Allan Dwan

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Allan Dwan

#76 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Mar 21, 2021 3:00 am

So far I’m right in step with your tastes, knives, as I thought Up in Mabel’s Room was one of the best comedies, period (if only we could redo the screwball list). The sharp script fires off layered and sequential jokes ranging from wordplay and double entendres to irreverence to situational absurdities and commentaries on roles of class and gender, without wasting a breath (even the more singular, less intricate lines are gold: “She gets it from her mother” “Well she should give it back”). Screwballs are often about the unveiling of heterosexual romantic dissonance, but this film seems to profess that mistrust is inherent in social psychology, stemming from skepticism for ideological ideas and systems that communicate symbols of permanent commitment. These characters aren't only silly but very seriously doubt the conventions they cling to for confidence on a barely-subconscious level, leading to a lack of confidence in themselves in addition to others.

This is a film where people are constantly spinning wheels with the intent to solve a tangible problem that isn’t actually external, and the focus of all character actions directed in the wrong places only makes the intrinsic tragedy of humanity, and the impotence for humanity’s consciousness to this tragedy, more acidically humorous. Even the gossipy friends trying to support have no faith, and make knee-jerk assumptions that spread miscommunications like a disease faster than the men do- but of course, this is all authenticated by the men’s behaviors! The lies are rampant, and the expectation of untrustworthy and unfaithful behavior seems to be a normative code amongst the men (“always burn the evidence” is offered with the same energy as small talk about the weather), and so despite the reckless escalations there’s an implication of truth to these anxieties that reinforces the madcap responses. It’s no coincidence that Arthur, the only man who is self-actualized, can call a spade a spade and is typically entering or leaving scenes in the fringes of a milieu populated with manic energy of insecurity. He doesn’t belong in this world (until its atmospheric energy forces him into it as Dwan’s films have a tendency to do to his characters!) and ironically the state of confidence is far less interesting to play around in than this ball pit.

Arthur calls himself “Mr. Faith” and this stance is arguably embodying the necessary trait for a content existence, but this doesn’t mean it’s sensible. Part of what works so marvelously about this film’s ideas is that they are executed with farce and yet retain a shared logic. It’s interesting to view this film alongside Promising Young Woman, which is toying with similar themes in a different tone. Mabel’s aim is to force Gary into honesty as a micro form of social justice, yet he is so averse to discomfort as well as mistrusting his wife’s response, that he exacerbates his own deserved mistrust. However, Arthur’s presence contrasting the hysteria of the rest of the clan proposes that perhaps we do need to just bury our valid paranoias to live a functional life in matrimony. Neither is a good option: Have faith and blindly ignore the dishonesty thereby amplifying its potency, or tend to the dishonesty and remain hyper aware of its hereditary presence in intimate relationships thereby destroying intimacy. And the cynicism doesn't stop there when we realize that the only reason why the behavior was accepted in the end is because of the acceleration of fears built up throughout the narrative, minimizing the slip's triggering effects through enduring an evening loaded with trauma. If this kind of apocalyptic risk is what it takes to keep a marriage together in a door-in-the-face technique, that's saying something about how fragile and energy-draining relationships are to keep, or return to, stability.

The final lines are wonderful because of how much got past the censors already here, but I'm very curious to hear a translation of the Russian (unless part of the gag is that it's gibberish). I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Dwan and Reed boldly inserted yet another piece of perverse content in the final frame! Oh, and in case anybody missed the memo: Mischa Auer is a comic genius.

