Wishing a Happy Grand Birthday to Olivia de Havilland 100 years old July 1st 2016!

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“I don’t need a fantasy life as once I did. That is the life of the imagination that I had a great need for. Films were the perfect means for satisfying that need.” — Olivia de Havilland

Esther Somers, Olivia de Havilland Leo Genn and Mark Stevens The Snake Pit 1948

The remarkable Olivia de Havilland turns 100 years old today. And it tickles me deeply and sincerely that we share the same birthday July 1st, so while I should be celebrating my own turn of the wheel, I felt it important to join in with so many others who recognize de Havilland’s enormous contribution to cinema and whose  lasting grace and beauty still shines so effervescently.

And so… I’d like to pay a little tribute to a few of my favorite performances of this grand lady!

Olivia de Havilland won the Academy Award for Best Actress in To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949) and nominated for her incredible performance in The Snake Pit (1948), Hold Back the Dawn (1941), and Supporting Actress as the gentle, stoic but powerful strong Melanie in Gone With the Wind (1939).

Melanie and Scarlett

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The timeless beauty and grace of the great Olivia de Havilland at 99 years young!

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You’ve got to love a woman who has the wisdom to be surrounded by Siamese cats! Yet another thing we share… I adore you Olivia-

Olivia de Havilland never shied away from taking on challenging roles, whether she played the archetypal ‘bad’ woman or the ‘good’ woman this astonishing actress could convey either nature with the ease of a jaguar who stirs with inner pride and purpose.

She still possesses that certain inner quality that is a quiet, dignified beauty whose layers unravel in each performance. Consider her heart wrenching portrayal of the emotionally disturbed Virginia Stuart Cunningham thrown into poignant turmoil when she finds herself within the walls of a mental institution but doesn’t remember her husband (Mark Stevens) or how or why she is there. It’s an astounding performance in director Anatole Litvak’s The Snake Pit (1948)

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Olivia and Mark Stevens

The Snake Pit

The New York Film Critics awarded Olivia de Havilland Best Actress for The Snake Pit (1948). She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a leading role.  

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Leo Genn and Olivia
In an interview Olivia has said, “I met a young woman who was very much like Virginia… a schizophrenic with guilt problems. She had developed a warm rapport with her doctor, but what struck me most of all was the fact that she was rather likable and appealing.. it was that that gave me the key to the performance. “

The Snake Pit photo Alamy

Olivia de Havilland threw herself into the role of Virginia by getting up close and personal with mental health treatments of the time. She observed patients and the various modalities that were used in these institutions like, doctor/patient therapy sessions, electric shock therapy and hydrotherapy and attended social events like dances within the institution.

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Here’s just a mention of some of my favorite performances by this great Dame of cinema, who as Robert Osborne so aptly spoke of her “… the ever present twinkle in her eyes or the wisdom you sense behind those orbs.”

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Olivia de Havilland as Arabella Bishop in director Michael Curtiz’s Captain Blood (1935 ) co-starring familiar screen lover Errol Flynn
It's Love I'm After 1937
That multi layered manifestation of intelligence, courage and majesty… director Archie Mayo’s It’s Love I’m after (1937) co-stars another great STAR… friend, Bette Davis.

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Olivia is romanced again by the dashing Errol in They Died with their Boots On (1941)
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Olivia de Havilland as the exquisite Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
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Olivia plays Maid Marian in Michael Curtiz’s The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938 once again co-starring with Errol Flynn. Olivia wears a magnificent wardrobe designed by Milo Anderson

Bette and Olivia in In This Our Life 1942

Reunited with Bette Davis she and Olivia play sisters Stanley and Roy Timberlake, in director John Huston’s In This Our Life 1942 where Bette steals Roy’s fiancée (George Brent).

The Dark Mirror 1946

In director Robert Siodmak’s psychological thriller The Dark Mirror (1946) Olivia de Havilland plays duel roles as dichotomous identical twins, one purely good the other inherently evil.

The Heiress

With Montgomery Clift in director William Wyler’s The Heiress 1949 Oilvia de Havilland plays the timid & naive Catherine Sloper who falls under the spell of opportunist Morris Townsend (Clift).

My Cousin Richard and Olivia

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Olivia de Havilland plays the intoxicating yet lethal Rachel who lures Richard Burton toward a dangerous fate. Adapted from Daphne du Maurier’s novel. The film also co-stars the sublimely beautiful Audrey Dalton!
MY COUSIN RACHEL, Olivia de Havilland (center, wearing veil), Richard Burton (right of de Havilland), 1952, TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved,
MY COUSIN RACHEL, Olivia de Havilland (center, wearing veil), Richard Burton (right of de Havilland), 1952, TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved

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In director Stanley Kramer’s melodrama Olivia de Havilland plays doctor Kristina Hedvigson who gets involved with the egotistical Lucas Marsh (Robert Mitchum) in Not as a Stranger (1955)

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George Hamilton, Olivia, Rossano Brazzi and Yvette Mimieux on the set of Light in the Piazza (1962) filmed in Florence Italy. de Havilland plays Meg Johnson whose daughter having suffered a head injury has left her developmentally challenged. Both mother and daughter are seduced by the romantic atmosphere of Florence.

Olivia and Yvette

Now we come to a very powerful performance that of Mrs. Cornelia Hilyard one of Olivia’s most challenging roles as she is besieged upon by psychotic home invaders, James Caan, Jennifer Billingsley, Rafael Campos, Jeff Corey and Ann Southern who hold the uptight American matriarch in her gilded house elevator when the electricity goes out and the animals get in, in Walter Grauman’s brutal vision of the American Dream inverted. Lady in a Cage (1964)

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Olivia de Havilland replaced Joan Crawford when tensions built on the set of the follow up to What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? 1962, the Grande Dame Guignol psychological thriller. Olivia de Havilland brought her own wardrobe and was not a stranger to pulling out the darker side of her acting self, portraying in my opinion perhaps one of the most vile and virulent antagonists the cunningly evil Cousin Miriam in director Robert Aldrich’s Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte 1964

HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, 1964. TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.
HUSH… HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, 1964. TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

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Olivia and Joseph Cotten

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Friends Bette Davis and Olivia

Flawless beauty

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Happy Birthday Grand Dame Olivia de Havilland… You are what puts the shine in the word ‘star’ forever vibrant and beloved by your fans and this girl who is honored to share your birthday! Hope it’s a grand day! Your EverLovin’ Joey

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It’s January 21st! The Last Drive In wishes a very fond & Happy Birthday to the lovely Audrey Dalton 82 years old today!

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Actress Audrey Dalton attends a wedding Los Angeles 1955 courtesy of Getty images photograph -Michael Ochs Archives Collection

Audrey Dalton is exquisite, dreamy, even otherworldly. When I try to find the perfect words to describe the essence that makes her uniquely beautiful these are the words that come to mind. Part of her allure includes her clear and enchantingly liquid voice, a subtle vision of classical beauty with a light that shines from her deep and mercurial eyes. Make no mistake, she is not just a pretty face, Audrey Dalton is an extraordinarily genuine actress who has been one of my favorite unsung heroines for many years. In my opinion she possesses a transcendent kind of beauty and talent that can be seen in other screen idols, Jean Simmons, Jennifer Jones, Gail Russel Ella Raines Jean Peters and Joan Bennett.

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Born in Dublin she was destined to become an actress from early on and once her family moved to London she joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Audrey is the daughter of Irish war hero and producer Emmet Dalton. She appeared in his film This Other Eden (1959) directed by Muriel Box, it’s the story of small town in Ireland during the 1920s who want to erect a monument to an IRA rebel, and the son of an English colonel who is against the plan. Audrey plays Maire McRoarty co-starring with fine British actor Niall MacGinnis.

It was while she was attending RADA that a Paramount executive saw her and arranged an audition for an upcoming picture The Girls of Pleasure Island (1953) She got the role as one of Leo Genn’s three daughters Hester Halyard along side the great Elsa Lanchester. Audrey also got a contract with Paramount Pictures, and so she came to the U.S. in 1952 to start shooting for “Pleasure Island’

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Audrey Dalton co-stars as Louise Kendall in My Cousin Rachel (1952) also starring Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland

Paramount studios would eventually loan Audrey out to 20th Century Fox to co-star in the adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel (1952) with Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton and in director Jean Negulesco’s Titanic (1953) with Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck’s and Robert Wagner. Dalton was wonderful in both parts, giving a richly emotional performance as Annette Sturges.

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In 1955 Audrey Dalton starred in The Deadliest Sin aka Confession a taut film noir where she plays sister Louise Nelson whose brother Mike (Sydney Chaplin) is a cold blooded thief and murderer.

She was wonderful in the romantic & feisty role as Jean whom Charles (Rod Taylor) has a hard time pinning her down for marriage. Co-starring in director Delbert Mann’s Separate Tables (1958) along side an incredible ensemble the likes of Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth, David Niven Wendy Hiller Burt Lancaster Gladys Cooper and Cathleen Nesbitt. Amidst the collection of wonderful characters from writer Terence Rattigan, Audrey Dalton’s portrayal of the independent Jean shines through brilliantly.

