Starring Jean Simmons and Burt Lancaster (who won an Oscar for his role as Elmer Gantry), this is a powerful film about faith and fanaticism, foibles and fairness — but above all, it’s character-driven story about human character. It’s the best combination of issues to chew on and characters to consider, long after the film is over.
I love those sorts of stories.
In terms of fashion, the spotlight is on Shirley Jones (who also won an Oscar for her role of Lulu Bains) in classic lingerie, most notably visible in the scene in which Lulu attempts to seduce and shame Elmer. (Click the link to watch!)
What may have begun as the vengeful opportunistic act of a lover scorned (deflowered and left to prostitution) is quickly shown to be more complicated, exposing more than unfinished business but unrequited feelings between the two.
It’s brilliant stuff, really. Not what many may expect from the Shirley Jones they remember from The Partridge Family or know from musicals (although I cry every time I see Carousel).
But if you watch Elmer Gantry, this is precisely the sort of thing you learn to refrain from. For Jones’ performance as Lulu (as layered as anyone else’s in the movie), should teach you to look beneath the surface, what you think you know. The perceptions of “who and what Shirley Jones is” that the viewer brings to this classic film is, in this case, a layer of experience that only adds to this film.
Via Richard Jeffrey Newman I found this great video that mocks just about every convention that has been used in dramatic modern movies:
Specific outline of your major character flaws!
Having not seen many of the most recent film releases, I can at least attest to the fact this sounds like most of the film trailers I’ve seen recently. *wink*
I wonder why my friends at LAMB have to say to this?
Cliff talks about Handling the Subject of Racism as a Classic Film Blogger — and there’s lots of interesting discussion in the comments too, including mention of a post about the film I reviewed, The Toy Wife.
I agree that too many vintage films are underappreciated — if they’re seen at all. Which is partly why I didn’t mention my queasiness about several scenes with slaves in The Toy Wife. But that wasn’t the only reason…
Along with struggling with how to balance presenting the issues of racism in films of the past, of not wanting to let the known facts of past ruin a film for potential viewers, I struggle with being a white woman discussing it. It’s one thing for me to point out gender issues (I am one, and can honestly react as one), but when it comes to racism I flounder.
It’s not simply a matter of white guilt, or of defensiveness, or even of committing a sin of omission that a person of color can call me out on; it’s about how to honestly portray my horror without co-opting the issue, of committing some sin of insensitivity… If that makes sense. (I bet that does make sense to at least a few other white folks though.)
But, like all the discussion points at Cliff’s post, we shouldn’t just ignore mentioning the subject any more than others should let being told about racist depictions in films sway themselves from watching old films; it’s avoiding the past.
Because of that, I don’t think we should sanitize the racism from vintage films (and animated works), editing out the scenes with mammy’s like cigarettes from Bogart’s hand. Racism is shameful, but like our past obsession with smoking, we can’t deny it simply by giving it the old whitewash — for whatever reason. We have to remember our past honestly, even if it’s painful.
But these are my views… My questions for you, dear readers, are:
* How does racism in film affect your viewing? Do you stop watching &/or avoid films because it’s so uncomfortable? Do you just write it off as “unfortunately, that the way things were…”?
* Do you find the racism so uncomfortable in vintage movies that you wish it was edited out of the film — or that there were edited versions available?
* If you review or blog about movies, do you mention the racism? Why or why not? And if you do, how do you do it?
Now there is a lot to be said for the communal experience of watching a movie at the theatre or cinema; it’s not just the big screen (which, with some folks’ home entertainment systems, it’s nearly the same!), but the shared experience of “Ooohs” and “Ahhs” — and, my favorite, when a guy gets kicked in the family jewels and all the men collectively groan and bring their legs together. lol But if saving money is what you’re after, nothing beats staying home to watch a film.
Since I watch more vintage and classic films than the latest releases, I’m not so aware of the prices at my local movie theatres, but Alicia Young fills us in, stating a $6.75 ticket price (for a matinee?!) and the following incidentals:
Movie theaters are ripping us off with their outrageous soda and bagged popcorn prices. For example, $4.25 for a large soda (32oz), $5.25 for a large popcorn that is pre-popped and comes in a bag then warms up under the heat lamps. ( I know how this works because I worked at a movie theater for a year.)
Being a vintage film fans means you can save a whole lotta money. There’s watching TCM and DVD rentals (including at your public library) — and even buying your own DVD is worth the price when you add up multiple tickets, multiple viewings, etc.
So what are you going to do with all the money you save, glamour girl? …Maybe spend it on some incredible vintage loungewear? I know I do! *wink*
At the Silent Film Archive, I found this scan of an article in the June 1926 issue of The Home Movie Journal, by Raymond Griffith, titled What People Laugh at and What They Don’t.
In this article you’ll find not only the golden keys to comedy, but proof that silent film comedies weren’t made merely of cheap simple sight gags like slipping on banana peels — in fact, the reason why I’ve never found slipping on bananas is actually mentioned in this article:
we even laugh when a man slips on a banana peel although that is not a healthy laugh for the next moment we realize he may have suffered real injury.
In my humble opinion, when you read this old article, you’ll see where many of today’s comedies, comedians, sitcoms, and cartoons have gone wrong; rather than focusing on discomfort and shared embarrassments, much of today’s comedic productions are just simply mean.
Comedies must be clean and wholesome. That is very important. We may laugh at the joke of a comedy situation that is off-color, but we don’t mean it. The laugh is no more sincere when the cause is the man slipping and falling on a banana peel.
You can see and read the rest of the article here — I hope you do, and that you’ll let me know your thoughts.