The Theodore Huff Memorial Film Society                             February 20 1962

Mamoulian Cycle: Program Two

There are a couple of minor changes in tonight's program -- not, of course, affecting Love Me Tonight in any way. The announced excerpt from Becky Sharp we have eliminated, since the print delivered to us turned out to be in black-and-white rather than in color, and while it remains a good film even in that form, we were showing it solely for its imaginative use of color.
A few years ago, color print of this subject were quite easy to obtain; now, most of them seem to have run for cover. We have however, located one (not available for tonight unfortunately) and since there seems to be quite some interest in showing this film in its entirety, we'll plan to do so a little later; hopefully on the same bill with Mamoulian's Song of Songs, which is likewise not available to us at the moment but has been promised for a future date. The second change: a surprising number of members asked us to run Golden Boy complete -- and so we will do so. However, in view of the fact that it is third-rate Mamoulian, and, unlike Love Me Tonight and the others from his best period, doesn't lend itself to repeated viewings, we expect that
many of our members will not want to see it again. So we are running it last on the program, after the intermission -- and while this may not be good showmanship, it does at least retain a certain chronology.                              
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LOVE ME TONIGHT (Paramount, 1932) Directed by Rouben Mamoulian; Written by Leopold                           Marchand and Paul Arment; scenario by Samuel Hoffenstein, Waldemar Young,                           George Marion jr., music by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart; photographed by                           Victor Milner, 10 reels.
With Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Charles Butterworth, Charlie Ruggles, Myrna Loy, C. Aubrey Smith, Elizabeth Patterson, Ethel Griffies, Blanche Frederici, Joseph Cawthorne, Ethel Wales, Clarence Wilson, George Davis, Edgar Norton, Cecil Cunningham, George Hayes, Tom Ricketts.

Of all the Mamoulian films, Love Me Tonight (which seems to be his own personal favorite) is probably both the most enjoyable, and the slickest combination of experimental style with polished execution. Certainly it is the one film, of all his films, which seems to have pleased both critics and public unanimously (it did it again on tv last week, as witness Jack 0'Brian's rave in the Journal), and is fondly remembered as both a lyrical film and as a piece of sock entertainment by any standards. Certainly it dates not one whit, and in these days when Lubitsch, Sturges and (to all intents and purposes) Mamoulian himself are no longer with us, it's doubly refreshing,

Whether Love Me Tonight was as completely new in style as is now claimed for it is purely academic. Probably it wasn't. In one guise or another, Rene Clair and Lubitsch were offering the same spirited, musical approach to comedy, throwing overboard the stagebound traditions that had started with the big "shows" in 1929, In Germany and Austria, Geza von Bolvary, Robert Stolz (and stars Carola Hohn and later Marikka Rokk) were practically mass producing the same kind of fare, of which Ich Will Nicht Wissen Wer Du Bist is typical enough. In England, Gracie Fields in films from Looking on the Bright Side to Sing As We Go was cast in much the same mould: regardless of plot content, all of thee depression era movies had a common denominator -- a determined cheerfulness, and musical numbers which transcended both the stage and life, itself as everybody, caught in a spirit of cameraderie, sang happily as they marched energetically through town and courtry to work. (The mood is dangerously catching: the morning after screening the print I was heading for work through Central Park in a taxi. It was a fresh and wonderful morning. How easy it would hare been to launch into a song which would have infected everybody from 72nd Street to 39th Street! But at that moment, the driver, who could never have existed in Mamoulian's old world, grimaced, hurled curses at another driver, and used some expletives which quite destroyed the happy mood!) In any event, it's not really important whether or not Love Me Tonight was the first of its kind; unquestionably, it was the best.

Visually, the film is enchanting. Every aspect of photographic grammar is superbly utilised: split-screen, slow dissolves, slow motion, satiric images combined with exaggerated sound effects; elaborate dollies and dissolves, matching models with the real thing to perfection; and a climax which, apart from its sheer virtuosity and exhuberance, also gently kids the editing patterns and dramatic images of the Russian classics. Mamoulian's celebrated shadow work is present, though not emphasized this time, and it is used for satire and gentle rather than dramatic effect -- as in the shots of the three sisters, happy combinatIon of the witches from "Macbeth'' and assorted fairy godmothers from "Cindrella". Musically of course, it is a thorough delight, with such charming numbers as "Isn't it Romantic?" and the title song. Much of the music, with its overlapping locales and physical action, reminds one more than a little of the score to Hallelujah I'm a Bum -- likewise Rodgers and Hart of course.

