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ALLAN DWAN (A DOSSIER)

ENGLISH LANGUAGE VERSION


EDITED BY   DAVID  PHELPS  &  GINA  TELAROLI  

APRIL  2014


TABLE OF  CONTENTS     Allan  Dwan's  Moral  Tales   —  The  Art  of  Metamorphosis  (The  Silent  Period)   —  Angels  in  Exile  (The  Sound  Period)   Michael  Henry  Wilson     The  Griffith  Tradition   John  Dorr     The  Cliff  and  the  Flume   Bill  Krohn     The  American  Pastoral   Jean-­‐Loup  Bourget     Ten  That  Make  A  Work   Chris  Fujiwara     Lessons  For  Architects   José  Neves     The  Uncertainty  Principle   David  Phelps     Inspection  des  Dwan   Serge  Bozon      

8    18   31   38   45   51   57   68   98    


Manhattan Madness  (1916):   A  Note  on  the  Inter-­titles   Noah  Teichner     A  Modern  Musketeer  (1917):   Adventures  in  Fairbanks-­Sitting   R.  Emmet  Sweeney     He  Comes  Up  Smiling  (1918):   “A  Full-­Steamed  Comic  Opera”   Daniel  Fairfax  and  Louis  Delluc     Manhandled  (1924)   Farran  Nehme     Stage  Struck  (1925):   Laws  of  Hospitality   Maxime  Renaudin       The  Iron  Mask  (1929):   Gone  The  Silent  Faces     Sabrina  Marques     Separate  But  Equal  #1:  Tide  of  Empire  (1929)  /  GT     Man  to  Man  (1930):   Oscillations   Ted  Fendt     Separate  But  Equal  #2:  Chances  (1931)  /  GT     Separate  But  Equal  #3:  Black  Sheep  (1935)  /  GT     High  Tension  (1936):   Laws  of  Attraction   Maxime  Renaudin      

101

109

113 121  

126

130 133     138   145     150   155  


One Mile  From  Heaven  (1937):   Two  Dwans  in  One   Ted  Fendt     Allan  Dwan  &  Shirley  Temple:   The  Man  and  The  Machine   Mathieu  Macheret     Separate  But  Equal  #4:   Rebecca  of  Sunnybrook  Farm  (1938)  /  GT     Josette  (1938):   Awkward  and  Proud  of  It:  Joan  Davis   Michael  Lieberman     Frontier  Marshal  (1939):   Shadows  of  Disorder   Filipe  Furtado     Sailor's  Lady  (1940)   Cullen  Gallagher     Young  People  (1940):  Welfare  State   Zach  Campbell     Trail  of  the  Vigilantes  (1940):  Horse  Sense   Maximilian  Le  Cain     Separate  But  Equal  #5:  Rise  and  Shine  (1941)  /  GT     Up  in  Mabel’s  Room  (1944)  /  Getting  Gertie’s  Garter  (1945):   Vector  Mobiles   Daniel  Kasman     Brewster’s  Millions  (1945)  /  Driftwood  (1947):   On  Excess   Carlos  Losilla    

158  

164

168 173  

182 186   189   196   200   205  

214


Rendezvous with  Annie  (1946):   The  Home  Front   C.  Mason  Wells     Calendar  Girl  (1947):   Outsider  Visions:  Dwan  with  a  Movie  Camera   Christopher  Small     Calendar  Girl  (1947)  /  I  Dream  of  Jeannie  (1952):   Classic  /  Anti-­Classic   Daniel  Kasman     Separate  But  Equal  #6:  The  Inside  Story  (1948)  /  GT     Sands  of  Iwo  Jima  (1949):   As  long  as  you  won’t  be  forgotten   Marie-­‐Pierre  Duhamel     Surrender  (1950)   Cullen  Gallagher     Montana  Belle  (1952)   Fernando  F.  Croce     Sweethearts  on  Parade  (1953)   Dave  Kehr     Woman  They  Almost  Lynched  (1953):   Welcome  to  Poverty  Row   Alfonso  Crespo     Silver  Lode  (1954):   L’axiome  à  affirmer  en  fait  de  ballet   Andy  Rector  and  Bill  Krohn     Passion  (1954):   Notes  on  Form  and  Space  in  the  American  West   Graham  Swindoll  

220

225

229 252   257   274   278   280  

286

290

321  


Cattle Queen  of  Montana  (1954):   Seeing  Daylight   Gina  Telaroli     Escape  to  Burma  (1955):   Escape  To  See   Arnau  Vilaró     Pearl  of  the  South  Pacific  (1955):   In  The  Beginning  Was  The  Beginning   Pablo  García  Canga     Tennessee’s  Partner  (1955):   I  Didn't  Even  Know  His  Name   Santiago  Gallego     Slightly  Scarlet  (1956):   Observations   Joe  McElhaney     Hold  Back  the  Night  (1956)   Cullen  Gallagher     The  River’s  Edge  (1957):   To  Deserve  a  Few  Tears   Matthew  Flanagan     Enchanted  Island  (1958)   (Or  The  Taboola  Rasa)   David  Phelps     Most  Dangerous  Man  Alive  (1961):   Kiss  Me  Deadly   Christoph  Huber     The  Flamethrower  and  the  Flame   Daisuke  Akasaka  

332

403

408

412

415 419  

424

429

453 457  


ALLAN DWAN'S  MORAL  TALES    

Michael Henry  Wilson   Translated  by  Ted  Fendt    

I The  Art  of  Metamorphosis   (The  Silent  Period)    

The Half-­Breed  (1916)     “It  takes  great  audacity  to  dare  to  be  oneself.”   —Eugène  Delacroix,  Journal,  January  15,  1860     A   sleeping   vagabond   dreams   he   is   a   hero   in   the   Far   West,   saving   damsels   in   distress,   pulling   them   free   from   runaway   wagons   and   burning   ranches,   while   meanwhile,   unbeknownst   to   him,  some  street  urchins  are  playing  with  matches  and  setting  his  clothes  on  fire.  This  anti-­‐ hero  who  aspires  to  heroic  exploits  is  the  protagonist  of  A  Western  Dreamer  (1911).  In  this   tragi-­‐comic  western,  Allan  Dwan’s  first  or  second  short  film,  one  can  already  recognize  the   filmmaker’s  taste  for  parody,  impersonation,  mixing  genres,  surprise  twists—and  most  of  all,   masked  games.  Private  or  proclaimed,  the  dream  of  most  of  his  adventurers  will  be  to  change   their  identity.  Whether  of  leather  or  satin,  iron  or  velvet,  the  mask  has  an  intoxicating  quality:   it  brings  together  pleasure  and  danger,  it  joins  drama  and  comedy  together.    

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An Irish—hence  romantic—storyteller,  Dwan  loves  characters  that  boldly  move  forward  on   the   chessboard   of   life.   His   sympathies   go   out   to   orphans   or   rootless   individuals   endowed   only   with   their   imaginations,   to   dreamers   who   tend   to   mistake   their   desires   for   reality.   More   often   than   not   they   have   to   cheat,   and   sometimes   end   up   getting   burned.   But   their   fertile  imagination  is  also  what  spurs  them  to  be  enterprising,  to  change  their  world  if  not   the  world  itself.  What  is  important  is  not  to  let  oneself  get  stuck  in  the  role  one's  been  born   into,   but   to   reinvent   oneself,   to   try   on   all   the   masks,   to   give   expression   to   all   the   possibilities   contained   within.   These   many   identities   are   the   dreamer’s   privilege,   the   reason   he   stands   out   in   the   crowd.   And   the   filmmaker   is   always   ready   to   celebrate   his   exploits,  however  prickly  or  poignant,  comic  or  dramatic.     In  the  Sargasso  Sea     The  genre  that  best  lends  itself  to  masked  games  is  probably  the  comedy  of  manners—as   exemplified  by  Dwan’s  collaborations  with  Gloria  Swanson,  his  favorite  actress.  The  main   inspiration  here  is  in  deception—or  rather,  more  specifically,  in  the  schemes  of  a  modest   employee   whose   naivety   exposes   her   to   a   series   of   disappointments.   In   Manhandled   (1924),   Tessie,   a   sales   clerk   in   Manhattan,   thinks   she   can   escape   her   position   by   posing   for   a  sculptor,  then  by  modeling.  She  trades  the  sales  rack  of  a  department  store  basement  for   a   highfaluting   fashion   boutique   where   her   boss   makes   her   pretend   to   be   a   Russian   countess.  In  Stage  Struck  (1925),  Jennie,  a  waitress  in  a  diner  in  Virginia,  fancies  herself  as   the  next  Sarah  Bernhardt.  She  secretly  pursues  acting  courses  by  mail  and  tries  to  imitate  a   popular   actress   by   walking   with   her   nose   in   the   air.   Her   first   show   turns   out   to   be   a   disaster:  she  has  to  put  on  a  hood  and  boxing  gloves  in  order  to  be...  the  comic  foil  to  her   rival.   In   both   films,   the   indignities   undergone   by   the   heroine   culminate   in   Chaplinesque   humiliation  when  she  loses  her  pants  during  a  reception  or  onstage.  Play  the  diva  and  you'll   end  up  the  clown!     In   a   comedy   of   errors   the   costume   plays   a   crucial   role.   More   than   an   accessory,   it   is   a   disguise.   It   denotes   a   posture,   a   pretense,   a   misrepresentation.   The   bravura   sequences   are   the  ones  in  which  the  poser  gets  tangled  in  her  artifice,  the  masks  stop  fooling  anyone,  and   mirrors  begin  to  reflect  the  truth:  Jennie  is  left  to  rehearse  a  tear-­‐jerking  melodrama  in  front   of   a   funhouse   mirror   that   makes   her   look   even   more   ridiculous.   Swanson's   posers   act   like   princesses,   but   betray   their   origins   by   chewing   gum   at   a   straight-­‐laced   party   and   ordering   pancakes  at  a  princely  banquet.  It  is  up  to  her  male  partner  to  put  an  end  to  these  put-­‐ons,  to   remove   the   make-­‐up—literally—with   a   rag.   In   the   end,   the   suitor’s   entrepreneurial   spirit   prevails:  Jennie  and  her  love,  a  cook,  open  a  small  business...a  pancake  stand,  which  will  be   off  limit  to  actresses!  In  Manhandled,  Tessie  is  brought  down  to  earth  by  her  fiancée,  a  self-­‐ made  Irishman  who  is  about  to  reap  a  fortune  from  a  patent  sold  to  the  auto  industry.   9  


Dwan’s egalitarianism   goes   hand   in   hand   with   his   sense   of   self-­‐determination,   a   deep-­‐ seated  faith  in  willpower.  In  his  first  feature  film,  David  Harum  (1915),  the  protagonist  is   already  imbued  with  a  variety  of  seemingly  contradictory  identities:  he  is  at  once  a  horse   trader  and  philanthropist,  a  public  figure  and  nonconformist,  a  banker  and  a  local  angel  of   mercy.   A   shape-­‐shifting,   unpredictable   figure,   he   is   more   than   just   a   good   neighbor:   he   exhibits   genuine   humanity   and   compassion   towards   those   who   were   born   on   the   wrong   side  of  the  tracks.  A  flashback  reveals  that  his  altruism  goes  back  to  his  childhood:  left  to   fend  for  himself  after  running  away  from  home,  he  built  his  fortune  on  the  penny  given  to   him  by  a  generous  carnie.  Ever  since,  we  find  out,  he  has  spent  his  time  improving  the  lot  of   all  those  around   him,   down   to   the   destitute   old   black   man   whom   he   regales   with   a   cigar   in   the   epilogue.   The   strongest   sequence   comes   as   he   prevents   the   lynching   of   an   innocent   man.  We  see  the  square  fill  with  people  talking  about  taking  justice  into  their  own  hands.   The   community   is   on   the   verge   of   turning   into   a   mob.   Harum   succeeds,   cunningly,   in   defusing   the   violence,   but   tensions   of   that   nature   might   still   seem   surprising   in   the   context   of  such  jovial  Americana.  We’re  not  too  far  from  the  witch-­‐hunt  of  Silver  Lode  (1954).     If  there  is  a  “plural”  hero,  one  who  can  manage  multiple  incarnations,  it’s  no  doubt  Douglas   Fairbanks,  with  whom  Dwan  shot  some  eleven  films.  From  the  start,  the  filmmaker  seems   to   have   been   on   the   same   wavelength   as   the   actor—who   was   also   author   and   master   of   their   joint   projects.   As   Dwan   explained   to   Peter   Bogdanovich,   “Stunts   per   se   were   of   no   interest  to  him  or  to  me.  The  only  thing  that  could  possibly  interest  either  of  us  was  a  swift,   graceful  move—the  thing  a  kid  visualizes  in  his  hero.“1  In  sum,  it  was  a  matter  of  combining   panache  and  humor,  comedy  and  adventure—and  so  they  designed  a  character  for  whom   life  would  be  one  big  game.  Every  role  suits  him,  on  the  condition  that  he  gets  to  play  the   lead.   Nothing   can   stop   him.   Mobility—professional,   social,   cultural—is   an   integral   part   of   his   personality,   as   is   his   appetite   for   life.   He   can   wear   overalls   or   a   smoking   jacket,   a   loincloth  or  suit  of  armor,  because  any  persona  might  mutate  into  another:  the  employee   becomes   a   prince;   the   bandit   a   do-­‐gooder;   the   young   country   boy   a   modern   musketeer...and  even,  if  necessary,  a  harem  beauty!     The   fable   can   be   contemporary   or   medieval,   can   take   the   form   of   a   western   or   a   swashbuckler,  but  its  moral  remains  the  same:  faith  will  move  mountains.  In  He  Comes  Up   Smiling  (1918),  Jerry  first  appears  to  us  as  at  his  bank  teller's  counter,  a  prisoner  of  his  job.   The  striking  visual  metaphor,  worthy  of  The  Incredible  Shrinking  Man  (Jack  Arnold,  1957),   reduces  Fairbanks  to  the  size  of  a  doll.  He  balances  on  his  trapeze  like  a  canary  in  a  giant   cage.  Fittingly,  it’s  by  chasing  his  boss’s  canary  that  he  frees  himself,  leaves  his  “cage”  and   becomes  a  vagabond.  The  tramp's  wanderings  represent  a  return  to  natural  life  and  the  joy   of   living:   look   at   him   dancing   like   a   fawn   while   mimicking   Tarzan’s   acrobatics.   The   metamorphoses  continue:  chance  leads  him  to  borrow  the  clothes,  and  hence  identity,  of  a  

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financial mogul.  In  no  time  at  all,  our  American  dreamer  is  transformed  into  a  wolf  of  Wall   Street  and  destined  to  staggering  success.     In  The  Habit  of  Happiness  (1916),  Fairbanks  is  the  link  between  two  socially  antithetical   groups.  Sunny,  a  daddy’s  boy,  decides  to  dive  into  the  “Sargasso  Sea  of  humanity,”  or,  to   put  it  more  simply,  to  share  in  the  lives  of  the  less  fortunate.  Finding  them  depressed,  he   decides   to   boost   their   morale   through   a   regime   of   "feel-­‐good"   gymnastics   and   juicy   steaks.   After   turning   the   flophouse   into   a   gentlemen’s   club,   he   returns   home   to   try   to   cheer   up   his   father   and   his   entourage—   “pampered   idlers”   just   as   burdened   by   their   wealth   as   the   poor   were   by   their   destitution.   It   doesn't   take   long   for   his   recipe— ragtime—to   transform   the   bourgeois   household   into   a   palace   of   good   humor.   His   sunny   optimism  is  so  contagious  that  it  resolves  all  the  conflicts:  all  that  is  needed  to  reconcile   two   Irish   clans—or   to   seal   the   alliance   of   a   boss   and   his   workers   against   a   gang   of   racketeers—is  a  funny  story.     In   Manhattan   Madness   (1916),   the   contradictory   roles   given   to   Fairbanks   play   on   a   geographical   divide.   Two   extremes   collide:   East   against   West,   the   city   jungle   against   the   wide-­‐open  country.  O’Dare,  a  cowboy  from  Nevada,  goes  to  New  York  where  his  friends  put   him   to   the   test   by   making   him   confront   a   masked   gang.   Only   after   proving   that   he   is   cut   from   the   same   fabric   as   a   Nick   Carter,   does   O’Dare   discover   that   his   adversaries   were   actors   hired   to   fool   him.   His   response   is   to   turn   the   hoax   against   its   perpetrators:   he   puts   a   scarf   over   his   face,   proclaims   himself   Black   Burke,   the   worst   desperado   in   the   Rockies,   and   kidnaps  the  beautiful  girl  with  apposite  flair.  The  man  of  the  Far  West  has  the  last  word,  the   last  laugh,  which  is  only  right  given  his  good  old  Irish  blood.       Right  off  the  bat,  the  prologue  for  A  Modern  Musketeer  (1917)  justifies  its  title,  presenting   Ned   as   the   reincarnation   of   d’Artagnan.   Instead   of   sword-­‐fighting   in   a   tavern,   he   exchanges   blows   in   a   speakeasy,   beating   up   one   thug   after   another   as   if   they   were   Richelieu’s   henchmen.   And   for   good   reason:   he   acquired   his   taste   for   the   musketeers’   exploits   while   in   the   womb,   his   mother   having   spent   her   pregnancy   reading   Alexandre   Dumas.  Born  during  a  tornado,  Ned  can  only  be  a  human  cyclone.  Suffocating  in  his  native   Kansas,  he  leaves  his  parents  as  soon  as  he  can,  mounts  his  steed  (a  Ford  F),  and  heads  off   in  search  of  wrongs  to  right.  Don't  all  errant  knights  have  d’Artagnan  as  their  model  and   patron  saint?  Dwan  confirms  as  much  in  While  Paris  Sleeps  (1932),  where  the  good  boy,   naturally   named   Gascon,   hangs   a   picture   of   the   musketeer   in   his   bedroom.   Appropriately,   his   last   film   with   Fairbanks,   The   Iron   Mask   (1929),   is   a   beautiful,   nostalgic   homage   to   Dumas’  heroes.     We   again   find   the   theme   of   double   identities   in   Robin   Hood   (1922).   Before   roaming   Sherwood  Forest,  the  beloved  bandit  is  King  Richard’s  vassal,  and  therefore  forced  to  abide   11  


by all   feudal   customs.   His   banishment   seems   to   delight   him:   he   is   much   more   at   ease   in   the   skin   of   an   outlaw,   happy   to   trade   the   castle's   constraints,   its   fratricidal   intrigues   and   complicated   courtly   love,   for   a   primordial   life   with   his   Merry   Men.   No   longer   must   he   wear   a  helmet—a  nuisance  when  you  sport  a  handlebar  moustache—nor  risk  being  chased  by  a   throng  of  hysterical  damsels,  those  cheerleaders  of  medieval  tournaments.  Fairbanks  is  not   afraid   to   change   both   his   appearance   and   personality   midway   through   the   film.   The   heavy-­‐ hearted   knight   turns   into   a   malicious   Peter   Pan,   an   elusive   Ariel   whose   facetious   adventures   inspire   Dwan   more   than   the   hazards   of   the   Crusades   or   the   vileness   of   arch-­‐ villains   (who   always   make   the   mistake   of   taking   themselves   too   seriously).   It’s   better   to   laugh  than  to  cry:  this  is  a  golden  rule  for  our  storyteller,  always  happy  to  soften  the  sting   of  melodrama  and  enjoy  a  hearty  guffaw.     Yet   the   irony   of   contradictory   identities   can   also   lend   itself   to   drama.   The   duality   is   sometimes   embedded   in   the   title   itself,   like   The   Good   Bad   Man   (1916),   an   oxymoron   that   might   apply   to   a   good   number   of   Dwan’s   later   protagonists,   from   the   female   prisoner   in   Wicked   (1931)   to   the   professional   gambler   in   Tennessee’s   Partner   (1955).   Fairbanks'   Passing   Through   in   The   Good   Bad   Man   could   be   a   descendent   of   Robin   Hood.   But   this   outlaw   who   defends   widows   and   orphans—or   rather,   teenage   mothers   and   illegitimate   children  who  remind  him  of  his  own  destiny—views  his  wanderings  as  a  curse:  “There’s  no   place  for  me  on  this  earth.  I  have  had  no  father.”  Thus  he  has  remained  a  child,  hoarding   only   his   pilfered,   petty   treasures:   a   firecracker,   a   whistle,   a   magician’s   scarf…   Fairbanks’   companion  can  only  be  someone  equally  ill-­‐fated:  Bessie  Love,  who  lost  her  innocence  too   soon  like  one  of  Griffith’s  broken  blossoms.  The  two  victims  of  society  can  only  free  each   other  and  escape  together  towards  a  distant  horizon.       “I  have  had  no  father.”  This  cry  might  have  been  uttered  by  the  mixed-­‐race  character  in  The   Half-­Breed  (1916),  a  drama  of  intolerance.    A  drama,  because  this  time  the  hero  has  no  hope   of   overcoming   the   handicap   of   his   birth.   Raised   by   a   white   natural   scientist   after   his   mother’s   death,   dressed   as   a   trapper   when   he   isn’t   fishing   naked   in   the   river,   Sleeping   Water  is  an  outcast  in  every  sense  of  the  world.  His  domain  is  the  deep  forest;  his  home  the   hollow  trunk  of  a  sequoia.  Civilization  can  only  teach  him  “the  bitterness  of  betrayal.”  The   sheriff   pursues   him   with   unrelenting   racist   hatred,   without   suspecting   that   he   is   persecuting  his  own  son.  The  pastor  puts  him  in  his  place  with  the  condolence  that,  “after   all,  you’re  only  an  Indian.”  Integration  is  out  of  the  question—even  in  the  Excelsior  saloon,   a   melting   pot   of   whites,   blacks,   and   Chinese.   The   only   Indians   allowed   to   enter   are   the   circus  workers,  a  trio  debauched  by  alcohol,  whose  grotesque  jig  is  interrupted  by  Sleeping   Water  as  he  entreats  them  to  recover  their  pride.     The   link   between   sexuality   and   racism   is   established   with   unexpected   audacity.   The   woman  who  ignites  the  flame,  the  story’s  Lilith,  is  Nellie,  the  pastor’s  daughter,  a  coquette   12  


in whom   the   half-­‐breed   inspires   both   desire   and   repulsion.   She   provokes   him,   even   initiates   a   kiss,   and   sends   him   back   to   the   forest.   Accused   of   touching   a   white   woman,   Sleeping  Water  is  exposed  to  public  condemnation.  Nellie  exonerates  herself  by  pretending   that  she  only  wanted  to  teach  religion  to  the  pagan.  Nature  is  all  that  remains  to  the  noble   savage,  where  another  untouchable  joins  him,  a  prostitute  (and  Hispanic  to  boot):  Teresa,  a   modern   Marie   Magdalene,   the   kind   loved   by   Borzage   and   Griffith   (who   supervised   the   film).  Their  life  together  in  the  Carquinez  Woods  has,  at  times,  the  mischievous  lyricism  of   one  of  Borzage’s  romances.  Believing  that  the  half-­‐breed  will  abuse  her  the  same  way  the   whites   have,   she   is   resigned   to   unlacing   her   bodice,   but   he   reassures   her,   and   they   go   to   sleep   under   the   stars.   When   he   brings   her   back   a   dress   that   he   stole   from   the   flirt   in   the   city,  he  has  these  astonishing  words:  “Here’s  something  to  disguise  yourself  with.”  Nellie’s   dress  is  no  longer  associated  with  desire,  but  with  duplicity.     From  Sequoias  to  Skyscrapers     The   Half-­Breed   anticipates   Tennessee’s   Partner,   inspired   by   the   same   author,   poet   and   novelist  Bret  Harte.  In  many  ways,  however,  it  is  also  a  Walshian  film  avant  la  lettre,  as  it   sketches  out  the  universe  of  The  Big  Trail  (1930)  and  Wild  Girl  (1932,  also  adapted  from   Harte):  the  forest  of  sequoias  as  sanctuary,  the  nobility  of  men  on  the  outskirts  of  society,   the  communion  of  outcasts,  the  intolerance  of  Puritan  colonists,  the  sanctimoniousness  of   the  pastor,  and  even,  at  the  end,  the  departure  of  the  couple  towards  the  unknown.  As  in   Walsh,  each  shot  of  nature  tells  us  that  it  belongs  to  the  pure  of  heart  and  will  always  be   their   ultimate   refuge.   Witness   the   suicide   of   the   Indian   Silver   Fawn,   the   half-­‐breed’s   mother,  who  throws  herself  off  a  promontory  overlooking  an  immense  expanse  of  forests   and   prairies.   In   a   beautiful   internal   rhyme,   we   see   Fairbanks’s   profile   in   the   same   composition   as   his   mother   when   it   is   his   turn   to   be   banished.   Dwan   shares   this   gift   for   topography   with   his   friend   Raoul.   Observe,   for   instance,   how   he   sets   up   a   gunfight   on   either  side  of  a  gigantic  tree  trunk  that  vertically  divides  the  screen,  as  Walsh  will  do  in  the   finale   of   The   Big   Trail.   Long   before   Walsh,   Dwan   was   inscribing   his   heroes   in   expressive   landscapes,   exploiting   irregularities   in   the   landscape   to   dramatic   ends,   and   intercutting   high  and  low-­‐angle  shots  in  the  climactic  moments  of  his  action  sequences.  As  early  as   The   Poisoned   Flume   (1911),   he   was   stylishly   choreographing   a   lengthy   shoot-­‐out   around   a   wooden  aqueduct  that  would  serve  as  the  criminal's  hideout  and  finally  tomb.  And  in  The   Power   of   Love   (1912),   a   cliff   forms   the   boundary   line   between   the   cowboys   and   the   fishermen,   determining   all   the   twists   and   turns   of   a   murderous   vendetta.   The   natural   settings   are   magnificently   highlighted   in   A   Modern   Musketeer,   for   which   Dwan   again   collaborated  with  Victor  Fleming,  his  director  of  photography  on  The  Good  Bad  Man.  The   Grand  Canyon’s  geography,  in  particular,  dictates  beautiful  changes  of  scale:  by  alternating   close   ups   and   long   shots,   the   silhouettes—sometimes   tiny,   sometimes   giant—stand   out   or   melt   into   the   cyclopean   panorama.   The   sight   of   an   Indian   burial   ground   hollowed   out   in   13  


the rock   high   above   the     valley   floor     precedes   the   one   in   Walsh’s   Colorado   Territory   (1949).     Elsewhere,   Dwan   rivals   the   Walsh   of   The   Thief   of   Bagdad   (1924)   or   even   the   Griffith   of   Intolerance   (1916).   In   Robin   Hood   and   The   Iron   Mask,   for   example,   frail   human   figures   move   at   the   foot   or   on   top   of   colossal   castles   that   sometimes   reduce   them   to   the   size   of   ants.  Princes  and  yokels,  nobles  and  commoners  are,  quite  democratically,  all  in  the  same   boat.   Nevertheless,   thanks   to   the   depth   of   field,   one   can   follow   the   gestures   of   the   actors   and  the  extras  moving  on  several  planes  (ramparts,  crenels,  walkways)  at  once.  The  space   is   only   waiting   to   be   invaded   and   conquered.   As   massive   as   it   is,   there   is   no   set   that   the   hero  cannot  climb,  no  natural  obstacle  he  cannot  overcome.  Robin  demonstrates  as  much   when  he  climbs  from  one  level  to  another  during  the  attack  on  the  fortress,  all  on  his  own,   from  the  drawbridge  to  the  balcony  of  the  tower  where  Marion  must  be  rescued.     For   Dwan,   who   deals   with   such   acrobatics   with   the   elated   precision   of   a   choreographer,   the   direction   of   a   film   becomes   the   direction   of   space.   It's   here   that   one   finds   the   secret   of   his  dramaturgy  and  perhaps  even  of  his  poetics.  One  can  see  it,  a  contrario,  in  the  Swanson   comedies,   in   which   the   heroine’s   misfortunes   are   linked   to   confinement.   Jennie   is   stuck   between  the  counter  and  the  stove  (Stage  Struck),  while  Tessie  escapes  the  claustrophobia   of   her   basement   only   to   be   packed   like   a   sardine   in   an   overcrowded   subway   (Manhandled).   By   contrast,   in   Fairbanks’   adventures,   the   hero’s   intrepidness   suggests   a   prodigious   agility   that   defies   gravity   itself.   His   control   over   space   inspires,   among   other   marvelous   stunts,   the   long   continuous   shot   in   which   the   musketeer   of   Kansas   climbs,   in   one   bound,   to   the   top   of   a   church   steeple   to   mimic   a   human   weathervane;   Robin   Hood’s   graceful   slide   down   the   huge   curtain   that   covers   the   castle's   wall;   or   the   episode   where   d’Artagnan   takes   advantage   of   a   spiral   staircase   to   dispose   of   a   horde   of   cut-­‐throats.   Here,   freedom   of   movement   becomes   a   matter   of   life   and   death.   When   his   companions   are   pinned  in  an  underground  passage,  Porthos  sacrifices  himself,  blowing  everything  up  with   a  barrel  of  gunpowder.  The  convict  Costaud  will  do  the  same  to  save  his  daughter  at  the   end  of  While  Paris  Sleeps.     Dwan's  romantic  voluntarism  reaches  its  apogee  with  East  Side,  West  Side  (1927).  George   O’Brien  plays  John  Breen,  a  bargeman  and  illegitimate  child  who  raises  himself  up  by  the   sweat  of  his  brow.  He  appears,  in  turn,  as  a  ragamuffin,  a  boxer,  a  foreman,  an  engineer,  and   a   builder.   Imagine   Gentleman   Jim   deciding   to   become   architect   Howard   Roark   from   The   Fountainhead   (1949).   His   model?   Charles   Lindbergh.   John’s   rise   is   played   out   on   several   fronts,   from   East   to   West   of   course,   but   also   from   the   earth   to   the   sky.   It   begins   in   the   murky  waters  of  the  East  River,  continues  through  the  digging  of  the  subway  tunnels  (his   first   construction   site),   and   culminates   on   the   penthouse   of   a   futuristic   skyscraper.   The   brick,   which   represents   his   dream   and   possibly   his   very   character,   is   the   picture's   14  


recurrent motif.   It   is   introduced   early   on,   when   John   picks   one   up   on   the   barge   and   sees   it,   with  the  help  of  a  superimposition,  transformed  into  a  skyscraper  in  the  palm  of  his  hand,   as  if,  in  an  instant,  he  could  subjugate  reality  to  his  will.     For  Dwan,  the  city  is  a  gigantic  foundry.  Far  from  crushing  people,  it  spurs  and  repays  their   ambitions.   But   it   is   a   place   where   you   may   have   to   first   lose   yourself   in   order   to   find   yourself.   Was   that   not,   at   its   heart,   the   lesson   of   Manhandled?   John   barely   survives   the   barge’s   sinking   after   a   giant   cargo   ship   hits   it,   but   finds   himself   miraculously   reborn   on   the   East  Side  where  even  more  extravagant  adventures  await  him.  Having  lost  everything,  John   becomes   an   Everyman,   able   to   traverse   all   milieus   and   classes.   As   a   matter   of   fact,   our   young  Irishman  is  taken  in  by  a  tailor  who  offers  him  a  bath,  fits  him  for  an  Oxford  suit  and   re-­‐baptizes  him  “John  Lipvitch.”  It  is  among  the  immigrants  of  a  Jewish  ghetto  that  he  will   undergo   both   his   social   apprenticeship   and   his   sentimental   education.   Ironically,   this   Moses  saved  from  the  waters  is  called  upon  to  become  the  mythic  Samson  when  he  holds   up  on  his  shoulders  the  beams  of  a  mine  shaft  threatening  to  collapse.     Paternal  absence  again  plays  a  decisive  role.  Like  the  “Half-­‐Breed”  and  the  “Good  Bad  Man,”   John   seethes   with   rage   at   never   having   known   his   father,   a   West   Side   blue   blood   whose   entourage  prevented  him  from  marrying  the  servant  he  impregnated.  And  yet,  this  father   whom  he  swore  he'd  kill  will  eventually  try  to  help  him  succeed.  Incognito,  the  millionaire   rescues  him  from  the  world  of  boxing  and  enables  him  to  pursue  his  dreams  of  brick  and   steel.  John  won’t  have  to  kill  him:  poetic  justice  will  take  care  of  things.  Just  as  the  mother   drowns   herself   in   the   East   River   when   the   barge   is   going   down,   the   father   passes   away   when  his  ocean  liner  hits  an  iceberg  and  sinks  like  the  Titanic.  At  the  end  of  the  story,  the   bastard  son  has  become  his  father’s  equal,  a  member  of  the  elite  who  are  building  the  city   of  the  future,  one  of  the  masters  of  the  new  Metropolis.     When   it   comes   to   lovers'   trysts,   Dwan   might   even   match   Walsh.   In   Dwan's   films   too   it   is   often   the   woman,   ardent   and   sharp,   who   takes   the   initiative   (see,   as   early   as   1912,   the   western   gallantries   of   Cupid   Through   Padlocks),   even   when   she   pays   a   hefty   price,   as   in   Maiden   and   Men   (1912),   a   dry   and   cruel   fable   reminiscent   of   Maupassant.   Three   provocative   scenes   stand   out   in   East   Side,   West   Side,   beginning   with   the   one   where   the   tailor’s   daughter   Becka   (Virginia   Valli)   takes   her   time   drying   and   hanging   her   undergarments   in   the   bathroom   where   John   is   waiting   to   get   undressed.   He   will   need   to   lock   the   door   to   protect   his   modesty.   Later,   she   exposes   herself   by   climbing   a   ladder.   (There’s   even   an   indiscreet   mirror   positioned   in   the   background   to   duplicate   the   spectacle.)   When   she   comes   down,   she   lets   John   grab   hold   of   her   and   in   a   bold   move   –   perhaps   borrowed   from   Charmaine,   the   young   French   girl   in   What   Price   Glory?   (1926)   –   feels   his   biceps:   “Gee,   you’re   strong!”   Just   as   transparent   is   the   metonymy   of   the   small  

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folding bed  she  prepares  for  him  with  loving  care,  but  whose  slightly  comical  narrowness  is   certain  to  make  the  desired  frolic  uncomfortable,  to  say  the  least.     Becka’s  antagonist  is  Josephine  (June  Collyer),  a  young  snob  who  carries  herself  with  just  as   much   audacity.   An   internal   rhyme   links   the   two   rivals:   when   Josephine   seduces   John,   we   notice   a   big   four-­‐post   bed   behind   them   that   is   the   aristocratic   counterpart   to   the   proletarian  folding  bed.  In  both  sequences,  the  kiss  gives  way  to  the  de  rigeur  ellipse,  but   the  bed’s  presence  in  the  frame  leaves  no  doubt  about  the  happy  outcome  of  the  flirtation.   In   fine,   the   bar   girl   wins   out   over   the   pampered   swell.     Sacrificing   herself   so   she   won’t   hinder   John’s   career,   she   turns   out   to   be   his   worthy   companion,   whereas   the   poser   discredits  herself  by  her  selfishness.  That  was  the  conclusion  of  The  Half-­Breed,  where  the   wild  girl  turned  out  to  have  more  dignity  than  the  pastor’s  daughter.  Thirty  years  later,  it   will  also  be  the  conclusion  of  Silver  Lode  and  Tennessee’s  Partner,  Dwan's  paradoxical  moral   tales  where  female  outcasts  prove  to  be  the  salt  of  the  earth.     Social  fresco?  Picaresque  comedy?  Melodrama?  East  Side,  West  Side  is  all  of  these,  entirely   in   keeping   with   the   style   of   its   self-­‐made   man   and   his   curious   destiny.   The   changes   in   tone   are   legion   and   just   as   unforeseeable.   This   goes   for   the   drama   of   the   Titanic—recreated   in   a   handful   of   dreamlike   and   extremely   concise   shots—through   to   the   reverse   tracking   shot   that  follows  the  errant  path  of  a  half-­‐dazed  man  for  no  other  reason  than  his  priceless  mug.   Throughout  the  film,  Dwan  attests  that  the  effect  of  “subjective  vision”  can  be  equal  parts   comic   and   dramatic:   a   KO’d   boxer   imagines   the   hilarious   après-­midi   d'un   faune,   whereas   John  sees  Becka's  face  in  a  mannequin  wearing  a  wedding  dress  in  a  store  window.  As  in   Murnau’s   Sunrise   (1927),   the   desire   is   soon   fulfilled,   its   object   magically   materializing.   And   as  often  in  Dwan's  movies,  clothing  lends  itself  to  a  variety  of  gags,  from  George  O’Brien’s   embarrassment  while  trying  on  pants  to  J.  Farrell  McDonald’s  clowning  around  while  cross-­‐ dressing  as  a  charwoman.     No   wonder   these   shifting   identities   make   the   hero   dizzy.   The   city   that   he   set   out   to   conquer   is   also   the   capital   of   betrayal   and   deceit.   Instead   of   building,   shouldn't   he   be   destroying   everything?   John’s   confusion   inspires   the   quasi-­‐surrealist   excesses   of   the   final   act.  In  a  moment  of  disarray,  he  decides  to  sabotage  his  career:  he  will  make  these  New   Yorkers   pay   dearly   for   their   duplicity   by   committing   the   most   spectacular   suicide.   He   dresses  up  as  a  “gentleman,”  (disguises  himself,  The  Half-­Breed  would  say),  and  returns  to   where   his   saga   began,   determined   to   unleash   violence   and   chaos   across   the   entire   East   Side.  We  see  him,  in  the  low-­‐key  lighting  of  an  Apache  bar,  get  wasted  while  looking  at  his   reflection—fascinated   by   this   alter-­‐ego   in   a   smoking   jacket   whom   he   barely   recognizes— then   run   from   one   dive   to   the   next   while   fighting   scoundrels   of   all   stripes   with   a   methodical   ferocity,   worthy   of   a   d’Artagnan!   John   ends   up,   more   dead   than   alive,   at   the   door   of   Becka’s   speakeasy,   just   in   time   to   sober   up   and   save   her   from   rape.   It   is   a   16  


grandiose rescue,   a   fitting   climax   to   an   unclassifiable   work   that   is   as   enchanting   and   breathtaking  as  a  rollercoaster.       Our   Gentleman   John   paves   the   way   for   Gentleman   Jim.   His   multiple   identities   are   bound   to   disorient  him,  but  nothing  slows  him  down.  From  one  role  to  the  next  his  boldness  grows   as   he   finds   in   himself   the   audacity   to   realize   his   wildest   dreams.   We   never   doubt   for   an   instant  that  the  world  belongs  to  him;  that  he  is  capable  of  crossing  the  Sargasso  Sea  and   reaching  the  heights  he’s  set  for  himself.  If  East  Side,  West  Side  has  a  message,  it  is  simple   and   applies,   undoubtedly,   to   most   of   Dwan’s   films:   it   is   left   to   each   individual   to   create   himself,   by   fist   or   by   sword,   brick   by   brick   or   in   one   fell   swoop,   without   fear   or   false   modesty,  amidst  bursts  of  anger  and  roars  of  laughter.  Every  man  can  forge  his  destiny  and   become  a  hero  if  he  doesn’t  allow  himself  to  be  defeated  by  adversity.  Hadn't  this  already   been,  in  1911,  the  noble  aspiration  of  the  Western  Dreamer?                                                                                                                     1  Peter  Bogdanovich,  The  Last  Pioneer  (New  York:  Praeger,  1971),  42.  

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II Angels  in  Exile   (The  Sound  Period)     “I  have  a  heart  and  I  intend  to  do  what  it  tells  me.”   —Arlene  Dahl,  Slightly  Scarlet     Feelings  are  to  convention  what  the  heart  is  to  reason:  they  always  find  a  way  of  ignoring,   bypassing,  or  turning  it  upside  down.  Such  is  the  credo  of  Allan  Dwan,  a  romantic  smuggler   who  brings  beauty  to  light  in  the  most  unlikely  places  and  situations.  The  famous  “detour”   in   Tennessee's   Partner   may   define   his   poetic   art:   two   escapees   (John   Payne,   Ronald   Reagan),  pursued  by  a  group  of  furious  rabble,  are  about  to  be  lynched,  but  forgetting  their   instinct   for   self-­‐preservation,   return   to   give   a   farewell   kiss   to   the   “Duchess,”   their   guardian   angel   (Rhonda   Fleming).   Far   from   the   traditional   ingénue,   the   latter   is   a   high-­‐class   adventuress   whose   gambling   saloon   shelters   a   brothel   known   euphemistically   as   “The   Marriage   Market.”   Could   the   “Duchess”   be   a   good   fairy?   Undoubtedly.   Is   not   her   fiefdom   an   enchanted   palace?   With   his   customary   simplicity,   the   filmmaker   suggests   this   by   decorating  the  set  with  an  abundance  of  magnificent  scarlet  flowers.  Unexpected  in  a  desert   gold-­‐town,   these   bouquets   are   endowed   with   the   same   mysterious   grace   as   our   three   chivalrous   outsiders:   more   beauty   than   you   would   ever   expect   in   the   primitive   West   of   the   prospectors.   Who   other   than   Dwan   would   dream   of   using   roses   and   gladioli   to   link   the   fate   of  his  protagonists  and  invite  them  to  listen  only  to  the  dictates  of  the  heart?     Romantic  Paradoxes     Dwan   is   above   all   a   storyteller.   In   this   he   is   close   to   Walsh,   by   whom   he   has   long   been   overshadowed  (just  as  La  Cava  was  by  Capra).  In  addition  to  great  generosity,  they  share   that  taste  for  romantic  paradoxes  which  seems  natural  to  Griffith's  progeny.  Both  worked   within   a   production   line   system,   but   their   strategies   were   as   different   as   their   temperaments.   Whereas   Walsh   galloped   at   breakneck   speed   towards   the   ever-­‐receding   horizon,   Dwan   hardly   left   the   paddock,   content   to   trace   circles   within   a   narrowly   circumscribed   perimeter.   If   the   first   was   bent   on   “setting   cinemas   on   fire,”   overturning   genres,   violating   censorship   codes,   capturing   the   sound   and   the   fury   of   the   century,   the   second,  ever  subtle,  always  smiling,  continued  on  his  good-­‐natured  way,  making  the  best  of   whatever  constraints  he  encountered,  be  they  narrative,  technical  or  financial.  This  meant   staying  as  far  as  possible  from  the  upheavals  of  his  time.  Whenever  he  could,  Dwan  nudged   his   projects   towards   the   fable,   apologue   or   parable,   even   when   he   portrayed   historical   figures  (Ferdinand  de  Lesseps  in  Suez,  Wyatt  Earp  in  Frontier  Marshal).  His  oeuvre  is  thus   detached  from  any  contemporary  reality  -­‐  seemingly  impervious  to  the  zeitgeist.    

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This is   clearly   apparent   in   the   postwar   period,   Dwan's   period   of   maturity.   Flight   Nurse   and   Hold   Back   the   Night   feature   the   Korean   War   as   backdrop,   but   these   are   symbolic   stories,   centered   on   a   talisman   or   a   fetishlike   object   (a   tube   of   lipstick,   a   bottle   of   Scotch),   which   could   be   set   in   other   places   or   conflicts.   In   Silver   Lode,   he   smuggles   in   an   allusion   to   the   witch-­‐hunts,  but  in  the  guise  of  a  western  where  the  hero's  nemesis  is  an  impostor  by  the   name  of...  McCarty  (sic).  And  the  film's  dramatic  crescendo  is  orchestrated  by  crosscutting   between  the  forces  of  good  and  evil  that  is  pure  Griffithiana.  Although  Most  Dangerous  Man   Alive  evokes  the  nuclear  threat,  it  is  within  the  framework  of  an  apologue  that  harkens  back   to  the  biblical  burning  bush  rather  than  to  the  Cold  War.  Most  of  the  films  directed  by  Dwan   during   the   fifties   are   somehow   timeless:   they   could   have   been   conceived   of   in   the   pioneering   era   when   he   assisted   “Mr.   Griffith”   on   Intolerance,   worked   for   the   Triangle   Company,   and   collaborated   with   Douglas   Fairbanks   and   Gloria   Swanson.   (Is   this   why   they've  aged  so  well?)       Sometimes,   Dwan's   films   mirror   one   another   across   several   decades,   such   as   The   Half-­ Breed   (1916)   and   Tennessee's   Partner   (1955),   both   inspired   by   Bret   Harte   stories.   Edmund   Lowe   in   Black   Sheep   (1935),   for   which   Dwan   wrote   the   story,   is   the   prototype   of   those   big-­‐ hearted  professional  gamblers  who  appear  in  so  many  of  his  later  works,  and  in  particular   in   Tennessee's   Partner,   whose   script   he   co-­‐authored.   Heidi   (1937)   and   Driftwood   (1947)   echo   each   other,   both   fairy   tales   where   the   adults   have   more   to   learn   from   the   children   than   vice-­‐versa.   The   iconography   of   “paradise   lost,”   of   a   precious   garden   devastated   by   the   iniquity   of   men,   links   Tide   of   Empire   (1929)   and   Cattle   Queen   of   Montana   (1954),   among   others.  In  Silver  Lode  (1954),  John  Payne  is  saved  from  a  lynching  by  a  fake  telegram,  but   the   same   dramatic   device   (along   with   the   notion   that   the   end   sometimes   justifies   the   means)  had  already  appeared  in  Man  to  Man  (1930)  in  which  Grant  Mitchell  is  saved  from   prison   by   fake   evidence   given   by   his   friends.   Victor   McLaglen,   the   convict   in   While   Paris   Sleeps   (1932),   is   modeled   after   Les   Misérables’   Jean   Valjean,   while   Walter   Brennan,   the   sheriff  in  Surrender  (1950),  is  identified  with  Javert  and  Dennis  O'Keefe,  the  pastor  in  It's   Always   Sunday   (1955),   recalls   the   evangelical   figure   of   Mgr.   Myriel.   The   title   of   a   1916   picture   with   Douglas   Fairbanks,   The   Good   Bad   Man,   could   be   applied   to   many   of   Dwan's   films:  the  ambiguous  character,  slightly  off-­‐balance,  torn  between  grace  and  sin,  is  always   more  interesting  than  the  pure  hero  or  the  straightforward  villain.  The  rogue  who  mends   his  ways,  the  arrogant  man  who  shows  humility,  the  criminal  who  wants  to  redeem  himself,   these  are  the  figures  that  are  likely  to  inspire  our  romantic.     From   his   first   period   (see   in   particular   David   Harum,   1915)   dates   Dwan’s   predilection   for   small   town   life,   the   remote   province,   the   micro-­‐communities   which   formed   the   traditional   framework   of   “Americana”:   the   backwaters   of   the   West   or   New   England,   dilapidated   ghost   towns   or   corrupt   border   towns,   Californian   or   Mexican   ranches,   and   sometimes   even   an   19  


enclave in   the   heart   of   the   big   city   (like   the   Greenwich   Village   of   Calendar   Girl,   an   artists'   paradise).   The   location   might   be   a   mythical   place   (Tombstone   in   Frontier   Marshal)   or   purely   allegorical  (Mission  in  The  Restless  Breed),  but  what  excites  Dwan  is  the  intermingling  of  men   and  experiences,  the  wealth  of  diverse  emotions  in  a  compact  space.  The  small  town  on  the   studio   back-­‐lot   is   probably   nothing   more   than   a   gambling   hall,   a   hotel,   two   street   corners,   maybe  a  church,  but  it's  a  little  theater  where  all  the  actors  of  the  human  comedy  intermix.   Their  comings  and  goings,  their  constant  interaction,  enliven  a  frame  that  Dwan  prefers  full,   dense,   even   packed.   A   skilled   master   of   the   art   of   trompe-­l'oeil,   he   can   count   only   on   his   ingenuity  to  choreograph  such  a  rowdy,  colorful  bunch.  The  production  is  short  of  money?   No  problem.  The  more  limited  the  budget,  the  more  he  uses  extras  in  his  crowd  scenes—and   bouquets   of   roses   in   his   intimate   ones.   (No   wonder   Dwan   detested   CinemaScope,   a   format   that  made  such  sleight  of  hand  more  costly  and  even  more  complicated.)       One  should  expect  from  Dwan  neither  the  populist  mythology  of  a  Capra,  nor  Vidor's  lyrical   celebration  of  the  land  and  its  virtues.  With  him,  the  picture  is  convivial  in  appearance  only.   The   provinces   call   for   satire:   from   its   humus   spring   the   weeds   of   meanness,   hypocrisy,   and   narrow-­‐minded  conservatism  (Young  People,  Rendezvous  with  Annie,  Driftwood,  The  Inside   Story).   You   certainly   don't   want   to   live   there   once   the   veneer   of   civility   flakes   off.   Tennessee's   Partner   pillories   the   well-­‐to-­‐do   bourgeois   and   the   prospectors   possessed   by   gold  fever.  In  Silver  Lode,  to  celebrate  Independence  Day,  a  jubilant  community  displays  the   Star-­‐Spangled  Banner  everywhere,  pontificates  about  the  Constitution's  fine  principles,  but   in  rejecting  one  of  their  own,  whom  it  presumes  guilty,  reverts  in  the  space  of  a  few  hours   to   the   primitive   savagery   of   the   lawless   West.   For   the   smalltime   town   is   no   oasis   of   tranquility.  It's  more  like  a  crazed  chorus;  or  a  microcosm  in  a  state  of  effervescence,  where   one   can   evaluate   each   individual's   vested   interests,   passions   and   resentments.   For   Dwan,   the  ideal  story  is  an  ensemble  piece,  one  where  he  can  give  a  voice  to  every  citizen,  from   the   humblest   to   the   most   powerful.   Better   still,   the   chorus   illustrates   our   mutual   interdependence   -­‐   as   with   the   chain   of   debts   that   link   all   the   characters   in   The   Inside   Story.   Here  is  a  world  where  each  has  a  role  to  play,  even  the  con  man,  even  the  bootlegger;  and  it   is  understood  that  this  role  should  never  be  seen  as  immutable.       The  casting  of  roles  seems  settled  once  and  for  all?  Don't  trust  appearances!  Observe,  rather,   the  remarkable  contiguity  of  good  and  evil,  vice  and  virtue.  All  it  takes  to  call  everything  into   question   is   to   thrust   a   stranger   into   the   microcosm,   be   he   innocent   (Driftwood)   or   ambiguous   (The   Restless   Breed),   a   force   for   good   (Tennessee's   Partner)   or   for   evil   (Silver   Lode):  the  righteous  reveal  themselves  to  be  hypocrites;  decent  folks  turn  into  a  lynch  pack;   the   sheriff   and   the   outlaw   make   friends;   the   just   discover   they   need   outcasts;   and   the   pariahs  find  in  themselves  an  unsuspected  grace.  This  dynamic  can  be  seen  sketched  out  in   Frontier  Marshal  (1939),  where  the  star  couple's  romance  is  gradually  overshadowed  by  the   torments  of  the  two  “marked”  characters  who  are  haunted  by  their  past.  Dwan's  sympathy   20  


lies with   the   splenetic   Doc   Holliday   (Cesar   Romero)   and   Jerry   the   bar   hostess   (Binnie   Barnes),   both   far   more   romantic   than   the   inflexible   Wyatt   Earp   (Randolph   Scott)   and   his   fiancée   Sarah   (Nancy   Kelly).   And   the   strange   bond   of   brotherhood   between   Earp   and   Holliday   -­‐   love   at   first   sight   between   two   strangers   who   discover   they   share   a   common   loneliness  -­‐  foreshadows  that  of  Tennessee  and  Cowpoke  in  Tennessee's  Partner,  which  will   be  formed  even  more  simply,  on  a  simple  bench  and  in  one  long  static  shot.     After  the  war,  when  he  went  to  work  at  Republic  Pictures,  our  craftsman  was  sixty  years   old,   with   forty   sound   feature   films   to   his   credit.   He’d   knocked   around   all   the   Hollywood   sound  stages,  but  it  was  the  meager  resources  of  Poverty  Row  that  awaited  him  at  Republic   (fifteen   films),   followed   by   a   stint   with   Benedict   Bogeaus'   independent   productions   (ten   films).  He  had  only  limited  control  over  his  raw  materials,  cast  and  script.  If  one  believes   his   interviews   with   Simon   Mizrahi   (in   Présence   du   Cinéma,   fall   1966)   and   Peter   Bogdanovich  (Allan  Dwan  –  The  Last  Pioneer,  1971),  his  personal  inclination  was  towards   comedies.  But  these  were  about  to  disappear  from  his  repertoire.  He  made  his  farewell  to   the   genre   with   Rendezvous   with   Annie,   a   bittersweet   fable   that   was   as   indebted   to   It's   a   Wonderful  Life  (Frank  Capra)  as  to  The  Miracle  of  Morgan's  Creek  (Preston  Sturges).  Indeed,   it   was   the   period   when   character   studies   took   precedence   over   plot   mechanics.   Laughter   gave   way   to   emotion,   which   was   henceforth   to   be   his   only   and   abiding   concern.   Dwan's   creatures   were   tossed   around   like   puppets   in   his   farces   of   the   forties;   now   they   were   to   blossom   into   human   beings.   To   reveal   their   hidden   nobility   or   their   peculiar   dignity   was   the  ambition  of  this  otherwise  accommodating  moralist.  He  handled  his  storylines  as  he  did   his   sets,   which   most   often   were   “borrowed”   from   more   opulent   productions.   Unable   to   create   his   stories   from   scratch,   he   could   at   least   endow   them   with   a   new   freshness   and   vigor  -­‐  express  a  secret  beauty  that  had  been  too  often  obscured  by  clichés  and  stereotypes.       There's  a  fine  example  of  this  alchemy  in  Sands  of  Iwo  Jima,  a  war  film  that  might  have  been   insipid  if  Dwan  didn't  focus  on  the  hero's  torments  rather  than  on  his  acts  of  heroism.  No   generic  archetypes  are  avoided,  but  one  after  another  they  are  undermined  by  the  gradual   revelation   that   John   Wayne   is   much   more   vulnerable   than   the   GIs   in   his   charge.   The   drill   sergeant's   harshness   can't   mask   the   sadness   of   his   personal   life.   They   are   in   fact   inseparable:   Sergeant   Stryker   exerts   on   his   young   recruits   the   paternal   authority   he   has   never,  as  a  civilian,  been  able  to  assume  with  his  own  son.  Every  time  he  steps  out  of  his   role   as   instructor,   Dwan   shows   him   in   an   entirely   different   light,   like   a   wounded   animal,   numbed  by  alcohol,  haunted  by  his  personal  weaknesses.  In  the  most  astonishing  episode,   our  veteran  meets  a  bar  hostess,  as  lost  as  himself,  who  turns  out  to  have  the  same  name  as   his  ex-­‐wife.  She  takes  him  back  to  her  place,  where  he  discovers  she  is  bringing  up  a  child   by   herself.   Cut   to   the   quick,   the   centurion   behaves   like   a   gentleman.   No   question   now   of   indulging   in   the   soldier's   traditional   recreation.   John   Wayne   slips   away   after   the   girl,   surprised  by  this  delicacy  of  feeling,  has  promised  to  “pray”  for  him.  A  life  sacrificed  calls   21  


for a  sad,  senseless  death:  Stryker  falls  near  Mount  Suribachi  just  as  the  victory  flag  is  being   unfurled.  His  last  words:  “I've  been  a  failure  in  many  ways.”     The   tone   of   Dwan's   films   is   not   defined   by   their   adherence   to   any   one   particular   genre.   During  the  thirties,  he  combined  two  or  three  opposite  genres  in  the  same  film,  particularly   comedy   and   melodrama   (Black   Sheep,   One   Mile   from   Heaven).   Later,   he   tried,   less   successfully,  to  parody  formulas  that  had  worn  threadbare  (The  Three  Musketeers,  Trail  of   the   Vigilantes).   At   Republic,   sometimes   he'd   serve   up   a   crazy   cocktail,   such   as   mixing   Russian   operetta   with   the   western   (Northwest   Outpost).   Dwan,   unlike   his   peers   Ford,   Walsh,   or   Wellman,   wasn't   concerned   with   exploring,   stretching   or   opening   out   Hollywood   genres.   He   wasn't,   for   instance,   part   of   the   postwar   trend   to   revitalize   traditional   film   genres  with  an  increased  realism.  He  went,  rather,  in  the  opposite  direction,  traveling  the   high   roads   of   melodrama   which,   like   Providence,   work   in   mysterious   ways.   It   was   the   heartbreaking  twists  of  fate  that  stimulated  his  imagination.  This  surfaced  in  the  Kafka-­‐like   tragicomedy   Rendezvous   with   Annie   (an   involuntary   deserter   pays   nightmarish   consequences  for  a  night  of  love  with  his  wife),  as  well  as  in  the  musical  biography  I  Dream   of  Jeanie  (musician  Stephen  Foster  discovers  the  blues  when  he  picks  up  an  injured  black   child).  It  pervaded  the  romantic  effusions  of  such  pseudo  westerns  as  Surrender  and  Belle  le   Grand.   It   was   at   work   in   a   piece   of   “Americana”   like   Driftwood   (the   tribulations   of   the   orphan  Natalie  Wood),  a  gangster  film  like  Slightly  Scarlet  (the  traumas  of  nymphomaniac   Arlene   Dahl),   war   chronicles   such   as   Sands   of   Iwo   Jima   and   The   Wild   Blue   Yonder   (the   pathos   of   the   anti-­‐hero   redeemed   by   the   ultimate   sacrifice),   and   even   Most   Dangerous   Man   Alive,   where   Dwan   discarded   the   science-­‐fiction   plot   in   favor   of   a   Christly   metaphor   (the   man  exposed  to  nuclear  radiation  expiates  his  sins  as  well  as  mankind's).     The  Grace  of  the  Outcasts     Because  emotion,  like  beauty,  is  best  represented  by  a  woman's  face,  Dwan  is,  with  Walsh,   one   of   the   first   to   feminize   the   adventure   film.   He   highlights   his   heroines   in   traditionally   masculine  genres,  from  the  western  to  the  crime  film.  She  is  the  one  designated  by  the  very   title   in   Driftwood   and   Angel   in   Exile,   Belle   le   Grand   and   Montana   Belle,   Pearl   of   the   South   Pacific   and   Cattle   Queen   of   Montana.   No   field   of   action   is   barred   to   her:   she   thrives   as   a   cattle-­‐breeder  or  as  a  colonial  plantation  owner,  as  a  lady  of  leisure  or  as  a  barkeeper,  in   military  service  or  in  the  boudoir,  at  the  gambling  table  or  in  the  cabin  of  a  bomber  plane.   Both  outlaw  (Belle  Starr)  and  honky-­‐tonk  queen  (“the  Gilded  Lily”),  Jane  Russell  wins  out   on   all   counts   (Montana   Belle).   This   is   also   the   case   with   Vera   Ralston,   who   pursues   a   thousand   intrigues,   speculates   on   the   stock   exchange   and   sows   scandal   by   using   all   the   weapons   at   her   disposal,   starting   with   sex   (Surrender,   Belle   le   Grand).   Their   excesses   are   forgiven...   as   long   as   they   don't   lose   their   femininity.   A   routine   film   on   the   surface,   Flight   Nurse  is  quite  original  in  showing  war  from  the  point  of  view  of  a  nurse  who  is  as  comely  as   22  


she is   generous.   Far   from   hiding   her   charms   under   the   uniform,   she   shows   them   off   to   assert  the  right  to  life  and  beauty.  Dwan  thus  makes  a  kind  of  erotic  ritual  of  her  applying   make-­‐up,   particularly   lipstick:   Joan   Leslie,   in   empathy   with   her   wounded   patients,   knows   that   her   sex   appeal   provides   far   more   comfort   to   them   than   her   medical   attentions.   In   desiring   her,   they   commune   with   their   wives   or   girlfriends.   When   it   comes   to   healing,   desire  is  granted  the  same  power  as  prayer.     From   Frontier   Marshal   on,   we   find   that   compassion   and   sensuality   go   hand   in   hand   in   Dwan's  work.  When  she's  not  fighting  at  his  side,  it  is  the  heroine  who  rescues  her  man  in   dire  straits.  Doc  Holliday,  between  life  and  death,  is  watched  over  by  both  his  lawful  wife   and  his  mistress.  John  Carroll  in  Belle  le  Grand  benefits  from  the  same  treatment.  In  Silver   Lode,   John   Payne   can   rely   only   on   his   wife   (Lizabeth   Scott)   and   his   former   mistress   (Dolores  Moran),  who  join  forces  in  a  most  unusual  alliance.  This  tender  solicitude  is  fully   reciprocated   by   the   male   characters:   Anthony   Quinn   reconciles   with   Debra   Paget,   his   unfaithful   wife,   to   save   her   from   gangrene   (The   River's   Edge),   while   Robert   Ryan   abandons   all   resistance   when   he   realizes   that   Barbara   Stanwyck   has   been   wounded   in   the   fighting   (Escape   to   Burma).   In   his   final   films,   we   see   Dwan   defy   the   censors   and   celebrate   the   boldest   gestures,   all   the   finer   for   being   spontaneous.   The   heroine   who   listens   only   to   her   heart   shows   amazing   daring,   like   Stanwyck   taking   the   fugitive   who   emerges   from   the   jungle  into  her  home  (Escape  to  Burma),  Jane  Powell  undoing  her  sarong  to  use  it  as  a  sail   (Enchanted  Island),  Anne  Bancroft  running  to  join  Scott  Brady  in  his  hotel  room  in  defiance   of   all   propriety   (The   Restless   Breed),   or   an   almost   naked   Elaine   Stewart   transmitting   her   vital  warmth  to  Ron  Randell,  who  has  been  exposed  to  atomic  radiation,  by  lying  over  him   (Most  Dangerous  Man  Alive)...     It   is   almost   always   female   desire   that   calls   the   tune.   Dwan's   romantic   intrigues   are   structured   around   two   privileged   figures,   the   angelic   woman   and   the   femme   fatale.   They   are   symmetrical   figures,   and   strangely   related,   since   they   are   more   often   than   not   two   sisters.   Like   those   in   Belle   le   Grand:   the   pure   and   innocent   singer   (Muriel   Lawrence)   as   against   the   adventuress   with   a   murky   past   (Vera   Ralston).   In   I   Dream   of   Jeanie,   roles   are   inverted:   the   altruistic   ingénue   (Eileen   Christy)   as   against   the   egotistical   prima   donna   (Muriel   Lawrence).   In   Surrender   and   Slightly   Scarlet,   the   patience   of   the   well-­‐balanced   sister  (Maria  Palmer,  Rhonda  Fleming)  is  matched  by  the  provocations  of  the  neurotic  one   who  keeps  playing  with  fire  (Vera  Ralston,  Arlene  Dahl).  In  Most  Dangerous  Man  Alive,  the   contrast  between  the  two  women,  between  lust  and  love,  is  established  through  their  erotic   behavior:   Debra   Paget   provokes   Ron   Randell   by   exposing   first   one   leg,   then   the   other,   to   incite  him  to  remove  the  rest  of  her  finery,  whereas  Elaine  Stewart  gently  curls  up  against   him   to   assure   him   that   he's   still   human   -­‐   that   he   can   still   feel   and   stir   emotion.   The   demarcation  line  between  the  “fatal”  and  the  “angelic”  becomes  slightly  blurred  in  Woman   They  Almost  Lynched:  here  we  see  the  frail  Joan  Leslie,  a  delicate  flower  from  the  East  Coast,   23  


turn into   a   saloon   girl   to   survive   in   the   West,   while   Audrey   Totter,   the   cruel   muse   of   the   Quantrill   gang,   becomes   civilized   and   humanized   after   being   spared   by   her   rival.   Discovering   they   stand   united   in   the   face   of   men's   violence   and   concupiscence,   the   two   women  outdo  each  other  in  acts  of  nobility  and  eventually  help  each  other  out.     Dwan  wasn't  the  kind  of  filmmaker  to  openly  subvert  the  stories  he  was  given.  It's  enough   for  him  to  illuminate  an  antithesis  here  or  an  internal  rime  there,  to  make  the  drama  yield  a   rich  morality  or,  even  better,  a  moral  beauty.  When  properly  distilled  and  refined,  a  routine   script  can  take  on  the  form  of  a  fable.  And  the  black  and  white  certainty  that  was  de  rigueur   in  assembly-­‐line  production  is  roundly  trounced.  In  Dwan’s  films  of  the  fifties,  the  dividing   line   between   the   good   and   the   bad   is   not   self-­‐evident;   it   is   susceptible   to   unexpected   combinations   or   delightful   permutations.   Better   than   any   discourse,   fiction's   twists   and   turns   come   to   illustrate   the   inanity   of   convention,   the   arbitrariness   of   prejudice,   the   relativity   of   the   judgments   we   pass   on   our   fellow   men.   They   remind   us   that   evaluating   people's  actions  is  risky,  that  it  requires  patience,  humility,  and  honesty.  Dwan  sometimes   delegates   a   secondary   character   to   fulfill   this   very   purpose.   Hence   the   presence   of   the   young   Jesse   James   in   Woman   They   Almost   Lynched:   the   figure   of   a   soon-­‐to-­‐be-­‐legendary   bandit   is   sufficiently   engaging   to   deserve   a   long   dialogue   sequence   in   the   stagecoach,   although   it   serves   no   narrative   function.   (One   may   also   see   it   as   a   nod   to   the   first   of   the   “good  bad  men,”  Dwan's  beloved  Robin  Hood.)     What  we  recognize  here  is  the  companion  to  Griffith,  the  veteran  of  Intolerance,  who  found   more  nobility  amongst  outcasts  than  amongst  upright  citizens  that  have  never  deviated  from   the  straight  and  narrow.  The  lost  sheep,  the  last-­‐minute  helpers  intrigue  him  more  than  the   righteous.   Look   at   them,   con   men,   outlaws,   troublemakers,   high   rollers,   adventurers   secretly   tortured  by  their  lost  innocence.  The  cynicism  they  flaunt  melts  as  soon  as  a  loved  one  is  in   distress   or   a   friend   needs   help.   Then   they   are   capable   of   rising   to   the   ultimate   sacrifice.   Such   turnarounds   confer   an   aura   of   mystery,   if   not   a   soul,   to   actors   who   otherwise   seem   short   on   charisma.   See   his   “vehicles”   for   John   Carroll   and   Vera   Ralston,   Republic's   “house”   stars.   They   surprise,   sometimes   delight   us,   because   the   emphasis   is   on   the   protagonists'   ambivalence:   they  never  do  what  we  expect  them  to.  A  hardened  criminal  risks  all  to  pry  his  best  friend   away   from   the   clutches   of   an   adventuress;   he   will   end   up   dying   for   a   crime   he   hasn't   committed   (Surrender).   A   wheeler-­‐dealer   who   appeared   to   be   utterly   ruthless   risks   his   life   going  down  a  burning  mine  to  save  victims  that  have  been  given  up  for  dead  (Belle  le  Grand).   Finer  still,  the  itinerary  of  the  thief  who,  coming  to  collect  his  booty  in  a  poor  pueblo,  is  taken   for  a  “miracle  man;”  thanks  to  this  saintly  halo,  he  comes  to  behave  as  a  spiritual  healer  and   decides  to  give  the  gold  away  to  his  flock  (Angel  in  Exile).     What   does   the   ever-­‐optimistic   priest   in   It's   Always   Sunday   tell   us?   To   disarm   the   brigand   who's   planning   further   mischief,   lend   him   your   car,   send   him   on   your   errands,   trust   him,   24  


and you  will  reap  what  you  have  sown.  This  evangelical  charity  accounts  for  the  dramatic   arc   of   so   many   of   Dwan's   pictures.   Almost   nobody   is   beyond   redemption.   Consider   the   “good  bad  girl,”  a  female  counterpart  to  the  “good  bad  man.”  When  “Montana  Belle”  goes  off   for   a   picnic   with   her   fond   banker,   she   forgets   to   rob   him   and   abandons   herself   with   insouciance  to  the  delights  of  a  garden  swing  in  front  of  a  painted  backdrop!  Admire  how   the  “Pearl  of  the  South  Pacific,”  a  prostitute  who  passes  herself  off  as  a  missionary,  reveals   her   true   nature,   such   as   her   repressed   maternal   longings,   when   she   sings   “Ten   Little   Indians”  for  the  island  children.  Virginia  Mayo's  accordion  is  matched  by  Dolores  Moran's   music   box   in   Silver   Lode:   there's   nothing   like   a   familiar   melody   to   suggest   the   beneficent   role   reserved   for   a   particular   character.   (Notice   also   how   Dwan   associates   Bill   Shirley   with   the   flute   in   I   Dream   of   Jeanie   or   Ronald   Reagan   with   the   harmonica   in   Tennessee's   Partner.)   For   him,   there   is   no   such   thing   as   a   “lost”   woman.   Everyone   is   worthy   of   love.   And   sometimes   even   shown   to   be   an   example   to   others.   In  Woman   They   Almost   Lynched,   Joan   Leslie  doesn't  believe  she's  demeaning  herself  in  learning  to  run  a  house  of  ill  repute;  her   concern  is  to  educate  and  protect  her  girls  as  the  “Duchess”  in  Tennessee's  Partner  does  so   well.  A  den  of  iniquity  can  thus  become  a  sanctuary,  an  islet  of  delicacy  in  the  midst  of  an   ocean  of  hypocrisy.     Dwan   refrains   from   challenging   institutions,   but   never   hesitates   to   brand   the   sanctimoniousness   of   do-­‐gooders   or   deplore   the   cupidity   of   the   rich.   He   follows   in   the   best   anti-­‐puritan  tradition,  that  of  Griffith  and  Borzage,  Walsh  and  Wellman.  Consider  how  the   bar   hostess   who   scoffs   at   convention   can   teach   the   “decent”   woman   a   thing   or   two.   Having   nothing   to   lose,   she   has   the   courage   to   oppose   injustice.   Recall,   in   Frontier   Marshal,   that   Wyatt   Earp   was   saved   at   the   OK   Corral   by   the   intervention   of   Jerry   the   tramp.   In   Silver   Lode,  Dolly  accepts  Dan  Ballard,  the  accused,  as  he  is;  she'd  support  him  even  if  she  knew   he   was   guilty,   “even,”   she   says,   “if   you   had   killed   my   father!”   She   isn't   afraid   to   confront   hypocrites  of  all  kinds,  interrupting  the  reading  of  a  patriotic  speech,  heckling  a  hysterical   matron:   “Respectable?   Looking   at   you,   I'm   jolly   happy   not   to   be   respectable!”   She   will   be   the   good   angel   who   saves   Ballard   by   cajoling   the   telegraph   operator   into   writing   a   fake   telegram.   In   the   epilogue,   it   is   Dolly,   the   most   despised   parishioner,   and   yet   the   most   worthy   of   admiration,   who   sings   a   vibrant   “hallelujah”   through   the   empty   streets.   True   morality,  like  true  beauty,  is  that  of  the  heart.       It   is   certainly   not   that   of   the   bourgeois   and   notables,   the   self-­‐righteous   and   other   God   fearing   types,   who   condemn   Ballard   right   from   the   outset.   Bigots   are   the   least   likely   to   practice   charity.   Venomous   shrews   cast   Joan   Leslie   in   the   camp   of   so-­‐called   undesirables   (Woman  They  Almost  Lynched).  Barbara  Stanwyck  is  treated  as  a  pariah  for  sympathizing   with  an  Indian  chief  (Cattle  Queen  of  Montana).  Even  the  little  girl  in  Driftwood  comes  up   against  the  intolerance  of  the  privileged  rich.  Deceit,  hatred,  rapaciousness  are  present  in   Dwan's   stories,   but   he   gives   them   no   more   space   than   they   deserve:   they're   seen   as   25  


irrational behavior,   weaknesses   of   character,   faulty   judgment   rather   than   as   natural   or   innate  tendencies.  Evil  is  not  a  curse,  but  an  aberration  –  a  distraction,  the  heart  or  spirit   being   led   astray.   One   notable   exception:   the   last   film,   Most   Dangerous   Man   Alive,   where   the   contaminated   fugitive   is   rejected   as   a   “monster.”   He   is   hunted   down   by   three   groups   -­‐   gangsters,   police,   soldiers   -­‐   with   all   the   cruelty   of   their   respective   technologies,   to   wit:   electric  shocks,  teargas,  and  finally  flame-­‐throwers.  “I've  got  to  rip  that  rotten  world  apart   to   the   winds,”   shouts   Ron   Randell   on   his   Golgotha   above   the   town.   A   shattering   paradox   concludes   his   ordeal:   embracing   him   for   the   last   time,   his   girlfriend   discovers   that   the   man   of  steel  is  losing  blood.  The  monster  the  flame-­‐throwers  are  about  to  burn  alive  is  no  longer   a  danger  to  the  public,  but  simply  a  man...       At   the   end   of   this   “passion,”   Dwan's   darkest   work,   a   superimposition   dissolves   the   fugitive's  mortal  remains  and  the  camera  remains  fixed  on  the  wind  that  sweeps  away  the   ashes  across  the  quarry.  This  return  of  the  body  to  dust  reminds  us  of  the  death  of  Sergeant   Stryker,   face   down   against   the   soil   on   Mount   Suribachi   (Iwo   Jima),   or   of   the   freshly   dug   grave   of   Cowpoke   at   the   end   of   Tennessee's   Partner.   The   tellurian   lyricism   of   such   sequences   may   remind   us   of   Vidor   (Duel   in   the   Sun)   and   Walsh   (Colorado   Territory),   but   Dwan   is   averse   to   irreparable   conflicts,   irreversible   situations.   Far   from   being   possessed,   deprived  of  their  free  will,  his  characters  are  fallible  beings,  confronted  with  choices,  thus   responsible   for   their   fate.   And   their   brief   existence   must   comprise   both   a   morality   and   a   sense  of  hope.  The  gates  of  paradise  rarely  remain  closed  as  they  do  at  the  end  of  Surrender,   where   the   sheriff's   judgment   comes   down   like   a   bolt   of   lightning:   “He   who   lives   by   the   sword  will  perish  by  the  sword.”  The  camera  expresses  this  visually  by  moving  back  to  rise   above  the  two  sinners  (Vera  Ralston,  John  Carroll),  fallen  angels  who  lie  next  to  each  other,   as  if  petrified  or  fossilized  in  the  canyon  rock.  (Dwan  had  such  little  taste  for  tragedy  that   he  disowned  this  splendid  “unhappy  end”  in  his  interview  with  Bogdanovich.)     Morality  Plays     Although  he  doesn't  always  take  the  plotting  of  his  tales  seriously,  Dwan  never  loses  sight   of   the   essential:   the   salutary   nature   of   the   ordeal,   the   transformation   of   the   afflicted,   and   the  development  of  their  consciousness.  Even  in  a  film  as  badly  “stitched  together”  as  Pearl   of  the  South  Pacific,  Virginia  Mayo's  journey  is  clearly  signposted:  the  parable  of  the  blind   man   and   the   Pharisee   is   there   to   signify   that   she   too   will   be   able   to   find   the   path   to   regeneration.   Quite   often,   the   names   of   places   and   characters   speak   for   themselves.   In   Passion,  the  refuge  in  which  Cornel  Wilde  renounces  his  quest  for  vengeance  is  called  “the   Good   Samaritan;”   even   the   title   of   the   film   should   be   taken   in   the   religious   sense.   In   “Mission,”  the  frontier  town  of  The  Restless  Breed  where  Scott  Brady  has  come  to  avenge  his   father,  the  children  take  him  for  an  “archangel;”  the  young  woman  he  falls  in  love  with  is   called   Angelita.   In   Most   Dangerous   Man   Alive,   the   soul   mate   is   called   Carla   Angelo;   the   26  


villain, Damon.   Conversely,   deceptive   names   such   as   Violet   and   Daisy   may   conceal   a   poisonous   flower   such   as   Vera   Ralston   in   Surrender   and   Belle   le   Grand.   The   bad   boy   in   Slightly   Scarlet   goes   by   the   name   of   Grace,   and   he   will   in   fact   receive   an   opportunity   to   redeem   himself   by   standing   up   to   his   associates.   The   innocent   cowboy   in   Tennessee's   Partner   is   caught   in   the   toils   of   the   aptly   named   tart,   Goldie.   He   himself   goes   by   the   generic   name   of   Cowpoke:   he   is   the   archetype   of   the   original   Westerner,   a   ”vanishing   American”   doomed   to   disappear   along   with   the   Prairie.   “I   never   even   knew   his   name,”   laments   Tennessee  at  the  grave  of  the  friend  who  sacrificed  his  life  for  him.  In  the  stunning  prologue   to  Driftwood,  which  anticipates  the  puritan  expressionism  of  The  Night  of  the  Hunter,  Dwan   adopts   the   viewpoint   of   a   wild   child,   raised   in   a   mission   out   in   the   sierras,   who   knows   only   the   Old   Testament:   an   airplane   in   flames   becomes   “Belzebuth,”   a   small   Nevada   town   “Sodom  and  Gomorrah,”  an  animal  laboratory  “Noah's  Ark”...  Everywhere,  young  Jenny  sees   the  hand  of  Providence.  And  Dwan  doesn't  fail  to  prove  her  right.       Similarly,  in  Angel  in  Exile,  a  contemporary  “mystery,”  the  ingénue  is  an  “angel,”  the  bandits   are   “serpents,”   and   everything   works   towards   the   salvation   of   the   good   scoundrel,   an   imposter   who   is   believed   to   be   protected   by   the   village's   patron   saint,   the   “Blue   Lady.”   The   irony   is   that   he   is   protected.   So   is   the   child   of   Cornel   Wilde,   spared   because   his   mother   hid   him  in  an  oratory  dedicated  to  the  Virgin  (Passion).  So  are  the  fugitives  in  Escape  to  Burma,   who  find  safety  in  a  pagoda  at  the  foot  of  a  Buddha.  And  then  there's  John  Payne  in  Silver   Lode:   when   everyone   abandons   him   and   he   runs   towards   the   church,   his   final   refuge,   a   fantastic   lateral   tracking   shot   follows   his   headlong   course,   as   though   the   camera,   whose   movements  have  hitherto  been  almost  imperceptible,  is  now  guiding  the  fugitive  towards   the   sanctuary.   It   appears   that   his   fate   no   longer   depends   on   humankind.   An   almost   vertical   high-­‐angle   shot   from   the   roof   confirms   it,   framing   the   sheriff's   coffin   as   it   makes   its   way   through  the  lynch  mob.  (A  similar  “God's  point  of  view”  shot  reappears  near  the  climax  of   Tennessee's   Partner   when   the   two   friends   gallop   towards   the   fateful   mine.)   Providence's   decisive  intervention  takes  place  when  the  disarmed  Ballard  is  at  the  mercy  of  McCarty  in   the   bell   tower.   The   moment   of   the   most   profound   dereliction   also   becomes   that   of   judgment.   It   is   McCarty's   turn   to   reap   what   he   sowed:   his   bullet   ricochets   off   the   bronze   bell  and  hits  him  straight  in  the  heart.       Tourneur's  disenchantment  may  be  foreign  to  Dwan,  but  as  with  the  former,  adventure  is   experienced   as   a   burden:   it   is   endured,   in   no   way   sought   after,   as   it   is   with   Vidor   or   Walsh.   It  is  mostly  an  ordeal  as  the  hero  sees  what  is  dearest  to  him  taken  away.  And  it  is  imposed   upon   him   at   the   very   moment   he   finds   the   haven   he   has   sought   for   so   long.   Jim   Brecan,   weary  of  wandering,  has  hardly  discovered  his  dream  plantation  when  he  is  driven  out  and   hunted  down  in  the  Burmese  jungle.  At  the  moment  when  the  four  strange  horsemen  enter   Silver   Lode,   Dan   Ballard   is   just   about   to   marry   the   county's   most   coveted   heiress;   in   the   space  of  a  few  moments,  he  is  ostracized  from  society  and  pursued  like  a  dangerous  beast.   27  


