Sunday, May 13, 2007

20:07 (Oh Marcus!)

Each morning a screenshot from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie

Oh, Marcus. Someone expects you this afternoon!


Anonymous said...

I have no idea what film this is from but I simply MUST know. There is something so about those two, and that line of dialogue. (Or perhaps he's an old school poof and she's an old school faghag before anybody invented the term? In any case, Nat, please share the title.)



it's a cecil b demille movie the sign of the cross and yeah, isn't the image fabu? They both look so salacious.

They think Marcus a hottie no doubt.

Anonymous said...

A DeMille movie? I shoulda' guessed.

I took film history courses in college and they mention DeMille of course but never show his early work, which is deemed
"unwatchable" now. So the only b/w DeMille film I've seen portions of is the 1920's silent flick The Ten Commandments - no relation whatsoever to the Charleton Heston film btw. It's got a modern storyline interwoven with the ancient one - and the modern bits are what I saw - of two brothers and the girl they both love, and their prudish ma who disapproves of dancing. One of the brothers builds a church to please his ma but he's also fraternizing with whores and doing all sorts of bad things while the other brother is the goody-goody. Yes, close to unwatchable.

But here's the interesting thing. There's a scene where the bad brother shoots his courtesan lover (I can't remember who the actress is, but I believe she was Asian, or Asian appearing - a Mata-Hari-ish chick definitely meant to imply "foreign femme fatale" who's led the all-American boy down the torrid path of temptation.) And what's interesting is that as the woman is dying, she grabs at the curtain that acts as a room divider in her flat and the camera goes to a close up, not of her, but of the curtain slowly being pulled from the curtain rings, one by one, as the woman falls dead.

Sound familiar? It's the same image Hitchcock appropriates for Psycho, after Janet Leigh has been stabbed in the shower and grabs at the shower curtain. No one ever mentioned THAT in my film history classes - that Hitchcock had "ripped off" (I mean, borrowed) the shot from a DeMille film - and could do so freely because AMC and the internet were far, far into the future and nobody watched those old films anymore. I've never heard or read this borrowing mentioned in all the copiously breathless Hitchcock worship I've come across (not that I've made a study of it specifically) so I wonder if any biographers or film critics have commented upon this?

Forgive the extended ramble, btw.



i'm sure someone has mentioned it. there's so much writing that's been done about Psycho ...anyone know?

and yeah... even the geniuses borrow shots ;) they just are better at knowing how and when and why to do so

Paul C. said...

I saw this last summer. Kind of a crappy movie, but I dug the pre-Code naughtiness of it. I love what a huckster DeMille was, making movies about debauchery, but in a religious or historical context so that the censors would think they had socially redeeming value. I guess it didn't work for THE SIGN OF THE CROSS though, since it was widely banned. But then, a scene of Claudette Colbert bathing in asses' milk will do that for you.

Brian Darr said...

Robert Birchard, author of Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood mentions it in that book, as well as in this terrific essay from 1991. (side note: I really think the essay or seomthing like it ought to have been included in the book, as it provides the career-spanning context that the book, organized as it is into chapters on each film CB directed, rather lacks). I just watched Kevin Brownlow's documentary Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic at the SF International Film Festival and I think he mentions it too, though I wouldn't swear to it. More interesting, I suppose, whould be to learn whether Hitchcock scholars talk about it much.

I've been immersing myself in DeMille lately, and it's almost inconceivable to be that his early films might be considered the "unwatchable" ones now when for me its his films made after the enforcement of the Hays Code that can't hold my interest.

I love Sign of the Cross, but it's DeMille's silent films that have been impressing me most in the past few months. Check out the Golden Chance, a really phenomenal film (on DVD) from 1915, the same year as Birth of a Nation. If Griffith was ahead of DeMille at this point, it was only in terms of epic scale and certainly not technique. And of course it didn't take long for DeMille to catch up and surpass everyone else on the scale front either. Other fascinating, highly watchable DeMille films from the teens include the Cheat, Why Change Your Wife and especially Male and Female, a sort of proto-Gilligan class comedy starring Gloria Swanson and a group of castaways on a remote island. All on DVD as well.

I haven't seen either version of the Ten Commandments in full yet (though I coincidentally just watched 10 Things I Hate About Commandments again); I keep hoping that DeMille's reputation will eventually be rehabilitated enough that I'll be able to see the 1923 version on the big screen, where it was meant to be shown.

As for the censorship of Sign of the Cross: Paul's overall point is correct, but according to Birchard DeMille fought to prevent the film (even the lesbian dance) from being eliminated upon its original 1932 release. It was the 1938 rerelease that was a severely cut version. That was the version shown for years, but luckily a print of the original version survived in the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and is now the version seen on DVD.

Brian Darr said...

I really should proofread my long comments. Lots of little errors, but the most important ones are A) in the 1st paragraph, "it" refers to the Psycho/Ten Commandments connection and B) in the last paragraph, "eliminated" should say "censored".

Anonymous said...

Brian thanks for that essay. I love this quote from DeMille's autobiography: "I respect responsible criticism. What I deplore in many critics is not that they criticize, but that they do not see!"

I've often thought the same thing myself.

Now I'm curious to really see more of DeMille's films - and that's exactly what I think writing about film should do - arouse curiosity to see the works for ourselves, or revisit them with a fresh eye.



I can second the notion that Male and Female is worth a look. Gloria is dependably watchable of course and gender war movies are usually of interest (if you're interested in gender issues) to see what artists might have been saying in various years

this is the same reason I'm always daring myself to watch all three versions of a star is born back to back to see if there's obvious shifts in the marital commentary... or not --maybe that work is teflon?

Anonymous said...

Nat - me? Interested in gender issues? That's catnip for me, baby, bring it on.

Re: a Star is Born, whilst in college I sat in on a fellow student's presentation on how the film had evolved in it's presentation of the nature of star-making machinery in each version (including the first version, the lesser known-now 1930's flick "What Price Hollywood?" that actually preceded "A Star is Born") but he didn't go into how the marital relationships were approached in each film, so I'd be interested in reading your analysis of the subject...

...after you finish the next installment of the Moulin Rouge tribute essay, of course.