Tag Archives: Julie Harris

The Indian Spirit Guide (1968, Roy Ward Baker)

The Indian Spirit Guide is an odd amalgam of two plot lines; at least by the end of the episode. Until the end, Robert Bloch’s teleplay juxtaposes them perfectly with just the right amount of interweaving.

Julie Harris plays a wealthy widow romanced by her “paranormal investigator,” played by Tom Adams (who’s a delightful sleaze). He’s dating Harris’s secretary (Tracy Reed) and charged with rooting out the fakes among the mediums Harris visits. Harris wants to contact her dead husband.

Reed’s in on it with Adams–alone with Marne Maitland, who’s great as another coconspirator–and she gets upset when Adams starts romancing Harris.

Director Baker does a solid job, especially with the talking heads; Kenneth Talbot’s photography is great. Guide looks good. It sounds good. Harris gives an excellent performance. Catherine Lacey’s awesome.

The episode needs a proper ending. Bloch (and Ward) try to get away without. They fail.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Roy Ward Baker; written by Robert Bloch; director of photography, Kenneth Talbot; music by Basil Kirchin; produced by Anthony Hinds; released by Independent Television.

Starring Julie Harris (Leona Gillings), Tom Adams (Jerry Crown), Tracy Reed (Joyce), Catherine Lacey (Miss Sarah Prinn), Marne Maitland (Edward Chardur) and Julian Sherrier (Bright Arrow).


RELATED

Advertisements

The Haunting (1963, Robert Wise)

What makes The Haunting so good–besides Wise’s wondrous Panavision composition–is the characters. Yes, it succeeds as a horror film, with great internal dialogue (Julie Harris’s character’s thoughts drive the first twenty minutes alone and the device never feels awkward), but those successes are nothing compared to the character interactions.

The Haunting chooses to be both definite and understated with the truth behind its supernatural elements. Gidding structures his conversations about the supernatural very carefully, leaving the viewer to constantly question previous events, creating a palpable uneasiness.

In that uneasiness, Gidding is able to create these evolving character relationships. The one between Harris and Claire Bloom is, for example, the practical backbone of the entire picture. It allows Harris’s character to, for lack of a less cute term, bloom. But the relationship is in constant flux, especially since the audience hears a lot of what goes on in Harris’s head–but not Bloom’s. It’s very interesting to see what Gidding is going to come up with, in the dialogue, next.

The structure of the opening–the film starts with Richard Johnson introducing the haunted house aspect of the story, then moves entirely to Harris for a while–gives Wise and Gidding a fine opportunity to introduce the characters to each other and they fully utilize it. There isn’t a single character without a unique dynamic with another–lots of the Haunting is four people in a room talking (Russ Tamblyn being the fourth).

Also superior is Humphrey Searle’s score.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Robert Wise; screenplay by Nelson Gidding, based on a novel by Shirley Jackson; director of photography, Davis Boulton; edited by Ernest Walter; music by Humphrey Searle; production designer, Elliot Scott; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer.

Starring Julie Harris (Nell), Claire Bloom (Theo), Richard Johnson (Dr. John Markway), Russ Tamblyn (Luke Sanderson), Fay Compton (Mrs. Sanderson), Rosalie Crutchley (Mrs. Dudley), Lois Maxwell (Grace Markway), Valentine Dyall (Mr. Dudley), Diane Clare (Carrie Fredericks) and Ronald Adam (Eldridge Harper).


RELATED

Home for the Holidays (1972, John Llewellyn Moxey)

Director Moxey has–there’s no better word for it–a compulsion for zooming. He absolutely loves it. I imagine it saved the time and money needed for additional set-ups–and I think short zooms from character to character were a 1970s TV movie standard–but it looks just terrible. It kills some of the scenes in Home for the Holidays; otherwise perfectly fine, sometimes eerie scenes, ruined by Moxey and his zooming camera. After the first twenty or thirty minutes, it almost gets funny, how bad a technique he’s employing. When he turns in one particularly taut sequence–Sally Field being chased through the forest by the murderer–it’s a surprise he can do such good work. It’s a great chase scene, full of suspense… with only the commercial break to eventually impair it.

Moxey does have considerable talent, however. He frames shots rather well–when he’s not zooming–and the way he moves actors around in a static shot is fantastic. His close-ups aren’t particularly special, but the medium shots where he can fit four actors into the frame are good. Home for the Holidays, though written, produced and directed by men, is a woman’s picture. The five principals are women, with Walter Brennan in a glorified cameo as father to Field, Jill Haworth, Jessica Walter and Eleanor Parker–Julie Harris plays his new wife, who the women’s mother killed herself over. Brennan’s got little to do in a poorly written role–the Brennan voice doesn’t work with the character. The only other male actor is John Fink, as Field’s erstwhile romantic interest (and, for one possible moment–and for more interestingly–Parker’s). Fink turns in a standard TV movie performance, which doesn’t cut it in the company of the female actors.