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knives
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Re: Allan Dwan

#77 Post by knives » Sun Mar 21, 2021 5:33 pm

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Allan Dwan

#78 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Mar 21, 2021 8:29 pm

Trail of the Vigilantes is another rare example of the western comedy done right. Dwan establishes our understanding of western tropes and feelings of both sides in a brazenly didactic manner via title cards and by having characters express their brief shallow opinions on the worth of societal obedience of rules outright, getting that out of the way within its first few minutes while also showing us how boring he finds these restrictions. From there the picture takes off into farce, which was apparently Dwan’s cunning challenge to the studios at delivering the 'wrong' movie. What we get is a torrent of fun, as Dwan plays with tones against a genre demanding austerity. He packs scenes of abrupt violence and meditations on the value of order with playful insolence to violence and celebrations of disorder. There isn’t a scene of shaking us into sobriety like, say, Human Cargo, but there doesn’t need to be when the entire film is composed of juxtapositions between content and mood, that also contrasts with the self-serious mores of American society outside of the film. One could argue that Dwan is making a self-reflexive commentary on the western themes of law and order by creating his own rules of pleasure and entertainment as an outlaw against the studio system.

This film could have easily spilled apart in another director's hands, but Dwan retains the skeleton of the western to keep his soup of ingredients contained. The music still kicks into thriller mode and this film plays at times like a straight western, but we never forget the lackadaisical energy halting the rhythm from transforming into another flavor for any length of time. A great moment that summarizes this kind of grounded reminder is during the setup for a raid early on, when Kansas is woken up from his slumber with apparent earnestness to a threat, a gun thrown on his bed, only to say, “What’s going on? I can’t think of anybody I want to shoot.” This kind of irreverent apathetic response deflates any merit to the American value system as externalized in the western, and brings us back to ground zero of gratified disdain. There’s also something so hilarious and delightful about the outlaws speaking in the cool inflections and rapid speed of hardboiled 30s gangster pics, even borrowing jargon of the era that was blatantly not familiar to 1800s cowboys, with some entire scenes staged exactly like one of those films. Dwan lays on the anachronisms so thick at times that the film is joking from a different angle compared to the rest of its style, when the scene is otherwise played with the ruse of sincerity.

The romance is also a gas, as Kansas’ apparent love interest goes around either making vapid commentaries on gags we’ve just seen or condensed to-the-point quips for the transparent purpose of planting necessary plot material to fit the romantic arc (i.e. “I told my dad about you” coming out of left field with no dramatic follow-up or purpose), only for Kansas to monotonously respond unamused with a scoff, to continuously demonstrate how useless the romance is other than to present another disparity in personalities to utilize for laugh-induction. This kind of winking while still engaging in the process goes back to knives’ reading of Dwan as an engineer of cinema mechanics. Of course in this movie world Kansas is woken from his apathy to physically become his undercover identity at the end with complete fluidity, as the only aspect of his life that matters has been within the confines of the frames we’ve seen. Several Dwans retain the spirit of Nickelodeon for very intentional reasons on Bogdanovich’s part, and this is one of them. The final action scene is equal parts genuinely exhilarating and carelessly madcap, and rather than simply denoting how blurry this line can be for differentiation, Dwan illustrates how inclusive cinema can be for multiple polarized moods to amplify the excitement, when the mixture is actualized properly and the filmmaker is mindful of how to weaponize the power of artifice to elicit authentic elation.

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knives
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Re: Allan Dwan

#79 Post by knives » Sun Mar 21, 2021 9:25 pm

I should say the engineer of cinema moniker seems to have originated with Dwan and I’ve just been running with what others have said on that.

Speaking of, I’m reading the Lombardi book and it is really essential. It is perhaps even more thorough and definitely even more academically rigorous than the McCarthy Hawks book. I’m only at the start, but he really cuts through the legend to get to what made him so capable of facing all changes to cinema pushed to him.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Allan Dwan

#80 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Mar 22, 2021 12:12 am

Rendezvous with Annie is another comic masterpiece, this time revising the prison flashback mystery into an army screwball, which means a primarily male circus of goofs. The absence of a female counterpart in the first act (and for most of the comedy in general) is felt, but it’s an opportunity for an amusing twist as the men emit a radiance of femininity as a secret trait of their private club.

