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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Hunter Jazz, and a list of one hundred films

Just a few posts before, I talked about a project by Mr. Pierre Fablet and a ensemble of jazz musicians: a jazz concert inspired by "The Night of The Hunter", and Walter Schumman's score for it.

The good news is that Mr. Fablet's project to record the concert is going ahead. To that end, he has opened a subscription: anyone who'd like to contribute to make the CD release possible can participate (For those of you interested click here for a subscription leafleet).

I hope the CD becomes a reality soon and I can make a post about it ;D

At the time of its release, one of the few appreciative reviews that "The Night Of The Hunter" received was one by Francois Truffaut. Truffaut sadly realized that Laughton's original parable was bound to be too conventional for Hollywood's staple: while praising Laughton's film-making as having the courage "to knock over a few red lights and some traffic cops in his unusual film. It makes us fall in love again with an experimental cinema that truly experiments and a cinema of discovery that, in fact, discovers" he also predicted that "screenplays such as this are not the way to launch your career as a Hollywood director. The film runs counter to the rules of commercialism: it will probably be Laughton's single experience as a director".

Recently, a group of 78 critics were asked by Cahiers du Cinema (the renowned French magazine to which Truffaut used to contribute) to vote for their favourite films: the result lists one hundred films, of which Laughton's "The Night Of The Hunter" ranks second, tied there with his good friend Jean Renoir's "La régle du jeu" (I just love that tie, particularly since Charles and Jean's joint 1943 effort is what made a Laughtonienne out of me).

I've read a number of online comments about that list which question the selection, and of course a list of just one hundred film, however remarkable, is bound to leave a good number of films outside, in fact a list of a thousand films would also undoubtedly leave out many films of worth. Maybe I'd add more films to a personal list, films by Mikio Naruse, Jose Luis Berlanga, Isao Takahata, Alexander Mckendrick, Norman MacLaren, Marco Ferreri, Albert Lewin, Hayao Miyazaki, Powell & Pressburger, Pedro Almodovar, Preston Sturges, Bertrand Tavernier or Mitchell Leisen, among many others, but then there is such a lot of films I still have to see that... well, I'd probably leaving out a lot of excellent films as well!

Anyway, I don't think that the list was meant to be an "absolute" one, those critics voted their their favourites, and wether you agree or not with their choices, I don't see bad films there. And... well, yours truly is awfully pleased that "The Night of the Hunter" made it number two ;p

(1) Truffaut's review for "The Night Of The Hunter" is published in an enjoyable anthology of his reviews "The Films In My Life" (Originally published in French as "Les films de ma vie". I might as well mention that you should be able read the english version of the review thanks to the "look inside" search facility).

La edición castellana de este libro, "Las películas de mi vida" se publicó en 1976 por Ediciones Mensajero (Bilbao). Por si no la pudiérais localizar ni de segunda mano ni en bibliotecas... click, click

My thanks to Olivier for first giving me the news.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

George Swain, wounded ninety years ago

Ninety years ago, on November 4th, a week before the armistice, Private George Swain was wounded in the head on the Western front, and repatriated to England to heal his wound. Some time later, his claim for a war pension was declined, as the examiners considered that he had fully recovered from his injury, and wasn't incapacitated by it. Even though George's claim didn't succeed, I'm glad he tried, because his case was filed among the War Pension files, and that file, unlike his service record (one of the many to dissapear during World War Two as a result of enemy bombing), has survived to our days.

And how relevant, you may wonder, is this for this blog? Well, quite so, for George Swain was a pal of Charles Laughton during the First World War.

By summer 1918, George Swain was serving, as Charles, with the 2/1st battalion of the Huntingdonshire Cyclists (both in D company). Along with Charles and many other boys in that Battalion, he was drafted to reinforce other units in France. By the earliest regimental number mentioned in his War Pension Record, it is quite likely that George, as Charles and John Agar (another boy in D company), received his early training at the 87th Training Reserve Battalion at Catterick. As at least Charles and another two men in that list, Swain was a Yorshireman, which gives you a picture of how manpower was dealt with at this late stages of the war: in its early stages, men were keen to enlist, and serve, in their "county" regiments, but by 1918 such sentimental choices just weren't available to the young conscripts, who were just posted to wherever reinforcements were needed... Thus you could have these Yorkshire boys, going from the (Conscription) Training Reserve Battalions right after being called up, then being posted to a Huntingdonshire regiment (Territorial) to guard the coast of Lincolnshire, and then again. posted (for the records) to the 4th Bedfordshires (a Regular battalion), and then serving at the front in France with the 7th Northamptonshires (a "Kitchener" or New Army battalion)... That's running the whole gamut, if you ask me.

A bit of background: Desperately Seeking Charles' War Record

Charles' Medal card...

...And Charles' entry in the Medal records, which fortunately mentioned the battalions of the regiments he was allocated to, except the Huntingdonshire Cyclists, sadly not mentioned

When, years ago, I went to London to -among other things- try to find Charles' war record, I found out that it wasn't among those which survived the World War Two bombings. While I knew that this was likely, I couldn't help feeling dissapointed. But along with disappointment came an idea... What would came if I checked medal records for people with numbers correlative to Charles'? As I checked some 100 numbers over and under Charles' in the two regiments mentioned in his Campaign Medals card, I found out there was a pattern... Could these men whose numbers and regiments were coincident with Charles' have served in the same battalions together?

The answer was yes. And this was confirmed when Mr. Martyn Smith (the Huntingdonshire Cyclists' dedicated historian, and keeper of the afore-linked -and excellent- website on them) most kindly sent me copies of some of the surviving Battalion Orders of the 2/1st Huntingdonshire Cyclists, where, among other things, Charles was mentioned, along with other boys, as part of a draft being sent to the front on August 9th, 1918 (that list is also afore-linked). This was quite the Rossetta Stone of our research, as it provided both the confirmation of Laughton having been at the Huntingdonshire Cyclists (so far we had only an old picture with his badge, plus vague mentions of it in biographies), and also the date when he was drafted to France. With this information on our hands, we proceeded to elaborate a webpage containing what we knew so far about Charles' Great War service (with some related links for context, etc.). There were, of course, many questions remanining... I later found mention by Charles, scattered in old interviews, about his serving with the 7th Northamptonshires during the war, which further confirmed the medal card data, along with a few excerpts from an exchange of letters with an old comrade from the battalion.