Now being a child of the 60s who earned the name MonsterGirl first as a way to tease me now I wear as a badge of honor, because I was so drawn to classical horror and sci-fi pictures, I can’t neglect the fact that Audrey Dalton starred in one of the most iconic giant creature features from the 50s-The Monster That Challenged the World (1957) where giant Mollusks terrorize a California coastline.

Not only is this one of my favorite sci-fi/horror films, Audrey Dalton brings a lot of class to the film, acting opposite the hyper-manly bratty Tim Holt ( I can’t stop thinking of him as Georgie Minafer! in The Magnificent Ambersons) This is one of the more superior giant creature films that ran amok during the 50s, and I’m sure many of Audrey’s fans will remember her as Gail MacKenzie whose little girl Sandy (Mimi Gibson) turns up the heat on one of the tubs in the lab and helps one of the giant mollusks to grow and break loose! It’s a hoot of a scene though I always find myself saying just before the monstrous mayhem, “Save the bunnies, save the bunnies!”

Mollusk & Audrey

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Audrey Dalton is marvelous, never becoming that clichéd ‘hysterical’ woman that screams frozen in terror, too overwrought to move a muscle to help. Nope! Gail crosses that scaly beasty and takes little Sandy in her arms while the mollusk is working it’s way through the particle board door, telling her to close her eyes. That’s courage and fierce motherhood, and Audrey Dalton makes it look like monster movie poetry. She added a bit of class and benevolence to the film, which happens to be ONE of my favorites of that nifty blend of sci-fi/horror that is an above average monster movie.

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Sorry kid, that’s what you get for turning up the heat on the cooker! That’ll teach ya… oh those poor bunnies!
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Audrey Dalton and Guy Rolfe in William Castle’s truly macabre masterpiece Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

In 1961 the master of artful ballyhoo and gimmickry director William Castle cast Audrey Dalton as the woman in peril -the Baroness Maude Sardonicus who is a prisoner to the gruesome Baron Sardonicus/Marek Toleslawski played with a morbid conviction by Guy Rolfe in the Gothic Grande Guignol horror masterpiece Mr. Sardonicus.   A man who’s face has been frozen in a terrifying grimace after digging up his father’s corpse to retrieve a lottery ticket, the death mask of his father causes his facial muscles to be stricken with a Sardonic grin… Maude is used as blackmail to persuade Sir Robert Margrave (Ronald Lewis) to try his new techniques in curing paroxysms of the muscles. Audrey’s character again in the midst of terrible circumstances maintains her sophisticated composure even whilst the sadistic Krull (Oskar Homolka) tortures young girls from the village with leeches. She brings that air of class and elegance to this better than average B-movie shocker!

There are times when you love film and television so much you are able to revisit episodes or memorable scenes because they never lose their power for you. In particular, I periodically watch Boris Karloff’s anthology show THRILLER because of the confluence of talent that manages to create something so beautiful, memorable, and burned into the psyche as it gives off innate sparks of genius. A show that today is still a work of art that is original and charismatic. One of the major influencers for me constantly revisiting the show, has been due to the incredible acting and characterizations that make this fantasy/horror/thriller/noir fusion come to life, including all it’s various actors who made their roles seem effortless and memorable.

Now, I have to mention the way I came to be struck by the talent and vast dimensions of Audrey Dalton. If you know me by now, you know that I sincerely wish Boris Karloff had been my grandfather. Hosting the groundbreaking anthology show THRILLER brought to light so many incredible actors who helped create a landscape of mystery, fantasy and horror. Audrey Dalton appeared in perhaps three of the best episodes of the series. The haunting and outré creepy The Hollow Watcher co-starring Warren Oates and Denver Pyle as the brutal & sadistic Ortho Wheeler.

Appearing as Meg O’Danagh Wheeler in the rustic boogeyman piece of Americana The Hollow Watcher, Audrey Dalton proves to be a mesmerizing beauty, at times vulnerable and at other times commands the screen as a hell cat. not over the top, but a believable young woman with desires and a sense of self preservation in the midst of the confining atmosphere of a slew of hillbilly neanderthals who would possess her like a pretty doll, with not much say about her life or her own body. Dalton, transmutes those cultural chains by emerging a strong woman, without cliché and keeps herself steps away from being a victim of judgement by the symbol of falsely righteous anger, the Hollow Watcher and the men who would deem her wicked yet simultaneously objectify her while ultimately trying to keep her down.

The Hollow Watcher was not only a rustic tale of the boogeyman in the form of a scarecrow, but it also brought out a few sociological  implications, like fear of foreigners, as Meg was from Ireland, misogyny and small mindedness that leads to hate. Audrey’s character Meg, while at times plays a hell cat, okay and a murderess, though Ortho Wheeler was a belligerently evil bastard, balances this fiery role, with a delicate portrayal of vulnerability, self possession and self preservation. She gets my sympathy as an anti-heroine, and it takes true inner strength to project that perfect balance.

Beautiful and tragic, Audrey Dalton’s presence elevates the story to a higher level, than just a scary bed time story about a bumpkin boogeyman. I think the reason the episode never loses it’s potency, nor does the simplistic scarecrow appear sophomoric is perhaps the way it transforms these elements into pure revelation– that at times, the things that frighten us are truly very simple and primal fears.

In the episode The Prediction, Audrey performs with Boris Karloff in one of the few stories where Karloff doesn’t just lend his hosting prologues. Audrey plays Norine Burton assistant to stage mentalist Clayton Mace. Her father (Alan Caillou) is a drunken wretch and Clayton is more of a loving guardian to her. She wants to get married, but Clayton starts having real visions of danger and insinuates himself into the couples plans, resulting in a tragic end. Audrey is wonderful in the role, bringing that believable kindness and light that shines from her emotional eyes. I plan on covering both The Prediction & Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook as a continuing tribute to this series that was both far ahead of it’s time and timeless.

the prediction

In director Herschel Daugherty’s Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook she plays Nesta Roberts who’s husband (Kenneth Haigh)  is a Scotland yard detective trying to solve a murder in the Welsh moors where the people at The Inn of the Dark Woods are a closed community bound by superstition and fearful of witchcraft. They believe Nesta to be a witch because she is beautiful and that’s always dangerous and she has seen the elusive black dog.

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Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook is another mysterious piece from THRILLER. Dalton plays Nesta  a new bride to a police inspector who stumble onto a horrific murder case on the Welsh moors where there is a suspicion of witchcraft about. Nesta not only doesn’t sit idly by like a complacent pretty wife waiting to be protected by husband, Kenneth Haigh. The couple come upon the clues, and contend with the villagers frightened by superstition. Nesta assists her detective husband to solve the uncanny events, like the vision of a strange black dog and confronts the mystery head on, exuding a sense of smarts.

Dalton in all three episodes of THRILLER possesses a range of emotion that make her a perfect heroine, with a dimension of emotional fortitude, vulnerability and perseverance.

In Douglas Heyes’ Kitten With a Whip (1964), Audrey Dalton manages to avoid all that tawdry exploitation orgy that her husband John Forsythe gets tangled up when he befriends psychopath Ann-Margaret. She lends her lovely portrait to the film as counter-balance to Margaret’s wildly amoral Dvorak Jody who marks up the photo with lipstick by drawing a sloppy pair of lips mocking her lovely mouth. Audrey also lends her worried minute to a phone call that turns chaotic on the other end. Audrey is too classy to be mixed up in this mess Forsythe has got himself into…

In 1965 Audrey appeared with Dan Duryea in the gritty spaghetti western The Bounty Killer.

Audrey Dalton appeared in various television dramas and westerns to name a few, Kraft Suspense Theater, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Dragnet, The Wild Wild West, Bonanza, Wagon Train, episodes of Police Woman.

Audrey Dalton in Wagon Train 1958
Audrey Dalton in the television series Wagon Train 1958

“Acting always seemed honest and straightforward. The characters portrayed had a purpose, and I loved the unspoken communication between the actor and his audience” -Audrey Dalton

Well that explains why every one of Audrey Dalton’s performances appear honest and with purpose. She manages to give a bit of herself with every role. Never the same, she taps into the part and becomes that person with grace and ease of movement. We can see it in her expressive eyes and with that candid smile of hers.

I get excited to see her every time I’m watching one of her films or television performances. It’s like seeing an old dear friend.

Actors like Dalton who frequented THRILLER , popular television shows and major motion pictures make us feel comfortable because she’s easy to like and appears to be a ‘real’ person, authentically accessible and believable.

A tremendous thank you to her daughter Vickie who was gracious enough to take the time to comment on my blog with kind words from she and her incredible mum!

