RSS
 

Archive for the ‘Film Reviews’ Category

Back In, Like Flynn

24 Dec

Australian Women’s Weekly

Comeback for the Fabulous Flynn

The Comeback Flynn

Erromeo and Juliette

— Gentleman Tim

 

A Bloody Good Review

20 Dec

December 20, 2008

The Hollywood Immortals Who were Made by Blood

Flynn, De Havilland, Korngold

Errol Flynn: His sword carved his name across the continents – and his glory across the seas!

Flynn had only moderate acting experience. His roles in the four films he made since 1933 were small and somewhat unimpressive. Who remembers him as Fletcher Christian, for example. But he improved so rapidly in Blood that many early scenes were reshot. In fact, he ends up being quite good on screen, giving the impression of understanding his role, approaching his part, maybe, with the care of a Shakespearean actor. It’s a common appraisal but true: besides being able to flourish a sword better than anyone before or since, Flynn wore period clothes with style, as if he had stepped out of the past, or, as some have said, belonged there.

He spoke the convoluted lines naturally and with conviction. Not easy. The stilted quaintness and archaisms of the dialogue are largely retained from Rafael Sabatini’s 1922 novel, thanks to Casey Robinson’s screenplay. Yes, the words have a certain fascination because they are so quaint, so different from normal usage and seem to fit imagined 17th-century speech: “Faith, yes, I don’t doubt it. You’ve the looks and manners of a hangman.” “It’s entirely innocent I am.” “Bedad, we’ll have a crew yet!” “ … while I, who hate this pestilential island—well, such are the quirks of circumstance.” —All lines delivered by Flynn!

Olivia de Havilland: Her talent, beauty and charisma were resplendent

As for Olivia de Havilland, who had made only one previous film, A Midsummer Night’s Dream earlier that year, Blood offered a much larger role. Her girlish and virginal persona would endure essentially unchanged in the seven subsequent films she made with Flynn, and the two would become one of Hollywood’s great romantic screen couples, á la Tracy and Hepburn, Bogart and Bacall. The charisma between the two, immediately evident in Blood, persists resplendently in all their films.

Erich Korngold: His film scoring changed everything

A Viennese composer of operas and chamber music, once a child prodigy, Korngold had worked with de Havilland on the Shakespeare movie arranging Mendelssohn’s music. Warner Bros. was so impressed they asked him to write an original score for a “little” movie they had just finished. Korngold, without seeing Blood, said no, but after WB’s insistence and a private screening, he was so moved by the film’s charm and humor* that he agreed to write the music.

The humor that so impressed Korngold runs throughout the film. A recurring joke is Governor Steed’s (George Hassell) bout with the gout. Following a slave branding, the next shot shows the governor in a close-up. “What a cruel shame,” he says, “that any man is made to suffer so.”

What Korngold didn’t know—what WB had failed to tell him—was that he had only three weeks.

With time running out, he borrowed parts of two Franz Liszt tone poems, Mazeppa and Prometheus, to support the noisy battle scenes, interspersed with previous Korngold music from the film. While movie composers today appropriate the classics as their own, usually without acknowledgment, Korngold insisted his main title credit read “Arrangements by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.” This automatically disqualified Blood for nomination as Best Score, which it surely would have received; the composer would win the next year for Anthony Adverse.

Korngold had a large part—a very large part—in the overwhelming success of Captain Blood. A contemporary equivalent would be John Williams’ impact with Jaws (1975) or, even more so, the first of the Star Wars films (1977), which, in fact, is an obvious homage to the Korngoldian style—the lyrical, richly orchestrated, heart-on-sleeve ardor of 19th-century music.

Audiences who first heard Blood were astounded. They had never heard such music, not even compared with Max Steiner’s ground breaking King Kong (1933). The orchestra which recorded the music to film, the studio heads who saw the completed movie before release and the public which attended the country’s theaters—none of them had ever heard such music from a motion picture—a large orchestra by studio standards, complicated orchestration, big, luscious sound, dramatic music that perfectly underpinned the screen. Blood remains a milestone in film scoring, and Korngold would contribute to six more Flynn films.

Blood and his crew setting sail from Port Royal is one of the most lingering images in the film. He and Arabella exchange forlorn glances, he from the ship, she from shore, captured in multiple dissolves and supported by Korngold’s swelling music, horns echoing at the conclusion. (The scene, by the way, is replicated in The Sea Hawk [1940], Korngold and Flynn in tandem, only with Brenda Marshall as a pale stand-in for Olivia.) Later, before the final sea battle, when Arabella is put ashore in a longboat, there’s a reprise of that first separation, the two again staring after each other, if not to swelling, then certainly to lushly romantic music—horns again prominent.

