Sunday, 5 October 2014

Free Pre-code Screenings

Running from 26 September – 2 November 2014, the Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of Pre-Code Cinema festival is a celebration of the best films of the era. Making use of a rare selection of prints from museums and collections all over the world, it is not to be missed. Unfortunately, the collection is only screening at Brisbane at Australian Cinémathèque, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). The films will be screening during the months of October and November and best of all its free! All the film information and timings are below:


QAGOMA 50+ After Hours | Screening and Talk
Forbidden Hollywood: Jewel Robbery 1932
5.30pm Thursday 30 October | Cinema A, GOMA
Following a screening of the high-spirited Jewel Robbery 1932 (68 mins), join Michael Brooks from Brisbane’s Cine Retro Film Society, in conversation with ‘Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of pre-Code Cinema’ curator Amanda Slack-Smith, Assistant Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA for insights into this fascinating period of Hollywood cinema. Free, bookings required. For more information on how to book for this program, please visit QAGOMA 50+.

SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER 2014
26.09.14 l 6.00pm l Alfred E Green Baby Face 1933
26.09.14 l 7.40pm l Ernst Lubitsch Trouble in Paradise 1932
27.09.14 l 1.00pm l Jack Conway Red-Headed Woman 1932
27.09.14 l 3.00pm l Clarence Brown Possessed 1931
28.09.14 l 1.30pm l John Francis Dillon Call Her Savage 1932
28.09.14 l 3.30pm l Victor Fleming Red Dust 1932

OCTOBER 2014
1.10.14 l 6.00pm l Clarence Brown – Possessed 1931
03.10.14 l 6.00pm l Josef von Sternberg – Shanghai Express 1932
03.10.14 l 7.45pm l Josef von Sternberg – Blonde Venus 1932
04.10.14 l 1.00pm l Ernst Lubitsch – Trouble in Paradise 1932
04.10.14 l 3.00pm l Ernst Lubitsch – Design for Living 1933
05.10.14 l 1.00pm l Frank Capra – The Bitter Tea of General Yen 1933
05.10.14 l 3.00pm l Alfred E Green – Baby Face 1933
08.10.14 l 6.00pm l Ernst Lubitsch – Design for Living 1933
10.10.14 l 6.00pm l Mervyn LeRoy – Little Caesar 1931
10.10.14 l 7.30pm l Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson –
Scarface 1932
11.10.14 l 1.00pm l Jack Conway – Red-Headed Woman 1932
11.10.14 l 2.30pm l Victor Fleming – Red Dust 1932

12.10.14 l 1.00pm l Josef von Sternberg – Blonde Venus 1932
12.10.14 l 3.00pm l Josef von Sternberg – Shanghai Express 1932
15.10.14 l 6.00pm l Frank Capra – The Bitter Tea of General Yen 1933
17.10.14 l 6.00pm l Michael Curtiz – Female 1933
17.10.14 l 7.15pm l William Dieterle – Jewel Robbery 1932
18.10.14 l 1.00pm l Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson – Scarface 1932
18.10.14 l 3.00pm l Mervyn LeRoy – Little Caesar 1931
19.10.14 l 1.00pm l Lowell Sherman – She Done Him Wrong 1933
19.10.14 l 2.30pm l Wesley Ruggles – I'm No Angel 1933
22.10.14 l 6.00pm l Wesley Ruggles – I'm No Angel 1933
24.10.14 l 6.00pm l William A Wellman – The Public Enemy 1931
24.10.14 l 7.30pm l Mervyn LeRoy – Gold Diggers of 1933 1933
25.10.14 l 1.00pm l Lloyd Bacon – 42nd Street 1933
25.10.14 l 3.00pm l Mervyn LeRoy – Gold Diggers of 1933 1933
26.10.14 l 1.00pm l William Dieterle – Jewel Robbery 1932
26.10.14 l 2.30pm l Michael Curtiz – Female 1933
29.10.14 l 6.00pm l Lowell Sherman – She Done Him Wrong 1933

NOVEMBER 2014
01.11.14 l 1.00pm l I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang 1932
01.11.14 l 3.00pm l Charles Brabin – The Beast of the City 1932
02.11.14 l 1.00pm l Dorothy Arzner – Christopher Strong 1933

Little Caesar 1931
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 79 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: MERVYN LEROY / PRODUCERS: HAL WALLIS, DARRYL F ZANUCK / SCRIPT: FRANCIS FARAGOH, ROBERT N LEE / BASED ON THE W R BURNETT NOVEL ‘LITTLE CAESAR’ 1929 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: TONY GAUDIO / EDITOR: RAY CURTISS / CAST: EDWARD G ROBINSON, DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS JR, GLENDA FARRALL, WILLIAM COLLIER JR / MUSIC: ERNO RAPEE / PRODUCTION COMPANY: FIRST NATIONAL PICTURES (WARNER BROS PICTURES) / PRINT SOURCE: PRESERVED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS
"Little Caesar was the inspiration of Warner Brothers production chief Darryl F Zanuck, who in 1931 decided to exploit current headlines sensationalizing gangster activities. On seeing the financial success of Little Caesar, the studio continued to capitalize on the style. Little Caesar was a product of the studio factory, but because it was made before the gangster formula had rigidified, its terse and economic style has a raw power which isn't lost on audiences today. Robinson's Caesar Enrico ('Rico') Bandello set the standard by which all later gangsters rose and fell." Kathy Geritz, Pacific Film Archive.
 
 
The Public Enemy 1931 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 83 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: WILLIAM A WELLMAN / PRODUCER: DARRYL F ZANUCK / SCRIPT: KUBEC GLASMON, JOHN BRIGHT, HARVEY THEW / CINEMATOGRAPHY: DEV JENNINGS / EDITOR: EDWARD MCDERMOTT / CAST: JAMES CAGNEY, JEAN HARLOW, EDDIE WOODS, MAE CLARK / MUSIC: DAVID MENDOZA / PRODUCTION COMPANY: WARNER BROS PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: ROADSHOW ENTERTAINEMENT

'In the film that made Cagney a star, William Wellman's genre classic chronicles 'Public Enemy' Tom Powers's rise from slum kid to adolescent hood and finally to big-time bootlegger. The prologue deplored society's glorification of the gangster, but Powers's cocky arrogance and callous violence fascinated audiences. His ruthless pursuit of eminence, unrestrained by law and order, was after all another version (albeit corrupt) of the American success story. Socially irredeemable, Powers earned his title, just as viciously shooting a man as a horse, brutally smashing a grapefruit in a woman's face, strong-arming beer hall owners, and even disappointing his mother. Public Enemy was unusual among gangster films in its detailing of immigrant family life and urban environment, and its depiction of a life of crime as a reaction to Depression society with few opportunities for (lawful) success.' Kathy Geritz, Pacific Film Archive