The cattle   queen   believes   she's   reached   the   Promised   Land,   but   in   one   night   loses   her   father,   her   herd   and   her   beautiful   Montana   valley.   When,   after   a   long   absence,   cattle   breeder   Juan   Obregon   comes   to   join   his   family,   they   are   almost   immediately   killed   in   the   arson  fire  that  devastates  his  ranch  (Passion).  The  finest  sequences  of  Dwan's  exotic  tales   are  without  doubt  those  in  which  he  reveals,  and  makes  us  desire,  this  threatened  paradise,   lost  as  soon  as  it  is  caught  sight  of:  the  stroll  in  the  pueblo  of  Angel  in  Exile,  the  bivouac  in   Cattle   Queen   of   Montana,   the   couple's   reunion   in   Passion,   the   first   evening   at   the   plantation   in   Escape   to   Burma,   the   newlyweds'   canoe   journey   to   the   Enchanted   Island...   For   a   brief   moment,  time  seems  to  suspend  its  course  to  allow  the  protagonists  to  dream  aloud.       It's   a   paradise   they   sometimes   recognize   too   late   -­‐   or   that   they   threaten   with   their   very   presence.  Haven't  they  come  to  desecrate  nature?  Plunder  its  treasures?  On  their  way  they   often  come  across  a  baleful  underground  site  that  serves  as  a  new  Pandora's  box.  A  gold  mine   (Tennessee's   Partner)   or   a   silver   mine   (Belle   le   Grand),   a   well   where   booty's   been   hidden   (Angel  in  Exile),  a  lagoon  full  of  black  pearls  (Pearl  of  the  South  Pacific),  a  quarry  where  the   steel  man  will  die  (Most  Dangerous  Man  Alive)...  In  Escape  to  Burma,  Jim  Brecan's  real  crime  is   his  obsession  with  extracting  rubies.  This  transgression  provokes  the  prince's  death  from  the   plague   and   turns   the   white   hunter   into   the   prey.   The   parable   is   conveyed   solely   through   the   mise  en  scène.  When  Robert  Ryan  takes  out  his  precious  stones  to  contemplate  them  in  the   palm  of  his  hand,  the  close-­‐up  of  their  glowing  red  brilliance  and  the  reverse-­‐angle  shot  of  the   assassin  who's  watching  the  scene  behind  the  window  impart  the  idea  that  evil  has  invaded   this  place  of  peace  and  harmony.  From  then  on,  the  “curse”  seems  to  follow  Ryan  wherever   he   goes:   a   ravaged   plantation,   a   pagoda   in   ruins,   a   ghost   village   that   the   natives   have   abandoned   to   the   “spirits”...   He   can   only   free   himself   by   returning   the   rubies   to   the   Burmese   people,  like  John  Carroll  abandoning  his  gold  to  the  villagers  (Angel  in  Exile)  or  siding  with   the  miners  rather  than  the  shareholders  (Belle  le  Grand).       The   original   transgression   is   often   related   to   a   past   that   precedes   the   narrative,   like   the   childhood   theft   of   a   maternal   bracelet   that   has   since   turned   Arlene   Dahl   into   a   kleptomaniac   (Slightly   Scarlet).   From   Belle   le   Grand   to   The   River's   Edge,   the   protagonists'   pathology  is  linked  to  the  return  of  the  repressed.  This  “sin”  they  must  expiate  is  to  have   coveted  only  material  wealth,  to  have  wasted  their  lives  in  the  pursuit  of  illusory  goods,  to   have  sacrificed  at  the  altar  of  Mammon.  Think  again  of  Ballard,  the  wrongly  accused  hero  in   Silver   Lode.   What   has   marked   him   out   for   the   wrath   of   heaven?   Two   years   earlier,   when   he   was   a   mere   gunslinger,   he   killed   his   adversary,   McCarty's   brother,   during   a   poker   game.   With  his  winnings,  he  was  able  to  settle  down,  carve  himself  a  place  in  the  sun.  This  success   is  what  brought  McCarty  back  onto  his  trail:  the  villain  intends  not  only  to  avenge  himself   but  also,  above  all,  to  reclaim  the  money.  Ballard  is  thus  a  false  innocent:  he  pays  the  toll  of   a  brazen  prosperity  that  has  aroused  too  much  envy.  And  when  hunted  down,  he  becomes   once  again  the  gunslinger  of  his  past,  as  John  Payne's  tense  performance  intimates  so  well.   28  


Likewise with   Most   Dangerous   Man   Alive:   the   victim   of   a   frame-­‐up,   Ron   Randell   is   nonetheless   guilty   of   making   a   pact   with   the   devil.   Guilty   too   of   escaping   only   to   take   revenge  and  letting  “hatred”  overcome  him.  Those  who  want  to  pursue  their  own  justice  do   nothing   but   spread   more   evil.   The   whole   of   Silver   Lode   is   put   to   the   fire   and   the   sword   because  Ballard  fights  with  the  same  weapons  as  his  enemies,  leaving  a  pile  of  corpses  in   his  wake.  When  he  comes  down  from  the  bell  tower  and  the  villagers  acknowledge  he  was   right,  his  is  a  bitter  victory:  “You  forced  me  to  kill  to  defend  myself!”  In  Passion  as  in  The   Restless  Breed,  the  denial  of  justice  has  the  same  effect,  as  it  pushes  the  desperate  man  to   retreat  from  the  community,  to  place  himself  outside  the  law,  until  he  is  no  different  from   those   who   wronged   him.   The   irony   of   Passion   is   as   striking   as   that   of   Silver   Lode:   the   avenger   cannot   harm   the   criminal;   he   must   spare   him   so   that   the   hideous   crime   can   be   confessed   to   the   authorities.   Just   before   the   killer's   confession,   Dwan   slips   in   a   cutaway   shot  to  the  crucifix  to  which  Juan  Obregon  addresses  a  silent  petition.  His  prayer  is  swiftly   granted.  The  afflicted  has  been  tested  enough  for  his  Creator  to  untie  the  tragic  knot  and   restore  him  his  humanity.       Scott   Brady   in   The   Restless   Breed   is   one   of   these   “strangers   in   paradise”   who   haunt   Dwan's   final  films.  He  could  be  brother  to  the  prospector  in  Escape  to  Burma,  the  deserting  sailor  in   Enchanted   Island,   the   unsavory   trio   in   Pearl   of   the   South   Pacific.   Far   from   being   an   archangel,   he   is   the   tempter,   the   corrupter.   (Could   Clint   Eastwood   have   had   The   Restless   Breed   on   his   mind   when   making   High   Plains   Drifter?)   Totally   caught   up   in   vengeance,   he   avoids   mass;   he   expects   nothing   from   the   parson   apart   from   the   hand   of   his   daughter,   Angelita,  “half-­‐angel,  half-­‐woman.”  Repeated  inserts  of  glowing  clouds  accompany  the  wild   ride  of  the  killers  galloping  to  confront  him.  It  is  a  purely  poetic  piece  of  punctuation  that   seems  to  call  heaven  as  a  witness,  reminding  us  that  each  individual  will  have  to  account   for  his  actions.  As  it  should  be  in  an  Allan  Dwan  drama,  Providence  keeps  watch,  diverting   the   hero   away   from   vigilantism,   preventing   him   from   following   through   on   his   hubris:   at   the  death  of  the  sheriff,  he  inherits  the  badge  which  legitimizes  the  final  gunfight.  But  it  is   only   in   the   last   shot   that   he   is   delivered   from   his   obsession,   leaving   his   colt   and   gun   belt   in   the   dust   as   he   embraces   Angelita.   (John   Payne,   in   Slightly   Scarlet,   frees   himself   from   corruption   by   throwing   away   his   weapon   and   letting   himself   be   riddled   by   Ted   De   Corsia's   bullets  like  a  modern  Saint  Sebastian.)     Of  all  these  morality  plays,  the  most  eloquent  is  The  River's  Edge.  And  among  our  “strangers   in  paradise,”  Ray  Milland  is  surely  the  most  incongruous.  With  his  white  suit,  his  salmon-­‐ pink   Thunderbird,   and   his   aluminum   briefcase   stuffed   with   bank   notes,   Nardo   is   the   diabolical  tempter  that  is  going  to  drag  the  couple  Ben  and  Meg  Cameron  (Anthony  Quinn,   Debra   Paget)   away   from   their   land.   Meg,   who   was   formerly   his   mistress   and   accomplice,   sees  Nardo  emerge  out  of  the  past  just  after  having  found  a  neatly  symbolic  scorpion  in  her   29  


bra. In  a  few  moments,  Ben  will  lose  everything:  the  ranch,  his  wife,  his  self-­‐respect...  The   biblical   simplicity   of   the   tale   might   have   inspired   Edgar   Ulmer,   that   other   smuggler   in   redemption.   It   unfolds   appropriately   in   a   papier-­mâché   cave,   the   most   basic,   primordial   setting.   There,   as   in   Ulmer’s   The   Naked   Dawn,   a   rattlesnake   appears   amidst   the   three   protagonists.  In  killing  it,  Meg  severs  the  perverse  pact  that  tied  her  to  Nardo.  The  couple   can  knit  themselves  together  again,  and  the  humiliated  husband  can  lie  down  at  his  wife's   side   to   bring   her   back   to   life.   Salvation   comes,   once   again,   through   renunciation:   Ben   lights   a  fire  with  the  stolen  dollars  to  boil  water  and  disinfect  Meg's  wound.  It  is  a  bank  note  in   the   beak   of   a   vulture   that   indicates   the   death   of   Nardo.   “He   deserves   a   few   tears,”   says   Ben   by   way   of   funeral   oration,   discovering   that   his   nemesis   had   uncharacteristically   gone   off   to   seek  help.  The  first  good  action  of  his  life  has  killed  him!  As  for  the  couple,  they  must  have   learned   something   from   their   trial   as   they   choose   not   to   go   and   pick   up   the   money   that   litters  the  landscape,  polluting  nature.     Although  it  is  always  threatened,  there  is  nothing  absurd  about  man’s  existence.  Adversity   just   makes   it   all   the   more   valuable,   as   it   forces   each   individual   to   reexamine   his   or   her   priorities.  Which  is  to  say  that  adventure  has  a   raison  d'être.  That  suffering  and  wandering   are  not  unproductive.  That  at  the  end  of  the  journey,  the  protagonist  should  be  stripped  of   the  false  riches  he  believed  indispensable  to  his  happiness,  or  divested  of  the  weapons  that   dragged   him   down   into   a   maelstrom   of   violence.   This   is   a   salutary   deprivation,   which   brings   him   a   new   dignity   and,   perhaps,   a   degree   of   tranquility.   He   is   left   with   the   only   treasures  worth  cherishing:  the  warmth  of  friendship,  the  sweetness  of  companionship,  the   harmony   of   a   couple...   Dwan's   world   belongs   to   those   who   endeavor   to   make   it   better   -­‐   those  who  are  content  with  the  essential  and  are  intent  on  making  the  garden  bear  fruits.   As  the  monk  and  theologian  Thomas  Merton  said:  “If  you  yourself  are  at  peace,  then  there  is   at  least  some  peace  in  the  world.”  If  not?  The  garden  would  become  a  hell,  like  the  quarry  of   ashes  and  dust  where  the  Most  Dangerous  Man  Alive  is  crucified.  

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THE GRIFFITH  TRADITION1    

John Dorr  

Vera Ralston  in  Belle  Le  Grand  (1951)     The   first   strain   of   the   American   filmmaking   tradition   grew   directly   from   the   all-­‐perverse   influence   of   the   early   work   of   D.W.   Griffith.   This   essentially   nationalistic   tradition   of   dramatic  narrative  was  rooted  in  the  simple,  direct  montage  principles  that  Griffith  evolved   in   his   Biograph   one-­‐   and   two   reelers.   In   1915,   The   Birth   of   a   Nation   became   the   official   lexicon  of  these  principles.     The  Griffith  Tradition  was  the  dominant  style  of  the  silent  American  film  and  was  evolved   to  a  classical  perfection  by  the  mid-­‐Twenties.  Later,  emasculated  by  the  transition  to  sound,   this   tradition   became   a   recessive   approach   to   direction   best   suited   for   keeping   track   of   uncomplicated  narratives  over  which  a  performer’s  personality  could  easily  dominate.    It  is   doubtless   because   the   Griffith   Tradition   lingered   well   into   the   Thirties   that   the   star   system   came  to  prevail  over  the  art  approach  of  the  director.  When  in  the  late  Thirties,  a  second  

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approach to  filmmaking  (the  Murnau  Tradition)  began  to  unify  the  potential  of  the  sound   medium,  the  legacy  of  the  Griffith  Tradition  became  the  history  of  the  B-­‐picture—until  its   transfer   to   television   in   the   Fifties.   Even   today,   when   a   director   wants   to   analyze   simply   and   quickly   the   dramatic   content   of   a   straightforward   narrative,   he   will   fall   back   upon   these  principles,  now  referred  to  as  “television  style.”     The  glory  and  the  limitation  of  the  Griffith  Tradition,  as  explained  by  Griffith  himself,  was   that  “Ideas  are  alright  for  stage  people,  but  pictures  prefer  simple  straight  stories  of  fact.”   In   the   montage   tradition,   each   shot   becomes   a   fact   whose   meaning   is   determined   by   its   juxtaposition  to  another  fact.  Since  the  first  goal  of  this  tradition  was  effective  storytelling,   it  was  a  virtue  that  each  shot  retain  its  singularity  of  meaning.     The   evolution   of   these   montage   principles   was   this   a   product   of   necessity.   The   camera   came   to   be   placed   at   varying   distances   from   the   action   for   purely   utilitarian   purposes— namely   comprehensible   narration.   The   resulting   method   of   dramatic   analysis   was   an   economical,  rational,  and  above  all  unambiguous  response  to  the  challenge  of  telling  a  story   with  a  movie  camera.       America  at  this  time  was  not  a  particularly  sophisticated  country.  Mass  communication  was   limited   to   the   printed   word,   and   storytelling   was   the   folk   art   most   accessible   to   a   nation   of   immigrants  in  need  of  a  new  heritage  on  which  to  rebuild  their  self-­‐identity.  The  qualities   inherent   in   the   Griffith   Tradition   embraced   such   basic   American   virtues   as   simplicity,   practicality,   rationality,   straightforwardness,   and   nonverbalism.   The   silence   of   the   silent   film  was  not  the  problem,  but  a  virtue,  because  it  was  universally  comprehensible.       It   was   thus   that   the   cinema   became   the   rallying   medium   of   a   distinctly   American   mythological  heritage.  As  an  indigenous  American  folk  art,  the  cinema  provided  a  form  and   set   of   conventions   perfectly   suited   to   the   expression   of   American   themes,   folklore,   and   landscape.   Griffith   had   fused   the   traditions   of   American   literature   to   those   of   American   painting.   With   the   addition   of   parallel-­‐action   cutting   and   the   resultant   techniques   of   suspense  (added  to  the  basic  analytics  vocabulary  of  the  long  shot,  medium  shot,  and  close-­‐ up),   the   cinema   was   fully   equipped   to   evoke   the   fundamental   emotions   of   the   melodramatic  and  action-­‐adventure  genres.     The   Griffith   tradition   became   the   medium   of   the   genres—ideal   for   narrative   based   on   rather   strict   conventions   and   animated   with   mythologies   of   the   American   heritage   and   American  dream.  These  narratives  became  rituals  leading  through  physical  confrontations   and   complications   to   the   obligatory   cathartic   endings.   The   montage   tradition   was   a   moralist  tradition  and  the  ready  instrument  of  cultural  propaganda—in  that  certain  ways   of   life   were   portrayed   as   virtuous   or   fallen   women.   The   classical   stability   of   this   medium   32  


must have   been   a   sustaining   influence   implying   order   in   the   cultural   chaos   that   followed   the  First  World  War.  For  it  was  the  decade  of  1918  to  1928  that  was  the  Golden  Era  of  the   Griffith  Tradition.     In  regarding  the   silent   film   as   a   folk   art   (as   contrasted   with   personal   art),   we   acknowledge   the  existence  of  certain  beauties  inherent  in  the  medium  itself,  common  to  the  expression   of   all   those   artists   who   worked   in   this   medium,   and   dominant   over   the   personal   idiosyncrasies   of   these   otherwise   diverse   artisans.   As   in   the   classical   period   of   Greek   art,     there   existed   in   this   classical   period   of   silent   filmmaking   a   formal   ideal   (a   clarity   of   narrative)  toward  which  all  of  the  works  strove.  Also,  like  classical  Greek  art,  the  artisans  of   the   Griffith   tradition   valued   order,   balance,   graceful   proportions,   symmetry—ideals   of   structure   and   geometry.   There   were   a   limited   number   of   elements   (types   of   shots)   with   which  to  build  a  narrative.  Thus  it  was  in  the  graceful  ordering  of  these  elements  that  the   skill  of  a  master  director  was  evidenced.       Perhaps   because   many   of   the   early   cameramen   had   their   origins   in   pictorialist   still-­‐ photography,  a  tendency  toward  pictorialism  was  added  to  the  rudiments  of  this  montage   structure.   The   High   Griffith   Tradition   movie   became   a   series   of   largely   frontal,   largely   static,  shots,  each  classically  well  composed  and  balanced.    The  overall  movie  had  a  formal   grace   that   distanced   the   viewer   from   the   characters   and   the   action,   mythologizing   the   narrative.  Like  the  sonnet,  the  High  Griffith  Tradition  was  a  rigid  form;  but  it  was  the  form   itself  that  lent  beauty  and  dignity  to  the  work  of  those  who  adopted  it.       It  has  been  well  documented  elsewhere  that  almost  all  American  directors  who  began  their   careers   previous   to   1920   either   worked   directly   under   Griffith’s   personal   supervision   or   openly   or   openly   acknowledged   their   formal   debt   to   him.   Among   those   who   personally   apprenticed   with   Griffith   were   John   Ford,   Raoul   Walsh,   Erich   von   Stroheim,   Allan   Dwan,   Sidney   Franklin,   and   Donald   Crisp,   while   certainly   less   influenced   were   King   Vidor   and   Cecil   B.  De  Mille.  In  the  early  work  of  these  directors  can  be  detected  not  only  the  Griffith  form,  but   many  of  the  Griffith  mannerisms  dutifully  copied  from  the  master’s  example.  It  was  through   the  work  of  these  (and  many,  many  other)  directors,  and  not  through  Griffith  himself,  that  the   Griffith  Tradition  flourished  and  evolved  into  its  classical  form.  It  is  interesting  to  note  that   during   their   silent   careers,   Ford   and   Walsh,   in   particular,   were   known   more   as   competent   genre   directors   (i.e.,   folk   artists)   than   as   innovative   personal   directors.   And   when   Buster   Keaton  wanted  to  tie  his  gags  into  coherent  feature  narratives,  he  would  hire  a  graduate  of   the  Griffith  school  as  co-­‐director  to  supply  this  dramatic  unity.  There  was  a  single,  accepted   approach  to  dramatic  narrative,  and  this  was  the  Griffith  Tradition.     Because   the   Griffith   Tradition   was   appropriate   to   the   expression   of   a   vision   suited   to   the   needs   of   a   mass   American   audience   (i.e.   because   these   films   made   reliable   money),     33  


Hollywood, as   the   film   industry,   undertook   the   institutionalization   of   that   tradition.   This   process  of  institutionalizing  forced  the  crystallization  of  the  form,  at  once  eliminating  error   and  stifling  experimentation.  By  the  mid-­‐Twenties,  the  only  exploratory  art  of  the  Griffith   Tradition  was  to  be  found  in  the  refinement  of  the  studio-­‐bound  techniques.     In   these   mid-­‐Twenties,   a   second   strain   of   the   American   narrative   cinema   began   to   exert   its   presence.   This   was   the   Murnau   Tradition,   which   rallied   around   the   rather   advanced   expressions   of   F.W.   Murnau’s   The   Last   Laugh   (imported   in   1925)   and   Sunrise   (1927),   it   would  not  be  inappropriate  to  call  this  strain  the  Murnau  Tradition.    This  is  the  tradition   ostensibly   of   the   moving   camera,   but   more   broadly   (as   defined   by   Andrew   Sarris)   the   aesthetic   which   “implies   the   continuousness   of   a   visual   field   outside   of   the   frame   of   the   camera.”   Whereas   the   Griffith   Tradition   constructs   an   emotion,   the   Murnau   Tradition   records  it;  and  whereas  the  Griffith  analyzes  drama,  the  Murnau  synthesizes.     By   way   of   clarification,   it   should   be   pointed   out   that   the   Griffith   Tradition   is   a   specific   development   of   the   more   general   category   of   the   montage   aesthetic.   For   example,   Eisenstein’s   use   of   montage,   while   not   unrelated,   would   not   be   described   as   part   of   the   Griffith   Tradition,   which   was   specifically   a   development   of   the   American   cinema.   On   the   other  hand,  in  the  context  of  the  history  of  the  American  cinema,  the  Griffith  Tradition  has   been   roughly   synonymous   with   the   montage   aesthetic   as   variously   expressed   over   the   years.  (See  Andrew  Bazin’s  “The  Evolution  of  the  Language  of  Cinema.”)     After   the   Thirties   (except   in   B-­‐pictures,   where   the   Griffith   Tradition   remained   relatively   pure),   it   becomes   increasingly   difficult   to   isolate   the   montage   aesthetic   from   the   moving-­‐ camera  aesthetic  ;  both  coexisted  in  the  collaborative-­‐adaptive  tradition  that  predominated   in  Hollywood’s  production  from  the  late  Thirties  through  the  Sixties.  Also,  in  defining  the   Murnau  Tradition  as  representative  of  the  moving-­‐camera  aesthetic  in  the  evolution  of  the   American   narrative   form,   we   refer   more   to   a   point   of   view   (a   way   of   seeing)   than   to   any   specific  set  of  directorial  techniques.  Two  directors  might  make  use  of  the  same  techniques   with  polar  aesthetic  implications.     Thus,  though  we  might  polarize  the  two  traditions  as  the  battle  of  the  cut  versus  the  shot,   we  wouldn’t  attribute  absolute  meanings  to  either  the  cut  or  the  shot.  A  spiritualist  director   like  Frank  Borzage  cuts  frequently,  but  so  imperceptively  as  to  imply  continuity  instead  of   disjunction.  Borzage’s  cuts  within  a  scene  will  involve  only  slight  changes  of  camera  angle   or  distance  from  subject,  such  as  to  avoid  these  large  emotions  implied  by  the  usual  Griffith   Tradition   vocabulary   of   long   shot,   medium   shot,   close-­‐up.   On   the   other   hand,   a   formalist   like  Fritz  Lang  will  make  extensive  use  of  the  moving  camera,  yet  not  lose  that  sense  of  an   isolating  destiny  that  predominates  the  montage  ethic.  Instead  of  following  his  characters,   Lang’s  camera  pursues  them.     34  


Young directors   entering   the   cinema   in   the   mid-­‐Twenties   looked   to   Murnau,   and   not   to   Griffith,  as  the  model  on  whom  to  build  their  visual  style.  For  instance,  Howard  Hawks,  in   his   third   film,   The   Cradle   Snatchers   (1926),   seems   completely   oblivious   to   the   Griffith   Tradition  vocabulary.  Hawks  is  clearly  a  sound  director  making  a  silent  film.  The  titles  are   not  descriptive,  but  transcripts  of  dialogue.  The  pace  is  fast;  but  the  speed  is  in  the  physical   action,  as  recorded  in  full  shots,  pans,  and  dollies,  not  in  the  speed  of  cutting.     The  technological  development  of  synchronized  sound  fulfilled  the  Murnau  Tradition,  but   was   superfluous   to   the   Griffith   Tradition.   The   ever-­‐multiplying   complexity   of   modern   life   could  be  captured  (in  a  poetic  sense)  with  ease  through  the  Murnau  Tradition,  whereas  the   frantic  pacing  of  those  wonderful  special  montage  sequences  of  the  late  Twenties  and  the   Thirties   demonstrated   the   ever-­‐increasing   difficulty   of   dramatic   analysis   to   deal   with   complexity.   By   the   late   Thirties,   screenwriters   had   learned   that   a   single   well-­‐chosen   line   of   dialogue  could  quickly  and  less  obtrusively  express  a  passage  of  time  than  these  montages.       The   Griffith   Tradition   was   a   noble   tradition   when   the   dramatic   analysis   implied   order   in   the   universe.   The   acceleration   of   montage   (Eisenstein   notwithstanding)   was   an   ever   less   satisfying   attempt   to   find   a   pattern   of   order   in   a   complexity   of   events   that   were   evolving   faster   than   man   could   keep   up   with.   As   montage   practices   broke   away   from   the   stability   of   the   Griffith   Tradition,   the   frantic   energy   of   the   cutting   reflected   man’s   initial   inability   to   cope  with  the  complexities  of  modern  life.     This   essentially   neurotic   use   of   montage   reappeared   in   the   Sixties   as   an   expression   of   man’s   violent   despair   at   his   inability   to   construct   meaning   in   his   environment.     Fragmenting   montages   isolated   diverse   elements   that   refused   to   unify,   refused   to   offer   any   hope   of   order.   The   rational   tools   of   analysis   were   not   adequate   in   explaining   the   phenomena  observed.    Carried  to  its  logical  extreme  in  such  films  as  Russ  Meyer’s  Beyond   the  Valley  of  the  Dolls  (1970)  and  The  Seven  Minutes  (1971),  the  lingering  presence  of  the   Griffith  Tradition  has  been  viewed  as  reactionary  and  simplistic;  and  yet  the  lesson  of  the   futility  of  this  extreme  analytic  violence  does  aptly  and  artfully  pinpoint  the  logical  crisis  of   an  unbendingly  rational  approach  to  modern  life.  

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Allan Dwan     Of   all   the   directors   of   the   Griffith   Tradition   who   maintained   careers   well   into   the   sound   period,   Allan   Dwan   was   the   least   affected   by   the   emergence   of   the   Murnau   Tradition— perhaps  because  his  theme  of  temporal  resignation  was  so  unassailable  by  either  social  or   cultural  evolutions.    Dwan’s  visual  style  was  the  purest  expression  of  the  Griffith  Tradition;   and   it   was   certainly   the   purity   of   this   style   (and   its   thematic   implications)   that   sustained   Dwan’s   creative   energy   throughout   a   long   B-­‐movie   career.   In   Dwan’s   later   work   the   mathematical  perfection  of  his  visual  style  best  illustrates  the  primal  power  inherent  in  the   Griffith  Tradition.  It  is  precisely  these  films,  burdened  with  the  most  hopeless  scripts  and   populated   by   the   most   crippled   performers   (projects   in   which   “personal   involvement”   seemed   out   of   the   question)   that   Dwan   relied   most   exclusively   and   abstractly   on   the   beauties  of  the  filmmaking  tradition  itself,  and  proved  himself  the  master  craftsman  of  the   Griffith  Tradition.     Such   films   as   Belle   Le   Grand   (1951),   I   Dream   of   Jeanie   (1952),   and   Enchanted   Island   (1958)   become   textbook   exercises   in   the   American   montage   tradition.   These   films   are   realized   with  a  cinematic  precision  as  intuitively  perfect  as  Eisenstein’s  montages  were  calculatedly   accurate.  Dwan’s  images  are  beautiful  not  so  much  as  formal  entities  unto  themselves,  as  in   their  existence  as  cinematic  units.  The  world  captured  in  the  frame  is  never  as  important  as   the   relationship   of   one   shot   to   the   next.   In   ordering   these   units,   Dwan   is   concerned   with   those   qualities   central   to   the   montage   tradition   rather   than   that   deceptive   pictorialist   prettification  of  individual  shots  that  become  fashionable  in  the  late  silent  era.  If  the  craft  of   directing  can  be  compared  to  that  of  writing,  then  Dwan  is  the  master  of  cinematic  syntax.     Economy,   simplicity,   and   directness   characterize   the   Dwan   approach.   Each   image   is   selected   as   a   utilitarian   response   to   a   narrative   challenge.   Compared   with   Dwan’s   straightforward   decisions,   the   cinema   of   Howard   Hawks   looks   mannered   and   expressionistic.   Thematically   and   visually,   Dwan   is   one   of   the   least   neurotic   of   all   filmmakers—even   in   his   visualization   of   such   a   totally   neurotic   subject   as   Slightly   Scarlet   (1956).     To   understand   the   current   nostalgic   response   to   Hollywood   B-­‐pictures—and   to   the   dubious   personalities   who   acted   out   the   rituals   of   these   films—one   must   understand   those   properties   of   the   Griffith   Tradition   as   brought   out   in   the   purity   of   Dwan’s   use   of   these   practices.   The   performers   in   B-­‐pictures   were   rather   unextraordinary   people   in   bigger-­‐ than-­‐life   roles,   unable   to   summon   up   emotions   as   mythic   as   those   suggested   by   the   characters  they  played.  But  the  conventions  of  the  Griffith  Tradition  (and  the  conventional   responses   evoked   by   these   clichés)   were   oblivious   to   the   incompetence   of   these   performers.  A  cut-­‐in  to  a  large  close-­‐up,  or  a  cut-­‐back  to  a  long  shot,  in  the  primal  power  of   36  


the change  in  image  size  alone,  suggests  a  nobility  of  emotion  that  is  direct  and  effective.   Furthermore,   the   sympathetic   incompetence   of   the   B-­‐performer   suggests   the   essential   innocence  of  the  human  condition.  Vera  Ralston’s  close-­‐ups  in  Belle  Le  Grand  are  among  the   most   moving   images   in   the   American   cinema,   and   yet,   simultaneously   are   a   mockery   of   the   traditional  process  of  mimesis  we  call  acting.       The   innocence   of   Allan   Dwan’s   response   to   such   blatant   incompetence—his   total   acceptance   of   inane   situations   and   performers—transcends   our   conventional   evaluations   of   theme   and   character.   Dwan’s   style   is   characterized   by   a   benign   grace   that   allows   his   camera   to   observe   and   analyze   without   passing   judgment.   Because   he   introduces   no   element  of  tension  by  trying  to  evoke  performances  of  which  his  actors  are  incapable,  or  to   insert  deeper  meaning  into  scripts  that  were  not  structured  to  sustain  much  meaning  at  all,   Dwan   avoids   the   sense   of   artificiality   that   can   hover   over   the   ambitious   aspirations   of   talented   directors   contending   with   incompetent   collaborators.   As   folk   art,   Dwan’s   best   films  are  his  most  dramatically  purpose-­‐less.  They  become  objects  of  mediation.                                                                                                                       1  Excerpted  from  Dorr's  "The  Griffith  Tradition,"  Film  Comment,  10.2  (1974):  48-­‐54.  Public   Domain.    

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THE CLIFF  AND  THE  FLUME    

Bill Krohn    

Here We  Go  Again  (1942)       Dedicated  to  the  memory   Of  Sol  Wurtzel,  Edward  Small,  Herbert  J.  Yates  and  Benedict  Bogeaus   Who  supplied  the  frame     In  his  elegy  for  Allan  Dwan  (Cahiers  du  cinéma  332)  Jean-­‐Claude  Biette  called  him  “a  great   storyteller”   and   “a   great   poet   of   space.”   An   anecdote   Dwan   told   Peter   Bogdanovich   about   his   early   days   shows   how   these   compliments   are   linked:   scouting   for   ideas   with   his   cast   and   crew   near   Lakeside,   California,   the   young   director   saw   a   cliff   and   filmed   a   fight   that   ended   with   the   hero   throwing   the   villain   over   it.   Still   in   search   of   a   story,   he   then   saw   a   flume  “like  a  great  bridge”  which  carried  water  from  one  ranch  to  another.  Result:  a  two-­‐ reel   melodrama   in   which   the   villain   poisons   the   flume   to   kill   his   neighbor’s   cattle   and   is   punished  by  being  thrown  off  the  cliff  at  the  end  of  the  film.    

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The story   has   an   archetypal   quality.   On   the   one   hand,   the   setting   (the   cliff)   inspires   the   action  that  takes  place  in  it  (without  determining  it:  other  actions  could  easily  have  been   envisioned);  on  the  other  hand,  a  division  of  space  (the  two  ranches)  and  the  passageway   which   links   them   (the   flume)   generate   a   story   to   justify   the   action   (The   Poisoned   Flume  [1911]).  These  narrative  paradigms  can  also  be  used  separately,  as  we  can  see  from   the  plots  of  two  other  lost  Dwans:  The  Love  Route  (1914):  “A  new  railroad  line  disrupts  a   girl’s   ranch”;  Cheating   Cheaters  (1919):   “Living   side   by   side,   two   groups   of   crooks   impersonate  rich  people,  each  planning  to  rob  the  other.”     Adjoining   spaces   are   the   most   common   spatial   paradigm   for   Dwan’s   plots:   a   bank   and   a   barber  shop  (Man  to  Man  [1930]),  two  airfields  (Look  Who’s  Laughing  [1941]),  two  hotels   (Here   We   Go   Again  [1942]),   neighboring   farms   (Rebecca   of   Sunnybrook   Farm  [1938]),   buildings  that  look  out  onto  the  same  courtyard  (Calendar  Girl  [1947]),  a  house  and  a  stable   (I  Dream  of  Jeannie  [1952]),  two  silver  mines  (Belle  Le  Grande[1951]),  two  ranches  (Cattle   Queen   of   Montana  [1954]),   two   savage   tribes   (Enchanted   Island  [1958]).   Less   frequently,   the   story   can   arise   from   a   connection   between   two   places,   notably   in  Rendezvous   with   Annie(1946)   where   a   soldier   on   an   Army   base   in   England   secretly   goes   AWOL   and   impregnates  his  wife  in  New  Jersey,  then  has  to  convince  the  world  that  he  is  the  father  of   her  child.     Dwan   the   engineer   was   naturally   attracted   to   stories   about   building   bridges   between   places  separated  by  geography:  the  Holland  Tunnel  in  High   Air  (1955)   the   B-­‐29   long-­‐range   bomber   in  The   Wild   Blue   Yonder(1951)   and   the   Suez   Canal   in  Suez  (1938)   whose   hero   is   told  by  a  fortune  teller  that  his  destiny  is  to  “dig  ditches.”  Those  words  turn  out  to  be  both   an  ironic  prophecy  of  the  hero’s  role  as  architect  of  the  canal  and  a  metaphor  for  the  often   dubious  political  machinations  that  will  make  it  possible.  At  first  Louis  Napoleon  refuses  to   finance   the   project   for   fear   that   it   will   cause   the   Red   Sea   to   flood   the   Mediterranean,   inundating  the  port  cities  of  the  Mediterranean  basin,  and  that  is  just  what  happens  when   the   misguided   hero   seeks   to   make   peace   between   the   National   Assembly   and   Louis,   who   seizes  the  opportunity  to  arrest  his  opponents  and  proclaim  himself  Emperor,  after  which   he  agrees  to  finance  the  canal.     On   the   other   hand,   Dwan   was   not   particularly   inspired   by   the   paradigm   of   the   voyage   (Around   the   World[1943],  Escape   to   Burma  [1955]),   unless   it   was   joined   to   a   second   paradigm:   the   border   that   has   to   be   crossed   in  The   River’s   Edge  (1957)   or   the   two-­‐pronged   retreat   in  Hold   Back   the   Night  (1956),   which   looks   on   a   map   like   the   high-­‐angle   shot   of   a   pursuit   along   forking   trails   in  Tennessee’s   Partner  (1955).   In  Black   Sheep   (1935),   a   story   he   concocted   to   restart   his   directing   career   in   the   early   ’30s,   the   characters   travel   from   Cherbourg  to  New  York  on  a  ship  with  separate  levels  for  first  and  second-­‐class  passengers,   two  paradigms  which  combine  with  a  third—a  stolen  necklace  whose  possessor  can  only   39  


leave the   ship   by   passing   through   customs   —to   produce   a   delightful   comedy-­‐drama   of   crisscrossing   destinies   that   come   together   and   resolve   themselves   on   the   docks   of   New   York.   (It’s   too   bad   Dwan   wasn’t   able   to   make   his   film   of   Thornton   Wilder’s   Bridge   of   San   Luis  Rey.)     Not  all  of  Dwan’s  films  grow  out  of  spatial  paradigms,  but  it  could  be  argued  that  the  best   ones  do.  Someone  was  trying  to  sketch  in  a  spatial  situation  at  the  beginning  of  Northwest   Outpost  (1947)  for  example,  but  not  much  came  of  it.  Perhaps  that  is  why  the  mad  stew  of   elements  failed  to  cohere,  whereas  the  equally  outre  Woman  They  Almost  Lynched  (1953)  is   one  of  Dwan’s  best  films,  in  part  because  of  its  spatial  premise:  During  the  Civil  War,  a  town   bisected   by   the   border   between   North   and   South   is   kept   neutral   by   a   wealthy   matron   whose   control   of   the   region’s   lead   mines   give   her   power   over   the   warring   sides   and   the   town,  where  she  imposes  an  iron  law  of  non-­‐violence,  enforced  by  frequent  lynchings.     What   starts   off   as   a   parody   of   Ford   becomes   increasingly   perverse:   The   repression   of   violence  creates  a  second  division,  perpendicular  to  the  first,  between  the  domain  of  men  (a   saloon)   and   the   domain   of   women   (the   mining   company,   where   the   matron   holds   sway).  Then  this  bizarre  variation  on  the  standard  Hollywood  displacement  from  politics  to   sex   is   given   an   even   more   perverse   twist   when   the   saloon   is   inherited   by   a   woman,   leading   to  the  famous  showdown  between  female  gunslingers  and  the  heroine’s  near-­‐lynching.   Dwan’s   spatial   imagination   sometimes   took   him   to   strange   places:   In  Sailor’s   Lady  (1940)   an  enlisted  man  comes  home  to  get  married,  only  to  discover  that  his  wife  has  adopted  a   baby   and   bought   a   house   in   a   neighborhood   inhabited   solely   by   the   families   of   naval   officers.  When  her  fiancé’s  rowdy  friends  sabotage  a  party  with  the  brass  in  attendance,  the   young  woman  retaliates  by  planting  the  baby  on  their  battleship  as  it  sails  off  to  engage  in   maritime  war  games.     Even   more   dizzying   variations   are   played   on   the   disjunction   between   “container”   and   “contained”   during   the   first   ten   minutes   of  One   Mile   from   Heaven  (1937).   Sent   on   a   wild   goose   chase   by   her   competitors,   a   blond   girl   reporter   finds   herself   in   an   all-­‐black   neighborhood,  where  her  attention  is  attracted  by  the  dazzling  skills  of  a  tap-­‐dancer  who  is   playing   Pied   Piper   to   the   neighborhood   children.   One   of   the   children   is   white   and   very   blond,  too,  even  though  her  mother  is  black.  (This  enigma  supplies  the  basis  for  the  plot.)   She  happens  to  be  carrying  a  birdcage  with  a  cat  in  it.  (Nothing  is  ever  said  about  this.)  A   final  surprise:  When  the  tap  dancer  puts  on  his  coat,  he  turns  out  to  be  a  very  impressive-­‐ looking  policeman.     Chinese   box   construction,   a   more   traditional   uses   of   the   container/contained   paradigm,   sets   the   stage   for   The   Inside   Story  (1948)   which   is   told   in   flashback   inside   a   bank   vault,   inside   a   small   town   which   was   almost   destroyed   by   the   Great   Depression,   inside   a   40  


devastated country  that  we  see  in  nightmarish  visions  superimposed  over  a  close-­‐up  of  the   storyteller.  During  those  dark  days,  we  learn,  1000  dollars  came  to  town  and  was  placed  in   a  safe,  only  to  escape  and  circulate  from  character  to  character,  after  which  it  left  as  it  had   come,  like  the  hero  of  a  western,  having  put  the  town  on  the  road  to  recovery.     Turning   to   the   “cliff”   part   of   Dwan’s   method,   his   use   of   settings:   Biette’s   description   of   him   as   a   poet   of   space   harks   back,   I   believe,   to   Eric   Rohmer’s   1948   article   “Le   cinema,   un   art   de   l’espace”  (reprinted  in  Le  gout  de  la  beauté),  which  distinguishes  Chaplin’s  use  of  cinema  to   express  psychological  states  from  Keaton’s  use  of  it  for,  literally,  the  beauty  of  the  gesture,   inscribed   within   “a   completely-­‐filled   rectangular   space   occupying   a   relatively   restricted   portion   of   the   visual   field.”   Among   the   examples   of   films   “revealing   a   sense   of   space   that   many   avant-­‐garde   films   might   envy”   Rohmer   cites   “the   films   of   Douglas   Fairbanks,"   with   whom  Dwan  collaborated  five  times  during  the  silent  era.     But   the   fact   that   Dwan   and   Fairbanks   were   making   a   different   kind   of   film   than   Chaplin   (cf   the  anecdote  about  Chaplin’s  joke  on  the  set  of  Robin  Hood  [1922])  doesn’t  mean  that  they   like  the  decadent  sculptor  in  Manhandled  (1924)  sought  an  art  of  “pure  plasticity.”  During   the   first   half   of  Robin   Hood,   where   gestures   are   stripped   of   psychological   significance   by   immense   spaces   that   dwarf   the   human   figure,   Fairbanks   is   weighed   down   by   armor   and   ritual.  In  the  second  half,  when  he  takes  refuge  in  the  forest  with  his  outlaws,  he  liberates   the  castle  from  its  usurping  master  with  the  kind  of  extravagant  acrobatics  that  made  The   Mark   of   Zorro  (Fred   Niblo,   1920)   a   joy   from   start   to   finish.   But   in  The   Iron   Mask  (1929),   Fairbanks’   swan-­‐song,   Nature   is   absent,   and   the   shadowy   maze   of   lavish   sets   in   which   d’Artagnan   and   his   comrades   battle   a   usurper   impart   a   hollow   ring   to   the   title   card   announcing  that  one  character  after  another  has  died  “for  the  glory  of  France.”     Dwan   remade  Robin   Hood  in   the   sound   era   with   Shirley   Temple:   The   heroine   of  Heidi  (1937)   is   taken   from   the   mountaintop   where   she   lives   with   her   grandfather   and   imprisoned   in   a   great   house   in   the   midst   of   a   great   city,   where   she   heals   a   crippled   child   despite  the  intrigues  of  yet  another  evil  usurper,  Fraulein  Rottenmeier.  (Outside  the  walls   of   the   “castle”,   three   blasts   on   a   coachman’s   horn,   which   Heidi   mistakes   for   the   horn   of   Peter  the  Goat  Boy,  recall  the  signal  Alan-­‐a-­‐Dale  blows  before  Fairbanks  is  rescued  at  the   end   of  Robin   Hood.)   An   organ-­‐grinder’s   monkey   performs   Flairbanks’   acrobatics,   and   Heidi   herself   repeats   his   famous   slide   down   an   immense   tapestry   when   she   slides   down   the   banister  of  the  great  house  to  make  her  getaway.     The   poles   of   this   story   were   reversed   in   Temple’s   swan-­‐song   at   Fox,   the   delightful  Young   People  (1940),   where   a   family   of   vaudevillians   from   the   big   city   who   have   retired   to   a   Maine   village   are   treated   horribly   by   the   villagers,   until   they   finally   succeed   in   imposing   their   optimistic   perspective   on   these   rural   reactionaries.   Besides   giving   Temple   her   only   41  


chance to  play  herself,  Young  People  prepared  the  way  for  Driftwood  (1947)  a  beautiful  film   Dwan   made   at   Republic   with   Natalie   Wood   as   a   saintly   orphan   named   Jenny.   After   the   death  of  her  preacher  grandfather,  Jenny  leaves  Bullfrog  Springs,  the  ghost  town  where  she   grew  up,  for  Panbucket,  a  conservative  village  which  she  calls  “Sodom  and  Gomorrah”  until   her  uncompromising  truthfulness  transforms  it  into  “Heaven.”     It   seems   that   Dwan   was   not   the   Rousseauist   he   is   sometimes   mistaken   for—it   would   certainly  be  hard  to  hang  that  label  on  Pearl  of  the  South  Pacific  (1955),  where  the  script’s   paean   to   Man   in   the   state   of   Nature   is   constantly   undercut   by   the   garish   artifice   of   John   Alton’s   colors   and   Van   Nest   Polglase’s   sets.   Just   before   the   end   Dwan   turned   that   turkey   on   its   head   in  Enchanted   Island,   which   comes   as   close   as   anyone   dared   in   1958   to   retelling   Herman   Melville’s  Typee:   A   refugee   from   civilization   living   among   Tahitian   savages   discovers  that  the  savages  have  killed  his  best  friend,  that  he  is  their  prisoner,  and  that  they   are  cannibals  (only  hinted  at  in  the  film).  Made  on  location  in  Mexico—like  his  last  film,  The   Most   Dangerous   Man   Alive   (1962),   for   which   there   was   no   money   to   build   sets—Enchanted   Island  returned   Dwan   to   the   conditions   in   which   he   made   his   first   two-­‐reelers,   which   spawned   an   art   where   themes   like   Nature   and   Civilization   were   less   important   than   the   plastic  invention  that  playing  variations  on  them  made  possible.     Given  Dwan’s  formal  concerns,  it  is  at  first  surprising  to  see  how  often  maps  in  his  films  –   scale   models   of   the   narrative   terrain—play   the   role   of   the   “bad   object”   (Gertie’s   garter,   Mabel’s   slip,   the   Queen’s   necklace   in   The   Three   Musketeers  [1939]   the   pearl   necklace   in  Black   Sheep),   one   whose   mere   possession   stigmatises   the   possessor:   The   woman   with   the  map  in  Woman  They  Almost  Lynched,  for  example,  is  presumed  to  be  a  traitor,  while  the   man  with  the  map  in  Tennessee’s  Partner  is  a  murderer.     Moreover,   maps   do   not   always   clarify   the   action—the   one   used   to   plan   the   first   hold-­‐up   in  Montana   Belle(1952)   is   noticeably   inaccurate.   We   never   see   the   aerial   map   consulted   by   Edgar   Bergen   in  Look   Who’s   Laughing—only   a   view   of   the   terrain   below   that   is   as   unintelligible  as  the  aerial  views  in  The  Wild  Blue  Yonder.  (Those  extreme  high  angles  turn   out   to   be   as   useless   to   the   B-­‐29   crews   as   they   are   to   us—bombing   from   25,000   feet   up,   our   heroes  are  missing  more  targets  than  they  hit.)  Escape  from  Burma  opens  with  a  map,  but   before   we   can   read   it,   the   camera   moves   in   on   a   drawing   of   the   palace   of   Sakar,   then   dissolves   to   show   us   the   throne   room,   just   as   the   perplexing   aerial   view   of   Wistful   Vista   in  Look   Who’s   Laughing   dissolves   to   give   us   our   first   look   at   the   inside   of   Fibber   McGee’s   house.     Instead   of   a   map,  Belle   Le   Grande  opens   with   a   very   wide-­‐angle   shot   of   a   courtroom   seen   from  the  jury  box  that  turns  out  on  close  inspection  to  be  a  painting.  Seconds  later,  a  long,   gorgeously   composed   dolly   shot   follows   the   devastated   heroine,   just   out   of   jail,   as   she   42  


slowly makes   her   way   along   a   street   that   leads   to   a   friend’s   home.   Transitions   like   these   that   endow   a   flat   image   with   depth   enact   the   struggle   at   the   very   heart   of   this   cinema,   which   is   filled   with   settings   whose   topography   we   know   intimately   (the   house   in  The   Gorilla[1939],  the  tennis  court  in  Suez  [1938]),  where  windows  and  doors  always  open  on  a   busy  world  beyond.  The  town  in  Frontier  Marshall  (1939)  is  all  one  set,  and  at  the  end  of   the   film,   when   Dwan   dollies   in   on   Doc   Halliday’s   tombstone,   he   takes   care   to   put   a   tiny   wagon  train  heading  west  in  the  background  of  the  shot.     Maps   are   “bad   objects”   because   they   threaten   the   illusion   of   depth,   as   in  Hold   Back   the   Night,   one   of   the   few   films   where   a   map   actually   works—the   whole   first   part   is   played   against   undisguised   back   projections,   so   that   the   long   march   of   the   retreating   Marines   is   also   a   difficult   journey   back   to   three-­‐dimensional   space.   Similarly,   in  Getting   Gertie’s   Garter  (1945)   the   actors   are   grouped   in   two-­‐dimensional   compositions   until   night   falls,   when  modeling  with  light  and  shadow  (Dwan’s  preferred  palette)  begins  to  create  dramatic   perspectives  symbolizing  the  growing  complexity  of  the  action.  The  shift  is  marked  by  one   of   those   180-­‐degree   cuts   Dwan   frequently   uses   to   show   the   image’s   backside,   like   the   photograph  in  Look  Who’s  Laughing  that  shows  its  subjects’  backs  when  you  turn  it  around.     Dwan  nonetheless  flirted  with  the  temptation  to  transform  the  image  into  a  map  in  Friendly   Enemies  (1942)   a   jingoistic   World   War   I   drama   he   was   offered   while   waiting   to   make  Brewster’s  Millions  (1945).  When  he  filmed  (in  nine  days!)  this  story  of  two  German   immigrants,   one   of   whom   sides   with   America,   the   other   with   Germany,   he   replicated   the   form   of   their   quarrels,   always   shown   in   two-­‐shots,   by   grouping   all   his   characters   in   symmetrical  compositions  until  the  third  act,  when  the  loyal  German  learns  that  his  son  has   joined   the   American   Army.   After   that   the   groupings   become   unbalanced,   until   an   explosion   of  war  images  restores  in  the  last  shot  the  harmony  that  reigned  initially  despite  conflicting   loyalties.     He  subsequently  adapted  this  formal  invention  in  Brewster’s  Millions  to  portray  the  ironic   fate   of   a   man   who   has   two   months   to   spend   a   million   dollars.   Here   the   balance   between   asymmetrical   compositions   (the   desired   state)   and   symmetrical   ones   (the   state   to   be   avoided)  is  ever  shifting,  as  the  hero’s  attempts  to  practice  what  Georges  Bataille  calls  the   general   economy   (improductive   expenditure)   are   repeatedly   brought   into   line   with   the   restrained  economy  (a  return  on  one’s  investment)  which  his  fiancé  and  friends  consider   normal.  Brewster’s  Millions  is  a  film  that  aspires  to  the  void:  Its  first  shot  (a  black  servant   visually   erased   by   the   soap   he   has   applied   to   a   window)   gives   way   to   an   image   that   gradually   fills   up   with   proliferating   bodies,   until   they   are   all   eliminated   in   the   last   shot:   another  empty  frame.    

43


Watching a   minimalist   experiment   like  Friendly   Enemies  sensitizes   us   to   the   spatial   art   Dwan   puts   to   subtler   uses   in   films   like  Brewster’s   Millions  or   the   anti-­‐McCarthy   western  Silver   Lode  (1954)   where   an   image   that   moves   in   and   out   of   two-­‐dimensionality   is   used  to  graph  shifting  allegiances  and  lines  of  flight  in  a  small  town  whose  leading  citizen   has   been   accused   of   murder   by   a   self-­‐styled   marshal   from   a   town   200   miles   away.   (The   townspeople  have  no  way  of  knowing  the  truth  because  the  telegraph  line  connecting  the   towns  has  been  cut.)     Dwan   had   50   years   of   unequalled   productivity   to   explore   the   properties   of   an   art   which   he   helped   invent,   and   he   was   aware   of   all   its   paradoxes.   Unlike   a   stage,   the   rectangle   of   the   screen   can   create   the   illusion   of   a   world   that   exists   in   depth   and   continues   beyond   the   edges  of  the  frame.  In  Heidi  a  cut  takes  us  from  the  household  singing  “Silent  Night”  to  the   bustling   street   outside,   where   everyone   seems   to   be   singing   the   same   song   –   a   lovely   example   of   the   kind   of   sidelong   glance   that   earned   Dwan   his   reputation   as   a   contemplative   filmmaker.   But   violence   can   also   be   disclosed   by   a   pan   –   through   the   wall   of   a   house,   for   example,  where  a  woman  is  singing  to  her  baby,  and  into  the  crowded  street  outside,  which   is   suddenly   thrown   into   tumult   by   an   eruption   of   gunfire   (Frontier   Marshal).   Even   more   disconcerting,  a  sudden  pan  in  Abroad  with  Two  Yanks  (1944)  reveals  a  mirror  in  the  off-­‐ space   that   reflects   our   two   heroes   (already   in   drag)   as   grotesquely   distorted   anamorphic   images  (a  device  Dwan  first  exploited  in  Stage  Struck  [1925]  with  Gloria  Swanson).     The  dangers  lurking  just  beyond  the  frame  that  menace  the  magic  rectangle  (which  Louis   Seguin   has   explored   in  L’espace   du   cinéma)   are   summed   up   in   a   very   late   and   very   weird   western,  The  Restless  Breed.  It  begins  with  an  exposition  scene  that  makes  considerable  use   of  the  most  useless  map  in  all  of  Dwan’s  cinema.  “Our  investigators’  report  has  given  us  a   very   graphic   picture,”   says   the   character   who   is   handling   the   exposition,   pointing   emphatically  at  three  spots  on  the  map  that  have  nothing  to  do  with  anything.  His  confident   assertion  is  then  undermined  by  a  series  of  flashbacks  which  introduce  us  to  the  setting  of   the  film,  a  little  town  consisting  mostly  of  windows,  gates  and  doors  that  is  held  together   only  by  the  gazes  of  the  characters.  They  will  spend  an  inordinate  amount  of  time  spying  on   one   another,   but   to   no   avail—the   town   never   escapes   from   the   quagmire   of   spatial   incoherence   into   which   it   has   been   plunged   by   that   first   “graphic”   account.  The   Restless   Breed  (1957)   is   the   cinematic   equivalent   of   Mallarmé’s   “Un   coup   de   dés   jamais   n'abolira   l'hasard…,”   where   the   text   is   dismembered   by   the   spaces   between   the   words,   and   yet   Dwan,   like   Mallarmé—having   finished,   in   both   senses   of   the   word,   the   work   of   50   years   with  this  astonishing  film—might  also  say,  looking  back,  that  “nothing  will  have  taken  place   except  [the]  place.”  

44


AMERICAN PASTORAL    

Jean-­‐Loup Bourget   Translated  by  Bill  Krohn    

Suez (1938)     The   Canadian   Allan   Dwan,   who   came   to   the   USA   as   a   child   and   stayed   for   almost   his   entire   career,   belongs   in   the   company   of   directors   such   as   Griffith,   Walsh   and   Ford   rather   than   that   of   Curtiz,   Dieterle,   or   Lang.   His   name   is   often   associated   with   the   genre   known   as   "Americana",  nostalgic  accounts  of  a  rural  and  traditional  America  (from  Ford's  Judge  Priest   (1934)  to  Altman's  Cookie's  Fortune  (1999)),  and  several  of  his  films'  heroes  are  historical   figures  or  American  legends,  such  as  the  sheriff  Wyatt  Earp  in  Frontier  Marshal  (1939)  or   the   musician   Stephen   Foster   (I   Dream   of   Jeannie   (1952)).   Even   some   of   the   most   rightly   famous   titles,   like   the   period   films   Robin   Hood   (1922)   or   Suez   (1938),   take   us   away   from   America  in  appearance  only,  since  they  place  great  emphasis  on  the  pastoral.     45  


The imaginary  world  of  the  pastoral  sees  in  the  New  World  a  rediscovered  garden  of  Eden,   where   not   only   wild   beasts   and   domesticated   animals,   but   also   colonists   and   Indians,   live   peacefully  together,  fulfilling  Isaiah's  vision  of  the  Peaceable  Kingdom.  Dwan's  films  abound   in   scenes   of   this   kind,   which   usually   feature   water   and   vegetation.   Unlike   that   of   Curtiz,   Dwan's   Robin   Hood   takes   the   form   of   a   diptych.   The   first   part   is   an   impressive   medieval   reconstruction,  whose  sets  and  costumes  were  designed,  respectively,  by  Wilfred  Buckland   and   Mitchell   Leisen,   DeMille's   regular   collaborators,   and   whose   hieratic   style   prefigures   Lang's   Die   Nibelungen   (1924).   In   the   second   part,   Robin   and   his   men,   freed   from   their   heavy   armor,  prance  through  the  woods,  and  live  in  an  environment  featuring  forest,  waterfalls  and   grottoes.   The   Old   World   of   the   Middle   Ages   is   succeeded   by   the   natural   New   World,   which   is   also   an   archetypal   world,   much   older   than   what   preceded   it.   In   Chances   (1931),   the   loving   couple   escapes   the   disasters   of   war   by   exchanging   rings   and   talisman-­‐portraits,   marrying   on   a  beach  that  could  be  in  the  South  Seas.  In  Suez,  following  a  historical  prologue  set  in  Paris  in   1850,  Egypt  appears  by  contrast  as  a  land  both  immemorial  and  new,  a  desert  and  an  oasis,   an  Eden  and,  in  the  American  sense,  a  Frontier.  The  hero  (Tyrone  Power)  meets  the  ravishing   wild   child   (Annabella)   when   she's   bathing   naked   in   a   little   lake;   she   will   be   his   inspiration   and   is   set   in   opposition   to   the   woman   he   loves,   the   beautiful   but   over-­‐civilized   Countess   Eugénie   de   Montijo   (Loretta   Young),   who   lets   herself   be   seduced   by   Louis   Napoléon.   In   a   charming  reversal  of  type-­‐casting,  it  is  the  American  actress  (Loretta  Young)  who  embodies   the  false  values  of  European  culture,  whilst  the  French  actress  (Annabella)  plays  a  "tomboy'   whose  masculine  attire  and  casual  manner,  and  her  association  with  water,  clearly  link  her  to   Mark  Twain's  Huckleberry  Finn.     This   observation   holds   for   the   "wild   child"   characters   played   by   Shirley   Temple   in   Heidi   (1937)   and   Natalie   Wood   in   Driftwood   (1947).   Temple   endows   Heidi   with   characteristics   which  are,  so  to  speak,  American,  and  which  the  second  film  was  to  make  explicit.  Like  Hetty   in   Fenimore   Cooper's   The   Deerslayer,   Jenny   (Natalie   Wood)   is   that   American   character   par   excellence,  the  Christianized  wild  child,  who  has  an  answer  for  everything  thanks  to  the  Bible   verses  taught  her  by  the  great-­‐grandfather-­‐pastor  who  raised  her.  The  linking  of  the  pastoral   with   the   sexual  is  ambivalent.  In  Chances  and   Suez,  the  natural  setting  and  the  presence  of   water  are  propitious  for  amorous  encounters.  Similarly  in  Enchanted  Island  (1958),  when  the   Yankee  sailor  Abner  makes  his  declaration  to  Fayaway,  the  Polynesian  Eve,  amidst  waterfalls   and  greenery,  comparing  the  young  woman's  behavior  to  "water  which  runs  in  a  little  New   England   stream,"   which   confirms   the   profound   similarity   between   the   two   pastorals,   the   American  and  the  exotic.  Elsewhere,  however,  the  pastoral  conjures  up,  like  Marvell's  garden,   a   green   and   child-­‐like   world   from   which   women   are   excluded.   Robin   Hood   dives   into   the   castle  moat  to  escape  the  crazy  women  who  are  after  him  in  a  farcical  scene  which  prefigures   Keaton   (Seven   Chances   was   made   in   1925).   A   similar   hullabaloo   appears   in   The   Iron   Mask   (1929),   in   which   the   women   inflict   a   bruising   defeat   on   the   musketeers,   and   in   Enchanted   Island,  when  the  Tahitian  women  drag  Abner  off  to  bathe  him  forcibly.   46  


"Americana" lends  itself  equally  well  to  satire  as  to  the  parable.   Young  People  (1940)   offers   an   example   of   two-­‐way   cultural   satire.   One   target   is   that   of   vaudeville,   in   the   American   sense   of   "music-­‐hall":   a   culture   of   rootlessness,   exuberance   and   the   gift   of   the   gab,   over-­‐ confident   and   naively   idealizing   the   paradoxical   rural   values   of   New   England.   Laconic,   inhospitable  and  hypocritical,  the  puritan  country  folk  deceive  the  townsfolk  who've  come   to   live   amongst   them.   The   satire   is   no   less   conventional   than   the   dénouement:   a   natural   catastrophe   enables   the   strolling   players   to   prove   their   courage   and   overcome   the   suspicion   of   the   native   inhabitants;   each   learns   to   recognize   and   respect   the   other   in   his   otherness.  The  good  humor  is  infectious,  thanks  to  the  energy  and  the  dynamism  of  the  trio   played  by  Jack  Oakie,  Charlotte  Greenwood  and  Shirley  Temple.     As   an   example   of   parable,   consider   Driftwood   and   Angel   in   Exile   (1948)   in   particular.   These   films   illustrate   Jefferson's   declaration   that   going   West   amounted   to  going   back   in   time.  The  exotic  is  shown  as  all  the  more  strange  for  being  close  to  us,  a  kind  of  Brigadoon   where   the   fossilized   past   of   America   survives.   When   he   comes   out   of   prison,   the   bandit   in   Angel   in   Exile   wants   to   collect   the   gold   he   hid   in   an   abandoned   mine.   He   comes   across   another   buried   mine,   but   this   time   of   a   spiritual   nature,   a   Mexican   mission   which   still   lives  in  the  Colonial  past,  with  its  naive  faith,  Christian  bestiary  (donkey  and  sheep),  but   also   with   its   poisoned   well.   To   get   the   gold   out   of   the   mine,   he   must   make   out   he's   just   found   it   there,   thus   appearing   to   be   a   miracle   worker,   before   actually   becoming   one,   when,   miraculously,   he   stops   a   typhoid   epidemic.   The   action   unfolds   in   Arizona,   on   the   California  borders,  in  1939,  and  one  can  see  it  as  an  allegory  of  president  Roosevelt  and   his  New  Deal  policy.  The  Montana  setting  which  opens  Driftwood  is  that  of  a  ghost  town   dating   back   to   the   Gold   Rush.   The   West,   America's   past,   is   peopled   with   archetypal   characters   (played   notably   by   H.   B.   Warner,   who   was   Christ   in   King   of   Kings,   Margaret   Hamilton,  the  witch  in  The  Wizard  of  Oz,  and  Francis  Ford,  John's  elder  brother,  who  often   played  drunkard  roles)  who  get  on  wonderfully  with  young  Jenny  (Natalie  Wood).  Once   again,   the   West   appears   as   a   world   immemorial,   very   young   and   very   old,   resisting   modernity.     But   should   we   for   all   that   regard   Dwan   as   "the   most   Rousseauist   of   American   filmmakers,"   as  Bertrand  Tavernier  put  it?  I  wouldn't  be  so  sure.  Dwan's  pastoralism  adapts  very  well  to   decorative   overload,   the   picturesque,   disguise.   Primitivism   and   exoticism,   usually   combined,  belong  to  American  mass  culture.  Inspired  by  Walter  Scott,  Robin  Hood  is  part  of   a  flourishing  medievalist  tradition  (remember  that  Mark  Twain,  only  half  joking,  made  the   Scottish  novelist  responsible  for  the  Civil  War,  for  filling  Confederate  minds  with  all  those   images   and   chivalrous   ideas).   Another   exoticism   is   orientalism,   which   in   the   USA   tends   readily   to   self-­‐parodic   humor,   associating   a   penchant   for   disguise   and   revelry   with   erotic   fantasy.   Just   as   it   inspired   Walsh's   The   Thief   of   Bagdad,   this   orientalism   inspired   a   good   47  


part of   Suez,   with   the   character   of   the   wild   child   Toni   (wearing   baggy   pants   and   a   fez),   and   the   lazy   and   obese   crown   prince   Said,   a   pantomime   figure.   These   exoticisms   are   largely   interchangeable:   the   author   of   the   orientalist   fantasy   Kismet,   Edward   Knoblock,   was   "advisor"  on  the  Thief  of  Bagdad  (1924)  and  "literary  advisor"  on  Robin  Hood.  A  third  mode,   Polynesian   exoticism,   combines   the   erotic   fantasy   of   available   Tahitian   women   with   the   threat  of  cannibalism.  Enchanted  Island  obviously  springs  to  mind,  as  does  Gloria  Swanson   playing   the   ukulele   in   Manhandled   (1924):   the   Hawaiian   instrument   indicates   the   "popular",  hence  sincere,  nature  of  the  heroine's  culture,  in  opposition  to  the  "high",  hence   affected,  culture  of  her  sexual  predators.  Another  example  of  syncretic  exoticism  is  Abner   and   Fayaway's   marriage   in   Enchanted   Island:   covered   in   garlands,   the   couple   set   off   in   a   canoe,  across  a  lagoon  full  of  water-­‐lilies,  and  the  scene  suddenly  seems  to  move  from  the   story's   Marquesas   Islands   to   the   more   familiar,   closer-­‐to-­‐home   exoticism   of   Xochimilco   (near  Mexico)  where  the  film  was  shot.  Similarly,  in  Tennessee's  Partner  (1955)  elements  of   Southern   folklore   (paddle   boats   at   dawn),   are   worked   into   the   western   context,   and   the   South   is   also   implicitly   evoked   by   the   protagonist's   name.   The   lexicon   may   not   be   American,   but   the   syntax   always   is,   effortlessly   integrating   classical   motifs:   for   instance,   when  Maid  Marian  in  Robin  Hood,  drawing  the  profile  of  her  beloved  on  the  wall  by  which   to   remember   him   when   he   goes   on   the   Crusade,   recreates   the   gesture   of   the   young   Corinthian,  Butades's  daughter.     No  less  revealing  is  the  commingling  of  genres.  In  The  Iron  Mask,  d'Artagnan's  saving  and   kidnapping  Richelieu  is  a  pure  western  scene  (the  attack  on  the  stagecoach).  In  Chances,  a   strongly  anglophile  war  melodrama,  the  most  spectacular  action  sequence  has  the  mounted   artillery  galloping  to  the  front  line,  which  could  come  from  a  Remington  painting  or  a  film   on  the  Civil  War,  and  reminds  us  (as  do  several  equally  "Western"  sequences  in  Suez)  that   the   epic   dimension   is   in   no   way   absent   from   Dwan's   oeuvre.   Conversely,   in   Slightly   Scarlet,   a   1956   film   noir,   characters   and   situations   replicate   those   of   The   Iron   Mask:   Cardinal   Richelieu   and   Father   Joseph   echo   the   mayor   Jansen   and   his   advisor   Marlowe;   the   traitor   Rochefort  is  mirrored  by  the  gangster  Caspar  (Ted  De  Corsia);  the  alluring  sisters  reprise   the   respective   roles   of   Constance   Bonacieux   (Rhonda   Fleming,   erotic   but   chaste)   and   Milady   (Arlene   Dahl,   a   compulsive   criminal).   Ben   Grace   (John   Payne)   plays   a   corrupt   d'Artagnan,  devoid  of  Fairbanks'  innocence.  There  is  thus  a  reciprocal  blending  of  national   traits:   the   musketeers   embody   the   Frontier's   energy   and   democracy,   whilst   the   San   Francisco   gangsters   recreate   the   political   organization   and   murderous   methods   of   the   Ancien  Régime.     Dwan's   films   have   close   ties   to   American   literature,   but   are   unconcerned   with   faithful   transposition.   Enchanted   Island   is   a   free   and   uneven   adaptation   of   Typee,   the   autobiographical  account  which  made  Melville  famous,  and  the  title  of  the  film  misleadingly   echoes  "Encantadas"  by  the  same  writer,  a  set  of  essays  on  the  inhuman  and  "bewitched"   48  


Galapagos islands,   with   nothing   "enchanted"   about   them.   Alongside   numerous   weaknesses   and   some   incoherence,   Enchanted   Island   offers   beautiful   images   borrowed   from   Murnau   and  Flaherty's  Taboo:  the  conch-­‐blower,  Mehevi,  sitting  in  profile  in  the  Egyptian  manner,   the  Tahitian  women  bathing.  Another  adaptation,  Tennessee's  Partner  fleshes  out  the  brief   short   story   by   Bret   Harte,   an   author   of   westerns   who   was   very   successful   in   the   19th   century.   Dwan   retained   only   the   Gold   Rush   setting,   changed   characters   as   well   as   situations,   and   entirely   invented   "Duchess",   the   flamboyantly   sexy   brothel   keeper   (Rhonda   Fleming).   On   the   other   hand,   in   theme   and   tone   Angel   in   Exile   evokes   various   tales   by   Hawthorne   and   Melville.   The   complex   arrangements   to   recycle   the   stolen   gold,   which   revitalizes   the   village   whilst   polluting   it,   the   explicit   but   ambiguous   irony   and   symbolism   recall   Hawthorne's   parables   ("Rappaccini's   Daughter")   and   the   Melville   diptych   "The   Paradise   of   Bachelors"   and   "The   Tartarus   of   Maids,"   whilst   the   mutual   fascination   between   the   bandit   and   the   young   Mexican   woman   recalls   the   atmosphere   of   "The   Veranda",   a   Melville  story  which  plays  on  the  ambiguity  of  perception  (real  or  imagined)  and  of  literary   convention  (realist  or  fantastic).     In   conclusion,   consider   the   question   of   the   relationship   between   ideology   and   aesthetics.   With   DeMille,   aesthetic   conservatism   goes   hand   in   hand   with   conservatism   plain   and   simple.  This  was  not  the  case  with  Dwan.  As  was  noted  by  John  Alton  (who  shot  the  superb   Technicolor   of   Tennessee's   Partner   and   Slightly   Scarlet),   the   filmmaker's   style   remained   unchanged  from  the  twenties  to  the  fifties,  and  the  shadows  cast  by  the  gangsters  in  Slightly   Scarlet   faithfully   reproduce   the   Caravaggio-­‐like   shadows   of   The   Iron   Mask.   But   Dwan's   progressive  stance  is  no  less  constant.  Young  People  refers  explicitly  to  the  New  Deal  and   enjoins   on   the   New   England   community   and   its   parody   of   democracy   the   need   for   rejuvenation  implied  by  the  title  and  embodied  by  Shirley  Temple  and  George  Montgomery.   The   moral   of   Driftwood   is   more   complex.   A   progressive   researcher,   Dr.   Steve   (Dean   Jagger)   opposes  the  tyrannical  and  conservative  town  mayor,  until  the  utopian  compromise  which,   by   giving   him   the   means   to   pursue   his   research,   removes   his   desire   to   conduct   it:   abandoning   his   planned   departure   for   San   Francisco,   he   decides   to   remain   a   country   doctor.   The   lesson   is   worthy   of   Emerson   or   Thoreau:   one   must   save,   not   humanity,   but   the   community   to   which   one   belongs.   The   same   ambiguity   occurs   in   Suez,   which   clearly   sympathizes   with   the   Republicans   against   Louis   Napoléon,   but   always   shows   them   constrained,   for   various   different   reasons,   by   the   will   of   the   tyrannical   (or   simply   Machiavellian?)  Prince.  The  construction  of  the  "progressive"  canal  is  carried  out  by  slave   labor   at   the   expense   of   great   suffering   and   numerous   human   lives   which   recalls   The   Ten   Commandments.  It  is  difficult  not  to  think  of  the  major  works  undertaken  by  the  Roosevelt   administration  (Tennessee  Valley  Authority);  Dwan  here  posits  a  dilemma  which  was  to  be   at  the  heart  of  Kazan's  Wild  River  (1960).       49  


Then there  is  Silver  Lode  (1954),  whose  anti-­‐McCarthy  symbolism  is  obvious.  "Four  strange   horsemen,"   to   quote   the   French   title   of   the   film,   reincarnating   those   of   the   Apocalypse,   enter  the  peaceful  community  of  Silver  Lode  on  the  national  4th  of  July  holiday,  when  the   town  is  festooned  with  tricolored  emblems  and  fifes  and  drums  play  in  celebration  of  the   anniversary   of   Independence.   They   introduce   not   only   violence   and   massacre   to   this   miniature  America,  but  also  dissimulation  (since  they  usurp  the  identity  of  Federal  police   officers)  and  fake  evidence  against  the  innocent.  The  latter  (John  Payne)  finds  refuge  in  the   church,   whilst   the   gang's   leader   (Dan   Duryea   =   "Ned   McCarty")   is   killed   when   his   own   bullet  ricochets  from  the  church-­‐bell,  a  holy  object,  but  also  a  national  symbol  of  liberty  and   independence.   Lukács   argued   persuasively   that   in   Balzac,   the   novelistic   dynamic   contradicts   the   writer's   political   conservatism;   Dwan   in   a   way   exemplifies   a   parallel,   but   ideologically  opposite,  case,  that  of  a  confirmed  liberalism,  which,  far  from  being  modernist   and  technological,  draws  on  a  nostalgic,  tradition-­‐based  vision  of  pastoral  America.    