Still, many questions remained... When did Charles reach the frontline? What about the 4th Bedfordshires? When was he gassed? etc, etc...

Two relevant pages of George Swain's pension record.

At least one of these questions was answered when Mr. Stephen Beeby, a dedicated Great War researcher from Cambridgeshire, reached me with excellent news. He had found George Swain's Pension record, which mentioned George's itineraire through units during his war service... Of course there must be divergences with Charles' service, among them the fact that George's scalp wound caused him to be repatriated to England, while Charles, as a gas casualty, quite surely had to heal on a French hospital after receiving first aid. It is interesting that the War Diary of the 73rd Ambulance (WO 95/2202), caring for the wounded men of the 73rd Brigade (24th Division, Third Army), to which the 7th Northamptonshires belonged, contains a diagram of how to build a centre to deal with gas casualties, which helps to picture how Charles may have received his early treatment (You can see a better-resolution image, plus more related details here

How the 73rd ambulance organized a centre to deal with gas cases of every type (WO 95/2202. National Archives. Crown Copyright).

The Last Hundred days
Knowing already the date when Charles left England, Thanks to George Swain's War Pension record, we also know that the draft of Huntingdonshire Cyclists disembarked in France on August 10th, 1918, then was "posted to 4th battalion for records"... which clears the 4th Bedfordshire question, as this reveals that those boys were there just for administrative reasons, not even changing their regimental numbers in the process. In fact, on August 12th, they are definitely allocated -and given new regimental numbers- to the 7th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment. Thus Charles and Co. were 4th Bedfords for just a couple of days, and just for the records.

The draft seems to have spent little time in "transit" camps in the coast, like the well-known, and enormous, Etaples camp, instead, they were sorted quite quickly to the 24th Division's reinforcements' camp, just eight days after landing in France, where one imagines them getting an extra bit of training to prepare them for front-line action, and by the September 8th, the draft finally joins the 7th Northamptonshires. As you can see in the battalion's diary here, those days were spent in training and reorganization at Marqueffles Farm (not far from Lens), plus accomodating the newly arrived (sadly, the arrival of the new draft is not even mentioned in the diary: one regrets that the officer in charge of the diary was not too exhaustive in his recording of the facts).

Incidentally, all this is rather consistent with Elsa Lanchester's statement, in her 1938 biography "Charles Laughton and I" of Charles being sent "straight to the front", and therefore, it is likely that the mention of Charles being gassed "one week before the war" is accurate as well, and not just a foggy "family tradition". Among other things, because it was on the November 4th when George Swain was wounded, in the course of a battle in which the 7th Northants were involved, but we'll come back to that later.

Charles' draft reached the Battalion in time to take part in the campaign that has become known as The Last Hundred Days, in which, after the Battle of Amiens, the allies advanced steadily, at a pace which spectacularly outspeeded the gains of battles in previous years. The daily casualty rate of the British was higher than those of either the Battle of the Somme or Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), if not as high as that of the Battle of Arras.

During those days, the 7th Northamptonshires held the line and were involved in actions such as the battles of the Hindemburg Line (September 12th to October 9th, 1918), The Battle of Cambrai of 1918 (October 8th and 9th), the Pursuit to the Selle (October 9th to 12th), and then in the final advance through Picardy, in the Battle of the Sambre. It was in the course of this action that George Swain was wounded (and quite likely Charles, too).

November 4th, 1918: The Battle of the Sambre starts
The day when the Battle of the Sambre started there was a thick groud mist, which, according to J.P. Harris, in his book "Amiens To The Armistice" (1998) was a fact which "tended to reduce casualties from machine-gun and rifle fire", by dusk, the XVII Corps (to which the 7th northants belonged), had taken all the planned objectives for the day, making an advance of 3 to 4 miles. You can get a helpful bird's view of the action from the Diary (WO 95/2217) of the 73rd brigade, (which comprised the 7th Bn. Northamptonshire Regiment, the 9th Bn. Royal Sussex Regiment and the 13th Bn. Middlesex Regiment) by clicking here and see a map of the battle by clicking here.

As far as the the ground view of events is concerned, here we have the account of these days the from the 7th Northamptonshires' War Diary:

November 4th 1918. Bermerain
B and D Companies were detailed as support to the 9th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment (73rd Brigade, 24th Division) who were to attack along the whole Brigade front from a line which had been established West of the Enlain-Villers Pol Road. Capt. A. Elliman was in command of D Company and supported right flank and Capt. B. Wright the left flank. These two Companies moved off at 3 am, crossed the river Rhonelle by bridges which had been put into position by A Company the night previous, and took their position by early morning. A and C companies remained in the positions occupied the previous night until 6 am and then moved to the rear of the general line of advance. The barrage commenced at 6 am and the Companies moved forward. D Company was caught in the Hun counter-barrage and a number of casualties were caused. The remainder were led onward and in time formed part of the front line. By 8 am they were on the high ground in front of Wargniers-le-Petit. Capt A. Elliman and 2/Lieut J. W. Tetley had both become casualties (wounded). B Company successfully eluded the counter-barrage on the left (N) flank and succeeded in establishing themselves in a position which dominated the small bridge over the river Aunelle. This bridge carried the main Enlain-Bavay Road which separated Wargniers-le-Grand and Wargniers-le-Petit and by concentrated Lewis Gun and rifle fire and by forward patrols they managed to keep it whole. The enemy was shelling the sunken roads and were sweeping the ridge with machine gun fire. The position, having become stationary, it was decided to relieve the pressure by outflanking both villages from the north. The 13th Bn Middlesex Regiment (73rd Brigade, 24th Division) was allotted Wargniers-le-Grand and the 7th Northamptonshire Regiment, Wargniers-le-Petit.

14.30 hours- A and C Companies were detailed for this duty. They were to cross by keeping their left on the main road and push through the village and then onward to the high ground East of it. C Company formed the front line under 2/Lieut. C. Pike and A Company under Capt. G. A. Williamson were in support. Machine gun fire was met with but overcome by grenades and rifle fire and both Companies established themselves well forward of the village. B Company now became support and D Company having been withdrawn from the front line went into reserve. The enemy began to shell the outskirts and roads leading to the villages which were inhabited by a fair number of French civilians. 50 prisoners were taken during operations.