Possessed 1931 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 76 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH, FRENCH, GERMAN / DIRECTOR: CLARENCE BROWN / PRODUCERS: IRVING THALBERG, CLARENCE BROWN, HARRY RAPF / SCRIPT: EDGAR SELWYN, LENORE J COFFEE / CINEMATOGRAPHY: OLIVER T MARSH / EDITOR: WILLIAM LEVANWAY / CAST: JOAN CRAWFORD, CLARK GABLE, WALLACE FORD, FRANK CONROY / MUSIC: DOUGLAS SHEARER / PRODUCTION COMPANY: METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER / PRINT SOURCE: FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE GEORGE EASTMAN HOUSE / RIGHTS: HOLLYWOOD CLASSICS

‘Crawford portrays a small-town factory girl who hops a train for New York, leaving her boyfriend and illusions behind at the station; both will find and haunt her before the story is played out. Possessed is a great example of how the studio system paid off artistically: it was not the combined names, but the combined talents of the stars, Clark Gable and Crawford, and the director, Clarence Brown, that raised the film from its melodramatic roots to achieve a lasting integrity and elegance.’ Pacific Film Archive


Shanghai Express 1932 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 82 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: JOSEF VON STERNBERG / PRODUCER: ADOLPH ZUKOR / SCRIPT: JULES FURTHMAN, HARRY HERVEY / CINEMATOGRAPHY: LEE GARMES, JAMES WONG HOWE / EDITOR: FRANK SULLIVAN / CAST: MARLENE DIETRICH, CLIVE BROOK, ANNA MAY WONG, WARNER OLAND / MUSIC: W FRANKE HARLING / PRODUCTION COMPANY: PARAMOUNT PUBLIX / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES

'The highly atmospheric sets, coupled with photographer Lee Garmes’ famed soft-focus shots, give Shanghai Express a dream-like quality that is highly appropriate for a film about China that was filmed largely in the San Fernando Valley. Sternberg himself said, “I thought the canvas of China as evoked by my imagination quite effective. The actual Shanghai Express, when I took it out of Peking, was thoroughly unlike the train I invented.” On this train, Dietrich tells Clive Brook, “It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lilly,” throwing his five year torch for her into an ambivalence that doesn’t stop rocking until the train stops rolling. Sternberg’s most colorful and langorous film, Shanghai Express is a kind of Grand Hotel and Stagecoach combined, in which the hierarchy of characters (including Anna May Wong at her sultriest) develops against the bombardment from without by revolutionary troops. But being single-mindlessly Sternberg, it is above all a paean to unconditional love, the importance of which is only underscored by its improbability.' Pacific Film Archive 
 

The Beast of the City 1932 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 87 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: CHARLES BRABIN / PRODUCER: HUNT STROMBERG / SCRIPT: JOHN L MAHIN / BASED ON THE W R BURNETT STORY ‘BEAST OF THE CITY’ 1932 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: NORBERT BRODINE / EDITOR: ANNE BAUCHENS / CAST: WALTER HUSTON, JEAN HARLOW, WALLACE FORD, JEAN HERSHOLT / MUSIC: ROBERT SHIRLEY / PRODUCTION COMPANY: METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS

'Based on a story by W. R. Burnett, one of the most prolific writers of gangster novels and scenarios, The Beast of the City begins with a spiel by President Hoover and ends with a police mow-down of gangland racketeers. In between, a tough, tense story is given added impetus by an interesting play of character types and an unusually detailed depiction of police methods. Walter Huston portrays an honest cop who angers some important people in his attempts to put a suave, powerful racketeer (Jean Hersholt) in the clink. Further obstructions encountered in the line of duty come from his own crooked brother (Wallace Ford) and his brother’s girlfriend (Jean Harlow), who has intimate connections in high places. In The Great Gangster Films, authors Parish and Pitts note, “The Beast of the City never attained the public popularity of Metro’s earlier The Secret Six or Dance, Fools, Dance (both 1931), for it was too uncompromising in its study of gangland versus law enforcer practices, without the usual overdose of romantic interest.”' Pacific Film Archive
 

Scarface 1932 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 90 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTORS: HOWARD HAWKS, RICHARD ROSSON / PRODUCER: HOWARD HUGHES / SCRIPT: BEN HECHT, SETON I MILLER, JOHN L MAHIN, W R BURNETT / BASED ON THE ARMITAGE TRAIL NOVEL ‘SCARFACE’ 1930 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: LEE GARMES, L W O’CONNELL / EDITOR: EDWARD CURTISS / CAST: PAUL MUNI, ANN DVORAK, KAREN MORLEY, GEORGE RAFT / MUSIC: ADOLPH TANDLER, GUS ARNHEIM / PRODUCTION COMPANY: THE CADDO COMPANY  / PRINT SOURCE: PRESERVED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES
“Loosely based on the career of Al Capone, Scarface was released as ‘the gangster film to end all gangster films,’ but in fact triggered off a whole series of imitations. It is Hawks’ best prewar film.... Its violent visual style, its cutting, and its cynicism and sense of character are as arresting today as they were then. Screenwriter Ben Hecht and Hawks create a world for Scarface and his mob that is not unlike the court of the Borgias in Renaissance Italy with similar intrigues, double crosses, and gratuitous murders. Scarface himself is more arrogant and stupid than his counterpart in Von Sternberg’s Underworld and gets to the top only through ambition and the fact that he has what was then a new absolute weapon, the machine-gun. His lieutenant, Little Boy, is characterized by his habit of perpetually flipping a coin, and other mobsters are identified by their own special peculiarities of behavior - a device often imitated in (later) gangster films”. Georges Sadoul, Pacific Film Archive


Red-Headed Woman 1932 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 79 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH, FRENCH / DIRECTOR: JACK CONWAY / PRODUCER: PAUL BERN / SCRIPT: ANITA LOOS / BASED ON THE BOOK BY KATHARINE BRUSH 'RED-HEADED WOMAN' 1931 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: HAROLD ROSSON / EDITOR: BLANCHE SEWELL / CAST: JEAN HARLOW, CHESTER MORRIS / PRODUCTION COMPANY: METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: HOLLYWOOD CLASSICS
 
‘The first of Jean Harlow's starring roles had her bedding her way from poor girl to rich wife and then even richer liaisons. Red-Headed Woman features Harlow at her most hilariously wanton. Unfettered by scruples or brassiere, this most avid of gold diggers launches a relentless campaign to wrap her charms around her married employer. Red Headed Woman was a target of censorship even in this relatively forgiving era. Anita Loos's script is blithely cynical about the exchange of sex for privilege, and blunt about the sometimes brutal power of lust (when her lover slaps her, Lil says, "do it again, I like it"—so he does). The film's audacity is still jaw-dropping, from the opening dialogue—"Can you see through this?" "I'm afraid, you can, dear." "I'll wear it!"—through to the ending, in which crime is not only unpunished, but positively celebrated.’ Pacific Film Archive

