Tag Archives: Cecil Kellaway

I Married a Witch (1942, René Clair)

I Married a Witch often seems too short. Director Clair rightly focuses the picture around leading lady Veronica Lake, with Frederic March getting a fair amount of attention too, but the narrative outside them blurs. And it shouldn’t blur, given the high stakes election backdrop.

Clair’s focus also extends to troublesome plot points. Witch goes back on plot decisions just because there’s a good scene if a decision here or there is forgotten. The picture feels willfully constructed (as opposed to sublimely). Of course, this artificiality doesn’t much matter; Clair makes a fine film of Witch.

Lake’s the film’s essential element. She’s appealing whether she’s a good witch or a bad witch, whether she’s physically present or voicing a wisp of smoke. Witch isn’t about March overcoming his family’s curse, it’s about seeing what Lake is going to do to him next. Around halfway, the narrative veers in a new direction, giving both actors much different things to do. They both excel. March might not have as much to do, but it’s impossible to imagine Witch without him.

The two stars get fine support from Robert Benchley (as March’s best friend) and Cecil Kellaway (Lake’s warlock father). Susan Hayward’s around a bit as March’s loathsome fiancée–his family’s been cursed to marry poorly. Hayward doesn’t make much impression beyond the loathsome though.

Ted Tetzlaff’s photography is wondrous, ably handling some of Clair’s more ambitious flourishes. The finale has some fine effects work.

Witch is delightful thanks to Lake and March.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by René Clair; screenplay by Robert Pirosh and Marc Connelly, based on a novel by Thorne Smith and Norman Matson; director of photography, Ted Tetzlaff; edited by Eda Warren; music by Roy Webb; produced by Preston Sturges and Clair; released by United Artists.

Starring Fredric March (Wallace Wooley), Veronica Lake (Jennifer), Robert Benchley (Dr. Dudley White), Susan Hayward (Estelle Masterson), Cecil Kellaway (Daniel), Elizabeth Patterson (Margaret) and Robert Warwick (J.B. Masterson).



This film is also discussed on BASP | I Married a Witch (1942) / Bewitched (2005).
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The Mummy’s Hand (1940, Christy Cabanne)

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this film.

There’s no discernible reason for it to be called The Mummy’s Hand. I can only guess it has to do with the way they cut the trailer, maybe having the hand come out as a shocker.

It’s not a traditional Universal horror film; it’s one of the first where they cut the budget. Until this point, the films were higher profile (the first three Frankenstein films, even Dracula’s Daughter).

The script is lousy, but it also introduces these bad comic elements–mostly from Wallace Ford, playing the idiot sidekick. The film also has George Zucco as the villain (not the mummy, but the mummy’s master). It’s impossible to take Zucco seriously as a villain in this one–especially since he’s a lecherous villain, lusting after Peggy Moran in these creepy scenes.

She probably gives the film’s best performance; she doesn’t have much competition. Dick Foran’s the lead, who is almost as dumb as Ford.

Cecil Kellaway is good as Moran’s father. Charles Trowbridge as the smart guy who helps the two morons, he’s fine.

Watching The Mummy’s Hand, you can see it as a straight comedy, with the bang, pop, zows of the 1960s “Batman” show, with a laugh track. They kind of need a laugh track. They ape lines from Dracula. It feels desperate.

Vera West gives Moran an amusing Egyptian desert nightgown and Jack P. Pierce’s makeup is great.

It’s hard to make it through the seventy minutes.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Christy Cabanne; screenplay by Griffin Jay and Maxwell Shane, based on a story by Jay; director of photography, Elwood Bredell; edited by Philip Cahn; music by Hans J. Salter and Frank Skinner; produced by Ben Pivar; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Dick Foran (Steve Banning), Peggy Moran (Marta Solvani), Wallace Ford (Babe Jenson), Eduardo Ciannelli (The High Priest), George Zucco (Professor Andoheb), Cecil Kellaway (The Great Solvani), Charles Trowbridge (Dr. Petrie of the Cairo Museum), Tom Tyler (Kharis, the Mummy) and Sig Arno (The Beggar).


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Interrupted Melody (1955, Curtis Bernhardt)

Interrupted Melody is an interesting example of economic storytelling. The film covers about ten years, has a number of strong character relationships, but moves gently through all of it. It’s got moments where there isn’t any dialogue, just the look between characters, it’s got a great love story–and, even better, a great struggling marriage. Director Bernhardt deserves a lot of the credit–for example, he knows just how long to let these scenes go and the first date between Eleanor Parker and Glenn Ford does better in five minutes what most films–most good films–spend twenty doing. It’s not just Bernhardt though. Interrupted Melody was co-written by Sonya Levien, who also worked on The Cowboy and the Lady and it had similarly perfect pacing.

Most of Interrupted Melody is a showcase for its actors, whether it’s Parker or Ford or even a young (and good-looking) Roger Moore. The film’s structure varies in focus–for instance, there’s a large part where Ford is the protagonist over Parker–but manages the transitions back and forth beautifully. So beautifully, in fact, I don’t even recall the first transition. The second, later one, I still do….

Besides being Parker’s best performance (probably, at least in the lead), Interrupted Melody has a great Glenn Ford performance. Ford never gets the proper respect–search for him on IMDb and the first title to come up is Superman, but he’s really good, especially in this, mid-1950s period of his career. Melody‘s not out on DVD, but it does run occasionally on TCM. TCM has their wonderful database, which allows you to vote for films for Warner Bros. to release on DVD. Like Interrupted Melody, for example.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Curtis Bernhardt; written by William Ludwig and Sonya Levien; directors of photography, Joseph Ruttenberg and Paul Vogel; edited by John D. Dunning; produced by Jack Cummings; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Glenn Ford (Dr. Thomas King), Eleanor Parker (Marjorie Lawrence), Roger Moore (Cyril Lawrence), Cecil Kellaway (Bill Lawrence), Peter Leeds (Dr. Ed Ryson), Evelyn Ellis (Clara), Walter Baldwin (Jim Owens), Ann Codee (Madame Gilly), Leopold Sachse (Himself) and Stephen Bekassy (Count Claude des Vignaux).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | ELEANOR PARKER, PART 2: TECHNICOLOR.