One of Dwan’s best absurdist gags involves an early recounting of domestic pleasures between two soldiers longing for a wife’s baked goods -a scene right out of the war drama playbook- except for the gallows humor in their accented pauses to gauge the threat of bombs dropping in the background. The rest of the hijinks snowball from these soldiers refusing to take the rules of their company seriously- a nonchalant mockery of nationalist institutions in favor of recontextualized camaraderie, liberated from conformism towards the whimsy of impulsive desire. Moments like the stonefaced soldiers singing in harmony on the plane are so bizarre and hysterical because of how they offer a surreal hypothesis of just how awkward men being boys looks when imposed order from women and occupational systems are removed from the picture.

Dwan plays it smart and imbues genuine romance into the scene between Jeffrey and his wife as he culminates his journey, to earn the loony acts sandwiching its catharsis. Before we return to the genius code-pushing joke that runs the gamut for the second half, Dwan reminds us of the present-day predicament in the most imprudent manner (“The police aren’t interested in chocolate cake”), playfully perverting the sincerity of these genres in structuralist tinkering. I can't in good faith describe the pleasures from back half of the film*, but I will say that it’s so intelligent and perverse that I’m in a simultaneous state of awe and joy just thinking on how well-constructed this comedy is, and how it takes on the melodramatic tragedy of social judgment and lampoons the subgenre with the greatest long-con gag I can think of offhand. When the fears of lawful consequence, community ostracization, the ability to provide economic security for one’s family, and total invalidation of experience via gaslighting all come to a head at once, you’ve got both the American patriarchal nightmare and a recipe for the ultimate situational comedy.

Although it's difficult to discern whether this was in the original script or an addition from Dwan, the nature of the will is indicative of Dwan’s attraction to insert a plot point regardless of how unbelievable as long as it helps accentuate the cinematic potential. Dwan reflects his awareness of this without apology when Jeffrey pauses from his zany quest to escape suffocation in order to wonder aloud why his uncle would “write such a screwy will” to which the response is, simply, “because he was a screwball!” and on we go to enjoy the rollercoaster of lunacy, all sourced in a non-army-issued yet army-like mission for Jeffrey to obtain
SpoilerShow
proof that he had sex!
*Warning: Do NOT read the plot description on Letterboxd (or google), which spoils the narrative punchline -it's the central premise of the last act, so I get it, but the brilliance of the film is in how we arrive at this unexpected scenario after half the movie has been moving in a different direction

[Also the only circulating copy, on both backchannels and the go-to google search channels, is abysmal- with horrendous audio; I had to turn up my soundsystem roughly 10-15x higher than normal to even hear the dialogue.. someone needs to rescue this gem]

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Allan Dwan

#81 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Mar 23, 2021 12:19 am

High Tension is a sexist dramedy where women are so pliable that the accountability is on the men to foster their affections with bare minimum attention, that they can't even muster up without flying into a rage and running away. This could be played for laughs but it hardly is outside of the first act culminating in a decent running joke mentioning a sexist song sung, and the jealousy games come off as pointlessly meanspirited rather than comically oblivious. Where the film does become interesting is in how altruism is squashed in favor of skill, and the final implication that Donlevy's good heart towards his friend was actualized illogically could be viewed as an opportunistic learning experience or more cynically a middle finger to the cinematic notion that benevolence is optimally judicious. Eddie sure is a lousy engineer.

The Inside Story is basically the last act of It's a Wonderful Life drawn out with more florid moving parts and colorful characters. It's cute but Dwan never elevates the material to the potential of his milieu, which is curious since he seems to have real love for this flashback story and the people populating it. Loos and Sale, the then-married writing duo behind Dwan's genius Rendezvous with Annie and the Sale-helmed masterpiece A Ticket to Tomahawk, penned this work and you can feel their affection and comprehension of this world they've cultivated. My tempered disappointment grew from an expectation for this to be funnier, but I still enjoyed the film overall even if I was destined for a slight letdown after a string of hits. It's more of a comfortable celebration of goodwill over distrusting individualism and insulated fear, to counteract the skepticism arrived at in High Tension (though even that film doesn't let itself land with any such blasphemy).