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With deep affection & admiration, wishing her a very very wonderful birthday- love Joey

Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
Sigmund Freud

“Ladies and gentlemen- welcome to violence; the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains sex.” — Narrator from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

Faster Pussycat
Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 1965
Cul-de-Sac
Françoise Dorléac and Donald Pleasence in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac 1966
the Naked kiss
Constance Towers kicks the crap out of her pimp for shaving off her hair in Sam Fuller’s provocative The Naked Kiss 1964
Shock Corridor
Peter Breck plays a journalist hungry for a story and gets more than a jolt of reality when he goes undercover in a Mental Institution in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor 1963
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Bobby Darin is a psychotic racist in Hubert Cornfield and Stanley Kramer’s explosive Pressure Point 1962 starring Sidney Poitier and Peter Falk.

THE DARK PAGES NEWSLETTER  a condensed article was featured in The Dark Pages: You can click on the link for all back issues or to sign up for upcoming issues to this wonderful newsletter for all your noir needs!

Constance Towers as Kelly from The Naked Kiss (1964): “I saw a broken down piece of machinery. Nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life. That’s what I saw.”

Griff (Anthony Eisley) The Naked Kiss (1964): “Your body is your only passport!”

Catherine Deneuve as Carole Ledoux in Repulsion (1965): “I must get this crack mended.”

Monty Clift Dr. Cukrowicz Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) : “Nature is not made in the image of man’s compassion.”

Patricia Morán as Rita Ugalde: The Exterminating Angel 1962:“I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven’t you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain.”

Ann Baxter as Teresina Vidaverri Walk on the Wild Side 1962“When People are Kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it.”

The Naked Venus 1959“I repeat she is a gold digger! Europe’s full of them, they’re tramps… they’ll do anything to get a man. They even pose in the NUDE!!!!”

Darren McGavin as Louie–The Man With the Golden Arm (1955): “The monkey is never dead, Dealer. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner, waiting his turn.”

Baby Boy Franky Buono-Blast of Silence (1961) “The targets names is Troiano, you know the type, second string syndicate boss with too much ambition and a mustache to hide the facts he’s got lips like a woman… the kind of face you hate!”

Lorna (1964)- “Thy form is fair to look upon, but thy heart is filled with carcasses and dead man’s bones”

Peter Fonda as Stephen Evshevsky in Lilith (1964): “How wonderful I feel when I’m happy. Do you think that insanity could be so simple a thing as unhappiness?”

Glen or Glenda (1953)“Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even a lounging outfit and he’s the happiest individual in the world.”

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Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda 1953

Johnny Cash as Johnny Cabot in Five Minutes to Live (1961):“I like a messy bed.”

Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) Island of Lost Souls: “Do you know what it means to feel like God?”

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969): “Sex dominates the world! And now, I dominate sex!”

The Snake Pit (1948): Jacqueline deWit as Celia Sommerville “And we’re so crowded already. I just don’t know where it’s all gonna end!” Olivia de Havilland as Virginia Stuart Cunningham “I’ll tell you where it’s gonna end, Miss Somerville… When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up.”

Delphine Seyrig as Countess Bathory in Daughters of Darkness (1971)“Aren’t those crimes horrifying. And yet -so fascinating!”

Julien Gulomar as Bishop Daisy to the Barber (Michel Serrault) King of Hearts (1966)“I was so young. I already knew that to love the world you have to get away from it.”

The Killing of Sister George (1968) -Suzanna York as Alice ‘CHILDIE’: “Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know” Beryl Reid as George: “That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!”

The Killing of Sister George
Susannah York (right) with Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George Susannah York and Beryl Reid in Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George 1960

The Lickerish Quartet (1970)“You can’t get blood out of an illusion.”

THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH (1965)Dominique-“I’m attracted” Pablo-” To Bullfights?” Dominique-” No, I meant to death. I’ve always thought it… The state of perfection for all men.”

Peter O’Toole as Sir Charles Ferguson Brotherly Love (1970): “Remember the nice things. Reared in exile by a card-cheating, scandal ruined daddy. A mummy who gave us gin for milk. Ours was such a beautifully disgusting childhood.”

Maximillian Schell as Stanislaus Pilgrin in Return From The Ashes 1965: “If there is no God, no devil, no heaven, no hell, and no immortality, then anything is permissible.”

Euripides 425 B.C.“Whom God wishes to destroy… he first makes mad.”

Davis & Crawford What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford bring to life two of the most outrageously memorable characters in Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962

WHAT DOES PSYCHOTRONIC MEAN?

psychotronic |ˌsīkəˈtränik| adjective denoting or relating to a genre of movies, typically with a science fiction, horror, or fantasy theme, that were made on a low budget or poorly received by critics. [1980s: coined in this sense by Michael Weldon, who edited a weekly New York guide to the best and worst films on local television.] Source: Wikipedia

In the scope of these transitioning often radical films, where once, men and women aspired for the moon and the stars and the whole ball of wax. in the newer scheme of things they aspired for you know… “kicks” yes that word comes up in every film from the 50s and 60s… I’d like to have a buck for every time a character opines that collective craving… from juvenile delinquent to smarmy jet setter!

FILM NOIR HAD AN INEVITABLE TRAJECTORY…

THE ECCENTRIC & OFTEN GUTSY STYLE OF FILM NOIR HAD NO WHERE ELSE TO GO… BUT TO REACH FOR EVEN MORE OFF-BEAT, DEVIANT– ENDLESSLY RISKY & TABOO ORIENTED SET OF NARRATIVES FOUND IN THE SUBVERSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE CULT FILMS OF THE MID TO LATE 50s through the 60s and into the early 70s!

I just got myself this collection of goodies from Something Weird!

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There’s even this dvd that points to the connection between the two genres – Here it’s labeled WEIRD. I like transgressive… They all sort of have a whiff of noir.
Grayson Hall Satan in High Heels
Grayson Hall -Satan in High Heels 1962
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Gerd Oswald adapts Fredrick Brown’s titillating novel — bringing to the screen the gorgeous Anita Ekberg, Phillip Carey and Gypsy Rose Lee and Harry Townes in the sensational, obscure and psycho-sexual thriller Screaming Mimi 1958
The Strangler 1964 Victor Buono
Victor Buono is a deranged mama’s boy in Burt Topper’s fabulous The Strangler 1964
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Catherine Deneuve is extraordinary as the unhinged nymph in Roman Polanski’s psycho-sexual tale of growing madness in Repulsion 1965

Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Noir took a journey through an even darker lens… Out of the shadows of 40s Noir cinema, European New Wave, fringe directors, and Hollywood auteurs, brought more violent, sexual, transgressive, and socially transformative narratives into the cold light of day with a creeping sense of verité. While Film Noir pushed the boundaries of taboo subject matter and familiar Hollywood archetypes it wasn’t until later that we are able to visualize the advancement of transgressive topics.

Continue reading “Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground”

Walter Graumen puts Olivia de Havilland in peril as a Lady in a Cage (1964) “Right now I am all *animal*” or “Oh, dear Lord… I am… a monster!”

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THE GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON APRIL 20-26, 2014 hosted by Speakeasy*Shadows and Satin * Silver Screenings

“She was very badly raped, you see! We were assaulted by a gang of vicious, young, hoodlums in this house! In this very room you are sitting in now! I was left a helpless cripple, but for her the agony was too great! The doctor said it was pneumonia; because it happened some months later! During a flu epidemic! The doctors told me it was pneumonia, but I knew what it was! A VICTIM OF THE MODERN AGE! Poor, poor girl!”-quote from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971)

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James Caan- is the violent anti-social ruffian Randall Simpson O’Connell and a good choice for ‘The Great Villain Blogathon’ since I’ve covered two sympathetic antagonists, I thought it was necessary to write about a true villain in every sense of the word. He’s an *animal* as he calls himself. He is not an anti-hero, he is a sadistic, and violently wired punk a, a vicious hoodlum, a product of a modern age.

The young James Caan embodies such a sociopathic, undomesticated menacing rage that even through the cliché stocking on his face, it makes him all the more frightening. Randall is the axis of this amoral trio who are such anti-social, narcissistic degenerates that they do not evoke a smidgen of sympathy from the audience. Though he may come from trouble beginnings, his displaced rage pits him against Hilyard who represents everything he despises.

Randall is a misogynist brute who beats his girlfriend Elaine (we hear the blows from behind the door as she both screams and exults in sexual excitement), and would have probably sexually harassed Mrs. Hilyard but for the fact that he mentions how he hates his grandmother, an older and sexless figure. He is physically rough with her, feeling that she is an ‘old crow’ who is controlling and manipulative and has pushed her son to threaten suicide. Undertones of an Oedipal nature run through the plot line as Randall is raging against the devouring mother, that Hilyard represents in the story, which truly plays like a modern mythic tragedy. Randall traumatizes Hilyard until she is almost insane with fear.

