sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2017-08-28 12:45 am

Between the bed and the door there was acres of ground I'd not noticed before

I had clam chowder for dinner tonight. Last night, at Saint Anthony's Feast in the North End, I had a plate of fried shrimp, steaming hot, which I ate as [personal profile] spatch and I wandered among the stalls. The night before that, fried clams with my mother. I do not know if I can make up for a month's absence of shellfish from my diet before I run out of summer, but I am going to do my damnedest to find out.

1. Well, if I was disappointed in the lack of personal letters from Alan Turing, tonight I discovered Gilbert Bradley and Gordon Bowsher. I'm not sure how I missed hearing about them in February except I guess my country was on fire, never mind. I think one of the things I like best about their story is that while it did not apparently end with a happily ever after, it doesn't look like a tragic ending, either: neither of them was lost in the war, nobody got queer-bashed to death, they just broke up. Looking for more information on the internet, I found this project upcoming as part of Heritage Open Days: "Gilbert & Gordon: Then All the World Could See How in Love We Are." It would be a nice thing to attend with [personal profile] rushthatspeaks for our anniversary if we had a teleporter. I hope there will be a published book.

2. Right before I left the house this afternoon, [personal profile] ladymondegreen sent me a photo of a flyer for a "genderbending surrealist burlesque" by the name of Tiresias' Tits. I hoped from the name that it was a burlesque version of Apollinaire's original surrealist play Les mamelles de Tirésias (1903). It was. I couldn't have seen it even with a teleporter, but I'm delighted.

3. Dorothy Arzner's Get Your Man (1927) was delightful if fragmentary; it lost two reels out of six to nitrate decomposition during the decades it was out of the public eye and was reconstructed with stills by the Library of Congress. The proto-screwball romantic denouement is intact, but much of the set-up is missing, frustratingly including the majority of the night in the Parisian waxwork museum where Clara Bow and Buddy (credited as "Charles") Rogers fall in love among the exhibits, mixed-up files-style. Not only were the tableaux considered one of the highlights of the film on release, they were choreographed and staged by Marion Morgan, Arzner's long-term partner, and performed by dancers from Morgan's troupe. What survives on either side of the lacuna where the film bubbles and flickers out certainly looks elegant, with the uncanny valley double whammy of human actors imitating imitations of human life. Otherwise the film is a funny, freewheeling showcase for the force of charisma that is Bow, a New York girl with her sights set on a French boy resigned to going through with his arranged marriage for the honor of his aristocratic family—I don't think it's a spoiler to say that anyone who backs tradition against our heroine is going to lose their shirt. It's not just that she can charm anyone in this film she feels like, and the audience just as effortlessly; she always looks like she's having fun and she wants us to have fun with her. We're in on the joke when she arranges herself dramatically among the scattered luggage of the taxi that fortuitously crashed outside her love object's ancestral chateau, then powders her nose in afterthought before languishing again. She doesn't undertake to bust up a seventeen-year engagement without first verifying that the other woman has her own man on the side, but the middle-aged marquis playing a hopeful flute underneath her balcony had better watch out. She's as tricky as fate; she's exuberant and sweet. David the projectionist introduced the film with an anecdote included by David Stenn in Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild (1988), concerning Bow's initial disappointment at being directed by a woman: "After all, girlfriends like me she could lose, but a gorgeous man was 'divine,' and Dorothy Arzner was going to make one less man around." To which I am afraid my response is: come on, have you seen Dorothy Arzner? Here as Exhibit A is my favorite photograph of the director, actually taken with Bow on the set of The Wild Party (1929), their second collaboration and Bow's first talkie:



Seriously, Clara. Go for it. That was a woman who knew how to wear a suit.

rydra_wong: Norma Shearer leans back with her hands hehind her head, wearing a very minimal white silk dress and looking pleased.. (norma -- dress)

Clara Bow tangent

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2017-08-28 11:15 am (UTC)(link)
Have you seen Call Her Savage? It's an extraordinary mix of RACEFAIL OMFG and surprising win re: gender and mental health issues, all tied up in an inextricable knot.
alexxkay: (Default)

Re: Clara Bow tangent

[personal profile] alexxkay 2017-08-28 05:06 pm (UTC)(link)
I wrote a little about it here.

As I recall, the racefail is a combination of "noble savage" stereotyping, and some implied anti-miscegenation in the plot structure. Although honestly, to an audience like me (and, I suspect, thee), it comes out more like an argument *for* hybrid vigor :-)
rydra_wong: Norma Shearer leans back with her hands hehind her head, wearing a very minimal white silk dress and looking pleased.. (norma -- dress)

Re: Clara Bow tangent

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2017-08-28 05:47 pm (UTC)(link)
[Based on one watch, but now I really want to rewatch it:]

Basically, Clara Bow in 1932 was post-"It Girl", recovering from a breakdown which followed a string of public scandals (and a stressful transition to talkies). And Call her Savage is visibly grappling with/playing out a version of that, and it was striking to me because on one level, it's a really sympathetic portrayal of a woman who's a public trainwreck.