Most critics say that as early as Anthony Adverse and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) Korngold began experimenting with pitching the key of the music just beneath the actors’ voices. It began, actually, with Blood, if not sooner. Perhaps the best example, in any of his film scores, of how he unifies music with the screen image is the pillory scene between Blood and Jeremy Pitt (Ross Alexander), how the music—the second theme—changes in ambience, orchestration and volume, according to the emotions of the two men. Likewise, in the final love scene (“Whom else would I love?” Arabella asks), the music hesitates, softens, speeds up, becomes richer or changes in instrumentation, even disappears at one point, based on the tempo and emotion of the dialogue.

Thank you, Maestro Korngold, for this and all the your magnificent film scores. Your reward: The new career that save your life and the lives of your family.
.

And thank you, Errolivia, for the greatest swashbuckler and for being the most romantic co-stars in the history of Hollywood. Your reward: This kiss:

— Gentleman Tim

 

Captain Blood: The Greatest Pirate Movie Ever Made

19 Dec

And “Best Popcorn Movie of the Mid-Thirties”

Released Eighty-Five Years Ago Today
December 19, 1935

— Gentleman Tim

 

Custer’s Last Stand —They Died with Their Boots On — LIFE Magazine — December 8, 1941

08 Dec

— Gentleman Tim

 

Bravo, Errol and Raoul!!!! — A Knockout

27 Nov

November 26, 1942

New York Times


The robust glamour of the early days of prize-fighting, when the burly, muscle-bound practitioners of bareknuckle mayhem slugged, kicked, bit and clawed one another into submission under the guise of sport, has been recreated in most of its gory glory in “Gentleman Jim,” which opened last evening at the Strand. Though it is primarily a fight-fan’s delight, this lusty Warner Brothers film biography of the life and times of James J. Corbett, who danced his way to fistic immortality and introduced a note of refinement into the fight game, has Errol Flynn in the title role and enough other good qualities as an entertainment to make it a satisfying show for anybody’s money.

For here is not only the story of a great and colorful ring personality but a vividly illustrated album of a once outlawed sport at which the spectator was wont to keep one eye on the gladiators, the other peeled for the raiding police. With Raoul Walsh pulling the directorial reins, the action is sharply pointed most of the way, particularly in the fight sequences. Naturally the highpoint of the drama is Corbett’s historic meeting with the mighty John L. Sullivan at New Orleans on Sept. 7, 1892. If the original battle was as good as that served up by the Warners, then it surely must have been a corker. And it is on this triumphant note of Corbett’s remarkable ring career as a scientific boxer and the first heavyweight champion under the present Marquis of Queensberry rules that the film ends.

In recounting Corbett’s professional career, “Gentleman Jim” sticks as close as practicable to the facts, though the principal’s brashness as a youngster around San Francisco’s Olympic Club is accented almost to the point of boorishness. With pardonable, if not commendable, dramatic license, the scenarists have drawn a picture of the Corbett family life that looks rather spurious, especially Alan Hale’s characterization of the elder Corbett as a garrulous old duffer. But if this tale doesn’t always follow the letter of the record in this respect, it at least has a warm, earthy spirit.

Though the Warners probably have their own ideas about the matter, it struck this observer that they overlooked a natural bit of camera business by omitting the first encounter between Corbett and Sullivan in the old San Francisco Opera House, when they went four one-minute exhibition rounds dressed in formal attire. Errol Flynn is to the manner drawn as the impeccable Gentleman Jim, and Ward Bond has the richest role of his long and serviceable career as the blustering Sullivan, whose boast was that he “could lick any man in creation.” Alexis Smith carries the romantic interest very entertainingly, and lesser roles are engagingly played by William Frawley, Rhys Williams, Arthur Shields, Jack Carson, John Loder, Minor Watson and Wallis Clark. “Gentleman Jim” definitely packs an entertaining punch.