Lady in a Cage is a grimy urban ordeal drenched in taboo, and inhabited by drunken derelicts, boozy dames, doped-up delinquents and a menacing cruelty that escalates until it is almost unbearable. 

de Havilland’s lovely face distorts in the reflected mirrored panel of the elevator as she begins to unravel from the brutality and captivity she confronts, all within the vanilla white tonality of her quiet house. The interior shots alternating with the outer rat race, the urban grime and modern desolation.

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Randall leers at Hilyard from under the stocking like a vicious hob goblin

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As Tony Williams writes in his chapter Trying to Survive on the Darker Side in The Dread of Difference-edited by Barry Keith Grant-where he cites Grauman’s film “The monstrous adult child product of a traumatic family situation existed in earlier decades, as works such as Curse of the Cat People 1944, Psycho, The Strangler 1963, Lady in a Cage 1964, Marnie 1964, I Dismember Mama 1972, The Killing Kind 1973.”
James Caan had made an appearance as a soldier with radio in Billy Wilder’s Irma La Douce (1963)
Randall was James Caan’s first credited feature film role after getting his start with small television parts such as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “Memo from Purgatory” where he plays a writer who goes undercover in a street gang so he can get inspiration for his book. Kraft Suspense Theatre in 1963, Dr. Kildare, Death Valley Days, Combat!, and the ruthless Marty Feketi in ‘Bullets Cost Too Much’ episode of The Naked City 1961 extraordinary social commentary police procedural tv series that ran from 1958-1963. I’m still working through my new dvd box set, and let me tell you, there ain’t nothing like this show with it’s incredible cast of character actors, dramatic story telling and on location cinematography in New York City in the 60s.

A snippet of the exchange between Hilyard and Randall…

Mrs.Hilyard-“You’re from an asylum?”

Randall-“Asylum? Oh no, you don’t. Reformatory. Work farm. I been inside every way there is to be inside. I been some kind of inside since I was nine years old.

Mrs. Hilyard-“Oh I see. You’re one of the many bits of offal produced by the welfare state. You’re what so much of my tax dollars goes for the care and feeding of.”

Caan, with his very ‘masculine’ hairy chest, was a much more subtle psychopath in Curtis Harrington’s psychological thriller Games 1967 where he gaslights the beautiful but emotionally delicate Katherine Ross with the help of sensual goddess Simone Signoret. BTW, I’ll be doing a special feature on the works of Curtis Harrington hopefully by the summer.

James Caan Games
James Caan in Curtis Harrington’s Games 1967 with Katherine Ross

Randall even takes off on Marlon Brando’s Stanley Kowalski from Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire, as he belches, shirtless (most of the film) and leers and smirks in his outre tight jeans.

This evokes “I think I’m going to be sick” from the respectable Mrs. Hilyard who voices her scorn. Randall is in control and enjoys the power struggle, sadistically amused by her indignation and repulsion, “Watch the human being be sick in a cage.” He’s looking for any excuse to lash out.

Randall says [to George Brady the bum] “We’re gonna kill you. First you, then the pig (Sade)… and then, the human being!”

It is suggested that Randall also likes to beat up on his girlfriend Elaine, as she has a black eye. As I stated earlier, off camera while up in the master bathroom behind closed doors,  it is implied that she actually vocalizes pleasure when he hits her. Elaine herself is an angry and hyper-sexual oddity, perhaps even a  sociopath as well, as she moves her body provocatively, quite aware of her seductive maneuvering. She enjoys watching violent acts and she dances to a small music box in a very sexually inappropriate way. Obviously she is wired to believe that sexuality and violence go together.

Olivia de Havilland  as Mrs. Cornelia Hilyard is terrorized by James Caan as the violent Randall Simpson O’Connell and his gang of sociopathic miscreants.

de Havilland’s Cornelia Hilyard suffers from delusions toward the climax –that Randall is her son Malcolm. First when she faints after she speaks to Randall thinking he is Malcolm and then again when he reads the letter and uses the words ‘release’ – as the screen becomes all wavy, as she self-accuses that she is a ‘monster.’

de Havilland having taken the role after Joan Crawford turned down the part of Cornelia Hilyard, and then ironically stepping in a little later that year to fill Joan’s high heels in Hush Hush… Sweet Charlotte when personalities clashed on the set with Bette Davis and Robert Aldrich.

Walter Grauman (his first film obscure B cult classic- The Disembodied 1957, writing for television Peter Gunn, Matinee Theatre, Perry Mason, The New Breed, The Untouchables, Naked City, Twilight Zone (Miniature) Route 66, Burke’s Law, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Honey West, The Fugitive , The Streets of San Fransisco and Barnaby Jones- Directing tv movie horrors like Daughter of the Mind, The Man Who Cried Wolf, Crowhaven Farm, Paper Man, They Call it Murder and The Golden Gate Murders ’79, a terrific hard to find film with David Janssen and Susannah York.

I just love Grauman’s realist style– it’s raw and captivating mise en scène and here he directs this very taut thriller, that somehow seems to elude a definitive genre category as it falls into place amongst the transgressive noir-hybrids of the 60s, it’s been linked with Grande Dame Guignol cinema, and it’s every bit a suspense crime drama but there is little written about it in any of my books on the THRILLER or NOIR film genres. Film historian Kim Newman points out that the sub-genre that was a popular psycho trend of the 1960s where “the aging actress as *monster* was inaugurated” by Aldrich’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

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It’s also showcases elements of the horror style rampant in the 60s and yet again, I’ve found it difficult to locate it in any index, and I’ve got a full library on that subject as you can imagine. The idea of home invasion and torture isn’t a subject that’s been missed this side of the 21st Century. It’s been a featured narrative on shows like Law and Order, Dexter and Criminal Minds comes to mind.

Gregory A Waller writes in the introduction in American Horrors: Essays on the Modern American Horror Film- “The 60’s provided a number of noteworthy horror films -still disturbing oddities like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?(1962), Lady in a Cage (1964) and The Haunting (1964) with it’s restrained ‘adult’ major studio, quasi Victorian terror.”

The idea of the home being invaded in an era which was coming off of the industrial age of suburban comforts, ice maker refrigerators, frozen dinners, air conditioners, appliances for an easier way to be a home-maker. the notion of this once safe, comfortable and innocent lifestyle is thus shattered by the intrusion of a doomed and violent world out of control. Even more stunning is that the action happens in broad daylight.

Martin Rubin sums it up in his book Thrillers-Lady in a Cage “epitomizes modern day social decay through the predicament of a cut-off shut-in Olivia de Havilland terrorized by lowlifes and juvenile delinquents”

introducing James Caan-exteriors key to framing an atmosphere of symbolic visual entrapment
The shots of exteriors, interiors and certain objects are key to framing a visual atmosphere of entrapment.

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The script was written by writer/produce Luther Davis  The Hucksters 1047, B.F.’s Daughter 1948, Kismet 1965, Across 110th Street (1972, tv movies Daughter of the Mind 1969 with Ray Milland and Gene Tierney, The Old Man Who Cried Wolf 1970 with Edgar G. Robinson.

co-starring as Caan’s female sidekick is Jennifer Billingsly as Elaine, Rafael Campos is Essie ( very hard working character actor in the sixties and seventies, I especially loved him as Little Emanuel with one leg shorter than the other in All in the Family), William Swan as Malcom Hilyard, Scatman Crothers as the junkman’s assistant,

Lady in a Cage also includes Ann Sothern as the weary and wanton Sade, Jeff Corey as the derelict George L Brady/ who decries, “Repent, repent” the two outliers of society, taking advantage of Mrs. Hilyard’s predicament instead of helping her.

With art direction and production design by Hal Pereira who worked on such great Hitchcock thrillers as Rear Window ’54, Vertigo ’58 and Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s ’61

The evocative soundtrack of beat jazz and experimental nuances by composer Paul Glass  (Bunny Lake is Missing 1965, Five Desperate Women 1971 tv movie, To the Devil a Daughter 1976)

At times Glass underscores the world gone awry with sounds akin to the mechanism of social order having just snapped a spring, and becoming uncoiled and shorted out!

The opening credits are framed with the use of bar like graphics symbolic of not only the literal plot entrapment but the atmosphere of being caged in as well. The linear graphics that interplay with the rolling list of credits remind me of the work of title designer Saul Bass.

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The titles are reminiscent of Saul Bass

Ann Southern as Sade

Leon Barsha takes care of the tense editing. Barsha knows how to create a claustrophobic chaos as he did with Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear 1952, Midnight Lace 1960, editing a few of the most outstanding episodes of The Twilight Zone– A Penny For Your Thoughts ’61, The Grave ’61 and Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up ’61.

Rudolph Sternad production designer/art director-died a year before the film was released. Just to mention a few of his credits-(Dead Reckoning 1947, Walk a Crooked Mile 1948, The Member of the Wedding 1952, High Noon 1952, The Wild One 1953, The Defiant Ones 1958, Inherit the Wind 1960, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World 1963) Set designers were Sam Comer and Joseph Kish.

