Feature: Movie Posters from France

I have done posts in the past comparing U.S. movie posters for American films to those advertisements that were produced internationally for the same flicks. Italy has proven to be a good source of interesting posters (see this post for examples), but France is no slacker when it comes to out doing the Americans on the artsy side. The following are some comparisons between the American posters and French. Which versions do you prefer? If you have your own favorite French posters, please share.

FRANCE VS. AMERICA

The American poster is not bad for Touch of Evil, but the French one is even more dramatic. While the U.S. made the poster suggestive via the embrace between Janet Leigh and Charlton Heston, the French more subtly suggested the bedroom action by framing the characters with a bed post. The foreign version might actually convey to audiences that Heston is responsible for the horrible bed-based action Leigh will suffer in two different settings, whereas the American version is a bit more romantic.

You can see the similarities between where the French and the Americans were going with the poster for Operation Petticoat. Both are provocative with the woman’s legs, but I must say the French had a bit more fun with the depiction of the men’s reaction. I’m laughing more at the French one than the American.

Another sexy movie with two different posters approaches is The Lady from Shanghai. All versions of the American poster featured that same pose by Rita Hayworth, but the French version certainly has a more interesting and artistic quality. This might be a matter of taste. What do you say?

Now for some comedy/war fun. Although the American version assures us there will be laughs to be had, the French poster draws a very serious picture. It is not bereft, however, of two men dancing together, so a close enough look sheds some light into the elements of Stalag 17. However misleading, I do appreciate the artistry of the French approach.

This difference might be my favorite. The Lost Weekend approaches both emphasize the seriousness of the film, but where the American take crowds in unnecessary elements, the French took a simplistic view. For those who have yet to see the picture, the bat surely will present some confusion, and it references only a minor, yet memorable, scene in the movie tracing an alcoholic’s helplessness under the influence of drink.

What it your analysis?

Weekend’s Best Bet Continued…

In running through TCM’s lineup for this weekend, I came across far too many good flicks to list in my regular viewing recommendations in the left column. Not only are there a number of gems showing this weekend, but I have already written about them. So click on the links below to learn more about the movies and consider checking them out yourself this weekend. P.S. All times are Eastern Standard Time and on the U.S. programming schedule.

Beware, My Lovely
6:30 pm Friday on TCM
Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan

The Lost Weekend
10 pm Friday on TCM
Ray Milland, Jane Wyman

Sunrise
8 pm Saturday on TCM
Janet Gaynor, George O’Brien

The Great Race
1 pm Sunday on TCM
Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon

Butterfield 8
10 pm Sunday on TCM
Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey

 

We’re Not Dressing

Gasser

We're Not Dressing (1934)

    I know I’ve raved about Carole Lombard before but haven’t actually managed to review any of her movies –but it’s not my fault! I went through a couple month phase a year or so ago when TCM was playing a bunch of her stuff, but the channel has not managed to devote time to her since. Thank goodness for Netflix. I’ve queued the “Carole Lombard Glamour Collection”, so expect a number of reviews from that set over the next couple months.

     I would call We’re Not Dressing minor Lombard as it is not her best work, but still the actress’ traditional role: wealthy beauty in a romantic entanglement. It came smack dab in the middle of her Hollywood career and would feature a rather young-looking 31-year-old Bing Crosby, only a few years into acting. Bing as Stephen is a deckhand on the yacht of Doris Worthington, played by Lombard. Doris is being courted by two prince brothers, one of which is played by a very young “Raymond” Milland. Along for the voyage are Doris’ uncle Hubert (Leon Errol) and friend Edith (Ethel Merman). Despite the pining princes, Doris is distracted by Stephen, who has been tasked with looking after her pet bear cub (inspiration for Bringing Up Baby?). The heiress is playing cruel to the young man, however, to mask her feelings for a subordinate. 

     A drunken George manages to somehow cause the boat to sink by spinning with the wheel, so Stephen rescues Doris, who has been knocked unconscious by the crumbling ship, and her bear. The duo, along with the princes, George and Edith, wash up on an island, where the parties assume Stephen should be waiting on them. Toppling the social structure, Stephen tells everyone they must work and begins building his own hut and fire and cooking his own clams.  The others stick with stubborn Doris until they are hungry enough to agree to dig their own clams and gather firewood. Doris eventually “earns” some food when she delivers a sack of what turn out to be empty clam shells, angering Stephen. We soon learn that there is a couple conducting research on another part of the island whom Doris discovers, but fails to tell the others. A romance is blooming between she and Stephen, but he eventually takes the whole situation as a prank.

