Posts tagged ‘Billy Wilder’

May 26, 2012

The Seven Year Itch (1955 – DVD)

“What blonde in the kitchen? Wouldn’t you like to know! Maybe it’s Marilyn Monroe!”

I’m getting quite a taste for the films of Golden-Era Hollywood Director Billy Wilder after watching some of his early gothic Noir masterpieces. Now I fancy watching some of the light comedies that he’s also famous for. So I come on to 1955’s ‘The Seven Year Itch’, a sexy comedy starring Marilyn Monroe as a temptress known only in the script as ‘The Girl’. The title alludes to the period of time that supposedly elapses when a married man begins to look at other women. So when Richard Sherman’s (Tom Ewell) wife goes to Maine for the summer the neurotic Manhattan Advertising exec promises himself he will be faithful. That’s until he runs into his new neighbour upstairs, a younger jaw dropingly beautiful girl who is seemingly oblivious to the effect she has on men.

Of course this is the film with the iconic scene of Marilyn’s white dress getting blown up by air from a passing subway train rushing between her legs, a wildly suggestive idea. For 1955 this film is racy, naughty and even downright rude with scenes like the one featuring an obviously naked Monroe peeking out from the bushes and saying lines like “When it’s hot like this, you know what I do? I put my undies in the Ice Box!” to a flabbergasted Sherman.  Tom Ewell’s performance as Sherman seems to be channelling the pent-up energy and sexual frustrations of the archetypal Woody Allen leading character, only 15 years before Woody did it.  Throughout the movie poor Sherman has fevered dreams about the women in his life and by the end you are left wondering if ‘The Girl’ upstairs is entirely a figment of his overactive imagination.

April 22, 2012

The Bad & The Beautiful (1952 – Cinema)

“Don’t worry. Some of the best movies are made by people working together who hate each other’s guts”

I adore dark Hollywood films from the 50s so I went along for a sunday evening screening of Vincente Minnelli’s 1952 movie ‘The bad & The Beautiful’ at the BFI (The second half of a 50s double-bill mentioned in my last post). If you think Alexander Mackendrick’s ‘Sweet Smell Of Success’ or Billy Wilder’s ‘Sunset Boulevard’ are deliciously dark then check out the cavernous blackness of this film’s humour.

It’s structured a bit like ‘Rashomon’ in that the story is told by three characters in flashback, except in this case they all tell pretty much the same story. Movie producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) took them from nothing, befriended them, lavished time and money on them, finally betrayed them and then left them with everything. In one scene Shields is actually referred to as ‘The devil’ and we see him as not just a producer of movies but a producer of people. Remaking them into how he sees them and fulfilling their creative potential even if he destroys himself in the process.

Lana Turner gives a brutal performance as the alcoholic and suicidal actress Georgia, who is closet to Shields, sharing some of the same past demons. The cracking script is full of acidic lines and twisted humour while the sexual content must have had the 1950’s sensors hot under the collar. I’m getting this the instant it comes out on Blu-Ray, ‘The bad & The Beautiful’ is a masterpiece.

March 29, 2012

Sunset Boulevard (1950 – DVD)

“We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!”

I’ve been rather remiss in my watching habits as far as Billy Wilder goes, as I’ve only seen two of the respected Director’s films so far; ‘Double Indemnity’ and ‘The Lost Weekend’.  The dark genius of these films has led me onto the famous 1950 Noir ‘Sunset Boulevard’.  The fact that it was turned into a musical had me imagining a glitzy Hollywood romance film, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.  ‘Sunset Boulevard’ follows washed up hack screenwriter Joe Gillis played by a young William Holden as he’s dragged inexorably into the faded world of forgotten Silent-Movie star Norma Desmond, played by real-life Silent icon Gloria Swanson.  I’m unsure whether to call a film as dark and bitter as this a ‘Love ‘letter’ to Hollywood but that’s kinda what it is.  As it features a plethora of vintage Hollywood stars (Buster Keaton, Cecil B. DeMille etc) either playing themselves in cameos or playing twisted versions of their own personas.

Desmond exists in a crumbling Mansion lost in dreams of her glory days convinced they will come again.  She is looked after by her creepy valet Max (Played by acclaimed Director Erich von Stroheim) who prowls the gothic palace like the phantom of the opera.  On the run from the debt collectors Gillis accepts the job of editing a mammoth screenplay Desmond has written for herself and ends up staying at this ‘Haunted House’ of Cinema.  ‘Sunset Boulevard’ feels like the dark flip side of ‘Singin’ In The Rain’, in that film the characters make a glorious Technicolor transition into the Talkies but here Desmond is shuttered away from the reality that the world has forgotten her.  Gloria Swanson gives us a darkly camp and suffocating but ultimately sympathetic performance which makes this film unmissable.