Saturday, February 15, 2014

Good Wool

Hey that crazy Doris Day movie is on again. Turns out her husband in it runs a wool company. He makes a speech about what "damn good wool" this wool company has. Then when he talks about shaking up the wool business, some indignant wool expert sputters, "Sir, we sell woolens!" Very dramatic stuff. You know, a lot of Doris Day movies are about her being married to jerks and then at the end we're supposed to be happy when she decides to get along with the jerk. I have a feeling that's where this one is heading. But that's not why I summoned you here. I saw most of A STAR IS BORN on TCM the other day, the original version, and now I see why Scorsese put Lionel Stander into NEW YORK, NEW YORK, his STAR IS BORN style movie (though it owes more of a debt to the Vincent Minnelli remake). Lionel Stander (pictured) sure is hardboiled as the studio PR man. I'd say he might be one of the most hardboiled characters I ever saw in a movie. The movie is strange and compelling. It veers tonally from goofy slapstick (a grumpy landlord smashes a light fixture with his head; there's comical fainting and dish-dropping) to screaming, hellish nightmare by the end. Plus you've got that hardboiled Lionel Stander. Some of his dialogue is just great old-fashioned hardboiled cracking wise, like when he runs into Frederic March at the racetrack and March asks him, "What do they do with the actors when you're not around?" and Stander says, "They cut 'em into slices and fry 'em with eggs." There are lots more bitter gems, and you can see the scene on the TCM "web" site by "clicking" here. By the end, though, Stander is so hardboiled it's shocking. Big and depressing spoiler here... Frederic March, an alcoholic, drowns himself. Stander sits at a bar reading about it in the newspaper. He says, "First drink of water he had in years," and "How do you send a telegram of congratulations to the Pacific Ocean?" Whoa! The bartender laughs it up. Unlike the grumpy landlord, there is no comeuppance for Lionel Stander! I kind of wanted to see Janet Gaynor pop up out of nowhere and punch him in the gut. But his cold cynicism was triumphant.