     There’s a great repeated exchange between Bing and Lombard that cements for us that they have feelings for each other. While aboard the ship, a subordinate Stephen is honest with Doris about a roller-skating incident involving her bear, which angers the gal to the point of slapping the deckhand, who responds with a peck on the lips. Later, when Doris delivers the empty clam shells, Stephen slaps Doris, hard, and she kisses him. 

     I must make note of Ethel Merman. I have known the woman only by her grating singing voice and as an older woman in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, so I was hardly expecting the beautiful young woman with a great body. This was only her second film and her singing voice had yet to mature to the annoying extend to which I’m accustomed. Additionally, Gracie Allen plays the dumb wife of the researcher (George Burns) whose ditsyness makes one think he is listening to a Marx brother. She develops a “moose trap” meant to catch  four mice because one is a mouse, two is mice and two mice are a moose. This film might be worth checking out just for her:

Gracie Martin: We just caught Tarzan’s mate!
George Martin: Tarzan is a character in a book.
Gracie Martin: Well, maybe he got out!

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid

Ring a Ding Ding

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)

     Although made in 1982, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid could be claimed as 50% classic film. The Steve Martin spoof on old detective dramas uses footage from about a dozen black-and-white movies spliced in with new footage. I first saw this movie in an Intro to Film course and fell in love. It’s full of Martin’s early stupid humor while also showing a real appreciation for old Hollywood.

     Martin is Detective Rigby Reardon, who is approached by Rachel Ward‘s Juliet Forrest to investigate the murder of her father, a scientist and cheese enthusiast. The plot that follows is inconsequential as it is as complex as The Big Sleep –clips of which are used throughout– and is neatly summed up by both the villain and Reardon at the end of the picture, ala The Thin Man and other mysteries.

     Rigby’s mentor is Marlowe, with whom the protagonist consults primarily via telephone, and who is played by Humphrey Bogart in segments from three of his films. The detective also pays visits to several familiar faces, such as Ray Milland in a snippet from The Lost Weekend, Bette Davis in Deception, Cary Grant in Suspicion, Ingrid Bergman in Notorious and Joan Crawford in Humoresque, among others. Martin also dresses in drag to attract the attention of Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity. The unsettling part is, from behind, there is little difference between Martin and Barbara Stanwyck from the original clips. Martin again dons a dress to masquerade as James Cagney’s mother from White Heat.

     Writers on the movie George Gipe, Director Carl Reiner and Martin developed the story based on the classic clips. The idea came from one designed by Martin that proposed the use of a classic movie clip. That concept transformed into doing an entire movie using such pieces. After watching old films and pulling particular over-the-shoulder shots and appealing dialogue, the writers then merely juxtaposed the dialogue until they came up with a suitable story. Some clips were clearly used just as an excuse to insert them and do not actually further the plot, but are funny nonetheless.

     Although the cinematographer consulted the filming styles from the old flicks, Martin avoided them altogether. He said he did not want to give a performance reflective of Bogart but something of his own. The result was great as I do not think Martin would have been as funny if he had taken himself more seriously.

     As someone who enjoys both Steve Martin humor and classic films, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid is just the epitome of fun for me. I was not familiar with all of the movies featured therein, but I certainly enjoyed figuring out the ones I did know. Thankfully the end credits spell it out for the viewer.

Source: Universal Studios

Claire & Markheim

Ring a Ding Ding

     Another duo of Screen Directors Playhouse episodes have again impressed me, and both offered “twist” endings. Claire conveyed quite the familiar plot as it largely reflects the story Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier that hit the big screen in 1940 under Hitchcock’s direction. Both stories deal with a deceased wife and the new wife that has joined the household. Unlike Rebecca, however, Claire uses a cat by that name to intimidate the new woman of the house instead of a devoted housekeeper.

     Angela Lansbury plays the new woman whose husband was married to her school friend before drowning in the lake outside their home. As Vera, Lansbury conveys the agitation of a woman living in the home of the friend whom she was unable to save from her fate because of the inability to swim. Add to that a Siamese cat that clearly does not like her, and Vera has all the makings of the “new Mrs. DeWinter.” The surprise ending comes in the revelation of what actually happened during the drowning incident.

     I am a huge fan of Rebecca so Claire was particularly enjoyable for me. The great back and forth the viewer endures of “is there or isn’t there something wrong here” makes for great suspense. Lansbury does a great job of convincing the viewer she is the victim. George Montgomery plays the husband, and the episode was directed by Frank Tuttle.

     Next up is Markheim based on a Robert Louis Stephenson story that predated Jekyll and Hyde yet had traces of the good-vs-evil struggle in every man. Ray Milland continues to impress me with this short work in which he plays a man who kills for money.

