|Touch of Evil - 1958 - Orson Welles & Charlton Heston
You can choose not read my rant below and go straight to this marvellous composition by Aaron Copland called Lincoln Portrait in which Heston narrates close to the end. When I listen to this I feel as if I were proudly, an American.
In most of that past century one went to the movies and not to see films. I would have never used the word film. Movies were entertainment that in a pre-TV era, one did in the company of a parent or friend. When I think of the movies I saw in my past I know
When we arrived in Vancouver in 1975 I noticed that film reviewers like Les Wedman, Christopher Dafoe and Stanley Kramer tried to like the films they reviewed and they did their best to not to show off their talent in hating them. I remember going to a play on Granville Island. At the intermission, a theatre critic (I will not name the person) said, "I hate this play. I cannot wait to get home to write about it." I remember fondly Rick Forchuk, a Vancouver free-lance movie critic who was kind in his film reviews.
There is one movie that I particularly remember. I even remember it was a sunny Saturday in 1958 in Austin, Texas.
My mother had put me into a Roman Catholic boarding school, St. Edward’s High School in Austin, Texas that year. I was still homesick (she lived in a mining town, Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, Mexico). She came to cheer me up. She decided to take me to see Raintree County on a movie house the Varsity on Congress Avenue.
The film had in its cast Elizabeth Taylor, Eva Marie Saint and Montgomery Clift. How was I to know that someday I would become a fan of a minor actor, called D. Forest Kelly?
My eyes were all for the blond Eva Marie Saint. Was fate going to intervene eventually that in 1967 I would fall for a Canadian blond, my Rosemary who I married soon after?
What is obvious is that all those movies that I saw in that past century, they were connected with the people I saw them with. It was with my mother that I saw all of the Joseph Cotton, Leslie Howard, Orson Welles, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Maureen O’Hara, Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck. I saw a slew of Westerns with Randolph Scott, John Wayne or movies with Charlton Heston with my father or grandmother.
It was later that I shared not only with my mother but with Rosemary the films of Kirk Douglas, David Niven, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn. And before Rosemary died three years ago we would watch Noir Alley as we were fans of noir films.
All the above is a preamble for my objection in this century that not only do actors act, we must know about their sexual proclivities, their partners, are they cheating and worse of all their politics.
I will cite two films here that I adore. One is a Touch of Evil (directed by Orson Wells) with Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and Marlene Dietrich. Those who have seen this film opine that a blond Charlton Heston playing a Mexican attorney general was miscast.
I don’t care. I like the man, the actor and his performance in this film. I like all of his performances in all of the films I have seen of his.
I don’t care a hoot that he might have had right-wing political tendencies. I can say the same of John Wayne. It is obvious that soon those who have never seen Stage Coach will refuse to see it by the way Indigenous Peoples are treated.
Another film I liked was The Third Man directed by Carol Reed (1940) with a script by Graham Greene. Greene said that the memorable quote in the film said by Orson Welles, Welles himself wrote:
Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.
I will not be alive to tell any great-grandchildren I may have, that as a little boy, I played cowboys and Indians.
My world is rapidly fading but I must write here that I ignored and had no interest in seeing a recent biopic (I hate the word) on Cary Grant. Why would anybody want to see it with so many films with the real Cary Grant in them?
What has happened that in this age where Google knows what I had for breakfast, we must now know all the details connected to celebrities.
It is perhaps because I am 81 that I can remember the voices
of those actors and actresses off that other century. I particularly had a
liking for the voices (delicately about to break) of Grace Kelly and Deborah
Kerr. Listening to Gregory Peck would stabilize me and remove my worries. Do actors take voice lessons now?
Seeing my favourite Western, Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country with Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott, it is of no consequence to me to now know that Scott was gay.
One of my fave performances by an actor is Charlton Heston in Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait. The link is in the beginning of this blog.
And in the tradition of that past 20th century I go to the movies (not films) in places like the Park, the 5th Avenue and the Rio with my youngest daughter Hilary ever couple of weeks. Like me, Rosemary and my mother she is a snob.