Again, we don't get here a comprehensive picture, apart from the officers (mentioned by name) the casualties from the ranks are just given as an anonymous "number of casualties" in D Company. Since we know that George Swain pertained to B Company, it is undoubted that D company was not the only part of the battalion to suffer "a number of casualties", in fact, if we peer at the 73rd Ambulance's diary, we see the casualties for the three battalions and other divisional units amounted to 360 cases, roughly a tenth of the men involved (and that in the case that the battalions were at full establishment, and they were most probably not so, due to prior casualties duirng days of sustained fighting)

73rd ambulance's entry for November 4th(WO 95/2202. National Archives. Crown Copyright)

So here we have one more piece in the puzzle of Charles' war whereabouts. As the song says, who knows what the future holds, so I don't discard further little details coming up, each one a little miracle. One may debate about whether the gods exist or not, but miracles do happen!

This post is respectfully dedicated to those soldiers who, like Charles, were serving on November 11th, 1918, Saint Martin's day.

Apart from the already mentioned diaries, plus the books mentioned in the pages containing the known information, J. P. Harris' "From Amiens To The Armistice" (Brassey's, London 1998) has been a most helpful information resource about late 1918 events in the Western Front.

I'm deeply grateful to Mr. Stephen Beeby, who recently brought to my attention George Swain's record, and also to Mr. Martyn Smith, for all the continued help through the years relating the Huntingdonshire Cyclists

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Star of the month in November at TCM (2)

Well, well... Here we have at last TCM's list of the films that lucky North Americans shall be able to watch in November, when our dear Charles shall be starring on that channel for a month.

Of these 18 films there are some unmissable by anyone who wants to know where Laughton's prestige comes from, some whose inclusion is questionable, and some which are inexplicably absent. Let's comment briefly on them.

Our lad Charles in a beautiful still taken during his early Hollywood days (Fellow Laughtonian Alceo has contributed with this wonderful 1932 picture from his collection)

Of these 18 features, we have two classics directed by Korda: his filmmaking may have become a bit dated, but Charles' performance as the Tudor king in The Private Life of Henry VIII is still the gold standard on the character (despite the recent "sexy Tudors on sweaty T-Shirt" trend), and his Rembrandt remains a sensible portrait of the struggles of a creator.

Despite recent historical revisionism depicting Captain Bligh as the hero of the story, Laughton's portrayal in Mutiny on the Bounty has connections with the real man: If the real Mr. Bligh was not the tyrant depicted in Nordhoff and Hall's novel, He was, as Laughton's Bligh, an excellent sailor (something quite forgotten in some later versions), a man isolated from his subordinates and crew, and a poor manager of human resources with an explosive temper. The real Bligh also had those bushy eyebrows ;p

Welcome are also the tyrannical Victorian father he plays in The Barrets of Wimpole Street, where he managed to manoeuvre past the Hays Code, by suggesting the more unwholesome aspects of father Barret's overprotectiveness of his daughter Elizabeth Barret, without the need of explicit dialogue. And his memorable Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which he makes trascend into a powerful metaphor of human suffering.

We also have his inimitable Sir Wilfrid Robarts Witness For The Prosecution, a man seriusly concerned with Law and justice, in spite of his unlawful penchant for smuggling forbidden pleasures. We'll also see him in a court in a minor Hitchcock, The Paradine Case as a corrupt, ruthless and concupiscent judge. We also have an earlier joint effort with the master of suspense, Jamaica Inn , again, it may not be a top-notch Hitchcock, but it has a suitably dark atmosphere, and an over-the-top, and fairly enjoyable, performance by film producer Laughton.

Lesser known movies and parts, but fairly worth of re-discovery, are given a chance. Among them we have the film version of the stage success that brought Charles to Hollywood, Payment Deferred, a film which certainly lets you know that it is based on a play, but Laughton's clerk which commits murder, in spite of being quite unsuited for crime, is a fairly strong composition. There is also his supporting role, and first Hollywood work, as a Northern tycoon in James Whale's riotously bizarre The Old Dark House, which is both the paragon and the parody of the "haunted house" genre. The tropical noir The Bribe, in which he plays a small-time briber with bad feet, is a film, and a performance, worth re-discovering. And Captain Kidd may lack the lavish production values of Mutiny on the Bounty, but certainly has a strong central performance.

Surprisingly in!
As for some others, I find the TCM selection to be a bit odd at points, particularly considering that this monthly homage lacks some legendary performances, I mean, there is fun and charm in The Canterville Ghost, but it still makes you think what a film could have resulted if MGM had not watered down the original story by Oscar Wilde with circumstancial war propaganda and coarsened it with squaddy jokes (Think, for instance, in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir).

Young Bess, is posh -but not terribly exciting- costume drama, which I bet has been included to compare Laughton's performance as Henry VIII with his Oscar-winning performance of 1933. And one wonders why Salome is there: it is one of those films of the Somniferous Bible Epic genre, and not even Laughton's Herod can shake it up... I wonder why they don't show Cecil B. De Mille's The Sign of the Cross, instead: It's full of saucy pre-code naughtiness, bizarre fights at the Roman circus, and Claudette Colbert's Poppaea and Laughton's "wild Wilde Nero" (as Elsa Lanchester fittingly put it) really nail their characters (As with Henry, Laughton's Nero is pretty much the Nero to end all Neros: Peter Ustinov in Quo Vadis was like an Ursuline nun in comparison)

But when one sees that turkeys like Stand By For Action and The Man From Down Under, films only suitable for a Laughton completist (and a very hardened one,) are included in a 18-film season (out of a filmography of more than 50), the reason is clear: TCM is programming what he's got in its stock, and The Canterville Ghost, Young Bess, Stand By For Action are all MGM productions... still, how far are these from The Barrets of Wimpole Street or Mutiny on the Bounty!! The reason for this is, in his thirties' films for MGM, Laughton worked for Irving Thalberg, an intelligent producer who had more appropiate ideas as to what to do with Laughton's talent than Louis B. Mayer. I have read that Mayer kept Laughton under contract at MGM out of respect for the late Thalberg, who was a friend of Charles. Yet Mayer was evidently at a loss of what to do with Laughton, otherwise, one can't understand how he miscast him in parts like the old Aussie warrior of The Man From Down Under (a part and film Laughton woefully -and adequately- described to a friend as "You Can't Keep The Wallace Beery Tradition Down"), or the old Admiral which becomes suddenly obsessed with obstetrics in Stand By For Action, which Laughton has left no option but to play in an avant-la-lettre Monty Pythonese fashion.

