While Murdoch Wastes Time and Money Acquiring Dow Jones. . .

The ever-expanding empire of the Ira-voters just gets bigger all the time. Michael Giltz is the latest to add to his already full platter yet another choice dish; as of yesterdayk, Brother Giltz is now reviewing DVDs for The Huffington Post. (Given that MG is the closest thing to a centrist in the organization, I must remember to ask him how he feels surrounded by all those left-wingers.) Michael kicks things off in fine style with Wilder's Ace in the Hole, a Brit mystery series and a poolful of Esther Williams films.

Which reminds me of the time I was studying the MGM musical under the tutelage of my friend and thesis advisor, Steve Handzo, who said to me with an utterly straight face that the next big rediscovery from Metro would be the Williams musicals. Fortunately, the local ABC station in the Apple was doing a five-day series of her films in what was then their afternoon movie slot (long since replaced by Oprah or somebody like her). So I watched all of them. Undoubtedly you all know how that turned out. If Cheny and Bush are looking for another torture method for the poor bastards being held in Guantanamo, I can recommend Ms. Williams's cinematic exploits, guaranteed to make anyone confess to anything. Many years later, this particular Queen Esther authored an autobiography which my wife read as part of her duties at the New York Times Book Review; surprisingly enough, Margo says it is a smart and very funny book. Seems Ms. Williams had a more developed sense of irony than the filmmakers she with whom she worked.

Speaking of comic irony, you would be much better off dropping in at the Museum of Modern Art which is in the midst of a comedy series that runs through September 23. Drawing on their own formidable collection, MoMA is showing 29 films, including such not-to-be-missed pleasures as It Should Happen to You (Judy Holliday directed by George Cukor), McCarey's Ruggles of Red Gap, Show People (in which King Vidor proves that Marion Davies was no Susan Alexander Kane), Bananas (when Woody Allen was still satisfied with being very, very funny), The White Sheik, which is one of the few Fellini films I can still watch, Ozu's wonderfully wry I Was Born But . . . , Adam's Rib (Cukor again), and a Laurel and Hardy triple-bill. Nothing very rare, although seeing these films in 35mm prints is rare enough, but a delightful selection all the same.
Speaking of New York City and the movies, Film Forum's annual summer noir series is centered on those films that depict my hometown as the dark and sinister place we all know it to be. They're calling the series NYC Noir, although some of the inclusions don't quite fit that label. I'm thinking of Joseph Sargent's underrated Taking of Pelham One Two Three, which is definitely post-noir by at least 15 or 20 years. Again, not to many rarities -- Deadline at Dawn, Harold Clurman's only excursion behind the camera, and a triple-bill of Blast of Silence, Cop Hater and The Tattooed Stranger certainly qualify -- but 35mm prints and some great films. You definitely should try to get to Siodmak's Cry of the City on August 21; this is one of the most unfairly neglected films in the cycle, with memorably edgy performances by Richard Conte and Victor Mature and one of the great cinematic gargoyles of all time from Hope Emerson.

Interspersed with the noirs are a series of NY-set silent films, again mostly familiar fare but one should never pass up a chance to Sternberg's Docks of New York, and I am thrilled by the inclusion of Paul Fejos's legendary film Lonesome, which has been impossible to see for as long as I can remember. I'm sorry they aren't including Allan Dwan's East Side, West Side, a minor gem with George O'Brien, which I was lucky enough to catch in the Dwan series at the Walter Reade several years ago, but they are showing Dwan's Manhandled, with an emphatic and funny performance from Gloria Swanson. If you only know Swanson from Sunset Boulevard and Airport 1975, you must see her in her prime, if only so you'll know what she meant when she told Bill Holden, "We had faces then!"

Comments

Thanks for the shout out Brother George.