Courtesy of our own Schroedinger’s Cat, this weekend’s review by Mnemosyne, aka “The Insufferable Movie Snob”:
As you’ve probably figured out by now, I have a weakness for Hollywood iconoclasts, and Preston Sturges was one of the biggest iconoclasts of the old studio system. Like Ernst Lubitsch, Sturges was allowed to put themes and scenes into his films that few other directors or writers had the freedom to do; of Sturges’ The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944), where Betty Hutton’s character is impregnated by a mystery man after a night of drunken revels and goes on to birth sextuplets, film critic James Agee famously said “the Hays office must have been raped in its sleep” to have allowed such risqué content.
Unfaithfully Yours is a bit like that — it has scenes that you won’t see in any other Hollywood film of the era, because no one else would have been allowed to film those scenes. Was Sturges a drinking buddy of Joe Breen’s? Did his writing seem innocuous on the page but play very differently in front of the cameras? Did his bosses tell Breen to lay off because Sturges was making pots of money for them? Nobody knows, but we’re all happy he managed it.
I filed this under “dark comedies” because, make no mistake, this film is dark. Hot-tempered conductor Sir Alfred de Carter (Rex Harrison) becomes convinced that his much younger wife (Linda Darnell) is cheating on him and, during a concert, he imagines three different scenarios for how he’s going to handle the situation, only to have each of them go hilariously awry when he tries to put them into practice in real life.
Harrison gets a lot of praise for his acting in this film but to me Darnell has the more difficult role. She plays the real Daphne — a doting but confused young wife who doesn’t understand why her ardent husband is suddenly rejecting her — plus three additional adulterous versions that Harrison’s character conjures up in his head during his fantasies. Darnell is able to play these distinct characters with panache and make all of them believable while never letting the audience lose sight of what Daphne is really like. It’s a bravura performance…
Click over for the rest of Mnem’s review.
Les Bonnes Femmes
There is so much to love about Sturges: His uncanny blend of glittering erudition and zany slapstick; his repertory cast; his manifesto monologues; the brilliant roles he wrote for so many of his female leads; his unending fascination and love for both the upper crust and the working class; etc, …
I’m especially partial to Palm Beach Story and The Lady Eve, myself. The “beer/ale” monologue from the latter is timeless.
Tom Hanks gives America the pep talk it needs.
West of the Rockies (been a while)
Thank you for the review. I’ve only seen the dreary Dudley Moore version. Wasn’t he actually charged with DV in real life? It seems like the movie is just a little like if someone made Othello into a comedy and replaced race differences with age differences.
Anyway, thanks for an informative and entertaining review!
Wonderful choice. “Plumes at the hip” will give anyone who sees it the giggles forever more.
TCM has been running thru the various Frankenstein films on Sunday prime time.
The first batch aired during the second Presidential debate. Which lended an odd Lurch-like panache to Trumps stalking of Hillary on the stage.
I remembered the movie as soon as I started reading the review. For some reason the title hadn’t stuck. My strongest memory centers around the music. It was like having a wordless narrator. I’m glad you confirmed my understanding of it.
BTW, why aren’t you doing this more often/professionally? You are very good!
The Lady Eve is one of my all-time favorite movies. I love Barbara Stanwyck and this is her best, I think.
Yes, it’s one of Darnell’s best performances (she’s so darn pretty that her acting is sometimes overlooked).
Harrison is said to have based his characterization on the real-life conductor Thomas Beecham.
My take on Harrison here is that his acting is — as always — fine, but his physical comedy skills were limited.
The reviewer (in the linked post) neglects to point out that the three revenge fantasies are directly inspired by the conductor’s emotional responses the three different pieces of music.
Everything she’s done is Stanwyck’s best.
I sometimes have trouble keeping up with a Sturges film because I’m so busy admiring the dialog and the timing.
Awww — thank you! I did it professionally for a brief time, but then newspapers and magazines collapsed, so there’s no way to make a living at it anymore. I’m trying to do it more often, but I am very bad at sticking to a schedule.