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TEN THAT  MAKE  A  WORK    

Chris Fujiwara  

Ray Milland  in  The  River’s  Edge  (1957)     The  difficulty  of  talking  about  Dwan  usually  starts  with  these  questions:  is  Dwan  an  author?   Do   his   400-­‐plus   films,   then,   constitute   a   work,   a   single   work?   If   so,   what   makes   them   a   work?     Let  us  cut  to  the  chase.  The  answers  are:  yes;  yes;  and  the  following:     1)   The   mastery   of   a   certain   rhetoric   in   the   presentation   of   characters   that   enables   Dwan   to   overcome  both  the  deficiencies  and  the  successes  of  his  casts.  In  the  touching  and  charming   Young   People   (1940),   it   takes   no   effort   for   the   viewer   to   believe   that   Jack   Oakie   and   Charlotte   Greenwood   are   exactly   who   they   purport   to   be;   on   the   other   hand,   in   Belle   Le   Grand  (1951)  and  Pearl  of  the  South  Pacific  (1955),  questionable  casting  puts  Dwan  at  no   disadvantage:  he  is  able  to  surmount  it  simply  by  ignoring  it.  Young  People  may  be  “better   acted”  than  Belle  Le  Grand,  but  neither  film  is  hurt  (or  significantly  elevated)  by  its  acting:   the  actors  in  both  films,  and  the  characters  they  play,  are  no  better  or  worse  than  what  they   are.     2)  Straightforwardness,  refusal  of  exaggeration.  Examples:  the  confrontation  between  the   sisters  in  Belle  Le  Grand;  Forrest  Tucker  and  Scott  Brady  going  to  their  deaths  in  Montana   Belle   (1952).   It   is   enough   for   Dwan   to   show:   there   is   no   need   to   distort   anything   for   the   sake  of  setting  up  an  effect.  So  many  great  moments  in  Dwan  films  seem  to  be  handled  in  

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the simplest   way   possible:   Ray   Milland   taking   the   other   road   at   the   end   of   The   River’s   Edge   (1957);   Dana   Andrews   jumping   off   the   ship   to   save   Jane   Powell   at   the   end   of   Enchanted   Island  (1958).  But  “the  simplest  way  possible”  is  an  inadequate  expression.  We  have  to  try   to  define  and  characterize  this  way.  What  does  Dwan  do?  What  does  he  refrain  from  doing?     3)   Dwan   shows   morality   and   conscience   in   terms   of   the   most   mundane   and   the   most   absolute  physical  reality,  framed  absolutely—i.e.,  given  existence—by  the  film  frame.  The   shot   of   the   signpost   near   the   end   of  The   River’s   Edge   is   the   ideal   illustration   of   this   method.   Dwan’s   cinema   is   in   a   blissful   state   of   semiotic   equilibrium,   all   meanings   present   and   accounted-­‐for  and  every  expression  commensurate  to  its  meaning.     4)  Watching  certain  Dwan  films  one  gets  the  impression  that  every  shot  is  merely  adequate   and  no  more;  also  no  less:  this  is  why  one  thinks  of  the  word  “simplest.”  But  it  is  not  true   that   Dwan   does   nothing   more   than   the   minimum   necessary—and   anyway,   how   could   we   know   this?.   Or   that   Dwan’s   point   of   view   is   the   basic,   the   merely   necessary   one—and   again   the  same  question,  how  to  know  this?  (Despite  Raoul  Walsh’s  assertion  that  there  is  only   one  way  to  show  a  man  walking  through  a  door).     Dwan  often  puts  a  pronounced  emphasis  on  framing—cf.  the  staging  through  windows  in   numerous   films,   Montana   Belle   and   Silver   Lode   (1954)   to   name   just   two,   the   insistent   eavesdropping  structures  in  such  films  as  The  Restless  Breed  (1957).  Again  and  again,  Dwan   stages   and   positions   action   in   relation   to   a   closer-­‐to-­‐foreground   interior   frame.   Since   it’s   clear  that  this  strategy  is  in  no  way  “merely  necessary”  for  showing  the  action,  it’s  incorrect   to  describe  Dwan’s  shots  as  “just  the  right  perspective”  or  “the  best  perspective,”  as  if  he   had   some   mystical   knack   of   finding   the   natural   link   between   any   action   and   the   way   of   showing  it.     With   Dwan,   what’s   crucial   is   not   just   angle,   perspective,   or   distance   of   subject   to   camera,   but   a   framing   strategy   that   structures   the   action,   builds   a   home   for   it;   or   better,   that   the   scaffolding  is  left  there  after  the  composition  has  been  built;  it’s  this,  too,  the  making,  the   structuring,  that  Dwan  wants  to  show,  not  just  the  action  itself.  The  very  familiarity  of  the   situations   and   characters   in   Dwan’s   scripts   is   transformed,   under   his   direction,   into   a   structuring  tool.  A  coincidence  in  Tennessee’s  Partner  (1955),  when  Anthony  Caruso  peers   in   through   a   window   at   just   the   right   moment   to   catch   sight   of   John   Payne   concealing   a   map,   strikes   with   all   the   inevitability   of   melodrama,   so   that   it   is   the   inevitability   that   registers   (this   is   something   that   had   to   happen)   more   than   the   banality   of   the   script’s   contrivance.  The  beautiful  gesture  of  Ronald  Reagan’s  Cowpoke,  after  beating  Payne,  gently   touching   the   latter’s   shoulder   in   the   same   film   creates   neither   surprise   nor   the   effect   of   something  that  might  not  have  happened;  and  yet  it  is  a  kind  of  miracle.     52  


5) In   Dwan,   nothing   is   hidden.   All   faces,   gestures,   places   are   nothing   more   than   performances   of   themselves.   Dwan’s   theatricality   has   two   sides:   one,   that   everything   presents   itself;   two,   that   everything   presents   itself   precisely   as   it   is   represented   in   the   film.   This  means  that  everything  appears  not  only  in  the  space,  but  also  at  the  time,  that  belongs   to  it.  If  nothing  is  hidden  in  space,  nothing  is  delayed  in  time;  everything  delivers  itself,  if   “by   coincidence”   (as   in   the   aforementioned   scene   in   Tennessee’s   Partner),   at   the   right   moment.   This   exactly   timed   self-­‐presentation   of   people   and   things   demands   an   art   of   framing   and   composition   that   is   essentially   appreciative.   The   fundamental   gesture   in   Dwan’s  work  is  the  bestowing  of  value.  Thus  the  moral  redemption  of  the  main  characters   in   Angel   in   Exile   (1948)   and   Pearl   of   the   South   Pacific   has   an   aesthetic,   as   well   as   ethical,   significance.   Contemplating   his   flawed   protagonists,   Dwan   wants   them   to   become   ideal   versions   of   themselves—a   desire   that   corresponds   with   their   own   impulses   and   the   progression  of  the  plots.     6)   The   difficulty   of   discussing   Dwan’s   work   in   thematic   terms   is   obvious.   Still,   it   can   be   attempted,   with   the   proviso   that   what   characterizes   Dwan   is   not   a   set   of   themes   but   a   certain   attitude   toward   his   themes,   and   the   further   proviso   that   the   terms   in   which   this   attitude   has   most   often   been   described—terms   such   as   serenity   and   buoyancy—are   problematic,  full  of  assumptions  that  need  to  be  analyzed.  Anyway,  what  interests  me  most   are   not   the   themes,   or   even   this   attitude,   whatever   it   is,   but   the   moral   pattern   of   Dwan’s   films.     Suez   (1938),   Angel   in   Exile,   Belle   Le   Grand,   Silver   Lode,   Pearl   of   the   South   Pacific,  Enchanted   Island  are  all  films  about  giving  up  (a  false  identity,  corrupt  values,  a  destructive  course  of   action).   Always   greed   destroys   some,   while   others   free   themselves   from   it.   And   always   there  is  a  central  character—Jane  Russell’s  Belle  Starr  (Montana  Belle),  Vera  Ralston’s  Belle   Le  Grand,  John  Carroll  as  the  Angel  in  Exile,  Virginia  Mayo  in  Pearl  of  the  South  Pacific,  Dana   Andrews   in   Enchanted   Island,   John   Payne   in   Slightly   Scarlet   (1956)   and   Silver   Lode—who   passes  back  and  forth  between  two  worlds  (criminality/the  law,  civilization/the  primitive).   The  crucial  gesture  is  that  which  permits  the  outsider  to  enter  the  community:  Belle  Starr   being   accepted   by,   on   the   one   hand,   the   criminal   gang,   and   on   the   other,   law-­‐abiding   society;  the  chiefs  in  Pearl  of  the  South  Pacific  and  Enchanted  Island  accepting,  respectively,   the  Virginia  Mayo  and  Dana  Andrews  characters;  Thomas  Gomez  accepting  Carroll  in  Angel   in   Exile;   the   community   finally   accepting   the   Oakie/Greenwood/Shirley   Temple   family   in   Young  People;  Anthony  Quinn  forgiving  Debra  Paget  in  The  River’s  Edge.     7)   Although   the   elements   that   make   up   this   pattern   are   undoubtedly   personal   to   Dwan,   they  are  also  shared  to  some  extent  by  many  other  directors,  and  in  a  very  general  sense   belong   to   the   basic   grammar   not   just   of   Hollywood   cinema   but   of   all   melodrama.   What  

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distinguishes Dwan  and  sets  him  apart  from  the  very  norms  that  he  appears  to  represent   perfectly  is  something  that  has  to  do  with  the  peculiar  circumstances  of  his  career.     Dwan’s  Republic  films  in  particular  seem  to  stand  apart  as  failed  Hollywood  films:  neither  B   films   nor   major   films,   but   “bad”   imitations   of   major   films,   fake   major   films,   a   somewhat   neglected   category   in   film   history.   (John   Carroll   and   Vera   Ralston:   the   poor   man’s   Clark   Gable  and  Hedy  Lamarr.)  Driftwood  (1947),  The  Inside  Story  (1948),  Angel  in  Exile,  Belle  Le   Grand,   Surrender   (1950),   I   Dream   of   Jeanie   (1952)   all   occupy   this   strange   middle   range.   These   films   borrow   the   codes   of   the   Hollywood   A   film   but   don’t   work   as   A-­‐level   classics:   there  is  always  something  that  breaks  down,  structurally,  in  the  screenplay,  in  realization   because  of  budget  limitations,  or  in  casting  and  performance,  and  this  failure  is  the  point  at   which   the   film   diverges   from   the   Hollywood   norm   and   becomes   something   else,   does   something  else,  something  different.  This  something  else  can  be  defined  as  a  certain  way  of   approaching   the   material   so   that   the   fundamental   implications   of   the   material   become   evident—implications   that   are   hidden   (and   protected   from   having   to   justify   themselves)   in   “better   realized”   versions   of   similar   stories.   Dwan’s   Westerns   featuring   women   in   strong   roles—Belle   Le   Grand,   Montana   Belle,   Woman   They   Almost   Lynched   (1953),   and   Cattle   Queen   of   Montana   (1954)—function   clearly   in   this   manner   because   the   gender   of   the   protagonist   becomes   an   element   that   disrupts,   perturbs,   renders   visible   and   therefore   questionable,  the  assumptions  about  morality  that  underlie  the  traditional  Western  film.     8)   The   Benedict   Bogeaus-­‐produced   films   are   different   from   the   Republic   ones:   again   obviously  not  A  films,  they  declare  themselves  without  apology  as  works  of  escapism  and   exoticism,   totally   isolated   from   the   serious   concerns   of   postwar   Hollywood,   with   the   exception  that  the  first  of  the  series,  Silver  Lode,  appears  influenced  by  High  Noon  and  can   be   taken   as   an   allegory   about   McCarthyism   (not   that,   needless   to   say,   either   of   these   elements  represents  what  is  most  interesting  about  this  great  triumph  of  Dwanian  energy   and  formal  invention).  Except  for  the  last  one,  the  Bogeaus-­‐Dwan  films  are  also  in  color  and   cut  even  the  minimal  ties  to  realism  that  black  and  white  still  offered  in  the  Republic  films   (e.g.,  Angel  in  Exile,  with  its  highlighting  of  poverty  and  underdevelopment).  If  Dwan,  then,   directs  a  “film  noir”  in  the  Bogeaus  period,  it  must  be  a  “film  noir  in  color”  (Slightly  Scarlet),   set  in  a  world  no  less  exoticized  and  sealed-­‐off  than  that  of  Escape  to  Burma  (1955).     In   all   periods,   Dwan’s   films   stand   apart   from   the   Hollywood   norm   and   from   their   own   ostensible   class   and   become   uncategorizable,   occasionally   embarrassing   (most   of   the   Republic   films,   the   mildly   risqué   ’44-­‐’46   comedies,   the   Ritz   Brothers   movies),   while   embodying   their   own   separate   truth—down   to   the   strangeness   of   Dwan’s   final   two   projects,   Enchanted   Island   and   Most   Dangerous   Man   Alive   (1961),   which   reach   a   kind   of   hermeticism   in   their   down-­‐and-­‐out   commercialism,   as   if   it   were   possible   for   a   film   to   be   so   reduced  and  threadbare  a  genre  piece  as  to  become  an  art  film  (and  it  is,  of  course,  more   54  


than possible).   Both   Enchanted   Island   and   Most   Dangerous   Man   Alive   had   lawsuits   threatened  in  connection  with  their  production,  as  if  a  film  now  had  to  feed  on  and  destroy   itself,  there  being  nothing  left  outside  itself—no  studio,  no  film  culture,  no  audience.  (The   nihilism   of   Most   Dangerous   Man   Alive—Ron   Randell’s   radioactive   Eddie   Candell   threatening   to   “rip   the   world   apart”—is   certainly   shocking,   but   the   film   makes   plain   that   there’s  almost  no  world  left  for  him  to  challenge.)     The  starkness  of  Most  Dangerous  Man  Alive  is  sustained  by  a  complete  lack  of  unnecessary   shots,   even   when   they   would   appear   necessary   (thus   the   film   pushes   toward   a   new   definition—by  intention?  anyway,  by  invention—of  cinematic  form).  This  horror  film  (more   than   sci-­‐fi)   is   built   on   the   encounter   with   the   zero   degree   of   humanity:   the   border   between   humanity  and  inhumanity  experienced  within  a  single  being.  Again  in  a  Dwan  film  there  is   the   inevitability   of   the   return   to   the   law   (here   doubled   into   two   figures,   one   destructive,   one   compassionate),   the   theme   of   the   impossible   situation   of   the   exile,   everything   in   a   terrible  state  of  suspension  for  as  long  as  the  hero  is  neither  man  nor  fully  not-­‐man.  Can  the   commonplaces  about  Dwan’s  serenity,  his  evenness  of  tone,  his  harmony,  still  be  applied  to   this  strained  and  brutal  film?  (Or  even  to  its  bleak  and  tortured  predecessors,  the  sublime   Slightly  Scarlet  and  Dwan’s  1956  TV  masterwork  High  Air?)     9)  If  The  River’s  Edge  stands  apart  from  Dwan’s  late  films  (but  all  through  his  career  there   are   exceptions:   his   could   be   called   a   cinema   of   exceptions)   for   a   number   of   reasons   (CinemaScope,   the   stature   of   the   two   male   stars,   the   rigor   of   the   script),   it   is   also   a   film   situated  at  the  heart  of  Dwan’s  cinema,  with  its  themes  of  forgiveness  and  redemption,  its   scenic  nudity  (within  which  Dwan  still  manages  to  find  ways  to  invent  his  beloved  gateway   compositions,  even  if  the  gate  is  only  a  couple  of  rocks  on  either  side  of  a  road),  Mexico  as   idyll  (as  in  Angel  in  Exile).  It  is  a  film  structured  entirely  on  the  triangle,  Dwan  contriving  to   keep  his  three  main  characters  in  the  same  shot  (the  brilliant  sequence  in  the  cave)  or  to   underline   the   connectedness   of   the   three   with   cutaways   (in   the   cave   sequence,   the   cutaways   to   Ray   Milland   set   up   and   make   comprehensible—poetically   if   not   psychologically—his  final  decision  to  help  Anthony  Quinn).     The   law   must   finally   be   faced   (Quinn   and   Debra   Paget   at   the   end).   The   golden   rule   of   Hollywood  under  the  Production  Code,  the  recognition  of  the  law,  is  a  privileged  theme  in   Dwan’s  cinema,  as  such  works  as  Angel  in  Exile,  Montana  Belle,  and  Passion  (1954)  testify.   In   The   River’s   Edge,   the   law   is   warded   off   and   disappears   for   the   length   of   a   journey,   but   then  becomes  internalized,  so  that  the  protagonists  end  up  desiring  it  and  returning  to  it.   Dwan’s   cinema   is   populated   by   outcasts   and   rebels,   self-­‐made   heroes   and   heroines   (of   whom   Fairbanks   and   Swanson,   Dwan’s   great   silent   stars,   are   the   prototypes)   who   try   for   a   while   to   live   by   their   own   rules   outside   the   law   only   to   end   up   experiencing   a   nostalgia   for   the  law.   55  


10) The   Bogeaus   films   through   The   River’s   Edge   bring   Dwan’s   career   full   circle.   (The   two   final   films   work   differently,   Enchanted   Island   ending   in   the   water   between   two   worlds,   and   Most   Dangerous   Man   Alive   ending   with   annihilation.)   The   main   movement   of   Dwan’s   work,   which  constitutes  a  perpetual-­‐motion  memorial  to  the  origins  of  Hollywood  as  a  cinema  of   outsiders,  is  the  outside  coming  inside.  It’s  the  fatality  but  also  the  hope  and  the  chance  of   the   outsider   to   come   in,   somewhere,   under   the   custody   of   the   law,   of   some   law.   Dwan’s   serenity  comes  from  his  sense  of  the  imminence  of  this  return  as  logically  completing  the   course  of  the  outsider.  So  his  is  not  a  cinema  of  revolt  (though  this  is  obvious,  it  is  not  as   obvious   as   it   might   at   first   appear),   but   a   cinema   of   the   return   of   the   exile   and   the   acceptance  an  embrace  of  home.  

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LESSONS FOR  ARCHITECTS,     BY  ALLAN  DWAN    

José Neves   Translated  by  David  Phelps    

“I’m  sorry  sweetheart.  You  got  to  play  it  the  way  the  cards  fall.”   —Nardo  Denning1                   “There’s  nothing  more  beautiful  than  mathematical  perfection—as  in  architecture.”   —Allan  Dwan2     ***     One   day,   I   met   a   fellow   architect   who   was   preparing   a   film   series   on   architecture.   He   showed  me  the  list  of  films  that  he  had  programmed  and  that  seemed  appropriate  to  me,   but   I   asked   him:   "Why   don't   you  only   show   the   films   of   Allan   Dwan?"   From   the   beginning   of  cinema,  there  have  been  many  who  have  addressed  the  relationship  between  film  and   architecture,  but  the  affinity  seems  especially  pronounced  in  Dwan’s  work.  And  at  every   step   through   his   life's   work   we   find   the   most   valuable   lessons   that   might   serve   and   stimulate  the  work  done  by  architects.     Some   of   these   lessons   might   immediately   be   found   in   the   way   that   Dwan,   shooting   continuously  from  1908  to  1961,  would  trace  his  path  forward.  Here  are  some.     Accepting   commissions   of   all   kinds,   Dwan   would   work   with   all   types   of   stories,   technicians,  actors,  budgets,  conventions,  codes,  and  restrictions—or  "handcuffs,"3  as  he   57


called them.   But   he   would   spurn   none   of   these   in   order   to   get   the   most   out   of   them   in   his   films.  He  would  film  within  the  given  possibilities  just  as  an  architect  does.  For  the  more   incongruous  the  functional  requirements,  the  more  banal  the  site,  the  tighter  the  budget,   and   the   more   absurd   the   so-­‐called   "regulations,"   nevertheless   for   an   architect,   the   constraints   must   not   be   impediments   (or   exculpations)   but   givens   with   which   to   work.   Dwan's  films—and  their  heroes—full  of  audacity  and  serenity  alike,  tell  us  the  same  thing   about   his   work   as   Frank   Lloyd   Wright   used   to   say   about   his   own:   "Limitations   are   an   architect's  best  friend."     Similarly,   through   successive   upheavals   in   cinematic   technology—sound,   color,   aspect   ratios—Dwan   would   figure   out   how   to   accommodate   all   such   novelties   (today,   obviously,   he   would   work   with   digital),   while   staying   absolutely   faithful   to   a   mode   of   working   as   old   as   the   craft   that   he   himself   had   helped   invent.   Like   an   architect   who   knows   that   the   words   of   Mies   van   der   Rohe—"Architecture   is   the   will   of   an   epoch   translated   into   space"4—and   the   words   of   Robert   Bresson—"Novelty   is   neither   originality   nor   modernity"5—may  be  one  and  the  same.     "One   of   the   problems   with   directors   is   that   they   make   a   big   picture—which   might   be   a   hit—and  then  they  try  to  top  it.  And  they  ususally  fall  flat  on  their  faces.  So  I  try  to  make  it   as  a  rule:  if  I  make  a  big  picture  which  is  a  hit  I  do  a  cheap  picture  next."6  It  is  John  Ford   who   thus   refuses,   in   1936,   a   certain   idea   of   "growth,"   and   so   anticipates   the   famous   story   that  Buñuel  would  later  recount,  horrified,  about  a  meeting  in  which  Nicholas  Ray  would   admit   to   his   anguish   at   not   being   able   to   stop   making   movies   that   were   increasingly   expensive,   7   a   story   later   retold   by   Jean-­‐Marie   Straub   and   Danièle   Huillet   in   a   film   by   Pedro  Costa.8  Dwan  would  make  some  of  the  most  expensive  and  famous  films  of  his  time   as  well  as  some  of  the  cheapest,  most  quickly-­‐made,  and  most  obscure.  Like  an  architect   who  knows  how  decisive  it  is  to  design  a  hut  after  having  designed  a  cathedral.     The   great   differences   that   exist   between   Dwan's   works   (a   "cinema   of   exceptions,"   according  to  Chris  Fujiwara9)  can  only  be  due  to  the  freedom  offered  by  the  mastery  of  a   craft  and  the  pleasure  of  exercising  it.     But   the   clearest   lessons   we   architects   can   look   for   in   the   films   of   Dwan—whom   Jean-­‐ Claude  Biette  aptly  labeled  a  "great  poet  of  space"10—might  be  found  in  the  architecture   within  their  films.  The  goal  of  these  brief  notes,  taking  up  The  River's  Edge  (1957)—one  of   the   last   four   films   that   Allan   Dwan   would   make   and   the   last   work   of   architect   and   set   designer   Van   Nest   Polglase—is   to   call   attention   to   two   or   three   very   important   and   forgotten  things,  in  both  architecture  and  cinema,  which  Dwan's  films  persistently  recall.    

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Movement and  Settlement     The   notion,   articulated   by   Lewis   Mumford,   that   "Human   life   swings   between   two   poles:   movement   and   settlement"11   gives   one   of   the   simplest   and   most   precise   declarations   to   illuminate  the  ways  we  occupy  the  world—of  which  cities  are  the  clearest  expression.     In   The   River's   Edge,   the   trajectory—the   adventure—of   Debra   Paget   (Margaret),   Anthony   Quinn   (Ben),   and   Ray   Milland   (Nardo)   practically   avoids   the   city   altogether,   while   traversing   a   vast   territory,   almost   entirely   without   human   constructions.   Their   escape,   which   takes   up   nearly   the   entire   film,   from   Quinn   and   Paget's   ranch   to   the   Mexican-­‐ American   border   (an   invisible   human   mark   onto   the   ground),   passes   through   hills   and   valleys,  that  is,  through  all  the  fundamental  types  of  topography  of  any  territory  which  are   before,   that   is   below,   the   cities:   the   plains   (covered   by   cornfields,   crisscrossed   by   long   straight  roads,  and  where  Quinn  has  settled  his  small  ranch),  the  mountain  ridges  (where   the  characters  walk  and  rule  the  landscape,  like  hunters)  and  the  water  routes  (the  river's   edge   of   the   very   title   of   the   film,   shown   in   the   credits   at   the   start   and   the   place   where   everyone   rests   by   the   end—living   or   dead).   In   every   place   configured   by   these   terrains,   things   happen.   And   everything   happens   because   these   types   of   topography   allow   or   demand  it.  Let's  consider  the  ravines  in  the  film.       There   are   three   ravines   that   organize   the   itinerary   of   the   three   characters   ("Everything   I   did   was   triangles   with   me...   You’re   only   related   to   people   through   triangles   or   lines,"12   Dwan   explained   to   Peter   Bogdanovich)   and   that   determine   the   transformations   and   relationships  between  them  that  they  will  undergo  throughout  the  film:     1.      

  The   first,   the   bluff   over   which   the   van   and   trailer   that   undertook   the   first   part   of   the   journey  are  tossed,  marks  the  starting  point  of  the  journey  on  foot—now  unprotected  from   nature's  violence  and  free  from  the  hierarchies  and  distinctions  that  man-­‐made  space  will   always   determine   or   deny.   Until   now,   Anthony   Quinn   has   driven   his   car   with   his   back   turned   away   from   the   small   trailer   where   Ray   Milland   and   Debra   Paget   have   been   lying,   separated   from   him.   From   now   on,   on   foot,   the   path   will   depend   only   on   their   mutual   affinities  and  aversions,  which  will  oscillate  among  them,  depending  on  each  one's  relative   strength,  itself  determined  by  their  possession  of  a  knife  or  gun.   59


2.    

  The  second,  the  cliff  that  Ray  Milland  tries  painstakingly  to  climb,  while  attached  to  a  rope   hoisted  by  Anthony  Quinn,  offers  the  means  by  which  the  suitcase  opens  for  the  first  time,   and  the  million  dollars'  worth  of  bills  first  go  fluttering  to  the  wind.  As  a  result,  Ray  Milland   kills  the  old  prospector,  Debra  Paget  turns  away  from  him,  and  Quinn's  desire  for  revenge   grows  immeasurably.     3.    

  The  third,  finally,  is  the  ravine  where  the  silver  suitcase  will  open  and  the  money  drop  once   again,  this  time  to  be  forever  lost,  as  it  joins  the  fallen  body  of  Ray  Milland.     If  in  Silver  Lode  (1954),  (a  great  example  of  the  relationship,  in  cinema,  between  bodies  and   the   space   of   a   city)   the   ordered  movement   of   the   crowd   pursuing   John   Payne,   one   moment   a  saint  and  the  next  a  devil,  operates  as  a  procession  between  the  houses  of  the  two  women   who,   because   they   are   in   love,   see   and   perceive   everything,   and   the   buildings   of   the   municipal  institutions—the  court,  the  town  hall,  the  prison,  the  church,  the  telegraph  office,   the   saloon,   the   stable,   all   festooned   for   the   holiday—the  movement  in   The  River's  Edge  is   like   a   pilgrimage   taken   by   these   three   people   who   have   refuge   only   in   clearings,   caves,   and   the  bed  of  a  stream.     In  the  city  as  in  the  wilderness,  both  manmade  constructions  as  well  as  natural  sites  that   have   been   made   human   by   acts   of   choice   (as   Ray   Milland   says,   when   surprised   by   Quinn   and  Paget  embracing  inside  the  cave:  "Maybe  I  should  have  knocked  ..."),  are  the  anchors   within   reach   of   these   bodies   that,   stationary   or   adrift,   working   collectively   or   alone,   casually  or  ritualistically,  are  constantly  at  risk.  

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Space and  use     In   The   River's   Edge,   nature,   free   of   any   human   traces,   seems   to   have   been   conceived   to   accommodate  the  three  characters,  i.e.,  their  gestures,  looks,  and  words.  The  first  image  we   are  given—the  site  where  Paget,  Milland  and  Quinn  choose  to  rest  the  first  night  without   even  a  roof—is  the  image  of  a  kind  of  stage.     The   background   is   a   jumble   of   rocks   loosely   opening   onto   a   path   that   will   only   be   seen   clearly   later   on,   when   Anthony   Quinn   takes   it   to   go   walking—"I'll   have   a   look   around."   The   floor   is   made   of   dirt   and   stones   that   have   mixed   together   to   shield   a   small   fire,   which   divides   the   shot   firmly   into   two   sides:   on   one,   Ray   Milland   and   Debra   Paget,   and   on   the   other,  a  bit  remote,  Quinn;  behind  each  of  their  bodies,  each  seen  in  its  entirety,  there  is  a   trunk  of  a  tree  on  which  the  position  and  movements  of  each  one  of  them  rely.    

  When   Quinn,   alone   on   a   nearby   rock,   sees   the   other   two   as   they   kiss,   not   only   have   the   trees   changed  position,  but  the  tree  on  which  Quinn  was  leaning  has  disappeared  altogether  from   where   it   was   planted   before.   The   fire   has   also   changed   position   in   order   to   continue   occupying  the  middle  of  the  shot  and  to  serve  now  as  the  center  of  the  fixed  circle  of  light   which   demarcates   the   space   of   the   clearing.   (Later,   the   only   tree   on   the   bank   of   the   river   where  the  film  ends  seems  to  be  there  to  safeguard  the  surviving  couple).    

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In Dwan's  films,  we  can  see  clearly  that  actions  are  not  detached  from  spaces  and  things.   The  action  takes  place,  in  cinema  as  in  life,  and  it  is  the  shape  of  these  places  that,  in  large   part,   provide   their   nexus.   But   at   no   point   do   the   sets   of   Dwan's   films,   often   quite   vivid,   speak  too  loudly  or  overshadow  the  bodies  acting  on  them.  The  "extreme  simplicity"  and   the  "economy  of  the  line,"13  in  Dwan's  own  words,  which  guide  all  aspects  of  his  art,  also   determine   how   locations   serve   the   action,   or   rather,   how   the   locations,   passing   by     unnoticed   (as   much   by   us   watching   the   film   as   the   characters   within   it),   unite   with   the   action.     In  life  as  well  there  exists  a  certain,  strange  abstractedness,  like  that  of  facing  the  reality  of  the   spaces  around  us  that  allows  us  to  live  in  them.  And  if  these  spaces,  at  best,  seem  to  have  been   there  forever,  like  that  clearing  and  the  trees  in   The  River's  Edge,  the  configuration  of  these   spaces,   the   things   that   populate   these   places,   and   the   elements   by   which   they   are   constituted   transform   themselves   as   well   and   change   or   seem   to   change   location   with   the   use   we   offer   them—most  of  all  through  our  memories  and  our  dreams.   Circumstance  and  Context     Rarely  can  works  of  architecture  be  moved  (let's  not  confuse  them  with  their  images,  which   circulate  widely).  Works  of  architecture  have  roots,  are  built  in  places  that  existed  before   them  and  that  are  transformed  by  their  presence.     In  The  River's  Edge,  there  are  not  only  the  images  of  the  landscapes,  of  the  places  and  the   spaces  that  occupy  the  screen,  but  also  of  other  things  that,  either  belonging  to  this  context   or  clashing  with  it,  become  associated  with  each  gesture:  a  half  a  dozen  small  objects—the   small   circular   mirror   hanging   over   Quinn   and   Paget's   beds,   which   are   arranged   like   an   "L";   the  small  oven  that  explodes;  the  iron  for  branding  cattle  and  the  knife  for  killing  turkeys;   guns   and   bullets;   the   metal   suitcase   and,   inside   it,   the   ten   thousand   bills   of   one   hundred   dollars  each  that  will  be  swapped  for  a  rope,  a  firebrand  or  a  dead  cow,  and  that  will  be  sent   flying   through   the   air   twice,   that   will   be   used   to   kindle   bonfires,   and   that   will   end   up   crumpled  in  the  beaks  of  birds  and  floating  in  the  waters  of  a  brook.  Plus  three  animals.     In  three  different  scenes,  Debra  Paget  will  face  these  three  animals,  each  distinct  from  the   others:   the   ox   that   breaks   the   fence   of   the   corral   ranch;   the   scorpion   that   attempts   to   occupy  the  inside  of  one  of  her  lace  slippers;  and  the  snake  inside  the  cave  that  threatens   the  two  fighting  men,  and  which  she  kills.    

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A large  part  of  the  concrete  conditions  facing  a  work  of  architecture  emerge  on  site.  These   conditions  are  always  variable,  from  place  to  place,  and  often  fleeting;  and  so,  the  proper   attention  to  them  and  the  ability  to  respond  to  them  appropriately  are  the  duties  of  a  job   that   does   not   lend   itself   to   universal   solutions.  In   some   cases,   what   matters   in   these   places   occurs  as  naturally  as  the  vermin  of  The  River's  Edge  seem  to  spring  up  with  surprising  ease   (the  threat  arising  from  a  specific  site  that  one  never  realizes  is  there);  in  other  cases,  the   encounters   that   result   are   something   like   what   happens   between   the   desert   and   Nardo's   pink  Ford  Thunderbird  that  traverses  it  (a  collision  that  seems  to  clarify  everything).     Matter  and  directions     Architecture  is  not  executed—and  never  was—for  the  sense  of  sight  alone.  More  than  ever,   it  is  important  to  repeat  this  obvious  truth:  all  the  senses,  if  they  are  more  or  less  awakened   in   us,   are   at   play   when   it   comes   to   inhabiting   the   reality   of   a   space;   and,   in   the   case   of   vision,  one  of  its  aspects  that  counts  the  most  is  the  capacity  of  peripheral  vision,  without   which  we  would  not  be  able  to  feel  as  though  we  were  inside  a  space.     Such   are   the   own,   wonderful   limitations   of   the   art   of   cinema—perception   of   a   film   is   limited  to  two  of  the  five  senses:  vision  (two-­‐dimensional)  and  hearing  (sound  would  take   over   twenty   years   to   emerge   after   Dwan   had   made   his   first   film)—that   at   every   moment   in   The   River's   Edge   we   are   made   aware   of   our   other   senses.   When   Debra   Paget,   dressed   63


formally, goes   down   the   stairs   of   the   hotel   to   meet   Ray   Milland,   the   monochromatic   textures  of  the  walls,  the  stairs,  the  doors,  and  her  dress  (the  auburn  and  ocher  of  the  dirt,   the   wood,   and   even   the   water   of   the   first   part   of   the   film,   reemerge   here,   barely   saturated)   leave  us  feeling,  like  Goethe,  that  "the  hands  want  to  see,  the  eyes  want  to  caress."  14    

  How  many  movies  are  made  that  stand  up  to  patient  and  attentive  looking  and  listening?   How   many   rooms,   how   many   buildings   and   cities   are   built   for   the   affect   and   intelligence   of   the  senses?   Continuity     John   Dorr   has   noted   that   in   Dwan's   work,   "the   world   captured   in   the   frame   is   never   as   important   as   the   relationship   of   one   shot   to   the   next."15   To   understand   this   better,   let   us   return   to   the   scene   where   Paget   shoots   the   snake   while   Quinn   and   Ray   Milland   are   struggling  with  one  another,  so  that  we  can  recall  the  darkened  cavity,  always  visible,  at  the   side  of  the  cave's  lighted  entrance,  but  which  we  only  notice  after  the  cobra  rises  up  inside;   or   of   the   two   men's   strange,   static   embrace;   or   of   Paget's   folded,   indifferent   body,   sick,   while  life  and  death  play  out  before  her.     In  a  work  of  architecture  as  well,  the  elements  constituting  it  are  never  as  important,  in  of   themselves,  as  the  relationship  between  them.  And  this  can  be  verified,  not  only  by  the  very   nature  of  architecture—taking  part,  above  all,  in  the  structure  of  manmade  constructions,   it's   the   space   between   things   that   counts   more   than   the   things   themselves—but   moreover,   for  two  other  reasons  as  well:  on  the  one  hand,  in  a  work  of  architecture  any  element  is  in   fact  only  comprehensible  when  corresponding  to  the  other  elements  with  which  it  forms  a   whole;   on   the   other   hand,   the   limits   of   a   work   of   architecture   are   never   the   limits   of   its   intended   design,   or   rather,   a   work   truly   exists   only   in   relation   to   that   which,   one   way   or   another,   is   close   to   it   and   with   which,   again,   inevitably,   in   one   way   or   another,   it   forms   continuities.16   64


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But it  is  not  only  this  notion  of  continuity—a  notion  referring  to  the  shape  and  structure  of   the   works   themselves—which   is   found   in   Dwan's   movies.   His   films   partake   as   well   in   another   principle   of   continuity   that   Jean-­‐Luc   Godard   has   spoken   of,   when   stating   that   "a   film  is  not  a  work  in  and  of  itself.  It  is,  at  the  same  time,  a  part  of  a  whole.  What  one  starts   off   searching   in   one   film   ends   up   being   found   in   other   films."   Dwan's   work   also   makes   it   clear   that   this   search   doesn't   have   to   begin   and   end   in   the   work   of   a   single   author.   What   someone  starts  off  searching  for  in  a  work  ends  up  being  found  in  the  work  of  others.  The   entirely   ambitious   modesty   that   such   a   process   supposes—and   that   belongs   as   much   to   scientists   as   to   poets—is   the   pride   of   a   craftsmen.   It   was   Giancarlo   de   Carlo   who   said   of   his   former,  fellow  treatise-­‐writers,  Alberti  and  Francesco  di  Giorgio:  "They  would  speak  of  the   simple   techniques   they   had   learned   from   the   masons.   So   they   were   necessarily   modest.   Because  if  you  begin  to  dig  up  the  roots  of  the  culture  that  is  all  around  us,  it  is  clear  that   you  are  safe  from  this  attitude  of  remoteness,  arrogance,  contempt  of  fact,  that  is  the  basis   of  immodesty,  which  is  to  believe  yourself  to  be  in  another  sphere,  another  level  (...)  "17     When   there   are   fewer   and   fewer   alternatives   between   the   standardized   products   of   the   supermarkets  and  the  more  or  less  exotic  delicacies  of  gourmet  shops,  it  is  left  to  us  to  start   anew,   as   Brecht   said,   with   the   "bad   new   things"   and   not   the   "good   old   ones"   in   order   to   reinvent  the  small,  neighborhood  shops.  Perhaps  this  is  the  best  of  all  possible  ways  that   we  have  today  to  reiterate  the  most  important  thing  that  any  manmade  work  might  recall:   "Now  we  are  alive."   66


1 Allan  Dwan,  The  River’s  Edge,  1957   2  Allan  Dwan,  Interview  with  Peter  Bogdanovich,  Allan  Dwan:  The  Last  Pioneer  (London:  

Studio Vista,  1971),  25.  

3 Ibid.  163.   4  Philip  Johnson,    Mies  van  der  Rohe  (New  York:  Museum  of  Modern  Art,  1947),  189.   5  Robert  Bresson,  Notes  sur  le  cinématographe,  1975.  (Paris:    Gallimard,  1988),  123.   6  John  Ford,  Interview  by  Philip  Jenkinson,  1936,  in  Gerald  Peary  (ed.),  John  Ford:  Interviews  

(University Press  of  Mississipi,  2001)  139-­‐140.   7  Luís  Buñuel,  Mon  dernier  soupir  (Paris:  Editions  Robert  Laffont,  1982)  234-­‐235.   8  Pedro  Costa,  Onde  Jaz  o  Teu  Sorriso  (Lisboa:  Assírio  &  Alvim,  2004).   9  Chris  Fujiwara,  "Ten  That  Make  A  Work,"  in  David  Phelps  and  Gina  Telaroli  (ed.),  Allan  

Dwan: A  Dossier  (Lumière,  2013)  44.  

10 Jean  Claude  Biette,  “Un  inventeur  sans  recompense:  Allan  Dwan  ou  le  cinema  nature”,  

Cahiers du  cinéma  332  (février    1982).  

11 Lewis  Mumford,  The  City  in  History:  its  origins,  its  transformations,  and  its  prospects,  1961  

(Middlesex: Penguin,  1984)  13.  

12 Bogdanovich,  op.  cit.,  26.   13  Ibid.,  32.   14  Juhani  Pallasmaa,  The  Eyes  of  the  Skin  (West  Sussex:  Wiley  Academy,  2005)  14.   15  John  Dorr,  “The  Griffith  Tradition”,  Film  Comment  (March/April  1974)  51.   16  Cf.  Fernando  Távora,    Da  Organização  do  Espaço,  1962  (Porto:  Publicações  FAUP,  2008).   17  Giancarlo  de  Carlo,  Interview  with  Bruno  Queysanne  and  René  Borruey,  “Entretien  avec  

Giancarlo de  Carlo”,  in  René  Borruey  et  al.,  Architecture  et  modestie:  Actes  de  la  rencontre   tenue  au  Couvent  de  la  Tourette,  Centre  Thomas  More,  les  8  et  9  juin  1996,  (Lecques:   Théétète  Éd.,  1999)  39.      

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THE UNCERTAINTY  PRINCIPLE   Or  Adventures  in  Exchange  Symmetries    

David Phelps    

Above:  A  Modern  Musketeer  (1917)  Stage  Struck  (1925),   Montana  Belle    (1948/1952),  Flight  Nurse  (1953)      

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"All for  one  and  two  for  five!"   —The  Three  Musketeers  (1939)     "Why  don't  you  pretend  that  I'm  Kate  Quantrill?...  Maybe  I  can  take  her  place."   —  Kate  Quantrill,  Woman  They  Almost  Lynched  (1953)     ***     Self-­‐fashioned  only  in  their  dreams,  Douglas  Fairbanks  and  Gloria  Swanson  raise  quixotism   to   a   kind   of   all-­‐round   American   credo.   The   fantasies   that   preface   A   Modern   Musketeer   (1917)   and   Stage   Struck   (1925)—Fairbanks’   Ned   Thacker   figuring  himself   as   a   movie   hero   D’Artagnan;   Swanson’s   small-­‐town   waitress,   Jennie   Hagen,   recasting   herself   as   an   actress   acclaimed  for  her  Salome—both  seem  to  treat  Continental  Prestige  as  an  entirely  American   Dream,  though  the  joke  comes  retroactively:  as  Paris  dissolves  to  Kansas,  the  World’s  Stage   to   West   Virginia,   the   movies   turn   out   only   to   be   parodies   of   their   own   genre   conceits,   their   own,   extra-­‐accentuated   craft   as   swashbucklers.   Nevertheless,   as   platforms   for   fantasy,   these   drabber   realities   are   in   a   way   the   greater   construct,   weird   places   where   both   Fairbanks  and  Swanson  are  ridiculed  for  their  most  improbable  quality,  their  normalcy;  in   Dwan's  reality,  in  which  almost  everyone  might  turn  out  to  be  an  actor  playing  a  variable   role,  Ned  Thacker  seems  to  dream  of  becoming  nobody  other  than  Douglas  Fairbanks,  and   Jennie  Hagen  of  becoming  nobody  other  than  Gloria  Swanson.  The  fabular  structure  of  both   films—characters  navigating  their  dull  lives  as  genre-­‐pieces  that  they  will  finally   enact  in   the  end—are,  in  a  way,  simply  stories  of  the  stars  becoming  themselves.     “I   found   it   was   a   good   idea   to   let   the   actors   have   a   lot   of   free   play…   A   director’s   job   shouldn’t  be  to  teach  acting,”  Dwan  would  say.  “Children  are  great  actors  because  they’re   always   making-­‐believe.”1   Found   objects   of   a   sort,   Fairbanks   and   Swanson   become,   like   Dwan’s  first  locations,  motivating  parameters—the  raison  d’être  of  a  film’s  plot,  the  rules  of   its  game.  As  Bill  Krohn  notes  how  Dwan's  spatial  axioms  become  narrative  paradigms,2  The   Poisoned   Flume   (1911)   would   be   constructed   around   a   flume   Dwan   had   spotted;   Oil   On   Trouble   Waters   (1913)   around   the   oil   wells   off   Summerland;   Stage   Struck   around   the   entrance   of   a   riverboat   into   the   town   where   Dwan   was   shooting.   Even   late,   Tennessee's   Partner  (1955)  will  seem  to  be  assembled  out  of  little  more  than  the  title  and  first  two  lines   of   Bret   Harte's   story,   as   if   Dwan   and   screenwriters   had   gotten   no   further   than   this   accumulation  of  1)  character  (Tennessee  and  his  Partner),  2)  dialogue  ("I  do  not  think  we   ever   knew   his   real   name,"   turned   into   the   film's   final   line),   and   3)   location   (Sandy   Bar,   CA),   and  had  decided  simply  to  redeploy  some  variant  of  the  plot  of  Angel  in  Exile  in  order  to  put   the   pieces   together.3   Dwan's   whole   narrative-­‐aesthetic   approach   might   be   summed   up   as   some  form  of  connect-­‐the-­‐dots:  similarly,  the  Fairbanks  films  seem  physically  constructed   around   their   star's   abilities   and   limitations   alike   in   jumping   between   spaces,   as   the   platforms   of   the   set   are   positioned   by   the   exact   distance   Fairbanks   could   leap   between   them  easily  enough  to  suggest  that  there  were  no  gap  at  all.  A  mechanics  of  fantasy:  it  takes      

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an exact   distance   to   make   it   seem   as   though   Fairbanks   could   have   vaulted   as   far   as   he   wished;  for  Dwan,  there  is  even  a  science  of  defying  gravity.     Dwan:     "But  everything  I  did  was  triangles  with  me.  If  I  constructed  a  story  and  I  had  four   characters  in  it,  I'd  put  them  down  as  dots  and  if  they  didn't  hook  up  into  triangles,  if   any  of  them  were  left  dangling  out  there  without  a  sufficient  relationship  to  any  of   the   rest,   I   knew   I   had   to   discard   them   because   they'd   be   a   distraction.   And   you're   only   related   to   people   through  triangles  or   lines.   If   I'm   related   to   a   third   person   and   you're   not,   there's   something   wrong   in   our   relationship   together.   One   of   us   is   dangling.  So  I  say,  ''How  do  I  tie  that  person  to  you?  How  do  I  complete  that  line?'   And   I   have   to   work   the   story   so   I   can   complete   that   line.   In   other   words,   create   a   relationship,  an  incident,  something  that  will  bring  us  into  the  eternal  triangle.  That   was  the  weakness  of  von  Stroheim,  for  instance.  With  all  his  strength,  that  was  his   great   weakness.   He   would   get   fascinated   by   some   extraneous   character   and   go   off   on  a  tangent,  develop  a  story  all  around  that  other  character,  and  the  story  would  be   disjointed."4     Long  after  Biograph  and  Triangle,  Dwan's  films  still  seem  to  ask  the  question  at  the   start  of   the   film  of  just  how  many  ways  a  set  series  of  people  and  locations  may  be  related—and   then   generate   geometric   storylines   to   assure   the   relation   of   each   entity   to   each   other.   A   model  for  an  industry  still  improvising  its  product  in  California  forests  and  New  Jersey  bars   in   the   early   1910s,   Dwan   would   channel   the   tension   between   impromptu,   on-­‐location   shoots  and  his  beloved,  diagrammatic  parables  into  open  narrative  problems  to  be  resolved   by   the   story   itself—some   years   still   before   the   stratification   of   pre-­‐scriptive   "fiction"   and   extemporaneous   "documentary"   into   independent   ontologies   of   cinema   and/or   ploys   of   marketing.   Community   symphonies   of   a   sort,   films   from   Manhattan   Madness   (1916)   and   East   Side,   West   Side   (1927)   to   Sweethearts   on   Parade   (1953),   and   even   Slightly   Scarlet   (1956)  employ  reconciliation  plots  as  a  way  of  scheming  diagrammatic  couples  into  contact   with   their   communities   and   one   another;   the   most   generic   romance   becomes   a   tool   for   Dwan   to   catalogue   all   strata   of   a   world.   But   it's   Fairbanks   whose   physical   expertise   at   crossing   boundaries   and   borders   in   a   single   leap   becomes   a   sort   of   temperamental   template  for  all  Dwan's  heroes,  as  the  ultimate  tool  for  linking  all  the  spaces  of  a  town:    

 

He Comes  Up  Smiling  (1918),  Tide  of  Empire  (1929)   70  


Already, in   the   Fairbanks   movies,   there   is   the   suggestion   that   community   is   simply   the   circulation  of  characters  among  a  few  set  pieces,  each  determining  their  roles.  A  principle   at  work  as  early  as   Almost  a  Friar  (aka  Man's  Calling,  1912):  a  man  knows  his  life  can  be   determined  by  the  découpage  of  moving  right  (into  the  shot  of  a  loving  woman),  left  (into   the  shot  of  a  riverbed  for  contemplation),  or  into  the  background  (where  there  awaits  the   monastery   of   his   intended   profession,   but   soon   to   be   wedding   site   in   one   of   Dwan's   first   180  degree  spatial-­‐role  shifts).  As  in  so  many  later  Dwans,  the  initial  principle  of  "realism"   in  Musketeer  or  Madness,  that  the  characters  must  assume  the  roles  befitting  their  locales,   and  may  even  have  to  swap  identities  at  each  scene  change,  transmutes  into  a  principle  of   fantastical  mock-­‐heroism  by  the  end:  it's  precisely  by  assuming  and  swapping  roles  that  the   characters  can  at  last  determine  their  scene  instead  of  vice-­‐versa.  It's  a  discovery  that  will   later  be  made  by  Shirley  Temple  in  Rebecca  of  Sunnybrook  Farm  (1938)  and  Jane  Russell  in   Montana   Belle   (1948/1952)   with   winking   assurance   that   these   girls'   performances   are   enough   to   restore   their   universes   to   collective   choruses   on   an   open   stage.   Everyone   becomes  part  of  the  show.     "This   outside-­‐in   structure   allows   Dwan   and   Fairbanks   to   parody   genre   codes   while   also   fulfilling  their  basic  necessities,"  says  R.  Emmett  Sweeney  about  Musketeer.5  The  characters   revel   in   their   world   as   a   genre   construct   as   much   as   Dwan:  Musketeer   ends   with   Fairbanks   becoming   the   action   hero   of   his   dreams;   Madness   with   Fairbanks   tricked   by   a   theater   troupe  into  thinking  he  is  one.  Stage  Struck  even  suggests  the  Dwan-­‐Fairbanks  action  film   as   a   genre   to   be   parodied   by   the   paltrier   reality   created   in   its   image:   barely   able   walk   upright  around  a  room,  Gloria  Swanson  hatches  a  plan  to  win  her  love  by  performing  in  a   boxing  match  that  will  rally  the  town  together.  Her  logic,  surely,  is  Dwanian—once  he  too  is   complicit  in  her  performance,  as  everyone  in  the  Fairbanks  films  becomes  complicit  in  his   stagecraft   by   the   end,   she   can   tear   off   her   mask   and   let   the   power   of   her   performance   transcend  the  social  binds  of  poverty  and  schlemiel  motor  skills  that  have  constrained  her   for  far  too  long.  But  of  course  her  mask  disguises  the  world  from  her  as  much  as  it  disguises   her  from  the  world,  and  she  bumbles  around  the  ring,  Chaplin-­‐like,  brawling  at  the  empty   air.   In   contrast   to   Fairbank's   death-­‐defying   ease,   his   inability   to   fall   in   the   face   of   any   hurdle,   her   heroic   attempts   not   to   topple   over   as   she's   walking   become   doomed,   beautifully,   here   and   in   Manhandled   (1924),   by   her   own   overburdened   optimism.   Like   Chaplin,   her   pathos   seems   to   have   been   fabricated   acrobatically   in   a   total   grace   of   gracelessness.  Marion  Davies,  struggling  to  preserve  her  self-­‐image  against  a  world  that  has   other  roles  for  her  to  play,  is  offered  a  similar  poignancy  in  Getting  Mary  Married  (1919),   but  there's  probably  not  much  parallel  for  it  after  the  sound  era:  the  tragic  comedy  of  a  girl   desperately  trying  to  be  anyone  but  herself  gives  way  to  a  dispositional  blankness,  in  the   last   films,   of   characters   who   swap   entire   personalities   at   every   costume-­‐change,   who   can   only   act   as   the   character   they've   fitted   themselves   to   play.   The   binaries   of   reality   and   fantasy  become  replaced  by  binaries  of  something  like  fantasy  and  fantasy,  the  positive  and   negative  solutions  for  Dwan's  character  variables.          

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***   By  the  sound  era,  the  role  is  not  so  much  a  form  of  self-­‐expression,  as  in,  say,  the  similarly   private-­‐public   performances   of   Cukor;   where   Cukor   obligates   his   actors   to   evade   the   accusations  of  each  other's  stares  by  coiling  towards  his  pushing-­‐pulling  camera,  the  only   outlet  into  which  they  might  articulate  their  feelings,  characters  in  Dwan  look  squarely  at   each   other   from   either   end   of   the   screen.   Where   in   Cukor   the   emotional   revelations   are   self-­‐cultivated   privately   in   response   to   an   inescapable,   outer   social   world,   in   Dwan   the   roles  are  simply  genre  molds  to  be  employed  for  their  cinematic  and  social  functions.  Any   Ford-­‐like,   Homeric   diagnosis   of   the   hero's   self-­‐abrogation   in   tying   himself   to   the   tasks   of   domesticity   or   myth   are   equally   absent   in   Dwan;   Walsh's   slack   distinction   between   "big   dreamers"   and   "little   dreamers"   on   a   sliding   scale   of   self-­‐determined   lives   vanishes   from   Dwan   after   the   silent   social   epics   of   East   Side,   West   Side   and   Tide   of   Empire   (1929),   both   films   tracking   workers   through   the   worlds   of   empire   they've   constructed   with   their   bare   hands.   Roles   become   simply   a   social   currency   to   be   passed   around.   The   relationship   between   characters   seems   to   lie   less   in   their   gazes   than   in   their   gestures,   touching   one   other:  the  gestures  of  anybody  who  might  play  this  role.  What  is  so  physically  im-­‐mediate   in  Dwans,  so  sensual,  is  also  what  might  seem  so  anonymous.     As   in   late   Lang,   nobody   is   what   they   appear   to   be   nor   presented   as   anything   other   than   their   appearance.   But   unlike   Lang's   iconographic   personalities,   each   a   self-­‐fitted   mask,   Dwan's   characters,   even   in   the   midst   of   deceit,   seem   to   conceal   nothing;   the   constant   conceit   that   nothing   is   hidden,   everything   visible,   will   root   his   40s   comedies   as   much   as   his   50s   policiers   in   entirely   public   worlds,   adjoining   spaces   where   privacy   is   only   an   illusion   belied  by  wide  windows  and  constant  eavesdropping.  In  their  shift  from  vaudeville  show-­‐ and-­‐tell  to  stoned-­‐faced  paranoia—the  wartime  comedies  somehow  expressions  of  both— Dwan's   movies   only   shift   from   the   buoyancy   of   a   world   conjoined   harmoniously   in   performance,   as   characters   play   the   roles   of   their   dreams   through   I   Dream   of   Jeanie   (1952)   and  Sweethearts  on  Parade,  to  the  woodenness  of  a  world  where  the  performance  of  duty   conceives  of  no  counterpart  in  a  private  self  or  even  private  fantasy.   Such  privacy,  even  the   privacy   of   thought,   is   not   even   an   option  for   these   storylines   in   which   disguises   are   treated   openly  as  such,  and  characters  are  unable  to  hide  a  thing  from  each  other,  whether  a  garter   or   an   identity.   In   Dwan's   conception   of   social   theater,   a   platform   for   characters   to   swap   roles,  teach  each  other  roles,  and  finally  perform  them  together,  actors  only  become  agents   of   their   act   in   constant   motion   over   time.   The   movies   draw   so   close   to   drawing-­‐room   comedy   in   their   externalization   of   everything   psychological   that   they   reach   a   kind   of   ground   zero   of   modern   cinema:   each   character   is   nothing   more   nor   less   than   a   moving   image.     ***     And  yet  what's  weirdest  about  the  40s  comedies  is  that  while  each  attempt  of  Dwan's  ad-­‐ libbing   heroes   to   evade   detection   becomes   legible   in   their   overdetermined   stammers,   double   takes,   and   verbal   lurches,   still   nobody   else   on-­‐screen   gives   much   sign   of      

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perturbation that   anything   is   amiss.   Don't   the   women   see   Dennis   O'Keefe's   hopeless,   epileptic  endeavors  to  control  his  twitching  with  more  twitching  in  film  after  film,  his  way   of   keeping   his   secrets   silent   as   clamorously   as   possible?   Doesn't   anyone   realize   that   the   narcoleptic   star   of   college   football   team   in   Rise   and   Shine   (1941),   Jack   Oakie,   is   37   years   old—or  think  to  mention,  just  once,  that  Charlie  McCarthy,  the  boy  darling  of  Look  Who's   Laughing  (1941)  and  Here  We  Go  Again  (1942)  with  Charlie  Bergen's  hands  shoved  up  his   pants,  is  a  wood  puppet?     Instead,  Dwan's  comedies  seem  to  deduce  conventions  from  a  manic  age  of  Spike  Jones,  Tex   Avery,   and   Hellzapoppin',   an   era   of   stress   sublimated   into   joy.   Primary   among   these   postulates  in  this  universe  of  deception:  anything  is  real  that  claims  to  be  so.     But  this  Dwanian  principle  could  be  defined  as  a  few  others:     • First—some   form   of   dramatic   irony:   the   audience   can   only   see   performance   where   characters  inside  the  movie  only  see  a  reality.  That  this  reality  obeys  the  exigencies  of   dramaturgical  contrivances  might  seem  to  suggest  an  update  of  enlightenment  comedy:   the  fictions  of  the  characters  determine  the  plot  until  the  moment  that  their  designs  are   unmasked,  and  the  Truth  is  at  long  last  revealed.  But  unlike  in,  say,  Molière—or  Dwan's   upscale  counterpart  in  the  40s,  Preston  Sturges—the  truth  behind  the  performances  is   elusive  in  Dwan's  comedies,  as  the  films,  resolutely  refusing  to  acknowledge  their  own   conceits,  uphold  these  incongruous  performances  as  the  only  reality  of  their  universes.   It's  as  though  the  films  aren't  in  on  their  own  jokes.  Or  rather,  that  the  joke  has  shifted   from   drawing   room   comedy's   sham   disguises   and   hammy   artifice,   all   the   more   preposterous   for   obeying   logical   motivations   and   dramatic   codes,   to   something   metageneric,   closer   to   the   Zucker   brothers   than   Sturges:   sham   disguises   and   hammy   artifice   whose   joke   is   precisely   their   near-­‐inexplicability,   their   very   implausibility   and   illogical  motivation,  if  not  lack  of  motivation  altogether.     For   example,   when   the   characters   truly   aren't   in   on   the   joke   of   the   film   in   Brewster's   Millions  (1945)  or  Rendezvous  with  Annie  (1946)—either  a  community  is  systematically   unable   to   read   the   hero's   behavior,   or   the   hero   is   systematically   unable   to   read   the   community's   own—the   movies   initially   seem   to   operate   by   that   classical   logic   of   concealment,  that  succession  of  fictional  masks  to  allow  the  unveiling  of  reality  at  the  end.   Likewise,  Up  in  Mabel's  Room  (1944)  and  Getting  Gertie's  Garter  (1945)  weave  the  most   imbecilic   gestures   from   almost   arbitrary   narrative   rationales,   as   though   their   own   dopiness   must   be   legitimized   by   logic   at   every   step.   A   single,   underlying   motivation   is   affixed   to   the   architectonic   permutations   of   characters'   attempts   to   hide   an   object,   a   slip/garter  that  might  symbolize  sexual  histories  and  polyamorous  desire  to  impeaching   eyes;   the   fugal   structure,   familiar   to   so   many   Dwans,   simply   loops   the   characters'   competing   quests   over   and   over   to   hide   these   could-­‐be-­‐symbols   of   sex   in   and   from   the   films'  chirpily  domestic  households.  The  inanity  of  the  content  is  the  happy  product  of  the   form's  sequential  rigor,  oblivious  to  common  sense:  the  action  follows  something  like  a      

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Bach-­‐like series   of   harmonic   progressions,   a   Baroque   ideal   of   a   single   gesture   intensified   to   total   ponderousness   through   repetition,   as   the   obligatory   resolution   is   continually   deferred.   Finally,   long   after   the   film   has   become   its   own   challenge   to   keep   going,   the   meaning—of  the  objects  themselves,  of  the  characters'  actions—will  have  to  be  clarified   in  order  finally  to  be  refuted.  In  perfect  enlightenment  form,  the  representation  of  people   and  things  will  finally  be  shown  to  be  false  before  the  presentation  of  Truth.     And   yet,   very   far   from   Baroque,   there's   little   logic   for   the   films   to   keep   going,   to   scale   obstacles  so  openly  contrived.  The  denial  of  satisfaction  in  these  comedies  of  frustration   becomes  its  own  pursuit;  above  all,  the  one  joke  of  all  these  movies  is  the  metageneric  gag   that   the   film   itself   as   an   object   refuses   to   resolve   the   narrative   terms   it's   established.   Insufferable   acts   must   be   insufferably   unresolved.   The   notion   that   the   characters   can't   read   each   other's   expressions,   can't   conceive   of   each   other   beyond   their   functions   in   predetermined   narratives,   here   becomes   the   comic   premise   itself:   Brewster's   community   is   constitutionally   incapable   of   even   asking   why   Brewster   is   shelling   out   thousands   of   dollars;   despite   whole   sequences   of   askew   glares,   Rendezvous'   Eddie   Albert   will   never   be   able  to  notice  that  his  community  doubts  his  marriage  until  explicitly  told  so,  just  as  his   community   can   never   even   suspect   his   innocence   until   it   is   finally   proven;   the   communities  of  Room/Garter  will  always  trust  that  Dennis  O'Keefe  is  acting  normally  by   its   standards,   without   secret   intentions,   in   the   absence   of   any   articulated   reason   to   believe  otherwise.  The  joke  is  how  long  the  joke  is  held.  A  single  moment  of  explanation   could   end   these   films   an   hour   earlier,   but   that   explanation   must   be   withheld   for   false   assumptions  to  proliferate,  despite  their  lack  of  conviction  even  as  lies.  By  the  time  The   Truth  arrives  in  the  end,  it  appears  as  a  wheezy  deux  ex  machina  that  should  have  come   scenes   earlier;   dealt   only   at   the   moment   that   the   films   have   exhausted   their   structural   possibilities,  it  seems  like  a  greater  contrivance  than  any  of  the  characters'  fabrications   throughout   the   film.   Like   so   many   Dwan   characters,   the   cross-­‐dressing,   mock-­‐ schitzophrenic  marines  of  Abroad  With  Two  Yanks  (1944)  wear  costumes  not  so  much  to   hide,   replace,   or   reveal   their   "true"   personalities,   but   to   counterpoint   their   initial   identities   until   the   true   personality—of   military   men—seems   like   only   one   more   costume.     So   threadbare   are   the   dramatic   prerogatives   of   these   films   that   the   characters   only   appear  as  willed  permutations  of  themselves.  In  Look  Who's  Laughing,  it's  the  film  itself   that  tests  the  limits  of  its  own  reality  by  methodically  recasting  the  role  of  the  wooden   puppet  as  such  within  its  universe:  first  seen  on-­‐stage,  Charlie  McCarthy  is  presented  as   plausible   conceit   of   a   vaudeville   routine   recorded   by   the   film;   seen   at   an   after-­‐party,   he   becomes   a   conceit   of   an   Edgar   Bergen   party   trick,   as   though   Bergen   has   entered   the   film's   reality   as   himself   but   Charlie   is   still   his   fiction;   seen   on   Bergen's   lap   within   the   drama,  he  takes  his  place  within  the  film's  reality,  which  seems  to  have  now  become  a   direct   adaptation   of   Bergen's   routine   without   the   mediating   stage;   seen   apart   from   Bergen  altogether,  he  becomes  a  cinematic  conceit  entirely  irreconcilable  with  theater,      

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as if  the  film  has  not  simply  adapted  Bergen's  routine  but  the  entire  universe  in  which  it   pretends  to  take  place.     •

 