Quite apart from the photography itself, the film is a stunner in its sets and decor. And it is quite flawlessly cast, with Chevalier the epitome of easy-going charm, and everyone else playing up beautifully -- especially Myrna Loy and Charles Butterworth, who usually is only as funny as his
material, but who here seems genuinely amusing on his own. It's a pity that a part couldn't have been found for Edward Everett Horton, so much at home in this kind of fare, but with C.Aubrey Smith, Charlie Ruggles and all the others on hand, one hardly has cause for complaint.

The film is full of racy dialogue and outrageous double-entendres -- yet it really doesn't need them, and many of the best of them are practically thrown away. Therein lies its basic difference from the Lubitsch frolics of the same ilk; charming as they were, films like The Love Parade depended a great deal on the rather Teutonic heaviness of the sex gags. Without them, there wouldn't have been too much left. But one could take away all of the sly sex gags here (although I hope noone ever will!) and still be left with a thoroughly enchanting film.

Talking about "taking away", Love Me Tonight is one of those films that through the years has been consistently hacked at in one form or another. On one reissue, the whole wonderful opening of Paris awakening was removed. On tv last week, a number of minor cuts were made, including some of the footage where Chevalier is measuring Jeanette MacDonald, and the entire doctor's "song" as he examines Miss MacDonald. Our print, although in perfect shape, is not by any means immune. Fortunately there is only one cut, but it is rather a sad one -- Chevalier's singing of "Mimi" to Jeanette after her coach is wrecked. In terms of actual footage it is minor, and the excising is so neatly done that there is hardly a jump, but of course it's a tragic ommission -- although fortunately, the later reprise of the same song is there. However, Love Me Tonight is too good a film for any one cut to spoil and it weaves the same magic spell today that it did in 1932.

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GOLDEN BOY (Columbia, 1939) Directed by Rouben Mamoulian; produced by William Perlberg;                    from a play by Clifford Odets; screenplay by Daniel Taradash, Lewis Meltzer, Sarah Y.                    Mason, Victor Heerman; art director, Lionel Banks; music, Victor Young;                    photographed by Karl Freund and Nick Musuraca; montage by Donald W. Starling.
                   10 reels.
With Barbara Stanwyck, William Holden, Adolphe Menjou, Lee J. Cobb, Joseph Calleia, Sam Levene, Ed Brophy, Beatrice. Blinn, William Strauss, Don Beddoe.

If Golden Boy today seems third-rate Mamoulian, it is not entirely his fault. So many of the "significant" dramas of the thirties by Odets, Maxwell Anderson and others, have dated fantastically badly. Today they seem contrived, phoney, and loaded with stock characters -- of which Lee J. Cobb's emmigrant-father now seems especially clichè. In the same way, Lang and Santell are hardly well represented today by You Only Live Once and Winterset, At the time it doubtless seemed best to approach Golden Boy in the straight, dramatic, non-experimental manner that was then the "fashion". One can hardly blame Mamoulian; yet it's ironic that his City Streets, with its pictorial eloquence that was considered out of date in 1939, remains the fresher film cinematically. Not that Golden Boy is a hack job; sometimes the old Mamoulian shines through in a lyrical little love scene overlooking Manhattan, or the unashamedly sentimental (arid effective) sequence of the son's return home to play the violin; or in much of the dynamism of the final boxing match. But these are things that one looks for - and finds, gratefully; they are not consistent and there is nowhere an obvious signature, an unmistakable something that says "This could have been made by Mamoulian and no other". However, for all its current clichè, some of the old power remains, and Joseph Calleia's tough gangster dialogue is surprisingly in the Raymond Chandler vein that didn't hit the screen until the mid 1940's.

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Next Sunday, New Yorker Theatre; 35mm show; TRANSCONTINENTAL LTD (Johnnie Walker, 1926); QUEEN OF THE NORTHWOODS (final ep) THE BLUE FOX (; THE CRIMSON CLUE.

Next Tuesday, Feb. 27th: Mamoulian Program 13 - THE MARK OF ZORRO - the best of his later films with a welcome return to the old style; Tyrone Power. Basil Rathbone (1940); and THE GAY DESPERADO (Ida Lupino, Leo Carrilo, 1936)

March 13th: THE SCARLET EMPRESS (1934) - Von Sternberg,. with Marlene Dietrioh, John Lodge,                         Louise Dresser, Sam Jaffe.
                  and Abel Gance's J'ACCUSE (1918 - a 50 minute condensation)
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 © William K. Everson Estate