film: Mankiewicz: Guys and Dolls (1955)

2 may 07

I’ve began to wonder if the Good old films are as witty as they are because the people who made them built themselves up from roles in the production of silent films, from writing the stories to the intertitles, perhaps even the unheard dialogue, these are people who understand an element of film the past few generations have taken for granted. I do not know if the music to Fantomas was its original, but it worked on me to create nausea, great dis-ease, in the same way that The Game does so with its golden-tinted film. Sound has importance–and Guys and Dolls, although adapted from someone’s book (of stories, I think), is written by one of these people who built themselves up from the silents. The dialogue mostly goes past me unnoticed, and I enjoy watching the acting, especially of the big stars, Sinatra, Brando, Jean Simmons, even the smallest expressions, you know why they enjoy their names. Simmons and Brando especially made me want to fall in love, the way they fought it quietly, and give in passively. The womens dance numbers are mostly confined to a New York nightclub show, which means a few high kicks and some fucking obnoxious accents. The mens more than make up for this–being fascinating to watch, both individuals and group–reminds me that only in singing and dancing can anyone truly make full use of their body. The other delights are the scenes in Havana, not only because of the love, but because there’s finally some good dancing from the women, (I mean, this is a movie about men who gamble), and also a killer fight scene. Oh, and Simmons and Brando are also so damn attractive I can’t take my eyes off them; there’s a good reason why I did miss an expression. But some of those lines in this film…brilliant. What I can’t stand, oh, what I sometimes could not even look at, are the colors, being everything rich and gooey you’d come to expect from a 1950s cookbook, and I have a hard time keeping my stomach under those conditions. When I saw this live, in which Matthew Hunt plays Sinatra’s role, his performance having burned its way to my heart, even eight years later, the colors were strong, but in a modern “let’s play 1950s” way–not a technicolor way, but emphasis on deep greens, purples, oranges, and I seem to recall much zoot-suits where this film seems to have everyone in much cleaner cut…okay, breakfast is getting cold, i’m being yelled at.

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