Second, then—a   cinema   of   presence:   in   these   films   in   which   every   character   and   object   seems   to   operate   as   a   false   representation   of   itself,   personalities   become   functions   of   their  presentation  and  agents  of  their  wardrobe.  The  only  truth  is  situational;  nobody   can  think  or  act  outside  their  appearance  in  the  moment;  little  role  is  allotted  in  Dwan's   films   to   memory,   evidently   a   psychological   affair   superfluous   to   the   craft   of   motion   pictures.  But  in  Dwan's  comedies,  it's  his  own  cinema  of  presence  that  seems  to  be  the   butt  of  the  joke  that  there  is  no  future  or  past  here,  only  the  present's  recurring  agonies   and  actions.  In  these  comedies'  feature-­‐length  adaptations  of  single  gags,  the  characters'   lives  play  like  broken  records  unable  to  move  forward  or  back  past  a  single  moment  of   trauma.  In  a  way,  it's  Dwan's  own  cinema,  in  which  the  characters  can't  think  outside  of   their   movement   and   moment,   which   is   treated   as   a   genre   to   be   broken   down   to   its   constituent  elements.  This  inability  to  think  outside  the  present  becomes  foundational   to   the   narrative   as   well   as   extraneous   to   it   altogether:   the   characters   are   merely   the   sum  of  their  reactions,  which  however  superfluous  to  their  objectives,  are  obligated  by   the  endless  game  of  counter-­‐ploys  and  -­‐plays  they're  compelled  to  enact.     In   a   way,   Rendezvous   With   Annie   could   be   counted   as   an   oblique   variation   on   the   Phantom  Lady  prototype  that  dominated  so  many  postwar  films  in  the  wake  of  Rebecca   (1940)  and  Laura  (1944):  films,  by  Brahm,  Cukor,  Lang,  Lewis,  Mann,  Minnelli,  Ophuls,   Siodmak,   Ulmer,   and   so   on,   in   which   an   absent   lady,   often   present   only   as   a   maniacal   husband's   painting,   seems   to   condemn   a   modest   young   maid   to   reenact   her   role   as   a   pale  imitation  until  the  trauma  is  replayed,  the  maniacs  condemned  and  the  innocents   freed  from  their  part.  In  Dwan's  comedy,  a  jaunty,  small  town  couple  is  condemned  by   another  kind  of  phantom  past  concocted  by  the  husband:  one  in  which  he  didn't  desert   the  army,  one  night  in  the  mid-­‐40s,  for  evening  with  his  wife  that  could  help  explain  the   bouncing   bundle   of   joy   9   months   later.   As   in   some   of   the   phantom   lady   movies—or   certain   Schnitzler   novellas—the   second   half   of   the   film   tracks   the   protagonist's   failed   attempts  to  uncover  the  truth  he  covered  up  so  perfectly  in  the  first;  as  in  most  of  them,   his  own  certainty  about  reality  appears  as  a  delusion  to  a  new  reality  that  is  delusional   itself.  There  is  no  such  past,  he  is  warned:  life  has  continued  on  exactly  as  it  was,  and   exactly  as  he  would  have  hoped.  As  in  the  Freudian  Phantom  Lady  films,  a  moment  of   trauma  must  be  resurrected,  relived—recalled  to  be  recalled.  The  comedy  is  only  that  it   is  not  murder  or  the  war  that  small-­‐town  gentility  represses,  but—as  in  Dwan's  other   comedies—the   same   act   of   sex   that   fuels   its   relations.   And   the   difference   is   that   the   husband's   memory   is   not   of   the   most   traumatic   moment   of   his   life:   instead,   in   Dwan,   this   amorous   interlude   is   presented   as   the   loveliest.   Doomed   to   recover   a   past   in   a   present   that   has   little   sense   of   it,   Eddie   Albert   finds   himself   in   search   of   the   same   reprieves   during   the   war   as   after:   sex   with   his   wife,   and   in   brief   pauses   in   a   bomb   shelter  while  London  is  shelled  overhead,  a  slice  of  chocolate  cake  that  will  prove  the   happy  ending.   75  


 

Third—Which   is   not   to   say   that   there   is   no   time   frame   in   these   films,   as   paths   are   tracked   over   time   in   closed   set,   but   that   each   action   must   be   measured   against   concurrent   actions   within   this   space:   a   principle   of   simultaneity/synchronicity.   The   action   of   Mabel   and   Gertie   is   only   the   structural   extension   of   two   dramatic   principles.   First,  narratival:  the  action  must  be  reiterated  in  escalating  embellishments  (the  closer   the  Object  gets  to  the  hapless  hero,  the  greater  his  frustration,  as  well  as  the  audience's,   must  grow).  Second,  spatial:  each  character's  quests  to  conceal  and  reveal  themselves   and  the  Object  are  nothing  more  than  a  coordinated  mapping  of  each  other's  constant   trajectories.   Each   movement   through   the   house   becomes   a   Pac-­‐Man-­‐like   endeavor   forward,   back,   and   side   to   side,   in   closets   and   under   beds,   to   connive   and   sidestep   intersections.   Per   Daniel   Kasman,6   the   characters,   even   psychologically,   live   only   as   criss-­‐crossing   vectors;   the   first-­‐half   round-­‐robbins   of   Black   Sheep   (1932)   and   Frontier   Marshal   (1939),   in   which   the   action   is   relayed   from   one   character   to   the   next   across   contiguous  spaces  and  an  ostensible  real-­‐time—a  formal  stratagem  to  convene  all  social   classes   together,   democratically,   on-­‐screen—are   here   turned   into   feature-­‐length   conceits.  The  films  seem  like  some  sort  of  apotheosis  of  Griffith's  promise  in  True  Heart   Susie  (1919)  of  an  architectural  cinema  of  delimited  times  and  spaces:  films  as  places,   spatial   systems   in   which   the   viewer   will   know   exactly   where   all   the   characters   are   in   relation   to   one   another,   what   they're   doing,   how   fast   they're   moving   and   in   what   direction,   merely   by   watching   one   character   in   one   room   within   the   film's   cardinal   coordinates.   The   film's   sole   task   becomes   such   synchronized   coordination—or   desynchronization   in   the   case   of   The   Gorilla   (1939),   in   which   impossible   spatial   maneuvers   (sudden   disappearances   and   simultaneous   appearances   in   multiple   locations)   become   the   meat   of   the   comedy,   with   the   joke,   once   again   in   Dwan,   that   within   a   grounded,   Euclidean   geometry,   nothing   here   is   feasible.   Dwan's   geometric   principles  abstract  everyone  to  qualities  and  types:  and  yet,  no  quality  nor  type  seems   more  absurd  than  a  penchant  for  acting  by  mathematical  principles.     Fourth—Or   rather   by   the   Principle   of   the   Placeholder.   The   function   of   an   actor   to   assume   a   role   inevitably   becomes   the   subject   of   so   many   Dwan   films   in   which   characters   are   defined   by   the   parts   they   must   play   at   a   given   moment,   as   if   they   merely   had   to   don   a   mask   to   be   believed   as   whatever   part   they   play.   Choice,   free   will,   plays   little  part:  self-­‐determination  would  presume  a  self  that  seems  to  dwindle  progressively   out   of   Dwan's   films,   and   even   the   quests   that   prompt   the   action   of   Cattle   Queen   of   Montana   (1954),   Passion   (1954)   or   The   Restless   Breed   (1957)   are   treated   as   though   the   objective  were  already  a  foregone  concession  of  the  genre,  so  that  the  films  might  linger   in   its   shifting   spaces   and   allegiances,   each   generating   narratives   of   its   own.   In   Up   in   Mabel’s   Room   and   Getting   Gertie’s   Garter,   Dwan’s   cinema   reaches   a   kind   of   breaking   point:   the   long-­‐sought-­‐after   slip   and   garter   provoking   all   emotional   machinations   between   the   characters   are   not   merely   the   lynchpin   of   the   plots   but   incidental   to   it;   the   joke   of   both   films   is   that   these   objects,   meaningful   only   as   they're   construed   and   misconstrued   by   the   characters’   projected   torments   and   desires,   are   inconsequential   76  


except as   a   screenwriter’s   device.   For   the   bulk   of   both   films,   weirdly,   the   obligatory   comedy   of   errors   is   nearly   eschewed:   nobody   really   seems   to   misconstrue   the   significance  of  the  objects  until  some  point  near  the  end,  though  the  protagonists  orbit   each  other  fearing  such  possible  misinterpretations  (as  in  Resnais'  structurally  similar   comedies  years  later).       Likewise   the   girl   in   Two   Yanks   never   seems   to   believe   the   marines   are   the   multiple   personalities  whom  they've  misconceived  themselves  to  be:  like  Danny  in  Sailor's  Lady   (1940),   they   seem   to   be   paranoiac   hams   courting   erroneous   readings,   desperate   to   outwit  their  reputation  as  morons  by  appearing  even  more  gleefully,  deceptively  dumb.   And   yet,   when   the   Yanks   cross-­‐dress,   the   police   go   chasing   after   two   broads,   as   if   appearances   can   be   trusted.   Just   as   everyone   believes   the   wooden   puppet's   a   boy   because  he  claims  he  is,  the  marines  are  women  because  they  claim  they  are.  Although   neither  Sally  in  Sailor's  Lady  nor  Joyce  in  Two  Yanks  seem  so  stupid  to  believe  a  word   their  love  interests  say,  the  codes  of  willful  belief  and  willful  disbelief  are  basically  the   same.  The  character  is  merely  filler  for  the  role,  and  so  the  issue  isn't  of  belief  at  all,  but   of  glad-­‐handedly  obtaining  the  audience's  complicity  to  perform  this  role  whose  validity   would  presume  a  deeper  truth  about  the  character  that  isn't  there.     The   Placeholder   Principle   means   a   treatment   of   genre   as   a   series   of   variables   under   examination,   the   better   to   grasp   the   form;   so   Dwan   particularly   relishes   putting   the   most  ill-­‐suited  suckers  into  the  role  of  Heroic  Vessel  with  the  joke  that  in  the  world  of   genre,   nobody   seems   to   notice   the   overtaxed   panache   with   which   the   hero   enacts   his   part.  The  primary  comic  conceit  of  The  Three  Musketeers  (1939)  is  simply  that  the  Ritz   Brothers  would  play  the  braying  title  characters,  would  express  themselves  through  a   shtick  of  distended  legs  and  coiled  lips,  in  an  otherwise  robust,  romantic  swashbuckler   oblivious  to  the  fact  that  these  three  tavern  boys  aren't  the  musketeers  they  claim  to  be.   The   joke   that   as   narrative   markers,   they're   nothing   more   than   the   roles   they   play,   works  doubly—both  within  the  movie's  universe,  that  the  Brothers  would  be  mistaken   for  musketeers  as  they  don  the  disguises,  as  well  as  some  meta-­‐joke  that  these  Jewish   Vaudevillians  seem  to  have  descended  into  a  movie  universe  without  a  clue  of  the  filmic   or   social   codes   to   follow.   Like   Charlie   McCarthy's   puppet   and   Jack   Oakie's   collegiate   footballer—or,   maybe   better,   Celine   and   Julie,   and   Chicken-­‐Boo   years   later—they're   warmly   welcomed   into   the   movie   machine   as   placeholders   of   a   part   that   must   be   played.   The   plot   point   is   literalized   in   Rebecca   of   Sunnybrook   Farm   (1938),   in   which   Shirley   Temple   must   climb   out   the   small   town   world   of   one   house   and   into   her   neighbor's  home,  where  a  radio  studio  imported  from  New  York  awaits  in  the  dead  of   night  for  her  to  enact  its  show.     So  Dwan's  characters,  grinning  knowingly,  indulge  the  contortions  of  the  plot  as  if  they   were   both   enacting   a   spectacle   of   nonsense   even   while   watching   it   be   performed   (as   they  do  in  the  open  vaudeville  revue  of  Around  the  World  (1943)).  Implausibility  again   becomes   its   own   incentive.   The   basic   joy   of   role-­‐playing   a   genre   movie,   the   seed   for      

77


Dwan's late,   absurdist   Westerns,   seems   the   tenuous   rationale   for   Trail   of   Vigilantes   (1940),   a   sort   of   extension   of   the   Modern   Musketeer   parody   to   feature   form:   amidst   a   traffic   jam   of   Main   Street   gunfights   in   a   town   where   vigilantes   disguise   themselves   as   the   law   and   the   law   as   vigilantes,   brainy   East   (Franchot   Tome)   and   burly   West   (Broderick  Crawford)  will  meet,  each  soon  to  assume  the  tasks  of  the  other.  As  a  parody   of   actors   themselves,   the   obligatory   sidekick   for   these   two   synecdoches   of   the   nation,   Mischa  Auer,  plays  a  new  ethnicity  every  scene.     ***     In  a  way,  so  much  of  Dwan's  silent  comedy  operates  according  to  a  kind  of  ideogrammatic   Placeholder  Principle,  as  Noah  Teichner  suggests:7  images  neatly  take  the  place  of  words,   as  if  the  reality  of  the  film  were  little  more  than  a  visual  code  of  archetypical  concepts.  That   is,  within  the  free  exchange  between  image  and  word  of  descriptions,  depictions,  dialogue,   and   thoughts,   word   and   image   can   each   serve   as   the   other's   placeholder   in   a   sort   of   narratival   show-­‐and-­‐tell.   The   images   can   even   become   something   like   syntactical   extensions  (as  in  Keaton)  of  the  intertitles'  phrasing;  presaging  Trail,  Manhattan  Madness   (1916)  is  the  clearest  example—    

 

—and  Getting  Mary  Married  (1919)  perhaps  the  most  dexterous—    

 

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—of this  notion  that  all  levels  of  discursive  imagery  and  language  can  be  interwoven,  as  if   each  were  only  a  variable  phrasing  of  the  other.  Or  rather,  an  illustration,  as  if  the  image   were  only  the  mathematical  proof  of  a  comic  premise.  The  joke  in  both  Manhattan  Madness   and  Getting  Mary  Married  is  just  how  legible  reality  is  in  confirming  verbal  postulates  and   conforming  to  linguistic  codes.       So  part  of  the  comedy,  then,  is  that  things  could  ever  be  typified  so  comprehensibly  as  they   would  be  in  Griffith.  An  intertitle  in  The  Habits  of  Happiness  (1916),  as  Fairbanks  reconciles   two  fighters,  not  only  parodies  Griffith's   pompous  notes  of  accuracy,  but  even  the  notion  of   such  values:  

   

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If one  is  truly  to  value  believability,  unfortunately,  the  written  word  cannot  substitute  for   the  reality  of  the  image  at  all—says  the  intertitle  conceding  its  own  ontological  failure  to  do   its  job  of  matching  Fairbanks'  charm.  Neither  word  nor  character  will  substitute  for  being   there  with  the  guy  himself,  and  really,  it's  only  a  director  as  formulaic  as  Griffith,  with  his   prototypic   stock   of   dowager   snoops   stroking   their   eyepieces,   who   would   ever   think   that   characters   could   be   mere   placeholders   for   the   intertitles,   more   variables   to   be   filled   in.   But   that   director,   of   course,   is   Dwan,   happy   to   work   in—or   rather,   work   out—Griffith's   algorithms—    

—that  can  only  be  treated  as  such  in  parody.     And  yet  Dwan's  technique  is  exactly  the  sort  of  Being-­‐With  the  actors  that  Habits  eschews   as   impossible   within   its   codes.   A   question   arises   of   how   the   filmmaker   who   not   only   systematically  slots  actors  into  archetypical  roles  but  who  makes  such  formulaic  charades   the   plot   devices   of   so   many   of   his   movies—as   if   willfully   oblivious   to   any   reality   but   that   of   the   script—is   also   the   filmmaker   who   designs   entire   films   so   attentively   around   the   temperament   and   build   of   his   stars,   from   Fairbanks   and   Swanson   to   Shirley   Temple   and   John  Payne,  all  of  whom  seem  to  be  playing  nobody  but  themselves.  But  the  mystery's  its   own  solution.  The  Placeholder  Principle  provides  its  own  undoing:  actors  are  placed  in  so   many  disparate  modes  of  dress-­‐up  that  they  come  to  seem  like  nothing  more  than  models,   simply   the   people   themselves—Fairbanks,   Swanson,   Temple,   Payne—as   bodies   in   action   and  disguise.  Acting  the  part  is  a  matter  of  maneuvering  into  the  position;  the  entire  idea  of   character   is   one   of   operation.   The   movie   seems   to   have   little   interest   in   revealing   or   disguising   them   as   anything   other   than   performers:   there   is   no   more   a   notion   of   some   deeper,   psychological   "truth"   about   their   characters   than   there   is   acceptance   of   their   pretenses   except   as   such.   As   in   Tourneur—or   Dwan's   contemporary   heirs,   like   Pedro   Costa—this   Being-­‐With   ethos   means   that   movie's   relationship   to   its   actors   is   simply   one   of   coexistence;  as  if,  on  a  public  stage  where  the  only  truth  is  presentational,  the  closest  way      

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for the  wholly-­‐functional  movie  to  get  to  its  wholly-­‐functional  performers  were  through  a   patient,   engineered   distance   that   presents   them   at   90   degree   variations,   frontally,   backwards,  and  side-­‐by-­‐side.     Dwan's   sense   of   intimacy  as   a   function   of   reservedness,   a   way   of   giving   characters   space   to   perform  their  lives  for  the  camera,  means  accompanying  them  step  by  step  as  they  enact   the  role,  often  from  behind;  the  performance  tends  to  be  merely  a  directive  of  their  dress.   Again,   as   Kasman   says,   they   are   vectors:   motives   in   motion.   Unlike   most   his   peers,   Dwan   never  stops  moving  his  camera  through  the  50s,  though  the  treasured  single  take  of  John   Payne  on  the  run  through  the  town-­‐set  of  Silver  Lode  is  only  one  variation  on  his  beloved   tracking   shot,   a   device   Dwan   supposedly   invented   in   David   Harum   (1915),   refined   in   the   double-­‐axis  track  of  the  camera  in  Intolerance  (1916),  and  would  deploy  regularly  in  lieu  of   wide  shots  to  establish  and  punctuate  scenes  by  taking  the  viewer  in  and  out  of  them:  Joy   Girl's  (1927)  opening  track  through  chairs  of  Palm  Beach  day  trippers,  Surrender's  (1950)   entry   into   a   ranch   house   through   a   window   and   past   a   guitarist   providing   live   accompaniment,  or   the   three-­‐or-­‐four  minute  dolly  from  Frozen  Justice  (1929),  in  which  the   camera,   laterally   surveying   an   entire   arctic   town,   only   pauses   to   catch   dances,   romances,   and   brawls   inside   every   window.   Dwan   on   the   supposed   sound   version   :"A   girl   would   be   singing   in   one   saloon   and   you'd   hear   a   portion   of   her   song   and   pull   away   and   she'd   gradually   die   off   as   we'd   go   into   another   one   where   a   dance   was   going   on   to   guitars   and   so   on   through   four   or   five   of   them   before   I   stopped   at   a   more   remote   spot   to   pick   up   some   dialogue."8   More   often   the   tracks   move   in   sync   with   the   performers:   a   man,   clobbered   in   the  head  by  a  brick,  stumbling  through  a  dead  end  overrun  by  brawling  tramps  in  East  Side,   West  Side;  its  reverse,  two  men  chatting  as  they  (and  the  camera)  proceed  steadily  through   charging  cattlemen  and  chariots  shooting  from  left  and  right,  Old  West  traffic  at  the  start  of   Trail   of   Vigilantes;   Claire   Trevor's   30-­‐second   saunter   through   a   Harlem   street   of   milling   men   and   women   as   the   sound   shifts   through   conversations   and   babies'   cries   in   One   Mile   from  Heaven  (1937);  Helen  Mack  chasing  the  camera  into  her  doorway  and  slamming  the   door   on   her   pursuant   in   While   Paris   Sleeps   (1932);   Grant   Mitchell's   craby-­‐dollying   march   through  a  town  of  friends  he  hasn't  seen  in  18  years,  as  fluctuating  sound  marks  his  relative   distance   to   the   camera   in   Man   to   Man   (1930);   Jane   Russell   stalking   the   camera   down   in   Montana  Belle's  song-­‐and-­‐dance  sequence;  Abroad  with  Two  Yanks'  dance  circle.  All  of  the   core   Dwanian   principles—the   180°   forward-­‐backward   presentation;   the   linked   spaces   and   boundary-­‐crossing;  the  distillation  of  characters  to  gestures  and  motions  suggested  by  the   space—are  present(ed)  in  these  shots,  and  no  Dwan  film  is  complete  without  the  stroll,  a   sequence   of   almost   all   his   sound   and   late   silent   films,   in   which   two   characters,   moving   aimlessly,   though   aimlessly   at   a   set   speed   and   direction,   are   finally   reconciled.   Dwan's   signature   gesture   of   companionship,   as   if   his   camera   were   only   one   more   partner   accompanying   the   action,   treats   this   reconcilement   above   all   as   matter   of   synchronized   movement,  step-­‐by-­‐step:  whatever  their  personalities,  they  are  united  by  their  motion  and   defined,   for   the   moment,   by   little   else.   In   Getting   Gertie's   Garter,   the   trajectory   of   the   characters  are  precipitated  at  points  by  that  of  the  back-­‐and-­‐forth  camera  as  it  continues      

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one character's   line   of   movement,   even   after   the   character   has   left   the   screen,   to   a   point   where  a  second  enters  and  retracks  the  path  of  the  first.     Positions/dispositions:   just   as   each   role   is   a   variable   to   be   filled   in   by   the   varying   temperaments  of  different  actors,  characters  within  the  films  swap  places,  the  better  to  see   their   masks   as   such,   until   each   can   substitute   in   for   the   other's   narrative   function.   As   in   Dwan's  earliest  extant  films,  plot  becomes  a  kind  of  McGuyver’s  guide  to  the  infinite  roles   that  people,  places,  and  objects  might  play  within  a  limited  system.  But  only  two  roles  need   be   incarnated   to   suggest   an   infinity   more,   as   in   Buñuel—another   wryly   disengaged,   Placeholder   filmmaker   following   preposterous   schemas   to   their   logical   end.   And   another   filmmaker   who   makes   an   entire   art   out   of   slotting   ill-­‐suited   actors   into   generic   character   roles,   or   slotting   ill-­‐suited   characters   into   generic   narrative   situations,   the   better   to   see   how   the   movies   themselves   work   like   miniature   social   mechanisms   assigning   everyone   a   place  within  a  story—    

Jane Russell  with  a  balding,  bellying  George  Brent  in  Montana  Belle     So   from   A   Modern   Musketeer   to   its   more   coarsened   remake,   The   River's   Edge   (1957),   Dwan's   neat   charting   of   relations   only   offers   the   markers   to   see   how   the   characters   methodically   re-­‐chart   these   relationships   themselves,   until   all   allegiances,   however   narratively  justified,  may  seem  like  only  one  possibility  for  what  might  have  been.  Probably   only   Dwan   would   color-­‐coordinate   the   breakdown   of   moral   schemas   so   schematically   in   Surrender  (1950)  and  Slightly  Scarlet  (1956).  In  both,  the  ostensible  good  girl  and  bad  girl   flip-­‐flop  black-­‐and-­‐white,  then  color,  then  white-­‐and-­‐black  dresses  throughout  the  film—in   Slightly   Scarlet,   Rhonda   Fleming's   moral   center   cheats   on   her   mayor   boyfriend,   bargains   with   gangsters,   and   lobbies   to   win   her   sister   an   extrajudicial   release   from   hands   of   the   law—until  such  mathematical  reversals  only  show  the  characters,  once  more,  as  variables   of   narrative   functions.   So   by   the   end   of   Silver   Lode,   the   would-­‐be   wife   (white   wedding   gown)  and  prostitute  (purple  and  pink)  each  have  near-­‐matching  checkered  dresses.  This   beloved   Dwanian   duality   of   the   Madonna   and   the   Whore,   the   Girl   Next   Door   and   the   Femme   Fatale,   is   subjected   to   systematic   inversions   throughout   Dwan's   50s   films,   as   the   winsome  heroines,  much  like  Fleming,  turn  cheerily  to  prostitution  and  gambling  in  Belle      

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Le Grand   (1951)   and   Woman   They   Almost   Lynched   (1953),   or   as   Debra   Paget's   criminal   devotee  in  The  River's  Edge,  again  like  Fleming,  turns  out  to  be  the  film's  secret  source  of   conscience.  This  playing  two  ends  against  the  middle,  as  Slightly  Scarlet  puts  it,  reaches  a   consummate  geometry  in  Tennessee's  Partner,  in  which  the  good  girl  turns  out  to  be  a  gold-­‐ digger,  a  self-­‐prostituting  seductress  in  disguise,  while  the  film's  acknowledged  prostitute   (Fleming  again)  becomes  not  only  the  romantic  lead,  but,  better  than  a  Whore  With  a  Heart   of   Gold,   the   movie's   resident   proprietress:   a   favorite   Dwan   character   and   surrogate   engineer   whose   self-­‐designated   job   is,   like   the   director's,   to   coordinate   relationships   between  characters  in  town.    

Start and  Finish  in  perpetual  loop:  Slightly  Scarlet     The  question  of  how  many  of  Dwan's  cowgirls  turn  into  chanteuses  might  be  the  simplest   way  of  charting  his  own  career.  "Dwan’s  films  are  frequently  built  upon  twinned  or  linked   phenomena  that  will  typically  open  up  to  ironic  parallels  or  triangular  relations,  relations   that   concern   not   only   characters   but   spaces   and   events   as   well,"   writes   Joe   McElhaney   about   Slightly   Scarlet.9   These   doubles   that,   it's   inevitable   to   note,   proliferate   throughout   Dwan—double   heroes,   double   enemies,   double   lovers,   double   parents,   as   well   as   the      

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double spaces  of  adjacent  buildings,  bordering  towns,  and  counterpoised  regions  of  a  city   or   a   country,   all   in   addition   to   his   many   twins   and   bifurcated   stories—are   both   what   structure   the   films   so   tightly   in   algorithmic   dramatics,   while   upending   any   dramatic   progress   forward,   as   the   characters   are   free   simply   to   trade   places   within   basic   genre   lattices.  Spatially:  in  the  double  locations  of  Rebecca  of  Sunnybrook—one  house's  provincial   tea   adjacent   to   another's   radio   studio,   a   fantasy   of   celebrity—the   reality   of   the   places   themselves   is   cheerily   disregarded   except   for   their   Euclidean   values.   For   Dwan,   the   sites   serve   the   double   purpose   of   overturning   all   notion   of   a   natural,   outside   world,   while   establishing   clear   physical   landmarks   of   an   internal   topography   by   which   the   characters   can  be  tracked  in  continual  movements  back-­‐and-­‐forth  between  positions.  Theatrically:  the   double   heroes   of   Abroad   with   Two   Yanks,   trading   places   throughout   as   audience   and   performer,  start  by  substituting  for  each  other  to  win  a  girl's  affection,  but  are  soon  reciting   each   other's   lines,   then   their   own   lines,   then   doubling   their   own   roles   by   shamming   schitzophrenia,   and   finally   cross-­‐dressing   to   hide   from   the   police,   as   Dwan   stages   this   circulation   of   identities   perfectly,   half-­‐way   through,   as   a   roundelay   of   the   characters   swapping   partners   in   long,   circular   pans   that   return   to   the   camerawork   of   Black   Sheep   following  vectors  of  motion,  rather  than  individual  subjects.     In   Woman   They   Almost   Lynched   (1953),   the   doubles   double   again   as   the   placeholder   principle   is   extended   ad   infinitum.   Here,   within   the   strict   spatial   and   temporal   limits   of   a   single   saloon   and   day,  the   kindhearted   ingénue   (Joan   Leslie)   and   hotheaded   saloon-­‐keeper   (Audrey  Totter)  don't  simply  switch  places  with  one  other,  but  play  systematic  variations   of   the   rough-­‐riding   gunslinger   and   showgirl   seductress   until   they   can   become   alter-­‐egos   even   of   themselves   in   the   preposterous   costume-­‐changes   of   a   cut:   a   rapid   dissolve   is   all   that's   needed,   as   in   Stage   Struck   and   A   Modern   Musketeer   years   before,   for   Leslie   to   transform  from  moralistic  good  girl  to  barmaid  coquette.  As  usual  in  Dwan's  playhouse-­‐like   universe,   personality   is   no   more   than   wardrobe,   exchangeable   in   an   instant,   but   Woman   continues  to  double  the  doubles,  as  if  adapting  its  Wild  West  melodrama  by  way  of  a  tree   diagram:  not  only  must  the  women  pantomime  gender  binaries,  but  they  must  do  so  while   playing   one   role   in   the   guise   of   another,   as   Leslie   gets   into   a   bar   brawl   in   her   showgirl   dress,   and   Totter   sings   siren   songs   to   local   cowboys   in   her   ranchero   get-­‐up.   As   generic   signs,   they   are   primarily   signs   of   their   own   lack   of   any   true   personality   beyond   their   position  as  narrative  markers,  but  like  so  many  other  Dwan  movies,  the  real  story  is  how   these  surrogate  storytellers  deploy  themselves  as  such  markers  within  this  genre  universe.   Dwan's   own   systematic,   visual   inversions—long   takes   in   which   departing   characters   are   replaced   by   entering   characters   on-­‐screen;   symmetrical   blocking   as   actors   trade   places   within   a   shot;   mirrored   images   across   the   film   of   the   characters   flip-­‐flopping   outfits   in   identical   poses;   matching   shots   of   the   heroines   between   identical   companions   as   they   parallel  one  other's  trajectory—avows  their  place  as  so  consistently  replaceable,  the  static   roles   as   so   fluidly   interchangeable   in   this   twining   fabulation,   that   the   heroines   seem   like   both  the  operators  and  operation  itself  of  the  Placeholder  Principle  as  a  craft—  

 

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The absurdist  structural  principle  that  the  characters  can  only  alternate  between  these  two   antipodes   becomes   an   axiomatic   instability:   the   films   hew   so   tightly   to   mathematical   reversals,   conventions,   and   formulas,   that   within   the   rigorous   logic   of   the   characters   performing   their   own   theater,   absolutely   anything   can   happen,   anybody   fall   in   love   with   anybody   else,   kill   anybody   else,   etc.   When   the   upstanding   girlfriends   and   enterprising   coquettes   don't   so   openly   switch   parts,   a   recurring   Dwan   propensity   is   to   skew   the   love   triangle  so  far  from  the  "proper"  girl  to  show  a  whole  other  narrative  that  the  man  could   have  just  as  easily  pursued—and  sometimes  does—in  Her  First  Affaire  (1932),  Suez  (1938),   Up   in   Mabel's   Room,   Getting   Gertie's   Garter,   Passion   (1954),   Silver   Lode,   and   Pearl   of   the   South   Pacific   (1955).   Yvonne   De   Carlo's   double   role   in   Passion   collapses   to   Jane   Russell's   single   character   in   Montana   Belle   donning   the   outfits   of   each,   her   "underlying"   character   nothing   more   than   Jane   Russell   herself   playing   these   two   parts.   Either   man   seems   to   be   equally  worthy  of  the  woman  in  Chances  (1931),  High  Tension  (1936),  and  Josette  (for  most   of  its  running  time,  anyway;  1938)  just  as  the  natural  mother  and  lifelong  custodian  in  both   Wicked   (1931)   and   One   Mile   From   Heaven   seem   to   have   equal   claim   on   keeping   their   child.   These  last  two  films  offer  maybe  the  ultimate  stress  tests  of  Dwan's  application  of  fairy  tale   frameworks  to  real-­‐life  dramas,  managed  so  harmoniously  in  the  teens  but  here  brought  to   its   breaking   point;   so   skillful   is   Dwan   at   interweaving   messy   realities   into   structural   symmetries   that   the   films   are   carried   to   the   point   they   can't   be   adequately   resolved.  As   the   title   of   Woman   They   Almost   Lynched   gives   away   its   non-­‐ending,   its   somehow   inevitable   irresolution,  the  film  will  end  with  a  Confederate  soldier's  wholly  Dwanian  proposition  that   the   civil   war   has   ended   not   in   Griffithian   hellfire,   but   simply   because   "nobody   won—we   just  quit  fighting":  a  typical  Dwan  solution  to  problems  that  can't  solved,  and  nice  gloss  on   the   heroines'   own   abdication   from   their   self-­‐perpetuating   drama.   Of   course   the   joke,   as   usual   in   Dwan,   is   its   own   implausibility—as   if   historical   reality   might   ever   be   resolved   as   a   fairy   tale.   Again   it's   the   point   of   Dwan's   self-­‐perpetuating,   double   helix   structures   that   they   can  only  conclude,  at  the  exhaustion  of  permutational  possibilities,  without  any  resolution   at  all.    

Above:  Her  First  Affaire  (1932),  Sweethearts  on  Parade  (1953)      

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Where the   film's   social   histories   demand   that   one   side   claim   victory   in   blood,   the   permutations  simply  upend  sides  altogether:  the  claim  that  no  side  won  is  simply  a  form  of   winsome  narrative  resistance  to  humanity's  ho-­‐hum  barbarism.  Similarly  the  restoration  of   racial  hierarchies  at  the  end  of  One  Mile  from  Heaven,  the  story  of  a  white  girl  claimed  by   her   white   mother   who   never   knew   her   and   the   black   mother   who's   taken   her   in,   finds   a   narrative,  formal  satisfaction  that  only  points  to  the  irresolvable  social  dissatisfactions  the   film  has  spent  its  running  time  probing.  Chief  among  these:  the  urban  colonialism  of  a  wise-­‐ cracking   girl   journalist   whose   plucky   determination   to   get   a   scoop   in   Harlem   scandals   incite   the   whole   mess   her   story   is   expected   to   clear   up.   Typically,   the   film   parlays   her   double  role  as  the  film's  klutzy  divinity,  both  starting  and  solving  troubles,  into  the  double   genre   work,   screwball   comedy   and   social   melodrama,   in   another   of   Dwan's   hyphenate   works.  But  like  her,  the  movie  only  raises  issues  by  attempting  to  settle  them.     As   much   as   any   of   his   other   films,   One   Mile   From   Heaven   might   point   to   Dwan's   own   double   politics.  On  the  one  side,  a  committed  progressivism:  anti-­‐corporate  (Fighting  Odds  (1917)   and   Getting   Mary   Married   (1919),   in   which   women   of   corporate   families   uncovering   company   scandals),   anti-­‐conservative   (particularly   in   the   Fox   years:   High   Tension   makes   sure   to   note   its   enemy   lout   votes   Republican),   and   anti-­‐McCarthy   (Silver   Lode's   flagrant   allegory).   In   the   election   year   of   1940,   Young   People   not   only   synthesizes   Dwan's   two   favorite   tales   of   outsiders  reconciled   into   new   surroundings—1)   the   orphan   adopted   by   a   parent,   and   2)   the   exiled   acting   troupe   welcomed   into   a   community—but   literalizes   the   political  code  of  each,  that  if  roles  are  social  currency,  everyone  must  partake  equally  of  each   other's   aids   and   assets—mainly   affection.   As   Shirley   Temple   joins   the   vaudeville   team   of   Jack   Oakie   and   Charlotte   Greenwood,   this   makeshift   trio   seems   to   become,   through   the   sheer   power   of   performance,   the   same   theatrical   family   it's   played   on-­‐stage.   But   it's   one   form   of   performance   (improvised   collaboration)   that   will   square   off   against   another   (scripted   roles)   as   the   family   joins   a   small,   Vermont   town   populated   by   Griffith-­‐like   puritans,  all  tagged  here  as  anti-­‐New  Deal  Republicans  who  deliver  ritualized  harangues  in   the   town   hall   every   week.   Like   all   of   Dwan's   community   films,   the   action   is   structured   as   an   amble   through   the   town's   public   spaces:   here,   the   town   hall,   school   auditorium,   and   malt   shop.  Black  Sheep  and  to  some  degree  Frontier  Marshal,  rotating  from  character  to  character   each   rotating   from   space   to   space,   suggest   even   in   their   democratic   structure   that   public   spaces,   rather   than   money,   are   the   only   true   mediums   of   exchange:  shared   spaces   mean   the   films  sharing  their  running  times  among  each  of  the  characters,  and  the  characters  sharing   their  own  time,  stories,  and  experiences  with  one  another  despite  the  social  hierarchies.  For   its   part,   Young   People   insists   on   a   communal-­‐community   politic,   a   New   Deal   welfare   system   that,   as   an   institution,   must   be   rooted   in   the   personal   links   and   relations   of   its   members.   So   the  progressivism  Dwan's  films  advocate  seems  to  stem  from  nothing  more  than  the  ability   of  people  to  relate  to  one  another,  again  to  exchange  with  one  another  freely.     But,   on   the   other   side,   it's   the   full   exchanging   of   roles   that   also   undoes   proactive   politics   altogether:   nobody   wins—they   just   quit   fighting.   Like   those   of   Ford,   Mann,   Kafka   and   whoever   else,   Dwan's   Westerns   ask   what   legitimacy   a   tin   star   or   written   warrant   holds      

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except as  a  collectively  authorized  performance;  as  the  Law  is  nothing  more  than  what  it   says   it   is,   to   assert   its   name   is   to   wield   it   as   a   self-­‐legitimizing   force.   But   unlike   so   many   other   Westerns,   Dwan's   rarely   retreat   to   an   objective   ethical   code   that   could   validate   the   badge   by   restoring   it   to   moral   decency   in   the   end.   For   no   possibility   of   deeper   validation   is   offered  in  a  world  where  everyone  is  merely  who  they  say  they  are,  where  every  role  is  no   more   than   a   collectively   authorized   performance:   in   the   border   town   of   Woman   They   Almost  Lynched,  the  Law  is  a  lynch  mob,  the  evil-­‐doer  is  an  ex-­‐Confederate,  the  persecutors   are  Union  soldiers,  the  taunting  bad  girl  is  the  evil-­‐doer's  enemy,  and  the  guileless  good  girl   turns   to   gambling   and   prostitution   as   the   only   refuge   from   outside   social   forces;   in   Montana  Belle,  one  gang  impersonates  another  before  play-­‐acting  clients  of  the  saloon  they   robbed   and   will   soon   will   partner   with   in   business,   while   the   Law   provides   the   only   steady   clamp   on   all   these   saloon-­‐bound,   identity-­‐swapping,   ultra-­‐Dwanian   posers   performing   their  way  to  new  lives.  Likewise,  in  Silver  Lode's  comedy  of  errors,  the  hero's  fate  rides  on   the  Name  of  the  Law,  though  the  law  turns  out  to  be  a  masquerade,  created  by  those  who   have   named   themselves   its   agent:   to   prove   that   Dan   Duryea's   sheriff   is   a   criminal   imposter   who  has  forged  his  credentials,  John  Payne  must  criminally  forge  more  credentials  to  do  so.   In  this  loose,  Western  rehash  of  Mabel/Gertie,  a  decade  away  from  the  40s  comedies,  un-­‐ believability—nothing  they  do  is  to  be  believed—is  still  the  plot's  determinant  trope.     The   film   that   is   most   explicit   about   the   point—one   side   is   as   good   as   the   other—is   the   one,   per  usual  with  Dwan,  that  asks  it  to  be  taken  least  seriously.  "Before  the  turn  of  the  century,   death  and  violence  rode  the  western  range.  Law  and  order  could  not  keep  pace  with  men   who  turned  wilderness  into  profit,"  Trail  of  the  Vigilante's  opening  intertitle  declaims  over   a  protracted  montage  of  lynchers  and  gunmen  marauding  over  the  horizon.  "Then  came  the   Vigilantes!   Night   riders!   -­‐   -­‐   -­‐   Carried   away   by   their   own   power,   the   Vigilantes   became   as   desperate  and  bloody  as  their  enemies."  Here,  Franchot  Tone's  lawman  good  guy  enters  a   town  where  the  law  is  a  puppet  kingdom  for  vigilantes  who  have  driven  out  rustlers  they   hired  as  a  pretext  to  seize  local  power;  thus,  to  uphold  the  law  against  the  law,  the  good  guy   lawmen   must   become   vigilantes   against   the   evil   vigilantes   who   claimed   themselves   as   lawmen,   while   the   fickle   town,   as   in   Silver   Lode,   is   prostrate   simply   to   the   better   performance.  The  groundlessness  of  claims  leaves  the  characters  suspended  yet  again  from   any  possibility  of  authentic  representation,  legal,   narrative,   or  otherwise.  What  is  left  is  the   joy   of   the   charade,   the   play   within   it,   as   the   characters   splash   water   and   sit   under   the   shadows   of   moonlit   thickets   as   if,   playing   all   these   parts,   they   were   simply   actors   being   filmed  as  they  fool  around  in  character.  The  more  self-­‐mocking,  openly  staged  Dwan's  films   get,  the  closer  they  move  towards  something  like  documentary:    

   

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***   As   plot   and   its   object/objectives   become   little   more   than   catalysts   to   mobilize   the   characters   into   relationships/reactions,   the   role   of   the   object-­‐subject   undergarments   of   Garter   and   Mabel's   Room   become   literalized   in   The   Inside   Story   (1948):   the   issue   of   social   currency,  bartered  and  exchanged  as  if  without  foundation  through  almost  all  of  Dwan's   movies,  finally  becomes  one  of  financial  currency,  the  arbitrary  foundation  itself,  here,  of   the   community's   social   roles,   divisions,   and   relations.   In   retrospect,   money   seems   a   frequent   prime   mover   of   Dwan's   accounting.   The   Bildungsroman,   rags-­‐to-­‐riches   and   riches-­‐to-­‐rags  arcs  of  Fighting  Odds,  Getting  Mary  Married,  Tide  of  Empire,  and  East  Side,   West   Side,   in   which   the   protagonists   find   their   Edenic   lives   of   luxury   to   be   rooted   in   corporatist  rot,  turn  to  the  idiocy  of  Brewster's  Millions,  which  vaguely  recaps  the  plot  of   Mary  without  any  particular  moral  awakening.  So  the  vertically  formulated  story  of  East   Side,   West   Side—son   and   father   connect   from   opposite   sides   of   a   social-­‐spatial   divide   between  both  opposite  sides  of  town  (as  usual  in  Dwan),  as  well  as  between  the  low-­‐class,   low-­‐down   mines   of   New   York   City,   and   the   high-­‐class,   high-­‐rise   cocktail   parties   on   skyscrapers   the   laborers   have   erected—becomes   enervated   through   its   reiterations   in   High  Tension  and  High  Air  (1956).  By  the  latter,  a  25-­‐minute  TV  special  for  which  Dwan   supposedly   chose   his   own   story,   only   two   interiors   are   needed   to   suggest   a   social   microcosm   of   the   white-­‐collar   son   and   his   blue-­‐collar   father   learning   simply   to   work,   physically,  in  order  to  relate.  The  social  network  has  been  distilled  to  just  the  gestures  of   the   bodies   on-­‐screen—it's   the   lesson   of   Dwan's   short—that   alternately   epitomize   and   transcend  Dwan's  beloved  boundaries.  Against  the  waning  faith  of  the  town,  the  great  talk   of   money   in   Silver   Lode,   in   which   cash   no   longer   flows   but   has   been   abstracted   into   a   talismanic   object   for   which   hero   and   villain   alike   are   ready   to   die,   just   proves   the   point   of   Dan  Duryea's  arch-­‐nemesis  that  social  respectability  can  only  be  upheld  by  the  riches  for   which  its  a  blinding  euphemism.  Bling  of  the  old  West.     In  The  Inside  Story,  the  circulation  of  $1000  through  a  debt-­‐ridden  town  during  the  banking   crisis  of  1933  becomes  almost  invisibly  channeled  into  the  circulation  of  bodies  through  a   closed  set  of  locations  and  recurring  shots,  most  predominantly  a  pension-­‐house  stairway   climbed   slowly   by   almost   every   character's   anonymous   feet.   In   contrast   to   Dwan's   early   films,   tracking   the   intersecting   vectors   of   characters'   movements   through   closed   spaces   and   continuous   times,   The   Inside   Story   will   propose   an   opposite   procedure   for   the   late   films,   at   its   culmination   in   Cattle   Queen   of   Montana   (1954),   that   the   films   now   revolve   around  single  sites  in  recurring  sequences  of  static  shots,  capturing  the  variations  of  setting   and   light   at   different   times   of   day.   In   a   way,   it's   as   if   Dwan's   perpetual   scaling-­‐down   of   Griffith   had   shifted   from   the   cycling   spaces   of   True   Heart   Susie   to   the   cycling   times   of   Intolerance,  with  the  History  of  Man  replaced  instead  by  the  history  of  a  couple  farmhouses   and   a   field   in   Cattle   Queen,10   or   a   couple   local   businesses   in   The   Inside   Story.   But   the   paralleling  of  a  money  economy  with  a  spatial  economy  is  not  so  much  a  pat,  engineered   analogy   as   a   more   practical   equation:   the   characters   have   to   continue   orbiting   the   same      

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spaces and   tracks   in   order   to   pass   the   money   on.   It's   merely   a   representation   of   the   circulation  and  trade  of  money  in  its  most  primitive  form:  physical  interaction.     And   in   of   itself,   this   unmediated   exchange   of   money   should   belie   any   notion   that   the   film   is   quite   the   ad   for   a   free   market   its   somewhat   contradictory   double   mantras—that   money   must  flow  like  blood;  that  money  must  be  entrusted  to  the  banks—seems  to  suggest.  The   solution  to  a  series  of  debts—that  the  $1000  mistakenly  appropriated  by  a  local  proprietor   pays   off   the   debts   of   each   character   to   the   next   till   it   returns   to   the   claim   agent,   never   having   belonged   to   any   of   them—can   only   be   sustained   by   a   number   of   fairy-­‐tale   suspension   of   any   capitalist   logic.   A   functioning   economy,   The   Inside   Story   suggests,   will   depend  on  the  total  absence  of  interest  (thus  the  $1000  owed  is  the  same  at  each  exchange,   and   occasionally   rounded   down),   of   personal   savings   (all   money   earned   during   this   banking   holiday   is   immediately   spent   to   prevent   accumulation   that   would   necessitate   inequalities   and   inflation),   and   of   a   speculative   market   (the   banking   holiday   not   only   prevents   runs   but   any   dealings   in   cash   alternatives—each   dollar   is   accounted   for).   In  other   words,   it   depends   on   the   neatly   anti-­‐capitalist   but   altogether   democratic   logic   of   a   community  sharing  its  resources  evenly,  even  while  the  inability  of  anyone  to  accumulate   money   is   one   cause   of   the   whole   mess   in   the   first   place.   Without   this   democratic   love   to   back   the   system,   it   is   clear   what   inequalities   and   funnel   effects   must   result,   as   they   already   have  within  the  film.  The  principle  set  in  motion,  a  Jeffersonian  idea  of  an  economy—which   is  to  say  altogether  Dwanian  society—is  grounded  in  material  rather  than  virtual  relations   with  one  another,  through  a  limited  resource  of  hard  cash  rather  than  an  imaginary  stock  of   speculative  capital  derived  from  loans,  never  mind  Wall  Street.       Jefferson:     "The  question  will  be  asked  and  ought  to  be  looked  at,  what  is  to  be  the  resource  if   loans   cannot   be   obtained?   There   is   but   one,   "Carthago   delenda   est."   Bank   paper   must  be  suppressed,  and  the  circulating  medium  must  be  restored  to  the  nation  to   whom  it  belongs.  It  is  the  only  fund  on  which  they  can  rely  for  loans;  it  is  the  only   resource  which  can  never  fail  them,  and  it  is  an  abundant  one  for  every  necessary   purpose.  Treasury  bills,  bottomed  on  taxes,  bearing  or  not  bearing  interest,  as  may   be  found  necessary,  thrown  into  circulation  will  take  the  place  of  so  much  gold  and   silver,   which   last,   when   crowded,   will   find   an   efflux   into   other   countries,   and   thus   keep  the  quantum  of  medium  at  its  salutary  level."11     To  the  question  of  what  happens  when  a  loan  cannot  be  obtained,  The  Inside  Story  responds   with  an  algebraically  ludicrous  solution:  as  credit  is  the  origination  of  fictional  capital,  the   conception  of  money  that  doesn't  belong  to  the  debtor  who  must  substantiate  it,  indeed  it   will   be   money   that   doesn't   belong   to   the   debtors   of   this   town   that   will   magically   pay   off   their  debts.  Fictional  debts  must  be  underwritten  by—fictions.  A  parallel  that  is  perfectly   neat:   nobody   actually   owes   each   other   money   (everyone   is   in   the   same   place   by   the   end   of      

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the film   as   at   the   start),   though   they   think   they   do.   To   undo   credit,   they   merely   need   to   convince  themselves  they  don't  owe  it  at  all.     Getting  Community  Credit:  So  the  claim  agency  unwittingly  loans  $1000  to  one  townsman   and  waits  a  half-­‐a-­‐day  for  it  to  come  back  having  solved—resolved,  absolved,  dissolved— the  town's  financial  difficulties.  Nevertheless,  it  takes  a  purchase  for  the  final  holder  of  the   money,  the  single  character  who  isn't  in  debt,  to  continue  its  circulation  back  to  its  source,   and   so   someone   finally   buys   a   painting   for   $1000   from   the   painter,   the   town's   resident   layabout.   Though   the   intended   recipient   of   the   agency's   $1000   is   a   farmer,   it's   not   an   agricultural   economy   that   sustains   the   town   but,   preposterously,   an   artist's.   The   irony   is   neat:  the  most  useful,  necessary  gesture  to  clear  the  residents  out  from  the  shadow  of  Big   Business  is  the  most  useless,  superfluous  of  all:  a  local  work  of  art.  This  vision  of  utopia— nothing   but   a   place   where   nobody   owes   anybody   anything,   where   the   roles   of   debtor/creditor  and  buyer/seller  are  swapped  so  continuously  and  fluidly  as  to  lose  all  the   value   until   relations   are   magically   nothing   more   than   a   matter   of   personal   feeling—will   become  most  pronounced  in  the  shadow  of  1)  loans,  2)  art  purchases,  and  3)  the  utility  of   useless   performances   through   the   artist's   trilogy   of   Calendar   Girl,   I   Dream   of   Jeanie,   and   Sweethearts   on   Parade.   As   the   artists'   communities   in   each   of   these   films   become   bound   by   the   swapping   of   art   and   romantic   partners,   by   the   basic   attempt   to   evade   financial   yokes   from  just  outside  these  utopias,  Calendar  Girl's  moral  economy  is  founded  in  an  exchange  of   talents,  and   Jeanie's   mostly   concerned   with   the   perils   of   copyright   law.   "In   1849,   a   young   man  wrote  a  song,"  sings  a  black  soloist  on  a  floating  raft  in  Jeanie's  opening  shot,  the  lyrics   quite  possibly  by  Dwan  himself:  "The  song,  it  made  no  sense  at  all  /  But  it  moved  the  world   along."  An  altogether  useless  nostrum  has  value,  performatively,  Bill  Shirley's  quack  doctor   confirms  in  Sweethearts,  if  only  the  people  can  convince  themselves  to  believe  it.     ***     Where   the   Western   seems   like   the   secret   genre   of   Dwan's   films   through   the   40s—the   story,   of   exiles   reformulating   the   internal   relations   of   the   communities   (towns,   households)   into   which   they're   slowly   initiated,   most   crystalline   in   the   Shirley   Temple   films   and   Driftwood   (1947)—Dwan's   dystopic   last   films   seem   to   extend   from   a   rediscovered   interest,   after   1949's   Sands   of   Iwo   Jima,   in   a   genre   he   had   last   favored   in   about  1913:  the  war  movie.  The  explicit  war  films  that  follow—Wild  Blue  Yonder  (1951),   Flight  Nurse  (1953),  and  Hold  Back  the  Night  (1956)—set  some  kind  of  protocol  for  this   late   revisionism.   No   longer   is   the   outsider   ushered   into   a   stratified   system   of   friendships,   loves,  and  rivalries,  a  musical-­‐chairs  social  code  in  which  everyone  finds  their  places  by   alternating   them   throughout   the   film.   Instead,   the   heroes   find   themselves   stranded   in   some  barren  zone  where  their  makeshift  community,  nothing  more  than  a  wisecracking   camp   against   the   wilderness,   hopes   only   to   survive   the   onslaught   of   some   anonymous,   off-­‐screen  terror.  Where  just  about  every  other  major  Hollywood  director  had  darkened   his  vision  in  the  40s,  more  often  confronting  the  war—through  mirages  of  ghost  stories,   hallucinations,  uncanny  doublings,  and  self-­‐inflicted  torments—as  a  tenor  than  a  subject,      

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Dwan would   skip   such   psychological   studies   for   physical   comedy.   But   by   the   era   of   the   Cold   War   and   Korea,   Dwan   takes   on   the   genre   just   at   the   point   it   has   become   duly   abstracted   from   anything   like   subjectivity   or   moral   comprehension.   In   a   way,   Sands,   fondly  remembered  as  self-­‐aware  agitprop  for  the  Greatest  Generation,  helps  launch  the   Korean   war   film   (and   fortress   film)   as   a   genre,   even   before   the   Korean   War:   gone   are   even   the   geographical   distinctions   of   Objective   Burma   (1945)   or   Battleground   (1949)   in   this   vast,   boundless   netherworld   the   GIs   stake   out   against   an   army   of   shadow-­‐men   that   can't   be   engaged   in   any   way—converted,   explained,   deceived,   or   even   really   seen.   Such   enemies  can  only  be  shot  at  blindly,  a  good  way  for  the  soldiers  to  bond.     So   in   Dwan's   subsequent   Westerns   and   exotica—Surrender,   Silver   Lode,   Passion,   Cattle   Queen   of   Montana,   Escape   to   Burma,   Tennessee's   Partner,   and   Slightly   Scarlet—the   formerly  hokey  communities  will  similarly  turn  to  shadow-­‐men,  church-­‐goers  and  goons   alike,   vague   cheerleaders   of   vigilante   justice   whom   the   heroes   merely   try   to   survive.   Previously  able  to  surmount  their  own  puritanism  as  though  it  were  nothing  more  than   an  American  hazing  ritual,  a  trial  of  tough  love,  the  choruses  of  community  members  now   become   little   more   than   the   agents   of   Dwan's   comic   logic,   happy   to   trust   first   appearances  as  fact.  Even  Dwan's  usual  inversions  of  moral  order  are  inverted:  where  a   stand-­‐up  hero  or  heroine  might  have  had  to  choose  between  two  lovers,  two  families,  two   places,   two   lives,   commensurately   valid   as   solutions,   the   John   Payne   heroes,   here,   no   longer   provide   a   stable   moral   axis   by   which   moral   distinctions   of   good   and   bad   can   be   systematically  upended.  No  proof  of  Payne's  innocence  ever  arrives  in  Silver  Lode—only  a   proof  of  Duryea's  guilt—and  while  the  genre  codes  key  viewers  to  his  presumed  integrity,   his  life  turns  out  to  be  exactly  the  façade  Duryea  describes:  like  that  of  so  many  late  Dwan   protagonists,  a  simulacra  of  small-­‐town  richesse  fabricated  from  the  winnings  of  a  lucky   poker   game.   As   the   sanctimonious   townsmen   refuse   to   believe   it,   the   façade   crumbles   into   blankness,   as   it   will   once   more   in  Tennessee's   Partner,   in   which   Payne   again   loses   the   support  of  a  pious  town  of  hypocrites  who  brand  him  as  the  lout  he's  always  been.  What   is   left,   after   the   film's   modal   variations   on   faithlessness   of   characters   whose   self-­‐made   images   and   words   are   all   lies,   is   simply   the   faith   these   two   men   have   in   each   other— though  one  has  no  underlying  identity  behind  his  false  name,  "Cowpoke,"  and  the  other,   Payne,  saves  his  friend  through  a  patronizing  lie  that  makes  him  the  cuckold  of  the   town.   By   Slightly   Scarlet,   Payne,   the   ostensible   hero   caught   between   two   girls,   has   simply   adopted  the  methods  of  the  criminals  he  despises  to  usurp  their  place  as  gang-­‐lord.  The   film  is  structured  scene-­‐by-­‐scene  as  a  series  of  face-­‐offs,  in  which  the  hero  is  simply  the   one   opposing   the   other,   worse   evil.   Likewise,   the   protagonists   of   The   River's   Edge   find   redemption   simply   by   being   slightly   better   than   Ray   Milland's   stock   villain,   in   an   unfriendly   but   picturesque   world   where   moral   distinctions,   conceived   on-­‐screen   by   the   three  leads,  are  relative  to  nothing  other  than  each  other.     Dwan's  doubling-­‐compulsion  no  longer  seems  like  just  a  question  of  narratival  balance,   a   constant  connecting-­‐and-­‐redrawing  the  dots,  as  in  earlier  stories  of  lead  characters  caught   between  two  poles.  Instead,  in  Surrender  (a  pair  of  pairs  with  two  girls  and  two  guys)  and      

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its own  pair  of  offshoots,  Tennessee's  Partner  (two  guys)  and  Slightly  Scarlet  (two  girls),  the   doubles   themselves   emerge   as   the   leads   without   a   lone   character   to   serve   as   a   steady   surrogate   for   the   audience   between   them.   John   Payne   and   Debra   Paget,   caught   between   two   lovers,   may   be   the   fulcrums   around   which   Slightly   Scarlet   and   The   River's   Edge   both   turn,   but   the   journeys   of   these   not-­‐particularly   sympathetic   characters—towards   corruption  in  one  and  redemption  in  the  other—are  not  quite  the  films'.  In  late  Dwan,  the   idea  of  offering  the  audience  any  sort  of  vantage  point  from  within  the  film  seems  dissolved   into   a   more   Sophoclean   sense   of   plotting:   the   motives   and   paths   of   the   characters   from   point  A  to  point  B  (hate  to  love,  innocence  to  corruption,  renown  to  degradation)  operate   with   such   fixed   focus,   that   little   chance   is   offered   to   weigh   the   choices   and   trade-­‐offs   the   narrative  might  have  to  offer.  Sealed  off  from  any  psychological  relatability,  the  characters   become  comprehensible  only  as  agents  of  a  continuous  course  whose  culmination,  whether   in  hellfire  or  salvation,  can  be  anticipated  in  every  act.  The  film  becomes  something  like  a   piece  of  architecture,  Baroque  once  again,  being  both  assembled  and  disassembled  piece  by   piece,  until  the  characters  by  the  end  have  only  become  inversions  of  themselves.       Neither   fate   nor   self-­‐determination,   then,   seem   to   play   much   of   a   part   in   these   inevitable   trajectories:   as   in   the   Swanson   and   Fairbanks   films,   the   characters   only   create   new   roles   for   themselves   to   play   in   this   world   of   appearances.   Unlike   the   Fairbanks   and   Swanson   films,   however,   the   characters   no   longer   play   such   roles   to   transcend   the   social   bonds   of   humdrum   community   life,   but   to   assimilate   themselves   into   communities   that   have   systematically   rejected   every   role   they   have   ever   tried   to   play   before.   It's   logical   that   almost   every   Dwan   character   in   his   50s   Westerns   ends   up   seeking   refuge   either   in   jail   or   a   casino-­‐bordello,   the   only   social   spheres   where   the   populaces   are   honest   enough   to   admit   their   lives   are   no   more   than   performing   shells.   "I'm   Abby   Dean,"   one   courtesan   in   Tennessee's   Partner   introduces   herself,   as   if   this   recitation   of   a   probable   stage   name,   perhaps   her   only   line   in   the   film,   corresponds   to   anything   other   than   her   own   sense   of   presentation.   But   this   superfluous   gesture   is   somehow   crucial   to   Dwan's   sense   of   democratic  representation.  "I'm  Priscilla  Forbes,"  says  the  next.  "I'm  Jenny  Lee."  "I'm  Susan   Green.  "I'm  Bee  Haver."  And  "I'm  Carbie  Ash."     So  Dwan's  doubling  forces  the  characters  to  be  considered  only  as  opposing  roles,  each  so   perfectly   counterbalanced   by   the   other   as   to   become   abstracted   into   archetypes.   Though   frustrated  archetypes:  as  one  or  both  switch  roles,  the  symmetry  is  preserved  even  while   being  overturned.   Alternating  with  the  dollying  camera,  now,  are  steady,  static  shots  that   open  onto  empty,  proscenium  spaces  and  wait  for  the  characters—like  the  courtesans—to   present   themselves   to   the   camera   one-­‐by-­‐one,   each   taking   the   place   of   the   other   before   leaving  the  shot  altogether.                

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By The   Restless   Breed,   Dwan's   career-­‐long   mechanism   of   extended   spatial/temporal   continuity   has   broken   down.   Where   Dwan's   cinema   had   always   pivoted   around   doorways   and   windows,   Restless   Breed's  cutting   makes   systematic   false   matches   out   of   discontiguous   spaces,  connected  only  by  an  old  Dwan  device  of  one  character  listening  in  on  another.  Above   all,   the   device   had   surely   once   been   practical:   when,   as   in   Griffith,   each   room   is   a   self-­‐ contained   scene   of   its   own,   such   domestic   spying   fluidly   establishes   the   geography   of   each   room's   relation   to   the   next,   so   that   the   characters   will   eventually   switch   places   in   a   perfectly   defined,   performative   public   realm.   As   a   favorite   kind   of   establishing   shot,   windows   throughout   Dwan   become   visual   frames,   neatly   delimiting   a   space   on   a   coordinate   plane   (drama  transpires  in  His  First  Affaire  as  a  girl  passes  from  one  pane  to  the  other  where  her   lover  awaits),  that  double  as  narrative  frames  paneling  each  scene  and  narrative  thread  side-­‐ by-­‐side.  Abroad  with  Two  Yanks  use  one  window  to  revive  teens-­‐style  silent  comedy  as  the   characters  can  be  seen  but  not  heard;  only  a  live  orchestra  offers  accompaniment  from  the   background.  In  Silver  Lode,  Dwan  redeploys  a  favorite  strategem  of  Getting  Gertie's  Garter:  as   in   his   comedies,   windows   serve   as   transitional   points   for   the   narrative   to   shift   from   one   trajectory  to  another,  the  protagonists  intersecting  each  other  without  meeting  on  either  side   of  the  frame.  Both  Brewster's  Millions  and  Calendar  Girl  will  open  with  windows—or  rather,   open  with  windows  opening—as  passages  into  the  film's  universe,  while  Calendar  Girl  has  its   string  of  lovers  meeting,  singing,  and  dancing  through  windows  across  a  courtyard,  each  of   their   scenes   harmonizing   with   one   another   through   Dwan's   use   of   windows   as   a   montage   device;   Tennessee's   Partner   utilizes   a   yokel   named   "Grubstake"   for   its   unwitting   master   of   ceremonies  wandering  from  door  to  door,  window  to  window,  each  time  the  film  needs  to   transition  to  a  new  space  and  scene.  But  in  Restless  Breed,  the  scenes  will  no  longer  seem  to   be  linked  by  much  more  than  the  editing  process  itself.     94    


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As McElhaney   points   out,   the   breakdown   of   Dwan's   cartography—his   positioning   of   landmarks   by   which   the   characters   can   be   tracked   moving   fluidly   from   one   point   to   another   in   real-­‐time—has   already   begun   by   Slightly   Scarlet.   By   The   Restless   Breed,   assembled   almost   entirely   out   of   matching   shots   between   adjoining   spaces   that   have   openly   been   shot   under   different   lighting   schemes,   at   different   times   of   days,   in   different   sets   altogether,  even   this   simulation   of   Euclidean   reality   has   become   an   open   fabrication.   Enchanted   Island   (1958)   will   end   in   media   res,   just   short   of   a   closing   reconciliation,   apparently   at   the   point   when   the   film   ran   out   of   money,   with   the   ending   signaled   clearly   enough   anyhow,   while   Most   Dangerous   Man   Alive   (1961)   treats   its   own   gangster-­‐sci-­‐fi   alloy-­‐genre  as  a  kind  of  object  for  investigation  whose  most  peripheral  features—dancing   molls,   movieland   newspapers—become   magnified   into   the   subject   of   the   film.   More   significant   plot   points   and   set-­‐ups,   however,   are   elided,   as   if   Dwan   had   entered   his   own   genre  universe  and  filmed  only  what  had  interested  him,  Rose  Hobart-­‐like,  while  discarding   the  rest.  In  a  movie  where  the  characters  turn  to  projector-­‐light  by  the  end,  one  mob  boss   talks   to   the   camera   for   so   long   without   any   indication   of   his   surrounding   scene   or   listeners   that  it's  clear  he  speaks  only  as  a  performer,  sitting  in  space  that  may  be  devoid  of  anything   other  than  a  camera  crew,  no  more  connected  to  subsequent  shots  of  his  henchmen  than  he   is  to  the  flashback  scene  he  narrates.     The   doubling   nearly   disappears   by   Dwan's   very   last   films,   and   what   is   left,   throughout   this   late   period,   is   no   longer   the   play   of   grinning   actors   within   generic   plots   and   archetypical   roles,  but  the  reduction  of  these  roles  and  plots  to  the  successive  poses  of  the  performers,   whose  most  basic  gestures  become  at  once  theatrical  clichés  from  the  1910s  and  nothing   more   than   the   actors'   own   bodies   touching   on-­‐screen.   The   plot   could   be   reduced   to   the   most  carnal  gesture  of  Dwan's  increasingly  carnal  woman,  Paget  biting  her  lover's  back  to   try   to   prove   to   him   he's   flesh   and   blood:   where   the   comically   mortal   Fairbanks   and   Swanson  dreamt  of  becoming  stars,  icons  of  their  time,  Ron  Randell's  damned  superhero-­‐ gangster  wants  only  to  be  human.  In  Most  Dangerous  Man,  the  non-­‐budget  brings  the  film   full   circle:   as   in   Hollywood's   earliest,   set-­‐bound   films,   entire   locations   are   signified   synecdochically   only   by   their   wallpaper,   a   patterned   screen   against   which   the   actors   perform.  Early  on,  scientists  watch  a  film  of  the  hero  trying  to  escape  a  nuclear  test  site  as   he   pounds   at   its   limits,   which   are   evidently   the   lens   of   the   camera,   the   screen   of   the   film   they're   watching,   as   if   the   entire   site   were   inscribed   not   by   walls   but   cameras.   Far   from   Fairbanks   and   Swanson,   his   desperate   exertions   to   escape   this   manufactured   science-­‐ fiction  hell,  we're  told,  are  simply  an  attempt  to  claw  his  way  out  of  the  movie.  

 

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1 Peter  Bogdanovich,  The  Last  Pioneer  (New  York:  Praeger,  1971),  17,  30.   2 Bill  Krohn,  "The  Cliff  and  the  Flume,"  in  David  Phelps  and  Gina  Telaroli  (ed.),  Allan  Dwan:   A  Dossier  (Lumière,  2013) 3  Bret  Harte,  "Tennessee's  Partner,"  http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-­‐

etexts/bharte/bl-­‐bharte-­‐tenpar.htm. 4  Bogdanovich,  26.   5  R.  Emmet  Sweeney,  "A  Modern  Musketeer:  Adventures  in  Fairbanks-­‐Sitting,"  in  David  

Phelps and  Gina  Telaroli  (ed.),  Allan  Dwan:  A  Dossier  (Lumière,  2013).   6  Daniel  Kasman,  "Up  in  Mabel's  Room/Getting  Gertie's  Garter:  Vector  Mobiles,"  in  David   Phelps  and  Gina  Telaroli  (ed.),  Allan  Dwan:  A  Dossier  (Lumière,  2013).   7  Noah  Teichner,  "Manhattan  Madness:  A  Note  on  the  Inter-­‐titles,"  in  David  Phelps  and  Gina   Telaroli  (ed.),  Allan  Dwan:  A  Dossier  (Lumière,  2013).   8  Ibid.,  88.   9  Joe  McElhaney,  "Slightly  Scarlet:  Observations,"  in  David  Phelps  and  Gina  Telaroli  (ed.),  

Allan Dwan:  A  Dossier  (Lumière,  2013).   10  Cf.  Gina  Telaroli's  piece,  which  both  argues—and  argues  against—the  point.  Gina   Telaroli,  "Cattle  Queen  of  Montana:  Seeing  Daylight,"  in  David  Phelps  and  Gina  Telaroli   (ed.),  Allan  Dwan:  A  Dossier  (Lumière,  2013).   11  Thomas  Jefferson,  "Letter  to  John  W.  Eppes,  September  11,  1813,"   http://www.yamaguchy.com/library/jefferson/eppes1.html  

 

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INSPECTION DES  DWAN1    

Serge Bozon   Translated  by  Ted  Fendt    

 

Escape to  Burma  (1955)     Godard  noted  that  people  sometimes  go  to  see  “an  old  Lubitsch,”  but  never  to  read  “an  old   Céline.”   Though   contemporaneous   to   each   other,   film   history   lays   closer   to   us   than   literary   history.  Yet  there  is  a  body  of  work  that  seems  to  come  from  very  far  away:  we  don’t  go  to   see  “an  old  Dwan.”  The  filmmaker  is  so  forgotten  in  the  history  of  Hollywood  that  he  makes   this  history  seem  even  farther  away  than  might  be  expected.     This   forgetfulness   might   be   understood   historically—85%   of   his   films   are   lost.   Or   as   a   strategy—before  the  sad  fate  imposed  by  the  studios  on  the  most  glorious  of  his  colleagues   from   his   youth   (Griffith,   Stroheim),   the   filmmaker   decided   at   the   beginning   of   the   1930s   to   work   in   secret.   His   credo:   to   not   garner   laurels,   never   to   stop   shooting,   even   if   it   meant   accepting  any  script,  cast,  or  budget.  The  films  from  the  end  of  his  career,  maybe  his  most   beautiful,   were   shot   on   average   in   less   than   fifteen   days,   for   less   than   $300,000,   at   a   rate   of   three  a  year.      

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The historic  and  strategic  reasons  for  his  being  forgotten  are  only,  however,  the  symptom   of   a   secret   lying   within   the   films   themselves.   If   Tourneur   is   the   filmmaker   of   secrets   by   night,   when   disquiet   rules,   Dwan   is   their   filmmaker   by   day,   when   serenity   keeps   watch.2   How   can   secrets   of   day   and   night   be   distinguished   from   one   another?   And,   first,   how   to   distinguish  the  secret  of  these  films  and  that  of  our  own  lives?     If  I  tell  a  secret  to  a  friend,  there  are  at  least  two  people  for  whom  the  secret  is  not  one  at   all—the  friend  and  me.  And  even  if  I  never  tell  the  secret,  there  is  at  least  one  person  for   whom   it   is   not   one—me.   In   life,   every   secret   is   impure.   In   life,   every   secret   has   at   least   one   agent   for   whom   the   secret   is   not   a   secret.   Not   in   a   Dwan   or   Tourneur   film   because   no   character   is   its   agent.   The   secret   is   given   straight   from   the   film   to   the   viewer.   How?   The   Mac-­‐Mahonians  (particularly  Jacques  Lourcelles),  who  discovered  Tourneur  and  Dwan,  had   one  answer:  through  the  mise  en  scène.     Mise  en  scène  is  a  way  of  spatially  organizing  a  story  written  on  paper.  Let’s  begin  with  the   paper.  The  storylines  are  not  what  they  seem  to  be:  the  dark  western,  the  adventure  film,   the   film   noir   all   are   transformed   into   fables   by   an   excess   of   concision   (cf.   Angel   in   Exile   (1948),  Silver  Lode  (1954),  The  River’s  Edge  (1957)).  Characters  are  not  who  they  seem  to   be:   the   thief   in   Escape   to   Burma   (1955)   is   not   a   thief,   the   mercenary   in   Cattle   Queen   of   Montana   (1954)   is   not   a   mercenary,   etc.   The   characters’   secret   is   revealed   by   the  end   to   be   of   a   nobility   that   is   as   incredible   as   it   is   unexpected.   Unexpected   not   because   these   characters   ever   give   the   illusion   of   baseness,   but   because   they   had   things—dark   and   dangerous—to   take   care   of,   and   they   couldn’t   take   care   of   them   without   a   fake   identity.   What  remains  for  them  to  live  out  afterwards,  now  that  they're  themselves?     Everything,  because  this  adventure—undesired  and  executed  under  a  false  identity—also   allowed  them  to  find  something  else.  A  woman:  not  to  be  conquered,  but  who  conquers  the   hero  by  showing  him  how  to  live  in  peace.  How,  and  above  all  where:  a  site  that  will  serve   as   a   second   soul   mate;   hence   the   secret   of   these   landscapes   consistently   in   accord   with   what   we   won't   find   out   'til   the   end—the   nobility   of   the   heroes.   Dwan   films   these—these   landscapes  like  familiar  soul  mates—with  a  fullness  that  is  so  minute,  almost  Japanese,  that   the   viewer   painfully   spurs   on   the   possible   irruption   of   danger,   namely   that   their   happiness   will   be   shattered   by   whatever   is   immediately   off-­‐screen   (cf.   the   shots   preceding   the   Indian   attack   at   the   beginning   of   Cattle   Queen   of   Montana).   I’m   again   returning   to   Jacques   Lourcelles.     Secret   of   the   bodies:   the   muscled   inexpressiveness   of   the   Mac-­‐Mahonian   actors   (Tom   Tryon,   Dana   Andrews,   Ronald   Reagan,   Randolph   Scott…)   allows   the   nobility   of   the   characters   to   remain   anonymous.   It   is   enough   to   imagine   Clark   Gable   in   Tennessee’s   Partner—which  seems  written  for  him—and  the  ending  will  lose  its  sense  of  naked  tragedy   99  


because Gable   has   less   of   a   need   for   friends   than   John   Payne.   Why?   Gable’s   flamboyance   needs   nobody   because   it   radiates   all   on   its   own,   as   old   as   the   actor   is.   Payne’s   flamboyance   needs   someone   else,   a   good   fella   as   honest   and   forthright   as   Payne   is   crooked   or   adventurous,  because  his  flamboyance  is  almost  “passé,”  or  in  any  case  dull.  The  same  goes   for   the   graceless   and   aggressive   eroticism   of   the   actresses   (Barbara   Stanwyck,   Virginia   Mayo,  Rhonda  Fleming…).     The   mystery   is   that   the   film’s   secret   is   not   obtained   by   adding   up   the   secret   of   the   story,   of   the  landscapes,  and  of  the  actors.  It  resides,  instead,  in  those  moments  of  abstract  serenity   that  just  momentarily  escape  the  story,  the  landscapes,  and  the  actors.  An  example:  in  the   middle   of   Escape   to   Burma,   a   child   coming   out   of   nowhere   tries   to   give   a   letter   to   the   heroine.  Sent  out  by  a  maid  who  takes  him  for  a  beggar,  the  child  sits  down  on  a  bench  and   goes  to  sleep.  The  shot  is  sublime.  At  the  end  of  the  film,  this  letter  saves  everything.  At  the   moment  the  child  falls  asleep,  we  don’t  know  it.  It’s  a  secret.                                                                                                                     1  This  title  is  of  a  book  Jean-­‐Claude  Biette  was  planning  to  write.   2  Is  it  an  accident  if  Tennessee’s  Partner  (Dwan,  1955)  and  Canyon  Passage  (Tourneur,   1946)  are  the  two  most  beautiful  westerns  about  male  friendship?  

