Joel was talking about.  Enjoy and put your glasses on.  Not as good as Joel’s video, of course, but I’m quite proud of it.


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