GENTLEMAN JIM, screen play by Vincent Lawrence and Horace McCoy, based upon the life of James J. Corbett; directed by Raoul Walsh; produced by Robert Buckner for Warner Brothers. Gentleman Jim Corbett . . . . . Errol Flynn; Victoria (Vicki) Ware . . . . . Alexis Smith; Walter Lowrie . . . . . Jack Carson; Pat Corbett . . . . . Alan Hale: Carleton De Witt . . . . . John Loder; Ma Corbett . . . . . Dorothy Vaughan; Delaney . . . . . William Frawley; Buck Ware . . . . . Minor Watson; John L. Sullivan . . . . . Ward Bond; Harry Watson . . . . . Rhys Williams; Father Burke . . . . . Arthur Shields; George Corbett . . . . . James Flavin; Harry Corbett . . . . . Pat Flaherty; Judge Geary . . . . . Wallis Clark; Mary Corbett . . . . . Marilyn Phillips; Jack Burke . . . . . Art Foster; Charles Crocker . . . . . Harry Crocker; Leland Stanford . . . . . Frank Mayo; Huntington . . . . . Henry O’Hara; Sutro . . . . . Fred Kelsey

A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 26, 1942 of the National edition with the headline: At the Strand.

— Gentleman Tim

 

Boots was Made for Watching — “Errol Flynn in His Greatest Role”

21 Nov

November 21, 1941

New York Times

The Warners have been generous to a fault in paying their respects to General George Armstrong Custer. Certainly the man who is more famed for his celebrated last stand against the Sioux and allied tribes at Little Big Horn than for any of his several other exploits receives his due as a courageous soldier, and then some, in “They Died With Their Boots On,” which thundered into the Strand yesterday. Dismiss factual inaccuracies liberally sprinkled throughout the film’s more than two-hour length and you have an adventure tale of frontier days which for sheer scope, if not dramatic impact, it would be hard to equal.

Wave upon wave of cavalry charges packed with breath-taking thrills have been handled in masterly fashion by director Raoul Walsh, and they alone are worth the price of admission. Mr. Walsh, it is obvious, spared neither men, horses nor Errol Flynn’s General Custer in kicking up the dust of battle. But the director was not so fortunate in handling the personal drama and as a consequence “They Died With Their Boots On” has little verve between campaigns. With all the action of the Civil War sequences, it is not surprising that the intervening account of the General’s domestic life and his battle against political intrigue, which lacks genuine dramatic sustenance, should become a little wearying. After all, two hours and seventeen minutes requires a powerful lot of sustained drama. Mr. Walsh would have had a more compact and compelling entertainment had he whittled a half hour or so out of the script. But he more than makes up for this with his action shots.

From what the records show, “They Died With Their Boots On” is the screen’s first full-fledged attempt at spanning Custer’s remarkable career from his hazing as a West Point plebe, his almost story-bookish rise from second lieutenant of cavalry at the first Battle of Bull Run in 1861 to his appointment two years later as brigadier general of volunteers and commander of the Michigan brigade, which performed so brilliantly at Gettysburg. However fanciful the film’s account of his early Army career and the events in between his assignment as lieutenant colonel, Regular Army, of the Seventh Cavalry, may be, it nevertheless provides a broad view of a complex personality.

In the massacre at the Little Big Horn in 1876 the film credits Custer with knowingly sacrificing his small forces to prevent the warring Indians from swooping down upon General Terry’s unsuspecting regiment, a viewpoint in variance with certain historical accounts of the tragedy. Errol Flynn, who approximates the general in physical characteristics, is excellent as the dashing, adventuresome cavalryman. Olivia de Havilland is altogether captivating as his adoring wife. Others in the long cast who acquit themselves with credit are John Litel as General Phil Sheridan, Sidney Greenstreet as General Winfield Scott and Stanley Ridges as the fictitious Major Taipe who engineers Custer’s court-martial. George P. Huntley Jr. gives a magnificent performance as Custer’s fellow-officer and buddie.

THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON; screen play by Wally Klein and Aeneas MacKenzie; directed by Raoul Walsh for Warner Brothers.George Armstrong Custer . . . . . Errol Flynn – Elizabeth Becon (Beth Custer) . . . . . Olivia deHavilland – Fitzhugh Lee . . . . . Regis Toomey- Major Romulus Taipe . . . . . Stanley Ridges – Ned Sharp . . . . . Arthur Kennedy – General Scott . . . . . Sidney Greenstreet – William Sharp . . . . . Walter Hampden – General Phil Sheridan . . . . . John Litel – Lieut. Butler . . . . . George P. Huntley Jr. – Crazy Horse . . . . . Anthony Quinn – California Joe . . . . . Charley Grapewin – Sergeant Doolittle . . . . . Joe Sawyer – Captain Webb . . . . . Frank Wilcox – Captain McCook . . . . . Selmer Jackson – Senator Smith . . . . . Minor Watson – Lieut. Frazier . . . . . DeWolf Hopper

A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 21, 1941 of the National edition with the headline: At the Strand.

— Gentleman Tim

 

Fame Around the Corner — A Promising Australian

30 Sep

Publicity photo of Errol circa his filming of Murder at Monte Carlo at Teddington Studio in London.