I’m the reviewer! :-) IMO, it’s a little ambiguous in the film — he’s partly influenced by the music itself, but there are also actual scenes (seeing Daphne with Tony, watching her knock over the opera glasses, etc.) that influence him as well, so it’s not as simple as “music = fantasy.”
Sturges did clearly pick musical pieces that were both familiar to his audience and thematically appropriate, since the Rossini opera is about a woman who murders her husband so she can marry a lover, the Wagner opera is about sacrificing carnal love for a higher spiritual goal, and the Tchaikovsky piece is about the fate awaiting an adulterous wife, at least according to Wikipedia. But it’s definitely not a 1 to 1 relation.
Also, too, regarding Darnell’s acting, just watch her in the first scene of the first fantasy as Harrison helps her take her jacket off. She is very deliberately playing a totally different character than the one we’ve seen in the movie so far.
Sullivan’s Travels ftw. Not the least of which, it provided the title for the Coen Brothers’ film O’ Brother, where Art Thou?
Sullivan’s dialog was not just snappy. He gave contrasting opinions to side characters, who could undercut entire arguments with a quip. And his troupe of actors!
See The Great McGinty if you want to see how they used to rig elections! And Christmas in July is under-rated, but has interesting things to say about capitalism. That’s the thing – Sturges’ films had something to say – they weren’t just great comedies.
@debbie: Is that similar to every time I lose an earring I find myself thinking “but that’s my favorite pair!”.
OT question for the pedants here: Is that the correct punctuation? If I want the ! to be in the quotation marks, do I still punctuate the end of the sentence?
I would omit the period, but I’m certain someone will be along soon to explain why I’m wrong ?
@SiubhanDuinne: I would
Omit the period.
@WaterGirl: Apparently, the official answer is ‘It depends.’
Back on topic, Unfaithfully Yours is a film I haven’t thought of in decades, although I remember enjoying it on the occasions I saw it. Will have to find it and have another look.
Mnemosyne, I agree with Emma — you’re a wonderful writer! I’ve always known that, of course, from your comments here, but what a treat to read your longer-form pieces. I’m very glad you and Schrödinger’s Cat are doing this project!
Linda Darnell was so under-appreciated; she should have had a bigger career. She was wonderfully funny in Letter to Three Wives, especially her back-and-forths with Thelma Ritter and Connie Gilchrist (as her mother).
I agree with Sturges’ treatment of his black characters — the scene with the bartender in the middle of the Ale and Quail club shoot-out in Palm Beach Story is hard to watch — but he did give the porter on the same train some funny lines. After Gerry’s companion tips the porter only a dime, Tom asks the porter if Gerry was alone on the train to which the porter says “She’s alone, she just don’t know it”.
@SiubhanDuinne: She is great! I am glad to have her on board and AL and JC for FPing our reviews.
If you missed our earlier reviews you can read them here and here
@WereBear: So would I. An exclamation point replaces the period and makes it redundant.
Trying to see as many people as I can before I leave. Just saw one of my “mentees” from when I became a manager. She was 17. Now she is turning 40. I haven’t seen her for 8 years. And goddess bless her the first thing she said was “You look exactly the same”
The Lady Eve is coming up on TCM in five minutes.
@SiubhanDuinne: @SiubhanDuinne: @MattF: thanks!
It’s a bit funny there’s a movie thread as I have movie news. Uh, my script for the short I filmed last year has moved into the semifinals of a TV screenwriting competition. And, said short might be in a local festival after I calm down from the slacker judge who’s had the screener since February-!- and now doesn’t understand cutting away from a writer talking about writer’s block on her characters to two unnamed characters failing to have words to speak. Because that’s hard to understand without a dream sequence with fog &maybe little people. She wonders if it’s been edited to fix it. If you don’t get the everloving fuck out… With 6 months, plus a full pr kit with my contact info, you’re sending an email with 2 weeks before the fest? Yeah, whatever. Have to cogitate a response. But it’s nice to see a little movement on that front.