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A NOTE  ON  THE  INTER-­‐TITLES  IN   MANHATTAN  MADNESS  (1916)    

Noah Teichner    

  An  Eastern  Westerner     Released  in  October  of  1916,  Manhattan  Madness  is  one  of  Allan  Dwan’s  earliest  surviving   films.  It  is  a  short  feature1  that  was  made  during  the  formative  years  of  American  cinema,  a   vibrant  period  that  saw  not  only  a  large-­‐scale  migration  to  Hollywood,  but  also  the  rise  of   the   feature   film   and   the   growing   dominance   of   the   star   system.   This   last   detail   is   of   considerable   importance   in   the   case   of   Manhattan   Madness,   as   it   is   Dwan’s   second   in   a   series   of   collaborations   with   Douglas   Fairbanks,   then   on   his   way   to   becoming   one   of   America’s  most  prominent  leading  men.  One  particularity  of  the  picture  is  the  role  played   by  the  written  word,  which  also  happens  to  be  a  largely  forgotten  facet  of  Fairbanks’  screen   persona.   Manhattan   Madness   offers   a   fascinating   case   study   of   this   issue   due   to   the   diversity  of  its  hybrid  form:  it  is  comprised  of  a  largely  expository  and  inter-­‐title  heavy  first   half   that   builds   up   to   an   action-­‐oriented   finale   that   reflects   a   playful,   self-­‐conscious   approach  to  film  narrative.  

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This two-­‐part   structure   of   Manhattan   Madness   mirrors   its   story,   which   is   built   on   one   of   those   heavy   contrasts   that   silent   cinema   could   pull   off   with   ease.   Just   as   the   first   Dwan/Fairbanks  film,  The  Habit  of  Happiness  (1916),  is  structured  around  the  dichotomy   between   rich   and   poor,   Manhattan   Madness   plots   life   in   the   open   West   against   the   up-­‐tight   East—or  as  the  opening  inter-­‐title  succinctly  sets  up:  “The  argument  of  this  story  contrasts   the   East   with   the   West   in   respect   to   their   joy   yielding   qualities.”   This   is   followed   by   two   more  inter-­‐titles  (“When  we  say  ‘The  East’  this  is  what  we  think  of—“  and  “When  we  say   ‘The   West’   we   picture   this—”)   that   both   lead   to   a   visual   definition   of   each   region.   Not   surprisingly,   the   all-­‐American   Fairbanks   is   posited   as   the   representative   of   the   open   country   of   the   Wild   West.   In   an   introductory   scene   that   seems   to   exist   solely   to   demonstrate   his   love   of   sport,   Fairbanks’   character   Steve   O’Dare   is   presented   running   across  the  top  of  a  stationary  train  in  extreme  long-­‐shot  before  climbing  off  and  effortlessly   leaping   over   a   fence   to   catch   a   taxi   for   the   Big   City.   This   leaves   him   just   enough   time   to   briefly   frame   himself   up   in   a   mid-­‐shot   to   share   a   wink   of   complicity   with   the   audience— setting  a  tone  that  will  inform  the  remainder  of  the  film.    

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A brief  summary  of  the  film’s  narrative  will  prove  useful  for  the  analysis  that  follows,  which   is   a   task   that   can   largely   be   achieved   by   simply   quoting   the   inter-­‐titles.   Just   before   the   first   sequence  we  are  informed  that  Steve  has  come  to  Manhattan  to  sell  a  “load  of  War  horses   […]   to   a   certain   Count   Winkie,   representing   a   foreign   government”—a   plot   point   that   is   summarily  put  aside  for  the  remainder  of  the  film’s  first  half.  Instead,  we  follow  Steve  as  he   “makes   a   break   to   his   college   club”   where   we   see   that   despite   his   country   ways,   he   is   anything  but  a  hick.  This  leads  to  a  lengthy  scene  at  a  high-­‐class  country  club  in  which  Steve   sings  the  praises  of  Nevada  over  the  “superficial,  un-­‐American,  overcrowded”  New  York.  He   does  however  find  one  thing  he  seems  to  like  in  Manhattan—an  attractive  girl  seated  across   the   room   that   he   shares   a   series   of   flirtatious   shot/reverse   shots   with.   Steve’s   friends   remain   steadfast   in   their   defense   of   Manhattan,   going   so   far   as   to   propose   a   bet   for   five   thousand   dollars   that   Steve   will   “get   a   thrill   all   right”   if   he   stays   in   the   city   for   another   week.     Steve   then   continues   to   Count   Winkie’s   “mysterious   old   mansion   on   the   fringe   of   Manhattan,”  where,  in  a  convoluted  turn  of  events,  he  not  only  discovers  that  the  count  is   trying   to   cheat   him   out   of   his   money,   but   also   that   he   just   so   happens   to   be   forcefully   detaining  the  girl  from  the  country  club.  This  builds  up  to  a  lengthy  action  scene  in  which   Steve  defends  his  newfound  love  from  Count  Winkie’s  minions,  whom  he  proceeds  to  fight   off   singlehandedly.   Then,   suddenly   finding   the   mansion   deserted,   he   breaks   through   a   wood  panel  to  discover  his  prior  foes  and  their  victim…sitting  cheerfully  around  the  dinner   table!   The   bet   that   Steve   will   get   a   “thrill“   in   New   York   resurfaces   as   Fairbanks   (and   the   audience)   realize   that   it   was   all   a   charade,   put   on   by   the   “ladies   and   gentleman   of   the   theater.”   But   Steve,   who   had   already   called   in   his   cowhands   for   backup,   poses   as   the   western   outlaw   Black   Burke   and   ‘kidnaps’   the   girl   (with   her   consent,   of   course)   and   they   steal  away  on  horseback.  We  soon  join  them  again  on  the  deck  of  an  ocean  liner,  now  man   and   wife.   This   leaves   just   enough   room   for   a   cutesy   epilogue   with   a   kiss   through   one   of   the   ship’s   port-­‐holes   and   a   final   inter-­‐title   (responding   explicitly   the   one   that   opened   the   picture)  that  takes  on  the  form  of  a  moral:  “After  all—it  isn’t  where  you  are  that  counts,  it’s   whom  you’re  with.”     Hallucinatory  Narrative     Manhattan  Madness  is  a  film  that  begins  and  ends  under  the  sign  of  the  inter-­‐title.  From  the   opening   “argument”   to   the   moral   at   its   end,   a   parallel   text   is   weaved   throughout   the   film   in   a   way   that   and   organizes   and   conditions   our   reading   of   the   images   that   follow.   While   watching   the   film,   it   is   hard   to   go   along   with   the   well-­‐worn   cliché   that   inter-­‐titles   are   somehow  peripheral  to  the  ‘purely  visual  world’  of  silent  film  rather  than  an  intrinsic  part   of  both  its  visual  and  narrative  fabric,  richly  exemplified  by  “the  East  vs.  West”  discussion   at   the   country   club.   The   scene   itself   is   preceded   by   a   jokey   inter-­‐title   that   introduces   an   103  


ellipsis that  is  of  key  importante  to  what  follows,  as  it  will  be  filled  in  through  flashbacks  in   the   subsequent   scene:   “We   won’t   follow   Steve   and   his   ‘chum’   around   Manhattan—our   innocence  forbids.  They  missed  nothing  but  the  Tombs—and  it  took  political  pull  to  miss   that.  One  day  at  the  country  club…”      

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This scene  at  the  country  club  is  made  up  of  a  whole  series  of  brief  vignettes  comparing   their   recent   New   York   adventures   to   the   fun   that   could   have   been   had   back   in   Nevada   (streetcar  vs.  stagecoach  ride,  bar-­‐room  brawl  vs.  gunfight,  etc.).  From  a  structural  point   of   view,   the   scene   itself   is   comprised   of   four   main   elements:   (1)   Steve   and   his   friends   arguing   around   the   table,   (2)   a   series   of   one-­‐shot   mini-­‐flashbacks   to   their   Big   City   adventures,  (3)  comparative  visual  illustrations  of  life  in  Nevada,  and  (4)  the  inter-­‐titles   that   link   together   the   different   layers.   The   interactions   between   these   various   components   result   in   a   particularly   dynamic   rendering   of   a   scene   which   is   in   reality   is   nothing  more  than  a  few  people  arguing  around  a  table.  It  is  also  a  concise,  not  to  mention   amusing,   way   to   establish   the   film’s   broader   thematic   concerns.   As   for   the   various   cutaways,  these  shots  play  a  curious  role  in  the  overall  construction  of  the  scene:  they  at   once  offer  a  visual  translation  of  the  implicit  conversation  between  the  characters,  while   also   providing   an   ‘illustration’   of   the   inter-­‐titles,   which   in   turn   selectively   transcribe   portions  of  what  is  being  said.2     This   type   of   ‘story-­‐within-­‐a-­‐story’   construction,   typically   introduced   by   means   of   the   inter-­‐titles,  was  quite  common  in  silent  film,  as  François  Jost  has  notably  pointed  out.  He   refers   to   this   narrative   strategy   as   an   instance   of   “hallucinatory   narrative,”   in   which   a   “strict   equivalence”   is   created   between   the   story   being   told   by   the   “intra-­‐diegetic   narrator”  and  its  visual  translation  on  screen  for  the  spectator,  resulting  in  an  idealized   harmony  between  word  and  image.3  Jost  applies  this  concept  to  the  framing  device  used   in  The  Cabinet  of  Dr.  Caligari  (1920),  but  the  term  “hallucinatory”  is  also  particularly  apt   here.  While  the  shots  of  New  York  clearly  function  as  flashbacks  shared  by  both  Steve  and   his   friends,   those   of   Nevada   play   a   more   ambiguous   role:   rather   than   referring   to   specific   events  that  Steve  has  witnessed,  they  appear  to  present  a  broader,  more  generic,  image  of   the   West.   The   country   club   scene   in   Manhattan   Madness   uses   the   narrative   strategy   described   by   Jost   on   a   smaller   scale,   albeit   in   a   manner   that   is   even   more   complex,   featuring   multiple   “intra-­‐diegetic”   narrators   and   a   particularly   rich   interplay   between   text  and  image.     While  this  entire  scene  is  structured  around  these  “hallucinatory”  images,  two  examples   of   what   could   be   characterized   as   Steve’s   mental   visions   provide   a   useful   illustration   of   this   concept.   The   first   of   these   hallucinations   occurs   just   after   Steve   notices   the   girl   in   the   country   club,   which   prompts   him   to   exclaim,   ”Oh   ho!   So   there   is   something   different   in   Manhattan!”   He   then   returns   to   his   subject   (“Oh   rot!   I   tell   you   we   have   everything   in   Nevada—“)  that  prompts  a  banal  shot  of  an  empty  plain  that  ironically  counterpoints  the   text.   Returning   to   Steve,   he   looks   once   more   at   the   girl,   shown   as   their   gazes   meet   in   a   brief   match   cut,   then   continues   his   train   of   thought,   “—that   is—nearly   everything.”   The   second   of   these   mental   visions   occurs   a   few   minutes   later,   when   we   find   Steve   in   a   pensive   mood,   staring   off   into   the   distance.   We   then   iris   in   and   out   of   a   close-­‐up   of   the   105  


girl, whom   he   has   clearly   fallen   for.   An   inter-­‐title   appears,   giving   us   access   to   his   thoughts:  “I  wonder  if  I’d  rather  stay  here  and  look  for  her  smile,  or  go  back  home  to  the   stick  of  the  cactus  and  the  swing  of  my  brone?”  This  title  is  followed  by  a  picturesque  shot   showing   of   Steve   in   silhouette   on   horseback,   then   another   as   a   solitary   figure   in   the   open   country,  before  we  cut  back  to  him  at  the  country  club,  still  in  pensive  mode.     These   two   examples   of   mental   images   in   the   scene   demonstrate   the   ambiguity   of   the   narrative   voice   present   in   both   the   inter-­‐titles   and   the   overall   structure   of   Manhattan   Madness.   On   one   hand,   there   is   a   traditional   third-­‐person   narrator,   capable   of   making   general   assertions   that   introduce   the   characters   and   set   up   the   overall   plot.   But   at   the   same  time,  the  very  form  of  the  film  itself  often  latches  on  to  Fairbanks’  subjectivity;  not   only  in  the  way  that  his  thoughts  call  forth  mental  images  which  are  represented  on  the   film  strip,  but  also  because  we  share  his  point  of  view  throughout  the  entire  film,  so  much   so   that   we   are   fooled   alongside   with   him   at   the   end.   This   ambiguity   is   by   no   means   a   structural   weakness   of   the   film—it   is   hardly   noticed   on   first   viewing—but   rather   represents   the   significant   flexibility   of   silent   film   narrative   and   the   ease   with   which   it   could   fluidly   shift   between   temporal   registers   and   points   of   view.   With   the   coming   of   sound,   the   spatially   unifying   force   of   the   soundtrack   would   render   this   type   of   exercise   significantly  more  complex.     Verbal  and  Visual  Storytelling     Beyond  any  considerations  of  narrative  efficiency,  the  inter-­‐titles  in  Manhattan  Madness   serve   something   larger   than   the   simple   storytelling   mechanics—they   also   testify   to   a   real   verbal  exuberance,  full  of  period  flavor  that  often  manifests  itself  in  near  paragraph-­‐long   titles.   As   film   historian   William   K.   Everson   points   out,   Fairbanks   was   known   for   his   titles,   “which  were  long  and  deliberately  overloaded  with  a  kind  of  small  talk,”  and  that  would   save   the   "informational   part“   for   the   last   minute,   “at   the   foot   of   a   title   which   had   been   jollying   the   audience   into   a   state   of   receptivity.”   Even   when   the   titles   “utilized   a   small   type  face,  they  often  covered  every  square  inch  of  the  frame,  so  that  they  were  quite  often   difficult   to   read,”   with   the   inter-­‐titles   often   occupying   “as   much   screen   time   as   many   individual  scenes.”4  Indeed,  we  can  see  how  inter-­‐titles  not  only  played  a  significant  role   in   the   growing   complexity   of   film   narrative,   but   also   how   they   contributed   to   the   then   nascent   star-­‐system,   deepening   character   psychology   and   forging   a   complicity   between   the  audience  and  the  larger-­‐than-­‐life  personality  projected  on  screen.      

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The style   of   title-­‐writing   seen   in   Manhattan   Madness   was   the   trademark   of   screenwriter   Anita   Loos,   who   worked   with   Fairbanks   on   several   occasions,   although   not   for   this   particular   film,   for   which   the   writing   credit   goes   to   the   brothers   Charles   T.   and   Frank   Dazey.   Nonetheless,   it   was   Loos   who   argued   that   “certain   genres—especially   comedy— could  motivate  highly  self-­‐conscious  narration,”5  a  quality  which  is  clearly  on  display  in  the   Dwan  and  Fairbanks  collaborations.6  This  approach  to  storytelling  is  reflected  in  the  film’s   overall   plot:   the   contrivance   of   Fairbanks   finding   his   love   interest   locked   away   in   Count   Winkie’s  mansion  is  just  that—a  ruse  carried  out  by  professional  actors.  What  at  first  seem   to  be  the  familiar  conventions  of  silent  film  prove  to  be  playful  reworking  of  them;  the  role-­‐ playing  is  only  furthered  when  Steve,  assuming  the  identity  of  Black  Burke,  fools  his  friends   into  believing  that  he  is  the  western  outlaw.  Manhattan  Madness  closes  of  course  with  the   conventional   happy   ending,   but   it’s   not   difficult   to   see   this   epilogue   tinged   with   a   hint   of   sarcasm  after  witnessing  the  antics  that  preceded  it.     Given   the   importance   of   language   in   Fairbanks’   screen   persona,   it   is   perhaps   ironic   that  his   career   would   fizz   out   with   the   coming   of   sound,   as   if   his   pictures   relied   on   this   unique   conjunction   of   text   and   image   rather   than   spoken   dialogue.   The   same   cannot   be   said   for   Allan  Dwan;  this  filmmaker  who  played  an  integral  role  in  the  development  of  Hollywood   would   stand   his   ground   for   the   next   four   decades,   still   there   in   the   50s   to   watch   the   studio   system  falter  while  he  continued  toiling  away  at  B  pictures.  While  the  main  focus  here  has   been   on   the   film’s   inter-­‐titles,   there   nonetheless   remains   much   to   be   said   about   Dwan’s   visual  artistry  and  the  early  mastery  of  space  on  display  in  Manhattan  Madness—be  it  the   way   he   visually   rhymes   two   dazzling   mobile   shots   (one   from   the   roof   of   a   streetcar,   the   second  from  atop  a  stagecoach),  or  the  geometrical  precision  with  which  he  stages  a  chase  

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scene across  the  roof  of  the  Victorian-­‐era  mansion,  to  cite  just  two  examples  among  many.   We   can,   however,   link   this   early   work   to   the   rest   of   Dwan’s   incredibly   diverse   career   through   its   unique   blend   of   western   and   comedy—two   genres   that   he   would   return   to   incessantly,   and   that   in   many   ways   define   him   as   a   filmmaker.   A   broader   attempt   to   contextualize   these   visual   and   narrative   strategies   on   hand   in   Manhattan   Madness   with   those   seen   in   the   rest   of   Allan   Dwan’s   oeuvre—be   it   the   comedies   of   the   40s   or   the   famous   series  of  westerns  produced  by  Benedict  Bogeaus  in  the  1950s—would  doubtlessly  be  an   equally   worthy   endeavor,   likely   to   reveal   a   number   of   resonances   with   his   inexhaustible   body  of  work.      

                                                                                                              1   There   has   been   some   question   as   to   whether   the   version   of   Manhattan   Madness   currently   in   existence   corresponds   to   the   one   seen   by   audiences   in   1916,   rather   than   a   re-­‐edited   version   (potentially   fitted   with   a   new   set   of   inter-­‐titles)   from   a   later   date.   In   his   essay   in   Allan  Dwan,  La  Légende  de  l’homme  aux  mille  films,  published  by  Cahiers  du  Cinéma  and  the   Locarno   Film   Festival,   Kevin   Brownlow   claims   to   believe   that   it   is   indeed   the   original   version,  something  that  a  glimpse  at  the  Triangle  Films  archive  held  at  the  Cinématheque   Française  along  with  an  overview  of  the  trade  reviews  of  the  time  seems  to  confirm.  It  is   worth  noting  that  the  DVD  version  of  the  film  put  out  Grapevine  Video,  clocking  in  at  just   under   30   minutes,   appears   to   run   too   fast.   If   shown   at   the   correct   frame-­‐rate,   the   film   would  be  somewhere  around  its  original  length  of  five  reels.   2   Michel   Chion   has   referred   to   this   phenomenon   as   “elastic   speech,”   which   he   characterizes   as  follows:  “it  can  make  characters  speak  a  great  deal  within  the  story  and  summarize  their   utterances   with   a   few   written   words,   and   it   can   pass   from   direct   to   indirect   discourse.”   -­‐ Michel   Chion,   Film,   a   sound   art,   trans.   Claudia   Gorbman   (New   York:   Columbia   University   Press,  2009),  11.   3   François   Jost,   “Les   Mots   pour   le   voir”   In   Scrittura   e   immagine:   la   didascalia   nel   cinema   muto,   ed.   Francesco   Pitassio   and   Leonardo   Quaresima   (Udine:   Forum,   1998),   35-­‐36.   (My   translation)   4  William  K.  Everson,  Silent  Film  (New  York:  Da  Capo  Press,  1998),  131.   5  David  Bordwell,  Janet  Staiger  and  Kristin  Thompson,  The  Classical  Hollywood  Cinema:  Film  

Style and  Mode  of  Production  to  1960  (London:  Routledge,  1988),  278.   6  Both  The  Habit  of  Happiness  (1916)  and  A  Modern  Musketeer  (1917)  go  so  far  as  to  include   notes   at   the   foot   of   certain   inter-­‐titles   (asking   the   spectators   to   “pardon   the   pun”   in   the   latter   film   for   example),   something   that   can   also   seen   as   an   early   parody   of   Griffith’s   use   of   footnotes  in  films  like  Birth  of  a  Nation  (1915)  and  Intolerance  (1916).  

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ADVENTURES IN  FAIRBANKS-­‐SITTING:   A  MODERN  MUSKETEER  (1917)    

R. Emmet  Sweeney    

  Everyone   in   A   Modern   Musketeer   looks   like   they’re   having   far   too   much   fun,   as   if   they   were   getting   away   with   something.   In   this   comedic   update   of   The   Three   Musketeers,   Douglas   Fairbanks   nimbly   swashbuckles   through   the   modern   Midwest   wearing   a   thoroughly   shit-­‐ eating  grin.  The  films  that  Allan  Dwan  made  with  Fairbanks  are  effortless  genre  parodies,   letting   the   air   out   of   gaseous   Victorian   melodramatics,   but   this   one   is   especially   freewheeling,   likely   because   the   movie   is   mainly   an   excuse   for   Fairbanks   to   avoid   the   threats  of  a  husband  he  had  cuckolded.         Fairbanks   had   been   seriously   pitching   woo   to   Mary   Pickford   while   she   was   still   married   to   actor   Owen   Moore,   who   had   gotten   wise   and   was   making   noise   around   town.   Hatching   the   idea  for  A  Modern  Musketeer  with  Dwan,  he  would  leave  Los  Angeles  (and  Moore)  behind  to   109  


film it   out   by   the   Grand   Canyon.   His   D’Artagnan   is   a   Kansas   kid   with   his   nose   stuck   in   Dumas,   but   his   attempt   to   revive   the   chivalric   code   of   17th   century   usually   ends   in   slaps   to   the  face.  Fairbanks  could  relate.     The   story   is   loosely   based   on   a   story   published   in   Everybody’s   Magazine   called   “D’Artagnan   of  Kansas,”  by  Eugene  P.  Lyle,  Jr.,  but  Dwan  and  Fairbanks  would  do  so  much  tweaking  of   the  material  on  the  set  that  only  the  outline  of  the  story  remains.  As  hastily  arranged  by  the   duo   during   a   train   ride   from   Salina,   Kansas   to   New   York   City,   the   plot   concerns   Ned   Thacker,  eager  to  bust  out  of  his  small  town  and  lead  the  adventurous  life  of  a  Musketeer.   He  makes  it  out  West  to  the  Grand  Canyon,  where  he  has  to  rescue  a  girl  from  kidnappers,   and   in   doing   so,   can   finally   justify   his   interest   in   those   heroic   figures   of   old.   The   story   is   similar   to   a   tale   they   had   shot   the   previous   year,   Manhattan   Madness   (1916),   in   which   a   New   Yorker   falls   for   life   as   a   cowboy.   In   both,   Fairbanks   is   a   regular   guy   who   enters   a   fantasy   world   idealized   in   literature   and   film.   This   outside-­‐in   structure   allows   Dwan   and   Fairbanks   to   parody   genre   codes   while   also   fulfilling   their   basic   necessities.   Dwan   told   Peter  Bogdanovich  that  he  and  Fairbanks  tried  to  create  “plenty  of  suspense,  but  we  were   playing  from  the  humorous  side.”1    

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The opening  two  sequences  succinctly  illustrate  this  approach.  The  first  begins  with  a  scene   from   Ned   Thacker’s   dreams—D’Artagnan   sword-­‐fighting   in   a   rural   French   bar.   Fairbanks   shows   off   his   smoothly   unfurling   athleticism,   as   he   leaps   from   rafters   and   tumbles   through   attackers   as   if   in   one   graceful   motion;   he   can   even   grab   a   tippler’s   goatee   with   one   hand   while  dueling  with  the  other.  The  excuse  for  the  brawl  is  that  a  drunken  boor  has  stepped   on   a   handkerchief   that   a   pretty   young   girl   had   dropped—and   so   the   entire   edifice   is   decimated.  Inspired  by  this  heroic  fictional  feat,  Ned  Thacker  jumps  to  the  aid  of  another   distressed  damsel,  one  whose  boyfriend  slaps  her  around.  Sliding  down  an  electrical  pole   from  his  second  floor  window,  he  destroys  the  denizens  of  the  watering  hole,  though  with   fists,   feet   and   glass   bottles   rather   than   a   saber.   But   instead   of   the   coy   thanks   D’Artagnan   received,  this  Fairbanks  is  given  a  sharp  series  of  smacks  by  a  lady.  As  an  inter-­‐title  states,   women  want  equal  rights,  and  no  longer  desire  to  be  rescued.  As  he  laughs  off  his  rejection,   Thacker   pulls   down   the   blinds   to   reveal   he   works   at   the   “Society   For   the   Prevention   of   Cruelty  to  Women.”    

 

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Fantasy and   reality   do   not   square   up   in   Dwan’s   Fairbanks   pictures.   Reality   is   too   complicated   and   motivations   too   obscure   for   the   moral   certainties   of   romantic-­‐heroic   fiction.  The  duo  pokes  fun  at  this  gap,  which  Ned  Thacker  lives  inside  of.  Even  though  his   birth   has   been   presaged   by   a   cyclone   and   he   is   able   to   climb   tall   buildings   in   a   few   bounds,   he   is   still   stymied   by   the   mysteries   of   human   behavior.   Fairbanks’   enduring   macho-­‐ vulnerable  allure  comes  to  the  fore  when  he  leaps  into  a  handstand  at  the  edge  of  the  Grand   Canyon  as  a  desperate  ploy  to  impress  a  lady.  Dwan’s  ability  to  interrogate  genre  while  also   fulfilling   it   allows   his   actors   to   play   around   with   their   personas:   as   Fairbanks   is   at   his   most   vulnerable   with   Dwan,   so   the   normally   stiff   Ronald   Reagan   is   at   his   laid   back   best   in   the   low-­‐budget  western  Tennessee’s  Partner  (1955).     The  sections  in  which  Dwan  fulfills  the  genre  requirements  of  A  Modern  Musketeer  are  the   dullest—showing   the   girl   captured   and   rescued,   then   held   by   a   renegade   Navajo   (Frank   Campeau).   Even   in   these   rote   sections,   however,   his   subversive   spirit   still   flickers,   whether   in   Fairbanks’   headstand   at   the   edge   of   the   Grand   Canyon,   or   the   fluid   manner   in   which   Fairbanks   leaps   across   rooftops   in   pursuit   of   his   beau.   Booton   Herndon,   in   his   dual   biography   Mary   Pickford   &   Douglas   Fairbanks:   The   Most   Popular   Couple   the   World   Has   Ever   Known,  gets  at  Dwan’s  particular  genius,  able  to  calm  a  stressed-­‐out  Fairbanks  into  one  of   his  most  ebullient  performances:  “It  was  Dwan  who  convinced  Doug  to  accent  the  ease  and   grace   of   his   screen   actions   by   doing   less   than   he   was   capable   of,   eliminating   any   appearance   of   strain   in   favor   of   smooth,   flowing,   effortless   movement."   Throughout   his   career,  Dwan  could  always  do  more  with  less.                                                                                                                   1  Bogdanovich,  Allan  Dwan:  the  Last  Pioneer  (New  York:  Praeger,  1971),  46.  

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“A FULL-­‐STEAMED  COMIC  OPERA”:   HE  COMES  UP  SMILING  (1918)  

Daniel Fairfax  and  Louis  Delluc   Translated  by  Daniel  Fairfax  

    —  Douglas  Fairbanks  is  trapped  in  a  birdcage.  He  leaps  from  his  perch  and  clambers  onto   its  bars.  Bouncing  from  side  to  side,  he  seeks  a  way  out.  Finally,  such  yearning  for  liberty   gives  him  the  strength  to  pry  open  the  bars  and  make  his  escape.  Doug  is  free.     But   the   image   ushering   in   He   Comes   Up   Smiling   is   only   an   allegory   for   the   film   to   come.   Fairbanks   is   Jerry   Martin   (but   how   could   he   be   anything   but   Doug!),   an   employee   of   a   small-­‐town  bank,  and  he  is  still,  alas,  behind  bars—those  of  the  bank’s  teller  counter.  And   yet,  as  he  toys  with  the  checkbook  of  an  exasperated  customer,  he  sports  an  irrepressible   boyish   grin.   Such   a   jovial   disposition   can   not   even   be   dampened   by   the   demeaning   task   his   boss,  the  glabrous  bank  director  Jonathan  Perkins,  assigns  him:  tending  to  his  beloved  pet   canary  Agamemnon.  Agamemnon  is  allowed  out  of  his  cage,  but  is  still  imprisoned  within   the  larger  cage  of  the  bank.  Doug  does  everything  to  entertain  the  bird,  but  his  efforts  do  

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not stymie   its   impulse   for   emancipation.   With   Doug   momentarily   distracted   by   a   customer,   the  canary  flies  across  the  street  and  into  the  window  of  a  nearby  apartment.  Doug  gives   chase,  and  there  begins  a  delirious  sequence  vividly  demonstrating,  in  equal  measure,  the   acrobatic   verve   of   Fairbanks’   talents   as   a   performer   and   the   adroit   geometric   rigour   of   Dwan’s  mise  en  scène.     Propelling   himself   onto   a   storefront   canopy,   Doug   vaults   himself   through   the   apartment   window—and   over   an   elderly   woman,   taking   a   bath,   who   hysterically   reacts   to   the   intruder.  Doug  finds  the  bird  nesting  in  the  beard  of  her  husband,  who  calmly  reads  a  book   in   the   apartment’s   drawing   room,   but   Agamemnon   continues   his   odyssey.   In   hot   pursuit,   Doug  breathlessly  leaps  from  one  apartment  building  to  another,  shinnies  up  gutter  pipes,   tightrope-­‐walks  across  a  wire  holding  a  campaign  banner  urging  the  townsfolk  to  “Vote  for   Dugan”,  swings  into  the  bedroom  of  a  dozing  burgher,  and  ricochets  on  a  ladder  from  one   building   to   another,   before   hitching   a   ride   on   a   passing   horse   buggy   to   a   remote   bucolic   locale,   where   he   finally   catches   the   bird.   Watching   the   scene,   however,   a   hobo-­‐philosopher   convinces   Doug   to   let   the   canary   fly   away,   and   to   give   up   his   city-­‐bound   existence   for   an   idyllic  life  amidst  a  community  of  tramps.  The  bird  is  free.  Doug  is  free.     The  story  up  to  this  point  may  be  banal,  infantile  even.  But  it  is  immaterial,  a  mere  pretext   for  Douglas  Fairbanks’  anarchic  gyrations.  All,  in  this  wild  sequence,  is  dynamism,  intensity,   exuberance.   Like   great   poetry,   it   is   imbued   with   both   absolute   abandon   and   the   utmost   control  and  precision.  This  sequence  is  the  cinema,  art  of  movement,  of  bodies  in  motion,   engaged  in  an  unabating  dance  with  the  camera.       The   rest   of   He   Comes   Up   Smiling   may   or   may   not   live   up   to   the   promise   of   its   dizzying   opening  moments,  but,  alas,  modern  audiences  will  never  know.  We  briefly  see  Doug’s  life   as  a  vagrant:  chased  by  a  swarm  of  bees,  he  swings  from  a  vine  and  dives  into  a  river.  But  it   is  here  that  Dwan’s  film  is  abruptly  cut  short.  The  first  reel  is  intact,  but  the  remaining  four   reels,  as  with  so  much  of  the  silent  cinema,  have  vanished.  In  fact,  we  owe  a  rare  stroke  of   good   fortune   to   even   being   able   to   see   this   much   of   the   film:   He   Comes   Up   Smiling   was   long   considered   an   irretrievably   lost   work,   but   its   opening   reel   was   recently   rediscovered   by   Serge  Bromberg,  a  precious  gem  which,  he  writes,  was  “accidentally  found  in  a  box  amidst   films  without  any  significance.”1     As   I   watched   a   digitised   version   of   the   fragment   on   my   laptop,   a   sense   of   pure   exhilaration   welling  in  my  veins  at  the  spectacle  unfolding  in  front  of  me,  my  mind  soon  leapt  to  what   you,  Louis  Delluc  (mon  semblable,  mon  frère!),  would  have  made  of  such  a  film,  viewing  it  in   the   decidedly   different   surrounds   of   a   cramped   working-­‐class   movie-­‐theatre   in   an   insalubrious  Parisian  faubourg,  and  enchanted,  no  doubt,  not  only  by  the  film  itself,  but  by   the   excited   reactions   of   the   proletarian   public   amassed   before   the   screen—a   far   more   114  


reliable barometer  of  l’art  muet  than  the  cultured  bourgeoisie  you  detested.  Your  love  for   Fairbanks,   for   the   liberating   force   and   energetic   vigour   of   his   performance,   was   incontestable,  to  the  extent  that  you  even  planned  to  write  a  book  on  the  actor,  a  mooted   follow-­‐up  to  your  monograph  on  Chaplin.     —   Douglas   Fairbanks   has   always   given   me   great   joy.   His   films   oxygenate   us.   Our   arteries   seem   to   function   better   after   an   hour   spent   in   his   madcap,   wholesome   company.   This   algebraic  Harlequin,  this  musketeer  whose  optimism  and  smile  can  be  matched  by  no  weapon,   unsettles  us  by  dint  of  his  strength.  With  so  much  candor,  so  much  lucid  allure,  he  is  a  mystery.     For   a   long   time,   we   didn’t   know   whether   or   not   we   needed   to   excuse   ourselves   for   our   excessive   love   for   Chaplin,   for   how   could   we   acknowledge   that   his   naïveté,   at   once   humane   and   learned,   left   us   so   perturbed?     Then   one   day   we   understood,   and   we   could   concur   that   he   was  a  “mastermind”.  Of  Fairbanks,  too,  I  will  say:  he  is  a  mastermind.     He   is   a   man.   He   is   man.   He   is   a   perfect,   complete   animal,   who   takes   care   of   his   lungs,   his   muscles  and  every  pore  of  his  skin,  because  one  loses  the  use  of  one’s  soul  when  the  body  is  not   in  good  shape.  His  body  is  in  good  shape.  That’s  why  he  can  produce  moments  of  such  rich  and   pure   expressivity   that   they   outdo   the   long,   premeditated   scenes   mimed   by   the   so-­called   psychological  actors.     Long   live   Douglas   Fairbanks   and   his   impassioned   comedy,   which   hits   us   front-­on,   uplifts   us   and   rouses   us!   He   is   an   entire   storyline   of   his   own,   which   always   attains   its   culminating   moment—and  is  never  finished.     —  Along  with  Chaplin  and  Sessue  Hayakawa,  Fairbanks  represented,  in  your  view,  the  new   breed  of  actor—an  actor  capable  of  marshalling  the  specific  powers  of  the  cinema,  rather   than  the  stage.  What’s  more,  you  perceived  the  remarkably  edifying  effects  his  films  had  on   the  enchanted  audiences  who  submitted  to  his  irresistible  spell.     —  I  respect  the  approval  of  the  crowd.  When  the  last  scenes  of  a  Fairbanks  film  appear  on  the   screen,  a  new  atmosphere  envelops  the  spectators.  A  new  soul—yes  indeed—enthuses  them,   galvanises  them,  makes  them  giddy.  It  is  their  very  own  soul,  but  it  has  just  been  revealed  to   them.  The  spectacle  of  this  man  who  can  do  anything,  and  does  it  with  the  simplicity  hated  by   our  theatre,  is  a  form  of  physical  therapy.     —  Although  Fairbanks,  in  your  view,  is  a  “force  of  nature”,  an  “extraordinary  rhythm”  more   closely  related  to  an  aeroplane  or  a  torpedo  than  to  Sacha  Guitry  or  Sarah  Bernhardt,  you   also  bridled  against  those  who  saw  him  as  a  mere  acrobatic  performer,  little  better  than  a   trained  seal.   115  


— There  are  many  actors,  in  many  countries,  who  are  jealous  of  Douglas’  success,  and,  I  feel,   jealous  of  Douglas  himself.  Their  envy,  their  rage,  are  always  expressed  in  the  following  terms:   “He’s  an  acrobat.  He’s  just  an  acrobat.”  He’s  not  just  an  acrobat—there’s  no  need  to  insist  on   this—but   he   is   indeed   an   acrobat.   And   what   an   acrobat!   He   has   studied   and   applied   just   about   everything   that   can   be   done   with   the   suppleness   of   the   body,   the   strength   of   muscles   and  the  precise  audacity  of  a  glance.     The  day  we  saw  him  bounding  like  a  cat  onto  the  wagons  of  Manhattan  Madness,  there  was   no   longer   any   question   of   arguing   about   his   whimsical   psychology,   as   the   athletic   juggler   doubles  the  mirror  of  our  sentiments.     —   It   was   precisely   with   1916’s   Manhattan   Madness   that   you   contracted   such   a   feverish   admiration  for  Fairbanks.  It  was,  in  fact,  his  fourth  work  under  the  direction  of  Allan  Dwan,   but   it   was   the   first   of   his   films   to   make   an   impact   in   Paris,   and   it   was   the   first   of   their   films   to  truly  combine  the  complementary  skills  of  actor  and  filmmaker  to  such  an  intoxicating   effect.     —  Have  you  seen  Manhattan  Madness?  The  influence  of  this  film  will  be  considerable,  and  the   arrival   in   Paris   of   the   talent,   the   technique   and   the   mastery   of   Douglas   Fairbanks,   in   such   perfect  conditions,  is  important  for  the  fate  of  French  cinema,  as  were,  in  their  own  time,  the   screenings  of  Chaplin’s  films,  The  Cheat,  and  the  work  of  Thomas  Ince.     For  there  is  more  here  than  just  a  good  film.  In  its  execution,  Manhattan  Madness  exceeds  the   masterpieces   of   the   screen   which   gave   us   an   impression   of   profound   and,   so   to   speak,   sufficient  beauty.  All  these  works  had  the  same  style,  a  style  in  which  the  verve,  the  contours   and  the  modern  truth  of  the  new  American  school  of  the  cinema  seemed  to  be  crystallised  and   affirmed.  This  is  better.  This  is  new.     Observation,   violence,   sentimentality,   buffoonery:   everything   can   be   linked,   everything   can   be   explained,  as  in  life  itself,  with  an  infinite  poetry,  with  all  these  extreme  baroques  which  are   occasionally  nothing  but  the  same  object  lit  a  little  differently.     Manhattan   Madness   is   the   new   force   of   modern   poetry,   the   true   poetry,   that   which,   when   walking   down   the   street,   you   see   everywhere   and   incessantly—on   a   face,   a   sign,   a   colour— and   which   a   director   expressly   isolates.   Landscapes,   horses,   dogs,   furniture,   glasses,   a   stairwell,   a   lamp,   a   hand,   a   ring,   everything   takes   on   a   fantastic   character.   And   a   true   character!  True,  but  you  would  not  have  seen  it,  almost  nobody  knows  how  to  see  the  beauty   of  things.  Sometimes  the  cinema  obliges  us  to  see  it.  And  here  we  have  an  example.     116  


I declare  that  there  is  a  new  change  in  the  air,  one  which  has  been  sketched  out  over  the  last   few  months.  We  have  Fairbanks  to  thank  for  this  decision  and  the  results  which  have  ensued.   The  film  resembles  him.  Not  one  detail,  in  its  conception  or  realisation,  is  even  the  slightest  bit   out  of  place.     —  Fairbanks’  presence  in  his  films  was  so  overpowering  that  you  readily  accorded  “this  ace   of  the  silent  art”  the  status  of  “cinéaste”,  a  term  of  your  coinage  to  describe  the  animating   force   behind   a   film,   and   which   in   your   own   view   could   be   applied   just   as   much   to   great   actors   as   to   great   filmmakers.   But   what,   in   your   mind,   was   the   contribution   of   Dwan   to   these  works?     —  Allan  Dwan’s  direction  frames  Fairbanks’  verve  with  a  beauty  and  a  photogenic  virtuosity   rarely  seen  on  the  screen.     —  Your  high  opinion  of  his  work  would  even  lead  you  to  compare  the  unassuming  Dwan   favourably   to   the   bombast   of   Abel   Gance,   the   indisputable   titan   of   French   cinema   in   the   early  1920s.     —  Cinéastes  like  Allan  Dwan,  possibly  more  gifted  than  Abel  Gance  in  terms  of  their  flair  for   photographic   expression,   are   superior   to   him   by   dint   of   adhering   to   the   very   material   of   their   art,  and  thus  of  not  distracting  us.  Gance,  stripped  bare  of  his  vain,  pseudo-­poetic  chattering,   would  be  a  remarkable  worker  of  world  filmmaking.     —  It  was  perhaps  with  regards  to  Headin’  South,  which  you  considered  “the  most  rigorous   flame”   in   the   flurry   of   Fairbanks   films   hitting   French   screens,   that   your   appreciation   for   Dwan’s  directing  was  most  palpably  expressed.       —  The  effect  of  this  movie  is  comparable  to  that  of  a  bottle  of  Rhenish  wine,  or  Rhône  wine,  on   someone  who  has  only  ever  drunk  water  all  their  life.  In  all  truthfulness,  I  wonder  whether  I   watched  or  drank  this  adventure,  whether  it  was  a  film  or  a  dry  wine.  Don’t  take  it  the  wrong   way.   I   know   that   this   slightly   enthusiastic   tone   is   totally   out   of   fashion,   but   understand,   if   you   will,  that  this  is  a  film,  a  true  film,  and  that  I  have  not  encountered  a  true  film  for  quite  a  long   time.     —  The  irony,  however,  is  that  the  film  was  actually  directed  by  Arthur  Rosson.  Nonetheless,   while   Dwan   “merely”   fulfilled   the   role   of   “supervisor-­‐writer”,   the   subtle   stamp   of   his   authorship   could   evidently   be   felt   in   this   film,   too.   You   were   little   aware   of   Dwan’s   biographical   background,   of   his   education   as   an   engineer,   and   of   his   own   views   on   shot   composition,   where   he   stated   that,   “for   me,   it’s   mathematics.   There’s   nothing   more   beautiful  than  mathematical  perfection,”  and  that  “the  inevitable  laws  of  mathematics  [...]   117  


apply to   drama   and   to   life.”2   And   yet   you   intuited   the   profoundly   mathematical   nature   of   his  film  technique,  decades  before  other  film  critics  cottoned  on  to  it.     —  Intelligence,  reflection  and  the  art  of  mathematics  have  cast  themselves  onto  the  cinema   and  are  making  it  more  fertile.  We  are  not  at  the  theatre.  There  is  no  play  to  be  recounted.   Headin’  South  is  a  canvas,  or  a  poem,  or  a  turbulent  capriccio.  It  is  cinema.     —  He  Comes  Up  Smiling  was  the  last  of  Dwan’s  seven  Fairbanks  vehicles  made  in  the  heady   period  of  1916-­‐1918,  an  era  of  the  American  cinema  which  you  relished  for  the  “irresistible   musicality  of  its  photogénie”  and  its  simplicity,  sobriety  and  candor.  Such  qualities,  you  felt,   were   only   rediscovered   when   Dwan’s   collaboration   with   Fairbanks   would   be   reprised   in   1922  with  Robin  Hood.  With  He  Comes  Up  Smiling,  meanwhile,  which  you  viewed  upon  its   release  in  France  in  March  1920  (with  Bound  in  Morocco  and  A  Modern  Musketeer  following   later  in  the  year),  you  forestalled  potential  criticism  of  their  work  as  having  become  routine   and  repetitive.     —   “Same   old,   same   old!”   say   people   who   suffer   from   a   gastric   illness   or   acute   jealousy.   It’s   true,  Doug  is  always  Doug  and  every  one  of  his  films  is  a  full-­steamed  comic  opera.  Here,  once   again,  Douglas  is  a  young  man  who  finds  life  difficult.  But  he  has  such  radiant  teeth  that  he   can’t  stop  himself  from  smiling,  let  alone  eating  and—at  a  trot,  at  a  gallop,  at  a  bunny-­hop,  en   route   to   the   conquest   of   anything   whatsoever—gliding   past   his   obstacles,   drunk   on   health   and  gymnastic  prowess.  There  is  a  young  girl  at  the  end  of  the  tale,  and  it’s  all  over.  And  it  will   start  over  again.     —   And   yet,   in   your   view,   this   film   was   not   an   apotheosis   of   their   work   together.   Your   response   to   it   was   rather   more   sanguine   than   the   raptures   with   which   you   greeted   Manhattan  Madness.     —   This   sporting   vaudeville   is   far   from   being   up   to   the   level   of   the   admirable   Manhattan   Madness,  which  is  the  equal  of  any  film,  and  which  the  Mogador  Palace  should  put  back  on   the   screen   for   another   week.   Wild   and   Woolly,   The   Man   from   the   Painted   Post   and   Say,   Young  Fellow  were  also  fine  examples  of  virtuosic  mania.  He  Comes  Up  Smiling  possesses  less   originality,  except  in  a  marvellously  conceived  passage  where  we  see  what  happens  in  eight   different  tumultuous  apartments.     —   Nonetheless,   He   Comes   Up   Smiling   shared   the   qualities   of   all   of   Fairbanks’   work,   and   takes  a  rightful  place  in  the  canon  of  films  featuring  this  “musketeer  of  the  cinema”.     —  American  Aristocracy,  The  Half-­‐Breed,  The  Americano,  Wild  and  Woolly,  The  Man  from   the   Painted   Post,   Reaching   for   the   Moon,   Bound   in   Morocco,   He   Comes   Up   Smiling   and   118  


twenty other  films  live,  swarm  about,  get  restless  and  jolt  us  awake.  Just  look  at  these  splendid   bursts  of  fresh  air,  which  have  shaken  up  a  good  number  of  little  pencil  pushers  on  this  vast   planet  of  ours.     —  What,  then,  is  there  left  to  say  about  this  modest,  unprepossessing  film,  made  without   any   artistic   pretentions,   but   purely   to   instill   the   audience   with   a   dose   of   cinematic   exultation?     —  It’s  charming.                                                                                                                     1  Serge  Bromberg,  “He  Comes  Up  Smiling”,    http://www.lobsterfilms.com/retour_de_flamme.6.htm     2   Allan   Dwan,   “Galloping   Tintypes”,   interview   with   Peter   Bogdanovich.   In:   Bogdanovich,   Allan  Dwan:  the  Last  Pioneer  (New  York:  Praeger,  1971),  pp.  25-­‐26.  

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Notes:   Delluc’s  contributions  to  this  “dialogue”  are  taken,  with  slight  modifications,  from   the  following  texts:     Louis  Delluc,  “Mack  Sennett”,  in:  Idem.  Les  Cinéastes  (unpublished,  1923).  Repr.  in:  Pierre   Lherminier  (ed.),  Louis  Delluc:  Écrits  Cinématographiques  vol.  I  (Paris:  Cinémathèque   française,  1985),  pp.  136-­‐138.     –––,  “Douglas,  mousquetaire  du  Film”,  in:  Les  Cinéastes.  Repr.  in:  Louis  Delluc  vol.  I,  pp.  140-­‐ 142.     –––,  “Abel  Gance”,  in:  Les  Cinéastes.  Repr.  in:  Louis  Delluc  vol.  I,  pp.    165-­‐166.     –––,  “Présentation  de  Douglas  Fairbanks”  (unpublished,  1923).  Repr.  in:  Louis  Delluc  vol.  I,     pp.  197-­‐204.     –––,  “Douglas  Fairbanks”,  Paris-­Midi,  June  1,  1918.  Repr.  in:  Louis  Delluc  vol.  II/1,  pp.  81-­‐83.     –––,  “Œuvres  et  Chefs-­‐d’œuvre”,  Le  Film  no.  78,  September  10,  1917.  Repr.  in:  Louis  Delluc   vol.  II/1,  pp.  146-­‐150.     –––,  “Douglas  for  ever”  Cinéa  no.  9,  July  1,  1921.  Repr.  in:  Louis  Delluc  vol.  II/1,  pp.  315-­‐316.     –––,  “Le  Sauveur  du  ranch”,  Paris-­Midi,  March  12,  1919.  Repr.  in:  Louis  Delluc  vol.  II/2,  pp.   41-­‐42.     –––,  “Douglas  Fairbanks  dans  L’Île  du  Salut”,  Paris-­Midi,  April  17,  1919.  Repr.  in:  Louis   Delluc  vol.  II/2,  pp.  56-­‐57.     –––,  “Douglas  a  le  sourire”,  Paris-­Midi,  April  1,  1920.  Repr.  in:  Louis  Delluc  vol.  II/2,  p.  168.

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MANHANDLED (1924)    

Farran Smith  Nehme  

  The   Hays   Code,   that   how-­‐to   guide   for   Hollywood   morality,   was   already   in   place   in   1924   when   Paramount   was   deciding   on   a   follow-­‐up   to   Zaza   for   Gloria   Swanson   and   her   new   favorite   director,   Allan   Dwan.   An   enterprising   promotional   executive   who   was   using   the   Code  for  what  it  was  actually  good  for—pointers  on  what  might  titillate  an  audience  into   attendance—found   that   the   act   of   "manhandling"   was   forbidden.   The   executive   noted,   however,  that  there  was  no  injunction  against  titling  something  "Manhandled."       According  to  Swanson  in  her  autobiography,  Dwan  asked  Frank  Tuttle  for  a  story  that  could   live   up   to   the   title.   Tuttle   suggested   they   flesh   out   a   short   story   about   a   gum-­‐snapping   salesgirl  whose  good  looks  cause  a  series  of  rich  bounders  to  lure  her  with  promised  riches,   even   as   she   tries   to   stay   true   to   her   poor-­‐but-­‐loving   inventor   boyfriend.   Swanson,   then   looking   for   things   that   would   take   her   away   from   her   couture-­‐draped   image   of   suffering,   agreed.    

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And so   the   movie   begins   with   Swanson   getting   manhandled   in   a   big   way   by   that   mauler   supreme,   the   New   York   City   subway   system.   Before   she   descends   into   the   maw,   Swanson's   salesgirl,  Tessie,  gets  splashed  by  passing  cars,  but  that's  only  prologue.  Swanson  was  one   of   the   most   petite   stars   in   Hollywood   history—4   foot   11   inches.   Many   other   movies   use   tricks   to   de-­‐emphasize   her   height,   but   Dwan   seems   to   relish   Swanson's   shortness.   Once   Tessie   is   shoved   onto   the   subway   car   by   a   uniformed   platform   worker   (New   York   rush   hour  could  still  use  this  job),  she's  stuck  between  two  men  at  an  eye  level  just  below  their   armpits.     Swaying   with   them   against   her   will,   Tessie   does   the   dance   of   the   New   Yorker   trying   to   avoid  too  much  body  contact,  no  matter  how  cramped  the  quarters.  She  drops  her  purse,   and  the  men  who  are  bookending  her  stoop  to  help  her  retrieve  its  contents.  But  when  they   reach   back   up   for   the   straps,   she's   still   got   her   arms   looped   through   theirs,   and   for   a   moment  she's  suspended  in  air.  Once  she's  back  on  her  feet  and  smacking  away  at  her  gum,   the   movement   of   the   car   and   the   crowd   dislodges   Tessie's   impossible   hat,   an   overlarge   squashy  cloche  adorned  with  what  look  like  marbles—although  they're  probably  supposed   to  be  grapes—swinging  from  one  side  like  the  tassel  on  a  fez.  The  hat  falls  to  the  ground,   she  does  a  deep-­‐knee  bend  to  retrieve  it,  and  when  she  finally  comes  back  up,  the  hat  has   lost  its  grapes.   And,   for   one   marvelously   subtle   half-­‐minute,   the   mood   shifts.   Tessie's   face   crumples   as   she   looks  at  that  hat,  bereft  of  its  ridiculous  ornament.  It’s  clear,  instantly,  that  the  fruit  was  her   favorite   part,   probably   the   reason   she   bought   it,   just   as   surely   as   Swanson’s   expression   shows  that  she  can't  afford  to  replace  it.     Then  her  face  regains  its  old  hardness,  she  pulls  the   denuded  hat  back  over  her  hopelessly   mussed  bob,  and  the  hellish  ride  continues,  complete  with  a  masher  all  but  licking  his  lips   at  her  from  his  seat.  When  she  tries  to  get  off  at  her  station,  Dwan  switches  to  an  overhead   shot.  Poor  tiny  Tessie  tries  to  disembark  and  gets  pushed  back  into  the  car,  over  and  over.   She   can't   manage   to   leave   walking   upright;   she   eventually   has   to   bend   over   and   scurry   under  a  railing.  Small  as  Tessie  is,  the  subway—meaning  of  course  New  York  itself—has  all   but  brought  her  to  her  knees.   Dwan   made   six   films   with   Swanson.   "I   like   them   all,"   he   told   Peter   Bogdanovich.   "But   I   think   I   might   have   liked   Manhandled   best   for   some   reason—I   can't   remember   why."1   Watching   the   subway   sequence   will   certainly   make   it   clear   for   anyone   else.   It's   perfect—as   a  record  of  New  York  subways  at  rush  hour  in  the  1920s,  as  a  monument  to  Swanson's  flair   for   slapstick,   as   a   remarkably   explicit   commentary   on   the   roughness,   indifference   and   humiliations  a  woman  may  encounter  from  men  any  day  of  her  life.    

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Dwan is   famous   for   the   widely   varying   subjects   of   his   movies.   He   did   Westerns,   noirs,   comedies,   adventures,   historicals.   Manhandled   is   a   romantic   comedy—the   drama   over   Tessie's   honor   is   largely   sidelined—but   more   than   anything,   it's   a   star   vehicle.   They   got   along,   Swanson   and   Dwan;   she   said   that   even   at   their   first   dinner   meeting,   she   saw   he   was   a  genius.  Still,  Dwan  must  have  known  his  main  job  on  this  film,  and  that  was  to  get  one  of   the   biggest   movie   names   in   the   world   square   in   the   frame   and   looking   good.   He   knew   precisely  how  to  handle  Swanson's  comic  presence  and  timing,  which  were  delicious.  And   Swanson  was  a  beauty  and  a  clotheshorse,  with  a  keen  sense  of  how  to  make  herself  look   luscious  on  screen;  Dwan  would  know  exactly  how  to  use  that  and  keep  it  comic,  too.     Swanson   seems   to   be   in   every   shot,   although   it's   probably   more   like   3/4ths,   and   Dwan   has   a   consistent   pattern   for   all   of   them.   In   a   funny   moment,   the   actress   is   usually   full-­‐face   or   three-­‐quarters  to  the  camera;  even  the  broad  way  she  moves  her  mouth  when  she's  talking   suggests   a   patented   Noo   Yawk   honk.   You   often   have   the   fun   of   discovering   her   most   humorous   bits   at   the   edge   of   the   frame,   like   Tessie's   hand   stowing   her   chewing   gum   under   a  dressing  table  at  a  posh  apartment.       When  it's  an  emotional  moment—she's  with  Tom  Moore  as  her  boyfriend,  or  pondering  her   love   for   him—Dwan   usually   shoots   his   star   in   profile.   Swanson   had   a   tricky   profile;   "ski-­‐ slope,"   they   said,   when   she   was   starting   out.   As   filmed   by   Dwan,   it's   always   ravishing.   A   profile  shot  half-­‐obscures  Swanson's  most  celebrated  asset,  her  eyes.  Instead  Dwan  focuses   on   the   purity   of   the   skin,   the   curve   of   the   cheekbones   as,   at   the   end   of   the   movie,   Tessie   begs  her  angry  man  to  say  he  still  loves  her.     Almost   as   wonderful   as   the   subway   scenes   are   the   shots   of   Tessie   at   the   window   of   her   boarding-­‐house   room.   She   loves   her   inventor,   but   she's   afraid   of   marriage.   She   looks   out   the   window   at   the   airshaft,   and   Dwan   films   her   almost   with   her   back   to   the   camera,   her   face   reflected   in   the   glass.   Another   overhead   shot   shows   a   woman   (possibly   pregnant)   washing   dishes   at   the   sink;   another   woman   is   walking   a   crying   baby   while   her   stocky,   shirtless  and  exhausted  husband  sprawls  in  a  chair.  That's  early  in  the  film;  it's  recreated  at   the   end,   when   Tessie   thinks   she's   lost   Jim   for   good.   It's   night,   and   it's   harder   to   see   her   expression   reflected   in   the   glass,   but   the   view   out   the   window   has   changed:   the   maybe-­‐ pregnant  woman  is  being  embraced  by  her  husband;  the  mother  and  father  are  in  a  chair,   playing  with  their  baby  while  their  other  children  sleep  in  a  shabby  bed  nearby.       These  are  the  things  that  give  texture  and  poignance  to  the  comedy.  In  1924,  it  was  a  given   that  sentiment  embellished  a  film,  rather  than  diminished  it.  But  Manhandled  is,  above  all,  a   very  funny  movie.  Dwan  pulls  in  a  little  closer  for  a  view  of  Tessie,  on  a  sales  floor  that's   almost  as  crowded  as  the  subway,  impatiently  blowing  off  the  supervisor  who's  giving  her  

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a lengthy   summary   of   what's   she's   doing   wrong.   The   supervisor   is   almost   completely   turned  away  from  the  camera;  Tessie's  being  oppressed  by  a  bald  spot  and  a  chin.       Later,   Tessie   will   briefly   become   a   sculptor's   model,   until,   with   burning   eyes   and   flaring   nostrils,  the  artist  (Ian  Keith)  suddenly  goes  after  her  as  if  she  were  Agnes  Ayres  in  "The   Sheikh."   An   impression   that   Tessie   does   of   a   Russian   countess   at   a   party   gains   her   a   job   doing   the   same   thing   for   Frank   Morgan's   oily   couturier;   one   of   the   funniest   things   in   the   movie  occurs  when  an  actual  Russian  accosts  Tessie  at  the  atelier  and  speaks  to  her  in  the   mother  tongue.  Swanson  panics  for  an  instant,  then  dissolves  into  tears;  Dwan  shoots  his   star's  entire  body  as  she  droops  across  her  interrogator,  too  moved  by  the  evocation  of  her   supposed  homeland  to  speak.       Almost   as   brilliant   is   Dwan's   handling   of   a   potentially   not-­‐funny   scene   where   Tessie   is   in   a   limo.   We   see   only   the   driver   and   Tessie,   richly   gowned   in   the   back,   looking   bored   as   hell   and   apprehensive   too.   Then   the   head   of   the   rich   kid   she's   stuck   with   suddenly   lurches   into   the   frame   beside   her,   as   we   suddenly   understand   her   mood.   After   an   exchange   of   words   in   the   back   seat,   Dwan   cuts   back   to   the   shot   of   the   driver   and   Tessie,   and   then   the   rich   kid   intrudes  into  the  frame  again,  and  she  slams  out  of  the  car.         Swanson   had   great   natural   comedic   talent,   but   many   years   before   the   Method   became   common   currency,   Dwan   wanted   his   privileged   star   to   have   a   taste   of   the   real   in   her   performance.   He   told   Bogdanovich   that   he   made   Swanson   ride   the   Times   Square-­‐Grand   Central  shuttle  at  rush  hour,  resulting  in  the  Manhattan  hordes  tearing  glamorous  Gloria's   clothes  and  almost  her  body,  too.  (He  said  she  spent  many  years  trying  to  get  even  with  him   via  various  practical  jokes.)       Dwan  also  urged  her  to  spend  a  couple  of  days  in  disguise  working  at  a  department  store,   because  she'd  never  been  near  a  bargain  counter  even  as  a  customer.  Swanson  powdered   over   her   world-­‐famous   beauty   mark,   put   on   a   blonde   wig   and   stuck   cotton   in   her   nose;   the   result,  she  said,  was  that  she  talked  "like  a  duck."  She  managed  the  deception  for  about  a   day   and   a   half   before   being   found   out.   But   in   both   cases,   when   the   time   came   to   film,   Dwan   said  Swanson  told  him,  "Don't  tell  me—I  know  what  it's  like."       "We  practically  had  no  scripts,"  he  told  Bogdanovich,  "we  used  to  manufacture  things  as  we   went."   Swanson   agreed;   "Allan   used   a   script   like   a   blueprint,"   she   said.   "The   best   things   we   made  up  as  we  went  along."  When  she  was  making  Zaza,  Swanson  said  she  understood  that   "I  had  been  getting  stale  in  Hollywood  and  I  hadn't  realized  it."  Dwan  made  her  fresh,  and   she  was  never  fresher  than  in  Manhandled.                                                                                                                   1  Peter  Bogdanovich,  Allan  Dwan:  the  Last  Pioneer  (New  York:  Praeger,  1971),  70.   124  


ADDENDUM: WHY  IS  MANHANDLED  MUTILATED?     Dwan,  in  Bogdanovich's  interview  in  Who  the  Devil  Made  It?,  and  Swanson  in  Swanson  on   Swanson,  talk  about  the  scene  in  Manhandled  where  Tessie  does  impersonations  at  a  posh   party.  They  both  said  that  this  was  the  first  time  Swanson  did  her  version  of  Charlie  Chaplin   on   screen.   It   would   be   re-­‐created   25   years   later   in   Swanson's   most   famous   role,   Norma   Desmond  in  Sunset  Boulevard.       But  in  the  Grapevine  Video  DVD,  which  I  bought  and  watched,  as  well  as  a  Youtube  video   that  appears  to  be  from  the  DVD,  the  Chaplin  bit  isn't  there.  Tessie's  countess  act  is  the  only   imitation   on   view.   Assiduous   Googling   turned   up   some   complaints   that   it's   missing   from   those  versions,  but  not  a  word  about  why,  or  when  was  the  last  time  anybody  saw  this  part   of   the   movie.   I   contacted   a   number   of   people,   including   Grapevine   and   some   people   involved   with   film   preservation,   trying   to   figure   out   what   had   become   of   the   scene.   I   never   heard  from  Grapevine,  and  the  archivists  were  as  puzzled  as  I.     Finally,   however,   I   got   an   answer   of   sorts,   at   random,   when   re-­‐reading   John   Horbal’s   interview  with  Gloria  Swanson  in  the  collection  People  Will  Talk.  She  said:     ...When  we  came  to  doing  the  impersonation  in  Sunset  Boulevard,  they  wanted  me  to   do  someone  like  Douglas  Fairbanks,  and  I  said,  “Why  don’t  I  do  the  Chaplin  thing  I   did  in  Manhandled?”  Mr.  Wilder  said,  “Can  you  do  that?”  And  I  said  yes,  and  that’s   how   it   happened.   Now,   my   impersonation   of   Chaplin   in   Manhandled,   which   I   must   say   they   cut   out   and   now   they   can’t   find   it   [emphasis   mine]   came   about   because   someone  had  left  a  derby  hat  around  the  set  and  in  between  scenes  I  put  it  on  my   head   and   started   wobbling   around   like   Chaplin,   picked   up   a   stick   and   twirled   it,   and   it   amused   Allan   Dwan   so   much   that   he   said,   “We   have   got   to   put   it   in   the   picture   because  you  are  doing  impersonation  s  of  a  Russian  countess  in  the  party  scene,  so   why  don’t  you  just  go  from  that  into  the  Chaplin?”  and  I  said,  “Fine,”  and  that’s  when   I   first   did   the   impersonation...which   I   might   add,   was   far   better   than   the   one   in   Sunset  Boulevard  because  I  looked  more  like  Chaplin,  my  face  was  rounder  and  in   those   days   I   had   puppy   fat.   It   wasn’t   an   elongated   face   as   it   is   now.   I   showed   a   photograph  of  my  impersonation  to  Chaplin  once  at  a  dinner  party,  and  he  thought  it   was  himself!  He  said,  “Who  is  that  man  with  me?”...     Horbal’s  interview  with  Swanson,  I  note  with  sadness,  took  place  in  1964.  Evidently  it  has   been  a  long,  long  while  since  anyone  saw  Swanson’s  first  Chaplin  impersonation,  and  it  may   never  be  seen  again.  Like  so  many  artists,  Dwan  has  suffered  from  having  his  silent  films   disappear,   or   survive   in   a   mangled   form.   As   appreciation   for   him   grows,   so   should   the   efforts  to  preserve  his  work.   125  


LAWS OF  HOSPITALITY:   STAGE  STRUCK  (1925)   Maxime  Renaudin    

Translated by  Bill  Krohn    

Filming of  Stage  Struck  (1925)     “Allan  and  I  worked  together  like  Mutt  and  Jeff  one  day,  like  Maggie  and  Jiggs  the  next,  but   we  loved  every  second  of  it.  If  anything  we  needed  didn't  exist,  Allan  invented  it.  He  was  a   tinkerer,  a  fixer,  a  doer.”   —  Gloria  Swanson1     “We  did  a  lot  for  Paramount  from  Manhattan  to  New  Martinsville,  in  black-­‐and-­‐white  and   color.  Let's  drink  to  us,  Gloria.”   —  Allan  Dwan2     ***    

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Gloria Swanson’s   own   words   about   the   filming   of   Stage   Struck   may   give   an   idea   of   the   feelings   radiating   from   this   little   human   comedy.   We   therefore   have   to   think   about   the   people  of  New  Martinsville  meeting  with  their  shining  and  eccentric  visitors  through  a  long   impromptu  joke,  a  wild  party  where  the  Marquis  de  la  Falaise  is  talking  dirty  French,  Ford   Sterling  is  barking  over  the  kids  on  the  wharf,  and  Gloria  Swanson  is  engaged  in  a  three-­‐ legged   race   with   Margie   Evans.3   A   casual,   enchanted   picnic   where   nothing   has   to   be   shown   but   the   pleasure   of   simply   being   together.   That’s   what   Stage   Struck   is   all   about,   plain   feelings  straightforwardly  offered  and  received,  in  an  innocent  gesture  where  costumes  are   no  concealment  and  lightness  is  an  art  of  living.     I   cannot   be   anything   but   wildly   ecstatic   when   enjoying   the   dynamics   of   the   Fairbanks   series,4   but   I   shall   admit   here   that   I   would   give   any   and   all   Fairbanks   for   Stage   Struck   or   Manhandled  (1924).  Beyond  the  obvious  and  unequaled  ability  to  design  a  space  where  the   geometry  of  the  movements  is  at  one  with  the  thoughts,  the  Swanson  series5  sheds  light  on   a   more   crucial   aspect   of   Dwan's   cinema:   his   quiet   quest   for   intimacy,   through   these   rare   instants   when   the   conduct   of   the   drama   seems   to   be   interrupted   and   the   screen   may   give   a   sense  of  the  pulse  of  the  world.  In  his  later  works  Dwan  will   have  to  fight  hard  against  the   odds   of   worthless   screenplays,   performers   or   producers   to   find   a   way   to   these   priceless,   peaceful   moments,   as   when—to   choose   only   one   among   dozens,   but   one   which   I   cherish   above   all—Elaine   Stewart   curls   herself   around   Ron   Randell   to   warm   up   his   dead   body   in   Most   Dangerous   Man   Alive   (1961).   In   making   Stage   Struck,   Dwan,   free   as   a   shooting-­‐bird,   would  offer  up  a  serene  and  harmonious  flow  with  no  intention  but  to  frame  the  ordinary   joys  of  an  ordinary  girl.      

        The   whole   scene   where   Jenny   and   Orme   end   up   shelling   peas   together   thrills   me.   The   comings  and  goings  between  the  kitchen  and  the  dining  room  are  elaborated  in  the  most   efficient  and  simple  way  (though  the  striking  close-­‐up  of  Swanson's  face  peeping  through   the  serving  hatch  is  arguably  an  unfortunate  choice  that  disrupts  the  balance  of  the  scene)  

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as if  for  the  sole  purpose  of  introducing  the  subsequent  non-­event,  when  the  whirl  of  half-­‐ lies   vanishes   into   the   knowing   tenderness   of   a   blissful   moment.   Orme’s   gentle   gesture   when   he   takes   a   seat   to   join   Jenny   in   the   shelling   party   is   striking   for   its   surprising   freshness  and  spontaneity.  The  lovely  minute  that  follows  is  disarmingly  simple,  fading  out   in  a  murmur  of  awkward  smiles  and  artless  confidences  without  any  superfluous  coda.  No   room   here   to   build   up   an   effect—it’s   as   if   Dwan   imprinted   his   signature   through   the   absence   of   any   commentary   over   what   is   shown.   And   it's   not   a   piece   of  Americana,   nor   a   cheap   domestic   satire;   it's   just   Orme   and   Jenny   being   there   together,   with   no   before   or   after.  We  did  not  have  to  wait  for  the  Nouvelle  Vague  to  film  a  young  couple  talking  about   love  and  death  in  a  kitchen  as  if  they  were  in  their  home.    

   

The   refusal   of   spectacle   does   not   lie   only   in   the   choice   of   the   subject   matter   (as   in   this   kitchen  scene);  it  is  embedded  in  a  particular  way  of  seeing  –  and  showing.  As  an  example,   if  Dwan  planned  the  shooting  schedule  to  coincide  with  the  Water  Queen’s  arrival  in  town,   it’s  remarkable  to  see  how  he  ignored  the  photogenic  potential  of  such  a  production  value   beyond   its   dramatic   function.   Mostly   seen   in   the   background—as   in   the   irresistible   six-­‐ legged   walk   along   the   bank   (“Among   actresses,   two   is   good   morning—but   three   is   good   night!”),   where   it   marvelously   fills   the   frame   behind   the   trees—the   boat   is   never   shown   off   or  played  like  an  ace  in  the  hole.  Dwan  digested  it,  as  he  digests  them  all.  While  the  people   of  New  Martinsville  may  have  thought  that  they  were  welcoming  this  all-­‐star  cast  in  their   small  river  town,  there  was  obviously  only  one  host  for  the  film-­‐party,  Allan  Dwan.  Looking   after  everything—from  the  water-­‐boat  to  Gloria  Swanson—he  conscientiously  avoids  any   magnifying   or   distorting   effect   that   would   pervert   the   purity   of   the   flow.   When   Swanson   claims   that   “Allan   had   found   some   mysterious   way   of   unleashing   her,”   she   marks   the   difference  between  capture/rapture  and  rape.  Dwan  knew  how  to  put  everything  in  front   of  his  camera  in  a  receptive  mood,  through  shared  availability  in  a  territory  of  trust,  with   Dwan  as  Hospitaller-­‐in-­‐Chief.  The  precision  and  the  economy  of  the  representation  would   aim  to  reproduce  the  simplest  gestures  while  illuminating  their  universal  significance.  

