Thursday, 30 September 2010

Gloria Stuart (actually Winifred Shaw) and Tony Curtis

Two of my favourite movie sequences of all time, the first in two parts. Busby Berkeley's work of brilliant vulgar prophetic genius, the Lullaby of Broadway number from Gold Diggers of 1935. (Dali? Pah! Infinitely cruder than Berkeley who is twice the Surrealist that he is!) I have written about it before, in fact wrote an entire radio programme in verse about it: it touches so many levers. Not that this is Gloria Stuart, who starred in the film, but Winifred Shaw who sang the song that is at the core of it, and does the haunting here.

I shudder every time I watch this, especially part 2, where something quite transformative and nightmarish happens while remaining perfectly and beautifully in keeping. I can't help but think of the three male dancers as Mussolini, Hitler and Franco. I don't know if anyone has done a comparison with Leni Riefenstahl but it's there for the taking.

And Tony Curtis. Curtis as Cary Grant as Shell Oil in one of the greatest of all screen comedies, because, like all good things, it is much more than that, lighter, more burlesque than Berkeley, but still moving on several levels. I don't mean it's darn clever (though it is) just more joyful and witty and sad than it has any right to be. Billy Wilder is the genius this time. And Monroe too. And Jack Lemmon. What a script! And such marvellous timing! I know everyone has scene this scene hundreds of times before but it remains as fresh as ever. If I were Curtis I wouldn't mind being remembered for this.

And the seduction scene on board the yacht?... More delight.

1 comment:

Nicole S said...

Thank you for the Busby Berkeley. It really is something else. The dancing is nothing special, it's all in the staging. You feel he was really excited about the magic possibilites of cinema, like Riefenstahl, as you say, but in a much better cause. In fact in no cause at all, which is delightful. I'd never seen it before, unlike the Tony Curtis scene, which just gets better every time.