Cinematographer Lee Garmes has some list of credits, having started as a painters assistant and prop boy. He lensed some of the most beautifully visual films,  The Garden of Allah 1927, Lilies of the Field 1930, Scarface 1932, Call Her Savage 1932, Strange Interlude 1932 then later uncredited for Gone With the Wind, Guest in the House 1944, and of course some of my favorite films, Nightmare Alley 1947, The Paradine Case 1947 and Portrait of Jennie 1948 onto noirs, Detective Story and The Captive City.

Garmes sets up certain shots that give the impression of a brutally grotesque modern masquerade fête of social misfits on a rampage in a woman-in peril film.

With various close ups on the players faces, in particular de Havilland as she begins to lose it. Often the trio are framed at angles where they look over Mrs. Hilyard who appears like a trapped animal in a cage, as they taunt her from above. She seems smaller and helpless. de Havilland begins to lose her coiffed appearance as she devolves, her hair becomes unkempt and she is drenched in perspiration. It’s quite visually disturbing and graphically unnerving. As these good shockers often are as Grauman and Garmes use extreme close ups of de Havilland’s mouth when she screams for help. The emphasized shots of the alarm bell ringing to no avail, reminds of the detail that cinematographer Ernest Haller paid toward elements of communication and non-escape (the myriad shots of the phone, the stairs) in Aldrich’s What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?

director of photog Lee Garmes
Emphasis on anonymous hands blasting car horns all modern lines of communication that are chaotic and used in an audibly offensive way-dehumanizing noise.
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To show the indifference and cruelty of the world, a little girl runs her roller skates along a bums leg…

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As voyeurs we see Malcolm through window blinds, peering through the bars of his private world- He writes a letter to his mother-“Darling”

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Malcolm is a coded gay character of the film

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Malcolm’s misadventure with the car sets off a chain reaction of horrific events to follow–fate is in the driver’s seat.
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throughout Lady in a Cage Lee Garme’s camera focuses on objects of communication or the lack thereof… Modern conveniences and bourgeois trifle

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Twenty First Century Desolation

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Lady in a CageHal Pereira’s set is more modern, sterile and streamline, inharmonious and unwelcoming. There are many disturbing scenes with the subtle distinction of this hostility and inhumanity like the girl who runs her roller skates over the leg of an unconscious man, an evangelist spouts off about the evils of the world on the radio, a dog hit by a car that drivers keep passing by without stopping.

The date is the 4th of July, it is extremely hot day, people’s nerves are more sensitive and agitated during these heat waves which usually leads to more crime. There are exploding garbage cans in the street to mark the holiday.

Garmes focuses on Mrs Hilyard through the bars on her cage and the reflections in the mirrored panel. We begin as voyeurs. Malcolm is writing his letter, addressing his mother as ‘darling.’ Perhaps a little undeveloped sub-text to be discussed in a different kind of post. Considering that this one is in a series of ‘love notes’ he writes to her. “Darling” Hhmm???

It is made apparent though not explicitly, that Malcolm is in fact gay, and his mother’s domineering personality is at the source of his homosexuality, which is what films of the 60s & 70s would tend to illustrate.

de Havilland has a screen presence that is quite sophisticated and almost imposing with her sense of stylish intellect and decorum. This puts de Havilland’s Mrs. Hilyard in an interesting position on the graph of class struggle, as Randall and his gang aren’t just fighting amongst their own contemporaries, he is challenging an upper class society lady and mother figure to attack back.

Ironically what sets off the sequence of actions that ensue is Malcolm whose car hits a ladder, that tears out wires that short out the power lines. He causes the accident that creates the electricity going out leaving his mother stranded in her gilded prison. He is yet another character in the film who is distracted by his own agenda, self-absorbed carelessness and indifference. Played out like a tragedy, it is at the chance moment when Malcolm causes the power outage that his mother wearing a sheer negligee gets into her elevated cage locking herself inside like a sitting canary. The ‘cage’ has a mirrored panel by the buttons, that allow for de Havilland/Mrs.Hilyard to be seen from various angles and expressions.

With her in her gilded trap is a transistor radio, which is reporting about the uncovered murder victim, a woman who has been decapitated!

Mrs. Hilyard (Olivia de Havilland) is a poetess and a wealthy widow who lives in a stifling bourgeois mansion with her son Malcolm (William Swan) Cornelia, though she is never actually called by her first name, has had an elevator installed in her mansion after she breaks her hip. We see Malcolm writing a letter to his mother as he is about to go away for a weekend, leaving his mother all alone in the house. Malcolm appears to be stifled by his mother’s overbearing love, even to the point of her insisting that he drink his orange juice. As he leaves in his car, he backs into a ladder which nudges a wire that short circuits.

Through this subtle set of events triggering a negative chain reaction causing a power outage, it only sparks the larger series of violent circumstances that begin to spiral out of control. Of course Cornelia Hilyard is now trapped in her gilded cage of an elevator. She has an emergency alarm, which she uses while the electricity is out, but only one person is aroused by the alarm. A derelict wino named George L. Brady (Jeff Corey) hearing the alarm in the alley he ignores her cries for help, and instead helps himself to some of her things. Brady feigns muteness while he rummages around her things, as she is helpless to do anything about it. In desperation she tries to bargain with him to help her, “I will build a shrine to you.”

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The use of white is so vanilla–like Mrs Hilyard

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Repent is tattooed on Brady’s hand

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Much like Joan Crawford’s Blanche Hudson whose entrapment was because she was wheelchair bound, the camera would often focus on the distance between the phone that was always out of reach. The lines of communication had been a constant hurdle to invoke the sense of dread and captivity

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Randall and his little band of riff raff wonder where the old bum stumbled onto a $40 toaster and packs of cigarettes

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Brady shows up at Sade’s apartment, telling her about the house filled with so much loot!

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But Brady is only the first character who will prey on the weakness and vulnerability of Mrs Hilyard. The ferocious and unsympathetic opportunism is a theme that will carry through the film’s story telling. And none is likable and no one is safe from harm. While we might feel slightly ambivalent toward the poor souls who are down and out on their luck, or the proper and uptight Mrs Hilyard who is the central sufferer in the piece, the narrative doesn’t allow much time for us to feel compassion which only illustrates that the message of nihilism translates with an authentic sting. Mrs. Hilyard is every bit part of the testimony of elitist apathy and arrogance that comes along with a hypocritical and so-called civilized modern society.

The film begins to escalate with a real sense of urgency and smothering atmosphere of dread. The derelict Brady fences the goods and then pays a visit to his slovenly dame Sade (Ann Sothern). This sets off yet another ripple in the threatening current that is building in the narrative.

Following Brady from the junk dealer to Sade’s apartment the vicious trio learn about Mrs Hilyard’s house. The savage bunch of hoodlums Randall, Elaine and Essie hang back and wait for the right time to strike. The three lowlifes follow George and Sade to the mansion wearing stockings to obscure their identities, as they start ravaging the place. Eventually they kill the old bum George L Brady who is in a way the second catalyst for the crime of invading and tormenting the trapped Mrs. Hilyard. Hypocritical too as he decries, ‘repent’ though he not only ignores her pleadings for help, he engages the mechanism of ill-fate-he must also be the first to be disposed of. And although we do not see any of the gory details when they stab him to death, the murder is still quite gruesome, as the force of violence still permeates the screen with Paul Glass’ use of music box nuance to create contrast between the two experiences.

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When the phone rings, it startles both Sade and Brady.
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As Mrs.Hilyard yells into the phone after it rings she knocks it off the hook, but Sade rips the wire out of the wall. Hilyard starts to lose it, calling out for help, calling out ’emergency’. Sade creeps up the stairs while Hilyard hangs in mid air in her cage. Hilyard tells her “this is my house, my sons and mine. I broke my hip and am somewhat incapacitated.”

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Sade coldly ignores Mrs Hilyard’s pleading for help “Haven’t you ever needed help?” but Sade stops and only thinks for a split second and continues to walk away.
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“Perfume, is that perfume? A woman, are you a woman?… Listen, Hello my name is Hilyard. I am Mrs Hilyard.” The bum Brady creeps around the stairs and cage. As if the house has been invaded by termites come to pick it clean. Hilyard continues to try and make contact with her intruders “What’s your name. Won’t you answer me. Please answer me” She moves around the inside confines of her gilded prison calling out for them to answer her. With no success.

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“Please help me get out of this horrible cage. Please, please PLEASE!!!!”
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Suddenly the moment is broken with a horrifying wail, as the three hoodlums rush the stairs wearing stocking masks. It’s a immobilizing stunner in the film, that breaks the initial inertia of Hilyard’s entrapment and the circular photography that creates a whirlpool effect. At first an mind numbing monotony and then a blitz of chaos.