September 30, 1935
The Argus – Melbourne, Australia

“The day of Errol Flynn is bound to arrive sooner or later, for he has ability and a debonair charm of manner that must win him recognition as a light comedian of no mean order.”

— Gentleman Tim

 

What the Picture Did for Me

07 Aug

“August 7, 1937

MPH

What the Picture Did for Me

The Green Light
, Errol Flynn, Anita Louise – Just a natural for any spot. This was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Too bad we could not get more productions like this. Good cast and excellent story. Running time: nine reels. July 15 – A. L. Dove, Bengough Theatre, Bengough, Saskatchewan, Can. Rural and Small Town Patronage.”

Bengough, with a population of about 337, is known as the “Gateway to the Big Muddy (Valley and Badlands)”. Before Errol was seen by the populace in and around Bengough, the gentlemen in the photo below used to show up in the area to escape U.S. legal authorities. Their names were Butch and Sundance.


“August 7, 1937

MPH

What the Picture Did for Me


The Prince and the Pauper
: Big time stuff in any man’s town. Box office all the way. Running time, 115 minutes – W. E. McPhee, Strand Theater, Old Town, Maine. General Patronage.”

In 1936, the Strand featured Bing Crosby in Rhythm on the Range. The theater was upgraded and modernized as depicted below to accommodate Old Town’s mid-1930s population of approximately 7500.

— Gentleman Tim

 

A Field Day for Flynn

06 Aug

August 6, 1953

H.H.T.
New York Times
Master of Ballantrae at the Paramount

With plenty of good, old-fashioned muscularity crowding a highly pictorial Technicolor frame, at least three-fourths of “The Master of Ballantrae” makes a rousing, spectacular outlet for a pair of estimable adventurers, Errol Flynn and the master himself, Robert Louis Stevenson. In the new Warner Brothers arrival at the Paramount yesterday, Mr. Flynn is leading a fine, predominantly British cast through one of the liveliest, handsomest and most absurd screen free-for alls ever to leave the Victorian talespinner’s pen. If the excessive length and staggeringly heroic exploits can be pinned on Warners and Mr. Stevenson, respectively, no one, assuredly, should question the lavish elasticity of the proceedings. It is played well by the entire cast, and seasoned throughout with some brazen drollery. The film was gleamingly authenticized in such locales as Scotland, England and Sicily. Herb Meadow’s adaptation fittingly charts a cluttered, tumultuous odyssey for the indefatigable protagonist, leader of the fiery Durisdeer clan and fugitive champion of the Stuart Restoration, as he engineers a magnificent career in high-seas piracy and returns home, a wiser, if no less boisterous, rebel. The direction of William Keighley is equally alert and scenic, whether scouring the craggy, heather-strewn battlegrounds of the clansmen or capturing the lusty barbarism of the pirates’ island sanctuary. And since the dialogue is more often pungent than standard, the motivations and characterizations retain a surprising air of conviction, for all the flying kilts, sabers and sails. Mr. Flynn is, in turn, bold, roguish and forgiveably self-satisfied in his best swashbuckler since “The Sea Hawk,” thirteen long years ago. The featured players, a spanking round-up, are crisp, restrained and forceful, one and all, particularly Roger Livesey and and Anthony Steel, and the ladies in the case, Beatrice Campbell and Yvonne Furneaux. Last but not least, the truly stunning color photography of that British ace, Jack Cardiff, provides a canvas that stands as a model of its kind and fully rates the classic archive reserved for Mr. Stevenson, long, perhaps, after Mr. Flynn and company are forgotten. Meanwhile, Mr. Flynn is having himself, as well he might, a field day.

THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE, screen play by Herb Meadow, based upon the Robert Louis Stevenson story directed by William Keighley and presented by Warner Brothers. Jamie Durisdeer . . . . . Errol Flynn, Col. Francis Burke . . . . . Roger Livesey, Henry Durisdeer . . . . . Anthony Steel, Lady Alison . . . . . Beatrice Campbell, Jessie Brown . . . . . Yvonne Furneaux, Lord Durisdeer . . . . . Felix Aylmer, MacKellar . . . . . Mervyn Johns, Arnaud . . . . . Jack Berthier, Mendoza . . . . . Charles Goldner, Maj. Clarendon . . . . . Ralph Truman

— Gentleman Tim

 

Tony Thomas & “Huckleberry Flynn”

31 Jul

Born July 31, 1927

Tony Thomas – Preeminent Film, Film Music, and Errol Flynn, Historian

— Gentleman Tim