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knives
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Re: Allan Dwan

#82 Post by knives » Tue Apr 06, 2021 10:58 pm

Back after a little hiatus with three films that feel exceedingly modern in different ways thanks to their social aspects.

First up is Tennessee’s Partner for the closest to a straight, oh the soon to be revealed irony, entertainment for the evening. As most everyone has said this film is most interesting for its use of homosexuality. Contrary to most readings though I don’t think the film can be read as calling the characters homosexuals at the end. Rather the script seems to be posing the idea that homoplatonic relationships need to kill the hypotenuse of sexuality to succeed. In that sense this actually has a lot in common with the view of sexuality as seen in Brokeback Mountain.

Also don’t get me wrong, this is a movie filled with sexuality. A key scene features a naked Ronald Reagan, whose soft spoken performance is incredibly effete, romancing a woman hating John Payne. The point of discussion between them in this scene is quite interesting as it is where the film allows them to have sex with each other without breaking the code. It turns out they’ve slept with the same woman who becomes the representative of their mutual sexual charge. She’s not really a character in herself and more a shared appendage between the two. Even at her most involved in the story she’s fairly passive and takes on the qualities of whichever man she is attached to at the moment. The film ends with them making a business and home together, but with the woman hater now married as killing homosexuality has lead to a living homoplatonism.

Hold Back the Night eases things into something closer to a social picture although it still functions primarily for entertainment. The Korean War set frame story really surprised me by bringing the film closer to the college organization of the same name then I would have imagined a film with this outward form from doing. In less than ten minutes Dwan makes to perfect short on toxic masculinity, racism against Asians, and how brotherhood can be perverted into a protection for bad behaviors which don’t harm the group. Sadly I can’t think of a more appropriate film for this weekend.

This disgusting modern affair not only serves to introduce the main story, but also make clear the underlying effect war has on romance. The film rather bluntly equates the sex act to alcohol with this first act of violence performed in a drunken stupor while Payne’s tragic hero remains chaste as symbolized by the unopened scotch. War, in reality and as a genre, retards the possibility for heterosexual relationships.

The script embodies these ideas quite well, but Dwan’s camera and editing being out the best of these ideas as his dispassion in war compared to the passion with women provides a powerful emotional experience. There is no jingoism here and instead it feels almost a precursor to the Vietnam period as war’s only seeming purpose is to make less of humanity destroying the possibility of a good life. It’s enough to make anyone cry.

After all that I needed One Mile from Heaven which despite being a straight up, if in a B-movie format, social picture has a light feeling that subdued the sadness. This is very much the twin mirror to Human Cargo with Trevor take the stage alone. It’s also made to be a much more benignly directed film matching a politics that seem well more in line with the current era than the one that would cement Scarlet O’Hara in stone in two years.

The movie is incredibly disturbing as Trevor seems trapped in a typical news lady proves herself to the men. That’s a front though as the movie gives free empathy to its real lead, a light skinned black woman with a white child. Dwan’s genre perspective leads to the Hildy Johnson stock character to be exposed as disgusting by afixing her to a plot where her smoke and mirrors leads to anguish. The movie is like a proto-Ace in the Hole.

The film also serves as a wonderful introduction to how America was viewing its mainstreaming of black urban culture rather than the prevailing view in movies of them as a rural ethnic group. Just the act of seeing Bojangles get into character as a police officer is a powerful visual with a fantastic feeling to it. A black middle class is possible in Dwan’s world though it will have to fight through American assumptions. In a sense this also has a lot in common with Pearl of the South Pacific.

As much credit as Dwan deserves for ensuring a sincere and mature presentation producer Sol Wurtzel also deserves a lot of credit for making an environment for such a film. Wurtzel’s biggest claim to fame is the fantastic Mr. Moto series which also has an unexpected sensitivity on racial matters. Dwan’s style takes this out of that B movie exploitation sensibility, but the style of displaying talents that might otherwise be ignored , shockingly this is co-lead Washington’s last film, in an underplayed sensationalism is in line with him.