 
Jewel Robbery 1932 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 68 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: WILLIAM DIETERLE / PRODUCER: HAL WALLIS / SCRIPT: ERWIN GELSEY / BASED ON BERTRAM BLOCH’S ENGLISH ADAPTATION OF THE LADISLAUS FODOR PLAY ‘THE JEWEL ROBBERY’ 1931 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: ROBBERT KURRLE / EDITOR: RALPH DAWSON / CAST: WILLIAM POWELL, KAY FRANCIS, HELEN VINSON / MUSIC: LEO FORBSTEIN / PRODUCTION COMPANY: WARNER BROS PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE: PRESERVED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS

'As the dapper criminal known simply as 'The Robber,' William Powell requires no machine guns to hold up a plush Vienna jewelry shop. Plying his victims with marijuana cigarettes and the police with blonde female witnesses, he gingerly relieves the shop of its diamonds; it’s as easy as slipping a bracelet off a woman’s wrist while kissing her hand. Kay Francis stars with Powell as Baroness Teri, who comes to realize that the love of a jewel thief is even more exciting than the jewels themselves. A sophisticated, Lubitsch-like caper, Jewel Robbery was called in the original New York Times review, “nervous, brittle comedy.... The situation is as capricious, the dialogue as sprightly and the settings as sinfully luxurious as they ought to be.”' Pacific Film Archive


Blonde Venus 1932 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 93 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR/PRODUCER/EDITOR: JOSEF VON STERNBERG / SCRIPT: JULES FURTHMAN, S K LAUREN / CINEMATOGRAPHY: BERT GLENNON / CAST: MARLENE DIETRICH, HERBERT MARSHALL, CARY GRANT, RITA LA ROY / MUSIC: W FRANKE HARLING, JOHN LEIPOLD, PAUL MARQUARDT, OSCAR POTOKER / PRODUCTION COMPANY: PARAMOUNT PUBLIX / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES

Marlene Dietrich portrays ex-cabaret singer Helen Faraday, who is forced to hang up her apron and return to the stage when her husband Ned (Herbert Marshall) becomes sick. Billed as ‘The Blonde Venus’ for her exotic dance routine, Helen strips out of a gorilla suit to don a jeweled, blonde afro wig. Millionaire politician Nick Townsend (Cary Grant) is intoxicated by Helen and offers her money for her husband’s medical treatment in exchange for an affair. Helen agrees, partly to save her husband and partly succumbing to the animal magnetism of the handsome millionaire. When Ned finds out, Helen is forced to flee into the wilds of the Deep South with their son Johnny (Dickie Moore) away from her embittered husband who wants to keep them apart.

 
Trouble in Paradise 1932 G
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 83 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR/EDITOR/PRODUCER: ERNST LUBITSCH / SCRIPT: SAMSON RAPHAELSON, GROVER JONES / BASED ON THE LASZLO ALADAR PLAY ‘THE HONEST FINDER’ 1931 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: VICTOR MILNER / CAST: MIRIAM HOPKINS, KAY FRANCIS, HERBERT MARSHALL / MUSIC: W FRANKE HARLING, LEO ROBIN / PRODUCTION COMPANY: PARAMOUNT PUBLIX / PRINT SOURCE: PRESERVED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES

‘In this exquisite gem of a comedy, Gaston (Herbert Marshall) and Lilly (Miriam Hopkins) are outlaw lovers—jewel thieves masquerading as European sophisticates, and relishing the charade. The film is a masterpiece of Lubitsch style, in its love triangle (enter Kay Francis) played out in a confounding architecture of space; its verbal wit, taking full advantage of polyglot Europe; and its tossed-off politics (no one fails to mention "times like these"). But Trouble in Paradise also exemplifies a quality in films that would soon be lost with the Code, what James Harvey (in Romantic Comedy) calls "that community of cleverness that exists not only between the leading characters in the film but between the film and its audience....Gaston and Lilly not only rob[bing] other people but each other as well—simultaneously copping feels and property." Judy Bloch, Pacific Film Archive

 
Red Dust 1932 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 83 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: VICTOR FLEMING / PRODUCER: HUNT STROMBERG, IRVING THALBERG / SCRIPT: JOHN MAHIN / BASED ON THE WILSON COLLISON PLAY ‘RED DUST’ 1928 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: HAROLD ROSSON, ARTHUR EDESON / EDITOR: BLANCHE SEWELL / CAST: JEAN HARLOW, CLARK GABLE, GENE RAYMOND, MARY ASTOR / MUSIC: DOUGLAS SHEARER / PRODUCTION COMPANY: METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: ROADSHOW ENTERTAINMENT

“Don't mind me, boys. I'm just restless...Guess I'm not used to sleeping nights anyway”…hot-blooded, Vantine (Jean Harlow) finds herself stranded on a rubber plantation with overseer Dennis Carson (Clark Gable). Having dodged solicitation charges in Saigon, she settles into a casual affair with Carson as both feign a jaded disinterest in love. When an ill surveyor arrives with his well-bred wife, Carson’s eye begins to wander with unwanted consequences. Harlow sizzles in this racy Pre-Code film as the tough platinum blonde who nails her acerbic one liners with enviable comic timing.
 

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang 1932 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 93 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: MERVYN LEROY / PRODUCER: HAL WALLIS / SCRIPT: HOWARD J GREEN, BROWN HOLMES / BASED ON THE ROBERT E BURNS AUTOBIOGRAPHY ‘I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A GEORGIA CHAIN GANG’ 1932 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: SOL POLITO / EDITOR: WILLIAM HOLMES / CAST: PAUL MUNI, GLENDA FARRELL, HELEN VINSON, PRESTON FOSTER / MUSIC: BERNHARD KAUN / PRODUCTION COMPANY: WARNER BROS / PRINT SOURCE: PRESERVED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS

'The Depression forms the backdrop for a harrowing tale of a man's wrongful imprisonment, escape, and fated return. Few Hollywood feature films of its era succeeded as this one did in portraying the mechanisms of the real world as overpoweringly surreal. Based on a true-life exposé, the film had measurable results in reforms made in Southern prison conditions. And the depiction of a Georgia chain gang, with men in striped uniforms chained together, their backs also striped with whip marks, has lost none of its power with time. In this print, the rich chiaroscuro effects achieved by LeRoy and his cinematographer have been meticulously preserved. Paul Muni's haunted, sculptured face functions as a visual element in itself.' Pacific Film Archive


