Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film

Photo of Michael Curtiz

Read the reviews for MICHAEL CURTIZ—A LIFE IN FILM

 

 

The Count of Canoga Park... and my mental CD player

lederer st

Shortly after relocating to the far reaches of the western San Fernando Valley, I came across this sign while driving home one day.  Was this street named after Francis Lederer, actor?  Of course, it was.  It must have been fate and a collective touch of native soil that brought us together.

My awareness of Lederer began at a young age. After viewing Return of Dracula (1958) on local N.Y. television, I firmly believed that the Czech-born thespian was the real Count Dracula and Bela Lugosi was well... Bela Lugosi. Sorry about that all you devoted Lugosiphiles.

I was enamored with horror and sci-fi movies before acne and a deeper voice.  Francis Lederer and that Dracula movie made quite an impression on me.  I particularly enjoyed Lederer's continental lilt as the Count -  "...and your arm holding that cross, it feels like lead, no?" - along with a uniquely creepy score composed by the great Gerald Fried.  Later on, I reflected that Return of Dracula reminded me of Hitchcock's Shadow of A Doubt.  Lederer was doing a send-up on Joseph Cotten's Uncle Charlie but instead of hankering for rich widows, he pined for youthful female platelets via the neck of comely Norma Eberhardt.  His Dracula was so convincing that he recreated it for Rod Serling in a Night Gallery episode circa 1971; his final performance on any screen.

Continue reading

Odds and Ends

While resolving that I will not be at the screenings of Red Light and Walk a Crooked Mile at Noir City in San Francisco this Thursday because work beckons, my thoughts turned to...

The Noir City opener this weekend in San Francisco

A better weekend of darkness could not be imagined! After the opening night double header of Pitfall-one of the seminal film noirs, IMHO and Larceny on Friday, Saturday brought the debut of the restored print of Cry Danger (funded by the Film Noir Foundation, btw) followed by another Bill Bowers scribed jewel, The Mob. The Cry Danger screening was special. Not only was this underrated film in spectacular shape thanks to the stellar efforts of the UCLA restoration team, I brought my pal, Richard Erdman up to the Castro Theater to share in the good vibes. Dick has the best part in the film as a smartass drunken sidekick to Dick Powell. He shared a dirty joke and several yarns about the film on stage with Eddie Muller after receiving a standing ovation from an appreciative 1200 people. Really a special evening. In between it was enjoying the wonderful cuisine and hospitality with close friends that makes San Francisco one of my all time favorite burgs. I am looking forward to returning to the Noir City this weekend to introduce screenings of Armored Car Robbery and Inside Job. Open up those Golden Gates!

Continue reading

Soldier in the Rain... and a favorite femme fatale

soldierintherain

I watched Soldier in the Rain (1963) for the second time in my life this week. The initial viewing was on a local New York television station some four decades ago. I was many things different back then starting with “impressionable” followed by “young”. Soldier in the Rain resonated with me as a soulful vibe back in the long ago… and I discovered that it still does.

The film, based on William Goldman’s novel, comes to life through the wonderful texture of the friendship between the Army lifer, MSgt Maxwell Slaughter, played with seamless verve by Jackie Gleason and the cone-pone, simplistic Sergeant Eustice Clay, portrayed by an amazingly unaffected Steve McQueen.

Clay idolizes Slaughter as the consummate inside operator with the plush air conditioned office complete with executive desk and Pepsi machine. He would love to emulate his hero, but knows he never can. The naïve Southerner compensates by repeatedly conjuring up get-rich schemes for the pair of them when his hitch is up. If only Maxwell would ditch the stupid Army and join him on the outside, they’ll have it made. Clay’s absurd notions tend make Walter Mitty a pragmatist and his much wiser pal humors him along as he looks forward to hearing about the next screwball idea.

Continue reading

DVDs