Alistair Cooke at the Movies
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romantic privilege. There was a time not so long ago when a famous American dramatic critic, who had married a celebrated actress, wrote in reviewing a play she performed in, ‘When I married Miss — she gave her profession as that of actress. I saw nothing in last night’s proceedings to justify the description.’ Ten days later they were no longer man and wife. Even then, I leave you to puzzle out whether this was honesty or spite. And now, having said all this, I’m going to ask you not to hold
until a grape is more fascinating than the emperor himself. He will make people sit, not in chairs, but in gargoyles straining to look like chairs. For clocks he wouldn’t dream of having a clock: he has a dozen mechanical gnomes beating gongs with little hammers. But then, a few minutes later somebody performs a perfectly ordinary gesture, dusts a chair, takes out a handkerchief, and this becomes grotesque. Once I remember stopping in Victoria at a coffee stall on the evening after a day I had
‘rained’ no more than anybody else’s. In the last day or two I have seen again The Cure (1917), The Pawnshop (1916), The Vagabond (1916 – and some of it fresh as magic), City Lights; and with them Harold Lloyd’s Just Neighbours, and Harry Langdon’s Saturday Afternoon. The Lloyd was terrible, without character of any sort; he might have been any amiable young American. City Lights, the most relevant test, has long stretches of mawkish wistfulness that Modern Times has not, though it has its share.
might say with the seventeenth-century poet, ‘always at my back I hear Time’s chariot’. The result is that Wells Fargo isn’t so much epic as epileptic. There is plot enough for twelve careful, dramatic recreations of some episode of American history. But though Frank Lloyd has a good sense of excitement he has, so far as I can discover, no sense of drama. What he’s presenting, it soon becomes clear, is a panorama of the love of Frances Dee for Joel McCrea, and it’s American history, darn it,
year, but 3-D now sounds as much of an old slang phrase as the ‘flapper’ or the ‘New Look’; and the same trend has re-established itself again: fewer and fewer people are going to the movies. And this in a four-year period in which the national income is higher, the number of people in jobs greater, than at any period in American history. The effect on the professional movie colony of Hollywood is striking to anybody who looks beyond the popularity and the income of, say, fifty or sixty stars.