Call Her Savage 1932 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 90 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: JOHN FRANCIS DILLON / PRODUCER: SAM E RORK / SCRIPT: EDWIN BURKE / BASED ON THE TIFFANY THAYER NOVEL ‘CALL HER SAVAGE’ 1931 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: LEE GARMES / EDITOR: HAROLD D SCHUSTER / CAST: CLARA BOW, GILBERT ROLAND, THELMA TODD, MONROE OWSLEY / MUSIC: LOUIS DE FRANCESCO / PRODUCTION COMPANY: FOX FILM CORPORATION / PRINT SOURCE: MUSEUM OF MODERN ART / RIGHTS: HOLLYWOOD CLASSICS

Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation and Turner Classic Movies.
‘Former "It" Girl Clara Bow blazed her way into the 1930’s with this scorching cautionary tale about a Texas debutante gone bad. Adultery and miscegenation, strict taboos of the Hays Code, are mere details in Nasa "Dynamite" Springer's whirlwind life of spirited rebellion and debauchery. One of the most beloved films of pre-Code aficionados, Call Her Savage features a fascinating Hollywood recreation of a Greenwich Village cabaret, complete with a gay bar and a slumming expedition. A subversive and wickedly entertaining film.’ Harvard Film Archive
 

The Bitter Tea of General Yen 1933 G
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 88 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: FRANK R CAPRA / PRODUCER: WALTER WANGER / SCRIPT: EDWARD PARAMORE / BASED ON THE GRACE ZARING STONE NOVEL ‘THE BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN’ 1930 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: JOSEPH WALKER / EDITOR: EDWARD CURTISS / CAST: BARBARA STANWYCK, NILS ASTHER, TOSHIA MORI, WALTER CONNOLLY / MUSIC: W FRANKE HARLING / PRODUCTION COMPANY: COLUMBIA PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE: PARK CIRCUS / SCREENING FORMAT: DCP
 
'Subtle eroticism and splendid exoticism: an atypical Capra classic, set in China in the midst of civil war. Barbara Stanwyck plays a prim New England missionary who falls in the thrall of a ruthless but noble Chinese bandit (Swedish actor Nils Asther in a painstaking makeup job), who kidnaps her and keeps her in his summer palace. Controversial in its day for its depiction of interracial romance, Bitter Tea remained one of Capra’s 'pet' films—what he called “Art with a capital A.” And it is indeed reminiscent of the films of Josef von Sternberg, with its exalted visuals and glowing lighting by Joseph Walker creating a ninety-minute 'dissolve' between dream and  reality. It is the dream of a woman trying to see herself through General Yen’s idealistic vision of women as “beautiful fruit trees,” the reality being far more sexual than that. Stanwyck embodies the troubling contradiction by distancing herself from it in a cool performance.' Judy Bloch, Pacific Film Archive


She Done Him Wrong 1933 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 66 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: LOWELL SHERMAN / PRODUCER: WILLIAM LEBARON / SCRIPT: MAE WEST, HARVEY THEW, JOHN BRIGHT / BASED ON THE MAE WEST PLAY ‘DIAMOND LIL’ 1928 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: CHARLES LANG / EDITOR: ALEXANDER HALL / CAST: MAE WEST, CARY GRANT, OWEN MOORE, GILBERT ROLAND / MUSIC: HARRY LINDGREN WITH SONGS COMPOSED BY HARRY DACRE, CHARLES HARRIS, FRANK PANELLA / PRODUCTION COMPANY: PARAMOUNT PUBLIX / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES

'Mae West purrs to Cary Grant one of the most often quoted (and misquoted) lines in movie history: "Why don't you go up some time and see me. I'm home every evening." Practically every piece of dialogue in this film from Prohibition America is a sexual bomb. Luckily, the Mae West vehicle slipped through the door before the Production Code became firmly entrenched in Hollywood; after its implementation, the unflappable lady had her wings pinned. She Done Him Wrong is a true Mae West showpiece. The pretty men who vie for her attention are mere ornamentation-no more than a diamond brooch. Even the usually irresistible Cary Grant is accessorized: he had not developed his thick Euro-suave persona, and he leaves the spotlight to his more flamboyant co-star.' Nguyen Khoa, Pacific Film Archive
 

42nd Street 1933 PG
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 89 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: LLOYD BACON / PRODUCERS: DARRYL F ZUNACK, HAL WALLIS / SCRIPT: RIAN JAMES, JAMES SEYMOUR / BASED ON THE BRADFORD ROPES NOVEL ‘42ND STREET’ 1932 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: SOL POLITO / EDITORS: FRANK WARE, THOMAS PRATT / CAST: WARNER BAXTER, DICK POWELL, RUBY KEELER, BEBE DANIELS, GINGER ROGERS, UNA MERKEL, NED SPARKS, GUY KIBBEE / MUSIC: LEO FORBSTEIN WITH SONGS COMPOSED BY AL DUBIN, HARRY WARREN / CHOREOGRAPHY: BUSBY BERKELEY / PRODUCTION COMPANY: WARNER BROS PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: ROADSHOW ENTERTAINMENT

'The first of the Warner Brothers musicals cine-choreographed by Busby Berkeley, 42nd Street is also the archetypical 'backstage' musical, Ruby Keeler making her film debut as the classic unknown chorus girl who gets her first break when the show's star (Bebe Daniels) gets hers, in the ankle. The lucky hoofer generally has a boyfriend or rooming house neighbor who is an undiscovered song writer; here it is Dick Powell. The cast includes Una Merkel as a wisecracking chorine ("My, you have the busiest hands!"), and Ned Sparks as a cigar-chomping 'theatrical expert,' as well as Ginger Rogers. But the best part about 42nd Street is its show-within-a-show, with numbers like 'Shuffle Off to Buffalo,' staged on a train bound for Niagara Falls, 'You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me,' and 'Young and Healthy,' sung by Powell surrounded by a fur-clad chorus.' Pacific Film Archive
 

Christopher Strong 1933 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 78 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: DOROTHY ARZNER / PRODUCER: DAVID O SELZNICK / SCRIPT: ZOE AKINS / BASED ON THE GILBERT FRANKAU NOVEL ‘CHRISTOPHER STRONG: A ROMANCE’ 1932 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: BERT GLENNON / EDITOR: ARTHUR ROBERTS / CAST: KATHERINE HEPBURN, COLIN CLIVE, BILLIE BURKE, HELEN CHANDLER / MUSIC: MAX STEINER / PRODUCTION COMPANY: RKO RADIO PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS
 