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Randall makes Sade his pick up truck
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Hilyard soaked in sweat and crazed has already been driven half mad. Now she is terrified.
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Randall appears at the stair case looming down on her. His face concealed by the stocking mask. Grinning at her he smacks his fists together. A show of brutish force.
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“Who, what monsters… Do you stink… get out…. steal and get out. What sort of creatures are you? Randall slithers over to her and pounds on the top of the cage. “Oh even animals would have more civil compassion than you” Randall –“What… what you. You’re something holier than thou? Huh… You’re something ah. You ain’t no animal?” Hilyard- “I am a human being… a thinking feeling creature” He belches in her face. she winces. “Ah well me I”m an animal. Right now I am all animal. Lot of times I can’t even make animal. A lot of times I’m what do ya call, an inmate. But animal’s better.” Hilyard-“What do you mean inmate… asylum… you’re from some asylum?” He says-“Asylum…(tisk) Oh no you don’t. hahaha… reformatory. Work farm. I been inside everywhere there is to be inside. I been some kind of inside since I was a, 9 years old.” Hilyard with contempt in her voice-“Oh I see… you’re one of the many bits of offal produced by the welfare state. You’re what so much of my tax dollars go to the care and feeding of.” Randall answers her-“Well a, I don’t know from offal, but yeah… yeah. And I sure do want to thank you ma’am for all them tax dollars. The food is lousy though… belch, haha” He begins to literally rattle her cage.

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This image of the ‘outside world’ gazing at us– the audience while they are confronting Hilyard creates a chilling moment that is truly indicative of a horror film– We too become voyeurs looking in on society as it implodes from violence and apathy The four intruders watch her with their masks on. As the monsters watch their prey lose control she cracks within her captivity. They study her. We study them watching her. The entire plot closes in on itself in that moment. The world turns –inside out from outside in.

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She begins an inner monologue “The world must have ended. Someone on one side or the other must have pushed the button. Dropped the bomb.” She puts on her little transistor radio… She hears...”Ladies and gentleman, here stands before us, the man of tomorrow” the radio spouts its media dogma. Modern experimental music underscores the insanity of the moment. The complete loss of rational thought. Civility and safety. Applause The sounds of haywire, slipped cogs and shorted fuses. the noise of chaos. She laughs and drops the radio out of the elevator it lands on the floor and smashes. She begins to laugh heartily. She has lost it.

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They lock Sade in the closet never to be heard from again–not before they rough her up a bit, pushing her into a mirrored dressing table, where she cuts herself. George Brady’s fate is much worse.

At this point Randall sets his sights on Mrs.Hilyard who is trapped as the lady in said cage.

Mrs. Hilyard becomes less consequential at the moment the vicious trio arrive, as she is a symbol of the weakened society–the raw meat for the predatory wild animals, the more vulnerable of the modern jungle which will get picked off first. As Shelley so aptly notes, it’s very ‘Darwinian’ and the survival of the fittest. Mrs. Hilyard as much as refers to the city as a jungle.

Mrs. Hilyard-“I am a human being. A feeling, thinking, human being.”

Randall-mocking her- “Okay. I am *all* animal. Sure beats the hell outta being an inmate…”

Mrs. Hilyard ” … inmate?… Asylum?

Randall begins tormenting her, by playing head games. He shows her a note from her son Malcolm telling her that he’s about to commit suicide because of her overbearing motherly love. “Release me from your generosity. Release me from your beauty. Release me from your love.”

The entire film’s universe is filled with deviant and transgressive characters. Sade is a self-hating woman who demeans herself because of her weight. Her ability to escape the chaos hampered by her greed to take part in the looting of Mrs, Hilyard’s house. To add to the queasy touches, Sade wears a jeweled head band givimg her an odd-ball air of eccentricity. She would again play a similar type of character as Thelma Lambert in Curtis Harrington’s The Killing Kind 1973-another mother who loves her son too well, he becomes a lady killer…

The pawnbroker Mr. Paul only has one-eye. perhaps this is symbolic of a skewed vision of the world that surrounds him. He is also an opportunistic figure. Brady and Sade are afflicted with alcoholism. 

As Peter Shelley says in Grande Dame Guignol Cinema the film is “A disturbing indictment of the amorality of 1964 American society, as well as a nightmare for those suffering from claustrophobia and vertigo, this film introduces Olivia de Havilland to the Grande Dame Guignol subgenre.”

Walter Grauman creates an atmosphere of deafening nihilism that is so harsh and brutal it is almost hard to watch it at times. An indictment of modernity, opportunism and the industrial age, the use of sound with the car horns blaring in clusters of traffic, the sounds from the streets that invade Mrs. Hilyard’s closed in world is exhausting. The film delivers a sense that all of life is a furious, insensitive rhythm of hostility and discord. There is no empathy toward the individual and people are merely anonymous faces making the strident and shrill noise and disturbing the quietude of civilized life.

What makes this a suspense/noir hybrid is the environment of entrapment and flawed characters, with Lee Garmes camera angles and Leon Barsha’s razor sharp editing that keeps the pacing at an uncomfortable beat. Even the graphics that follow the credits representative of bars of a cage symbolized the narrative’s imprisonment. Cinematic bars were deftly used in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? as Aldrich wanted us to feel at ever turn the same sense of captivity that Blanche as well as Jane’s state of mind, and the landscape of the old Gothic mansion which felt like it was desolate and decaying.

And much like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane’s use of the outer world excursions Jane would take that would constantly throw light into the closed in universe of the Hudson’s mansion, Grauman and Garmes utilize shots of the ever turning world outside Mrs. Hilyard’s captivity to emphasize this contrast visually reinforcing the horror that is taking place within the confines of the house that is shut off. We feel that every frame has a sense of intrusion.

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The film has so much cruelty in it… it’s an exercise in Nihilism

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Outside the house, the world goes on spinning, the paper boy delivers the news on an ordinary street

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Essie finds the letter. “Darling Mom… “Hey how bout that it sounds real a …. gay” Mrs Hilyard asks Essie-“What is that that you’re holding? Where did you get it?” Essie-“What am I holding, a letter that was on the desk upstairs, do you want to hear it?” Randall tells Essie-“Ah, let her die curious.”

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Randall asks her-“Is your little boy married?”
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“I bet you had him at it til he was about twelve didn’t ya?… kept him sucking” She slaps him hard across the face. He grabs her violently, pushing his arm across her throat.

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He begins to taunt her with the letter. “Darling Mom,” She tries to grab it away from him. He slams her hard against the wall of the cage. with his forearm pressed against her neck. His hairy sweaty chest exposed, like he’s a pirate, his white shirt tied at the waist. Randall continues reading the letter from Malcolm -“I’ll be thirty next Wednesday, and I won’t have many more chances in life.”

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Mrs Hilyard confused says-“What, what”Randall continues to read “Every time I try to leave you, you add a room or dress up the house, or charm me…”
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He looks straight at her. She looks horrified. “No…” Randall says-” I thought you only had him at it til he was twelve. But you still got him at it… How do you charm him baby” He pulls her back by her hair… “I had a holier than thou old crow of a grandmother. She tried to keep me at it too. I’d a killed her if she hadn’t died… Like she was trying to kill me. Like you kill this um what’s his name… uhm Malcolm.” Mrs Hilyard begs, “No, no this is his too you know he decorated it himself. Complete freedom to come and go he wanted to stay here. Why would he write me a letter? We’re as close as…” She pauses and looks into Randall’s eyes. He smiles quietly at her as she begins to have an awareness. Randall asks her again, “He’s not married is he? Does he even have a girl?” “He has many women friends” “Oh yeah yeah yeah, all his friends are from public shower rooms I bet” She struggles but he continues to hold her up by her hair. It’s barbaric. He continues to torment her with her son’s letter. “Uhm, give me my half of what’s in the living room safe. What safe!!!!!!!” He repeats that line again…”Release me from your generosity, release me from your beauty, release me from your love.” Now she has truly begun to confuse reality and fantasy after she hears him say the word love. She says “Oh love” and touches his face as if it is Malcolm’s. “Oh love, love you could have your half any time you wanted. My half too for that matter.” Essie interrupts. “Read her the P.S. it’s got what they call some real buck shot in it… real loaded. Read it to her” Randall finishes the letter-“P.S. Think it over. I’ll call in a little while. Please make it yes or quite simply I’ll kill myself.”

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The interplay between Caan and de Havilland is utterly realistic. A volatile and primal confrontation between young and old, civil society and the disillusioned masses, paternal and maternal law. fear and compassion.
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She passes out and slides down the wall of the cage. Essie calls up to Randall-“You didn’t kill her?” He tells him-“No…Fainted, lying on the floor like a pile of old clothes.”

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Elaine and Essie go to look for the safe. Randall is left alone in the cage with Mrs.Hilyard who has fainted. For a brief moment it almost appears as if Randall feels sorry for her. He touches her face and neck. He looks the most thoughtful he’s been. He whispers to himself. “Old crow baby.” A hint at Randall’s mother issues which does not excuse his violent abuse of women.

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The film was refused a cinema certificate in the UK by the BBFC and remained unavailable until 2000.

