Tag Archives: Ethel Barrymore

Deadline – U.S.A. (1952, Richard Brooks)

Deadline – U.S.A. is about half a great movie. Director Brooks fills the film with a superb supporting cast of character actors–Paul Stewart, Audrey Christie and Jim Backus are the standouts–and lets them share the runtime with lead Humphrey Bogart. It’s a newspaper drama… is the paper going to close down? Brooks’s script complicates it with squabbles between the heirs, a gangster (Martin Gabel in the film’s only bad performance), and Bogart’s ex-wife (Kim Hunter) about to remarry.

Brooks takes about twenty-five minutes (of the film’s ninety minute runtime) to get to the gangster story. He’s established the paper’s imminent closing, the cast, then he brings in the “big story.” Bogart and Ed Begley have wonderful scenes where they try to reason out the story. Even when Brooks’s plotting goes wrong, his scenes are extraordinarily strong. But he can never make the gangster story as important as the newspaper’s staff or whether Hunter’s going to fall for Bogart’s wooing.

In a lot of ways, Deadline is a big, glorious mess of a picture. Brooks doesn’t follow through with his initial narrative impulse–Hunter disappears for a while, to let Bogart pursue Gabel–and he plays way too loose with the time. Brooks seems to consciously avoid addressing the time.

Bogart’s fantastic–he and Ethel Barrymore (as the paper’s owner) are excellent together, as are he and Hunter. Awesome photography from Milton R. Krasner makes up for William B. Murphy’s weak editing.

Deadline‘s good, but it should be amazing.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Richard Brooks; director of photography, Milton R. Krasner; edited by William B. Murphy; music by Cyril J. Mockridge; produced by Sol C. Siegel; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Humphrey Bogart (Ed Hutcheson), Ethel Barrymore (Margaret Garrison), Kim Hunter (Nora Hutcheson), Ed Begley (Frank Allen), Warren Stevens (George Burrows), Paul Stewart (Harry Thompson), Martin Gabel (Tomas Rienzi), Joe De Santis (Herman Schmidt), Joyce Mackenzie (Katherine Garrison Geary), Audrey Christie (Mrs. Willebrandt), Fay Baker (Alice Garrison Courtney) and Jim Backus (Jim Cleary).


Advertisements

The Spiral Staircase (1945, Robert Siodmak)

The Spiral Staircase opens with this lovely homage to silent cinema. Director Siodmak takes great care with the setting in time–Nicholas Musuraca’s sumptuous cinematography helps–and then Spiral becomes a waiting game. Certainly if Siodmak took such great care with one sequence, he’ll return to that level of care again….

However, he does not. The rest of Spiral is exposition and contrivance. It takes place in the evening of the same day, with mute maid Dorothy McGuire vaguely convinced her life is in danger (she was at the pictures, but for no narrative reason). Siodmak and screenwriter Mel Dinelli don’t know what to do with a mute protagonist so they basically shove McGuire aside for the vocal supporting cast members. They do give her a love interest, a tepid Kent Smith, and one inexplicable daydream sequence.

The rest of the supporting cast is fantastic–George Brent, Elsa Lanchester, Sara Allgood and Gordon Oliver. Ethel Barrymore, as McGuire’s employer and friend, is okay. The material isn’t there for her. Dinelli doesn’t know how to structure his script, though he and Siodmak do pass time well. Until the final third, Spiral sails by. Maybe because, as I initially mentioned, one assumes Siodmak is going to do something sublime again.

The Roy Webb music is good, the editing from Harry W. Gerstad and Harry Marker is not. Once Siodmak gets inside the house where eighty percent of the story takes place, he’s infrequently exceptional. His inserts are awful.

Spiral is extremely disappointing.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Siodmak; screenplay by Mel Dinelli, based on a novel by Ethel Lina White; director of photography, Nicholas Musuraca; edited by Harry W. Gerstad and Harry Marker; music by Roy Webb; produced by Dore Schary; released by RKO Radio Pictures.

Starring Dorothy McGuire (Helen Capel), George Brent (Professor Albert Warren), Ethel Barrymore (Mrs. Warren), Kent Smith (Dr. Brian Parry), Rhonda Fleming (Blanche), Gordon Oliver (Steve Warren), Elsa Lanchester (Mrs. Oates), Sara Allgood (Nurse Barker), Rhys Williams (Mr. Oates), James Bell (The Constable) and Erville Alderson (Dr. Harvey).


RELATED

The Secret of Convict Lake (1951, Michael Gordon)

The Secret of Convict Lake is a depressing affair. I knew it was Glenn Ford and Gene Tierney, but Ethel Barrymore’s in it too. So you have these three fantastic actors—Ford and Tierney even muster enough chemistry to accomplish their ludicrous romance—and an otherwise lousy Western.

The film opens and closes with some useless narration, which probably should have given away the narrative problems, but it also has these great snow sequences. Unfortunately, those sequences are about as open as the film gets. The titular lake is never seen on screen and most of the film plays out in stagy scenes. Oscar Saul’s script is weak, but not so weak a good director couldn’t have done something with it. Gordon’s composition is, generously, inept. Some of the problems might have to do with the sound stages… but, really, he’s not much of a director. When the film opens up slightly at the end and goes on location, the composition gets even worse. Leo Tover’s photography might play some fault too. Sol Kaplan’s score certainly does; it’s awful.

Then there’s the supporting cast. Zachary Scott is half-okay, mostly terrible as the lead villain. Cyril Cusack, Richard Hylton and Jack Lambert are all bad as his sidekicks. Hylton, in particular, is laughably bad (as a psychopath).

Most of the female actors are fine; except Ann Dvorak and her histrionics.

It’s a shame Fox didn’t team Ford, Tierney and Barrymore in a good picture.

Convict Lake’s a long eighty minutes.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Gordon; screenplay by Oscar Saul, based on an adaptation by Victor Trivas and a story by Anna Hunger and Jack Pollexfen; director of photography, Leo Tover; edited by James B. Clark; music by Sol Kaplan; produced by Frank P. Rosenberg; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Glenn Ford (Jim Canfield), Gene Tierney (Marcia Stoddard), Ethel Barrymore (Granny), Zachary Scott (Johnny Greer), Ann Dvorak (Rachel Schaeffer), Barbara Bates (Barbara Purcell), Cyril Cusack (Edward ‘Limey’ Cockerell), Richard Hylton (Clyde Maxwell), Helen Westcott (Susan Haggerty), Jeanette Nolan (Harriet Purcell), Ruth Donnelly (Mary Fancher) and Harry Carter (Rudy Schaeffer).


RELATED