The weakest performance is Haworth. She has one okay scene and a lot of bad ones. Joseph Stefano’s script moves quickly, especially when establishing the characters, and he rushes a tad much with Haworth’s character development. But it isn’t really Stefano’s fault–just like Moxey–he’s not really responsible for most of the film’s success. Walter doesn’t have much more character, but she’s excellent–even when she’s delivering this strange Shakespearian monologue. Parker’s solid, with a lot more to do at the beginning than the end, when Home for the Holiday‘s becomes a Sally Field vehicle. It’s hard to imagine what Field’s getting her master’s degree in, but that disbelief aside, she actually does pretty well considering she’s not really a match for Parker, Walters or Julie Harris. Harris has the toughest performance–she’s got to be the hated step-mother, the suspect; Harris manages beautifully, creating a character who the viewer hopes isn’t guilty, even though all evidence points to it.

The end, the unveiling, falls apart. It’s paced well, though, with the revelation coming before the climax, allowing for some more solid acting and decent scenes. Moxey ends it on one of his zooms, but it’s got the music from George Aliceson Tipton going–and the music is excellent–so it gets a pass.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey; written by Joseph Stefano; director of photography, Leonard J. South; edited by Allan Jacobs; music by George Aliceson Tipton; produced by Paul Junger Witt; released by the American Broadcasting Company.

Starring Jessica Walter (Frederica Morgan), Sally Field (Christine Morgan), Jill Haworth (Joanna Morgan), Julie Harris (Elizabeth Hall Morgan), Eleanor Parker (Alex Morgan), Walter Brennan (Benjamin Morgan), John Fink (Doctor Ted Lindsay) and Med Flory (Sheriff Nolan).


RELATED


THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | ELEANOR PARKER, PART 4: GUEST STAR.

Harper (1966, Jack Smight)

Harper may very well be an anachronism. I’m not quite sure how to use the word. There’s certainly something off about it. It’s based on a novel written in 1949–a detective novel in the vein of Chandler, which explains why it feels like Chandler–but then it’s filmed in 1966 and it’s not a period piece, but that discrepancy isn’t what I’m talking about. Harper was on the cusp between studio-based filming and location filming. A lot of Harper is location work, shot by Conrad L. Hall, who does a beautiful job. Except there’s some studio stuff in there–driving with rear projection–and it just doesn’t work. When the movie started and I realized–around the time Johnny Mandel’s name showed up with the music credit–it was directed by Jack Smight. All I could remember from Smight’s oeuvre was one of the Airport movies, but I knew he wasn’t going to work out. The combination of him and Johnny Mandel doing a detective movie, just wasn’t going to work.

But Harper does work to some degree. It’s incredibly well-written by William Goldman and incredibly well-acted by the entire cast. Except you’ve got a cast and a writer–whether they knew it or not (though I imagine Goldman did know)–working against the director. Smight wasn’t trying to screw up the movie, his background just didn’t provide the tools required to make Harper work to its full potential. Watching the movie, I couldn’t help thinking about Bullitt and how Peter Yates did something different with Bullitt and Jack Smight didn’t do anything different with Harper and Harper was written to be a different kind of movie. There are scenes going on too long for emphasis and these music cues to clue the viewer in on this film being “cool” maybe… I don’t know. It’s not a cool movie. Listen to the searching, sadden dialogue. The scenes between Paul Newman and divorce-in-progress wife Janet Leigh are fantastic. Not even Smight misunderstanding Goldman’s script and Newman and Leigh’s acting can cut down on how wonderful their eventual scene (after they’re in a couple telephone conversation scenes) turns out.

Harper‘s opening credits are a treasure-trove of good actors who’ve become punch lines or just forgotten. Lauren Bacall shows up, playing–to some degree–her character’s father from The Big Sleep. She’s only around for a couple scenes, but she’s good in them and having fun. She’s playing for the camera though, which is sort of what Smight was going for. A laugh. Specifically, those punch line actors are Shelley Winters and Robert Wagner. Wagner’s damn good here. Winters is playing herself, which is funny for a bit, and then it becomes clear she doesn’t have much else to do. In the forgotten department, Robert Webber’s scary good and Strother Martin shows up in a straight role (probably the first time I’ve seen him not being funny). Julie Harris is actually the only disappointing performance. Arthur Hill’s good and I thought it was strange to see Newman share so much of the film with him, but then I looked at Newman’s filmography and realized he doesn’t monopolize. A lot of the friendship between Newman and Hill is verbalized though and maybe it was the unexpected.

I’ve seen Harper before. Maybe seven years ago it aired on AMC, probably letterboxed. I remember not being impressed with it. Seeing it again, I definitely appreciate it more, but there’s a bit of sadness along with it–just because it could have been so much better, if only it had a different director.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Jack Smight; screenplay by William Goldman, from a novel by Ross Macdonald; director of photography, Conrad L. Hall; edited by Stefan Arnsten; music by Johnny Mandel; produced by Jerry Gershwin and Elliot Kastner; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Lauren Bacall (Mrs. Sampson), Julie Harris (Betty Fraley), Arthur Hill (Albert Graves), Janet Leigh (Susan Harper), Pamela Tiffin (Miranda Sampson), Robert Wagner (Alan Traggert), Robert Webber (Dwight Troy), Shelley Winters (Fay Estabrook), Harold Gould (Sheriff Spanner), Strother Martin (Claude), Roy Jensen (Puddler), Martin West (Deputy) and Jacqueline de Wit (Mrs. Kronberg).


RELATED