‘Katharine Hepburn's first starring role, as world-champion aviatrix Cynthia Darrington (a character modeled in part on Amelia Earhart), was directed by Dorothy Arzner, then the only woman film director in Hollywood. The film's feminist statement goes beyond the question of the fulfilled professional woman to that of female heroics-the desire for thrills. As critic Gerard Peary wrote in 1933, "Hepburn demonstrates with the certitude of an Isadora Duncan that a woman's true happiness comes through intense, front-seat participation in an exciting profession...Conversely, the same happiness can be squandered away, the talented woman's life wasted, if she should misdirect this energy toward some egocentric man, such as Christopher Strong's titular hero, actually non-hero [played by Colin Clive]." Pauline Kael, looking back on the film, wrote, "[Strong] was drawn to her because, unlike his conventionally feminine wife (Billie Burke), she had audacity and independence...But as soon as they went to bed together, he insisted, late on the very first night, that she not fly in the match she was entered in...I don't know of any other scene [in movies of the thirties] that was so immediately recognizable to women of a certain kind as their truth...It is the intelligent woman's primal post-coital scene, and it's on film." Cynthia Darrington's solution to the problem is found in an aerial climax of startling ambiguity, one which may reflect the 'problem' represented by a proto-feminist triad-Arzner, writer Zoe Akins and Katharine Hepburn-coming in for a landing in Hollywood.’ Pacific Film Archive


Gold Diggers of 1933 1933 G
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 96 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: MERVYN LEROY / PRODUCER: ROBERT LORD / SCRIPT: ERWIN GELSEY, JAMES SEYMOUR / BASED ON THE AVERY HOPWOOD PLAY ‘THE GOLD DIGGERS’ 1919 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: SOL POLITO / EDITOR: GEORGE AMY / CAST: JOAN BLONDELL, RUBY KEELER, DICK POWELL, ALINE MACMAHON / MUSIC: LEO FORBSTEIN WITH SONGS COMPOSED BY AL DUBIN, HARRY WARREN / CHOREOGRAPHY: BUSBY BERKELEY / PRODUCTION COMPANY: WARNER BROS PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: ROADSHOW ENTERTAINMENT
 
‘Busby Berkeley was a dance designer, turning people into visual elements and the camera into an omniscient eye reveling in angles impossible for the mere mortal to obtain. Despite his rather benign reputation as an entertainer, Berkeley's imagination was truly bizarre, even a tad sinister; provocative in a mischievous way if you were paying attention, and there's no reason to think people in 1933 were not. Ginger Rogers sings 'We're In the Money' in pig Latin, backed by chorines wearing coins over their private parts; in 'Pettin in the Park,' Berkeley cuts to such strange details as a caged chimpanzee on a cookie box, a voyeuristic midget, and women's metallic bathing suits which men must pry open with can openers. Well, it's the Depression, dearie, and it's a jungle out there, as the working-girls plot of Gold Diggers of 1933 cynically demonstrates. The haunting 'Forgotten Man' number is at once a non sequitur and perfectly apt.’ Judy Bloch, Pacific Film Archive


Baby Face 1933 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 76 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: ALFRED E GREEN / PRODUCERS: WILLIAM LEBARON, RAYMOND GRIFFITH / SCRIPT: GENE MARKEY, KATHRYN SCOLA / BASED ON A STORY BY DARRYL F ZANUCK (AS MARK CANEFIELD) / CINEMATOGRAPHY: JAMES VAN TREES / EDITOR: HOWARD BRETHERTON / CAST: BARBARA STANWYCK, GEORGE BRENT, DONALD COOK, MARGARET LINDSAY / MUSIC: LEO FORBSTEIN / PRODUCTION COMPANY: WARNER BROS PICTURES / PRINT SOURCE: PRESERVED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS / RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS
 
'Notorious for being one of the films which hastened the stricter enforcement of the Production Code in 1934, Baby Face was also one of the first to be pulled from theatres when those restrictions finally went into full effect. The fast-paced, raw story of a woman who uses sex to increase her wealth and power still has the ability to shock. Barbara Stanwyck is Lily Powers, a bootlegger’s daughter. Her father pushes her to offer sexual favours with the beer she serves to the factory workers who frequent his speakeasy. When he dies in a still explosion, she watches with numb fascination, neither happy nor sad to finally be rid of him. Taking the advice of the local cobbler, the only man in town who values her mind over her body, she hops a train to New York with her maid, in search of a better life. There she picks a high-rise she likes and seduces her way from the office boy in the personnel department all the way up to the president in his penthouse suite.' Kendahl Cruver, Senses of Cinema


I’m No Angel 1933 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 87 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: WESLEY RUGGLES / PRODUCER: WILLIAM LEBARON / SCRIPT: MAE WEST / BASED ON A STORY BY MAE WEST / CINEMATOGRAPHY: LEO TOVER / EDITOR: OTHO LOVERING / CAST: MAE WEST, CARY GRANT, GREGORY RATOFF, EDWARD ARNOLD, RALF HAROLDE / MUSIC: HERMAN HAND, HOWARD JACKSON, RUDOLPH G KOPP, JOHN LEIPOLD, HEINZ ROEMHELD / PRODUCTION COMPANY: PARAMOUNT PUBLIX / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES
‘For Tira the Lion Tamer in the film famous for "Beulah, peel me a grape," Mae West wrote many an indelicate line, the entendres doubled by her inimitable delivery. Made just before the crackdown, it's a kind of farewell to screen sex, a demonstration reel not only for censors but for producers, as well: in Tira's various audiences—from slavering sideshow suckers to society dames who find her fascinating, to judge and jury in one of the great courtroom routs—they could see just what they stood to lose. One of West's funniest films, it's also her boldest, as Tira, cheered on by her biggest fans (her maids), grows from tawdry temptress into her mantle of "Feminine beauty, triumphant and unafraid." The prize is real passion; it's guaranteed you'll be thinking about the same thing Tira and her society hottie Cary Grant are at the film's close.’ Judy Bloch, Pacific Film Archive


Female 1933 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 60 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTORS: MICHAEL CURTIZ, WILLIAM A WELLMAN / PRODUCER: ROBERT PRESNELL SR / SCRIPT: GENE MARKEY, KATHRYN SCOLA / ADAPTED FROM THE DONALD HENDERSON CLARK NOVEL ‘FEMALE’ 1932 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: SID HICKOX / EDITOR: JACK KILLIFER / CAST: RUTH CHATTERTON, GEORGE BRENT, LOIS WILSON, JOHNNY MACK BROWN / MUSIC: LEO F FORBSTEIN / PRODUCTION COMPANY: FIRST NATIONAL PICTURES (WARNER BROS PICTURES) / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS

‘Ruth Chatterton is Alison Drake, the owner of an automobile factory who, like a latter-day Catherine the Great, keeps a stable of studs chosen from among her comeliest male employees. But as soon as any of them show signs of wanting some romance along with their sex, Alison cuts them loose. She finally meets her match in the form of George Brent – Chatterton's real husband at the time – who drives her nuts by resisting her entirely. Sadly overlooked today, Chatterton was one of the greatest female stars of the pre-Code era.’ Harvard Film Archive 