Honest, rather than including these last two, I'd rather go for the rarely screened Mayflower productions Vessel of Wrath/The Beachcomber and St. Martin's Lane/Sidewalks of London , or some rather good performances of Laughton in anthology films like If I Had a Million, Tales of Manhattan, O'Henry's Full House or, why not? recover the long-lost-in-some-vault The Blue Veil.

I won't extend my criticism, however, to Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd, Hey! it's an Abbot and Costello film... You won't expect something like The Seventh Seal, won't you?

Actually I think that it makes for a fun double bill with Captain Kidd, and Laughton admired Lou Costello and wanted to work with him. You may consider it a silly movie, but I don't think it's actually that harmful... If you ask me, as far as Laughton doing comedy goes, I'd rather see him in Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd than in Hobson's Choice... Oh, I know this may sound blasphemous to some of you (so here I'm rushing to my artillery-proof concrete parapet), but I have to confess that my feelings about the David Lean film are quite similar to SImon Callow's, or to what Groggy Dundee says in his blog .

Surprisingly out!
Now, If I have complained about the inclusion of some films, it is because I feel they are stealing room to some really memorable performances which are let out... I suppose that the "films in stock" thing is the only explanation to that, but it still hurts that we have Stand By For Action, but lack This Land Is Mine , Island of Lost Souls , Les Miserables, Ruggles of Red Gap, The Big Clock or Advise and Consent... All I can say about that is.. ouch!.

Ouch, ouch, ouch!... And ouch!

Furthermore, Wouldn't it be a grand chance to broadcast the legendary BBC documentary The Epic That Never Was, containing tantalizing excerpts of Laughton as Emperor Claudius?

Lastly, and, understanding that the "Star of the Month" refers to actors, it wouldn't have been much of a stretch to include The Night of the Hunter? I mean, after all he could only direct that film... and then, Robert Gitt's Charles Laughton Directs The Night of the Hunter.

Oh well... It's good enough that Charles has a season of his films on TCM, but then... it could be even better!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Being a sport

I just came across a few caricatures from Hollywood stars by Chilean artist Jorge Délano "Coke". You'll see a cartoon of Charles among them. It comes after caricatures of Bette Davis, Basil Rathbone and Ronald Colman, and I'd like to give you an approximate translation to English of the captions of those images.

"Coke" writes:

The great Bette Davis wasn't annoyed by this sketch.

Contrarely, Basil Rathbone was furious when he saw his. "I've never had such a nose!", he exclaimed indignant.

Ronald Colman was offended, too. "I'm not that old!", he grumbled. Both of them forced their drawings to be retired from the exhibition. "Where did the English sense of humour go?" I wondered.

Charles Laughton gave me the answer when he praised his caricature. He wrote the following in my album when he signed it "God forgive you! My wife says it's brilliant!"

This makes me think that much has been written about Charles dissatisfaction with his looks, and Oh, The Unhappiness About it, and blah, blah, blah...

Still, if you step down from commonplace bus, it's obvious, from this little anecdote, that Charles coped much better with a caricature of his looks, than either Ronald Colman or Basil Rathbone, who would be no doubt be regarded by the general public as more attractive, and from this story come as men rather insecure about his (better) looks.

So you see, while Charles was self-conscious about his looks, he could live with it... and he had real English sentido del humor.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It was thirty years ago today...

Albert Lory (Charles Laughton) and Louise Martin about to face Nazi Tiranny in "This Land Is Mine" (1943). Miss O'Hara looks gorgeous as usual, and Charlie doesn't look 'arf bad, either

Well, it was thirty years ago, on a 30th of september. I think it was saturday. There was a film titled "Esta tierra es mía" (This land Is Mine") on TV. I saw it.

While it wasn't my first Laughton movie (a few months before that I had seen -and enjoyed- "Witness for the prosecution"), this was the one which hooked me to Charles. It also made me a Renoirian. And, definitely, a cinephile.

In short, had I not watched "This Land Is Mine" that evening of September 30th in 1978, this blog wouldn't exist.

Now You know what to blame ;D

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Star of the month in November at TCM

1935. Charles, about to work in "Mutiny On The Bounty", reaches the American shores: a blessed land where one can still enjoy a season of his films on TV

Well, a fellow Laughtonian, who is a subscriber of Turner Classic Movies just told me that Charles is going to be the Star of the month in November at TCM. I've browsed the web and I've seen further mentions of it, though not in TCM USA's site, where only the current Star of the Month is featured.

This is good news for all those of you who live in the USA, for in my little corner of the Mediterranean, it seems highly unlikely that TCM Spain will programme a season of Charles' films. I fear that the thinking minds of TCM Spain are planning to do an Ed Wood season instead.

You'll tell me how it goes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another Gish experience

Miss Gish entertains a devoted fan

During his final illness, Charles Laughton was dictating to Bruce Zortman (1) what was meant to be an autobiography, but which remained unfinished due to Laughton's death. Elsa Lanchester reported how one day she entered in the room. Charles was asleep due to the medication, and Zortman showed the notes he had taken during that day. In Zortman's notebook there was just this one sentence: "I was in love with Lillian Gish".

The young Laughton was certainly impresed with Lillian Gish. He would say that, shortly after the 1918 armistice (2) he was struck by Miss Gish acting in "Broken Blossoms" , and would see the film "over and over again" (2). Years later, during the preparation of "The Night of the Hunter" he saw old silent films by David Wark Griffith, he would meet Miss Gish again, and he offered her the part of Rachel Cooper. Liking the script, she eventually agreed to play it, and the Silent film star and her fan would work together happily.

After the New York première, Laughton sent this affectionate letter to Lillian Gish (3):

Dear Little Iron Butterfly,

Even though I talked to you yesterday I feel compelled to write you a note to tell you further that I think you are the living end. The reviews in New York, as you have now discovered, were wonderful for you--
And from all over the country I keep getting wires and calls, and everyone is unanimous in their praise for you.

I am happy to have had another Gish experience, and as long as I shall live and be active I hope that my life, professionally as well as personally, shall have a lot of Gish in it.

So, you see, these are my roses and carnations -- and they are just as sweet as you are.


It is sad, in retrospect, not to feel sad when reading this letter, knowing what the future had in store for Charles' career as a director.