She clearly has mental health issues that nowadays might get her a label of borderline or rapid-cycling bipolar or something in that bundle: she has huge anger management issues, she lashes out, she's got mood swings, and zero impulse control/self-regulation at all.

And the movie is utterly unsparing about the way society treats her: she's constantly being punished for breaking the rules, while other people's awful behaviour towards her is ignored because they can successfully stay within the rules of correct behaviour. She's a rich heiress, so the newspapers treat her as a source of salacious and hilarious gossip. Her stern father rejects her. She's considered fair game by a playboy who marries her largely as a kind of joke, to spite his girlfriend.

And the film's sympathies are with her throughout (though it does demonstrate this by piling tragedies on her in a way worthy of a Lilian Gish film, but at least its expectation is that we'll see her as being cruelly martyred), and it ends by suggesting that she'll be able to move on through increased self-knowledge and acceptance about who she is, which is where we run into the OMFG RACEFAIL --

Because the movie's implied explanation is that her personality is what it is because she's SECRETLY HALF-NATIVE AMERICAN, and thus a Noble Savage.

The other Native Americans who feature in the film (naturally not played by Native Americans) are Noble Stereotypes; Bow's character's Native American childhood friend is a paragon of placidity and calm, but there's a horrible possible implication that this is because he Knows His Place and is not trying to participate in wealthy white society.

So yeah, the racefail is self-evidently huge and blatant, but the depiction of the central character is ... actually unexpected.
aurumcalendula: gold, blue, orange, and purple shapes on a black background (Default)

[personal profile] aurumcalendula 2017-08-28 11:32 am (UTC)(link)
I don't remember hearing about Dorothy Arzner before (she looks divine), I need to go read up on her.
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2017-08-28 12:18 pm (UTC)(link)
OMG you do, yes, she's an amazing director as well as being dapper as fuck:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Arzner
https://sovay.dreamwidth.org/821432.html
https://rydra-wong.dreamwidth.org/450816.html (not really a review so much as annotated screaming, I should warn you)
aurumcalendula: gold, blue, orange, and purple shapes on a black background (Default)

[personal profile] aurumcalendula 2017-08-28 01:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Now I really need to see her work! *places library holds* (your annotated screaming re: 'Merrily We Go To Hell' was fun to read)
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2017-08-28 01:58 pm (UTC)(link)
I should note that it's still one of my Three Most Upsetting Pre-Code Pictures (the other two are the original Dawn Patrol and Safe In Hell).

Some comment discussion between me and [personal profile] sovay:

https://rydra-wong.dreamwidth.org/449188.html?thread=5028004#cmt5028004
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2017-08-29 08:48 am (UTC)(link)
Do you have a post about Safe in Hell?

Nope, just shellshock. It's as relentless and claustrophobic as the other two, but on the subject of rape and sexual coercion. And flawed but very, very good, and worth seeing.
rydra_wong: Norma Shearer looking sideways, with a velvet dressing gown nearly slipping off one shoulder. (norma -- side)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2017-08-28 02:40 pm (UTC)(link)
Exhibit A is my favorite photograph of the director, actually taken with Bow on the set of The Wild Party (1929), their second collaboration and Bow's first talkie

And for which, according to legend (and fairly credible reports), Arzner invented the boom mike to allow Clara Bow to move around on set (whereas previously actors had to stay very close to where their microphone was placed):

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/1920s-dorothy-arzner-paved-way-female-directors-today-180955904/
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2017-08-29 07:30 am (UTC)(link)
I think it's the Kevin Brownlow Hollywood series which points out how some of the stiffness of the early talkies came from the fact that actors had to stay near fixed mikes hidden in the set, and the camera was in a giant soundproof booth to prevent its noise from being recorded, so it couldn't move either.
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[personal profile] asakiyume 2017-08-28 03:56 pm (UTC)(link)
This mini-review has me smiling. I've only ever just heard Clara Bow's name; it's great to learn she was so engaging. I'm touched that in the movie she makes sure that the woman her target was betrothed to has a man before moving in--so we can enjoy her maneuvers guilt free.

the uncanny valley double whammy of human actors imitating imitations of human life.--that's a great line.

And wow, yeah, Dorothy Arzner puts the men to shame in that suit!
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2017-08-29 06:32 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, DAMN. Thank you very much for finding and posting this.
Edited 2017-08-29 07:31 (UTC)
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2017-08-29 08:19 am (UTC)(link)
You should do a picspam! More people should know about Arzner, and if her style helps lure people into exploring her work -- I see that as no bad thing.
asakiyume: (turnip lantern)

[personal profile] asakiyume 2017-08-29 05:20 pm (UTC)(link)
She really **is** like a three-decades early David Bowie!
gwynnega: (Leslie Howard mswyrr)

[personal profile] gwynnega 2017-08-28 09:49 pm (UTC)(link)
I love that photo of Dorothy Arzner and Clara Bow.
gwynnega: (John Hurt penguin)

[personal profile] gwynnega 2017-08-29 05:59 pm (UTC)(link)
I like the "leading ladies gazing raptly at Dorothy Arzner" photo genre.
gwynnega: (Leslie Howard mswyrr)

[personal profile] gwynnega 2017-08-30 02:52 am (UTC)(link)
That's a great one.