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Among all   Dwan   films,   Stage   Struck   is   one   of   those   that   marry   in   the   most   delicate   way   the   functional  paradigm  (the  grammar  of  film)  and  the  cosmic  one  (when  a  tear  may  echo  the   whole   universe).   If   Stage   Struck   is   one   the   most   exciting   silents   ever   made,   if   Dwan   may   be   the  greatest  among  the  classic  filmmakers,  that’s  because  he  has  always  known—from  the   very  beginning—that  he  was  nothing  compared  to  the  machine  he  had  helped  invent,  and   the  world  he  used  it  to  recreate.  His  major  virtues  as  a  filmmaker  are  his  modesty  and  his   generosity.   The   recompense   for   such   rare   virtues   had   to   be   enjoyed   in   the   relative   anonymity  of  a  genius  who  did  not  bear  the  stigmata  of  his  own  self-­‐satisfaction.                                                                                                                     1  Gloria  Swanson,  Swanson  on  Swanson  (Feltham:  Hamlyn,  1981),  274-­‐276.   2  Ibid.   3  As  reported  at  that  time  by  the  local  newspaper.  Wetzel  Democrat,  August  20/27  1925,  

West Virginia  Archives  and  History   (www.wvculture.org/history/entertainment/stagestruck01.html).   4  Ten  films  with  Dwan  from  The  Good  Bad  Man  (1916)  to  The  Iron  Mask  (1929)   5  Height  films  with  Dwan  from  Zaza  (1923)  to  What  a  Widow!  (1930)  

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THE IRON  MASK  (1929):   GONE  THE  SILENT  FACES    

Sabrina Marques    

Translated by  David  Phelps  

  "Once  upon  a  time,  and  that  time  was  not  so  very  long  ago,  when  little  boys  dreamed  of   grand  heroes  who  dared  and  dueled,  who  fought  and  won,  who  leaped  and  flew  through   the  air,  and  who  always,  but  always,  carried  the  day,  their  dreams  came  true  in  the  form  of   Douglas  Fairbanks."   —  Jeanine  Basinger1     The   Iron   Mask   still   carries   the   force   of   a   deeply-­‐felt   farewell:   it   is   through   Douglas   Fairbanks,   the   great   silent   star,   that   the   film   waves   off   an   era.   Hero   of   heroes,   himself   an   axiom   of   all   the   hypnotic   energy,   the   action-­‐packed   adventures,   of   the   golden   days   of   the   silent   film.   It's   1929,   the   year   of   the   crash,   but   also,   as   it's   been   said,   the   first   year   in   Hollywood  history  in  which  the  production  of  sound  films  would  surpass  that  of  silents.  A   year   in   which   a   film   like   The   Iron   Mask   could,   then,   arise   as   a   feigned   construction   of   nostalgia.   For   the   first   time,   Fairbanks   can   be   heard   here,   in   a   protracted   monologue   that's   delivered  in  place  of  the  prologue's  usual  intertitles.  For  the  first  time,  a  hero  played  by  a   star  will  die  at  the  end—joining  his  trio  of  companions  in  the  greater  adventures  beyond.   And   for   the   first   time,   instead   of   "THE   END,"   we   are   offered   "THE   BEGINNING,"   in   The   Iron   Mask's  final  shot.    

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Few actors   were   like   Fairbanks,   the   kind   of   figure   to   whom   mise-­‐en-­‐scène   had   to   be   subordinated.  Dwan  knew  this,  knew  that  the  man  who  was  Zorro,  who  was  Robin  Hood,   who  was  The  Thief  of  Baghdad,  the  Black  Pirate,  and  in  his  youth  a  modern-­‐day  D'Artagnan   (Dwan's   A   Modern   Musketeer,   1917),   could   assume   a   superior   presence;   knew   the   expressive   power   of   his   body   through   to   his   fingertips;   and   knew   that   he   couldn't   be   burdened  with  speaking  out-­‐loud,  a  challenge  for  another  exercise  than  this  one.     Silent   film   would   be   a   corollary   to   pantomime   as   much   in   its   development   as   in   its   demise.   The  accentuated  expressions  of  bodies  and  faces  might  be  read  in  an  instant,  while  the  face   becomes  a  topography  of  endless  events.  The  hero's  face,  ever-­‐shifting  under  the  power  of   the   close-­‐up,   offers   an   introduction—the   most   empathetic   connection   to   the   audience,   as   well  as  the  key  for  the  actor  to  become  a  star.  So  the  emergence  of  the  Star  System  would   usher   in   an   era   rich   in   holy   auras   and   newly-­‐appointed   Gods.   The   extraordinary   new   invention  would  offer  entertainment,  but  still  be  serious  enough  that  it  wouldn't  lack  art;   would   be   a   form   of   business,   but   one   affecting   enough   to   recall   what   extraordinary   circumstances   it   takes   to   produce   a   legend.   With   and   without   artistry,   the   golden   years   would  transpire  under  the  triumph  of  spectacle.       Dwan's   constant   knack   is   to   emphasize   storytelling,   to   memorialize   larger   than   life   odysseys   carried   out   by   perfect   heroes,   to   dazzle   the   collective   imagination   with   tales   of   adventure   and   romance   that   could   only   happen   in   a   movie   theater   (and   whose   corresponding  genres  today  are  something  else  altogether).  Throughout  the  long  decades   of  this  Dwanian  cinema,  ever-­‐grounded  in  archetypal  structures,  the  heroic  films  offer  the   most   repeated   highlights   of   his   style.   Literary   adaptations   of   popular   picturesque   novels;   stagings  in  accordance  with  the  standards  of  another  era;  clichés  that  proliferate  according   to   narrative   convention   (Boy   Meets   Girl/Happy   Endings);   the   comic   styling   of   characters   and   exaggerated,   slapstick   gestures   generate   together   the   most   baroque   of   comedies;   all   made   the   more   complex   by   symbolic   elements   (like   the   Queen's   badge   in   The   Three   Musketeers  or  the  medallion  split  in  two  in  The  Iron  Mask)  to  enhance  the  narrative.     And   yet,   if   Douglas   Fairbanks’   salient   athleticism   is   what   makes   him   so   immediately   suitable   for   the   part   of   the   hero,   what   keeps   Dwan’s,   ever   in   the   service   of   the   star-­‐system,   from  the  merest  rejoinder  to  the  adolescent  impulses  of  an  audience  ravenous  for  idols  ?  In   recognizing   the   nature   of   his   stories,   Dwan   liberates   them.   Well-­‐worn   stories   become   pliant,   primary   material   for   creating   new   structures,   structures   novel   and   precise,   working   at  a  voracious  speed  of  innovation  to  plot  out  new  forms  for  old  figures—all  perpetuated  by   this  newest  medium  of  cinema.  Take  The  Iron  Mask,  in  which,  through  D’Artagnan’s  death,   Fairbanks   bids   farewell   both   to   his   art   and   that   of   a   dying   era.   A   very   deliberate   parallel,   since  in  the  end  of  the  Musketeer  trilogy,  the  compulsory  donning  of  the  mask  implies  the   dissolution   of   both   the   identity   and   power   of   Louis   XIV   (the   self-­‐proclaimed   Sun   King   by   131  


divine right)   when   he   is   kidnapped   and   replaced   on   the   throne   by   his   twin   brother.   Likewise,   attenuating   the   emphasis   on   the   face   in   the   sound   era   would   allow   greater   opportunity  for  the  power  of  vocal  expression.  The  opening  speech  aside,  The  Iron  Mask  is  a   silent  film  although,  in  1952,  there  would  come  an  updated  version  of  the  film  that,  besides   presenting   a   different   montage,   would   replace   the   intertitles   by   Fairbanks   Jr.’s   narration.   And   ultimately,   what   one   hears   in   his   voice   is   less   an   epilogue   than   an   epitaph:   "And   so   passed   a   brave   and   glorious   man—in   honor.   Only   think,   and   we   live   again.   We   live   forever!   For  with  us,  now  as  ever,  it's  all  for  one,  and  one  for  all!"     Dumas’   story   would   be   adapted   by   Dwan   at   least   five   times:   Richelieu   (1914),   A   Modern   Musketeer   (1917),   The   Iron   Mask   (1929),   While   Paris   Sleeps   (1932),   and   The   Three   Musketeers   (1939).   And   if,   among   these   films,   the   first   is   considered   lost,   the   last,   now   in   sound  and  without  Fairbanks,  would  turn  out  to  be  a  disastrous  exercise  of  excess,  a  case   study  in  the  instantaneous  overdose  of  sound  and  music  generated  by  the  talkies.     The  figure  of  Fairbanks  can  be  seen  as  an  emblem  of  those  first  decades  of  adventure  films,   that  intimately  physical  genre  made  to  glorify  the  exploits  of  the  hero,  always  a  man.  The   dominance   of   the   masculine   ideal,   superior   in   physical   prowess   and   capabilities,   courageously   confronting   the   most   amazing   battles   and   adventures,   makes   for   the   most   fetishistic   genre   of   its   era:   no   other   shows   bodies   in   quite   the   same   way.   In   this   fantastical,   compartmentalized   genre,   fixated   on   overly-­‐masculine   features   (that   after   its   era   would   probably   please   only   the   MacMahonians),   the   same   clichés   are   endlessly   evoked:   it   is   the   hero  who  wins,  the  villain  who  gets  what  he  deserves,  and  are  women  who  are  placed  in   secondary   positions,   in   which   their   love   tends   to   be   the   reward   for   the   exertions   of   the   hero’s   quest.   Stereotypes   copy   stereotypes,   and   if   there   is   an   undoubtedly   conservative   spirit   haunting   these   repetitive   motions   of   the   genre,   should   we   affirm   Dwan   as   a   conservative   filmmaker?   By   no   means.   We   are   in   the   presence   of   a   cinema   of   collisions,   capable   of   accommodating   all   sorts   of   particularities   that   movies   like   The   Iron   Mask   and   The  Three  Musketeers  can  admit.  Almost  as  a  series  of  exceptions.  Dwan's  art—  everything   that   is   to   be   recalled   for   a   just   appraisal   of   his   legacy   both   today   and   tomorrow—can   be   seen  to  great  distinction  in  other  of  his  films.  Films  that  highlight  feminine  force,  in  stories   presided   over   by   women   or   female   characters   memorable   of   unparalleled   cunning:   films   like   Josette   (1939),   but   above   all   in   the   precursory   examples   of   Woman   They   Almost   Lynched   (1953)   and   Slightly   Scarlet   (1956).   With   his   massive   body   of   pioneering   work   (around   400   titles),   with   Dwan   one   both   asks   and   answers   the   question   of   what   cinema   should  be.                                                                                                                   1  Jeanine  Basinger,  Silent  Stars  (Wesleyan  UP:  Hanover,  2000),  99.  

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Separate But Equal #1: Tide of Empire (1929) Initial Impressions from an Unsung Allan Dwan Picture

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OSCILLATIONS: MAN  TO  MAN  (1930)

Ted Fendt Aside   from   the   prologue   to   The  Iron  Mask  (1929)   and   a   lost   sound   short   that   was   never   publicly   released,   Man  to  Man   (1930)   is   Allan   Dwan’s   earliest   foray   into   the   sound   era.   It   is   fascinating  to  see  a  filmmaker  whose  late  silent  works  sometimes  feel  like  sound  pictures— especially   parts   of   The   Iron   Mask—adapt   to   the   new   technology.   In   many   ways   this   adaptation   is   not   an   adaptation   at   all.   That   is,   he   shoots   many   scenes   from   fairly   wide   angles  and  even  cuts  between  rooms  in  a  manner  reminiscent  of  the  editing  in  silent  films.   Dwan   seems   to   immediately   have   been   aware   of   the   tendency   sound   has—especially   location  sound—to  concretize  the  images.  I’m  tempted  to  use  admittedly  loaded  words  like   “realism”  and  “documentary”  to  describe  much  of  Man  to  Man:  the  tracking  shots  through   town   and   at   the   train   station;   the   casual   banter   between   two   black   characters   in   a   bank;   or   the  evocative  details  of  small  town  life  in  the  south,  especially  the  picnic  scene  with  its  band   playing   “Dixie”   and   girls   getting   their   feet   wet   in   a   shallow   pond—and   yet   what   I   find   most   interesting  about  this  film  are  the  ways  it  undercuts  and  explodes  the  sense  of  “realist”  or   “documentary”   qualities   we   may   find   in   it,   disrupting   our   perception   and   assumptions   about   what   we   are   seeing   on   screen.   The   film   constantly   shifts   back   and   forth   between   these   two   tendencies,   a   “realist”   aesthetic   on   the   one   hand,   and   a   complete   recognition   and   unveiling  of  the  artifices  of  cinema  on  the  other. This  effect  is  epitomized  for  me  in  the  opening  sequence.  Images  of  a  college  track  and  field   event  lead  into  runners  jumping  over  hurdles.  A  tall  blond  boy  is  in  the  lead.  He  crosses  the   finish  line  first  and  wins,  the  crowd  roars.  Suddenly,  the  film  cuts  to  a  visibly  softer,  slightly   out   of   focus   shot.   As   we   might   begin   to   wonder   if   this   is   a   technical   mistake,   the   camera   begins   to   track   backwards.   Not   the   camera   that   recorded   the   images   we   have   been   watching,   but   another   camera   that   reveals   the   images   on   screen   to   be   images   within   the   film—creating   an   image   within   the   image.   The   track   and   field   event   is   not,   in   fact,   ‘the   movie,’   but   16mm   newsreel   footage   a   roomful   of   frat   boys   are   watching   in   their   frat   house.   The  camera  continues  tracking  back  to  reveal  the  screen  onto  which  the  images  are  being   projected   and   the   people   watching.   Someone   calls   for   the   lights   to   be   turned   on   and   the   demasking  of  the  illusion  is  complete.  Within  the  space  of  one  shot,  we  move  from  fiction  to   nonfiction  to  fiction,  or  is  it  all  fiction?  Or  nonfiction?  Any  sense  of  comfortable  certainty  we   had   at   the   beginning   of   the   film   has   been   called   into   question.   We’re   watching   a   movie   and   Allan  Dwan  doesn’t  want  us  to  forget  it.  

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The play   with   our   sense   of   what   we   are   seeing   occurs   throughout   the   film   and   does   not   only   involve   ambiguous   perspective.   Later   at   a   train   station,   in   the   middle   of   a   shot   that   seems  straight  out  of  a  documentary,  even  a  Luière  film,  two  blond  girls  in  white  dresses   skip  arm  in  arm  through  the  frame.  They  are  not  characters  in  the  film  and  their  presence   only  serves  to  call  attention  to  the  fact  that  what  we  are  watching  has  been  staged.  

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From his   early   silent   works   to   his   late   period   (his   last   film,   Most   Dangerous   Man   Alive   (1961),   contains   a   sequence   oddly   similar   to   the   opening   of   Man   to   Man),   Allan   Dwan   explored   the   formal   properties   of   cinema.   For   this   engineer-­‐filmmaker,   each   new   development—tracking   shots   (some   claim   his   invention),   sound,   color,   location   shooting— presented   new   possibilities,   new   problems   to   solve   and   new   ways   to   explore   one   of   his   favorite   properties:   cinematic   perspective.   This   is   a   filmmaker   who   understands   and   intimately   knows   the   codes   of   the   cinema—he   helped   invent   them—and   who   willingly   transgresses  them  time  and  again  throughout  his  films.   144  


Separate But Equal #2: Chances (1931) Initial Impressions from an Unsung Allan Dwan Picture            

             

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Separate But Equal #3: Black Sheep (1935) Initial Impressions from an Unsung Allan Dwan Picture  

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LAWS OF  ATTRACTION:   HIGH  TENSION  (1936)    

Maxime Renaudin   Translated  by  Bill  Krohn    

“Well,  they  were  assigned  to  me,  but  I  still  worked  on  the  scripts—always  with  two  things   in   mind—budget   and   speed,   tempo.   I'd   eliminate   stuff   that   was   extraneous   and   speed   up   stuff   that   was   written   slowly.   A   writer   stretches   a   story   out,   and   you've   got   to   fix   it   up.   Make  it  move.  Take  a  scene  of  two  people  sitting  in  a  room  and  try  to  figure  out  how  you   can  get  them  walking  down  the  street  and  maybe  bumping  into  a  person  now  and  then  or   getting   separated   as   people   go   between   them—anything   to   break   it   up.   Give   it   a   sense   of   motion.   That's   what   you   do   with   any   script   you   get   ahold   of.   Because   we   write   with   the   camera,  not  with  a  pencil  or  pen  and  we've  got  to  remember  that  and  not  get  trapped  by   the  fellow  who  writes  with  words.”   —  Allan  Dwan1   ***     Between   1935   and   1937,   Allan   Dwan   directed   nine   movies   at   Fox   with   Sol   Wurtzel   as   producer.   Unpretentious   programmers   with   low   budgets   and   low-­‐key   performers,   those   anonymous  scripts—cheap  melodramas  or  light  comedies—had  no  other  purpose  than  to   be   easy-­‐packed   entertainers.   And   that’s   what   they   are,   since   Dwan   was   not   the   kind   of   director   to   make   his   way   by   subverting   an   assignment.   But   they   all   demonstrate   his   ability   155  


to transform   the   most   common   material   in   a   superb   directorial   manifesto   through   a   complete   control   of   the   space.   As   Myron   Meisel   has   written   (about   Human   Cargo),   “this   impressive   lesson   in   the   craft   of   effective   storytelling   in   66   minutes   of   total   directorial   control  would  be  an  exemplary  object  of  study  in  any  filmmaking  class.”2  High  Tension  may   be,   along   with   Human   Cargo,   one   of   the   finest   examples   of   such   effort,   where   each   directorial   gesture   seems   to   be   inspired   by   and   enacted   through   the   Newton's   laws   of   motion.     First  law:  An  object  at  rest  stays  at  rest  and  an  object  in  motion  stays  in  motion  with  the  same   speed  and  in  the  same  direction  unless  acted  upon  by  an  unbalanced  force.  Why   on   earth   is   Steve  Rearden  (Brian  Donlevy)  entering  his  home  base  office  in  San  Francisco  on  a  bicycle?   It  doesn't  matter;  he  just  does  it.  The  motion  isn't  exactly  uniform  here  (other  laws  than  the   1st  one  are  also  operating),  but  it  doesn't  matter  either;  what  matters  is  the  motion.  Dwan's   camera   catches   Donlevy   in   motion   and   won't   let   him   stop   until   there   is   nowhere   to   go.   Using   the   fastest   way   to   get   from   the   entrance   to   the   desk,   Dwan   obviously   brings   some   tempo   to   the   script,   and   gives   us   an   idea   of   the   spirit   of   his   main   character—more   effectively   than   any   page   of   the   serial   adventures   of   The   Son   of   Neptune,   for   which   his   character   serves   as   inspiration...   Donlevy   will   never   get   any   rest   until   the   end   credits.   Godard  would  remember  the  principle  when  filming  Jean-­‐Claude  Brialy  cycling  around  the   living-­‐room  while  talking  with  Anna  Karina.    

          Second  law:  The  acceleration  of  a  body  is  parallel  and  directly  proportional  to  the  net  force   acting   on   the   body,   is   in   the   direction   of   the   net   force,   and   is   inversely   proportional   to   the   mass  of  the  body.  Here  comes  the  free-­‐for-­‐all  fight.  But,  whatever  his  debt  to  slapstick  art,   Dwan  doesn’t  spend  much  time  on  the  fat  man/skinny  man  routine  and  is  not  particularly   at   ease   with   barrack-­‐style   comedy;   so   he   wraps   up   the   confrontation   with   Ward   Bond   in   the  bar  and  prefers  to  dwell  on  the  song  at  the  piano.  But  the  morning-­‐after  scene,  where   Steve  Rearden  and  Eddy  Mitchell  (Norman  Foster)  actually  meet  in  the  latter’s  apartment   for  the  first  time,  exemplifies  Dwan’s  intention  to  seize  any  opportunity  to  give  a  sense  of   156  


motion. For   about   five   minutes,   the   two   guys   won't   stay   unoccupied   for   long:   getting   dressed,  preparing  a  wakeup  cocktail,  making  the  bed,  filling  the  bathtub,  making  coffee...   Dwan   keeps   them   constantly   busy   talking   and   moving   around   the   small   flat,   from   the   bathroom   to   the   kitchen.   Moreover,   the   talking   is   not   exactly   about   petty   things,   and   the   gap   between   the   level   of   the   discourse   and   the   simplicity   of   the   ordinary   gestures   intensifies  the  overall  effect.     The   same   approach   is   used   in   the   Honolulu   office   when   Donlevy   joins   the   local   team.   In   passing,  Dwan  felt  the  need  to  show  a  map  where  is  traced  the  way  from  San  Francisco  to   the  Honolulu  base—outside  any  logical  narrative  need,  and  as  he  does  frequently3  as  if  to   mark  his  permanent  topographic  obsession,  even  beyond  the  geometries  of  single  frames   or  scenes.          

          Third  law:  For  every  action,  there  is  an  equal  and  opposite  reaction.  Donlevy  and  Joe  Sawyer   (as   usual,   the   mug   here)   know   the   score   when   they   chase   each   other   around   the   piano   and   suddenly   have   the   same   bright   idea   to   use   it   as   a   buffer-­‐weapon.   This   gag,   without   any   prelude   or   ending,   is   as   incongruous   as   it   is   spontaneous,   and   brings   a   rectilinear   formal   energy  into  the  square  room,  the  two  men  faced  off  as  if  in  a  boxing  ring,  with  a  couple  of   very   effective   shots   along   the   diagonal   that   virtually   marks   the   corners   through   the   two   opposite  doors  into  the  hallway  and  the  bedroom.     “For  me,  it's  mathematics.  There  is  nothing  more  beautiful  than  mathematical  perfection”,   Dwan  told  Bogdanovich,  and  there  isn't  much  to  add  to  that.                                                                                                                   1  Peter  Bogdanovich,  The  Last  Pioneer  (New  York:  Praeger,  1971),  102.   2  Myron  Meisel,  “Allan  Dwan,”  American  Directors,  Volume  1,  ed.  Jean-­‐Pierre  Coursodon  and   Pierre  Sauvage  (New  York:  McGraw-­‐Hill,  1983),  112   3  See  Bill  Krohn,  "The  Cliff  and  the  Flume,"  Senses  of  Cinema  28  (2003),   http://sensesofcinema.com/2003/feature-­‐articles/cliff_and_flume/.   157  


TWO DWANS  IN  ONE:   ONE  MILE  FROM  HEAVEN  (1937)    

Ted Fendt     Through   its   two   connected   but   separate   stories,   One  Mile  from  Heaven  explores   Dwan’s   oft-­‐ studied  theme  of  doubles  and  his  strategy  of  reconciling/collapsing  different  points  of  view,   intricately   and   expertly   weaving   these   together   within   the   film’s   narrative   and   formal   structure.   Lucy   Walker   (Claire   Trevor),   known   to   her   friends   as   “Tex,”   an   up-­‐and-­‐coming   reporter,   replaces   her   male   predecessor   in   the   pressroom   at   the   town   courthouse.   After   beating  her  three  male  colleagues  in  poker  and  taking  all  their  money,  one  of  them  sends   her  uptown  on  a  false  lead  to  get  back  at  her.  In  an  all  black  neighborhood—something  of  a   slightly   more   suburban   Harlem   named   “Maple   Heights”—she   comes   across—amidst   a   group  of  children  tap  dancing  under  the  guidance  of  Bill  Robinson—little,  lone  white  girl,   Sonny   Jackson.   Quickly   discovering   that   the   girl   is   being   raised   by   a   black   woman,   Flora   Jackson  (Fredi  Washington),  who  claims  to  be  the  girl’s  mother,  Lucy  has  her  first  big  story   and  suddenly  the  press  (as  represented  by  the  men  she  beat  at  poker)  is  reporting  on  and   intruding  upon  these  people’s  lives.  Soon,  a  white  woman,  Barbara,  steps  forward  to  claim   Sonny  as  her  own.     The  film  consists  of  two  main  stories  being  recounted  simultaneously—Lucy  and  Flora’s— but   a   triple   frame:   the   framework   of   the   principle   story   of   the   child,   Flora/Sonny/Barbara’s;  Lucy’s  perspective,  as  she  looks  in  on  Flora/Sonny/Barbara’s  story,   and  eventually  intrudes  into  it;  and,  finally,  Dwan  and  the  film’s  own  frame  onto  the  action,   as  he  looks  onto  Lucy  looking  onto  Flora  and  the  others.  There  is  even  a  parallel  between   Dwan  and  Lucy  insofar  as  her  job  involves  her  telling  other  people’s  stories  for  money.  By   stressing   her   status   as   an   outsider   within   the   black   community,   Dwan   highlights   his   own   position   as   a   filmmaker,   providing   some   critical   distance   to   consider   not   just   Lucy   but   himself   as   well.   Flora’s   intimate,   private   world   is   not   to   intended   to   be   shared   or   made   public,   yet   it   is,   anyway,   through   the   mass   media,   for   the   sake   of   Lucy’s   career   and   her   paper’s   profit   motive,   just   as   it   is   for   the   studio,   20th   Century   Fox.   It   is   the   kind   of   sensational,  lurid  subject  matter  many  a  pre-­‐code  was  based  around.  One  can  imagine  how,   in  the  hands  of  another  filmmaker,  the  scandalous  nature  of  Flora’s  scandalous  claim  that   she’s   Sonny’s   mother   might   be   played   up   for   this   inherently   sensational   value.   Dwan,   instead,   emphasizes   Lucy’s   perspective   as   an   outsider-­‐looking-­‐in   in   such   a   way   as   to   distance  himself  from  the  material  and  and  its  potentially  sensationalistic  qualities.  Rather   than  being  a  film  about  a  black  woman  raising  a  white  girl,  the  film  is  about  a  reporter  who   finds  a  great,  but  intrusive,  story  and  the  problems  that  can  cause  the  involved  parties.      By   the  film’s  end,  having  seen  the  emotional  duress  Flora,  Barbara  and  Sonny  have  had  to  go   158  


through, Lucy   loses   her   taste   for   the   kind   of   sensational   journalism   that   sells   papers   and   quits   to   go   write   a   gossip   column   for   the   Cattleman’s  Weekly  Bugle.   A   decision,   incidentally,   not  unlike  Dwan’s  own  preference  for  fable-­‐esque  tales  (Robin  Hood  (1922),   The  Iron  Mask   (1929))   or   stories   distanced   from   contemporary   reality   (Sweethearts   on   Parade   (1953),   Calendar  Girl  (1947),  Frontier  Marshall  (1939),  Tennessee’s  Partner  (1955)).  Even  one  of  his   World  War  II  films,  Abroad  with  Two  Yanks  (1944),  is  set  in  the  faraway,  action-­‐less  theater   of  Australia.     Dwan’s  major  theme  of  doubles—explored  in  the  Flora  Jackson  story—emerges  clearly  in   the   first   scene   in   Maple   Heights   with   Bill   Robinson’s   character.   He   is   introduced   with   brilliant   panache:   a   lateral   tracking   shot   of   a   pair   of   feet   tap   dancing   down   the   street,   surrounded  by  the  feet  of  neighborhood  kids  who  are  first  presented  in  a  series  of  dynamic   cutaways.  The  tracking  camera  stops  in  front  of  an  ice  cream  sign  and  pulls  back  as  the  man   whose  feet  we’ve  been  watching  tells  the  kids  to  go  get  ice  cream.  This  is  the  character  of   Officer  Joe,  dressed  in  plainclothes.    

  Soon,   an   angry   parent   is   breaking   up   the   kids   and   Officer   Joe’s   fun.   While   the   man   complains,   the   ice   cream   man   begins   handing   Joe   articles   of   clothing   that   Joe   puts   on   in   front  of  us—and  that  transform  him  into  a  uniformed  officer  right  before  our  eyes.  Officer   Joe  is  both  a  man  of  law  and  order—though  frequently  occupied  with  Flora  Jackson  and  her   daughter,   he   mixes   romance   with   professional   duty—as   well   as   tap-­‐dancing   entertainer   (the   plot   even   comes   to   a   halt   for   several   minutes   towards   the   end   to   show   his   entire   performance  at  a  policemen’s  ball)  who  teaches  the  kids  how  to  dance  to  the  ire  of  some   parents.    

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Officer Joe’s   plainclothes/uniformed   sides   and   the   onscreen   change   of   costume   has   the   additional   effect   of   stressing   his   nature   as   a   film   character,   providing   an   added   layer   of   distance   from   the   material.   While   this   is   a   story   set   in   the   present   and   even   about   the   dangers  of  recounting  stories  too  close  to  the  present,  Dwan  nonetheless,  stresses  its  story-­ ness.  Whether  set  in  the  past  or  present,  his  films  are  stories.  A   Modern   Musketeer  is  set  in   the   contemporary   present   of   1917   but   Douglas   Fairbanks’   fantastical   character   can   still   literally  climb  to  the  top  of  a  church  steeple  and  perform  other  unbelievable  feats.  Similarly,   Officer  Joe  can  mesmerize  an  entire  neighborhood  of  kids  and  get  them  all  dancing  as  in  a   musical  only  to,  seconds  later,  put  on  a  coat  and  hat  in  order  to  become  an  officer  of  the  law.      

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It is   only   after   this   flashy   introduction   of   a   doubled   personality   that   Dwan   introduces   Flora   and  Barbara:  the  two  mothers  who  together  provide  the  crux  of  the  film’s  main  problem.     Implicit  in  the  press  and  public’s  disbelief  is  the  fact  that  the  difference  in  skin  color  means   that  Flora  cannot  possibly  be  the  child’s  mother.  Maternity  is  strictly  biological  in  the  world   of  this  film.  But  Dwan,  as  he  often  is  (see  The  Half-­Breed  (1916)  or  Sailor’s  Lady  (1940)),  is   more   forward-­‐thinking   than   his   époque   and   the   dilemma   will   be   resolved,   after   intervention   from   the   court,   when   Barbara   invites   Flora   to   move   in   with   her   and   her   husband  to  raise  the  daughter  jointly.  Resolution,  then,  takes  place  the  moment  when  the   two   characters   mutually   recognize   and   accept   their   doubled   nature,   when   they   recognize   each  other  as  both  being  legitimate  mothers.     The  resolution   of   the   film   is,   then,   very  complex  on  a  formal  level,  for  resolution  occurs   not   only   when   the   points   of   view   are   collapsed—Lucy   gains   empathy   for   Flora,   sees   the   wrong   of   her   way,   leaves   the   paper   to   give   up   that   kind   of   writing—but   also   when   the   mothers   recognize   each   other—which   is   to   say   their   own   doubled   role—and   accept   that   they   can   both  be  Sonny’s  mother.  Dwan  takes  all  of  this  in  and  unites  a  community  with  one  of  his   finest  camera  movements:  a  simple  pan,  much  like  one  he  will  later  execute  in  Calendar  Girl   to  similar  effect.  Sonny  asks  Officer  Joe  to  dance  for  them  and  prior  to  cutting  to  the  final   shot  of  Officer  Joe,  Dwan  places  his  camera  to  assume  Officer  Joe’s  perspective,  in  order  to   fill   the   screen   with   what   feels   like   a   candid   portrait   of   the   party,  with   all   the   actors   looking   directly   at   the   camera/Officer   Joe,   from   left   to   right,   reminding   us   that   this,   once   again,   (just)  a  story:    

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ALLAN DWAN  &  SHIRLEY  TEMPLE:   THE  MAN  AND  THE  MACHINE    

Mathieu Macheret    

Heidi (1937)     Between   1937   and   1940,   Allan   Dwan   made   three   kids   films   with   little   Shirley   Temple— then  at  the  peak  of  international  glory—that  should  be  shown  in  every  film  school  as  much   for   their   exemplary   classicism   as   for   the   inimitable   way   in   which,   with   remarkable   ingenuity  and  humility,  they  accommodate  themselves  to  a  fairly  poor  script  or  situation  in   order  to  put  them  in  the  service  of  the  purity  and  fluidity  of  the  story.       Shirley   Temple,   the   first   Hollywood   child   star,   born   in   1938,   had   just   turned   ten   and   had   already   spent   most   of   her   life   in   showbusiness.   She   had   behind   her,   from   her   screen   debut,   close  to  forty  films.  Her  success  in  the  United  States  and  abroad  was  considerable.  If  Daryl   Zanuck,   the   major   producer   at   20th   Century   Fox,   was   looking   to   put   her   in   Heidi,   it   was   because   he   was   very   aware   that   the   actress,   a   veritable   godsend   for   the   studio,   was   at   a   turning   point   in   her   career:   continuing   to   have   her   take   on   baby   roles   was   becoming   problematic;   henceforth   her   image   in   movies   to   had   to   accompany   her   physical   growth.   Zanuck  was  dreaming  of  a  more  historical  and  narrative  environment  for  her  and  Johanna  

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Spyri’s very  famous  Swiss-­‐German  novel  offered  him  the  ideal  foundation.  To  manage  this   delicate  turning  point  whose  outcome  was  uncertain,  he  called  upon  director   Dwan,  an  ex-­‐ lighting   engineer   who   had   filmed   the   biggest   silent   stars   but   had   found   himself   stuck   shooting  B  pictures  since  the  coming  of  the  talkies.  Dwan  seized  this  opportunity  to  finally   move  up  to  a  bigger  production,  even  if  Shirley  Temple,  in  her  autobiography,  remembers  a   director   initially   bored   with   the   idea   of   making   a   movie   with   a   child.   Two   showbiz   professionals,   two   kinds   of   animals   (the   discreet   dinosaur   and   the   loud   little   monkey)   found   themselves   on   either   side   of   the   camera   and,   from   there,   didn’t   know   who   was   going   to  lead  the  other.     Watching   the   films,   there   appears   a   clear   difference   in   the   nature   of   what   is   told   to   us— distracting   but   insignificant   little   yarns   that   disappear   after   the   screening—and   what   is   shown  to  us—very  dizzying  and  exciting  material.  By  putting  his  humble  artisan’s  talent  in   the   service   of   Shirley   Temple,   a   pure   product   of   the   Hollywood   spectacle,   Dwan   ends   up   addressing   nothing   more   than   the   star   system   itself   and   the   off-­‐centering,   the   disequilibrium   that   is   its   root.   The   filmmaker   places   his   camera   at   a   child’s   height   and   organizes   his   entire   story   around   a   knee-­‐high   kid   with   dimpled   cheeks   who   acts,   sings   and   dances   with   a   confusing   naturalness.   She   literally   lives   at   the   center   of   a   world   in   which   adults  are  relegated  to  the  periphery.     What,  then,  do  these  three  films  recount?  Roughly  the  same  thing.  In  Heidi  (1937),  a  little   orphan   in   the   city   is   conducted   by   her   aunt   to   her   grandfather’s,   in   the   heights   of   an   idyllic   Alpine  village  in  the  southern  Black  Forest.  Heidi  commits  herself  to  the  coy  little  cottage   and   her   good   humor   brings   the   joy   of   life   back   to   the   crabby   and   asocial   old   man,   who   returns   to   be   among   the   villagers   after   a   twenty   year   long   solitude.   But   the   corrupt   aunt   returns   to   steal   the   child   in   order   to   put   her   in   a   bourgeois   house   in   the   city   next   to   a   little,   invalid  girl  and  under  the  watch  of  a  mean-­‐tempered  old  lady.  The  grandfather  goes  off  in   search  of  her  and  only  finds  her  at  the  end  of  the  film.     In   Rebecca   of   Sunnybrook   Farm   (1938),   Temple   again   plays   an   orphan   that   a   somewhat   crooked   uncle,   her   guardian,   has   trained   in   singing   and   acting.   He   enters   her   in   a   radio   competition  hosted  by  a  cereal  brand  that  is  looking  for  the  voice  of  a  little  Miss  America.   She  causes  sparks  to  fly  but  a  mistake  leads  to  her  leaving  the  building  before  the  people  in   charge  can  get  their  hands  on  her.  Her  uncle,  disappointed,  gets  rid  of  her  at  the  home  of   her   aunt,   a   stiff-­‐collared   matron   who   lives   on   a   farm   outside   the   city.   Now,   the   aunt’s   neighbor   happens   to   be   the   young   publicist   who   recognizes   the   new   arrival’s   voice   to   have   been  the  best  voice  in  the  contest.  He  sets  up  a  recording  studio  in  his  house  in  order  to  get   the  child  to  sing  without  the  knowledge  of  her  aunt,  who  ends  up  recognizing  her  talent.    

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Finally, in  Young  People  (1940),  a  comedian  couple  takes  in  an  abandoned  baby  and  raises   her  in  the  world  of  music  halls.  A  few  years  later,  wishing  to  give  her  a  “good”  and  stable   home,   they   retire   to   a   New   England   farm.   But   the   local   population,   stuck   in   their   ways,   frowns  upon  this  family  of  artists  and  soon  their  league  of  decency  (under  the  direction  a   vile   patroness)   manages   with   relentless   determination   to   chase   them   from   their   land.   A   storm  balances  out  the  situation:  the  acrobat  father  saves  a  group  of  children  surprised  by   the  storm  and  wins  the  locals’  trust.     The  three  films  are  sprinkled  with  musical  numbers  that  are  inserted  naturally  into  the  last   two  but  pass  through  the  first  one  by  way  of  dreams.     Each  time,  the  films  stage  the  departure  of  a  little  girl  outside  of  the  city  and  her  arrival  in  a   big   “doll’s   house”   (a   cottage   or   farm),   a   life-­‐size   playground   wound   in   a   space   outside   of   time   (the   Alpine   village,   the   countryside).   These   idyllic   sets,   little   bubbles   of   peace   sheltered  from  the  modern  world,  are  based  on  a  fairytale  (or  refuge)  aesthetic  where  the   child,  a  nomad  without  attachments,  disembarks  as  if  in  a  fantastical  world  she  chooses  as   her   home—stable,   fixed   in   eternity—that   was   only   waiting   for   her   eyes   to   reveal   its   enchanting  forms  and  many  amusements.  Each  time,  the  Temple-­‐creature's  transformation   into  spectacle  is  opposed  by  grotesque  and  archaic  types  of  people  (the  old  ladies  and  other   old   bags)   and   her   accomplishment   delayed   by   the   twists   and   turns   of   an   often   poorly   written   story   (with   the   exception   of   Young   People,   whose   extraordinary   and   particularly   twisting   story   demystifies   the   do-­‐goodism   of   earthly   paradises).   But   show   business   happens  to  be  the  essence  of  this  skilled  little  being  built  for  the  stage;  it’s  her  beating  heart,   whose  rhythm  marries  the  jazz  that  rings  out  during  her  musical  hall  numbers.  And  what   her  opposition  to  the  matrons  and  old  ladies,  those  paragons  of  virtue,  says  is  that  this  little   kid’s  body—which  already  pokes  fun  at  the  adults—is  secretly  the  carrier,  in  dance,  in  her   exhibition  to  people’s  eyes,  in  the  desire  for  herself  she  arouses  by  appearing  onstage,  of  a   truly   scandalous   (because   sensual)   seduction   that   comes   from   an   adhesion   to   the   philosophy  of  show  business.     Still   more   troubling,   it   should   be   mentioned,   is   that   in   all   three   of   these   roles,   Shirley   Temple’s  character  has  no  ancestors.  Her  parents  don’t  exist;  she  is  born  of  no  adult  who   lives  before  our  eyes  on  the  screen.  She  always  lands  in  a  foster  home  and  falls,  as  if  from   the   stork’s   beak,   into   the   hands   of   adoptive   parents.   In   this   way   the   spectator   is   easily   moved—what   is   more   naturally   moving   than   an   orphan?—but   this   constant   tells   us   something   about   the   nature   of   a   not   entirely   human   character.   If   her   talent   is   without   genealogy  it  is  because  it  is  a  manifestation  of  show  business  itself,  of  the  spirit  of  showbiz,   a   cross   between   music   hall   and   carnival   show.   Yes,   Shirley   Temple   is   a   monster   on   display.   And   it   is,   first   of   all,   her   body   that   is   the   show,   a   body   that   we   can’t   put   in   any   of   the   categories   of   Hollywood   heroism,   or   even   the   categories   studio   films   usually   stick   children.   166  


A very  small  body,  plunged  in  the  middle  of  adult  bodies  but  just  as  capable  as  them,  and   often  even  better.  This  tiny  creature  shaken  by  the  staccato  of  the  song  In  Our  Little  Wooden   Shoes   in   Heidi   has   to   be   seen:   she   has   never   looked   so   much   like   a   robot.   The   ease   with   which,   in   the   following   two   films,   Temple   does   tap   numbers   ("Fifth   Avenue"   in   Young   People),   indicates   a   supernatural   form   of   automatism.   The   systematic   return   of   her   frank   laughter,   her   smiles   that   seem   to   light   up   her   face   on   command,   her   dimples   that   appear   and   disappear   in   a   flash,   her   suddenly   gushing   tears,   push   the   impression   even   further:   what   if   Temple   was   a   trained   little   animal   or,   even   more   disturbing,   a   machine   made   to   touch  the  spectator?  Shirley  Temple,  a  cyborg?  It’s  a  theory.     One  scene  in  Heidi  proves  particularly  illuminating.  While  the  heroine  finds  herself  at  her   sick  friend’s  side,  in  the  big  bourgeois  abode  of  Mayenfeld,  an  acrobat  goes  down  the  street   with  a  barrel  organ  in  his  hands  and  a  monkey  on  his  shoulder.  The  monkey  sneaks  into  the   house   and   up   next   to   the   girls   and   brings   chaos   to   the   room,   exchanging   dance   moves   with   little   Heidi.   At   one   moment,   he   is   face   to   face   with   her,   on   a   chair,   and   their   two   faces,   during   a   shot-­‐reverse   shot,   exchange   a   whole   series   of   mirrored   grimaces.   There   is   something   very   explicitly   specular   in   this   scene,   relating   Shirley   Temple’s   moves   to   the   monkeying  of  a  circus  animal.         It   is   logical,   then,   that   Shirley   Temple—a   force   of   nature,   a   mutant   with   powers   of   enchantment—occupies  the  center  of  Dwan’s  mise  en  scène,  as  he  tries  hard  to  present  as   best  as  possible—meaning,  clearly—the  actress’s  moves,  to  give  them  the  necessary  frame   in   a   forest   of   pretexts   the   filmmaker   skillfully   passes   off   as   necessities.   Thus,   these   three   films   invite   us   very   simply   to   admire   the   animal   on   stage   that   is   Shirley   Temple,   but   to   admire  her  as  the  stakeholder  in  a  story  that  must  be  told  as  best  as  possible,  lucidly.  If  only   one   could   be   chosen,   it   would   have   to   Young   People,   the   most   surprising:   integrating   explicit  references  to  New  Deal  politics,  it  subtly  confronts  nomadism  with  sedentariness,   and  the  morality  of  artists  with  that  of  brave  people.  The  film  denounces  the  archaic  mores   of   shortsighted,   insular   communities,   opposing   them   with   the   new   blood   of   a   youth   impatient  to  take  the  reins,  Temple  being  its  purest  incarnation.  This  all  concludes  with  the   sublime   storm   that   stripes   the   black   and   white   image   with   torrential   rain   and   bends   the   magnificent  sets  under  the  wind’s  assault.     To  conclude,  if  we  had  to  locate  a  “force”  in  Dwan’s  discreet  art,  it  is  perhaps  in  these  three   films   that   we   should   look:   in   fulfilling   a   command   without   the   least   bit   of   ceremony— showcase   the   star   Shirley   Temple   in   a   new   register   of   dramatic   films—he   also   reveals,   through   the   clarity   of   his   pragmatism,   what   lies   behind   the   command—the   spectacular   machine’s   control   over   the   body   of   its   youngest   representatives—thanks   to   that   famous   virtue  of  transparency  that  allowed  the  major  classical  filmmakers  to  film  everything  as  if   through  a  sheet  of  plated  glass.   167  


Separate But Equal #4: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) Initial Impressions from an Unsung Allan Dwan Picture  

                   

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AWKWARD AND  PROUD  OF  IT:   JOAN  DAVIS  IN  JOSETTE  (1938)    

Michael Lieberman     As  a  glistening  object  in  the  post-­‐code  hangover,  Josette  (1938)  is  something  of  an  oddity,   briskly   moving   along   as   a   sharp   comedy   of   errors,   though   set   off   balance   by   the   rather   unusual  way  the  relationships  between  men  and  women  are  defined  so  boldly  by  money.   For  Brassard  family  patriarch  David  Sr.  (William  Collier  Sr.),  sons  David  Jr.  (Don  Ameche)   and  Pierre  (Robert  Young)—inheritors  to  a  fish  cannery  dynasty  in  New  Orleans—as  well   as   every   other   man   in   JOSETTE,   women   are   canvases   on   which   to   project   their   capitalist   desires.   When   David   Sr.,   demoted   to   retirement   on   a   slender   allowance,   announces   his   engagement  to  Havana  lounge  singer  Josette  (Tala  Birell),  the  junior  Brassards,  going  as  far   as  to  willfully  jeopardize  their  business,  push  their  father  to  New  York  on  false  pretenses  to   mend  fences  with  a  solid  business  account,  but  make  the  mistake  of  assuming  his  soon-­‐to-­‐ be   bride   will   remain   in   New   Orleans.   Instead,   Josette   departs   with   him,   substituted   by   a   layabout,   wispy   tobacco-­‐clerk-­‐turned-­‐chanteuse   (Simone   Simon),   who   is   convinced   by   nightclub   owner   Barney   (Bert   Lahr)   to   take   on   "Josette"   as   a   brand   name—Barney   just   can’t  imagine  the  capital  he  would  lose  she  were  to  perform  under  any  other  name.     The  only  entry  point  in  Josette  to  counter  the  continual  possessiveness  of  women  through   lavish  promises  of  a  moneyed  future  and  window-­‐dressings  of  champagne  and  furs  is  May   Morris  (Joan  Davis),  a  thankless  assistant  and  witness  to  the  velvet-­‐gloved  barbarism  of  the   Brassards.   She   exists   outside   of   their   masculine   economics   not   only   because   she's   an   awkward  forethought,  but  also  because  she  doesn't  share  any  other  characters'  manager-­‐ speak;  often  times  talks  to  herself,  as  if  she  were  existing  in  another  film  or  era.  When  both   Brassard   brothers   lose   the   attention   of   Josette,   Pierre   plays   a   practical   joke   on   her,   making   her  balance  two  champagne  glasses  on  her  hands,  in  the  film's  wittiest  sight  gag;  "All  things   make   me   do   the   opposite"   she   states.   When   she   asks   for   help   from   a   helpless   janitor,   he   replies  "I  can't  touch  the  glasses,  ma'am,  I  don't  belong  to  the  waiter's  union."    

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May provides  most  of  the  film's  anarchic  moments,  her  energy  complicating  the  champagne   buzz   and   distorting   the   whimsy   of   the   soft-­‐focused   musical   numbers.   Which   is   not   to   say   that  she's  in  control  of  her  destiny:  she's  the  least  free  character  in  the  film,  at  the  mercy  of   the   hearts   of   men   hardwired   to   their   bank   accounts,   and   dragged   along   as   the   collateral   damage   of   their   messy   adventures.   Her   behavior,   however,   suggests   a   primal   rejection,   rather   than   complicity   or   celebration,   of   her   environment:   it   suggests   a   desire   to   detach   herself   and   move   elsewhere,   while   still   living   in   the   shadows   of   women   slightly   more   feminine  and  coddled.      

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About halfway  through  Josette,  David  Sr.  states:  "I'm  a  fool  and  most  men  in  our  family  have   been  fools,  about  one  thing  in  particular:  women"—after,   of   course,   he’s   been   swindled   out   of  a  large  sum  of  money  by  his  bride-­‐to-­‐be.  For  men  in  the  cinema  of  the  30s,  women  can   often  be  the  instruments  of  the  swindle,  though  in  films  like  William  Dieterle's  rapturous   Jewel   Robbery   (1932),   their   swindles   are   validated   by   the   oppressively   few   choices   they   might  make.  There  are  no  such  fantasies  in  Josette,  in  which  women  can  easily  snake  their   way  to  the  top  of  a  narrative  (i.e.  economic)  totem  pole,  at  the  cost  of  only  tiny  conventional   breaks  or  slips  of  the  masculine  heart.  The  realism  of  Dwan's  films,  often  times  suggesting   utopian  possibilities  around  the  edges  of  the  frame,  provides  an  anchor  for  a  stories  that,  in   other  films,  are  all  too  often  made  fantastical;  Dwan’s  films  accept  the  lumps  of  the  present,   but  refusing  to  stop  there,  which  is  to  say  that  Davis’  delightful  May  Morris  is  the  epitome   of  the  Allan  Dwan  conscience.  

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FRONTIER MARSHAL  (1939):   SHADOWS  OF  DISORDER    

Filipe Furtado    

Frontier Marshall  (1939)     Allan   Dwan   never   hid   his   taste   for   comedy.   It’s   not   unjust   to   say   that,   something   like   Howard  Hawks,  he  is  a  filmmaker  who  express  himself  in  a  manner  that  is  essentially  comic.   We  need,  however,  to  understand  that  comedy  according  to  Dwan  is  not  a  matter  of  jokes   or  lighter  treatment  of  minor  subjects  (as  Peter  Bogdanovich  suggests  when  dealing  with   the  50s  films  in  his  The  Last  Pioneer),  but  the  formation  of  a  certain  perspective.  It  is  a  style   that   reaches   its   peak   in   the   pre-­‐code   days   (ironically,   one   of   the   filmmaker's   least   productive  phases),  a  style  which  Dwan  was  one  of  the  few  to  continue  employing  later.  A   good   example   of   can   be   seen   in   his   most   famous   postwar   film,   Silver   Lode,   whose   script   might  at  first  suggest  a  B  movie  High  Noon  knock-­‐off.  Dwan's  own  point  of  view,  however,   skews   things   in   another   direction.   The   series   of   misfortunes,   often   exacerbated   by   bad   timing,   piling   up   over   an   wrongly   accused   man   (John   Payne),   making   even   his   most   plausible   explanations   seem   suspicious,   suggest   something   much   closer   to   a   screwball   comedy  like  Bringing  Up  Baby,  which,  after  all,  is  also  basically  about  a  man  whose  perfect   life  is  systematically  destroyed  by  another  person’s  will.     This  comic  perspective  is  very  important  to  the  way  in  which  Frontier  Marshal,  even  in  just   its   name,   delves   into   one   of   Dwan's   recurring   obsessions:   the   spatial   boundary   lines   between   civilization   and   disorder.   As   an   adaptation   of   the   legend   of   Wyatt   Earp   and   the   182  


Gunfight at  OK  Corral,  it  is  an  adaptation  entirely  à  la  Dwan,  divested  of  the  mythical  weight   so   many   subsequent   versions   would   insist   on.   Here,   the   issue   is   not   the   foundation   of   a   civilized  community,  as  in  My  Darling  Clementine  (to  name  the  other  great  version  of  this   story).  Far  from  it—the  image  we  take  with  us  from  the  movie  is  not  of  Earp  dancing  with   Clementine,  as  in  Ford,  but  of  Tombstone’s  streets—just  another  studio  western  town  like   many   others—and   the   certainty   that   more   dangers   are   always   lurking   in   its   shadows.   Frontier   Marshal   suggests   less   the   myth   of   civilizing   the   wilds   than   an   anarchic   comedy   about  the  inevitable  chaos  of  living  in  the  frontier.  In  this  sense,  the  Brazilian  title  is  even   better  than  the  original:  The   Law   of   the   Frontier.  It  is  this  law  that  Randolph  Scott’s  Wyatt   Earp  needs  to  sustain.  Not  the  letter  of  the  law,  but  the  much  muddier  law  of  the  frontier;   it's  a  film  about  how  to  negotiate  disorder.     Frontier   Marshal‘s   Tombstone   is   one   of   the   many   symbolic,   slippery   spaces,   a   social   no-­‐ man's  land,  that  Dwan's  Westerns  tend  to  focus  in  on.  In  one  of  his  best  incursions  into  the   genre,   The   Woman   They   Almost   Lynched,   the   main   city   is   even   called   Bordertown   and   is   indeed   suspended   in   the   middle—the   geographical   middle—of   the   civil   war,   neither   part   of   the   South   nor   the   North.   The   same   state   of   suspension   underlies   the   action   of   repeated   Dwan  Westerns,  from  the  final  act  of  A  Modern  Musketeer  (1917)  to  the  city  controlled  by   crime  in  The  Restless  Breed  (1957).  In  those  spaces,  man  is  guided  simply  by  his  capacity  to   rapidly   distinguish   between   right   and   wrong   and   to   take   a   stand   at   every   situation.   It   is   a   space  in  which  man  is  tempted  all  the  time—probably  exemplified  best  by  the  main  street  of   The  Restless  Breed  and  the  way  its  comings  and  goings  hasten  the  difficult  decisions  faced  by   its   vengeful   hero—a   space   in   which   one   must   always   resist   the   easy   way   out.   Part   of   the   frontier’s  appeal  to  Dwan  is  clearly  that  it  is  an  empty  space  that  needs  to  be  filled  out.  It's   left  to  man  to  decide  what's  to  be  done  with  it.  One  of  the  most  tarnished  frontiers  of  Dwan's   cinema,  the  Tombstone  of  Frontier  Marshal  seems  far  from  the  open  locations  of  his  other   westerns;  here,  we  have  a  studio  town  overtaken  by  shadows  and  a  space  permeated  by  a   sense  of  risk  that  violent  gunmen  that  might  attack  Wyatt  Earp  at  any  time.  No  truce  will  be   possible  in  Tombstone—evil  might  appear  at  any  given  moment.     In   Frontier  Marshal,   Doc   Holiday   is   less   the   tragic   figure   familiar   from   other   versions   of   the  story  than  an  extension  of  Earp  who  often  loses  himself  in  this  very  space.  It’s  curious   to   observe   how   the   relationship   between   Earp   and   Doc   here   reverberates   years   later   in   Tennessee’s   Partner,   only   there   with   the   roles   exchanged:   the   old   player   (John   Payne)   recognizing  in  the  young  gunfighter  (Ronald  Reagan)  the  man  he  once  was  as  he  tries  to   protect   him.   The   first   meeting   between   Doc   and   Earp   is   one   of   Dwan’s   great   scenes,   covering   ample   dramatic   terrain,   from   Doc’s   heavily   theatrical   entrance,   Randolph   Scott’s   simple  turn   of   the   neck   in   recognition,   the   moment   the   two   men   watch   each   other   eye-­‐to-­‐ eye   until   a   simple   movement—Earp   extending   out   his   arm   to   stop   another   player   from   taking   advantage   of   Doc’s   moment   of   distraction—establishes   a   relationship   of   equality   that   will   guide   them   for   the   remaining   of   the   film.   A   familiar   genre   situation,   but   the   183  


ponderous atmosphere  is  undercut  by  a  few  select  gestures  that  offer  this  relationship  its   nobility,  amidst  the  chaos  that  will  determine  the  acts  of  these  two  men's  acts  from  that   point   on.   If   Frontier   Marshal   seems   notable   as   one   of   the   director’s   heavier   films,   it's   largely   thanks   to   Cesar   Romero’s   Holiday,   whose   presence   is   an   eternal   reminder   of   what   might  happen  to  those  who  fall  to  the  temptations  of  the  frontier.     Randolph  Scott's  Earp  is  one  of  the  rare  figures  of  law  at  the  center  of  a  Dwan  western.  For   a   filmmaker   with   relative   little   control   over   his   material,   it   is   remarkable   how   his   incursions   into   the   frontier   seem   invariably   centered   around   criminals   (Angels   in   Exile),   gamblers   (Tennessee’s   Partner),   wrongly   accused   men   (Silver   Lode),   vigilantes   (Passion),   women   of   ill   repute   (Cattle  Queen  of  Montana)—always   figures   under   suspicion.   As   their   counterpart,  Earp,  the  great  sheriff  of  the  American  west,  here  becomes  an  agent-­‐agitator.   Thanks   to   Budd   Boetticher’s   films,   we   are   used   to   considering   Randolph   Scott   as   laconic   figure  negotiating  a  series  of  dramatic  situations,  but  in  Frontier  Marshal  he  shows  himself   to   be   unusually,   even   energetically   animated.   There   is   a   self-­‐destructive   streak   to   Scott’s   presence   that   suggests   how   easily   this   man   might   turn   into   another   Doc   Holiday.   Dwan’s   Earp   has   a   Hawksian   competence,   but   this   is   not   enough   for   him:   his   acts   always   come   accompanied   by   a   self-­‐awareness   that   betrays   his   excessive   confidence.   Scott,   far   from   projecting   a   man   who   bears   a   long   history   behind   him,   as   in   Boetticher’s   films,   always   seems  ready  to  parlay  his  heroic  acts  into  a  show—as  in  the  moment  when  he  carries  the   drunk   Indian,   just   after   being   appointed   sheriff   for   the   first   time.   His   entrances   bring   to   mind   Dwan’s   old   hero   Douglas   Farbainks,   but   it   is   almost   as   if   Earp   were   aware   of   Fairbanks  and  knew  how  a  hero  from  a  silent  film  should  introduce  himself  to  the  audience.   His   interactions   with   Ben   Carter’s   interminable   gunfighters   betray   this   same   tone   of   provocation,  as  if  he  were  incapable  of  pausing  in  his  constant  search  for  the  next  piece  of   action.     He   seems   less   an   agent   of   the   law   than   a   man   constantly   being   tested   by   the   shadows  presiding  over  Tombstone.     Dwan,   however,   endows   Frontier   Marshal   with   a   levity   that   keeps   the   film   far   from   any   unnecessary  fatalism.  The  manner  in  which  multiple  desires  (of  Earp,  Doc,  Jerry  the  hooker,   etc.)   keep   colliding   into   one   other   complicates   the   action   in   a   way   that   anticipates   the   structure  of  his  marriage  farces  from  a  few  years  later.    There  is,  especially,  a  lightness  to   the  actors'  gestures,  and  even  a  brute  action  like  Earp's  carrying  the  hooker  out  from  the   saloon   gains,   in   the   hands   of   Binnie   Barnes   and   Scott,   a   screwball   quality   that   doesn't   so   much   undermine   the   weight   of   the   action   as   reorient   it:   one   more   gesture   in   the   great   diorama  of  frontier  anarchy.   Romero’s  Doc,   especially,  occasionally  recalls  Edmond  Lowe’s   player  from   Black  Sheep,  at   first   glance   a  much  more  elegant  comedy  about  another  kind  of   civility  frontier  (its  suspended,  Transatlantic  space  not  so  far  away  from  Tombstone).     In   his   interview   with   Peter   Bogdanovich,   Dwan   makes   two   useful   observations   about   Frontier  Marshal:   that   the   original   idea   did   not   involve   the   figure   of   Wyatt   Earp,   and   that   he   184  


was satisfied   with   Tombstone's   backlot   set.   Both   claims   point   to   how   the   film   works   the   whole  time  to  move  away  from  the  period’s  mythology  and  towards  a  much  more  practical   point   of   view   about   the   decisions   that   frontier   morality   imposes   on   its   characters.   Move   away  from  mythology—but  not,  we  might  note,  from  history,  as  the  film  opens  by  placing   Tombstone  in  the  context  of  the  gold  rush  that  in  a  way  elucidates  every  action  that  happens   afterwards.   There   are   more   references   to   mining   in   Dwan’s   westerns   than   in   the   work   of   any   other   director   of   the   genre,   and   there   is   no   other   economic   activity   that   exposes   the   nebulous  position  of  Western  towns  in  quite  such  a  way.  Mining  is,  essentially,  a  predatory   activity:  the  richness  of  the  soil  from  one  location  redirected  to  another  far  away.  From  the   moment  that  Frontier   Marshal  begins,  establishing  that  Tombstone  was  founded  in  mining,   it   is   clear   that   we   are   looking   at   a   colony   rather   than   some   genuine   part   of   the   union—a   provisory  space  that  is  there  simply  to  be  drained  of  its  riches.  Everything  here  operates  to   scale   the   figures   from   this   larger   story   to   a   more   minor   one   in   which   everyone   has   to   negotiate  the  best  way  to  live  at  the  frontier.  Dwan’s  Earp  could  never  be  Wyatt  Earp  as  he   would   be   to   Ford,   Sturges   or   Kasdan   (if   the   film   resembles   any   other   version   of   the   character  it  is  Jacques  Tourneur's  Wichita  (1955)),  but  only  another  frontier  marshal.       It   is   Tombstone   and   not   Earp   that   Frontier   Marshal   deals   with,   and   if   at   first   it   seems   strange   that   Dwan   shows   so   much   pride   in   such   an   ordinary   studio   town,   it   is   in   such   banality  that  the  film  places  so  much  of  its  power.  There  is  an  easiness  to  how  the  simple   and   the   unadorned   resonate   beyond   themselves   in   Dwan,   and   if   his   Tombstone   is   interchangeable  with  many  other  frontier  towns,  all  for  better:  this  notion  only  reinforces   another   that   we   are   dealing   with   a   standard   site   at   the   limits   of   order,   and   that   the   choices   traced   here   echo   those   of   so   many   other   similar   locations.   If   there   is   a   film   that   Frontier   Marshal   most   often   brings   to   mind,   it   is   not   another   of   Dwan’s   westerns,   but   Howard   Hawks’  underrated  last  film,  Rio  Lobo  (1970).  Like  Frontier  Marshal,  it  is  a  film  in  which  the   good  humor  of  the  situations  and  the   gestures  don't  quite  undercut  the  weightier  tone,  and   in  which  the  filmmaker’s  gaze  frames  a  frontier  city  taken  over  by  evil.  Both  films  suggest   the  same  feeling  of  constant  danger,  the  same  sense  of  enticement  at  every  turn.  Unlike  its   compatriots  Rio  Bravo  and  El  Dorado,  in  Rio  Lobo,  John  Wayne’s  motives  are  petty  and  he   seems   all   the   more   touching   for   feeling   vulnerable,   unlike   most   Hawksian   heroes,   to   the   amorality  around  him.     As  in  Rio  Lobo,  one  of  the  central  visual  motifs  of  Frontier  Marshal  is  of  its  hero  crossing  the   main  street  through  an  air  of  potential  violence.  One  of  the  great  virtues  of  Dwan's  cinema   is   that,   along   with   all   these   comings   and   goings,   he   explores   his   location   so   well   that   by   the   time   the   famous   shootout   is   declared,   it   can   be   understood   through   Earp's   knowledge   of   the   space.   The   law   of   frontier   becomes   a   question   of   geometry:   the   O.K.   Corral   is   only   recognizable   by   the   name   Earp   and   a   plaque   identifying   the   place;   the   myth   from   history  is   emptied   out   by   this   almost   complete   austerity.   What   is   left   of   the   faceoff   is   only   the   certainty  that  we  are  wrapped  in  shadows  far  from  the  metropolis.   185  


SAILOR’S LADY  (1940)    

Cullen Gallagher    

  "The  Navy's  got  them,  the  Navy's  all  they  want,  all  they  need.  Gee,  there's  guns  and  boats   and  buddies  and  the  sea."   —Myrtle,  Sailor’s  Lady     “It  would  seem  the  first  division  has  not  confined  its  energies  to  target  practice."   —Commander  John,  Sailor’s  Lady     “Diapers!  Eight  bells  and  a  shipwreck.  Is  this  a  war  game  or  a  kiddie  party?”   —Captain  Roscoe,  Sailor’s  Lady     ***     Like   Gunga   Din   (1939)   made   the   year   before,   Sailor’s   Lady   (1940)   concerns   a   trio   of   soldiers  whose  fraternity  is  threatened  by  one  member’s  impending  marriage.  In  Gunga  Din,   Cutter  (Cary  Grant)  and  MacChesney  (Victor  McLaglen)  are  upset  by  Ballantine’s  (Douglas   Fairbanks   Jr.)   nuptial   intentions.   In   Sailor’s   Lady,   Scrappy   (Dana   Andrews)   and   Goofer   (Wally  Vernon)  are  disturbed  by  Danny  (Jon  Hall)’s  affections  for  Sally  (Nancy  Kelly)  and   her  adopted  child,  an  infant  named  Skipper  (an  ironic  name  as,  by  the  end,  the  baby  is  as   much  Danny’s  master  as  is  the  captain  of  his  ship).  In  both  movies,  the  two  un-­‐hitched  men   conspire  to  get  their  betrothed  pal  off-­‐the  hook,  away  from  the  alter,  and  free  from  women.       186  


The similarity  between  the  two  films  basically  ends  there.       Gunga  Din  is  a  laugh-­‐laden  actioner  set  in  British-­‐controlled  India  at  the  turn  of  the  century,   and  Sailor’s  Lady  is  largely  a  portside  screwball  comedy  with  only  the  vaguest  portents  of  a   war-­‐to-­‐come  (as  it  would,  one  year  later).  The  most  significant  difference  between  Gunga   Din   and   Sailor’s   Lady,   however,   lies   in   their   narrative   resolution,   which   reflects   a   larger   gender-­‐social   worldview.   In   the   end,   the   misadventures   of   Gunga   Din,   reinforcing   the   masculine   bond   of   the   trio,   fulfill   a   firm   “bros   before   hoes”   policy   as   Fairbanks   chooses   Grant   and   McLaglen   over   the   lady.   Stevens’   direction   further   validates   their   unity   and   strength   through   the   film’s   action   sequences,   as   well   as   through   compositions   emphasizing   their  teamwork,  shared  effort,  and  communal  victory.     Conversely,   Sailor’s  Lady  subverts   male   command   and   congregation.   Dwan   undermines   the   trio’s   seafaring   unity   by   disassociating   them   from   their   comfortable,   shared   space   (their   hallowed  ship)  and  placing  them  in  alien  environments  (unfurnished  suburban  homes  and   backyard   neighborhood   parties).   While   Dwan’s   compositions   may   situate   the   trio   within   the   same   frame   (frequently   an   equal-­‐opportunity   medium   shot   that   doesn’t   privilege   or   side   with   anyone   in   particular),   their   conflicting   motivations   and   increasingly   diverging   fates   destabilizes   their   stability   as   a   whole.   Furthermore,   unlike   Gunga   Din’s   heroes,   the   Sailor’s  Lady  trio  rarely  coordinates  their  efforts  collectively.  The  most  harmonious  shot  of   them   together,   in   fact,   is   when   they   are   changing   Skipper’s   diapers.   How   many   sailors   does   it  take  to  change  a  diaper?  When  the  sailors  in  question  are  Danny,  Scrappy,  and  Goofer,  it   certainly  takes  a  village.     Sailor’s   Lady   is   based   on   an   original   story   by   aviation   pioneer-­‐turned-­‐Academy   Award-­‐ nominated  Hollywood  screenwriter  Frank  “Spig”  Wead,  whose  romanticized  portrayals  of   military  heroes  often  feature  men  reluctant  to  admit  their  own  vulnerability  and  the  futility   of   their   own   efforts.   While   Sailor’s  Lady  exhibits   the   classic   Wead   tension   between   work   and   home,   military   and   family,   adventure   and   domesticity—two   different   kinds   of   duty,   each  with  their  own  responsibilities,  dangers,  and  rewards—Dwan  handles  it  with  a  more   comical  slant  than  most  Wead-­‐penned  films.       After   Danny   and   his   Naval   buddies   turn   a   backyard   party   into   an   all-­‐out   brawl,   Sally   decides  to  marry  Danny’s  rival—a  responsible,  shore-­‐duty  sailor  named  Rodney  (played  by   B-­‐western   regular   Buster   Crabbe).   In   a   fit   of   jealousy,   Danny   and   Rodney   literally   and   symbolically   destroy   her   home   (trashing   her   house   and   therefore   jeopardizing   her   custody   of   Skipper).   In   order   to   hide   the   baby   from   the   authorities—and   to   exact   poetic   justice— Sally   plants   Skipper   on   board   Danny’s   ship   during   war   games.   When   Skipper   is   discovered,   it   not   only   disrupts   the   on-­‐board   male   hierarchy,   but   causes   so   much   confusion   that   it   brings   the   maneuvers   to   a   standstill.   Afterwards,   Danny   owns   up   to   his   responsibilities,   marries  Sally,  and  becomes  a  father  to  Skipper.     187  


The men  of  Sailor’s   Lady,  at  least,  treat  the  drama  as  they  would  the  last  drop  of  beer  in  a   keg.  The  women,  however,  feel  the  desperate  gravity  of  the  situation  more  heavily.  Sally  is   another   of   Dwan’s   liberal,   modern,   socially   progressive   heroines.   Assuming   custody   for   Skipper   after   her   parents   were   killed   in   an   accident,   Sally   has   to   face   society’s   scrutiny   as   a   single   parent   at   a   time   when   conservative   values   prescribed   a   more   traditional   two-­‐parent   household.  Courting  both  Danny  and  Rodney  at  the  same  time—something  that  would  have   been  more  acceptable  on-­‐  and  off-­‐screen  for  a  man,  but  hardly  for  a  lady—Sally  is  viewed   with  suspicion  by  her  neighbors  and  the  juvenile  custody  courts.    Scrappy  and  Goofer  might   see   Sally   as   merely   scheming   for   a   husband,   but   Dwan   offers   a   much   more   sympathetic   interpretation   of   her   character.   She   doesn’t   seem   so   interested   in   pursuing   romance   or   ensnaring   a   husband   as   she   is   in   trying   to   build   a   home,   support   a   child,   and   find   a   life   partner  (unlike  Danny,  who  is  just  out  to  have  a  good  time,  and  whose  first  reaction  when   he   enters   her   home   is   shock   that   there   is   no   radio).   Furthermore,   if   home   is   a   potential   prison,   Sally   is   the   only   one   confronts   the   uncertainty   head-­‐on   (illustrated   literally   when   she  presses  her  check  to  the  bars  of  the  baby’s  crib).       The   final   sequence   of   Sailor’s  Lady   resolves   the   drama   with   a   marriage   ceremony.   Danny   and  Sally  are  married,  and  all  their  friends  (landlubber  and  sailor  alike)  are  in  attendance.   Sailor’s   Lady   culminates   not   a   choice   of   married   vs.   sea   life,   but   of   finding   an   idealized   balance  between  home  and  work,  house  and  ship,  land  and  sea,  man  and  woman,  husband   and  wife,  adult  and  child.  As  the  last  line  of  the  film  states,  “A  wedding,  well,  it’s  about  time.”   Even   sailors   must   grow   up,   and   overgrown   boys   must   some   day   mature.   After   sixty-­‐five   minutes,  it’s  time  for  Danny,  Scrappy,  and  Goofer  to  do  just  that.  And  now  that  Danny  has   tied   the   knot,   what   does   the   future   hold   in   store   for   the   films’   other   lovers,   Goofer   and   Myrtle  (Joan  Davis),  and  Scrappy  and  Georgine  (Katharine  Aldridge)?  With  one  musketeer   gone,  it  seems  likely  that  the  other  two  will  also  soon  be  putting  away  their  swords.  

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WELFARE STATE:   YOUNG  PEOPLE  (1940)    

Zach Campbell    

Attention, ladies!  Notice  the  young  woman  on  the  right  is  the  only  one  smiling.     “It  takes  money  to  retire,”  Kit  (Charlotte  Greenwood)  tells  Joe  (Jack  Oakie),  which  is  what   the   old   showbiz   couple   tries   to   do:   pick   up   with   their   adopted   daughter   Wendy   (Shirley   Temple)   and   move   to   the   small   town   of   Stonefield.   The   exchange   is   an   instance   of   dialogue   about  personal  in  a  film  concerned  with  public  finances.  Personal-­‐political  encounters  form   the  rule  in  Young  People  (1940):  this  trio  of  outsiders,  the  Ballantine  family,  shakes  up  the   local   politics   of   a   town   whose   older,   powerful   residents   are   resistant   to   New   Deal-­‐style   policies.  Says  one  establishment  fellow:  “Seems  that  being  progressive  and  spendin'  other   people's   money   amounts   to   the   same   thing.”   But   the   Ballantines   see   it   differently.   As   Joe   mutters   about   a   bridge   in   disrepair   at   one   town   meeting,   “Cost   less   to   repair   the   bridge   than   to   build   a   new   one.”   Young   people   and   their   allies   devote   themselves   to   future   189  


possibilities; those   who've   been   around   the   block   are   hesitant   to   open   their   pocketbooks   for  such  common  endeavors.  In  many  ways  Young  People  is  fraught  with  a  kind  of  liberal   paternalism   which   casts   small   town   people   as   slightly   funny   and   backwards.   Those   very   townsfolk,  meanwhile,  do  not  trust  such  big  city,  “big  government”  perspectives.  Youth  and   creativity   entail   flexible   minds   and   openness   to   new   ideas.   So   Kit,   Joe,   and   Wendy   are   vaudeville  veterans  with  young  hearts.  Upon  arrival  they  first  experience  their  hometown   as  quaint.  Kit  muses  about  “real,  old-­‐fashioned  democracy”  here,  and  he  chuckles  when  a   resident  quips  back:  “Darn  right  it's  old-­‐fashioned;  this  ain't  no  New  Deal  country.”       Young  People  binds  up  this  division  with  a  split  in  leisure  tastes.  For  instance,  when  Wendy   asks   one   older   resident   what   people   do   for   entertainment,   he   answers   that   they   sit   around   and   wait   for   someone   to   make   a   fool   out   of   themselves.   The   Stonefield   establishment's   political   backwardness   mirrors   its   provincialism   when   it   comes   to   passing   the   time.     However,   this   agonism   between   liberal   elites   and   provincial   conservatives   is   not   the   whole   story.  No,  there  is  also  a  subtler,  fainter,  but  potentially  more  interesting  logic  at  work.  It   concerns  a  particular  logic  of  visualizing  democracy  and  the  commonweal.       Young  People  stages   a   New   Deal   debate   in   a   place   we   could   compare   with   interest   to   the   demographic   dreamland   of   William   Wellman's   Magic   Town   (1947).   The   Ballantines   themselves   are   well-­‐traveled   but   experience   cultural   and   geographical   distinctions   at   a   remove,   i.e.,   through   the   filter   of   their   vaudeville   routines   and   jokey   accents:   performances   of  “south  of  the  Mason-­‐Dixon  line  …  with  my  mammy,”  a  Hawaiian  hula  number,  imitations   of  simple  folks  (“I'm  just  sayin'  …  mebbe”).  Instead  of  illustrating  a  town's  populace  as  the   variegated   assortment   of   ticked   census   boxes   and   opinion   that   Magic  Town  offers,   Young   People   is   a   not-­‐even-­‐disguised   attempt   to   reroute   the   affective   bonds   of   Grandma   and   Grandpa  in  favor  of  Franklin  Delano  Roosevelt's  policies.       Consequently   the   square   old   timers   demonstrate,   somewhere   between   portraiture   and   caricature,   some   long-­‐standing   right-­‐wing   American   fears   about   a   entertainment   elite   exerting  a  grip  upon  its  public.  This  is  mutation  of  the  classical  Marxist  idea  of  a  ruling  class   ideology,  (coupled  with  deeper  and  older  fears  of  ochlocracy)  except  here  the  “ruling  class”   is   defined   in   terms   of   its   cultural   status   and   visibility   rather   than   its   ownership   of   the   means   of   production.   This   is   predicated   upon   a   belief   that   cultural   visibility   translates   directly  into  political  power.  It's  Plato's  Anti-­‐Republic,  run  by  the  poets  (who  are  all  New   Deal   Democrats).   Freethinking,   free-­‐spending   entertainers   Kit,   Joe,   and   Wendy   translate   almost   seamlessly   into   contemporary   Volkish   apprehensions   toward   an   elite   liberal   Hollywood.  And  this  progressive  bastion  threatens  at  any  moment  to  turn  out  the  “young   people”  (synecdoche  for  the  populist  mob)  against  the  middle-­‐class  establishment.    