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Re: Allan Dwan

#83 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon May 10, 2021 4:40 pm

Continuing with the Loos and Sale scripted Dwans to see if there are any more gems after Rendezvous with Annie and well, Calendar Girl is a pretty forgettable musical- the first in a string of apparently many from Loos/Sale going by LB reviews that I hope is proven wrong. Dwan is, as always, a competent director, but he seems to be mostly on autopilot here. There are some solid lines that are delivered in a dry manner by actors that can’t convey the comic timing right, so most fall flat. However, there are times where Dwan’s tinkerings in editing a sequence fix the timing, even if it’s mostly patch-work.

Thankfully there is one more masterpiece between the writing/directing team in Driftwood, which announces from the onset that it’s going to depict a milieu that’s lost hope. Dwan begins by deceptively combining noir’s postwar melodrama and anxiety with the western’s overwhelming surrender to disorder, and then departs immediately once he's made his point without ever expressing further interest in honing in on a genre. Instead his interest lies in promoting mystical warmth of prospect in the mundane through a continual contrast of temperaments that breathes humanism into spiritually-barren domains. Dwan starts this off by juxtaposing a lonely, ill preacher, communicating into an apocalyptic Godless void, with Wood’s innocent heroine, who is attentive, helpful, hopeful, and passionately alive. Her function continues beyond this gloomy deserted town, moving through spaces to light up the darkness. Everything from her rescuing of the dog (which seems like an obvious act, but Dwan clarifies through personality contrast that it takes someone who sees other living beings with empathy to actually become willing toexert their agency to provide everyday heroism) and her genuine curiosity to every detail in any space she enters is a thematic declaration of optimism, faith, and grace, able to be found even in the crevices of burdened, dilapidated social structures.

This reflects Dwan’s own adoration for detail, and his ethos that opportunities for meaning and novel engagement with the world exist in ubiquitous form if we only alter our attitude, directorially exhibited by exploring the endless possibilities of the medium, including the layers of storytelling, to manipulate the familiar into something profound. Wood is almost saintly in her ability to tweak her own performance to reflect these eclectic possibilities, and Dwan’s work with her surely indicates his own drive and skills in achieving his philosophically-congruent goals. I found myself in awe during this film, constantly evaluating the God-sized hole poisoning adults who struggle to emerge from myopia in an landscape that prescribes a stagnant state of cynicism that stalls any personal development, and the contrast of Wood’s corporeal reminder that spiritual layers exist that can puncture our fated ennui.

Even Wood’s magnetism with other good-natured folks in the new town is indicative of moral harmony that invisibly populates the atmosphere and is blocked and facilitated into recognition by our own consciousness rather than independently forced from an omnipotent Godly intrusion. This is a very spiritual film, one that transcends religion and lends itself to the humility in the professed belief in a higher power by recontextualizing it away from interventionist ideas and towards the abstract interpretation that the desire to be teachable, and the will to engage with the world with positive intentions in a moral manner, can and will breed grace. Not only does Dwan need the complacent resistant norm in these townsfolk to heighten the necessity of the good, but he strikes a balance in allowing his audience to relate to both sets of people simultaneously and prompt our own self-analysis. Who, whether during those postwar years or even now, could honestly not identify with the pessimistic group, isolating in submission to their malaise, as well as consider the optimistic, vibrant, committed characters to be ideal traits we possess somewhere, even if buried under a heap of conditioned disengagement via a confirmation bias of that progressive impotence.