Design for Living 1933 Ages 18+
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 90 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: ERNST LUBITSCH / SCRIPT: BEN HECHT / BASED ON THE NOEL COWARD PLAY ‘DESIGN FOR LIVING’ 1933 / CINEMATOGRAPHY: VICTOR MILNER / EDITOR: FRANCES MARSH / CAST: FREDRIC MARCH, GARY COOPER, MIRIAM HOPKINS, EDWARD EVERETT HORTON / MUSIC: JOHN LEIPOLD / PRODUCTION COMPANY: PARAMOUNT PUBLIX / PRINT SOURCE/RIGHTS: UNIVERSAL PICTURES
 
‘Three expatriate Americans in Paris—a struggling painter (Gary Cooper), an unpublished playwright (Fredric March), and their self-appointed critic and muse (Miriam Hopkins)—resolve to establish a platonic garret dedicated to art. But a dusty couch calls, and soon the lady is switching with casual promiscuity from one friend to the other. The ménage à trois has its complications, to be sure (the men "love" each other, too), but they have nothing to do with virtue. "Don't let's be delicate, let's be crude and objectionable," says Hopkins (who could never be any of those things) to Edward Everett Horton (who, as a representative of propriety, is all three). This is one of Lubitsch's most underrated films, perhaps for the sin of adapting Noel Coward's play to film's requirements (big stars) and Lubitsch's obsession—sets that speak louder than dialogue. The crowded garret is a Borzagean heaven, the outsized world of success a muse's idea of hell.’ Judy Bloch, Pacific Film Archive.
 
For more information check out GOMA's website here.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The New Dietrich: Sari Maritza and Lauren Bacall Tribute

Touted by Paramount Pictures in 1932 at the “New Dietrich”, Sari Maritza was as beautiful, exotic and captivating as her acting counterpart but without the dedication and longevity. Maritza was a Paramount acquisition groomed and educated like no other with the company’s executives waiting months before committing her to a picture. However, this highly anticipated and talented actress only appeared in pictures for four years, retiring to engross herself in her many and sadly short-lived marriages. Like so many Hollywood hopefuls, despite talent, good-looks and the backing of a large production company, Maritza’s acting abilities were never fully realized.
 Born Dora Patricia Detering-Nathan, on March 17, 1910 in Tientsin, China, Maritza’s early life – according to early media reports – was something out of a fairytale. The daughter of a mining company owner and British Army Major, Walter Nathan, and an Austrian noblewoman, she reportedly lived in a medieval castle surrounded a moat. Similar to most wealthy foreign girls born in China, Maritza was educated at a number of elite boarding schools in England, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. This upbringing gave her brains as well as deportment with the actress reportedly able to speak at least four languages. After graduating, newspapers commented, “she suddenly decided after loafing at European spas for several years at the expense of her wealthy parents, that she’d like to go onto the stage.” While in England, Maritza caught the attention of theatrical manager, Vivyan Gaye, who stated, “here was a gal with a future.”
Accordingly, Maritza and Gaye decided to change her name to suit her exotic, European appearance. The pair resolved on Sari Maritza (pronounced SHA-ree MAR-ee-tsa) a combination of two popular Viennese musical comedies Sari and Countess Maritza. However instead of beginning on the stage as Gaye instructed, Maritza chose to utilize her almost perfect English diction on the new medium of talking pictures. Her first screen credits were unexceptional playing secondary roles in three low budget British films, Bed and Breakfast (1930), Greek Street (1930) and No Lady (1931) with Lupino Lane.
Chaplin with Maritza (far right) and Vivyan Gaye (second from left)
Her breakout into the American popular conscious occurred the same year while filming UK/ Germany film Monte Carlo Madness (1932) in Berlin. Maritza met legendary actor and filmmaker, Charlie Chaplin, during his world tour promoting the film City Lights (1931). He apparently became infatuated with the actress and appeared at a number of prominent society events and parities together. The couple made headlines at the opening of the film at the London premiere when Chaplin walked in with Maritza on his arm and famously danced the tango during the night. The media went wild assuming she would become his leading lady in his next two pictures. Although, this never occurred the publicity spring-boarded Maritza into the eyes of Hollywood studio bosses and later that year signed a contract with Paramount studios.
Paramount spent months perfecting Maritza’s acting style and publicity machine before starring her in her first picture. The company originally planned for their star to appear in The Girl in the Headlines, which was to be directed by George Cukor but never eventuated. Her first film for Paramount became the Forgotten Commandments (1932) a sort of accompanying piece to Cecil B. DeMille’s silent epic The Ten Commandments (1923). The final cut even included mostly recycled or left-over footage from DeMille’s film. The movie had mixed reviews; however, Maritza was received well with The New York Times reviewer stating she did a “competent performance.”

Maritza completed only six more films before her early retirement. Most were second rate properties that Paramount’s more popular star, Marlene Dietrich, turned down. Although she had a short career, Maritza worked with several first-rate and legendary actors. She appeared opposite W.C. Fields in wacky, slapstick comedy International House (1932), Eric von Strohiem in World War I drama Crimson Romance (1934) and The Right to Romance alongside Ann Harding and Nils Aster. The low budget Crimson Romance would prove the last on screen role for Maritza who believed that she couldn’t act and was sick of the façade producers made her enact.
In 1934, she shocked Hollywood by eloping Phoenix, Arizona with MGM producer, Sam Katz. They divorced ten years later with Maritza claiming Katz called her “stupid” and “left her alone while he took evenings out.” Sometime later she remarried, George Clother, an economics student in Washington DC. Maritza stayed mostly out of the public eye until her death in July, 1987. During the resurrection of Hollywood’s Golden Age and the prevalence of film historians and preservers, rumours appeared claiming Maritza and, her friend and long term roommate, were secret lesbians. This was probably due to the friendship Maritza shared with actors Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, also thought to be in a homosexual relationship. The rumours claim the foursome would act as beards for each other at public events. Newspaper reports from 1934 – before Maritza’s retirement – even assert Maritza and Scott had a secret engagement and marriage when they were seen holidaying alone together. These reports are most likely false as Gaye was married to director, Ernest Lubitsch, from 1935 to 1944 as well as Maritza’s two known marriages.  
Maritza was never featured in newspapers nor appeared at Hollywood functions again. She died in July 1987 aged 77 at her home in the US Virgin Islands. She was another example in a long line of Hollywood starlets that never reached their screen or stardom potential. Although Maritza believed she had no acting talent, like many other actors of the studio era it was probably the pressure to live a glorified and false existence that ruined her chances at a long term career. Her beauty was otherworldly and voice, crisp and elegant; however, because of her relatively small body of work she will not be remembered today.          
Lauren Bacall Tribute
 
 
Before I finish for the day I have to acknowledge the recent death of actress, legend and overall great lady, Lauren Bacall. On film and in life she was a gem and someone I will always look up to as the pinnacle of charm, grace and talent. Every interview I have seen of her, she is engaging, funny and revealing. She will be sadly missed and I encourage everyone to check out her autobiography By Myself, which I found a wonderful read both for film lovers and novices and will always be close by me wherever I go. R.I.P Betty/ Lauren.  
 