190


Plaques and  banners.     How  do  you  pictorialize  a  conquest  through  democracy?  According  to  Young  People  it  is  a   matter  of  appealing  to  an  assembled  public,  like  entertaining  on  a  stage.  Bad  citizenship  is   like   bad   spectatorship.   (“What's-­‐a   matter   with   these   people?   Have   they   got   dyspepsia?”)   The  Debordian  spectacle,  and  what  would  come  to  be  known  as  the  attention  economy,  are   here   presented   in   incipient   form;   1940   seems   about   right.   From   the   perspective   of   the   town's   established   fogeys,   there   is   enough   to   do:   quaint   coffee   klatsches,   vindictive   people-­‐ watching.  But  for  the  Ballantines  the  town  presents  nothing.  Deciding  upon  what  actually   counts  as  something  or  nothing,  when  it  comes  to  town  leisure,  is  a  cornerstone  of  the  local   political   question.   We   might   note   that   the   Ballantines'   solution   is   an   immediated   relation   among   people:   no   screens   or   electronic   communications,   really,   but   rather   live   theatre   and     face-­‐to-­‐face   meetings   (disruptions   in   the   women's   club   or   the   soda   shop,   at   town   hall   or   in   the   sidewalk).   Look   at   the   performative   nature   of   these   entertainers-­‐cum-­‐citizens,   who   engage   with   their   fellow   community   members   as   an   audience.   At   the   Ballantines'   retirement  performance,  they  entreat  their  audience  to  stand  for  their  own  applause.  There   is   nothing   disengaged   about   this   way   of   inhabiting   the   stage.   It's   a   matter   of   reaching   a   public  and  eliciting—engineering,  even—a  response.  It's  in  the  air  and  in  the  flesh,  but  not   at  the  moving  pictures.  See  below  …                                  

191


Implicit rhetoric  of  im-­mediacy:  On  the  screen,  “nothing  ever  happens.”  Right  there,  the   political  model  at  the  heart  of  Young  People's  public  forum  attention  economy,  buried  in  a   montage  insert.  There  was  also  a  1933  short  film  (directed  by  Roy  Mack)  with  the  same  title.  

  Young  People  piques  one's  curiosity—my  curiosity,  anyway—for  the  way  society  (or  just  an   industry?)   articulates   an   image   of   itself   for   itself.   All   the   same:   clear   lines   are   drawn;   so   little   is   wasted   here.   From   the   film's   opening,   we   have   the   simple   economy   which   emblematizes   Dwan's   classicism.   A   crane   shot   cues   us   to   a   lot   of   information   –   a   woman   brings  a  basket  through  an  alleyway  to  the  back  door  of  a  vaudeville  hall.    

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Opening crane  shot     .For   the   movie   is   also   a   bit   of   a   backstage   musical,   which   this   opening   shot   telegraphs;   chirpy   music   from   the   stage   contrasts   with   the   insistent   desperation   of   the   woman   delivering   this   package   (we   don't   know   it's   an   infant   Wendy   yet).   This   prelude   to   the   orphan's   bequeathment   to   her   deceased   father's   best   friends   is,   in   fact,   staged   like   a   microcosm  of  the  political  struggle  at  the  film's  core.  There  is  a  demand  of  expenditure:  a   woman  knocks  on  the  door,  but  is  denied  entry.  Give  your  help,  provide  me  access,  take  this   baby—a   question   of   necessity.   Meanwhile   meanness,   in   all   connotations,   threatens   to   prevent   the   Good.   It's   this   gulf   over   which   the   Ballantines   seek   to   bring   Stonefield's   tradition-­‐oriented,   unhelpful   Republican   constituency.   They   intend   to   do   so   by   grabbing   attention.   The   eponymous   children's   performance   (“Young   People”)   is   in   fact   a   cheeky   political   protest   for   progress.   It   is   also,   from   the   perspective   of   Kit   and   Joe   (who   spurred   the  performance)  patronizing.  It  is  this  patronization  to  which  the  conservative  town  adults   respond,  vocally  and  bodily  forcing  their  children  off  the  stage.    

The crowd  dissipates;  Wendy  loses  a  battle  for  attention.   193  


The Ballantines   are   most   comfortable   working   with   attention   as   the   means   by   which   to   convey  their  messages.       However,   it   is   only   an   example   of   the   Ballantines'   selflessness—when   they   attend   efficiently   and   directly   to   the   welfare   of   endangered   children   lost   in   a   storm—that   wins   over   the   tiny   black   hearts   of   Stonefield's   conservatives.   It   is   not   through   a   politics   of   attention   but   rather   the   recognition   by   the   conservatives   of   a   just,   and   unpublicized,   act   which   finally   forms   a   bond   between   the   previously   competing   political   factions   of   Stonefield.     This   is   all   implicit   in   Young  People;   it   is   not   openly   thematized.   Only   a   bit   of   analysis   will   draw   out   this   submerged   commentary   and   counter-­‐commentary   the   narrative   contains   about   what   exactly   might   unify   an   American   populace   around   New   Deal   policies.   (The   suggestion  is  that  spectacle  alone  is  insufficient.)  Simple,  frontally  framed  images  in  Dwan   often   contain   a   fascinating   amount   of   graphic   play   or   thematic   resonance.   At   the   close   of   Young   People,   Dwan   includes   crowd   reaction   shots   during   the   Ballantines'   triumphal   performance.    

Images of  a  citizen  audience.     It's  interesting  that,  in  these  brief  reaction  shots,  resistant,  unimpressed  faces  remain.  The   woman  on  the  lower  left  hand  of  the  frame  in  the  above  left;  hesitant  faces  throughout  the   background.   Even   in   the   crowning   moment   of   this   bonbon   political   fantasy,   the   crowd   is   directed   to   include   impressions   of   dissent.   That   is,   an   “image”   of   the   democratic   polity   is   impossible  without  a  deep-­‐seated  and  uncooperative  dissent—even  a  conservative  one.  It's   a  current  against  the  stream;  it's  a  single  thin  crack  in  the  bell.  Like  so  much  produced  from   America,  one  may  interpret  this  as  either  hope  or  doom.       194  


Beginning/End.      

195


HORSE SENSE:   TRAIL  OF  THE  VIGILANTES  (1940)    

Maximilian Le  Cain    

  “I   see   it,   but   I   don’t   believe   it!”   Cowpuncher   Meadow’s   (Andy   Divine)   reaction   to   the   physically   elastic,   racially   fluid   town   eccentric   Bolo   (Mischa   Auer)   displaying   some   hair-­‐ raising   Cossack   style   trick   riding   could   double   as   the   creative   motto   behind   Trail   of   the   Vigilantes.   This   breezy,   gracefully   frenetic,   and   altogether   delicious   western   is   a   circus   of   shifting   roles.   That   the   plot   centers   on   an   undercover   lawman   going   after   a   villain   who   has   set  himself  up  as  a  pillar  of  the  community  in  order  to  defraud  it  is  a  standard  western  pitch.   But   the   fun   and   energy   of   the   film   spring   from   the   way   in   which   every   major   character   not   disguising   his   or   her   identity   either   wants   to   be   someone   else,   or   thinks   he   or   she   is,   or   ends   up   being   so   in   spite   of   themselves.   Rather   than   an   anxious   state   of   affairs,   the   film   celebrates  this  instability  as  liberating.  Rather  than  being  rooted  in  notions  of  forging  a  new   identity   in   tandem   with   forging   a   new   country   and   society   in   the   west,   this   mutability   is   rooted  in  performance,  in  convincing  others  through  sheer  persistence  and  keenness  and,   perhaps  to  a  lesser  degree,  skill.  And  rather  than  a  star  vehicle,  this  appealingly  generous   work   is   very   much   an   ensemble   piece   that   accords   space   for   everyone   to   'perform'.   It   is  

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possible the   pervading   sense   of   freedom   and   spontaneity   owes   something   to   the   fact   that   a   dissatisfied  Dwan  shut  down  production  after  a  couple  of  days  and  had  the  initially  serious   script   rewritten   for   surreal   comedy.   Yet,   in   spite   of   this,   it   is   an   assured   film:   its   pacing,   vigorous  and  decisive,  breathes  evenly  without  a  hint  of  confusion  or  hesitancy.         Dwan  and  writer  Harold  Shumate  introduce  the  audience  early  on  to  the  rules  of  the  playful   world   they   have   created,   when   posh   but   capable   eastern   lawman   Tim   Mason   (Franchot   Tone),   soon   to   be   nicknamed   'Kansas',   arrives   out   west.   Even   as   his   train   pulls   into   the   station,  the  town  he  pulls  into  is  depicted  as  a  hyperbolically  violent  hellhole  buzzing  with   cartoonish   chaos   and   gunplay   that   comically   prefigures   the   excesses   of   the   spaghetti   western  by  twenty-­‐five  years.  Kansas  finds  the  town  lawmen  handcuffed  to  an  assortment   of  posts  and  hitching  rails  and  goes  in  search  of  the  keys,  reportedly  in  the  possession  of   one   Swanee   (Broderick   Crawford),   the   foreman   of   a   nearby   ranch.   Swanee   is   set   up   as   a   formidable   badman,   and   his   bully-­‐boy   antics   when   Kansas   confronts   him   to   get   the   keys   seem   to   confirm   him   as   such.   What   ensues   is   an   amusing   confrontation   of   the   'eastern   brains'   with   which   Kansas   has   arrogantly   promised   to   crack   the   case   he   is   on,   and   western   'horse  sense'  and  roping  skill.  Each  side  having  proved  their  mettle,  Swanee  is  revealed  not   only   to   be   a   thoroughly   good   guy   but   the   film's   embodiment   of   western   moral   authority.   His   behavior   and   the   bedlamite   conditions   in   the   town   are   explained   away   by   the   simple   fact  that  it  was  Swanee  and  his  men's  monthly  night  out  and  no  harm  done!  All  of  our  initial   assumptions   and   expectations   are   neatly   overturned   and   any   faith   in   initial   appearances   thoroughly  compromised.       Swanee  immediately  talks  his  boss  into  offering  Kansas  a  job  on  his  ranch  and  a  sometimes   bickering   friendship   is   formed,   albeit   one   that   involves   'eastern   brains'   immediately   assuming   the   unlikely   identity   of   an   experienced   cowhand.   Although   Swanee   is   evidently   suspicious   of   Kansas'   cover   story,   he   nevertheless   accepts   him.   The   suggestion   is   that   even   if   identities   and   cover   stories   are   fluid   in   Trail   of   the   Vigilantes,   there   is   a   fundamental   integrity  to  good  people  that  is  recognizable  beyond  surface  trappings.  How  they  present   themselves  is  a  matter  of  choice.       This   idea   is   highlighted   shortly   afterwards   in   outlandish   terms   by   the   similar   welcome   accorded   to   Bolo,   Mischa   Auer's   oddball   character,   who   is   also   hired   by   Swanee's   understandably   dubious   boss   on   the   foreman's   insistence.   Bolo   offers   the   onscreen   embodiment  of  the  film's  notion  of  identity  as  voluntary  and  performance-­‐based  taken  to   its  anarchic  extreme.  Most  of  the  other  main  characters  are  either  pretending  or  aspiring  to   be   someone   or   something   else;   Bolo   is   incoherence   incarnate-­‐   and   it's   nothing   if   not   colorful.   Introduced   as   a   Native   American   doing   a   tomahawk   throwing   act   with   a   medicine   show,  he  is  fired  for  accidentally  breaking  a  window  during  this  act.  When  refused  service   at  a  saloon  on  racial  grounds,  he  throws  off  his  costume  to  reveal  the  trappings-­‐  and  skill   197  


with a   bullwhip-­‐   of   a   South   American   gaucho   with   an   impossibly   long   name.   As   the   film   progresses,   it   remains   unclear   if   this   is   his   real   identity   or   if   he   is   in   fact   a   Russian   horseman.   He   tells   stories   of   his   travels   incessantly,   prompting   Meadows   to   upbraid   him   after  a  long  shared  journey  “Now,  listen,  junior!  I  travelled  through  fourteen  countries  on   the   way   down   here   with   you   and   I’m   too   tuckered   out   to   go   any   further!”   But   his   most   outrageous   'identity'   is   an   overtly   assumed   one,   a   hilarious   turn   as   a   patrician   Southern   lawyer   (from   the   firm   of   "Hayes,   Hayes,   Hayes  ahhhnd  Hayes")   used   later   in   the   movie   to   help   Kansas   escape   from   jail.   The   end   of   the   film   sees   him   as   'Cactus   Pete',   a   newly   appointed   ranch   foreman   attired   in   flamboyant   singing   cowboy   finery.   Although   consistently   benign,   he   is   in   every   other   way   disconcertingly   inconsistent.   Even   in   his   level   of   skill:   he   executes   breathtaking   feats   of   horsemanship   and   his   impersonation   of   the   lawyer  is  successful  in  getting  Kansas  out  of  his  cell,  but  his  tomahawk  throwing  goes  awry   and,   during   the   film's   climactic   gun   battle,   he   attempts   an   elaborate   stunt   that   fails   miserably.       It  is  interesting  to  compare  Dwan's  elegant  game  of  identity-­‐shuffling  with  a  more  recent   western   in   which   characters   evolve   through   explicit   role   playing,   Django   Unchained.   Tarantino's   film   shows   former   slave   Django   (Jamie   Foxx)   progress   through   a   series   of   costumes   and   postures   in   his   journey   towards   becoming   an   icon   of   emancipation,   not   unproblematically   guided   throughout   by   the   ideas   of   white   men.   The   big   difference   in   outlook  is  Tarantino’s  reverence  towards  the  power  of  the  iconic;  a  pose  struck  or  an  item   of   costume   paraphernalia   adopted   is   treated   as   a   true   and   significant   epiphany   in   and   of   itself.   Dwan's   grasp   of   these   matters   is,  in  its  way,   considerably   more   sophisticated,  that  of   a   man   who   was   in   on   the   birth   of   Hollywood   and   with   an   extremely   prolific   filmmaking   career  behind  him  untouched  by  the  sort  of  over-­‐inflated  deification  accorded  to  Tarantino,   a  director  whose  films  might  well  have  benefitted  from  much  less  attention.  In  Dwan,  the   claptrap  of  showbiz  presentation  is  grist  for  the  mill,  but  hardly  sacred  ritual.  Throughout   Dwan,  what  matters  is  the  energy  and  inventiveness  of  the  performers  behind  the  masks;   the   masks   themselves   are   endlessly   disposable.   In   the   character   of   Meadows,   he   even   cheekily  proposes  a  character  that  reverses  the  sort  of  logic  of  Django's  path  to  liberation,   and   so   cocks   a   gentle   snook   at   the   Ruggles  of  Red  Gap   celebration   of   the   West   as   a   place   for   shucking   the   repressive   traditions   of   old   world   society.   Meadows   claims   to   be   the   descendant  of  a  family  of  valets,  one  of  whom  served  Henry  VIII;  he  offers  tolerated,  if  not   exactly  desired,  gentleman's  gentleman  service  to  both  Swanee  and  Kansas.  His  ambition  is   to   move   east,   become   a   butler   and,   for   good   measure,   take   up   stamp   collecting!   The   beautiful   absurdity   of   this   conceit   really   rests   in   the   person   of   Andy   Divine,   by   far   the   most   believable  cowhand-­‐and  most  unlikely  butler  or  son-­‐of-­‐a-­‐butler  on  display.  The  liberation   of   one's   identity,   Dwan   seems   to   suggest,   is   not   to   be   earned   as   part   of   a   historical   process.   It   is   self-­‐generated,   gained   by   the   gusto   and   belief   one   applies   to   a   chosen   role.     198  


This self-­‐determination   is   most   directly   expressed   in   the   character   of   Barbara,   the   rancher's   daughter   who   decides   she   will   marry   an   initially   uninterested   Kansas.   Enchantingly   played   by   Peggy   Moran   as   a   bouncy,   innocent   tornado   of   playful,   childlike   ardour,   her   tactic   is   to   simply   keep   pursuing   him   even   after   some   pretty   roughhouse   rejections  that  include  ducking  her  in  a  water  trough.  It  is  only  when  a  particularly  smart   and  courageous  act  on  her  part  helps  Kansas  in  his  investigation  that  he  starts  to  return  her   affections.   This   trajectory   could   be   seen   to   mirror   that   of   an   ambitious   actress   finally   getting  'noticed'  after  repeated  failed  auditions.  On  the  other  hand,  it  reflects  rather  badly   on   'eastern   brains'   Kansas,   especially   compared   to   'horse   sense'   Swanee.   It   would   imply   that  Kansas  is  able  to  respond  only  to  explicit  actions  while  remaining  blind  to  the  personal   qualities  of  people;  his  sudden  change  of  feelings  towards  Barbara  is  almost  disturbing  in   its  superficiality.  This  breezy  beguilement  contrasts  strikingly  with  Swanee's  apparent  gift   for  discerning  good  character  beneath  even  the  fakest  or  weirdest  surface.     By  the  end  of  the  film,  roles  have  shifted  all  round.  Kansas  is  an  unlikely  rancher,  married   to   Barbara.   Swanee   is   an   even   more   unlikely,   and   not   entirely   convinced,   'gentleman',   heading   east   to   a   new   life   with   his   happy   valet,   Meadows.   And   Bolo,   in   his   new   incarnation   as  'Cactus  Pete',  is  Kansas'  most  unlikely  foreman  who  will  doubtless  ensure  him  years  of   fertile  destabilization.  

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Separate But Equal #5: Rise and Shine (1941) Initial Impressions from an Unsung Allan Dwan Picture  

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VECTOR MOBILES:   UP  IN  MABEL'S  ROOM  (1944)  /   GETTING  GERTIE'S  GARTER  (1945)

Daniel Kasman  

"Constellation" (1944)  by  Alexander  Calder.  Photograph  by  Jessica  Mejias.  

A turn  upon  a  turn  upon  a  turn  upon  a  turn.  Allan  Dwan  adapted  Wilson  Collison  and  Otto   Harbach's   1919   bedroom   farce   Up   in   Mabel's   Room   as   a   vacuum-­‐packed   1944   wartime   picture   starring   Dennis   O'Keefe   for   producer   Edward   Small.   Then,   after   two   intervening   Dwan-­‐Small-­‐O'Keefe   films   and   but   one   year   later,   Dwan   proceeded   to   adapt   another   of   Wilson   Collison's   plays,   this   one   co-­‐written   by   Avery   Hopwood,   the   near-­‐identical   1921   comedy   Getting   Gertie's   Garter.   The   two   pictures   are   so   similar   as   to   be   essentially   interchangeable.   If   this   near-­‐instant   repeat/variation   weren't   surreal   enough   a   gesture   from   a   decidedly   unflappable   director,   Dwan's   second   production   also   bizarrely   duplicated   O'Keefe's   presence   by   casting   him   again   in   the   same   role   of   a   year   earlier.   The   archetypical   source  from  1919  provided  ample  structure  for  Dwans'  Calder-­‐like  mobile  play—variations   of   motion,   colorful,   dynamic   combinations   and   weight   distribution—reaching   repeated   heights,  within  and  between  the  films,  of  lucidly  exasperated  matchmaking.  The  balance  is   205  


a wonder,  and  its  extension  to  such  a  length  as  a  feature  film  gleefully  dedicated;  but  that   the  director  would  have  the  quiet  audacity  (if  not  perversity—although  an  interview  with   Bogdanovich  implies  it  was  above  all  kindness  towards  a  wartime  audience1)  to  repeat  his   precarious,  diagrammatic  feat  brings  into  relief  how  attuned  the  nonchalant  Dwan  was  to   such  clever  arrangements.    

The core   schema   of   both   films   is   that   of   a   sex   farce:   a   vaguely   absent-­‐minded,   newly   married  man  (O'Keefe)  is  reminded  by  an  old  flame  (Mabel's  Mabel  is  Gail  Patrick;  Gertie's   Gertie,   Marie   McDonald)   of   an   intimate   gift   he   once   gave   them   (a   slip   for   Mabel;   Gertie’s   garter).  Various  evolving  reasons  are  created  for  the  husband  to  want  the  item  back  and  for   the   old   flame,   herself   soon   to   marry,   to   keep   it.   Both   sides   approach   the   Object   from   different   directions   but   see   the   same   thing:   proof   of   an   amorous   past,   an   active   if   not   kinky   sexuality   amorally   preceding   and   undergirding   both   O'Keefe's   and   his   ex’s   current,   and   presumably  final,  partners  in  life  and  love.  

Left: Mabel’s  slip,  circa  1944.  Right:  Gertie’s  garter,  circa  1945. The   flimsy   ingenuity   of   these   approaches   is   that   seen   from   their   respective   angles—the   O'Keefe   character   wants   the   Object   in   his   possession   so   his   wife   won't   find   out   about   Mabel/Gertie;   his   ex   wants   it   so   her   husband-­‐to-­‐be   won't   find   out   about   her   past   with   O'Keefe’s  character—the  duo  are  clearly  fighting  for  the  same  goal  yet  seem  to  be  fighting   one   another.   Above   all,   it   is   a   tactical   scenario   based   on   the   combination   of   perspective   (often   quite   literally)   and   the   spatial   topography   of   the   battlefield.   What   stops   both   characters   from   burning   or   throwing   the   Object   away   from   the   get-­‐go   is,   in   its   utterly   transparent   and   arbitrary   contrivance,   the   key   to   the   farce's   tone   and   flexible   agility:   balance,   de-­‐stabilization   and   re-­‐balance   for   the   sake   of   motion.   These   attributes   are   the   targets   for   Dwan's   direction,   a   certain   irreverent   humor   so   offhand   that   it   shades   almost  

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imperceptibly to   satire,   combined   with   a   highly   specific   sense   of   physical   movement   that   engages  with  and  expresses  the  scripts’  tactics. Mabel's   Room   and   Gertie's   Garter   are   members   of   the   object   chase   sub-­‐genre,   whose   narratives   track   the   movement   of   an   object   through   the   mise   en   scène,   an   object   usually   imbued  with  metaphoric,  symbolist  and/or  metonymic  meanings  and  powers.  As  such,  the   chases   after   such   meaning   enunciates   ideologies,   protagonist   goals,   emotional   expressions,   and   so   on.   Roughly   contemporaneous   and   varied   examples   include   the   $1000   in   Dwan’s   own   The   Inside   Story   (1948), the   rifle   in   Anthony   Mann's   Winchester   '73   (1950),   and   the   earrings   in   Max   Ophüls'   Madame   de...   (1953),   but   while   those   films   focus   on   object   circulation,   Dwan’s   duo   is   about   singular   recovery   by   an   individual.   These   items   are   evidence  of  loose  morality  that  is  wild  in  the  world  and  needs  to  be  secured.  Taken  further:   for  these  highly  contained  and  architectonic  films,  evidence  of  pastness,  of  a  timeline  that   exists   exterior   to   the   rooms'   and   relationships’   confines,   needs   to   be   suppressed.   In   this   sense  the  slip  and  the  garter  are  true  Surrealist  objects  that  threaten  not  just  the  fabric  of   society   but   literally   the   form   that   expresses   and   contains   it:   their   representation   into   cinema.  The  entirety  of  both  films  exist  for  this  purpose,  so  that  once  the  Object  is  caught   and  divested  of  its  power,  the  movies  must  end—and  the  world  right  itself,  stabilized.  What   happens  in  between  is  no  doubt  the  conventional  stuff  of  many  a  bedroom  farce.  But  this   director  is  naturally  fitted  for  such  antics. Dwan's  interest  in  the  spatial  mapping  of  characters  is  at  a  frenetic  peak  with  these  movies.   Bill   Krohn   has   written   on   “adjoining   spaces”   as   the   “most   common   spatial   paradigm   for   Dwan's   plots,”2  which   indeed   seems   true,   but   what   makes   the   filmmaker   special   in   this   regard  isn't  simply  his  plotting  but  his  cinema:  the  motion  through  spaces.  Dwan  is  a  poet   of   vectors,   movement   and   directionality;   his   adjoining   spaces   not   only   serve   to   delineate   the  action  but  to  link  each  segment  of  its  trajectory  through  a  continual  momentum  often   sustained   for   its   own   sake,   and   sometimes   even   suggesting   an   infinity   of   linking   vectors,   as   if   each   space   were   a   hinge   of   a   larger,   self-­‐perpetuating   movement.   Characters   are   constantly   traversing   one   side   to   the   other—and   often   back   again.3  “Sides”   are   first   and   foremost  spatial,  but  usually  carry  moral  implications,  expressed  cleanly  and  directly  in  a   way  that  is  a  consistent  reminder  that  this  director  began  his  work  early  in  the  silent  era   when   morality   was   often   topic   number   one.   In   Dwan’s   cinema,   morality   is   transmuted   into   comedies  and  dramas  of  kinetic  allegiances,  whose  side-­‐swapping,  costume-­‐changing,  and   moral-­‐juggling  drive  the  kinetic  to-­‐ing  and  fro-­‐ing  that  makes  up  this  vector  cinema.

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A typical  scene  in  Up  in  Mabel’s  Room.  The  arrows—by  Adrian  Curry—indicate  character   vectors.

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A typical  scene  in  Getting  Gertie’s  Garter.  The  arrows—by  Adrian  Curry—indicate  character   vectors.  

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Mabel's Room  and   Gertie's  Garter   are   the   purest   expression   of   this   mannerism.   Both   stories   quickly   get   all   participants   in   the   farce—befuddled   husband,   exasperated   wife,   coy   old   flame,   as   well   as   a   set   of   prop   characters   to   fit   into   the   rest   of   the   story's   series   of   misunderstandings,  including  a  married  couple  whose  fighting-­‐marriage  is  more  sensitive   to   infidelity—isolated   to   a   house   in   the   country   with   as   many   adjoining   second   floor   bedrooms   as   possible.   The   scripts   strip   characterizations   down   to   their   core,   leaving   the   ostensible   content   of   the   films   little   more   than   the   motion   of   the   bedroom   roundelay   chase   for  the  Object.  The  house's  downstairs  is  used  for  group  gatherings  and  discussions,  with   the   upstairs,   along   with   the   roof   that   connects   windows   outside   the   bedrooms   (and   in   Gertie’s   Garter,   an   additional   two-­‐story   barn),   as   the   battleground   terrain   for   elaborate   feigning  and  sparring.   For  the  mathematically  inclined  Dwan,4  this  setting  and  plot  constitutes  a  ripe  environment   for   a   methodical   and   exhaustively   comprehensive   tour   of   character   combinations,   cross-­‐ marriage   alliances,   inner-­‐relationship   spats,   temporary   coalitions   and   individual   vigilantism.   A   sequence   in   Mabel’s   can   be   maddingly   mapped,   thusly:   F   spies   A   and   C   kissing   in   one   room   and   mentions   it   to   D,   who   thinks   he   is   talking   about   A   and   E   kissing   in   another,  which  he  saw.  Later,  it  turns  out  A  was  kissed  by  both  C  and  E,  and,  upstairs,  D  and   F  realize  their  mistake,  jumping  on  A,  who  is  now  fighting  with  B  over  the  revelation.  While   Gertie’s,   like   this:   A   and   C   squabble   in   C's   bedroom,   but   when   B   shows   up   A   hides   in   the   closet.   After   B   and   C   leave,   A   exits   the   closet   and   D   enters   the   room;   C   hears   the   two   in   her   room,   and   they   flee   to   A   and   B’s   room,   which   they   exit   and   re-­‐enter   C’s   room   with   E.   It's   thrillingly   tedious,   the   dawning   realization   that   these   movies   will   see   their   premises   through  to  the  maximum  threshold  until  the  country  houses,  and  indeed  the  runtime  and   the  films  themselves,  seem  fit  to  burst  with  spatial-­‐character  contrivances  and  perspectival   mismatches   intended   to   hustle   different   people   from   one   room   to   another   under   exhausting  pretexts. This   spirit   of   jaunty   methodicalness   makes   it   fitting   that   Dwan   would   join   the   clique   of   auto-­‐remake   filmmakers,   those   who   chose   to   remake   their   own   movies.   (A   group   which   notably  hews  closely  around  the  classical  Hollywood  epoch,  which  such  directors  as  Ford,   Hitchcock,   Hawks,   Lubitsch,   McCarey,   Ozu,   and   Walsh,   with   some   modernist   outliers   like   Haneke   and   Jacobs;   many   of   these   works,   though   not   the   two   Dwan   films,   were   programmed   by   Anthology   Film   Archives   in   collaboration   with   C.   Mason   Wells   in   March,   2011   in   the   series   “Auto-­‐Remakes”.)   The   re-­‐casting   of   Dennis   O'Keefe,   though,   takes   this   profound   meta-­‐instance   of   the   surrealism   of   Dwan's   otherwise   unobtrusive   cine-­‐ mathematics   to   another   level—he's   literally   keeping   a   variable   identical   and   then   trying   out   the   formula   again.   The   actor’s   double   existence   also   suggests   an   exteriority   to   the   individual   story-­‐worlds,   as   if   O’Keefe   were   a   trans-­‐cinematic   traveller   continually   getting   stuck   in   (or   re-­‐living,   re-­‐dreaming)   some   Borgesian,  Groundhog  Day  nightmare   of   chasing   a   210  


transmogrifying object  through  a  mirror  maze  of  altered  house  layouts,  tuxedo’d  rivals  and   blonde/brunette   combinations.   (A   particularly   perverse   reading   might   see   O’Keefe’s   reincarnation   as   the   real   Object   that   needs   to   be   secured   and   tranquilized.   Even   more   extreme   would   be   incorporating   Abroad   with   Two   Yanks   [1944]   and   Brewster’s   Millions   [1945],  the  interceding  Dwan-­‐Small-­‐O’Keefe  films,  into  a  shape-­‐shifting  kinetic  tapestry  of   fitful   wartime   anxiety   and   stifled   energy.)   With   a   scenario   that’s   already   about   configuration  and  viewpoints  of  configurations,   this   subtle   revision,   akin   to   Ozu’s   oblique   movement   from   Late   Spring   (1949)   to   Late   Autumn   (1960)   and   An   Autumn   Afternoon   (1962),  suggests  a  very  specific  kind  of  modular,  cubist  style  of  filmmaking.  Watching  the   Dwan   films   is   like   watching   a   mathematician   show   his   work—you   understand   near   the   very   beginning   the   solution   but   have   to   diligently   make   sure   the   director   proves   his   solution  from  all  sides. In   the   meantime,   to   alleviate   the   inherent   and   multitudinous   possibilities   of   situational   tedium   and   the   sense—incorrect—of   redundancy   within   the   farce,   comes   the   careful   balancing   act   of   lightness   to   the   point   of   simultaneous   frivolity   and   merciless   social   skewering.   The   characters   are   so   scarcely   defined   except   by   motion—through   doors,   out   windows,   under   beds,   thrown   about,   going   inside   and   going   out—that   we   seem   to   be   watching   a   highly   volatile,   yet   carefully   tuned   machine,   an   abstract   construction   of   force   moving   matter   through   spaces.   (O’Keefe’s   sublime   jumpiness   is   one   of   the   principal   energizers,  as  it  is  in  his  other  Dwan  masterpiece,  Brewster’s  Millions.)  This  frothy  volatility   underscores   the   play’s   insidious   presumption   that   such   good   friends—let   alone   the   married  and  the  engaged!—would  be  so  quick  to  doubt  each  other's  fidelity  and  motives.   For   a   set   of   films   in   whose   drama   the   war   raging   around   the   world   goes   barely   mentioned,   the   precariousness   with   which   Mabel's   Room   and   Gertie's   Garter   mobilize   homefront   relationships   seems   as   much   a   joke   for   those   stuck   overseas   as   it   does   satire   for   those   circulating  in  the  depopulated  society  at  home. The  films  are  cabin  fever  as  raucous  farce,  the  mirthful  turning  on  one’s  own  in  a  vacuum.   The   backstabbing   turnabouts,   treaty-­‐breakers   and   temporary   alliances   all   seem   like   stratagems  of  war,  but  war  at  the  rationed  home  front—consider  the  years  the  films  were   made,   with   their   paltry   budget   and   self-­‐sufficient   regurgitation.   Mabel’s   opening   titles   brazenly  insist  and  compare:  “Warning!  In  spite  of  everything  you  may  have  heard  to  the   contrary,  this  is  a  war  picture!  It  takes  great  courage  to  bomb  Berlin—to  fight  the  Japs  in   the  jungles  of  the  Pacific—to  push  the  Nazis  out  of  Africa  and  off  the  Mountains  of  Italy— But,  did  you  ever  try  to  keep  a  secret  from  your  wife?  Brother,  that’s  war!”  Who  wouldn’t   go  mad  trapped  in  such  a  house,  in  such  a  film,  in  such  a  cinema—in  such  a  country?  The   inanity  of  such  a  repeat  does  seem  to  suggest  some  kind  of  filmmaking  insanity,  activity  for   the   sense   of   activity.   Or   perhaps   just   making   the   most   of   what   little   one   has?   Dwan   was,   after   all,   quite   proud   of   his   economy   of   means   and   such   things   as   re-­‐using   sets   for   other   211  


productions. This   diptych   takes   that   industrial   frugality   to   new   lengths.   The   contained,   recycled,   refigured   nature   of   these   works   lends   not   only   a   profound   sense   of   abstraction,   but   also   of   a   physics   laboratory   experiment.5  A   beautiful   place   to   work   and   test   and   play— but  its  necessary  confines  can  become  stifling.  Are  the  characters  mad  because  of  the  world   they   live   in,   or   is   the   world   mad   because   of   the   kind   of   people   who   inhabit   it?   Their   freedom  is  of  a  movement  held  in  check  by  the  others  around  them  and  the  spaces  between   which  they  ricochet.  Eloquently  factual  re-­‐arrangements,  they  are  kept  in  isolation  for  fear   of  contaminating  others—or  having  themselves  infected.                                                                                                                       1  Allan  Dwan,  “Galloping  Tintypes”.  Interview.  In  Who  the  Devil  Made  It:  Conversations  with   Legendary  Film  Directors,  Peter  Bogdanovich  (New  York:  Ballantine  Books,  1997)  111.   2  Bill   Krohn,   "The   Cliff   and   the   Flume,"   Senses  of  Cinema  28   (2003),   accessed   January   15,  

2013, http://sensesofcinema.com/2003/feature-­‐articles/cliff_and_flume/   3  Krohn’s  article,  cited  above,  is  filled  with  examples.  Many  of  Dwan’s  Westerns  bring  to  a  

forefront back  and  forth  movement,  from  Frontier  Marshall’s  (1939)  continual  movement   from  one  saloon  to  another  across  Tombstone’s  central  street  to  The  Woman  They  Almost   Lynched’s   (1953)   paradigmatic   setting   of   a   Civil   War-­‐era   town   literally   on   a   border   between   North   and   South   which   characters   travel   between.   But   this   kind   of   movement   sticks   to   Dwan   and   transcends   genre:   Navy   Wife’s   (1935)   base-­‐hopping;   Man   to   Man’s   (1930)   separation   of   the   son’s   job   at   the   bank   on   one   side   of   the   street   with   his   father’s   barbershop  on  the  other;  Abroad  with  Two  Yank’s  oscillation  between  Aussie  mansion  and   U.S.  Army  base;  Calendar   Girl’s  (1947)  tenement  square  of  buildings  that  allow  movement   between   one   building   to   another   via   patios   and   walls;   the   paths   trod   between   daughter’s   flat,   a   trollope’s   flat,   and   a   nefarious   cross-­‐street   saloon   in   While   Paris   Sleeps   (1932)—a   saloon   which   has   an   underground   passage   to   the   store   next   door,   between   which   many   people  come  and  go.  The  list  only  expands.  Other  films,  like  Heidi  (1937),  Driftwood  (1947),   and  Angel  in  Exile  (1948)  have  a  more  fantastic  approach  to  spatially  mapped  movement,   with  characters  who  travel  between  two  places,  with  one  place  being  nominally  “real”  (in   those  examples,  the  city,  the  town,  the  mine)  and  the  other  being  nominally  fantastic  and   otherworldly  (the  mountain  village,  the  ghost  town,  the  Mexican  village).    Here’s   Dwan   in   the   Bogdanovich   interview:   “Stories,   to   me,   were   mathematical   problems—as   most   problems   were.   There’s   always   a   mathematical   solution   to   anything.   Probably   if   I   had   a   technique,   it   was   mathematical.   (...)   ...I   noticed   I   was   working   economically.  Not  in  a  Scotsman’s  sense,  but  in  terms  of  engineering  or  mathematics—the   elimination   of   extraneous   matter.   (...)   But   everything   I   did   was   triangles   with   me.   If   I   constructed  a  story  and  I  had  four  characters  in  it,  I’d  put  them  down  as  dots  and  if  they   didn’t  hook  up  into  triangles,  if  any  of  them  were  left  dangling  out  there  without  a  sufficient  

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relationship to  any  of  the  rest,  I  knew  I  had  to  discard  them  because  they’d  be  a  distraction.   And   you’re   only   related   to   people   through   triangles   or   lines.   If   I’m   related   to   a   third   person   and  you’re  not,  there’s  something  wrong  in  our  relationship  together.  One  of  us  is  dangling.   So  I  say,  ‘How  do  I  tied  that  person  to  you?  How  do  I  complete  that  line?’  And  I  have  to  work   the   story   so   I   can   complete   that   line.   In   other   words,   create   a   relationship,   an   incident,   something  that  will  bring  us  into  the  external  triangle.”  Dwan,  “Galloping  Tintypes,”  60-­‐61.   Again  that  look  and  feel  of  reverberation  and  oscillation  in  confinement.  Note  that  Gertie’s   Garter   starts  in  a  laboratory.  There  O’Keefe  undergoes  a  procedure  he  himself  discovered,   one   which   fails   and   produces   nothing   but   hallucinations.   In   Mabel’s   Room   this   takes   the   form  of  a  domestic  dream  sequence.

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ON EXCESS:   NOTES  AROUND   BREWSTER’S  MILLIONS  (1945)   AND  DRIFTWOOD  (1947)    

Carlos Losilla   Translated  by  David  Phelps  

 

       

Brewster’s Millions  (1945)  /  Driftwood  (1947)     I.     Brewster’s  Millions  (1945)  and  Driftwood  (1947)  form  two  sides  of  the  same  coin.  We  can   ignore  the  fact  that  the  first  forms  part  of  a  cycle  of  comedies  executed  by  Allan  Dwan  in  the   mid-­‐1940s,  and  that  the  second  is  one  of  the  strangest  projects  undertaken  by  a  Hollywood   filmmaker  in  the  same  era.  We  can  ignore  the  fact  that,  between  each  of  them,  Dwan  would   214  


direct other  films.  We  can  even  ignore  the  correspondences  between  some  of  those  other   films  and  these  two.  For  now,  I  don’t  want  anything  to  distract  me,  as  what  interests  me  is   to   concentrate   on   this   pair,   on   their   seeming   opposition,   since   while   Brewster’s   Millions   appears  to  be  a  sarcastic  fable  about  capitalism,  Driftwood  traces  it  to  its  origins,  its  source.   In  the  former  film,  a  man  of  no  great  gifts  has  to  learn  to  waste  a  great  amount  of  money  in   a  brief  space  of  time  if  he  is  to  receive  an  inheritance  of  millions.  In  the  second,  a  girl  raised   outside   of   the   system   learns   that   any   given   community   isn’t   governed   by   the   Bible,   but   rather   by   the   laws   of   the   market.   The   man   who   has   everything   doesn’t   know   how   to   waste   it.  The  girl  who  has  nothing  doesn’t  know  how  to  gain  a  thing.  There’s  a  question  here  of   economy,  cinematically  as  well,  since  Brewster’s  Millions  is  a  minimalist  farce,  told  with  an   admirable  sense  of  ellipsis  and,  at  the  same  time,  an  abundance  of  comebacks  and  counter-­‐ comebacks,  as  if  the  image  were  running  against  the  dialogue;  while  vice-­‐versa,  Driftwood   is   a   distilled   piece   of   Americana,   in   which   one   can   see   the   multiple   subplots   subsumed   into   the  face  of  little  Natalie  Wood,  who  absorbs  and  proclaims  them  only,  finally,  to  bring  them   under  the  command  of  her  omnivorous  gaze.  We  might  say  that  Brewster’s   Millions  comes   out  of  a  world  that’s  been  born  anew,  after  World  War  II,  only  to  confront  an  excess  it  can’t   control.   And   we   might   say   that   Driftwood   arises   from   a   world   that   is   ending,   the   Biblical   universe   of   the   origins   of   the   world,   in   order   to   restore   it   to   its   form.   Monty   Brewster   (Dennis  O’Keefe)  returns  from  the  front  and  finds  himself  facing  a  challenge:  he  will  inherit   eight  million  dollars  if  he  is  capable  of  wasting  just  one  million  in  a  couple  of  months.  Jenny   Hollingsworth  (Wood)  starts  in  a  state  of  nature,  contaminated  only  by  religious  elements,   and   little   by   little   comes   into   a   civilization   that   at   first   she   mistrusts:   she   will   have   to   position   herself   at   the   gates   of   death   to   be   reborn   as   another   person.   In   some   way,   both   films   end   at   the   same   point,   at   a   kind   of   threshold   where   they   will   be   transported   to   a   new   life,  whether  one  of  matrimonial  responsibilities  or  adulthood.     II.     The   threshold   is   at   once   an   image   and   a   shot,   which   are   two   different   things.   Both   films   start  with  an  image  and  end  with  a  shot.  At  the  beginning  of  Brewster’s  Millions,  the  black   manservant  cleans  the  window  of  the  house—the  screen  of  the  movie  theater—so  that  we   can  see  inside.  At  the  end,  the  door  closes  behind  the  two  lovers,  who  leave  to  ratify  their   relationship,  so  that  we  won’t  be  able  to  see  anything  more.  At  the  beginning  of  Driftwood,   the  camera  steadily  approaches  a  region  in  ruins,  out  of  which  there  rises  the  luminous  face   of  Jenny,  until  it  has  reached  the  private  moment  when  she  sees  the  outside  world.  At  the   end,   it’s   that   same   face   which   will   overtake   the   entire   screen,   shifting   our   attention   toward   something  we’ll  never  see.  A  demarcation  between  the  interior  and  the  exterior:  the  face  as   much   as   the   door   promises   images   that   its   very   shot   will   close   off.   The   story   continues   outside   of   the   plot   in   the   same   way   so   that,   throughout   both   films,   many   things   remain   unseen.   Why   uselessly   waste   images?   Dwan’s   cinema   seems   the   incarnation   of   such   an   215  


economical spirit.   Brewster   finds   himself   impelled   to   waste   just   as   the   images   tend   to   multiply.  Jenny  passes  from  the  state  of  nature  to  civilization  just  as  her  surroundings  will   suddenly   become   bustling,   shift   from   their   initial   solitude   to   the   communal   state   that   is   finally  attained  at  the  end.  The  question  is  how  to  account  for  this  excess  in  some  way.  On   the   one   hand,   it’s   the   characters   who   will   enact   it.   On   the   other   hand,   it’s   the   story   itself.   In   Brewster’s  Millions,  the  excess  of  waste  must  lead  to  the  conclusion  that  to  have  nothing  is  to   have  everything.   In   Driftwood,   the   excess   of   events   bears   out   that  plenty  starts  with  nothing.   Brewster’s   Millions   transpires   over   two   months   and   yet,   it   relays   a   sense   of   hypnotic   paralysis.   Driftwood   takes   place   over   barely   a   weekend   but   accrues   events   that   seem   as   though   they’ve   taken   months   to   live   through.   Dwan   stretches   and   compresses   time   in   such   a  way  that  the  realism  of  his  style  becomes  an  oneiric  thing.  He,  too,  is  wasteful  so  that  he   can  curb  himself  when  it’s  necessary.  It’s  this  that  comprises  classical  cinema  at  the  start  of   its  crisis:  never  to  overstep  the  boundaries,  no  matter  what  the  temptation  to  do  so.  And  it’s   this  tension  that  should  be  noted.     III.     In  the  case  of  Dwan,  where  does  the  secret  lie?  In  Brewster’s  Millions,  everything  happens   as   if   inside   a   capsule,   where   the   characters   appear   and   disappear   in   spaces   that   seem   to   be   independent  from  each  other,  but  are  in  reality  interconnected.  The  house  is  the  terrain  of   the   real,   where   domesticity   falters.   The   office   offers   a   mise   en   scène   of   its   own,   masking   Brewster’s  secret,  as  well  as  Dwan’s:  not  that  all  the  world  is  a  stage,  but  that  it’s  a  kind  of   purgatory,   a   limbo   between   good   manners   and   the   chaos   of   human   relations.   Theater   itself   will   appear   later,   when   Brewster   decides   to   invest   in   a   play   that   will   fail   miserably   on   Broadway.  In  Driftwood,  the  first  thing  that  Jenny  has  to  learn  is  that  “How  are  you?”  is  a   social  formula  to  which  there  is  no  need  to  respond  at  length.  And  here  begins  her  initiation   onto   the   performing   stage,   where   she   must   play-­‐act   with   a   dress,   voice,   posture,   and   personality   that   are   nothing   more   than   a   mask.   The   final   shot   is   that   mask,   the   person   herself,   who   now   announces   that   the   social   order   is   paradise.   For   this   order   to   exist,   however,   its   limits   must   be   transgressed,   which   can   result   at   times   in   danger.   In   one   particularly  disturbing  scene  in  Brewster’s  Millions,  the  protagonist  is  seen  surrounded  by   alcohol,   pills,   painkillers.   He   remains   asleep   while   the   moon   in   his   almanac   comes   to   life   to   speak   to   him.   This   apparition   of   the   sinister   assumes   the   appearance   of   a   nightmare   that   is   also  a  momentary  reprieve  from  the  world,  like  a  chasm  that  suddenly  allows  the  abyss  to   be   seen.   Driftwood,   for   its   part,   moves   from   orphanhood   to   a   community   whose   order   is   only  a  guise,  easily  broken,  and  which  cracks  when  the  uncontrollable  appears,  illness,  the   typhus  that  Dr.  Steve  Webster  (Dean  Jagger),  Jenny’s  custodian,  had  predicted.  And  when   this   absolute   evil   besets   the   little   girl,   both   catastrophe   and   miracle   will   ensue.   With   delicate  sensitivity,  Dwan  shows  the  doctor  working,  the  pharmacist  administering  the  life-­‐ saving  serum,  and  the  priest  praying.  These  assorted  social  functions  are  interwoven,  at  the   216  


same time   they   point   towards   something   curative.   The   social   performance   will   end   with   Jenny’s  illness  just  as  upon  Brewster’s  waking,  his  little  world  will  quickly  be  restored.     IV.     The  stages  of  capitalism,  rites  of  passage,  trials  that  must  be  won,  thresholds  that  must  be   crossed,   various   performances   and   mise-­‐en-­‐scènes,   narrative   rifts   that   shift   from   one   state   to  another…  In  these  two  films  of  Dwan,  both  so  representative  of  his  style,  everything  is   moving   here-­‐and-­‐there,   is   in   constant   motion,   but   it’s   only   the   outer   appearance   that   we   see,  as  if  through  a  filter  that  at  times  brings  this  progression  to  a  halt:  in  Brewster’s  Millions,   the   nightmare   scene   is   seen   through   the   eyes   of   a   keyhole   by   a   considerable   group   of   people;  in  Driftwood,  the  doctor  will  use  a  microscope  to  show  the  girl  the  types  of  bacteria   responsible  for  the  illness  that  later  on  will  nearly  be  her  demise.  The  metaphorical  motif  of   resurrection   that   is   present   in   both,   whether   in   Brewster's   awakening   or   the   recovery   of   the  little  girl,  requires  intermediaries  to  contain  the  situation,  to  situate  it  in  a  manageable   space.  In  that  sense,  Jenny's  "return  to  life"  is  as  close  to  Carl  Th.  Dreyer's  Ordet  (1955)  as   to   Jacques   Tourneur's   Stars   in   My   Crown   (1950),   films   in   which   a   more   or   less   explicit   "resurrection"  also  takes  place—the  product  of  the  obstinacy  of  a  filmmaker  who  stages  a   situation  and  draws  it  out  to  such  a  point  that  the  miracle  has  to  materialize.  In  Ordet,  it's   Johannes  (Preben  Lerdorff  Rye)  who  turns  his  hope  into  a  reality  in  the  presence  of  a  group   of  elders  and  of  the  girl  who  has  driven  him  to  do  it.  In  Stars  in  My  Crown,  Parson  Gray  (Joel   McCrea)   kneels   to   prey   with   his   eyes   closed   and,   transforming   the   space,   inspires   a   soft   breeze   to   cross   the   room   until   the   woman   awakes.   The   issue   is   of   creating   the   adequate   conditions,  of  building  up  a  performance  that  allows  life  to  be  seen  as  it's  reborn,  the  very   objective  of  cinema.  In  the  two  Dwans,  the  gaze  of  the  others  is  what  makes  the  image  arise   anew,  life  regain  consciousness.  This  new  step,  now  from  stasis  to  movement,  from  a  still   life  to  the  beauty  of  living,  can  be  observed  as  well  in  other  filmmakers  from  more  or  less   the   same   era.   Fritz   Lang,   in   The  Woman  in  the  Window  (1944)   and   Scarlet  Street,   literally   creates   a   woman   (Joan   Bennett   in   both)   out   of   the   gaze   of   the   man   who   desires   her   (Edward   G.   Robinson,   again   in   both),   whether   through   an   eerie   painting   or   a   fight   in   a   deserted   street   on   a   rainy   night.   Alfred   Hitchcock,   in   Notorious   (1946),   has   Devlin   (Cary   Grant)   return   Alicia   (Ingrid   Bergman)   to   the   world   after   rescuing   her   from   the   living   death   to  which  she  had  been  condemned  by  Alexander  Sebastian  (Claude  Rains).  In  Laura  (1944),   by   Otto   Preminger,   detective   McPherson   (Dana   Andrews)   becomes   so   in   love   with   a   painting  of  a  supposedly  dead  woman  that  the  situation  manages  to  revert  to  the  past,  to   return  the  woman  to  life,  to  the  story.  In  Henry  King's  Margie  (1946),  an  entire  universe,   that  of  a  mythic  or  dreamy  past,  is  invoked,  at  the  start  of  the  film,  by  a  mother  and  a  girl   confined  to  a  room  that  will  open  out  through  the  grace  of  the  art  of  memory.  In  John  Ford's   She  Wore  a  Yellow  Ribbon  (1949),   Captain   Brittles   (John   Wayne)   talks   with   his   dead   wife   with  such  conviction  that,  when  the  shadow  of  the  young  Olivia  Dandridge  (Joanne  Dru)  is   217  


projected on   the   gravestone,   it   seems   as   though   a   transference   has   occurred:   his   wife   as   returned.   All   these   heroes   create   situations   apt   for   resurrection,   in   such   a   way   that   that   privileged  image,  that  image  that  classical  cinema  scours  for  to  legitimize  itself,  is  the  result   of  its  desire  to  live.     V.     Jean-­‐Pierre   Coursodon   writes   about   Dwan:   "The   subject   itself   is   irrelevant;   the   vision   becomes  all.  Where  a  director  such  as  Leo  McCarey  might  conjure  up  emotional  affinities   with  Jean  Renoir,  Dwan  ultimately  must  be  classified  with  a  contemplative  analyst  such  as   Yasujiro   Ozu   or   Roberto   Rossellini." 1  It's   a   curious   comparison,   since   despite   their   undeniable   resemblances,   Ozu   and   Rossellini   are   fundamentally   opposed:   the   first   tends   to   focus,  to  play  with  the  variables  of  a  space  and  a  few  given  characters,  on  a  static  journey   [viaje  inmóvil];  the  second  prefers  to  broaden  his  field  of  vision  continuously,  whether  in   relation   to   the   vastness   of   the   world   or   to   the   delineated   surface   of   a   face.   Of   course,   at   times  a  room  as  much  as  a  face  can  create  an  entire  terrain,  but  that's  not  the  question  here.   The  issue  of  economy  reemerges  in  each  of  these  cases  since,  while  Ozu  saves  up  images,   Rossellini  spends  them.  Isn't  it  a  matter,  then,  of  reaching  a  perfect  equilibrium,  of  spending   whatever  is  saved,  of  arriving  at  a  ground  zero?  In  Dwan,  this  isn't  attained  in  only  one  film,   but   in   the   space   that   extends   between   two   or   more   films.   For   example,   between   Brewster's   Millions   and   Driftwood.   The   first   is   like   a   comic   version   of   Lang's   While   the   City   Sleeps   (1955),   in   which   only   one   of   the   characters   doesn't   share   the   objectives   of   the   rest:   the   psychopath,   who   moves   in   opposition   to   social   mores,   whether   he   be   a   killer   or   a   spendaholic.   As   for   the   rest,   the   same   sense   exists   in   both   Dwans   of   these   avaricious   blowhards,  motivated  by  ambition  and  lust  for  money,  observed  with  icy  sharpness,  with   strict   concision.   The   latter   is   like   a   more   outlandish   variation   on   Sam   Wood's   Our   Town   (1940),   populated   by   figures   who   keep   the   plot   and   images   expanding   and   expanding   as   they  revolve  around  this  other  sort,  who  doesn't  share  the  modest  pecuniary  standards  of   his  humble  community:  his  unique  obsession,  as  if  it  made  him  another  psychopath,  is  the   investigation,   to   extract   from   the   smallest   jot   of   his   microscope   something   enormous   scientifically.   Brewster's   Millions   belongs   to   the   group   of   five   films   that   Edward   Small   produced   for   Dwan   between   1942   and   1945.   Driftwood   is   included   in   the   period   of   his   filmography  that  extends  from  1946  to  1954,  under  contract  with  Republic.  What  is  known   as  the  "B  movie"  is  Dwan's  home  turf  for  action,  and  especially  in  this  period,  when  Small  as   much   as   Republic   allow   him   a   fixed   field   within   which   to   experiment,   when   he   is   able   to   realize   small   variations   without   need   of   great   means,   much   as   in   chamber   music.   And   in   contrast   to   the   cost-­‐cutting   of   the   production,   there   is   this   outpouring   of   reflected   life,   between   which   there   results   a   ground   zero,   that   perfect   point   of   equilibrium   between   accumulation   and   wastefulness.   Bill   Krohn   takes   up   the   concept   of   "improductive   expenditure,"  with  a  debt  to  Georges  Bataille,  to  characterize  Brewster.2  At  the  end  of  the   218  


film, Brewster's  account  book  reaches  zero,  but  a  zero  that  will  provide  new  quantities  of   money.  In  the  same  way,  the  metaphoric  exposedness  of  Jenny  (seen  in  tatters  with  only  a   bible   and   a   doll),   will   lead   the   doctor   to   a   better   economic   situation   thanks   to   his   experiments   with   typhus.   Brewster's   feverous   waste   of   money   might   be   reflected   in   the   fever  that  Jenny  contracts  and  that  unmasks  her  life's  apparent  frugality.  They  both  reach   beyond   themselves,   beyond   the   classical   model   that   B   movies   offer   in   miniature   to   show   themselves   bigger   than   life.   Likewise,   Dwan's   cinema   takes   off   from   a   point   of   outward   purity  (the  purity  of  the  pioneers,  a  notion  now  revised  with  such  urgency)  with  the  goal  of   unveiling  it,  of  exposing  its  wrinkles,  of  showing  the  mise  en  scène  from  within  the  mise  en   scène,   the   resurrection   or   return   to   life   as   a   re-­‐production   of   that   life,   of   returning   it   to   production.   The   excess   that   always   tends   to   outstrip   itself   in   classical   cinema   is   what,   in   Dwan's  case,  assumes  the  appearance  of  small,  unimportant  films.  The  ground  zero,  then,  is   also   that   confrontation   between   the   immediate   legibility   of   the   story   and   the   difficulty   of   penetrating   it   deep   in   its   invisible   lair.   Or   Brewster's   antsy   movements   against   Jenny's   Socratic  calm.                                                                                                                   1  Jean-­‐Pierre   Coursodon   y   Pierre   Sauvage.   American  Directors,  vol.  1   (New   York:   McGraw-­‐ Hill,  1983),  109.   2  Bill  Krohn,  "The  Cliff  and  the  Flume,"  Senses  of  Cinema  28  (2003),      

http://sensesofcinema.com/2003/feature-­‐articles/cliff_and_flume/.  

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THE HOME  FRONT:   ON  RENDEZVOUS  WITH  ANNIE  (1946)    

C. Mason  Wells     At  a  retrospective  of  his  work  at  New  York’s  Walter  Reade  theater  in  1993,  Martin  Scorsese   selected   Allan   Dwan’s   Getting   Gertie’s   Garter   (1945)   for   a   double-­‐bill   with   his   own   After   Hours  (1985).  At  the  time  Scorsese  said,  “I  always  wanted  to  make  a  film  that  had  this  sort   of  Chinese-­‐box  effect,  in  which  you  keep  opening  it  up  and  opening  it  up,  and  finally  at  the   end   you're   at   the   beginning.”1  But   the   two   films   share   more   than   a   structural   sensibility;   they’re   both   nightmarish   farces   constructed   around   the   crippling   anxiety   of   their   specific   eras.     This  anxious  quality  marks  many  of  Dwan’s  1940s  comedies,  including  the  four  farces  he   made   for   Edward   Small   Productions:   Gertie’s,   its   sister   film   Up   in   Mabel’s   Room   (1944),   Abroad   with   Two   Yanks   (1944),   and   Brewster’s   Millions   (1945);   and   his   subsequent   Republic   titles   Rendezvous   with   Annie   (1946)   and   The   Inside   Story   (1948).   Dwan   was   typically   modest   about   his   ambitions   for   the   Small   films:   “My   main   reason   for   doing   all   those  farces  was  because  I  knew  they’d  be  seen  by  a  lot  of  kids  at  war,  and  in  army  camps  -­‐-­‐   and  they’d  cheer  them  up.  That  whole  series  was  made  with  them  in  mind.  I  didn’t  give  a   damn  what  the  people  who  bought  tickets  saw  or  liked.  I  was  thinking  about  those  kids.”2     While  Dwan  may  have  had  simple  diversion  in  mind,  he  couldn't  help  but  let  the  realities  of   wartime   America   seep   into   the   films.   The   opening   scroll   of  Up  in  Mabel’s  Room   sardonically   nudges   the   audience   about   world   affairs:   “Warning!   In   spite   of   anything   you   may   have   heard   to   the   contrary,   this   is   a   war   picture!   It   takes   great   courage   to   bomb   Berlin—to   fight   the   Japs   in   the   jungles   of   the   Pacific—to   push   the   Nazis   out   of   Africa   and   off   the   mountains   of  Italy—But,  did  you  ever  try  to  keep  a  secret  from  your  wife?  Brother,  that’s  war!”  During   the   film’s   climax,   the   characters   are   yanked   outside   their   isolated   Connecticut   cabin   and   to   a   justice   of   the   peace.   Finally   removed   from   the   bubble   of   their   self-­‐involved   sexual   shenanigans,  they  encounter  a  tank  tester,  a  sly  reminder  of  the  real-­‐world  tensions  lurking   just  beyond  the  frame.     Rendezvous   with   Annie   brings   these   troubles   front   and   center,   focusing   explicitly   on   the   problems   of   a   soldier.   Stationed   in   London,   Corporal   Jeffrey   Dolan   (Eddie   Albert)   is,   like   many  troops,  in  the  strange  position  of  having  spent  the  majority  of  his  marriage  separated   from   his   wife   Annie   (Faye   Marlowe).   Homesick   and   lovesick,   he   waxes   poetic   about   the   virtues   of   Annie’s   famous   chocolate   cake   (and   thus,   the   comforts   of   domesticity)   to   diplomat   Sir   Archibald   Clyde   (C.   Aubrey   Smith).   When   Dolan’s   given   a   quick   three-­‐day   220  


leave, he   wants   nothing   more   than   to   visit   Annie   back   in   New   Jersey   for   their   two-­‐year   anniversary.  His  two  buddies  convince  him  to  go  AWOL  for  twelve  hours  of  bliss,  and  Dolan   becomes  one  of  what  critic  Donald  Phelps  termed  Dwan’s  “fugitives,”3  setting  forth  a  chain   of   stressful   complications:   he   must   fool   a   general   riding   on   his   flight,   sneak   past   the   air   traffic   clerk   on   the   tarmac,   and   during   a   quick   phone   call   home,   ask   Annie   to   lie   to   their   maid.  Before  catching  a  midnight  train  so  as  to  remain  unseen,  he  hides  out  at  the  Bongo   Club,   where   he   ducks   out   of   incriminating   photos   and   ends   up   lying   to   his   accountant   Thorndyke   (Raymond   Walburn),   who   has   spotted   him.   The   morning   after   their   brief   encounter,  Dolan  insists  his  wife  keep  his  little  sojourn  on  the  down-­‐low,  as  even  her  letters   aren’t  safe  from  the  eyes  of  the  censors.     Dwan,   ever   concerned   with   motion—of   his   actors,   his   narratives,   his   camera—structures   the   film   in   two   mirroring   movements.   The   second   half   of   Rendezvous   neatly   flips   the   script,   and   only   ups   the   anxiety.   After   the   war   ends,   Dolan   returns   home   to   learn   his   wife   is   in   labor.  It’s  a  joyous  occasion,  hilariously  colored  by  the  town’s  logical  assumption  that  the   baby   couldn’t   possibly   be   his.   For   Dolan   to   claim   the   child’s   inheritance   promised   by   his   late  uncle,  he  must  prove  he  was  indeed  home  nine  months  prior  and  fathered  his  son.  He   retraces   his   steps   looking   for   an   alibi,   but   his   excellent   work   keeping   his   trip   secret   proves   too  excellent.  Dolan  spirals  downward,  approaching  something  close  to  madness,  a  kind  of   PTSD  decades  before  the  term  was  even  coined.     He   visits   Thorndyke,   who   spotted   Dolan   in   the   club,   only   to   realize   the   accountant   was   stepping   out   on   his   wife   and   doesn’t   want   his   transgression   made   public.   The   maid   verifies   what  Annie  told  her:  Dolan  was  calling  home  from  England,  not  LaGuardia  Airport.  He  can’t   rely   on   his   soldier   friends   to   corroborate   the   story   without   admitting   they   “aided   and   abetted   a   deserter,”   which   would   implicate   them   and   force   a   court-­‐martial.   He   visits   the   general   with   whom   he   shared   a   plane   flight,   demanding   to   be   court-­‐martialed   for   his   actions;   the   general   thinks   Dolan   has   gone   mad.   He   returns   to   the   Bongo   Club   to   try   and   find   photographic   evidence   of   his   stop   there,   but   turns   up   empty-­‐handed   and   raises   the   ire   of   a   torch   singer’s   (Gail   Patrick)   husband,   and   subsequently   his   own   wife.   Only   when   Sir   Archibald   comes   to   town   does   Dolan   finally   see   a   chance   at   irrefutable   proof,   but   as   he   sneaks  into  Archibald’s  hotel  room,  he’s  arrested  for  an  assassination  attempt.     Like  the  premise  of  Brewster’s  Millions—where  a  man  must  somehow  spend  $8  million  in   order  to  get  an  inheritance—Rendezvous’s  is  ingenious  comic  subversion.  (And  like  the  set-­‐ up   of   Brewster’s,   or   Keaton’s   Seven   Chances   (1925),   it   posits   an   inextricable   connection   between   the   absurd   demands   of   family   and   the   possibility   of   financial   loss.)   But   the   film   also  offers  something  much  richer:  Dolan  must  go  from  making  himself  invisible  to  literally   proving  his  existence.  His  plight  represents  nothing  less  than  the  struggle  of  every  soldier   returning   home   from   battle:   having   to   undergo   the   tough   transition   from   an   anonymous   221  


cog in  the  giant  industrial  military  complex  to  embracing  life  as  a  unique  individual.  How   does   he   fit   into   this   new   society?   Who   is   he   anymore?   A   father?   A   liar?   An   attempted   murderer?  There’s  a  haunting  moment  when  Dolan  sorts  through  old  photos  at  the  Bongo   Club,   and   finds   one   he   believed   may   have   captured   his   likeness   that   night.   In   one   of   the   film’s  only  close-­‐ups,  we  see  that  Dolan  in  fact  ducked,  and  there’s  an  empty  space  left  in   the  middle  of  the  photo.    

“There I  am...”  “It’s  not  a  very  good  likeness.”     “All  I  know  is—this  is  a  heckuva  post-­‐war  world,”  Dolan’s  maid  tells  him  upon  his  return   home.   Indeed,   the   effort   to   readjust   to   this   new   America   in   Rendezvous   proves   almost   as   difficult  and  confusing  as  it  does  in  Wiliam  Wyler’s  harrowing  drama  The  Best  Years  of  our   Lives  (1946)  or  John  Huston’s  documentary  Let  There  Be  Light  (1946).  The  film  begins  with   a  framing  device  of  Dolan  in  jail  for  the  supposed  assassination  attempt;  it’s  a  particularly   dour   note,   with   Dolan’s   shoelaces   and   belt   confiscated   by   a   guard   for   fear   of   a   suicide   attempt.  These  morbid  overtones  aren’t  to  suggest  that  Rendezvous  isn’t  funny—it  is,  and   riotously  so.  If  anything,  the  anxious  atmosphere  of  late  ‘40s  America  played  perfectly  into   Dwan’s   devilish   sense   of   humor.   As   he   told   Peter   Bogdanovich,   “I   don’t   care   what   you’re   doing—the  most  vicious  drama  on  earth  is  just  on  the  ragged  edge  of  being  very  funny.”4   But  Dwan  uses  the  comedy  as  a  springboard  to  get  at  something  deeper.   222  


Though the  war  looms  large  over  Dwan’s  ‘40s  comedies,  there’s  a  marked  divide  between   the   tenor   of   the   wartime   and   post-­‐WWII   titles—the   farces   are   more   frantic,   the   Republic   films  more  soulful.  The  stories  for  Mabel’s,  Gertie’s,  and  Brewster’s  were  all  based  on  silent   comedies,   while   those   for   Rendezvous   and   Inside  Story   originated   directly   with   Dwan   and   his   writers   Mary   Loos   and   Richard   Sale.   The   latter   films   attempt   to   grapple   with   world   problems  head-­‐on,  and  not  simply  distract  audience  attention  with  frothy  entertainment.     Rendezvous   distinguishes   itself   further   with   the   casting   of   Albert   as   Dolan,   a   remarkably   plain   but   enormously   appealing   character—a   man   defined   almost   exclusively   by   his   love   for  his  wife.  Albert’s  sad,  slow  drawl  is  worlds  apart  from  Dennis  O’Keefe’s  itchy  paranoia;   it’s   a   case   study   in   how   an   actor’s   rhythm   affects   a   director’s   approach   to   his   material.   When   Dwan   learned   Albert   had   singing   talent,   he   characteristically   adapted   the   film   to   incorporate  the  skill,  adding  a  pair  of  musical  scenes  that  bookend  Dolan’s  trip  home.  On   his  flight  to  New  Jersey,  Dolan  joyfully  sings  “I’ve  Been  Working  on  a  Railroad”  and  “Row,   Row   Your   Boat”   in   the   cockpit   along   with   his   fellow   troops.   On   the   return   flight   to   England—filmed   by   Dwan   in   an   identical   camera   set-­‐up—he   performs   a   moving   solo   rendition   of   the   English   folk   ballad   “Fare   Thee   Well”:   “I’m   going   away,   but   I’m   coming   back   /  If  I  go  ten  thousand  miles.”     Dwan   injects   these   small   touches   of   lyricism   throughout,   moments   the   farces   seem   too   harried  to  ever  stop  for.  Look  at  the  two  delicate  scenes  between  Dolan  and  Sir  Archibald  in   the   bunker   England,   where   their   discussions   of   Annie’s   cake   are   interrupted   by   the   ominous   off-­‐screen   sounds   of   bombs   falling   nearby.   Or   the   way   Dwan   film’s   Dolan’s   triumphant   reunion   with   his   wife:   in   a   gorgeous,   wordless   single   take   long-­‐shot,   Annie   waits  by  their  car,  enshrouded  in  shadow,  as  Dolan’s  silhouette  peers  around  the  corner.  At   two   ends   of   a   diagonal,   they   meet   in   the   middle   of   the   frame,   and   the   score   softly   swells.   (Critic  Kent  Jones  aptly  calls  it  “one  of  the  few  moments  of  perfect  happiness  in  movies.”5)     But  the  subsequent  scene  is  just  as  beautiful:  Dolan  slowly  walks  through  the  home  he  left   behind  a  year-­‐and-­‐a-­‐half  prior  and  simply  takes  in  the  atmosphere—giddy,  overwhelmed,   comforted   by   the   sight   of   his   pipe   rack   and   “silly   old   slippers.”   “Everything’s   exactly   as   you   left   it,”   Annie   tells   Dolan;   he   picks   up   a   mystery   book   he   was   reading,   moved   how   Annie   marked  the  page  he  was  on  when  he  shipped  off  overseas.  (“I  figured  some  day  when  the   war   was   over   you   might   want   to   find   out   who   done   it.”)   The   scene   could   easily   play   as   treacly,   but   Dwan   downplays   the   sentiment   with   medium   shots   and   only   a   couple   of   camera   set-­‐ups.   It’s   the   emotional   cornerstone   of   the   film,   a   respite   from   all   of   Dolan’s   anguish  as  well  as  a  moving  tribute  to  the  small  pleasures  of  stability,  a  stirring  reminder  of   the  simple  things  we  fight  for.     223  


Of course,  Rendezvous  ultimately  ends  happily:  Thorndyke  is  blackmailed  into  admitting  he   and  Dolan  were  both  at  the  club  that  night  (Dolan’s  ducking  during  the  photo  offered  proof   of  Thorndyke’s  indiscretion).  Dolan’s  identity  is,  at  long  last,  affirmed,  and  he  wins  financial   security   for   his   family   through   the   inheritance.   And   he   once   again   gains   the   pleasure   of   indulging  in  Annie’s  cake.  The  scene  returns  Dolan  to  his  living  room,  and  the  film  comes   full  circle.  (The  first  shot,  over  the  film’s  credits,  is  of  the  exterior  of  the  Dolan  home.)  The   rewards   prove   the   struggle   was   worth   it;   it’s   always   a   transcendent   sentiment,   but   especially  in  1946.     Dwan  seems  to  take  special  pleasure  in  setting  up  (often  absurd)  hurdles  for  his  characters   to  overcome,  but  that  sense  of  hard-­‐won  victory  is  something  he  also  valued  in  his  own  life.   “Obstacles  are  merely  challenges  for  me  to  surmount,”  Dwan  told  Cahiers  du  Cinema  of  his   way   of   working.6  And   like   their   creator,   his   characters—to   borrow   a   phrase   from   After   Hours’  protagonist  Paul  Hackett—“just  want  to  live.”  They’re  unstoppable  forces—worriers   but   also   warriors—constantly   barreling   through   one   outlandish   plot   contrivance   after   another,  all  in  the  hopes  of  returning  to  the  simple  business  of  living.                                                                                                                   1  Stephen  Holden,  “The  Movies  That  Inspired  Martin  Scorsese,”  New  York  Times,  May  21,   1993.  Accessed  online:  http://www.nytimes.com/1993/05/21/movies/the-­‐movies-­‐that-­‐ inspired-­‐martin-­‐scorsese.html.   2  Peter  Bogdanovich,  Allan  Dwan:  The  Last  Pioneer  (New  York:  Praeger  Publishers,  Inc.,  

1971), 132.  