Shortly after the release of "The Night of the Hunter", Laughton and Gish would be briefly together in a TV programme produced by Paul Gregory, "The Day Lincoln Was Shot", in which some members of the cast and crew of "The Night of the Hunter" would be working as well. Laughton was the narrator of the story and Lillian Gish played Mary Todd (curiously, John Wilkes Booth was played by a young Jack Lemmon). This programme was an hiatus in the work which Laughton and the Sanders brothers were dpoing in the script of "The Naked And The Dead". This work was never resumed: in the meantime, "The Night of the Hunter" failed at the box-office. Laughton and Gregory split their partnership. Laughton would never directed again, would never have the chance of working again with Lillian Gish.

Dorothy and the Wolves

In between "Broken Blossoms" and "The Night of the Hunter", Charles was to have another Gish experience, more concretely, a Dorothy Gish experience! This was to be in "Wolves", a 1929 production (released in 1930), and one of the early British talkies. We know little of this film, apart from the fact that it was one of the "quota quickies", that is, one of the hastily produced films which were meant to cover the quota of British productions, established by the government as a protective measure for the local industry.

Lacking other sources, the picture below suggests that the young and upcoming actor must have been happy to work alongside Lillian's sister.

"Wolves": Charles Laughton, Dorothy Gish and director Albert de Courville, as seen in the Sunday Express (August 18th, 1929)

Short descriptions of the film coincide with the basic argument of the play "The Wolves", a French play by Georges G. Todouze, which was premiéred in an English version by John Protheroe in August 1929, so we imagine that the play was successful enough to suggest a near-simultaneous film version. Certainly most of the cast of the stage production is coincident with that of the film, with the exception of Sam Livesey and Olga Lindo, whose roles were played by Laughton and Dorothy Gish in the film.

The damsel in distress cleverly shields herself (Dorothy Gish, Charles Laughton)

The plot of the play goes as follows: in a settlement in the icy coast of Greenland, Job (Sam Livesey/Charles Laughton) is the leader of a gang of rough outlaws, a real group of human wolves, among them we have a Canadian, Pierre (Malcolm Green), who is also the only in the group to have a woman, an inuit girl named Naroutcha (Betty Bolton), who also acts as a servant of all the other men. Near the place a young girl, Kitty MacDonald ("Leila Macdonald" in the film. Olga Lindo/Dorothy Gish) is found, frozen and starving: her presence stirs the community, as they all want to possess her, and are ready to fight each other fiercely to accomplish so. Job organizes a lottery to see who will be Kitty's owner. He cheats and gets her, but not with the intention of having a woman himself, but with the aim of having the situation under control, which is not easy as, among other things, Kitty is the daughter of a Canadian fishery king, and Pierre says that it is because of Kitty that he commited the crimes for which he has looked for refuge in this distant place. Pierre not only wants revenge, he also has lusty intentions on poor Kitty, which makes Naroutchka jealous. Tension runs high and Job sees that the only way to ease it is help Kitty to flee from the place, but he will have to face his own men.

The magazine "Theatre World" (in its issue of October 1929) described "The Wolves" as a "vivid melodrama" which was "unusually good entertainment", and its critic referred to it in the following terms: "it is strong, crude stuff, and grips as much by the intensity of its passion as by the fitting fierceness of its language (...). Here primitive passions, fiery words and sinister actions are swiftly woven into a fabric which may be coarse in texture, but is surely more wholesome stuff than the fluffy frills and lascivious lingerie displayed ad nauseam elsewhere... This description of the play (the reviewer sure likes macho-macho stuff!) makes me imagine the film as a mixture of melodrama and early action movie. In fact, and according to the description of the imdb user reviewing the film, Job's hut is blown by an explosion at the end of the film. Since this doesn't happen in the play, where Kitty escapes while Job holds his men at bay and manages to subdue his men after killing the troublesome Pierre, I gather that "Wolves" might an early example of the recurrent solution when scriptwriters run short of ideas (you know, "if you don't know what to write in the next scene, put an explosion or two")

An anecdote of the film, told by Simon Callow (4), tells us that a young David Lean, who happened to see how Laughton was preparing himself for a fight scene, was quite impressed by both his thorough preparation of the scene andr his hability to fill the frame: many years later he would have his chance to direct Charles in "Hobson's Choice" (1954)

Also, of those who worked in the play but not in the film, two would have later connections with Laughton: Raymond Massey, the stage director of "The Wolves" would later in that year direct the first staging of Sean O'Casey's "The Silver Tassie", with Charles playing Harry Heegan (5), and Sam Livesey would appear with Charles in the successful production of Congreve's "Love for Love", staged during the 1933-34 Old Vic season.

The film would be released in the USA during the middle thirties, titled as "Wanted Men", when Charles had become one of the most successful film actors of the world, surely with the intention of milking some benefits out of Laughton's success. However, this version was heavily cut, and, if the original picture wasn't a hit, the edited version wasn't precisely an improvement.

The film seems to be lost, but I wonder if a copy was still around in existence. I'd be curious to see it: in the worst of cases it would be a toughening experience which would strenghten my character ;p

Some interesting links:
:: Lillian Gish's Official website
:: A Gish tribute by Dan Callahan at Bright Lights Film Journal
:: A lovely picture of the two collaborators at " If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats"

1) Zortman had collaborated with Laughton in the literary research and ellaboration of Laughton's anthology "The Fabulous Country".

2) As mentioned by Simon Callow's BFI book on "The NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Gotta comment about it some day in this blog: recommended reading!). Incidentally, imdb.com gives May 13th, 1919 as the date of the American premiere of "Broken Blossoms". The European release dates given by imdb -although not mentioning dates for France or Great Britain-, range from 1922 to 1923. So I wonder if the film which Laughton saw shortly after the armistice was another one by Griffith and with Gish, and then a few years later he was impressed by "Broken Blossoms" and the two experiences were merged in his memories. Either this or maybe the allied troops were privileged to see that film before its European Official première?... Or maybe the film was released in France and/or the UK almost at the same time it was released in the USA?

3) From the photographic reproduction of this letter, reproduced in Charles Tatum Jr.'s "La Nuit du Chasseur de Charles Laughton", published by Editions Yellow Now

4) In the seminal "Charles Laughton. A Difficult Actor"

5) This would be the first of many occasions in which Massey and Laughton would work together: they were both in the cast of James Whale's "The Old Dark House", and Laughton would in turn direct Massey on the stage years later in "John Brown's Body"... Massey appeared also in the day The Day Lincoln Was Shot" playing (if you hadn't guessed it already) Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Jazzing up Schumann's score

The film "The Night of the Hunter", in spite of not being a hit when it was first released, has increasingly become more and more admired as time passes. Not only that, it has become an inspiration for many people who has watched it.

