August 26, 2004
miscellany: petition big sleazy noir book sale
Miscellaneous stuff that's been kicking around and I keep forgetting to put somewhere else:
A small favor. If you like Thirties screwball comedy films, or maybe even if you don't, please visit this page and sign the nice online petition to have Twentieth Century released on DVD. I don't know how useful these petitions are but it can't hurt, can it? (I had no idea the play was being revived on Broadway. I can't imagine Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche creating a fraction of the style and passion and charming nastiness displayed by John Barrymore and Carole Lombard.)
Don't mention the Waffle House. My boyfriend and I are driving to New Orleans soon. I am hoping not to have to subject him to many relatives, just the immediate family and a few extras. I don't want to scare him away. We will probably take one day to do something fun in Actual New Orleans as opposed to the suburbs where my parents live or the boonies where my sister lives. Anyway, I am stuck on what we can do that day. The French Quarter is going to be crazy-crowded with the Decadence Festival and anyway, he's already seen the Quarter once and that was sufficient.
You'd think that since I grew up near New Orleans, I would know everything there is to do. But we never really went into New Orleans (although I did attend high school there), and I haven't lived around there in decades, and when I visit my parents they try to stay away from Orleans Parish as much as possible. (Why would you live near a city you don't want to visit? I don't know.) You know how locals can act about the place where they live.
So I am going to ask y'all for advice. Can any of you suggest anything enjoyable for us to do in New Orleans on a weekend? We're a little old for the "let's get way trashed" drinking binge thing. Daytime and evening suggestions are welcome.
I am always being asked for things to do and places to eat in New Orleans by friends who are visiting there for the first time. Now I want to hear what other people have to say. Consider it a challenge, whether you're a local or someone who just likes visiting the Big Sleazy: find us something that isn't too touristy for me and not too shopping-centric for him and not gambling-centric for both of us. Otherwise we'll just end up at Canal Place Cinema again, although that's not necessarily a bad thing (assuming the audience behaves better than they did last time). Oh, and we'll eat a lot. Because I do know about the eating there.
Noir, my derriere. I've seen a whole list of films lately that I haven't written about. I guess it's time to write one of those long entries with lots of short reviews in it. No, I'm not going to do it right now. You don't have to hunt for the Back button on your browser.
I will mention one movie that I didn't watch all the way throughmy boyfriend watched the second half on DVD while I was in the room (on the computer) and I was so mesmerized by the badness of the film and its adaptation from the book that I ended up watching long stretches of it with him.
I am talking about the 1946 adaptation of The Postman Always Rings Twice. I read the James M. Cain book years ago when I was on a huge Cain kick (his books were incredibly cheap from Half-Price and a fast, entertaining read, but after you read a half-dozen you end up writing and talking like that and I was worried I might be stuck permanently that way).
I had always heard this was a great adaptation, with of course a little censorship to satisfy the Production Code and the Legion of Decency. Every review I read of this movie describes it as passionate, fiery, erotic, steamy, hard-boiled, quintessential film noir, and generally one of the great post-WW2 movies.
Maybe the problem is that I don't like most post-WW2 movies. There's a large gap in American films from around 1945 to, oh, 1965 in which I don't like much of anything that didn't involve Billy Wilder or Katharine Hepburn. My biggest gripe is that I don't like the inherent patronizing attitude towards women. I'd rather see a movie from that time with no women at all, like The Great Escape, than those awful "sophisticated sex comedies" from the late Fifties and early Sixties. It's the difference between The Awful Truth (1937) and My Favorite Wife (1940), or even My Favorite Wife and Move Over, Darling (1963), or the perfect example, between The Philadelphia Story (1940) and High Society (1956). I could write a long essay on this topic alone, but I'll stop now and spare you.
The Postman Always Rings Twice is noir? This is the cleanest, whitest noir I've ever seen. The characters' names have been changed from the book so they are blander and WASP-ier. Everyone and everything looks clean and tidy. Characters tend to be jolly rather than menacingLeon Ames as the district attorney reminds me of all the daddies he's played in movies like Meet Me in St. Louis and On Moonlight Bay, which hardly evokes noir.
Lana Turner is just plain dull. After my boyfriend was done watching the movie, we flipped back to the notorious opening shot of Turner as she picks up a dropped lipstick, this allegedly erotic moment where the camera pans up from her legs. I found nothing the least bit erotic about it. Lana Turner maintains this perpetual big-eyed lost-doe dumb-blonde look, which I don't find the least bit alluring. How can you possibly compare her with Barbara Stanwyck or Veronica Lake?
I think people confused this shot with the ankle-bracelet shot from Double Indemnity, a movie that puts this one to shame.
Compare Lana Turner's uninspired glamour-girl posing to the description of Cora in Cain's novel, when Frank first sees her: "Except for the shape, she really wasn't any raving beauty, but she had a sulky look to her, and her lips stuck out in a way that made me want to mash them in for her." All we get is a dropped lipstick.
The plot twists are ludicrous. They work in the book because of Cain's hardboiled prose style and even then, you don't want to think about the story too much. In a movie, they seem downright ridiculous. It didn't help that the movie added overdone touches like the lipstick rolling out of Lana Turner's hands again at the end, and an excess of pious remorse from John Garfield. And that tacked-on explanation of the movie's title, which isn't in the book? We were howling with laughter.
I don't even want to think about the 1981 adaptation, much less suffer through it, because I can't possibly imagine Jack Nicholson portraying the lead character and Jessica Lange looks just as miscast as Lana Turner, for different reasons. We saw the trailer for this movie and knew it wasn't for us.
So once again I am asking for input, because my boyfriend and I seem to be the only people around who think the 1946 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice is silly, overly sanitized, and melodramatic. My question is, are we missing something? If so, what? Why in the world is this film considered one of the prime examples of film noir, when it's about as noir as Stella Dallas. I can't believe people even mention it in the same breath as Laura and Double Indemnity. Tell me what makes this film so wonderful, or why you like it. Because I don't see it.
Posted by jette at August 26, 2004 08:36 PM
One last thing. I just got my postcard with the dates for the Monster Book Sale: September 11-12. It's at Burger Activity Center this time, which someone will have to help me find, but I love buying books (especially for $1) so I am definitely going. They don't just sell old library booksI've found beautiful new books suitable for Christmas gifts there too. And all the money goes to Austin public libraries, so when I come home with bags full of books that we don't have room for, my boyfriend can't complain. (He doesn't. He just laughs at me.) Anyway, if you live in/near Austin you really should go.