And yet, when we see movies like these, regardless of how much it operates as a fable, there’s a realism to it, an encouragement to console with our neighbors, define our morals, consider our faith, and identify the relationship between our internal split psychological parts. Dwan, Loos, and Sale sell these multifaceted reconciliations as not only possible but having been possible all along, divorced from external supports, by tapping into an energy that we need to see objectively in order to verify its existence- like talking with a friend or therapist or spiritual guide or parent when we’re feeling low. We all need objective perspectives to show us what we might logically know but can’t emotionally find in our current narrow states. Some people call that God, but whatever word you use, it’s a spiritual force available to us when we’re ready, or if we’re lucky enough to encounter a Natalie Wood type vessel in our lives. This film inspires me to pay attention so I don’t miss her when she comes along.

A happy ending in this case works under its own faith that intersects morality with karmic fate. The simple philosophy that if you enter each social moment being the best version of yourself, that good things will happen, is celebrated- the “God has a plan” mentality that puts the onus on humanity to deliver that plan with free will. After such a horrific opening scene, with Wood as a lone candle in the dark, we arrive at a world of candles illuminating our atmosphere. This isn’t necessarily a divine miracle, but the kind that has the potential to happen in small ways every day if we just pay attention and carry on with an open mind, and more importantly, an open heart. The late act reveal of the dog's coincidental superpower function even serves as evidence that an ostensibly celestial miracle needs a reciprocal corporeal one born from enhanced compassionate attention in order to be acknowledged and purposed for good, blending the polar ideas of miracles together in harmony as well rather than differentiating their utility. I mean, what's the use of the information about the dog if we don't look up from our solipsistic caves of self-pity or self-fulfilling prophecies of doom to see the solutions under our very nose.

The film's Lockean sociopolitical position believes that we are all basically good and have the power to unlock that good, often through others pushing us to soberly re-initiate our spiritual development. The characters who are "bad" in this film are trapped in a desert of self-alienation and ego-induced projection of their frustrations, blinded to opportunities of intimacy that would require a halt on wielding power and a willingness to join via a socially-mobilized descent; and they represent the outsiders of this inclusive fortification of virtues, a population that exists in Locke's arguments too. They aren't beyond saving, but the film seems to be taking a stance that they need to put in the effort to reap the privileges of change- again countering a divine interventionist vision of how 'deserved' outcomes work. "It's not Sodom and Gomorrah, it's just Heaven", Wood says to bookend the biblical journey of this film. Heaven on Earth.

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knives
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Re: Allan Dwan

#84 Post by knives » Mon May 10, 2021 6:13 pm

It’s interesting you think it’s theodicy as transcending religion as I took the film, one of the very best I’ve seen, as being uniquely Protestant in its approach with me experiencing it like Alexis de Tocqueville. The film feels so specific to a certain kind of Americana. In any case though it really does feel like a perfect film.

This is what I was planning to post later on: A once booming town now pure wreckage where what few inhabitants survive have turned to a strange religion leaving everything modern a strange and foreign thing. Nope, this isn’t some George Miller apocalypse, but rather Allan Dwan’s vision of life after war time. This is an incredibly hilarious film because otherwise it would be too terrible. It’s almost like Pasolini’s Lassie.

The glue is Natalie Wood’s amazing performance which really reveals how foreign reality is. Why are manners so dishonest and society so unready to deal with one another as people? She really convinces one that Hell and Heaven are in small town America.

The film also showcases such a beautiful love for the spoken word. Everything is loved. Tone, speed, all form of musicality, and especially the words themselves. Wood the little prophetess is most emblematic of this with her love and understanding of what words mean putting her above others. This must have been an incredibly difficult performance for Wood and Dwan to manage as she has to inflect all sorts of emotion while spouting out pages of dialogue.


Aside from all of that did you manage to find a complete copy of Calendar Girl or did you make due with on of the edited copies that seem to be flying around?

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Re: Allan Dwan

#85 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon May 10, 2021 7:28 pm

I wasn't aware that the circulating copies were edited, what's the "complete" version?