Reviews courtesy of Paul Shelley’s Grande Dame Guignol Cinema- The picture was released on July 8, 1964

“Lady in a Cage adds Olivia de Havilland to the list of cinemactresses who would apparently rather be freaks than be forgotten … a grande chance to go ape. Attagirl, Ollie“- Time, June 19, 1964

“…{S}ordid, if suspenseful, exercise in aimless brutality… A discerning viewer is left curious and repelled… Olivia de Havilland as the trapped ‘Lady’ does project a sense of fear and self-appraisal … a surface, somewhat obvious portrayal.” -A. H. Weller, The New York Times, July 11, 1964

“…{A} noxious, repulsive, grueling experience… Davis’s sensationalistically vulgar screenplay is haphazardly constructed, full of holes, sometimes pretentious and in bad taste. {de Havilland} gives one of those ranting, raving wild-eyed performances often thought of as Academy Award oriented. {She} does about as well as possible under the dire circumstances.” Variety May 25, 1964

 Right now I’m all *MonsterGirl* Hope you’ve enjoyed this post for The Great Villain Blogathon!

Revisiting Robert Aldrich’s Hag Cinema: Part II ” I wouldn’t piss on Joan Crawford if she were on fire!”

As part of the Dynamic Duos of Classic Film Blogathon hosted by Once upon a screen… and Classic Movie Hub

Joan and Bette

Of all the notorious rivalries identified with Hollywood celebrities the most enduring in the public consciousness is that of legendary Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. As the documentary ‘Bette and Joan: Blind Ambition‘ (2005) insightfully decries ‘Betty Davis was the screens great Sadist and Crawford was the screen’s great Masochist.’

“If equally matched adversaries are bound to create sparks and flames of conflict, then Bette Davis and the late Joan Crawford should offer a good battle.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Bette Davis on Joan Crawford: “Her eyebrows are like ‘African caterpillars’ and her best performance was “Crawford being Crawford.”

Joan Crawford on Bette Davis: “She’s phony, but I guess the public really likes that.”

bette and Joan for babyjane

I want to preface this piece by qualifying something. With all that’s been written about the infamous feud, there’s also those who try to dispel it as a myth, stating that rather than loathing each other Bette and Joan were actually cordial to each other-even chatting on the phone occasionally from the 30s until the making of Baby Jane? And that contrary to what’s been asserted, Davis wasn’t threatened by Joan’s coming to Warner Bros because she felt they were suited to playing different types of roles so there was no conflict there.

Bette Davis, photographed by Maurice Goldberg in 1935 for Vanity Fair
Bette Davis, photographed by Maurice Goldberg in 1935 for Vanity Fair
Joan Crawford fabulous
the gorgeous Joan Crawford

When Joan Crawford started to gain momentum with her best melodramas at the studio where Bette Davis’ was queen, Davis was already planning an exodus anyway. Finally in regards to Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte when Joan Crawford saw that Bette Davis was acting more like the director taking control and adding more of her own presence in the script while cutting Crawford’s dialogue to shreds, she decided to bow out of the picture claiming illness so she could be let out of the contract.

Bette and Joan on the set of Baby Jane

Some people assert that while they never became close friends, the two stars only wound up being not so friendly to each other in the end. But, for the sake of my theme of the feuding divas I felt like putting the more sordid version of the saga out there.

The notable feud, fueled by rumor, gossip, falsehoods, and dished up dirt, drew so much juicy attention to these fierce Divas whose careers and lives often traversed each other in ironic and titillating ways giving us a peek into the tumultuous allure of Hollywood. 

Bette gorgeous color

Joan Crawford color

Both were incredibly talented, super ambitious, independently driven and possessing strong personalities. They were each on divergent paths to stardom, Crawford gaining her power remote from the proverbial casting couch “She [Joan Crawford] has slept with every male star at MGM except Lassie.” –Bette Davis. Most of Crawford’s leading men found her sexual magnetism hard to resist.

But she proved she could command the screen with an invincible vigor and facility to emote and Davis who had a determined streak of flair manifested itself into an unyielding spirit and incomparable depth. Both ironically similar both indomitable, independent and possessing great fortitude. Both married four times, and both were at the receiving end of hostile and vengeful children ultimately ending up as reclusive alcoholics.

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Aldrich’s iconic offbeat Gothic thriller What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?(1962) brought these two legends together culminating in the classic pairing of two bitter adversaries not only on screen but behind the scenes as well. Baby Jane? would forever consign their iconic images engaged in dramatic conflict and defining their rancorous relationship for an eternity.

The film cannily exploited the genuine animosity between both stars who had been competing for good roles in the 40s. Michael Musto of the Village Voice says this – “They just didn’t get along. Bette thought of herself as a real actress she thought of Joan as just kind of a flashy movie star without any depth.”

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Crawford and Tone
Crawford and Tone

Was their long drawn out public war due to Crawford’s marrying co-star Franchot Tone allegedly stealing him away from Bette? Or was it the competitiveness for good roles in the 40s that drew a wedge between them. These two women were the most illustrious female stars in their day, successful at playing ordinary working class gals with at times questionable reputations. But good roles were something they both had to fight to get. So was it a case of unrequited love or fierce competition? Either way, for both stars it was a genuinely personal and delicate affair.

On Davis’ last trip to London two years before her death, she revealed that the love of her life was Franchot Tone, but she could never marry him because he was Crawford’s second husband. “She took him from me,” Davis said bitterly in 1987. “She did it coldly, deliberately and with complete ruthlessness. I have never forgiven her for that and never will.” Crawford already dead for ten years, was still the recipient of an eternal hatred on the part of Davis now 80 years old and desiccated from her stroke.

davis and tone dangerous
Bette Davis and Franchot Tone in Dangerous ’35

Bette Davis was filming Dangerous 1935 a role that would win her first Best Actress Oscar. Warner Bros. cast her playing opposite the handsome Franchot Tone. In this fabulous melodrama Davis portrays Joyce Heath an egomaniacal actress considered to be box office poison living in obscurity in the throws of alcohol addiction. Tone plays Don Bellows a playwright who tries to rehabilitate her. The story is loosely based on Broadway star Jeanne Eagels who died of a drug overdose at age 35

Davis wound up falling in love with her leading man, unaware that he was already involved with Joan Crawford who was recently divorced from the dashing Douglas Fairbanks Jr. This began the legacy of love jealousy and possession. At the time Davis was married to musician Ham Nelson. Everyone on set could see that Davis was attracted to co-star Franchot Tone.

Years later she recalled “I fell in love with Franchot, professionally and privately. Everything about him reflected his elegance, from his name to his manners.”-Bette Davis

Crawford first entertained Franchot Tone at her Hollywood home. When he arrived he found her tanned and completely naked in the solarium. According to friends and neighbors he did not emerge from the seductive sojourn until nightfall.

Tone and Crawford
Franchot Tone and Joan Crawford

“He was madly in love with her,” Davis confessed, “They met each day for lunch… he would return to the set, his face covered with lipstick. He made sure we all knew it was Crawford’s lipstick.”-Bette Davis

“He was honored that this great star was in love with him. I was jealous, of course.”-Bette Davis

Tone and Crawford
Franchot Tone and Joan Crawford-a dynamic couple

But instead of Crawford retaliating she reached out to Davis hoping to be friends, but it was too late by then her heart was broken, she was furious. Crawford announced her engagement to Tone during the filming of Dangerous and they married soon after the film wrapped.

Both actresses were present at the Oscar ceremonies. Davis was nominated for Best Actress. The hostility showed it’s ugly face when Bette wearing a modest navy blue dress stood up when they announced she’d won the award. Franchot Tone enthusiastically embraced Davis calling her darling” which caused his wife to take notice. Crawford wearing a spectacular gown herself, looked Davis over and coldly said “Dear Bette! What a lovely frock.”

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“Joan Crawford and I have never been warm friends. We are not simpatico. I admire her, and yet I feel uncomfortable with her. To me, she is the personification of the Movie Star. I have always felt her greatest performance is Crawford being Crawford.”

Interesting if  you consider the inherent veracity of unrequited love that was systemic to their discord we may also consider the allegations that Crawford was herself a promiscuous bisexual in love with Davis, supposedly making several sexual advances toward Davis which were rebuffed with expressed amusement. Davis was an avowed heterosexual. “Gay Liberation? I ain’t against it, it’s just that there’s nothing in it for me.”  “I’ve always liked men better than women.”Bette Davis

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Davis also proposed that Crawford used her body and sex to get ahead in Hollywood, “She slept with every star at MGM” she alleged later “of both sexes.”

Some of the women that allegedly were Crawford’s lovers included Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, her friend Barbara Stanwyck & Marilyn Monroe.

The years of hostility and jealousy were only galvanized later by the battle that ensued on the set of Baby Jane? where Davis upended Crawford by endearing herself to director Aldrich. Davis got the Oscar nomination for Best Actress, Crawford did not. only to have Crawford undermine Davis at the award’s ceremony sabotaging Davis by accepting the award for Ann Bancroft who won for The Miracle Worker.