Such is the case of Pierre Fablet, a jazz musician who, inspired both by the film and the beauty of Walter Schumann's score, has been working in an one hour concert, in which Schumann's score is revisited through a jazzy arrangement with an ensemble of six, playing piano and keyboards, bass, drums, guitar, saxophones and trumpet. You can know more about Mr. Fablet's interesting project at His page at La Station Service . We hope that Pierre Fablet's concert is available in a recording sometime in the near future.

Walter Schumann may be one of the most relevant collaborators of Laughton in the film. Through Preston Neal Jones' "Heaven and Hell to Play With", we know that he didn't limit himself to write a score in the solitude of his studio, but collaborated actively with Laughton, and kept making adittions and changes to the initial score when a new idea came through. For instance, when cinematographer Stanley Cortez told Laughton that he was thinking in Sibelius' "Valse Triste" to visualize the scene where Preacher Powell kills Willa Harper, Laughton not only directed the scene to suit Cortez's brilliant suggestion, but promptly called for Schumann to compose the adequate music for the scene, as it was now envisaged. In the final film, that scene has the sad waltz tempo Cortez had in mind. Laughton also suggested to Schumann a technique he called "long muscles", devised to establish the continuity between the scenes of the film, rather than meant just to accompany or stress what was happening on the screen.

Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder's hilarious comment about "Dragnet" (and Schumann's theme) in the pages of "Mad"

At the time "The Night of the Hunter" was released, Schumann was possibly better known for his theme for the "Dragnet" TV series. As Laughton's film remained obliterated for years, so was his beautiful score, and as Laughton, he died long before his score for the film gained the recognition it deserved.

In fact, there was an earlier Laughton-Schumann collaboration, prior to "The Night of the Hunter", which enjoyed a greater recognition it its time and I feel ought to be recovered. In 1953, after the success his innovative, stage prop-bare, a capella production of George Bernard Shaw's rarely staged third act of "Man and Superman" (titled "Don Juan in Hell"), Laughton embarqued in a similar project. Again produced by Paul Gregory, Laughton tackled Stephen Vincent Benét's poem"John Brown's body". In this production, Walter Schumann provided a prodigious background to the three main players (Tyrone Power, Raymond Massey and Judith Anderson -1-) declaiming the text: a chorus would sing and provide sound "effects". Schumann's grasped well Laughton's idea of a modern greek Chorus and produced a magnificent score for the play which fortunately, was recorded, but unfortunately, has known no re-releases for ages. We'll talk about John Brown's Body some other day with greater depth, but for the moment we suggest that it would be a good idea to release again this recording (2)

1) Judith Anderson was to be substituted by Ann Baxter in later tours of this staging,.
2) it was originally released by Columbia Masterworks, so I guess this means we should be knocking at Sony's door.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

He really was a groovy cat

Talking about Charles and "This Land Is Mine" in the comments with fellow blogger Solaris, we ended talking about George Sanders and James Mason, and how these enjoyable performers (and feline film cads) almost set a construction company to make houses for rich widows... and from this to Mason's own love for cats (of which he would produce fine sketches).

All right, I have a lot of pending stuff to post, but, hey, it's summertime and ... hey! I feel right now like indulging in a bit of trivia... Today: Charles and cats!

Charles and Elsa with the household's cat (early 1940's)

It seems that Charles (and Elsa's) relationship with cats started when Charles first arrived in Hollywood: while he was doing films, Elsa was unoccupied. To ease her feelings of loneliness while he was at work, Charles bought Elsa a little black cat, whom they named Nero . Nero (who liked to plunge into the swimming-pool at The Garden of Allah) was only the first of many cats owned by the couple. Another cat named Louis followed Nero in the Laughton's household: he was named after Louis XVI , the role Irving Thalberg wanted Charles to play in Marie Antoinette (though when the film was finally shot, Charles had other commitments and the Capetian was finally played by Robert Morley , in his first film role). As it happens, Charles and Elsa would always keep cats from then on, and it earned the couple a reputation: people even left kittens at their home for adoption!

The first Laughton kittens: Nero (left) and Louis (right)

Elsa was there before!
You may not know it, but Elsa Lanchester considered, for a long time, to stage an act reading and performing excerpts from T.S. Elliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats", eventually making a song version with her piano accompanist Ray Henderson. However, due to the author's denial to see his book staged as "a vaudeville act", the Lanchester-Henderson version was never performed. Most of you may be familiar with a later adaptation of this book... In the light of this, I think that Elsa and Henderson's version well deserved a chance.

Le gros chat
When director Jean Renoir came to the USA, he met in America another French exile who was very close to him: Gabrielle Renard, a cousin of her mother who, as a teenager, had come to the Renoirs' household to "help". Her help mainly consisted in taking care of little Jean (no small feat!). It was Gabrielle who introduced the future film director to guignol, films and melodrama. Gabrielle, besides her babysiting duties, would also model for Jean's father, the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Gabrielle was in California with her husband, the painter Conrad Slade, and her son Jean.

Now, in Hollywood, Jean also met a British actor named Charles Laughton, who happened to own a painting by his father. The Briton had been often in France, loved the country and spoke fluent French. They became close friends.

Since Jean saw Gabrielle frequently, Laughton also got to see her on quite a number of occasions. Gabrielle was, according to Renoir, a woman of great vitality, who, like the French people of her era, had a healthy interest in romantic liaisons (and loved to talk about them)... Had she been in the mood for frivolity, Renoir wrote, she would have gone for his friend Laughton, whom she affectionately called "the fat tomcat". Laughton was proud of that nickname, and he would purr to Gabrielle to honour the epithet.

Albert's courtship scheme

Albert feeds the kitty

And since we are talking about Renoir, let's remember "This Land Is Mine and Albert Lory's sly courting technique. Albert is shy as can be, but his master plan to conquer Louise Martin's attention is cunning. Louise has a cat. The cat escapes every night and enters Lory's home. Albert treats the feline with the best of his attentions, including a dish of hard-to-get milk (incidentally, Albert's mother positively hates the cat). When Albert meets Louise about to go to school, he lovingly tends the runaway to her beloved. Not that she notices. Hum, OK... It's a long-term plan. In the meantime, the four-legged cupid gets a daily dose of milk...Oh, wait! maybe it is the cat the one with the master plan!