@Mnemosyne: May I suggest you start thinking in terms of self-publishing? Enlarge the blog entries into full articles and when you have enough, Amazon here you come!
@ruemara: Congratulations! It must be very frustrating to deal with a numbskull, but every profession has them. Patience, patience.
@ruemara: yes, it is!
Congratulations! Even semi-finalist status can get you attention from agents — it means you’re already pre-screened by the contest as being a decent writer.
Have you ever considered applying for a Nicholl Fellowship through the Academy? It’s a great program, and they’ve been doing totally blind submissions for several years now, which means that they get a much more diverse group of Fellows.
(Updated with fellowship link.)
(Blind submission means the script is submitted to the judges without the writer’s name or other identifying information on it. It prevents the judges from reading it with a preconception about whether or not a person with that name “should” write that kind of story.)
Do I recall correctly that you’re leaving for Ireland right after the election? Everything on schedule in terms of packing, shipping, necessary paperwork? You come across as an extremely organized person, so it’s nice you can see people in the few weeks remaining on this side of the pond and not have to fret the myriad annoying details.
Hope you will continue to comment here once you’re settled. Safe travels to you and best wishes in this new life adventure!
There’s no “it depends” on that APA page. For WaterGirl’s example, it agrees that it’s “no period.”
Except that the exclamation point is part of the quote and the quote is at the end of the sentence which requires punctuation. I would probably rewrite the sentence if it was mine.
@MattF: Part of the issue is the difference between British and American quotation marks. American ones are generally designed to go outside the period, the British inside. The main thing is to realize which will work best with your font, etc. and be consistent with it.
@SiubhanDuinne: No, you are right. The general rule is only one sentence-ending punctuation mark per sentence.
Thanks for the links. Queen sounds wonderful! (And all respect to Mnem, who wrote a fascinating review, but I think I’ll skip Shock Corridor — not really my demitasse of espresso.)
In case there are any other biography readers out there, Amazon has a bunch for sale on Kindle today, including the Ron Chernow bio of George Washington and Carly Simon’s autobiography.
Is that so‽
I laughed out loud when I read that. If I’m not sure what to do regarding grammar or punctuation – and it actually matters – that’s exactly what I do!
But this is BJ so I figured I would just ask.
You’re overthinking it. If WaterGirl had written—
—she wouldn’t add an extra period because the first one is “part of the quote.”
Where you do need “extra” punctuation is when there is different emphasis inside and outside the quote, e.g.:
@SiubhanDuinne: Yes. I am WAY organized and type A. Well here’s the new news. The plan was to leave right after the election. I thought the close on the apt. would be done. On Thursday my attorney called me to tell me about a “glitch.” OMG the attorney for the co-op board died. YIKES. So the closing will be delayed. She suggested a Power of Attorney. So…I have made plans to be on the plane on November 15 regardless of the close date. If we don’t close before then we will invoke the POA and she will close for me and then walk across the street and deposit my check in my Citibank account.
Other than that. Yeah. All the paperwork is done.
And yeah you will all hear from me once I am there!
I was an editor for years and rewriting was generally the best solution for situations like yours or when someone jumbles up a sentence just to avoid ending with a preposition (which is fine, by the way). The writers rarely noticed, and when they did, they wondered why they hadn’t thought of rewriting.
I read her sentence as differing emphasis (or she wouldn’t have used the period and the exclamation point).
@Mnemosyne: Thank you! Talked myself into My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire by Maurice White.
WaterGirl’s sentence was a question, so she need the exclamation point and the question mark.
ETA: No period.
If you like Barbara Stanwyck and westerns, you might want to give Forty Guns a try. It’s slightly more conventional and has a very grown-up romance between Stanwyck and Barry Sullivan. One of the nice things about the Fuller universe is that even very bad girls (women) like Stanwyck’s character are allowed to reform and live happily ever after without having to be punished for their crimes.
