I play hooky from writing by watching more and more old movies. And the combo of whatever speed bumps I’ve hit while working on Wagstaff 3 and the discovery of WAY too many old noirs and the like on youtube have produced a lot of regular movie viewing the past few weeks.
I also needed to screen a bunch of stuff to evaluate for classes.
So I’ll begin a run down of what I’ve viewed so far, with some brief reviews and commentary.
I started with Bedtime Story from 1964, the original version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. David Niven and Marlon Brando play the roles that’d be redone as Michael Caine and Steve Martin, while Shirley Jones gets to play the mark that’d be redone with Glenn Headley. And redone better, actually – in the original, Jones is basically the innocent, whose honest love reforms the Brando character. Changing her to another con artist in the remake is a rare example of a story change in a remake that improves on the original. The character change for Headley is altogether brilliant – a way to basically redo the original set-up, where the Niven/Caine and Brando/Martin characters have their private challenge to see who can get rid of the other by taking Jones/Headley for a sap. We can have all the same gags where Brando/Martin pretends to be the soldier with psychological paralysis and Niven/Caine swoops in pretending to be the psychiatrist and so forth, but now our memory of the entire story arc changes when we find out that Headley was not the sappy mark but instead a superior con artist playing both of them (and us) at the same time. I kept waiting for that in the original, but instead got the standard character-reformed ending common to older films.
The original is still fairly funny. Niven is a natural, and Brando isn’t too bad at comedy. This was post-Mutiny on the Bounty, when Brando’s star power had waned and his reputation for being difficult started to affect his casting, but I suspected he only did a little movie like this only to work with Niven, possibly bed down with some of the babe extras playing other marks, and a little research proved me right, at least on the Niven part. Jerry Lewis’ theory on Brando (and actors in general) was that directors that worked well understood how to confer with the inner “troubled child” inside every actor – Kazan could confer with it, but Lewis Milestone could not. Watch Hearts of Darkness to see Coppola deal with it, or perhaps, lose the ability he once had during The Godfather. Or even better, watch Lost Soul, a fascinating 2014 documentary on Richard Stanley’s failure to complete the awful Island of Dr. Moreau remake. Brando’s sabotage of the film seems to be an act of revenge in defense of Stanley once he had been fired. Val Kilmer’s sabotage was more in defiance of Stanley’s authority on set to begin with. Two great docs on moviemaking, and windows into the later career of Brando, anyway.
Brando took direction here, however. And from Ralph Levy, a longtime TV director. This was his only feature. He went back to episodic TV right afterwards. And this was back in the days where television people were routinely looked down upon like minor leaguers in the entertainment field.
And now we see how important the Niven factor may have been, eh?
For some reason this one never turns up on TV or TCM and I’d never seen it. But you can find it on youtube, and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
And yes, I know it’s presently being remade AGAIN with the STARTLINGLY ORIGINAL IDEA of SWITCHING THE GENDERS!!!!!
OMIGOD!!!! THAT’S NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE!!!! Pat yourselves on the back for that one, Hollywood!
And yes, let’s make sure we follow save-the-cat/McKee story structure like it’s Holy writ, people.
And yes, make sure to insert current pop culture catch-phrases, buzzwords and the like.
And to run the table: keeping in line with the current trend in Hollywood comedies, let’s go totally overboard on bathroom humor, body excretions, and other overused and trite attempts at gross-out humor.
Oh dear GOD, will it most certainly SUCK.
Hollywood actually got a remake correct back in 1988, I guess they couldn’t just let it be. Gotta make sure all remakes are unnecessary and pointless somehow. Just another day at the office.
Meh. The more I think about what will most certainly be in the upcoming re-remake, the more I like the simplicity of the original, and the silliness of the first remake.
When do we get the gender swapped version of Victor/Victoria? I think we will have reached the singularity by then.