Albert returns the fugitive to Louise: "What's new, pussycat? Woah, Woah"

While Renoir was developing the film's story, he would be often in touch with Laughton... In fact, film historian and Renoir expert Alexander Sesonske mentions that it was a conversation between actor and director about Alphonse Daudet's story "La Dernière Classe" which suggested to Renoir an ending -and the lead actor- for the film. I wonder if the feedback between both men also suggested the cat bussiness in the script... and maybe hinted at the animal's casting? Call it a speculation from my side, but the cat in the film looks quite like the cat which appears with Elsa and Charles in the first image of this post! Unfortunately, imdb doesn't credit the cat performer, so I cannot tell for certain, ha.

Endnote on sources
Well, that was quite an impromptu trivia post... and coming from someone who is allergic to cats' hair! Among the sources gleaned for its ellaboration, there's Jean Renoir's "My Life and My Films", Elsa Lanchester's 1938 and 1983 books "charles Laughton and I" and "Elsa Lanchester Herself", and Alexander Sesonske excellent vindication of "This Land Is Mine" as one of the most interesting American films of Renoir (published in the all-Renoir issues 12-13 of "Persistence of Vision")

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Witness" in AFI's Best Ten list

Miss Plimsoll chastises her patient, Wilfrid the Fox, who is probably scheming about where to stash the cigars next

You may be interested to know that the American Film Institute has elaborated a list of what they consider the best ten courtroom drama films: Laughtonians will be pleased to know that "Witness For The Prosecution" is included in that list.

Well, I know, many of you would like the film even if it wasn't in that list, or any other... Still, as it is mentioned in one of the links below, it is good than news like this keep a good film like "Witness For The Prosecution" in the public's eye. And more when, for a few years from now, there has been talk about a new remake. But why a remake? Come to think, the film is already beyond its 50th birthday, and still giving enjoyment to many a new viewer, which is good as many young people today seems a bit averse to try Black and White films.

In fact, the memory of a 1982 remake, in colour, has almost faded: it had the same plot, a remarkable cast (which included Ralph Richardson, Deborah Kerr, Beau Bridges and Diana Rigg), it was shot in colour with the inter-war period craftily recreated in costumes and decors... But the made-for-TV perfunctoriness of the remake was no match for the spark of the Billy Wilder original, and the superb original cast shot the film in a state of grace. Also, the CBS remake subdued the comedy -the trump card of the 1957 version- in favour of the intrigue and the drama, which probably made for a more Christie-esque film, but not for a more engaging one. I suspect that a further remake just wouldn't live up to the expectations: how much you can improve the original? with CGI effects? With Janet McKenzie chasing Leonard Vole on a helicopter? With Sir Wilfrid saying, instead of "Liar!", "You *beep*ing *beep*! *beep* you!!"?

Honest, rather than make a new (and possibly, quite costly) remake, why don't the producers should rather release again the original film in theaters? Or give it a proper not-film-only DVD?

Check these links!
:: AFI's own page for "Witness For The Prosecution", including a trailer of the film and a brief comment by Sidney Lumet.
:: The news as featured in Charles' home town newspaper.
:: Also: Another film with Charles, Spartacus, is included in AFI's list of the ten best epic films. As already mentioned, good if it introduces Charles to new generations of film buffs.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

"Come on baby, light my fire"

"Anybody got a light?"

I love this picture! Charles is seductively looking at you while holding a cigarette, and, if you ask me, makes me feel like striking a match, or producing a lighter, or, as Bogey does in the cartoon "Bacall to Arms", a blow torch, if necessary!! (AND take this from a non-smoker!)

Anyway, what we can do today is to light the 109 candles in Charles' cake, and, as the cartoon Lauren Bacall says, just put our lips together and... blow these candles while we make a wish

Happy birthday, Charles Laughton, wherever you are!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Night of the Hunter Collector's edition DVD? Hmmm...

Well, this might be interesting news: recently, Classicflix announced the release by MGM, of a two-disk Collector's edition of "The Night of the Hunter" in September. Apparently, this edition has been temporarily postponed.

I do hope, as Clark does in his blog, that this delay means that MGM is taking the necessary time to deliver us the DVD this truly great film deserves... the DVD we are all dreaming about!. You name it: comments by experts, the film taken from the very best possible copy, with the fascinating out-takes of the shooting, with Walt's Schummann's soundtrack (Soundtrack solo version plus Laughton reading alonside version would be cool!), etc... Many of us have already seen the film on screen, TV, VHS tape or MGM's own previous release, yes, we have this already: Now... now we want something better!

The buzz's all over!
Of course, such news have arisen quite a number of comments in other blogs and forums! Check them and spread the word! Send your own links! Keep your fingers crossed! Send your good vibrations! Keep on sending your petitions!

:: Filmbo's Chick Magnet
:: John Bowman in his blog Fin de cinema
:: Ken Jennings in his blog Confessions of a Trivial Mind
:: The Criterion Forum
:: The Home Theater Forum
:: Film Score Montly's forum

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Una de maestros

English Abstract: After a brief exchange with fellow bloggers about education, I thought it could be a good idea to showcase, from the film "This Land is Mine", Professor Sorel's pep talk to Albert Lory (and to all teachers of all ages who feel overwhelmed by their circumstances)

"Esta tierra es mía" (This Land is Mine, RKO films, 1943) de Jean Renoir es mi película favorita. No sólo por la interpretación de Laughton, sino por su historia que trasciende el circunstancial mensaje de propaganda bélica, el simple alegato antinazi, para convertirse en una parábola sobre la libertad y lo que realmente supone ser un héroe. Y creo que una película que es capaz de convertir la lectura de los derechos humanos en un momento altamente emotivo es una película que hay que ver, al menos, una vez en la vida.

Muchos profesores se inician en la profesión con ganas de cambiar el mundo, aunque las circunstancias del mundo educativo acaben convirtiendo a muchos en enseñantes acomodados en su rol de funcionarios de la educación, perdiendo la motivación que les hizo escoger su profesión.

En "Esta tierra es mía" Albert Lory (Charles Laughton) es un profesor de primaria de un pueblecito. Vive con su madre que lo mima como a un niño -luego teme su propia independencia-, está enamorado de su colega Louise Martin (Maureen O'Hara) pero no se atreve a declararle su afecto y, de hecho, se avergüenza cuando sus alumnos hacen broma de sus sentientos por ella -luego teme a la expresión de sus propios sentimientos-.... Y esa es otra: es incapaz de controlar a sus alumnos. Para complicar más las cosas, la Alemania nazi invade su país, y a sus muchos temores se añaden el que ese enemigo fuertemente armado que oprime su pais con puño de hierro se de cuenta de que existe.