You’re right, I didn’t even reread the sentence to see it was a question. Shame on me.
There’s only one emphasis: “my favorite pair!” In that sentence—in most sentences—the period is a placeholder to show that the sentence is finished, and it’s superfluous after the exclamation point, which, aside from showing emphasis, also signals the end of the sentence.
I would not give up my seat on a airplane for someone who couldn’t punctuate her request correctly.
@Mnemosyne: Thanks for the reply — this is the spur to re-watch (saw it only once about twenty years ago).
Gawd. I sooooo have my period right now.
True. I overlooked that it was a question because of its slightly ungainly phrasing and because we all pounced on the period.
@Helen: Donald Trump would be disgusted.
@Baud: I should tell him. Except he’s way too busy blaming Michelle O for blaming Hillary for blaming Bill for whatever. Dunno. I have my period. I am not thinking straight.
Okay, that one seems to be like the sentence I asked about.
in fact, my sentence should have ended with a question because I was asking: Is that similar?
So I now think that it should have been:
Are we in agreement?
@Baud: I wrote my comment above BEFORE reading your comment. As you can see, I completely agree with you!!!
It is okay to have more than one punctuation point at the end of a sentence if t’s an exclamation point, right? :-)
Yes, we all agree. Stop losing earrings!
@Baud: Not even for me? :: sniff sniff ::
@Steeplejack: And now you call my phrasing ungainly. Sad!
edit: I started the original ill-fated sentence as a statement, then reworded it to improve it (ha!) by changing it to a question, then confused myself by ending with the “.” that would have been appropriate if I hadn’t edited the whole thing.
The nuns are surely turning over in their graves.
@WaterGirl: I assumed that if we were on the same plane, we’d already be sitting together.
Honestly, I’ve always felt a little meh about Sullivan’s Travels. It’s even more disjointed than the usual Sturges script and I think the turn into melodrama with his supposed death and false imprisonment is too maudlin.
To me, the prototypical Sturges film is The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek. No major stars, just a story that keeps opening doors that no one else was allowed to acknowledge existed, much less open up and walk through.
@Mnemosyne: I have a soft spot for that one, too. “The spots!”
IIRC, I ran across it on TV late one night without knowing anything about the movie or Sturges, and ended up watching it with a dropped jaw for the entire running time. Even critics at the time couldn’t believe he was allowed to tell that story.
@Baud: Nice save! I feel much better now. :-)
Yes! Plumes at the hip it is.
Also, I laugh so hard my face hurts during the real playback of the record.
I like a double bill of Palm Beach Story and Some Like It Hot. The latter is dripping with references to the former.
We are in agreement.
You know, I haven’t watched those two in close enough proximity to catch the references (and I saw Some Like It Hot first), but I’m sure you’re right. Wilder always credited Sturges for his having become a director because Sturges was the first screenwriter who made the transition and was successful, so it opened the door for writers like Wilder to follow.
They even both felt they were driven to directing because the same director ruined their screenplay: Mitchell Leisen. For Sturges, it was Remember the Night, and for Wilder, it was Midnight.
wonderful movie and review! inspires me to re-watch it.
Temporarily Max McGee (Soon Enough to Be Andy K Again)
Love Sturges, but, oddly enough, my favorite scene is from one of his lesser attempts, The Sin of Harold Diddlebock.
@Mnemosyne: A small note in Sullivan’s Travels that to me sums of Sturges: When Sully is destitute with Veronica Lake, and the diner owner gives them each a donut and coffee, that they can not afford to pay for. Later, when he connects up with the ‘Land Yacht’ that is teeming with studio employees, he directs one to give $100 to the diner owner. A script girl, talking mostly to herself observes: “Probably will ruin the poor guy. He’ll go broke handing out turkey dinners to hobos, waiting to hit the jackpot again.” Any movie that can make you feel good about rewarding a kindness and right away point out the unintended consequences of the act, shows a heart and a cynicism that can’t be beat.
And a little sex.