These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

a world of black and white

i've been on a kicklately watching old movies -- that is movies before 1960. i don't know if it was my wife who inspired this, since she's watching the AFI top 100 films and a vast majority of the films are from way before my time.

at first i was hesitant to take the jump into the worl dof black and white, a world of litle special effects, no in-betweens of color, a different type of acting and more wholesome movies. then i said what the hell and took the plunge off the board.

and now i can't seem to stop watching them. every week i grab one or two old movies, films i really should have seen before, but when you're a kid growing up ina rural texas there's little choice or opportunity to watch these classics.

in the past two days i watched "dr. jekyll ane mr. hyde," the original 1932 fredric march version and today i finished up seeing james cagney in "yankee doodle dandy."
both movies impressed me for different reasons and evoked diferent emotions from me.

"jekyll" was a carnal film, more so than spencer tracy's role reprisal 10 years later. the effects on march's face were more obvious, but also disturbing and distracting. he looked more like what mr. hyde should have looked like, almost cro-magnon-like. but his hair piece and wide nostrils made him look apish and it took awaay from the effect. i could have done without that much monkey business. in another aspect, when dr. jekyll visited champaign ivy at her place, there was definitely monkey business going on. she did strip down and when the camera switched angles, her back was bare. when march moved his arm, there was the outline of ivy's right breast fully exposed. it was similar to tracy's version, but i liked march's performance better as jekyll. i liked tracy's performance as hyde better.

cagney was great in "yankee." it's the first film i've seen with him. i've read he never did anything like it before or after. it was magical the way the film went from musical to musical that george m. cohan did. i knew about "yankee doodle dandy" but didn't know about "over there" or "grand ole flag." the movie made me misty-eyed at times, i don't know why. it wasn't particularly sad. still, the portrayal of cohan by cagney was impressive and brought out something in me. his dancing was so cool to look at. i kept picturing bugs bunny in the cartoon versions of yankee doodle dandy, which reminded me of how much those cartoons were actually made for adults. what eight-year-old kid is going to know about cohan? i loved the distinct style of dancing cagney had, torso forward, legs pumping beneath him. i'm glad i watched it.

and then there's bogart. the guy could act like nobody's business. i won't discuss much about him here (he'll have his own blog entry), but he was great. i'm going to read a biography on him. favorite performances so far are "the african queen," "casablanca" and "treasure of the sierra madre" (another bugs spoof).


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