A Albert Lory, en resumen, el mundo le viene grande.

Un día, los aviones aliados bombardean objetivos la villa. Acurrucado y tembloroso en el refugio antiaéreo de la escuela, es evidente que Lory teme sobretodo a aquellos que le pueden liberar del yugo nazi.

Hay, sin embargo, alguien que sabe que bajo ese fardo tembloroso hay una persona de valía: el profesor Sorel (Philip Merivale) director de la escuela, mentor y figura paterna para Lory, que sabe encontrar las palabras adecuadas para motivar a su miedoso subalterno y ayudarle a superar sus temores... y a ser mejor maestro.

Nota: He transcrito el texto del doblaje de esta escena, no es 100% fiel al texto original, pero se le acerca bastante

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Profesor Sorel: ¡Adelante!

Albert Lory: ¿Me mandó llamar, profesor Sorel?

Profesor Sorel: Si, señor Lory

Albert Lory: Se lo que va a decirme, que hice el ridículo. Soy un estúpido, débil, no puedo evitarlo, soy... un cobarde

Profesor Sorel: No, no...

Albert Lory: ¡Si, soy un cobarde! No soporto la violencia, me aterroriza, no sé lo que me pasa con el ruido y las explosiones... Soy un cobarde y no puedo disimularlo ante los chicos, no se les escapa nada. Esta mañana se dieron cuenta, y usted también, y la señorita.. Martin

Profesor Sorel: Siéntese, señor Lory

Albert Lory: No, no, gracias... ¡Ahora ella ya sabe que soy un cobarde!

Profesor Sorel: ¿Quiere que le traslade a una zona donde no haya bombardeos?

Albert Lory: No, no... no, señor

Profesor Sorel: ¿Por la señorita Martin?

Albert Lory: Er... si

Profesor Sorel: ¿Sabe ella lo que usted siente?

Albert Lory (sacude su cabeza negativamente): Tut, tut

Profesor Sorel: Creí que era usted un solterón empedernido como yo. Hace años también yo me enamoré. Cuando ella murió, yo busqué consuelo en mi trabajo... El nuestro. Mi familia fue esta escuela: mis libros, mis maestros, usted, la señorita Martin... Muchos de mis alumnos ya son hombres. Ser maestro es algo maravilloso. Es el mejor trabajo que existe. Se sacrifica uno, pero consigue grandes cosas. Y ahora nuestro cometido es mucho más importante que antes, ahora hemos de sacrificarnos más que nunca: nuestro trabajo exige la máxima entrega.

Vino el alcalde esta mañana a hablarme del deber, pero yo prefiero utilizar la palabra trabajo. hay que quemar estos libros y los quemaremos. No podemos luchar físicamente, pero moralmente sí podemos hacerlo. Hemos leido esos libros que nos enseñaron la verdad, y no se podrá destruir la verdad sin destruirnos antes a nosotros. Imbuiremos en los niños la verdad si confían en nosotros y ven nuestro ejemplo. Tendremos que ser fuertes, Lory, eso complicará las cosas: A nosotros, nos creen débiles, no tenemos armas, nadie lucha, corremos a los refugios, y a nuestros héroes los llaman criminales y los fusilan. Ellos son soldados con armas, banderas y uniformes,exaltan la violencia, el egoismo, la vanidad, cuanto deslumbra a las mentes aun no formadas, y sus criminales son presentados como heroes... es una desventaja enorme para nosotros: el amor a la libertad no impresiona a los niños, ni tampoco el respeto a los seres humanos.

Pero hay algo que no podrán quitarnos jamás: y es nuestra dignidad. Será una lucha muy dura y muy difícil, pero si los niños nos admiran, nos seguiran.

Venceremos, Lory. O tal vez nos fusilarán. Pero cada uno de nosotros que maten, ganará una batalla, porque morirá un héroe, y el heroismo sí que atrae a los niños.

No le pido que muera, amigo mío...al menos ahora, pero piense lo que le he dicho, creo que le servirá de ayuda cuando vuelvan nuestros amigos con más bombas ¿podrá ocuparse de los niños y estar menos nervioso la próxima vez?

Albert Lory: Si señor, lo intentaré

Philip Sorel: ¡Bien!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Por supuesto, hoy podemos sustituir "enemigo" por "concursantes de reality shows", "chulos y matones pandilleros", etc... y en general, todo orco que afrente a la dignidad humana. Que piensen los maestros que, al contrario que en el caso de Sorel o Lory, el defender unos ideales no implica jugarse el pellejo... tal vez sólo el cachondeíto de cenutrios y filisteos, pero eso es algo a lo que no hay que temer.

Por cierto, si no tuvierais ocasión de ver esta película en algún cine-club o cinemateca cercana, o en un pase televisivo, sabed que está disponible en un DVD editado por Manga Films, que ofrece tanto su versión doblada al castellano cómo la versión original subtitulada.

Friday, March 07, 2008

An interview with Terry Sanders

Visitors of this humble weblog will surely be interested in reading an interview with Terry Sanders at Indiewire

Sanders is an independent filmmaker, and known to "Night of the Hunter" fans as the second unit director. He and his brother Denis were close collaborators of Laughton in both that film and in the aborted project of "The Naked and the Dead"(Their script with Norman Mailer would be the one eventually used in the film as directed later by Raoul Walsh). Sanders, as you can gather from the interview is a born cinematographer and a very commited one to boot. One would like to read more details about his work with Laughton.

Personal note: visitors and friends might well be utterly shocked at how unfrequently I update this blog, specially as I have a loads of stuff queueing to be posted. I guess, I'm poor at organizing my time (I sure would require a Brian Donlevy type of inner-sergeant to discipline my schedule!), plus being almost non-stop working in the night shift of a very demanding work ever since last September... Still I promise that I'll be posting here for a long time coming. Slow as molasses, sure, but posting nevertheless. Stay tuned ;D

Off-topic: I understand that visitors of this site are enamoured with good acting, hence let me remenber you that, in a day like today, the great Anna Magnani would turn 100, so it woud be a good occasion to celebrate it watching any of her great performances . Tanti auguri, Annarella!