I should specify that while I believe the film's ethos is certainly orbiting a less-rigid Christian religion, so yes probably Protestant, the tone of "spirituality" as I define it transcends these ideas of God that can repel people reading such an analysis. I know you have expressed a rigid dismissal of the term "spiritual," while I find its abstract energy to be integral to how I see the world with an agnostic attitude, so perhaps this resembles that impasse. What works for me about this film is that although it is certainly utilizing Christian ideas, the universality of those principles is what coats the film with a layer of harmony between all things, and does this through breaking down the walls that might obstruct such elastic love if the fixed details of religion were prioritized in the reading.

Either way, your point about the appreciation for language is a good one, and works within the outlook that while these tools may have been granted to humanity by the divine, it is our job to use them. So Wood using language to constantly engage with the world is in essence what life is all about, how people become inspired, and how we 'save' each other, regardless of one's faith. That she uses language to ceaselessly provoke all kinds of behavior passionately, from prompting complacent people to consider their norms and 'stuck' existences or appreciate details that others have overlooked- including the audience- with endless curiosity, to challenging problematically unethical behavior with endless moral fiber... it's all fitting within the concept of spirituality in becoming more alert to opportunities, tapping into a relationship between oneself and their higher power, often manifested as a conscience or the compassion of another, and peeling back those onion layers to discover and participate more in life. Wood's use of language is shown as being the superior way of being, while the rich kid and his dad yell and turn their backs on the world, retreating to their solipsistic delusions that cut off social ties and stop growth, which in turn destroys their own wellbeing off screen where God's energetic love is absent... at least comparatively with the pulsating serene vitality magnetized around Wood and the people she's infected with her shameless utilization of the power of language and other 'God's gifts', 'spiritual tools', available resources, or however you want to call them. My point is that the superficial definition is not as important as the intimate utility they provide- which goes back to why I read this as a spiritual film first and foremost over a religious one.

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Re: Allan Dwan

#86 Post by knives » Mon May 10, 2021 8:30 pm

My understanding vis a vis CG is that about ten minutes were cut for television and that’s what’s steaming most places.

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Re: Allan Dwan

#87 Post by knives » Wed May 26, 2021 5:27 pm

Even in this gorgeously restored blu on my healthily sized television Stage Struck mocks me for not being able to see it opening day in 1925. The opening is so tremendous that it leaves an impression over the rest of the film especially when cut to the next scenes which moves from dreams of DeMille to the sort of frumpy wit that Dwan seems to delight in from Swanson. The scene also shows his playful side communicating through every aspect of the medium including speech (there’s a great fantasy switch that is made possible through a speech card).

By moving from color to sepia tones like a reverse Dorothy the film again signals Dwan’s economic interests by emphasizing a contrast with Swanson’s dreams of wealth and working class realities. It’s a delicate and sensitive approach that somehow feels real thanks due to how strange it allows itself to be. Could you imagine a ‘90s version of this starring Julia Roberts. Her star would render such an attempt ridiculous whereas Swanson at equivalent heights comes across as sincerely this wistful dreamer.

If it sounds like I’m in love with the Swanson character than you’re right which is a very necessary ingredient as she unknowingly get her dreams walked upon (I checked and that $5 is $76 today). This is a rather pure melodrama at heart even as it takes the form of a comedy. There’s a tremendous empathy for womanhood, poverty, and the ability to let yourself hope. We have to have the ability to tell ourselves we can do it whatever that it may be and however ridiculous the world may make us, that crooked mirror is not just a gag but also a theme, we’ve got a right to believe we can be Swanson.

More importantly this had me laughing like an idiot.

Now for disagreements with he full cut finally found for Calendar Girl. What a pain it was to find the complete version for this, but I’m thankful I did since A. this is a beautiful copy even with the watermark and B. in the full version this just zooms by presenting an old New York with pep and curiosity. That’s not to say this overly sincere endeavor left me completely fulfilled, though there’s a piece of hilarious editing early on that is among Dwan’s best, as this is similar enough to what Martin and Lewis would soon be doing as to highlight the inadequacies of this methodology. Still, I got a major kick out of this.

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