Friday, February 05, 2016

Great Babies of Show Business

You know my cigarette lighter book's publication date has come and gone. It is no use for me to think about cigarette lighters any more! If it ever was. But I read an article by R. Emmet Sweeney which included the phrase "ill-fated cigarette lighter" and I had to know more! So I tweeted at him and he tweeted back at me thusly: He was speaking, of course, of SUSAN SLADE. So I watched it last night and here are my controversial comments, including numerous spoilers. 1. Lloyd Nolan was always an old man. 2. Lloyd Nolan has a funny way of letting his mouth hang open while other actors talk. 3. Connie Stevens's approach to acting is to repeat a word very carefully to make it appear she's thinking: "I... I..." "You... you..." "I wouldn't put... put it that way." She has an "illegitimate" baby that she tries to pass off as her baby brother and she is always saying, "I can't leave my baby... brother! My baby brother!" She (her character, Susan Slade) is remarkably terrible at remembering to pretend her baby is her baby brother. 3. Speaking of the baby, that is a truly great performance by a baby! He always seems to know his motivation. I'd put that baby up against the baby in Altman's version of POPEYE for all-time great performance by a baby. Connie Stevens sings him a lullaby and he reacts by drifting off to sleep! For example. 4. Here is where the lighter comes in, and it's horrific. The baby in the movie is always grabbing a lighter and playing with it. Then, in the true Chekhovian manner, he sets himself on fire! And they show a doll (it's supposed to be the baby) lying on the floor with flames leaping out of it! Terrifying. You're a little relieved because the "baby" is so obviously a doll, but that also makes it scarier! Don't worry, the baby is going to be all right, they tell us, though we never see the baby in the movie again. I suppose I would have been obliged to include this scene in my cigarette lighter book but I'm just as happy that I didn't. 5. Look at this ashtray!
I don't think this poorly captured, blurry frame can get across the ominous thrill of the camera closing in on this tableau as the telephone rings with no one in the house to answer it. Lynchian! And the ashtray almost glows. I was thinking McNeil would love this ashtray.