Joan accepts oscar for Anne Bancroft

crawford at the oscars

Allegedly Joan shoved Bette aside to grab the coveted statue at the podium. Shaun Considine’s book ‘Bette & Joan The Divine Feud’ relates how when Ann Bancroft’s name was announced Davis felt an icy hand on her shoulder as Crawford said, “Excuse me, I have an Oscar to accept.”

Davis recalls “I will never forget the look she gave me.”It was triumphant. It clearly said ‘You didn’t win, and I am elated!”

Joan accepts the oscar for Bancroft

Making matters worse the newspapers paraded the image of Crawford holding the golden idol that Davis failed to win. According to Bette Davis, Joan was bitter and conspired to keep her from winning the Oscar.

Crawford managed to insinuate herself into accepting the Oscar for Ann Bancroft in case Ann won. The night of the awards Bette Davis shows up fairly confident she could take home the Oscar. She was waiting in the wings with her purse ready to walk on stage when they the announced the winner. But Joan Crawford was also hovering in the wings waiting to take her revenge.

From an interview in ’87 -“I was furious. She went to all the New York nominees and said if you can’t get out there, I’ll accept your award. And please do not vote for her. She was so jealous.” Crawford’s scheme worked, it was a terrible slap in the face for Bette Davis.

Jane drags Blanche

“The best time I ever had with Joan Crawford was when I pushed her down the stairs in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”

“There may be a heaven, but if Joan Crawford is there, I’m not going.” Bette Davis

Jane sad Jane

Blanche looks out window

And how much does the media fuel this rivalry? Is it partly the paradigm of a film industry that engenders a climate of sexism and agism that feeds tabloid culture devaluing women’s self-worth antagonizing the rift that already existed between the two actresses. Consider the symbiosis that occurs between the press and female celebrities, their exploitative and predatory hunger to devour them whole and the co-dependent dysfunction pervasive in the film industry. You have to wonder how much of the nasty fodder that kept the feud burning was fact and how much of it was a myth the media created?

blanche and Jane begin

It isn’t hard to see how both these aging stars were forced to fight for screen supremacy. An irreconcilable difference that put Aldrich in the sad and awkward position of having to fire Joan Crawford from her role as Cousin Miriam in his second feature with the dynamic duo in his Gothic thriller  Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Davis and Crawford on the set of Baby Jane in directors chairs
Davis & Crawford on the set of Baby Jane
Aldrich Davis & Joan Hush Hush set
Davis & Crawford on the set of Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte with Aldrich

Despite their feud the box office success of Baby Jane? encouraged Aldrich to change the story and characters but reunite the same controversial and quarrelsome stars. Originally called “What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte?” written once again by Henry Farrell. Crawford agreed to get back on the screen with her familiar enemy. But when Aldrich asked Bette to star in a second picture with Joan she loathed the idea of ever acting with Crawford again.

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“I wouldn’t piss on Joan Crawford if she was on fire.”

crawford older glamor girl

Davis used to say that she and Crawford had nothing in common. She considered Crawford “a glamour puss” who depended on her fabulous looks alone, though Crawford did wind up working with some of my favorite auteurs like Michael Curtiz, George Cukor, Robert Aldrich, Nicholas Ray, Otto Preminger, and Jean Negulesco.

Both were very strong women who had to scratch and claw their way through a mire of misogyny to achieve their stardom. Crawford was always playing the formulaic vulnerable ‘girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Born in poverty she reaches for a dream and strives through hard work to make good. Stories reflecting the struggles of Depression Era and World War II appealed to audiences of the 30s & 40s.

Based on Bette’s early stage performances critics said she was made of lightning filled with fantastic energy. It was George Arliss who decided Bette would be perfect for his next film The Man Who Played God 1932. He became a bit of a mentor, Bette said he played god to her. In September 1931, she felt finished with her career in Hollywood and was packing her things with her mother ready to return to New York when George Arliss came along and saved her.

Bette and George
Bette Davis and George Arliss The Man Who Played God

Joan Crawford had been married to Douglas Fairbanks Jr. at the time and learned everything about Hollywood royalty and how to become pretentious. When Crawford first arrived in Hollywood she was a dancer, an it-girl flapper for MGM through out the late silent & early sound eras working alongside Clark Gable.

She didn’t have those signature eyebrows yet. At some point in the 30s she started changing her look which embraced the heavily arched eyebrows, the wider mouth and the notorious shoulder pads which became her iconic trademark. She left MGM and joined Warner Bros in 1943.

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Crawford before her legendary eyebrows took over her face
bette fabulous bette
Bette and those big beautiful blues

Continue reading “Revisiting Robert Aldrich’s Hag Cinema: Part II ” I wouldn’t piss on Joan Crawford if she were on fire!””

Postcards from Shadowland No. 8

Ace in The Hole 1951
Billy Wilder’s Ace in The Hole (1951) Starring Kirk Douglas and Jan Sterling
Brute Force
Jules Dassin’s prison noir masterpiece-Brute Force 1947 starring Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn, and Charles Bickford
citizen kane-
Orson Welles- Citizen Kane (1941) also starring Joseph Cotten
devil and daniel webster
William Dieterle’s The Devil and Daniel Webster 1941
hangover square
Directed by John Brahm-Hangover Square 1945 starring Laird Cregar , Linda Darnell and George Sanders
House by The River
Fritz Lang’s House By The River 1950 starring Louis Hayward, Lee Bowman and Jane Wyatt.
i cover waterfront-1933
I Cover the Waterfront 1933- Claudette Colbert, Ben Lyon and Ernest Torrence
Jewel Mayhew and Wills Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte
Robert Aldrich’s Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte 1964 starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotton, Mary Astor, Agnes Moorehead and Cecil Kellaway
Key Largo
John Huston’s Key Largo 1948 Starring Edward G Robinson, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall
Killers Kiss
Stanley Kubrick’s Killers Kiss 1955 Starring Frank Silvera and Irene Kane.
Lady from Shanghai(1947)
Orson Welles penned the screenplay and stars in iconic film noir The Lady from Shanghai 1947 featuring the sensual Rita Hayworth, also starring Everett Sloane
lady in cage james caan++billingsley
Lady in a Cage 1964 directed by Walter Grauman and starring Olivia de Havilland, James Caan, and Jennifer Billingsley.
long dark hall
The Long Dark Hall 1951 Starring Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer
lorre M
Fritz Lang’s chilling M (1931) Starring Peter Lorre
Mark Robson The Seventh Victim
Mark Robson directs, Val Lewton’s occult shadow piece The Seventh Victim 1943 Starring Kim Hunter, Tim Conway and Jean Brooks
Meeting leo-Ace in the hole with leo 1951
Kirk Douglas in Ace In The Hole 1951 written and directed by Billy Wilder
mifune-and-yamamoto in Drunkin Angel 48
Akira Kurosawa’s film noir crime thriller Drunken Angel (1948) starring Takashi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune
Panic in the Streets
Elia Kazan’s socio-noir Panic in The Streets 1950 starring Jack Palance, Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas, Barbara Bel Geddes and Zero Mostel
persona
Ingmar Bergman’s Persona 1966 starring Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson
Queen of Spades
The Queen of Spades 1949 directed by Thorold Dickinson and starring Anton Walbrook, Edith Evans and Yvonne Mitchell
Saint Joan of the Angels 1
Director Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s beautifully filmed Mother Joan of The Angels 1961 starring Lucyna Winnicka.
shanghai express
Josef von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express 1932 Starring Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook and Anna May Wong
The Devil and Daniel Webster
The Devil and Daniel Webster 1941
The Haunting
Robert Wise’s The Haunting 1963. Screenplay by Nelson Gidding based on the novel by Shirley Jackson. Starring Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, and Russ Tamblyn
the Unsuspected_1947
Michael Curtiz’s The Unsuspected 1947 starring Claude Rains, Joan Caulfield and Audrey Totter
Viridiana
Luis Bunuel’s Viridiana 1961 Starring Silvia Pinal, Fernando Rey and Fransisco Rabal
What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
Robert Aldrich’s cult grande dame classic starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford-What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? 1962

Postcards From Shadowland No.7

La Belle et la Bete (1946)
Caged (1950)
Criss Cross (1949)
Devil Girl From Mars (1954)
Les Diaboliques (1955)
Experiment in Terror (1962)
Les yeux sans Visage (1960)
Les yeux sans visage (1960)
Gloria Grahame The Cobweb (1955)
I Bury The Living (1958)
Island of Lost Souls (1932)
Kiss The Blood Off My Hands (1948)
Lady in a Cage (1964)
Mother Joan of The Angels (1961)
Belle et la Bete (1946)
Strait-Jacket (1964)
Sunrise (1927)
The Haunting (1963)
The Queen of Spades (1949)
Vampyr (1932)
The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962)