 
 

Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Gentleman Gangster: Stone Wallace on George Raft – Part 2

This is part two of an interview I completed with George Raft biographer, Stone Wallace. For part one, click here. For everyone else, enjoy:

Emma: How did Raft get into film acting? Did he have any training before beginning acting or was he simply a natural performer?     
Stone: George was friendly with Texas Guinan, a famous cabaret hostess of the time and partner with mobster Larry Fay in the El Fey Club.  (The pair were later immortalized, if somewhat fictionally, as Eddie Bartlett and Panama Smith in The Roaring Twenties, played respectively by James Cagney and Gladys George). George often danced at the club and when Texas was asked to go to Hollywood to appear in the movie Queen of the Night Clubs, George accompanied her - either as merely a companion or maybe her bodyguard. George appeared briefly in the movie. He initially was filmed doing a whirlwind dance number but the scene was cut for some reason and instead George can quickly be seen enthusiastically waving a baton while conducting a night club orchestra. George appeared in a few other minor film roles, such as Goldie and Side Street and eventually decided to try and make acting his career. The clubs in New York where George had earlier enjoyed success were rapidly closing down due to the Depression and George was anxious to try another line of work - one preferably related to show business. It took him a while and apparently he endured some rough times trying to establish himself, but he got his first break when director Rowland Brown ran into Raft at a prize fight and remembered George from his impressive dancing in vaudeville and cast him as Spencer Tracy's second-in-command in the gangster drama Quick Millions. From there, George was off and running. His next "big" break came when Howard Hawks cast him as Paul Muni's henchman in Scarface.  His success in that film led to his being placed under contract to Paramount.
Interesting about Scarface. Jack LaRue told me that it was he who was originally cast in the Guino Rinaldo role but that after just a few days' filming director Hawks felt that LaRue possessed too much authority to be believable as Muni's henchman. LaRue accepted the dismissal gracefully and even (supposedly) suggested his pal George Raft for the role. I tend not to believe this account. LaRue was just beginning his own career in movies and it seems unlikely an actor hungry for his own success would introduce his own competition. In any event, if true, Raft reciprocated the favour when he turned down The Story of Temple Drake and LaRue was given the role. Unfortunately, the results for Jack LaRue were much less favourable for his future career.

Emma: Would you say the Paramount years were the most successful for George Raft?
Stone: I'm really not a huge fan of most of Raft's Paramount output. I think George fared much better at Warners and it's interesting to speculate how his career would have progressed had he signed with Warners after the success of Scarface rather than going to Paramount. Paramount had a more European style whereas Warners of course was urban and gritty. But I will say that well into his Paramount contract George scored big with three features: The Glass Key, Souls at Sea and Spawn of the North (probably my second favourite Raft film). What is interesting is that Raft's last film for the studio, The Lady's from Kentucky, was relegated to the second feature on the double bill. Doesn't really say much for George's future with Paramount.

Raft and Robinson
Emma: On a personal note, Raft had a short lived relationship with his only wife, Grayce Mulrooney, although they never legally separated. How did the pair meet and why did you think they never divorced?
Stone: Grayce Mulrooney had been one of George's early ballroom partners, later to leave show business to work as a social worker, and while George dated many girls, Grayce held a particular attraction to George. While he wasn't exactly keen on the idea of getting married and settling down given that he was focusing on advancing his career, he eventually gave in to her (persistent) demands that they marry and they wed in 1923 when George embarked on a four-month tour with on the Keith Vaudeville Circuit. The union was rocky right from the start and as far as Raft was concerned, his marriage to Grayce pretty much ended shortly after their honeymoon. Ironically, legally, because a divorce was never obtained, George Raft had one of Hollywood's most lasting marriages: from 1923 until Grayce Mulrooney's death in 1970. Forty-seven years. Incidentally, there's a rumour that George actually had been married once before and that he had a son from that union. To my knowledge, it was something that - if true - George never discussed.
The reason Grayce gave for never divorcing George was because of her devout Catholicism. Raft believed her reasons were more selfish, that she felt it would be worth more financially to stay married to him than to merely accept a cut-and-dried divorce settlement. After all, she was receiving a hefty ten percent of his earnings and at his height George was averaging more than five grand a week.

Emma: Raft notoriously had several extra-marital affairs; including apparently with famous actresses, such as, Norma Shearer, Betty Grable and Marlene Dietrich. Were any of these relationships serious? Was he seriously considering marrying any of them?
Stone: Another rumour was that George might not have really wanted a divorce from Grayce. Staying legally wed provided a convenient way for him ever to have to tie himself down in a relationship; allowed him to maintain his freedom. Raft always denied such was his intention. He said that he desperately wanted to marry socialite Virginia Pine and, later, Betty Grable, and had literally pleaded with Grayce on more than one occasion to divorce him. But she stubbornly refused. After his romance with Grable dissolved, Raft never allowed himself to get involved in a serious relationship and he dated primarily starlets (such as Barbara Payton) and hookers. It's interesting to contemplate how Raft's life would have fared had he ever been allowed the experience of marital life. If George sincerely did want to marry either Virginia Pine or Betty Grable, I think it's sad that he was denied this happiness because of what I view as a greedy and maybe vindictive wife.
Raft's relationship with Norma Shearer was another matter. Their coupling was frowned upon by MGM head Louis B. Mayer, who said: "A nice Jewish girl like Norma should not be going around with a roughneck like that." Meaning Raft, of course. It is doubtful that their relationship ever would have led to marriage, however. They were merely steady dating companions; after all Norma hadn't been widowed that long from Irving Thalberg, whom she deeply loved - as did L.B.
 Marlene Dietrich and Carole Lombard were two gals Raft admits he was crazy about. While George and Carole occasionally dated, there could be no future for a lasting relationship with the shadow of Grayce Mulrooney always looming overhead. Carole also once made the comment that no girl could stand up to George Raft's sexual needs. He had quite a reputation in that area, which I will tactfully refrain from elaborating on. Raft also apparently had a fling with Dietrich but a long term romantic relationship never developed between the two, though each deeply admired the other, personally and professionally. With all the turmoil that went on between Raft and Edward G. Robinson during the filming of Manpower, Dietrich wrote in her autobiography that she retained only the warmest memories of George Raft as her co-star in the movie.

Raft and Betty Grable
Emma: Your book’s title clearly shows the connection between Raft’s and Humphrey Bogart’s careers. Raft is notorious for turning down the starring roles in what would become famous Bogart pictures, such as, High Sierra and Maltese Falcon. Do you think Raft could have executed these roles as well as Bogart? Also, do you see other similarities between the men, such as, acting styles?