     Markheim begs entrance to a pawn shop late Christmas day where the unpleasant owner is surprised to find his regular customer is not there to sell, but “to buy”. After chatting a while with the shop owner and asking him to suggest a gift for his fiance, Markheim finally plunges a knife into the businessman’s back. The ticking of the clocks becomes overpowering and fade into the pounding beat of a heart. Markheim snatches a key from the shop owner’s belt and begins his search for the store safe. Upstairs he find the key fits a dresser drawer that contains naught but a giant key rink holding a hundred keys. Markheim’s anxiety convinces him he hears feet climbing the stairs outside the room and eventually he is joined by someone, the devil to be precise.

     Rod Steiger plays the “mysterious stranger”, as he is billed, and knows all about Markheim’s crime and his past. The man addicted to playing the stock exchange has worked his way up to the crime of murder. His past dealings in the pawn shop have been to hock stolen items. The devil offers to reveal where the safe is hidden, but the duo is interrupted by the return of the shop owner’s maid. The stranger tells Markheim if he kills just this once more he can return to a life of good and can even make a death-bed repentance if he wants to. The surprise comes in what Markheim actually does at the film’s close.

     This great story was directed by Fred Zinneman. The shop is littered with antiques and an excessive number of ticking clocks that help to heighten the viewer’s experience with Markheim’s anxiety leading up to and after the murder. Milland gives a great performance as a desperate, nervous man making his first foray into killing another. Again he has me singing his praises.

     As I’ve mentioned before about Screen Directors Playhouse, these half-hour films do a tremendous job of cramming what feels like a full-length feature into the allotted time without making the story feel rushed or cut short. Truly a fabulous series.

The Lost Weekend

Ring a Ding Ding

The Lost Weekend (1945)

     Alcohol was ever-present in old movies as were people going on the occasional bender and the familiar drunk character. Never before, however, have I seen a classic film tackle the subject of alcoholism, let alone use that term. The Lost Weekend depicts the dark existence of a man addicted to alcohol and the four-day weekend that seems to turn things around.

    The film never supposes that the events occurring within are in any way more extreme than what Don Birnam (Ray Milland) has played out over the past six years of his addiction, yet at the film’s close we are left thinking this will be the time he breaks free. Birnam is a failed writer who turned to alcohol after promising early career prospects marked the peak in a since-dwindling talent. He lives by the good graces of his brother, Wick, played by Phillip Terry. The film opens with a great moving shot of New York City that pulls us toward a particular brick building, zooming in on a window from which a bottle of rye hangs by a rope. Inside Don and Wick are packing for a four-day or more weekend at “the farm,” where Don can recover from “what he’s been through”. The man is supposedly back on the wagon and intends to take his typewriter with him to work on a novel, but while his brother digs in a closet for the device, Don tries unsuccessfully to detach the rye from its rope.

     Don’s girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman) arrives to wish them well, but Don persuades his brother that they can take a later train so that Helen has a parter with which to attend the symphony. That partner is not Don, however; it’s Wick. Assuring the pair that he will remain in the apartment and stay off the stuff, Don instead hits the liquor store and his favorite bar after tracking down $10 in the apartment meant for the cleaning lady. Although he asks the bartender to remind him to leave by a certain time to meet his brother for the train, Don is long past drunk by the time he is late and his brother goes to the farm without him. Helen waits but Don sneaks past her into the apartment where he finishes one of the two bottles.

     A number of events ensue over the next several days. When his money runs out Don goes to pawn his typewriter, but being Yom Kippur, no hock shop is open. He visits a bar regular at her apartment (after having stood her up for a date) and begs for money. On his way out he falls down some stairs and wakes up in the alcoholic ward of the hospital. There he learns about the delusions his peers suffer. After escaping from the hospital he returns home with a new bottle, discovers the imaginary “tiny animals” himself and begins screaming. Helen comes to the rescue and tries to clean up her man. Instead, he takes off with her leopard coat and pawns it in exchange for his old gun.

     The Lost Weekend is brimming with one impactful event after another. Director Billy Wilder adapted the tale from the novel by Charles R. Jackson. Wilder had picked up the book when stopping in Chicago in the midst of a Hollywood-to-New York train trip. By the time he reached the Big Apple, he was calling studios about acquiring the film rights. Wilder knew the movie would bring the lead actor an Oscar, which it did, but he might not have guessed that it would win Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Miland truly deserves his award. With his facial expressions alone the man shares paranoia, fear, relief, hatred and anguish with the audience. It is difficult to know what an alcoholic experiences without being one, but Miland truly does make the viewer understand how it might feel. A grand picture all around.

  • The Lost Weekend is set for noon ET Jan. 30 and 10 a.m. ET Feb. 28 on TCM.
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