Stone: I think Raft would have done very well as urban gangster and former street kid "Baby Face" Martin in Dead End. After all, that was Raft's milieu, unlike Bogie who was born into privilege (if not a particularly happy home life). I'm not as sure about High Sierra. Bogart had already played a grassroots bandit in The Petrified Forest, whereas, again, Raft was more closely associated with the suave, well-dressed "night club"-type of racketeer. It's kind of like trying to picture George Raft as a cowboy, which I don't think ever would have come off. As for The Maltese Falcon, the picture certainly would have been different with Raft essaying the role of Sam Spade . . . but arguably it could have worked because of John Huston's expert direction. If Raft behaved himself on the set I think Huston could have coaxed an effective performance out of him. Would it have been as good a film as the version we now have? Probably not. The movie has a terrific ensemble cast and the players work in a near-perfect synchronicity, like the finest tuned clockwork. I feel that Raft might have somehow upset that balance. I do know that Huston adamantly did not want to work with Raft, whom he did not particularly care for as an actor or as a person, once referring to him as a "definite Mafia type." Huston expected there to be trouble on the set based on Raft's reputation - and besides he had Bogart in mind for the part all along.

Of course the story about Raft turning down Casablanca is false, even though in later years Raft himself perpetuated the story (like Bela Lugosi later claiming it was he who persuaded Universal to cast Boris Karloff as the monster in Frankenstein). The truth is that Raft actually campaigned for the role of Rick, and Jack Warner was okay to cast him, but Hal Wallis and Michael Curtiz wanted Bogart. Wallis, in particular, had grown dissatisfied with how George thought he could dictate solely what was right or wrong for him when it came to projects. Had Raft taken on The Maltese Falcon, then it is possible he might have been awarded Casablanca, but thanks to George's career blunders at the studio, Bogart had risen rapidly through the ranks and was no longer regarded as "George Raft's brother-in-law."

Emma: What do you feel was George's main strength as an actor?
Stone: I've always said that George Raft performed at his best when paired with a strong (usually male) co-star. The proof is in the pudding: Consider Quick Millions (Spencer Tracy), Scarface (Paul Muni), The Bowery (Wallace Beery), Souls at Sea (Gary Cooper), Spawn of the North  (Henry Fonda), Each Dawn I Die (Cagney), Invisible Stripes and They Drive By Night (Bogart), Manpower (Edward G. Robinson) - up until Rogue Cop (Robert Taylor). And of course talented directors like Howard Hawks, Henry Hathaway, Lloyd Bacon,  Raoul Walsh, Billy Wilder. Since I know you are an admirer of Bolero,  I will also concede having a co-star like Carole Lombard definitely didn't hurt. But if you look at when Raft's career began to fade, you'll notice the (lack of) calibre of his co-star and directors not particular of the highest talent.

Emma: Raft probably does not have the legend status nor the enduring appeal today of Bogart. However, the stereotype of the film ‘gangster’ was created by him along with a handful of others. Why do you think Raft is not remembered today in a similar way to Bogart or Cagney?
Stone: Simply, bad career choices. A determined stubbornness not to be typecast as a gangster or hoodlum and, to a lesser extent, his desire not to die on-camera. It is obvious that Raft took his decision over accepting film roles seriously. He once said he wanted the public to like him (which I feel demonstrates his innate insecurity) and that was why he turned down the gangster roles in The Story of Temple Drake and Dead End. He found the role of "Trigger" in the former repulsive and sincerely worried that if he took on the part audiences would think he, George Raft, was like the character and that his future as an actor would be finished. Jack LaRue took on the role and it's true that his career never really took off afterward. So George's argument actually might have been valid. He rejected Dead End because he did not want the character of "Baby Face" Martin to encourage the kids in the film to partake of a life of crime, and of course that would have negated the whole point of the story. Later, of course, came the famous Warner Brothers rejections. What's really ironic and makes one question George Raft's thinking is why he would turn down the part of sympathetic gangster Roy Earle in High Sierra, a big-budget movie based on a bestselling novel by a recognized writer, and virtually beg to go on loan-out to United Artists to appear as a gangster (who dies at the end) in a much lesser - and silly - production: The House Across the Bay? A box of cigars to anyone who can figure out the reasoning behind that decision. I think what also really hurt George's career was his insistence after leaving the gates of Warner Brothers to play mainly good guys. The roles, in smaller budget movies at lesser studios, very soon became monotonous for audiences. In fact, when Billy Wilder approached Raft about playing the opportunistic insurance agent Walter Neff in Double Indemnity, Raft insisted on knowing when Neff was going to flash open his badge to reveal to Barbara Stanwyck that he was really an undercover cop. So much for George Raft in the part. In the 50s George Raft's "star" shone twice more - though briefly. And both times it was with him playing a gangster: Rogue Cop and Some Like it Hot. On the set of the latter Raft was quoted as saying: "Typecasting again. But what can you do about it? I just never seemed to get the breaks that Bogart and Cagney did."
The truth is, Raft was afforded virtually all of the breaks. He just never took advantage of them. John Huston said of Raft during the time George was under contract at Warners: "Everything at the studio was intended for George Raft." From The Sea Wolf to The Maltese Falcon, these were good parts that George missed out on. His beneficiaries in these roles became legends while Raft in the years to come became a nearly forgotten name.
Here's an enlightening story: A friend of mine appeared as an extra in the movie What Price Glory? and one day overheard James Cagney speaking with his co-star Dan Dailey. Cagney was saying that George Raft could have been one of the biggest stars in Hollywood if he'd only used better judgment. Raft would in later years place much of the blame on bad advice given him by his agent. But I don't quite buy it. Raft was a fiercely independent personality and was perfectly capable of making his own choices. Just too bad that many of them were bad.

Emma: Out of all the Hollywood figures in Hollywood, why did you choose Raft to be the focus of your biography?
Stone: Because I think George Raft is one of the most fascinating show business personalities, yet, career missteps aside, he has never really received his due. Today he's nowhere near as known as many of his movie contemporaries. He may not have been a great actor, but as I said before, he had a tremendous presence that even the most jaded critic would have to say was hard to turn attention away from. The guy was watchable. It is interesting how the program Biography did stories on Bogie, Cagney, Eddie Robinson and even John Garfield, yet Raft, who led the most colourful life of all, was never featured, and I even wrote to A&E to request they do a program on Raft. I mean from his days as a tough kid surviving Hell's Kitchen, his lifelong association with the underworld, top Hollywood stardom, then his career nosedive due to his turning down roles in films that became enduring Hollywood classics. His experience in Cuba during the Castro Revolution and his later expulsion from England. And of course his Don Juan reputation with famous and beautiful women of the day - and that is an article in itself.
To quote Bogie as Sam Spade in the famous role that George Raft turned down: "The stuff dreams are made of."

I don’t think I can end this article better than that other than to say a big thankyou to Stone Wallace for answering my questions. Also for anyone interesting in the career and personal life of George Raft, check out Stone’s book: George Raft: The Man Who Would be Bogart.