3 Donald  Phelps,  Covering  Ground:  Essays  for  Now  (New  York:  Croton  Press,  1969),  68.   4  Bogdanovich,  139.   5  Kent  Jones,  Physical  Evidence:  Selected  Film  Criticism.  (Middletown,  CT:  Wesleyan  

University Press,  2007),  154.   6  Phelps,  74.  

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OUTSIDER VISIONS:   DWAN  WITH  A  MOVIE  CAMERA    

Christopher Small     “I  couldn’t  wait  to  get  to  the  door;  I  figured  the  window  would  be  quicker.”     —Andy  Devine  in  Montana  Belle  (1948/1952)     ***     1 In  his  essay  “The  Griffith  Tradition,”  John  Dorr  would  say  that  “of  all  the  directors  of  the   Griffith  Tradition  who  maintained  careers  well  into  the  sound  period,  Allan  Dwan  was  the   least   affected   by   the   emergence   of   the   Murnau   tradition.”   Dorr   was   one   of   the   first   to   defend   the   director   from   critical   un-­‐enthusiasm,   and   though   his   arguments   tend   to   pigeonhole  the  films  rather  than  illuminate,  it’s  tough  to  contest  that  his  essays  are  some  of   the  most  respectful  musings  on  Dwan’s  craft  ever  written:  “A  cut-­‐in  to  a  large  close-­‐up,  or  a   cut-­‐back  to  a  long  shot,  in  the  primal  power  of  the  change  in  image  size  alone,  suggests  a   nobility  of  emotion  that  is  direct  and  effective.”     What  is  most  Griffithian  in  Dwan’s  cinema  is  the  definition  of  everything  in  binaries,  though   with   Griffith   it   comes   from   his   debt   to   19th   century   theatre   and   morality—his   films   elaborate  within  these  restrictions,  like  his  radical   Abraham  Lincoln  (1931),  which  dares  to   transform   historybook   Lincoln   hagiography   into   a   Wagnerian   thunderstorm   of   artifice   and   emotion,   or   Birth   of   a   Nation   (1915),   which   is   so   offensive   precisely   because   it   offers   us   blackfaces  as  nothing  but  cartoon  villains  to  antithesize  a  heroic,  Olympian  Klan.  But  with   Dwan,  binaries  are  a  response  to  the  world,  a  way  to  define  and  then  hurriedly  produce  a   show.  His  Janus-­‐faced  vision  of  dramatic  conflict  is  usually  the  result  of  an  enthusiastically   established   friction   between   two   bordering   territories.   As   Bill   Krohn   has   written   in   “The   Cliff  and  the  Flume,”2  this  is  Dwan’s  infinitely  reliable  and  reusable  filmmaking  paradigm.   He  takes  a  situation,  looks  at  the  interior  circuits  connecting  all  the  components,  and  sets  to   work.  However,  as  Dwan’s  is  a  cinema  of  the  literal—of  both  visions  outside  and  outsider   visions,   even   when   he   is   delineating   what   appears   abstract   on   first   glance—he   falls   back   again  and  again  on  a  device  for  linking  worlds,  scenes,  and  stories:  the  window.     Windows  are  the  great  synecdoches  of  Dwan’s  cinema.  More  fun,  sneaky,  mysterious,  and   cosmic   than   a   Dwanian   doorway,   his   window-­‐ways   are   passages   to   the   next   world   of   fiction.  They  enable  movement  between  inside  and  outside  (literally)  and  one  set  of  rules   and   another   (abstractly).   Like   chapter-­‐markers   for   the   movies,   they   figure   in   many   important   scenes,   and   break   up   the   more   boring   ones.   Even   in   the   late   movies,   the   ever-­‐ evolving  Dwan  was  still  relying  on  his  old  tactics.  From  the  inside  of  the  Territorial  Bank  at   225  


the end  of  Montana  Belle  (1952),  Montana,  firing  out  of  the  window  at  lawmen,  gets  hit  in   the  belly.  Then,  seconds  later,  one  of  the  gunslingers  outside  on  the  porch  steps  in  front  of   the  window,  and  a  bullet  cuts  through  him  and  the  glass.  He  staggers  and  collapses  in  the   background,  and  Montana  slumps  down  in  the  foreground.  We  look  out  through  the  picture   window   as   Tom   Bradford   (George  Brent)   approaches   on   horseback.   He   calls   out   Montana’s   name,  and  the  shooting  stops  as  the  men  all  recognize  him.  Dwan  composes  laterally  and  in   depth,   here   as   in   many   of   his   other   films.   His   camera   is   at   a   position   of   flexibility,   near   a   window  or  a  door,  and  he  moves  to  cover  what  he  can,  often  sideways,  or  forward.  Here  we   have  three  images  in  one:  Montana  being  hit,  then  the  gunslinger  dying,  and  then  back  on   her  as  she  drops  to  the  ground.  In  between  is  the  window.      

Montana Belle  (1952)     “Dwan’s   images   are   beautiful   not   so   much   as   formal   entities   unto   themselves,   as   in   their   existence   as   cinematic   units.”3   This   may   just   be   my   own   catachrestic   appropriation   of   Dorr’s  words,  but  “existence  as  cinematic  units”  conceives  of  Dwan’s  theatre  as  a  flurry  of   images  and  moments  insufficient  to  exist  on  their  own,  as  they  might  in  Eisenstein.  But  I’d   argue  that  Dwan’s  scenes  do  exist  on  their  own,  that  they  can  sustain  themselves,  and  that   the  direction  he  takes  them  is  like  that  of  a  phoenix  regenerating  from  the  ashes.  Dwan’s   assiduousness  with  framing,  camera  movement,  and  editing  gives  even  the  most  protracted   and  elaborate  set-­‐piece  a  remarkable  sense  of  balance  and  poise.     Windows  in  Dwan  typically  break  apart  the  universe  into  different  self-­‐contained  worlds,   and  yet  in  Calendar  Girl  (1947),  everything  is  a  whole.  Peeping  through  curtains  or  falling   through  windows,  everybody  has  their  part  in  this  world.  Even  the  camera  plays  a  role.  In   the   opening   sequence,   we   move   as   if   on   a   cloud.   Patricia   O'Neill   (Jane   Frazee),   appearing   from  nowhere,  ducks  out  of  two  windows  as,  outside,  the  camera  glides  by.  She  runs  from   the   first   to   the   second,   and   a   bluebird   alights   on   a   tree   branch   opposite.   Following   the   animated  calendar  and  the  titles  that  are  the  first  images  in  the  film,  the  first  motion  is  a   226  


lateral one.   As   the   calendar   vanishes,   his   camera   swings   into   view   and   doesn’t   stop   swinging:   we   will   move   through   wall,   and   floor,   and   out   onto   the   street.   Man   to   Man   too   begins  with  a  similar  crab-­‐wise  motion;  here  it  is  composed  with  people  and  white  racing-­‐ stripes,  rather  than  with  buoyancy  on  the  camera’s  part.    

Man to  Man  (1930)     Patricia  steps  back  from  the  window  and,  camera  panning,  moves  across  the  room  and  into   a  frame  composed  as  three.  As  in  a  Renoir  film  we  see  the  big  movement  closest  to  us,  the   mirror  projecting  back  at  us,  and  the  tiny  figures  quiet  at  work  in  the  distance.  One  of  the   figures—a   neighbor—calls   out   to   the   calendar   girl   through   the   window   and   she   looks   up   and  waves  back  at  him.  Turning,  she  moves  to  retrieve  her  hat  from  the  bed.  The  camera   follows.   She   adjusts   her   brim   in   the   mirror,   and   then   moves   around   the   bed   and   out   the   door.  Before  reaching  it,  her  hand  gestures  casually  out  towards  the  second  window,  whilst   herself   still   in   motion   and   continuing   her   melody.   And   then   we   are   in   the   corridor,   descending   the   stairs—sideways,   slicing   through   the   set.   Patricia   pauses   and   greets   another  neighbor  leafing  through  post  beside  the  telephone,  before  stepping  outside.     227  


Down the  front  steps,  on  the  street,  everyone’s  in  on  the  fun:  children  frolic  by,  gentlemen   smile  and  tip  their  hats,  old  ladies  sing  along,  wistful  Patricia  stumbles  into  two  temperate   parasoled   ladies,   and   she   encounters   the   same   bluebird   at   the   heart   of   this   song,   now   on   the  tip  of  a  lamppost.    

Calendar Girl  (1947)     Dwan's   movies   exist   in   an   oft-­‐ignored   middle   quandary   that’s   not   quite   A   or   B   for   Hollywood  films.  The  stories  he  deals  in  are  shopworn  and  clunky,  the  sets  unimpressive,   and  the  actors  not-­‐too-­‐good.     But  be  thankful  for  the  man  who  shoots  with  scissors  in  his  eyes.                                                                                                                     1  John  Dorr,  “The  Griffith  Tradition,”  Film  Comment  (March/April  1974)  51.   2  Bill  Krohn,  "The  Cliff  and  the  Flume,"  Senses  of  Cinema  28  (2003),    

http://sensesofcinema.com/2003/feature-­‐articles/cliff_and_flume/.

3 Dorr  51.  

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CLASSIC /  ANTI-­‐CLASSIC   Daniel  Kasman    

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…   LULU  VARDEN Alright  young  ladies,  let  us  begin.  Now  we  will  start  with  the  hand  position  in  the  middle   zone  number  one,  the  Palm  Supine.  Number  two  the  Palm  Prone.  Number  three  the  Palm   Vertical.  Tessie,  dear,  the  Palm  Vertical  should  be  raised  in  gentle  terror.  Remember  as  you   move  into  the  move  that  you're  with  a  cad. TESSIE A  cad? LULU  VARDEN A  nefarious  scoundrel  whose  intentions  are  not  honorable.   TESSIE I'm  sure  Byron's  intentions  are  honorable,  Lulu. LULU  VARDEN Who? PATRICIA  O’NEILL She  means  Byron  Jones. TESSIE He's  always  making  the  Palm  Vertical  to  me. LULU  VARDEN But  suppose  Byron  weren't  out  with  you. TESSIE I'd  just  like  to  see  him  out  with  anyone  else—we're  practically  engaged. GIRL Does  he  know  it? GIRLS (laughter) LULU  VARDEN Come,  come,  come  now  girls!  Come  let's  try  it  again!  Patricia,  Patricia,  how  many  times   have  I  told  you!  You  should  be  weak  and  wilting  and  timid,  as  if  the  very  air  around  you   were  charged  with  peril. PATRICIA  O’NEILL But  that's  namby-­‐pamby,  Lulu.  I'm  not  afraid  of  anything. 231  


LULU VARDEN My  dear,  do  you  wish  to  be  a  star?  A  great  star?  Or  do  you  wish  to  dispute  the   championship  with  Mr.  James  J.  Jeffries?  Now  that’s  more  like  a  lady. PATRICIA  O’NEILL (sighing) A  lady… LULU  VARDEN Patricia,  life  is  a  book  of  etiquette  and  rules.  You're  born  a  girl  but  you  have  to  learn  to  be  a   lady.  Girls  may  be  attractive  to  boys,  but  only  ladies  attract  gentlemen  and  only  gentlemen   are  rich. …    

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Calendar Girl  (Allan  Dwan,  1947)     ***   234  


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…     CLERK Gee  that's  dingy:  actually  in  print! STEPHEN  FOSTER Look  at  those  curly-­‐cues,  isn't  that  elegant? CLERK Let's  see  where  it  says  you  wrote  it! STEPHEN  FOSTER Well,  I  guess  it  doesn't  say. OTHER  CLERK Did  you  get  much  for  it? STEPHEN  FOSTER Oh  he  didn't  pay  me  anything. CLERK Didn't  you  even  get  any  royalties? 238  


STEPHEN FOSTER Listen!  He's  doing  me  a  big  favor  just  to  print  it.  Didn't  charge  me  a  cent.   OTHER  CLERK How  about  that  minstrel  man,  Christy,  didn't  he  pay  ya? STEPHEN  FOSTER Certainly  not!  I'm  proud  to  have  him  sing  it.   CLERK Gee,  it  looks  like  you  outta  get  a  little  somethin'  just  for  thinkin'  it  up.     …    

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EDWIN P.  CHRISTY How  many  cork  operas  did  you  put  this  song  in?  …Are  you  trying  to  make  me  a  laughing   stock?  I've  sung  "Oh,  Susanna"  from  Pittsburgh  to  New  Orleans,  made  it  the  most  popular   song  in  all  history,  perhaps,  actually  my  very  trademark.  And  you,  you  give  it  to  every   imitator  I've  got.  Don't  you  know  who  this  song  belongs  to! … STEPHEN  FOSTER That's  how  I  got  into  trouble. DUNNING  FOSTER What  trouble? EDWIN  P.  CHRISTY That's  what  happens  when  you  give  away  things  that  don't  belong  to  you. … INEZ  MCDOWELL …if  you  dare  sound  even  one  note  of  that,  that  thing!  …I've  had  nothing  else  hammered  into   my  head  for  a  month.  Some  cheap  minstrels  even  played  it  in  the  streets  of  Pittsburgh—on   tin-­‐based  drums!  If  I  ever  find  out  who  wrote  that  thing,  I  declare  I'll  shoot  him  on  sight!   …My  ear  happens  to  be  trained  in  the  classics.   …    

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… JEANIE  MCDOWELL Are  you  people  out  of  your  minds? EDWIN  P.  CHRISTY What’s  the  matter,  honey,  what’s  the  matter? JEANIE  MCDOWELL Don’t  you  realize  Inez  is  trying  to  give  a  recital? EDWIN  P.  CHRISTY Recital?  Is  that  what  you  call  that  squawky  caterwauling  up  there? JEANIE  MCDOWELL My  advice  is  that  you  both  run  for  your  lives. EDWIN  P.  CHRISTY What  a  way  to  treat  an  audience.  Audience!  Hey—I’ll  show  you  how  this  stuff  works. JEANIE  MCDOWELL Wait  a  minute,  does  Steve  know  you’re  taking  his  music? EDWIN  P.  CHRISTY My  dear  young  lady,  the  whole  world  is  about  to  know! ….   242  


….   EDWIN  P.  CHRISTY Lend  an  ear,  good  people,  lend  an  ear.  Ladies  and  gentlemen,  I  am  Edwin  P.  Christy.  It  is  my   privilege  at  this  time  to  bring  you  a  most  welcome  surprise.  You  could  hardly  have   expected  here  the  most  important  musical  event  of  the  year,  perhaps  of  our  times,  but  that   is  your  good  fortune  tonight.  Isn’t  the  discovery  of  genius  the  highest  honor?  And  what  if  I   tell  you  that  the  newest,  brightest  talent  of  our  day  is  right  here  in  this  very  room!   Unbelievably,  I’m  told  that  only  one  or  two  of  you  are  even  aware  of  the  identity  or  even  the   existence  of  this  genius  in  your  midst.  Unknown,  uncelebrated...     …             243  


… MRS.  MCDOWELL Oh  Steve,  you  shouldn’t  have,  that’s  your  salary  for  weeks. STEPHEN  FOSTER This  is  my  first  step  on  my  road  to  reform. MRS.  MCDOWELL Reform,  Steve? STEPHEN  FOSTER I’m  starting  out  to  prove  myself  to  Inez.  From  now  on,  I’m  devoting  myself  to  nothing  but   the  classics. JEANIE  MCDOWELL Won’t  that  be  a  little  bit  dull? INEZ  MCDOWELL I  think  it’s  the  most  encouraging  thing  I’ve  ever  heard  him  say. …

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I Dream  of  Jeanie  (with  the  Light  Brown  Hair)  (Allan  Dwan,  1952)   ***

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Separate But Equal #6: The Inside Story (1948) Initial Impressions from an Unsung Allan Dwan Picture  

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SANDS OF  IWO  JIMA  (1949):   As  long  as  you  won't  be  forgotten    

Marie-­‐Pierre Duhamel     Neither  the  oppressive  American  postwar  years  nor  the  crushing  presence  of  John  Wayne   or   even   the   most   cinephilically   renowned   films   of   Allen   Dwan   (like   Silver   Lode   (1954))   can   manage   to   deaden   what   one   would   have   to   call   the   “grace”   in   Sands   of   Iwo   Jima.   The   film   is   regularly  qualified  as  an  exemplary  “flag  waving  flick,”  as  a  model  of  patriotic  cinema,  as  a   “patriotic   vehicle”   for   John   Wayne,   as   a   film   of   “American   values,”   as   the   "quintessential   Marine   Corps   movie".   In   short,   a   piece   of   propaganda   manufactured   by   Hollywood   in   a   classic   blend   of   commercial   opportunism   and   ideological   alignment.   The   film   would   have   been   archetypal   enough   to   have   established   a   group   of   representations   later   recycled,   adapted,   and   quoted.   A   model   of   narrative   efficiency   (of  storytelling)   and   precision   in   the   design   of   the   characters,   the   film   is   echoed   in   other   films.   Let's   just   cite   here   the   introductory  sequences  in  Hall  of  Montezuma  (Lewis  Milestone,  1951—a  “Marine  film”  on   the   Battle   of   Okinawa—or   Take   the   High   Ground   (Richard   Brooks,   1953),   which,   on   a   spectacular  number  of  points,  looks  like  a  copycat  (Korea  replacing  the  Pacific).     Yet   the   impression   that   emerges   from   common   commentaries   is   that   something   (a   je-­ne-­ sais-­quoi)  prevents  the  film  from  being  thrown  in  with  the  pile  of  "war  films"  or  the  pile  of   “films   with   John   Wayne.”   Something   goes   beyond   the   simple   recognition   of   the   narrative   expertise,  the  actor’s  efficiency,  or  the  overall  dignified  production  value.  Beyond,  as  well,   nostalgia  for  a  cinema  that  no  longer  exists.  Something  slips  just  out  of  reach.     Economy(ies)   1949.  World  War  II  is  still  present  in  the  everyday  lives  of  Americans,  in  their  bodies  and  in   their   memories.   The   most   successful   films   at   the   end   of   1949   are   war   films,   objects   entrusted   with   the   task   of   exalting   American   values   in   the   best   (possible)   show   business   packaging.   American   cinema   is   in   the   strong   ideological   grip   of   the   “third   war,”   the   one   opposing   Communism   and   the   Free   World.   Even   more   than   the   films   produced   and   released  during  the  war,  these  post-­‐war  war  films  are  on  a  mission.       In   June   1950   the   Korean   War   officially   begins.   The   Containment   Theory   had   been   formulated   as   early   as   February   1946.   The   same   year,   HUAC   (the   House   Un-­‐American   Activities  Committee)  had  become  a  standing  committee.     While   Dore   Schary   is   preparing   William   Wellman’s   Battleground   (1949)   for   MGM   and   Zanuck  Henry  King’s  Twelve  O’Clock  High  (1949)  for  Fox,  the  producer  at  Republic,  Edmund   257  


Grainger (he  has  produced  Wake  of  the  Red  Witch  there  in  1948  with  John  Wayne,  with  a   script  by  Harry  Brown,  and  he  will  produce  Nicholas  Ray’s  Flying  Leathernecks  for  RKO  in   1951)  happened  to  catch  on  the  front  page  of  a  newspaper  the  words  “Sands  of  Iwo  Jima.”   There   is   little   time   between   the   writing   and   the   start   of   production.   We   know   that   production   only   lasts   two   months   and   that   without   the   material   contributions   of   the   Marine   Corps   such   a   production   would   have   been   impossible.   Despite   a   big   budget   for   a   “small”  studio  like  Republic,  the  general  economy  is  tight.   The   Marines   get   involved   on   a   grand   scale   in   a   production   that   (beyond   their   own   long   tradition   of   self-­‐promotion)   could   contribute   to   restoring   their   Semper   Fidelis   blazon   tarnished  by  a  lack  of  federal  financing.  They  provide  instructors,  men/extras,  equipment   and  locations.  They  also  provide  their  propaganda  films  –  footage  shot  on  the  front  lines  by   cameramen   attached   to   the   Corps.   Everything   (project,   script,   means)   imposes   the   necessity   of   using   footage   from   the   Corps’   combat   photographers.   The   concept   is   neither   new   nor   (by   the   way)   typically   American.   War   films,   no   doubt   more   so   than   other   films   about   recent   history   mix   documentary   and   fictional   images,   as   an   the   introduction   to   the   story  or  sometimes  during  the  film:  a  production  necessity  and  a  guarantee  of  the  "real,"  as   if  it  were  impossible  to  do  without  documentary  footage  in  front  of  an  audience    profoundly   marked  by  the  experience  and  familiar  with  the  images  seen  during  the  war.    

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Combat Footage  

  “World   War   II   was   covered   from   start   to   finish,”   the   historian   and   co-­‐screenwriter   for   Spielberg’s   production   Shooting   War   said   even   in   2000,   visibly   unafraid   of   hasty   generalizations.1   He   added   that   “the   images   of   this   war   burned   [the]   eyes   and   spirits”   of   Americans.  American  spectators  of  the  years  1941-­‐1945  saw  a  huge  amount  of  images  of   the   conflict:   battles,   draft   calls,   remarkable   biographies,   on-­‐the-­‐ground   footage—images   organized   and   controlled   by   the   military   with   Hollywood’s   support   (Hal   Roach   studios   trained  combat  photographers/cameramen).  Studios  edit,  add  sound  and  print  short  films   with  the  footage  from  the  camera  operators  attached  to  of  all  the  branches  of  the  military.   These  men  risk  their  lives:  to  document  is  to  find  the  right  place,  to  fight  fear,  to  vary  the   angles  in  order  to  show  more  or  better,  to  understand  what  is  happening  and  where,  and   above  all  to  film  the  “boys.”     And,  thus,  the  flag...   Joe   Rosenthal’s   famous   photo   for   the   Associated   Press2   inscribes   itself   in   the   collective   American   imagination   as   soon   as   it   begins   to   circulate   immediately   after   the   event.   An   instantaneous   emblem,   an   immediately   iconic   snapshot.   The   recognition   is   so   immediate   that  it  is  still  used  today  with  more  or  less  relevance  or  irony.3  The  event  was  also  filmed  by   the  cameraman  Bill  Genaust  in  color  16mm.  Genaust  was  killed  on  Iwo  Jima  on  March  4th.   His  images  are  edited  again  and  again  into  wartime  short  films.   In   Grainger’s   project,   the   flag   episode   has   to   be   the   ultimate   grand   finale,   the   über   conclusion  to  the  characters’  design.  The  reconstruction  (the  first  ever)  of  the  flag  scene  is   the  ending  to  the  story  people  know  going  in.  No  film  about  Iwo  Jima  can  be  without  the   "flag   raising".   Rosenthal's   photo   and   the   event   itself   have   become   one.   Ultimate   icon   /   episode-­‐emblem.   259  


Déjà vu    

  The  project  Dwan  is  offered  is  something  like  an  "already  made  and  already  seen"  film.  He   is  being  asked  to  apply  his  long-­‐tested  know  how  and  his  capacity  for  working  with  modest   budgets   to   the   making   of   a   “profitable”   war   spectacle   in   terms   of   ticket   sales   and   of   audience  edification.  But  the  project  also  branches  off  from  an  ensemble  of  conditions  that   go  beyond  studio  logic  and  politico-­‐military  logic.  If  we  wanted  an  image  of  the  filmmaker’s   position,   we’d   imagine   him   in   the   middle   of   a   network   of   representations:   the   emblem-­‐ image  and  the  still  fresh  memory  of  the  combat  footage,  and  the  tropes  governing  the  war   genre  both  in  fiction  and  in  the  productions  of  the  Armed  Forces  Information  Films  (AFIF).   “The   pattern   of   war   in   the   Pacific”:   this   is   how   the   commentary   of   Fury   in   the   Pacific   (released   in   March   1945)—a   short   film   presented   like   a   documentary   on   the   Battle   of   Peleliu   in   September-­‐November   1944—describes   the   sequence   of   “typical”   actions   of   operations   on   the   Pacific   Islands.   War   short   films   have   already   established   the   script   following   the   developments   of   military   reality:   trip   towards   the   island,   bombing,   landing,   push   towards   the   interior.   With   the   terrible   exception   of   the   murderous   groping   along,   about   which   nothing   is   being   said   (from   the   absence   of   images   of   Pearl   Harbor   to   the   leaders’   initial   mistakes   and   the   civilian   casualties   in   the   Pacific),   all   the   patterns   are   in   place,  those  of  the  operations  and  those  of  the  story  of  the  operations.  They  are  all  in  Sands,   they  cannot  not  be  in  it. Patterns: The  group  of  Marines  in  Sands  must  reflect  the  American  melting  pot  the  way  war   films  have  defined  it  for  a  long  time:  a  mix  of  ethnicities  and  social  groups,  a  metaphor  for   American   “diversity”   coming   together   around   the   patriotic   cause.   The   “farmer”   (a   young   peasant  who  understands  the  values  of  land),  the  “comedian”  (from  Brooklyn),  the  “Latin”   (Italian   or   Latino,   always   talky   and   resourceful),   not   to   mention   the   “Jew”   (pious   and   260  


discreet) and   the   intellectual   (teacher,   engineer   or   just   reader   of   books).   In   the   “Pacific   film,”  the  latter  is  often  in  charge  of  the  voice-­‐over  narration,  a  procedure  shared  by  both   military   short   documentary   and   fiction   films.   From   the   “Marine   remembering”   like   in   To   the   Shores   of   Iwo   Jima   (1945)   to   the   journalist’s   account   in   Guadalcanal   Diary   (Lewis   Seiler   for   Fox,   1943),   it   is   important   that   the   text   says   “we”   or   “I.”   In   short,   that   it   is   clear   that   the   story   is   being   told   by   someone   who   is   a   first-­‐hand   witness   or   participant.   In   Sands,   the   "comedian"   is   Italian   American,   the   narrator   (Dunne)   is   a   schoolteacher   and   the   Jew   dies   while  murmuring  a  final  prayer  in  Hebrew  that  Wayne  concludes  with  a  painful  “Amen.”  I’ll   leave  it  up  to  the  reader  to  list  the  missing  characters,  the  “minor"  characters  and  to  fill  in   the   list   of   the   other   narrative   accessories   (or   props).   The   squads   commanded   by   John   Wayne/Stryker  never  depart  from  the  codes  of  combat  fiction.  The  actions  that  punctuate   the   “Pacific   film”—straight   out   of   film   reports—go   through   their   "final"   codification   in   Sands   of   Iwo   Jima:   the   arrival   of   the   recruits,   boot   camp,   boat   trip,   anguished   waiting   not   knowing  the  “target,”  meeting  around  the  map/model  of  the  island,  landing,  pinning  down   by  enemy  fire,  intervention  of  the  Air  Force  and  bombing,  bunker  that  blocks  the  advance,   push  towards  the  interior  of  the  islands,  laborious  driving  out  of  the  enemy.   Around   this   schematic   of   actions   (that   reflect   a   good   part   of   the   strategic   reality   on   the   field),   other   models   codify   behaviors   and   “experiences”:   letters   to   and   from   loved   ones,   chaplains  and  rabbis  and  their  rites  blessing  the  soldiers,  photos  in  helmets,  young  soldiers'   awkwardness   (they're   still   children),   barrack-­‐room   life   on   the   boat.   And   a   terrible   discovery   that   the   soldiers   in   the   Pacific   don’t   share   with   those   fighting   in   Europe:   the   jungle,   the   heat,   the   tropical   night   (humid,   infested   with   insects,   muddy   and   dangerous).   Dwan’s   tropical   night—organized   around   the   conflict   between   two   men   while   a   groan   echoes   out   of   frame—has   a   unique   force:   it   bears   a   double   violence.   Violence   of   the   situation,  violence  inside  the  men.     The  whole  of  this  schematic  is  bathed  in  a  hearty  racism  in  the  treatment  of  the  Japanese   (simply  put,  the  “Nips”  are  non-­‐humans)  and  their  representation  (mustache,  cruel  grimace   and   samurai   sword)   which   is   barely   tempered   by   some   references   to   the   quality   of   their   training.  Hostile  Indians,  basically.  Let’s  briefly  remark  here  that  the  army’s  combat  footage   documents   POWs   (certainly   rare)   semi-­‐nude,   dazed   and   almost   crazy   with   fear,   while   voice-­‐over  narrations  as  early  as  1944  recognized  the  determination  and  military  art  of  the   Japanese  troops.  The  fiction  films  came  to  it  later.   (And   can't   one   say   the   same   about   John   Wayne?   Was   he   not   already   “modeled?”   For   example,   as   the   perfect   padre   padrone   of   Montgomery   Clift   in   Hawks’   Red   River   (1948),   another  father-­‐son  story…)   Dwan   is   dealing   with   a   weighty   iconic   and   narrative   system,   made   even   heavier   by   the   addition   of   the   famous   flag   raising.   Not   to   mention   the   fact   that   the   project   is   not   supposed   261  


to "creatively   depart"   from   the   codes   (far   from   it)   but   instead   to   re-­‐establish   them,   to   renew   their   value   and   strength,   to   produce   "prime   examples".   The   condition   of   success:   bring   viewers   together   around   an   overwhelming   monument.   The   culmination,   if   we   may   call  it  that,  of  the  matter:  the  army  “procures”  Dwan  some  of  the  famous  survivors  of  the   Iwo  Jima  event  in  order  to  (re)play  their  roles  and,  in  particular,  the  three  survivors  of  the   famous  flag  raising.  And  the  real  flag.    

  Dwan   knows   all   this.   It’s   said   that   he   thought   of   other   actors   than   Wayne   for   the   role   of   Stryker.   He   even   offered   it   to   General   Erskine.   He   knows   that   getting   Wayne   would   be   a   good   “added   value”   to   his   work   and   the   film.   He   sends   his   actors   to   boot   camp   (Erskine   provided  his  toughest  drill  sergeant),  he  gives  the  real  officers  rather  long  screen  time  in   the   Iwo   Jima   sequences   and   he   briefly   surrounds   Wayne   together   with   the   three   survivors.   He   sticks   to   this   attention   to   “real   life   effect”   and   reproduction   that   is   part   of   the   commission.  He  orchestrates  sets,  cameras  (six  for  the  battles  scenes  on  Iwo  Jima),  tanks,   extras   and   the   editing   in   record   time.   And   he   delivers   a   new   American   emblem   to   his   producer:  the  ultimate  pattern. But   he   has   mise   en   scène   in   mind,   and   what,   moreover,   mise   en   scène   could   say.   As   a   filmmaker   who   has   known   for   a   long   time   what   telling   a   story   means,   after   hundreds   of   films,  in  a  studio  that  wasn’t  a  “major,”  at  64  years  old,  Allan  Dwan  maybe  wonders  what  of   value—beyond   its   prescribed   role—this   patriotic   object   could   say.   What   could   be   done   with   images   already   (re)processed   by   cinema,   with   experiences   that   have   already   been   recounted,   with   codified   narratives.   How   to   use,   beyond   the   building   of   an   iconic   monument,  this  narrative  “toolbox,”  where  each  piece  is  strictly  defined?  The  filmmaker’s   response  is  about  measure  and  balance.  Dwan,  a  filmmaker  from  the  Silent  Era,  knew  very   well   that   since   the   murmur   of   words,   dialogue,   jokes,   wisecracks,   catchphrases   and   fanfare   has  been  unleashed,  some  work  is  needed  in  order  to  make  heard  what  had  to  be  heard. 262  


Editing Combat  Footage  into  the  Fiction   The   production   only   lasts   two   months   and   the   post-­‐production   lasts   no   longer   than   the   studio’s   cruel   standards.   Is   this   what   explains   the   fact   that   the   editing   shows   no   trace   of   research   into   the   unused   materials   of   combat   photographers?   Or   is   it   instead   a   matter   of   never  going  beyond  what  the  American  spectator  had  already  seen? The   navigation,   landing   and   battle   sequences   in   Sands   mainly   draw   on   three   short   films,   sometimes  re-­‐using  a  series  of  shots  without  re-­‐editing  them.  With  the  Marines  at  Tarawa   was  released  in  March  1944,  Fury  in  the  Pacific  in  March  1945  and  To  the  Shores  of  Iwo  Jima   in  June  1945.  With  the  Marines  and  To  the  Shores  of  Iwo  Jima  were  printed  in  Technicolor   for  distribution.         Sands   makes   two   uses   of   them:   as   rear-­‐projections   to   insert   the   actors   into   “real   backgrounds,”  and  as  elements  of  sequence  construction.  Contrary  to  Guadalcanal  Diary— where   the   use   of   combat   footage   was   mechanical   and   rather   casually   dealt   with   through   lazy  repetitions    (pure  “signs  of  real  life”  occasionally  thrown  into  the  story)—Dwan  works   with   great   precision.   A   precision   in   editing   together   fictional   and   combat   footage   with   systematic   match   cuts,   or   as   close   to   match   cuts   as   possible   (in   the   movement,   direction,   from   one   object   or   element   to   another),   and   often   in   shot-­‐reverse   shot   sequences.   Stryker/Wayne  throws  a  grenade,  the  explosion  it  produces  is  “real,”  (yet  reversed  to  serve   the  match  cut).    

What  the  characters  are  looking  at  is  the  combat  footage.    

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Enough to   shock   the   adepts   of   orthodoxy   in   terms   of   respecting   the   regime   and   status   of   images?  It  is  more  interesting  to  note  that  the  images  from  the  combat  footage  are  never   “disguised.”   They   keep   their   graininess   and   the   problems   with   the   negative   if   not   of   the   prints:   low   definition,   stains   and   scratches   that   show,   in   the   difference   between   one   shot   and  another,  their  origin  and  status.  And  the  documentary  images  are  not  “cleaned”  of  the   “boys”  looking  into  the  camera.  What  is  forbidden  in  classical  fiction  is  no  longer  the  rule:   the   combat   footage   attests   that   “this”   happened   and   participates   with   the   fiction   in   constructing   the   ultimate   representation   of   events.     War   documentary   films   dissolve   into   the  fiction.       Dwan  uses  close  shots  and  close  ups  of  the  soldiers,  an  audacious  and  risky  choice,  giving   the   already-­‐seen   (in   Technicolor)   images   a   new   possibility,   four   years   after   Iwo   Jima,   to   “look  at”  the  spectator.      

From   one   to   the   other   and   to   the   third:   the   filmic   link   allows   the   close   up—fleetingly   violent—to   be   the   continuation   of   the   document,   or   maybe   to   (re)think   it.   The   original   short   films,   however   formatted   they   may   be,   are   striking   for   their   harshness,   their   exhibition   of   bodies   and   wounds,   the   death   gestures,   the   disorder   and   the   destruction,   cadavers  of  soldiers  floating  in  the  water  (at  Tarawa),  faces  made  thin  by  hardships  or  pain,   lost  gazes,  real  death  on  camera.       Sands's   task   is   to   establish   under   another   form   in   people’s   memories   a   violence   they’ve   already  witnessed.       The  Other  Story     Dwan  accomplishes  this  by  discreetly  displacing  the  center  of  the  film:  the  ascent  towards   the  emblem  (the  flag  raising)  is  also  a  voyage  into  the  masculine  psyche.  And,  moreover,  a   study  of  the  deeper  meaning  of  the  soldier’s  experience:  a  question  about  remembering  it   and   how   to   remember   it.   Not   how   to   go   through   it   but   what   do   with   it.   It   is   less   about   becoming  a  monument  than  living  afterwards.       264  


The tone   is   set   in   the   film’s   opening   minutes.   It   will   be   less   a   matter   of   discovering   “Sergeant   Terror’s”4   deeper   qualities—the   narrative   codes   said   it   all   in   advance—than   of   exploring  what  torments  and  separates  men  in  search  of  a  connection,  in  short,  it  will  be  a   film  about  love.  Stryker  is  tormented  by  the  absence  of  a  son.  Conway  is  tormented  by  the   presence  of  a  father.  A  son  whose  five  years  of  silence  have  turned  into  a  ghost  and  a  dead   father  whose  ghost  is  everywhere.     Figures  of  the  Double     Sands   progresses   from   double   to   double,   from   couple   to   couple,   from   reflection   to   reflection.  From  a  script  that  brings  together  the  gamut  of  patterns  and  clichés  around  the   already  familiar  character  of  the  “brutal  leader  with  a  secret”  (and  thus  hardboiled  Wayne),   Dwan’s  design  of  the  sequences  and  of  their  duration—the  balance  of  the  editing  and  the   mise   en   scène   of   the   dialogue—creates   an   almost   dizzying   game   of   mirrors   in   which   the   characters  are  always  more  than  themselves.       The   central   father-­‐son   couple   is   manifested   in   doubles   and   commented   upon   by   parallel   pairs.  Around  the  father-­‐son  couple  is  a  choir:  situations  staged  as  variations  on  the  main   situation,   that   work   to   make   what   is   beyond   the   single   father–son   relationship   resonate   and  be  heard.  In  the  rigid  framework  of  the  “Pacific  film,”  Dwan  deploys  the  multiple  forms   of  a  novel.  A  novel  about  feelings  as  they  happen  on  the  masculine  side.     The  Stryker–Conway  (father–son)  relationship  is  constructed  in  two  equal  parts.  The  first   part   (the   conflict)   draws   a   parallel   between   the   escalation   of   the   verbal   violence   and   the   escalation   of   the   physical   violence.   Conway’s   meaner   and   meaner   words   to   Stryker   are   responded  to  with  an  increasing  intensity  of  the  desire  to  kill.  And  each  one  finds  himself,   alternately,   almost   ready   to   kill:   at   Tarawa,   Conway   yells   at   Stryker   to   launch   an   assault   on   a   bunker   as   if   he   was   sending   him   to   die   and   Stryker   seriously   threatens   Conway   who   calls   him   a   monster.   This   movement   has   its   double:   an   old   conflict   created   Thomas’   animosity   towards   Stryker.   At   Tarawa,   Thomas   commits   a   major   mistake   by   leaving   his   fellow   soldiers   without   ammunition.   When   Stryker   finds   out,   the   two   men   fight.   Every   relationship  has  physical  stakes;  every  relationship  grows  until  it  reaches  the  threshold  of   murder  in  order  to  resolve  itself.       Game  of  mirrors:  Conway  confides  in  Dunne  (the  narrator)  his  desire  to  marry  the  young   woman   he   has   just   met.   This   hero–confidant   couple   that   will   return   later   on   (Conway   confides   in   Dunne   that   he   has   a   premonition   of   death),   has   a   "twin":     the   Stryker–Bass   couple,  in  scenes  where,  for  the  most  part,  Bass  protects  Stryker  by  constantly  asking  him   to   reaffirm   the   tie   that   binds   them.     Stryker   even   calls   him   an   “old   maid”   and   one   of   the   soldiers  calls  him  a  “dog  following  his  master.”       265  


Conway–Dunne, Stryker–Bass:   two   figures   of   friendship,   two   figures   of   the   need   for   connection.     The   network   of   couples   involves   both   main   and   secondary   characters.   To   the   Allison– Conway   couple   that   dances   in   the   awe   of   love   at   first   sight   responds,   like   a   grimace,   Stryker’s  grotesque  dance  with  the  left-­‐handed  soldier  who  is  learning  to  use  his  bayonet.   To   the   escalating   physical   violence   between   Stryker   and   Conway,   responds   in   major   the   settling  of  scores  between  Thomas  and  Stryker  and  in  minor,  the  constant  disputes  of  the   inseparable  brothers  from  Philadelphia  (“city  of  brotherly  love,”  the  "comedian"  remarks).   Whatever   their   differences   in   age,   in   dramatic   moments   as   in   playful   moments,   all   these   men  have  trouble  conceiving  an  expression  and  a  circulation  of  affects  between  them.     The  main  characters  of  Sands  of  Iwo  Jima  are  creatures  deprived  of  speech  (in  contrast  to   the  talkativeness  and  wisecracking  of  the  secondary  characters).  They  must  learn  to  speak   (and  to  talk  to  each  other).  Conway  refuses  to  talk  to  Stryker:  what  comes  from  Stryker  can   only   be   the   voice   of   the   deceased   father,   the   humiliating   words   of   an   implacable   Commandatore.  Stryker  concedes  to  Bass:  “If  you  don’t  talk  to  me,  who  will?”  Thomas  sinks   into   his   guilt   because   he   doesn’t   dare   talk   about   it.   And   by   the   way,   the   Italian   American   comedian   says   to   him,   “You   haven’t   spoken   to   me   since   Tarawa.”   And   what   are   we   to   make   of  the  “little  voice”  that  haunts  Conway  and  makes  him  say  that  he  won’t  come  back  from   the  next  battle?     Midway   through   the   film,   the   Conway–Stryker   relationship   changes   dramatically:   the   sergeant  saves  the  life  of  the  soldier  who,  absorbed  in  a  letter  from  his  wife,  doesn’t  see  a   misthrown   grenade   land   at   his   feet.   The   one   burning   with   a   desire   to   be   a   father   saves   a   son.   This   son,   in   turn,   becomes   a   father   with   a   will   to   break   the   line   of   descent   (to   not   conform  to  the  oppressive  Father).  Parallel  with  this  reversal,  on  Iwo  Jima,  Conway  saves   Stryker’s   life,   attacked   by   a   Japanese   sniper.   And   the   letter   Conway   was   reading   that   set   all   this   off   finds   its   parallel   in   the   posthumous   letter   the   group   listens   to   after   Stryker’s   death.   It  is  hardly  certain  that  the  Conway  who  concludes  the  film  by  saying  Stryker’s  fetishized   “Saddle  up”  to  his  comrade  is  only  an  heir.  He  is  just  as  much,  as  the  story  has  constructed   him,  a  man  who  has  learned  to  speak.     Allison,   Conway’s   wartime   wife,   is   echoed   by   Mary,   the   woman   Stryker   meets   in   a   bar.   Stryker’s   wife's   absence   (she   is   named   Mary)   is   echoed   by   Allison’s   absence.   Stryker’s   absent   son   is   echoed   by   the   image   of   Conway’s   son   (who   he   only   knows   through   a   photograph).  Between  these  images  of  sons  is  a  real  child,  the  one  belonging  to  the  lonely   woman  whose  quiet  courage  calms  Stryker’s  torment.  A  real  child  that  Stryker  mistakes  for   a  little  girl.  It  is  (of  course)  a  little  boy.       266  


These two  women  and  this  child  that  is  at  once  girl  and  boy  are  in  no  way  minor  characters.   Sands   is   a   man’s   film   that   Dwan   discreetly   turns   into   a   film   about   men.   Dwan’s   subtlety   does   not   need   to   “quantitatively”   develop   the   role   of   women:   what   is   staged   twice   (Allison/Mary)   is   the   idea   that   women   are   the   very   condition   for   the   possibility   of   masculine   speech   freed   from   the   torments   of   pride   and   ghosts   of   the   Father.   Allison   and   Mary  bring  Conway–Stryker  (two  figures  of  a  same)  from  one  state  to  another.     Figures  of  the  Couple     The   masculine   characters   in   Sands   of   Iwo   Jima   worry   about   being   loved   –   loving   worries   them.  They  live  in  a  world  of  men  “longing  for  love”  where  the  question  of  filiation  becomes   a  question  of  life  and  death.  This  inner  novel  holds  to  the  balance  that  Dwan  maintains  and   preserves   from   any   excesses   through   the   epic   charge   of   the   combat   or   directly   “mythological”   episodes.     The   cutting   and   framing   proceed   with   a   grammatical   rigor   that   reveals   the   film’s   deep-­‐seated   theme   without   complaisance   and   without   ever   compromising  its  discretion.       The   groups   of   soldiers   are   filmed   frontally   in   static   shots   while   they   act   and   speak   (in   a   tent,   on   board   a   ship,   on   the   battlefield).   The   group   is   almost   never   broken   up   by   the   découpage  as  long  as  it  acts  as  a  group  (whether  joking  or  fighting),  as  long  as  it  is  a  matter   of  observing  the  relationships  that  traverse  it.    The  couples  (Stryker/Conway,  Stryker/Bass,   etc.)   talk   in   medium   shots   (medium-­‐long   or   medium),   frontally,   like   they’re   on   stage.   Several  times,  a  lateral  tracking  shot  “reviews”  the  characters,  stopping  on  one  couple  and   then  another,  until  it  reaches  the  main  couple  of  Stryker–Conway.     The  couple  is  also  the  major  visual  figure.    

  And  finally,  the  close  ups,  like  the  shot-­‐reverse  shot  sequences  in  medium  shots—rupturing   the  quasi-­‐theatrical  frontalit—only  intercede  at  certain  key  moments  in  the  “other  story”:   when  the  words  strike.  So  that  the  words  literally  penetrate  the  image.       The  harder  the  word  (or  look),  the  more  it  must  be  materially  inscribed  into  the  faces.     267  


As in   the   “climax”   of   Conway’s   hate   for   Stryker   and   Stryker’s   wounded   love.   Stryker   is   coming  from  Mary’s,  the  single  woman  with  the  child,  comforted  and  with  his  mind  made   up   to   stop   “crying   for   himself.”   He   lets   Bass   drag   him   into   a   bar.   They   see   the   group   and   Conway   celebrating   the   birth   of   Conway’s   son.   In   other   words,   Stryker   is   going   from   the   childhood  of  the  sons  to  the  son  who  is  growing  up.  Stryker  alludes  to  his  own  son  when  he   tells  Conway  (in  substance),  “Wait  till  he  gets  to  be  ten  and  doesn’t  write  and  you'll  want  to   punch   him.”   The   group   remains   in   the   background,   a   discreet   choir   that   witnesses   the   drama  (the  other  term  for  this  couple  is  the  viewer).       The   frame   gets   closer   to   Conway,   with   Stryker   on   the   edge.   He   is   standing   up,   Stryker   is   sitting;  an  inversion  of  the  positions  of  authority  between  the  young  and  old.  Conway  has   become   a   father.   He   tells   Stryker   that   he   hopes   his   son   won't   be   like   Stryker   or   Colonel   Conway   (either   of   the   hated   fathers)   but   that   he   will   be   “intelligent,   attentive,   cultivated   and   a   gentleman.”   Conway’s   last   sentence   is   inscribed   on   Stryker’s   face,   refusing   him   any   right   to   respond:   “Do   we   understand   each   other?”   This   sentence   only   gains   its   double   meaning   (Do   we   hear   each   other?/Do   we   understand   each   other?)   because   it   is   heard   over   a   shot   of   Stryker’s   face.     The   shot   is   short,   just   enough   time   to   see   a   slight   tic   in   John   Wayne’s  left  eye.  And  cut.  It’s  over.  The  blow  was  dealt  by  the  cutting.  No  complaisance.  No   pathos.  The  film  returns  to  the  medium  shot  of  the  three  characters  that  opened  the  scene   and  Stryker  chases  away  the  soldiers.  Only  the  Stryker–Bass  couple  remains,  facing  us.      

When   Stryker–Conway’s   relationship   shifts,   the   same   figure   is   used   to   express   their   affection.    

268  


Earlier in   the   film,   this   figure   had   signified,   in   an   overwhelming   "shot-­‐reverse   shot   in   hiding"  between  Conway  and  Stryker,  that  it  was  impossible  for  these  men  to  speak  in  the   same   shot   without   driving   each   other   mad.   Conway   is   confiding   in   Dunne   while   Stryker,   lying  next  to  Bass,  listens  to  him.  From  the  hero-­‐confidant  couples,  the  dialogue  moves  to   closer   shots   of   the   two   men   who   are   not   speaking   to   one   another   but   who   the   shot-­‐reverse   shot   brings   together   around   a   "non-­‐heard".   “Leave   a   little   bit   of   yourself,   as   long   as   you   won’t  be  forgotten”:  it’s  Stryker  who  hears  him.  But  it  is  not  to  him  that  it  is  being  said.       Constructions  in  couples  and  in  mirrored  images.  Doubled  men.    

In this  economy  of  mise  en  scène  which  is  repeated  at  each  step  of  the  relationship  between   the   main   characters   and   which   gets   the   actors’   best   performances,   medium   shots   and   close   ups   are   never   the   easy   solutions   of   the   cheap   commerce   of   predictable   emotions.   The   faces   of  the  characters/actors  invading  the  screen  are,  quite  literally,  the  invasion  of  the  screen   by  emotion.        

269  


Silent Film:  and  At  the  End,  the  Flag     The   flag   appears   five   times   before   the   reproduction   of   the   flag   raising.   It   is   given   to   the   group’s   comedian   Ragazi   the   Italian   American.   Its   iconic   force   is   distributed   amongst   the   “common   people”   of   the   characters.   Before   Tarawa,   Ragazi   learns   how   to   fold   a   flag   in   a   scene  where  the  hardly  excited  last  sentence  (“What  d’ya  know”)  may  be  redeemed  by  the   sequence’s   documentary   character.   At   Tarawa,   this   same   Ragazi   misses   the   occasion   to   hoist  his  flag  and  tucks  it  (well  folded)  into  his  shirt.  Then  the  icon  becomes  more  precise:  a   match  cut  associates  the  flag  waving  on  Tarawa  with  the  flag  wrapped  around  a  corpse  in   the   combat   footage   (see   above).   No   need   for   Dwan,   the   enemy   of   complacency,   to   “reproduce”   a   burial   at   sea   scene.   The   memory   of   the   already-­‐seen   images   suffices.   This   happens   also   because   this   filmmaker   of   balance   contains   any   possible   flooding   of   the   moment  by  the  “already  known,  already  seen.”  On  the  boat  taking  them  to  Iwo  Jima,  Ragazi   takes   out   his   flag   and   says   he   is   determined   to   raise   it   over   Tokyo.   The   last   time   that   a   furious   Ragazi   will   be   deprived   of   a   chance   to   raise   his   flag   will   happen   on   Iwo   Jima:   the   flag  Stryker  confides  to  the  three  survivors  is  another  one.     To   retain   or   defuse   the   emotion   the   well-­‐known   object   would   produce   in   advance   and   to   construct   the   icon   by   confiding   it   to   a   minor   character:   two   ways   to   give   another   life   to   the   inevitable,  anticipated  monument,  so  that  no  one  will  touch  it  for  a  long  time.  

270  


It doesn’t  take  long  to  see  how  much  Sands  is  the  work  of  a  silent  filmmaker.  The  scene  at   the  end  of  the  flag  raising  is  one  of  the  most  obvious  signs  of  that.  Stryker  gives  the  flag  that   must  be  planted  on  Mount  Suribachi  to  a  “first  squad":  this  is  the  moment  of  the  cameo  of   the   three   survivors   where   we   notice   above   all   that   Ira   Hayes,   the   outsider,   is   looking   elsewhere  as  if  he  were  not  there.      

  Last  dialogue  between  Conway  and  Stryker:  the  “little  voice”  of  fear  has  disappeared.  And  “I   never  felt  so  good,”  Stryker  says.  A  sniper’s  bullet  hits  him  in  the  back.  He  falls  backwards.   While,   in   the   background,   the   combat   photographers   climb   towards   the   summit,   Thomas   finds   on   Stryker’s   body   an   unfinished   letter   to   his   son.   He   reads   it   aloud   to   the   other   soldiers  as  they  crouch  around  the  body.  The  film  cuts  from  face  to  face.  Conway  takes  the   letter  and  says,  “I’ll  finish  it  for  him.”  Over  the  sound  of  a  drum  roll  comes  the  first  shot  of   the  reproduction  of  the  flag  raising.  Bill  Genaust’s  shot  was  not  enough:  too  short,  framed   too  close.  It  isn’t  monumental  enough,  not  as  monumental  as  the  photo.  Dwan  cuts  together   three  shots  of  his  careful  reproduction,  not  one  more:  enough  so  that  his  main  characters   raise  their  eyes  (one  by  one,  in  close  up)  and  then  get  up  while  the  Marines  hymn  begins.   Final  shot  of  the  reproduction:  the  flag  is  raised.  A  new  series  of  close  ups  on  the  faces  to   the  sound  of  the  hymn,  this  time  not  with  their  heads  up,  but  as  if  they  were  watching  the   flag  scene  in  front  of  them,  against  all  rules  of  spatial  continuity.      

271


Conway lowers  his  eyes  towards  the  famous  shot  of  Stryker’s  dead  body,  his  face  against   the  ground.    

    It’s  in  a  close  up  that  Conway  raises  his  eyes  again  and  exclaims,  “Saddle  up,”  the  expression   Stryker   shouted   to   get   them   moving.     A   shot   of   the   group   turning   around   and   walking   away   in  the  smoke  of  an  invisible  bombing  raid  over  which  appear  the  words  “The  End.”       This  ending,  as  “monumental”  as  it  may  seem,  is  the  convergence  point  of  the  two  stories:     an   ending   with   an   edifying   moment   (the   letter   before   the   flag),   a   heavy   screenwriting   artifice,   where   the   sound   could   be   missing,   replaced   by   a   title   card   that   would   take   its   pathetic  color  from  the  cutting,  the  editing  and  the  non-­‐continuity.  Dwan’s  other  story,  on   the   other   hand,   demands   that   the   harshest   sentences   in   Stryker’s   letter   –   “I   want   you   to   be   like   me   in   some   things   but   not   like   me   in   others   –   I'm   a   failure   in   many”   –   be   heard.   In   Dwan’s   grammar,   it’s   on   a   close   up   that   it   is   heard,   which   must   be   a   close   up   of   Conway.   When   the   flag   will   have   been   raised,   it   will   not   be   at   it   that   Conway   will   be   looking   but   instead  at  a  name  and  a  wound  on  a  faceless  body.  Conway’s  final  resolution  undoubtedly   takes   on   a   sense   that   goes   beyond   the   cliché   and   rhetoric   of   the   project.   The   place   he   takes   is   not   just   the   continuation   of   a   soldier’s   obligation.   It   is   not   the   flag   that   decides   the   whole   movement.  It  is  a  touching  body,  an  absurd  death,  an  unseen  face.  Conway’s  place  is  in  the   company  of  men.   272  


Afterwards   Everything   having   been   “told   in   advance,”   all   that   was   left   for   Dwan—a   passionate   storyteller   of   feelings—was   probably   only   what   is   fundamental,   what   is   deep.   What   his   mise   en   scène   make   these   men   represent   (including   Commendatore   Wayne)   is   an   anthropological   question:   what   will   men   do   with   war   experience?   Lived   or   seen   (cinematic   or  real),  the  experience  of  war  is  one  of  the  moments  where  relationships  between  people   take  on  an  intensity  foreign  to  “everyday  life.”  Conway  says  it,  at  the  beginning  of  the  film:   “When  you  get  out  here,  you’re  close  to  things.”     To   go   further,   to   see   deeper   into   things,   to   leave   something   for   oneself,   not   to   be   forgotten:     for  Stryker  and  Conway—Dwan’s  double  voice—it  is  a  matter  of  escaping  assigned  social   roles  and  male  folklore  and  constructing  the  experience  of  war.  Neither  as  a  repository  of   clichés   nor   as   the   repetition   of   inherited   gestures.   To   not   forget   is   not   a   matter   of   monuments,  it  is  making  possible  the  free  thought  of  experience,  outside  of  the  ideological   injunctions  of  the  times.         This  will  also  be  one  of  the  questions  in  Silver  Lode:  how  to  make  one’s  own  path  through   the   jungle   of   stories—already   seen   and   already   known—of   clichés   and   prejudices,   in   order   to   testify   about   the   past   and   create   a   future.   The   only   response   in   the   secret   novel   of   Sands   is   to   accept   the   game   of   emotions,   to   love   and   to   speak,   in   a   human   community   freed   of   the   ghosts  of  oppression.       For  Edgardo  Cozarinsky,  modestamente                                                                                                                       1  Stephen  E.  Ambrose  in  Shooting  War:  World  War  II  Combat  Cameramen.     2  Marines  raising  the  American  flag  on  Mount  Surabachi  February  23,  1945.  And  don’t   forget  Flags  of  Our  Fathers.   3  It’s  even  the  basis  for  a  famous  photograph  of  firefighters  on  9/11.   4  The  French  title  of  Take  the  High  Ground  (Sergent  la  terreur).  

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SURRENDER (1950)    

Cullen Gallagher    

*** Surrender   (1950)   belongs   to   the   same   western-­‐noir   cycle   of   the   late   1940’s   that   would   include   Andre   de   Toth’s   Ramrod   (1947),   Raoul   Walsh’s   Pursued   (1947)   and   Colorado   Territory   (1949),   Robert   Wise’s   Blood   on   the   Moon   (1948),   Mark   Robson’s   Roughshod   (1949),   and   Anthony   Mann’s   The   Furies   (1950)   and   Winchester   ’73   (1950).   These   movies   share   in   common   a   visual   aesthetic,   character   set,   and   lack   of   moral   center   more   reminiscent   of   film   noir   than   the   traditional   western   Roots   of   this   generic   shift   can   be   traced   back   to   John   Ford’s   poetic   compositions   and   somber   undercurrents   in   My   Darling   Clementine   (1946),   the   stark   morality   play   surrounding   a   lynching   in   William   A.   Wellman’s   The   Ox-­Bow   Incident   (1943),   and   even   Lillian   Gish’s   psychic   trauma   and   hallucinatory   imaginings  in  Victor  Sjostrom’s  The  Wind  (1928).     The  story  is  an  underworld  horse  opera  that  revolves  around  Crystal  Palace  Bar  &  Casino   owner  Greg  Delaney  (John  Carroll),  and  the  permutations  of  liaisons  between  himself,  his   best   friend   Johnny   Hale   (William   Ching),   and   a   pair   of   sisters,   the   good-­‐girl   Janet   Barton   (Maria   Palmer),   and   her   gold-­‐digging,   man-­‐eating   sister   Violent   (Vera   Ralston),   while,   local   Sheriff  William  Howard  (Walter  Brennan)  scours  out  reason  to  lock  up  Delaney.       Delaney,  like  Dwan  himself,  is  a  man  who  uses  his  hands  and  his  mind.  These  ever-­‐practical   craftsman-­‐innovators   could   be   found   throughout   Dwan's   filmography,   from   Douglas   Fairbanks’   swashbucklers,   manipulating   the   space   around   them,   to   Tyrone   Power’s   274  


engineer in   Suez   (1938),   who   masters   space   in   quite   a   different   way,   to   Dennis   O’Keefe   economic  strategizing  in  Brewster’s  Millions  (1945),  and  especially  John  Payne’s  sergeant  in   Hold   Back   the   Night   (1956),   who   leads   his   under-­‐armed   troops   on   a   retreat   of   almost   certain   doom.   Evident   throughout,   Delaney’s   pragmatism   is   particularly   noticeable   in   the   opening   scene   as   he   eludes   capture,   defeats   his   attackers,   and   conspires   to   outwit   the   Sheriff;   or   later   on,   after   he   pays   off   a   blackmailer   and   arranges   for   him   to   lose   back   all   the   money  in  Delaney’s  own  casino.     Bertrand   Tavernier   describes   Dwan   as   “the   most   Rousseauiste   of   American   filmmakers”:   since   he   “rarely   condemns   his   characters,   they   can   behave   honestly.”   In   Surrender,   the   absence   of   someone   within   the   narrative   who   can   act   as   a   clear   moral   anchor   permits   a   certain   freedom   for   the   characters   to   make   decisions   that,   in   other   films,   would   be   weighted  with  more  judgment.  Dwan  doesn’t  seem  to  be  bothered  by  the  morality  behind   his   characters’   decisions.   It   is   decision   and   action,   rather   ethic   and   implication,   that   he   is   most  interested  in  exploring.       Surrender   also   is   also   characteristic   of   Dwan’s   visually   expressive   and   dynamic   compositional   style:   from   its   thrilling,   tenebrous   opening   chase,   to   the   opulent   casino   sequences,   to   the   mystical,   near-­‐spiritual   final   chase   through   desert   mountains   in   the   moonlight.   Surrender   begins   at   night,   with   the   kind   of   clandestine   cinematography   and   geometric   redistribution   of   space   through   light   and   shadow   suggestive   of   the   Anthony   Mann-­‐like   paranoia.   Densely   plotted   with   layers   of   deceit   and   pursuit,   however,   it   is   also   remarkable   for   its   Dwanian   narrative   concision.   As   henchman   surprise   Delaney,   violence   erupts,   punches   are   thrown,   shots   are   fired   almost   anonymously   in   the   night;   moments   later   Gale’s   pursuit   of   Delaney   to   labyrinthine   back   alleys   of   wooden   crates   and   sacks   of   grain,   well   out   of   view   of   the   main   street,   build   to   the   image   of   Delaney’s   silhouette,   projected  against  a  wall,  stabbing  Gale  with  a  sword.    

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The interplay  of  light  and  shadow  is  a  stylized  game  of  persecution—one  that  exemplifies   the   way   that   Dwan   was   able   to   dress   (and   re-­‐dress)   lackluster   B-­‐sets   into   cinematically   charged  and  intricately  detailed  spaces.  The  rest  of  the  film  takes  place  primarily  indoors,   but   here   too,   Dwan   counters   his   spatial   limitations   through   generous   decorations   to   amplify  both  the  quality  and  volume  of  his  sets.  The  decorations  of  the  Crystal  Palace  Bar  &   Casino   seem   more   suited   to   a   glossy   MGM   production   than   a   Poverty   Row   oater   from   Republic.   Chandeliers,   mirrors,   densely   patterned   wallpaper,   thick   curtains,   and   arched   doorways  provide  depth,  texture,  elegance,  and  shimmer  to  what  are,  most  likely,  recycled   sets   from   westerns   past.   Dwan   brings   the   space   to   the   camera,   rather   than   taking   the   camera   through   the   space:   tight   medium   shots   make   what’s   there   seem   to   spill   over.   Similarly,  Violet  and  Janet’s  house,  decked  out  in  decorative  wall  paper,  tabletop  sculptures,   framed   pictures   on   crowding   every   wall,   door   frames,   large   windows,   a   stately   fireplace,   wall  ornaments,  antique  lamps,  candlestick  holders,  and  even  spiked  bedposts  resembling   medieval   torture   weapons—offer   the   impression   both   of   a   personal   space   that   is   very   lived-­‐in,  as  well  as  a  cinematic  set  whose  budget  would  seem  much  higher  than  it  actually   was.       Characteristically,   Dwan   marshals   his   resources   for   only   the   most   crucial   camera   movements,   which   seem   all   the   more   expressive   in   the   context   of   his   traditionally   static   decoupage.  A  spectacular  crane  shot,  more  suggestive  of  George  Cukor,  Victor  Fleming,  or   any  of  the  other  MGM  lords  of  majesty,  opens  the  wedding  of  Hale  and  Janet;  and  in  Violet’s   shopping   excursion   down   Main   Street,   the   camera   moves   laterally   along   the   street   to   follows  her  from  vendor  to  vendor.  Both  initiate  two  of  the  film’s  only  personable  scenes:   the   wedding   reception   of   the   former,   and   a   stroll   through   town   in   the   latter.   The   street   seems  alive  with  pedestrians  in  this  latter,  open-­‐air  shot,  bustling  with  the  young  and  old,   people  coming  and  going  from  behind  and  in  front  of  camera.  As  in  Calendar  Girl  (1947),  I   Dream  of  Jeanie  (1952),  and  Sweethearts  on  Parade  (1953),  we  see  Dwan  here  at  his  most   personable:   there’s   a   love   and   affection   for   atmosphere,   for   small-­‐town   people,   and   for   daily   life,   the   sort   that   gets   overlooked   in   most   movies.   Watching   this   sequence,   like   the   backstage   carnival   glimpses   in   Sweethearts   on   Parade,   one   wishes   that   these   moments   could  last  for  more  than  just  mere  seconds,  that  Dwan’s  camera  could  pass  from  person  to   person,  lingering  long  for  a  more  intimate  encounter.  Instead,  the  demands  of  a  commercial   narrative   film   limit   his   interaction.   So,   Dwan   overfills   the   screen   with   more   people,   more   activity,   more   detail,   and   more   life   than   the   screen   can   possible   contain.   It’s   a   marvelous   sequence,  one  of  the  few  examples  of  heart  in  an  otherwise  cold  and  barren  noir.     But   Dwan   saves   the   most   visually   impressive   sequence   for   last,   as   Delaney   attempts   to   outrun   Sheriff   Howard   while   ferrying   Violet   safely   across   the   Mexican   border.   Whereas   most  of  Surrender  is  composed  in  tight  medium  and  medium-­‐long  shots,  here  Dwan,  pulling   his  camera  way  back,  composes  the  finale  in  extreme  long  shots  that  maximize  the  visual   276  


expanse of   the   mountains   and   miniaturize   the   characters   in   flight.   In   a   way,   the   epic   proportion  of  these  images  recalls  the  desert  vistas  during  the  canal  digging  sequences  of   Dwan’s  comparatively  big-­‐budget  Suez:  both  episodes  share  an  elemental  spiritualism,  an   ominous  atmosphere  seemingly  in  awe,  even  afraid,  of  the  power  of  earth,  wind,  and  sand.   Here,   Dwan’s   images   draw   out   deep   shadows   that   caress   the   folds   of   sand   and   rocky   crevices,   and   lingers   on   the   clouds   of  dust  under  the  pounding  horses’  hooves,  rising   like   phantoms   from   below   the   earth.   Harsh   jagged   rocks   and   fathomless,   all-­‐consuming   shadows   combine   to   form   some   terrifying   geography,   a   nightmare   space   of   ominous   majesty;   its   imposing   stature   looks   to   diminish   both   the   size   and   significance   of   the   characters   and   their   mortal   drama.   The   people   may   be   fighting   for   life   or   death,   but   the   grandeur   of   the   landscape   overshadows   the   meaningless   and   futility   of   their   conflict.   As   Elmore  Leonard  describes  in  his  novel  Forty  Lashes  One,  “There  was  nothing  out  there  but   sky  and  rocks  and  desert  growth  that  looked  as  if  it  would  never  die,  but  offered  a  man  no   hope  of  life.”     Shot   down   by   snipers,   Delaney   and   Violet   die   in   each   other’s   arms.   Surrender’s   final   shot   is   a  rare  moment  of  symbolism  for  Dwan.  As  camera  looks  straight  down  upon  their  bodies,  it   slowly   rises,   as   though   their   souls   were   leaving   and   ascending   to   heaven.   As   a   cinematic   gesture,  Dwan’s  camera  movement  offers  a  sweeping  emotional  experience  for  the  viewer,   a   spiritual   uplift   that   enriches   and   moves   us   outside   the   boundaries,   once   again,   of   an   otherwise  neatly  circumscribed  drama.    

277


MONTANA BELLE  (1952)    

Fernando F.  Croce    

  By  the  time  Montana  Belle  (1952)  was  released,  Allan  Dwan  himself  couldn’t  keep  track  of   how  many  films  he  had  directed.  When  in  1916  he  had  helped  devise  elevated  tracking  shots   because  D.W.  Griffith  wanted  the  camera  to  soar  over  his  Babylonian  sets,  Dwan  was  already   an  experienced  hand  in  still-­‐embryonic  Hollywood,  and  an  inventive  one:  released  that  same   year,  Manhattan  Madness  bounces  Douglas  Fairbanks  Sr.  from  ranch  to  drawing  room  and   back,  keeping  cowpokes  and  urbanites  trading  places  as  if  in  a  continuous  game  of  musical   chairs.  Of  all  the  pioneers  who  originally  pieced  together  the  Western  genre  for  audiences,   Dwan   is   the   one   most   humorously   aware   of   the   dress-­‐up   element   inherent   in   actors   decked   out  in  cowboy  hats  and  guns  and  elaborate  saloon  dresses,  of  how  easily  the  noble  Old  West   outfit   can   become   the   baggy   costume   of   farce.   The   straightforward   sturdiness   of   Frontier   Marshal  (1939)  segues  into  the  knockabout  charade  of  Trail  of  the  Vigilantes  (1940),  and  the   Borgesian   nightmare   of   Silver   Lode   (1954)   follows   the   acidic   cat-­‐fight   of   The   Woman   They   Almost  Lynched  (1953).  The  material  may  fluctuate,  but  Dwan  remains  unswervingly  lucid   as   he   ponders   each   stark/hysterical   masquerade—it’s   the   limpid   gaze   of   a   contemplative   artist   making   his   way   through   poverty   row,   someone   who’s   weathered   decades   of   studio   fashions  and  crises  and  who  cheerily  expects  to  weather  many  more.     In   Montana   Belle,   the   studio   crisis   was   simply   a   millionaire’s   desire   and   fickleness.   In   1948   Howard   Hughes   would   loan   out   his   protégé   Jane   Russell   to   Republic   Studios   for   a   biopic   of   “lady   bandit”   Belle   Starr,   then   buy   the   finished   film   and   shelve   it   for   four   years   before   releasing   it   through   RKO.   Russell’s   pin-­‐up   ampleness   resembles   the   real   Belle   Starr’s   sagebrush   grit   about   as   much   as   Faye   Dunaway’s   New-­‐Wave   chic   in   Bonnie   and   Clyde   (1967)   resembles   the   real   Bonnie   Parker’s   boxcar   pugnaciousness,   and   yet   the   actress’s   petulant   pout   projects   a   deadpan   acceptance   of   the   absurd   that   harmonizes   with   the   278  


filmmaker’s own   serenity.   Russell’s   Belle   is   introduced   as   a   sullen   widow   and   ace   sharpshooter,   riding   with   the   Dalton   gang   before   starting   her   own   bunch   of   outlaws.   Medium-­‐shots   make   up   most   of   the   compositions,   oddly   reminiscent   of   Jacques   Tourneur’s   Westerns  like  Canyon  Passage  (1946)  and  Great  Day  in  the  Morning  (1956);  the  bluish  tinge   of  the  Trucolor  cinematographic  process  gives  the  images  a  spectral  quality,  like  a  memory   from   Becky   Sharp   (1935)   or   Trail   of   the   Lonesome   Pine   (1936)   or   other   chromatic   1930s   experiments.   In   a   period   when   postwar   torment   was   manifesting   itself   in   increasingly   violent   visions   of   the   West,   Dwan’s   unruffled   approach   and   abrupt   flashes   of   silent-­‐era   technique—wanted  posters  superimposed  over  horse  chases,  a  dissolve  between  images  to   evoke  a  character’s  shock  of  recognition—only  heighten  the  film’s  strangeness.     “Women  are  funny  people,”  Bob  Dalton  (Scott  Brady)  tells  Starr  late  in  the  picture,  a  view   shared   by   Dwan   at   least   as   early   as   Gloria   Swanson’s   boisterous   subway   ride   in   Manhandled   (1924).   Linked   by   genre   and   zeitgeist   to   Fritz   Lang’s   Rancho   Notorious   (1952)   in  its  many  betrayals  and  vendettas  and  bandit-­‐chanteuse  transformations,  Montana  Belle   might   also   connected   to   Frank   Tashlin’s   Son   of   Paleface   (1952)   in   its   appreciation   of   the   lunacy  of  Jane  Russell  masquerading  in  buckskin.  When  the  heroine  disguises  herself  as  a   man   by   hiding   half   her   face   behind   a   blue   handkerchief   with   white   dots,   the   pleasure   in   playing   cowboy   dress-­‐up   is   fused   with   the   drag   exuberance   of   Annabella   in   Suez   (1938)   and   Dennis   O’Keefe   and   William   Bendix   in   Abroad   with   Two   Yanks   (1944).   A   few   scenes   later  and  the  snarling  brunette  has  turned  into  a  blonde  singer  working  the  saloon  crowd,   the   camera   panning   from   one   dumbstruck   gambler   to   another   as   Starr   performs   “The   Gilded   Lily.”   Arlene   Dahl   and   Debra   Paget   would   showcase   their   most   perversely   erotic   sides  under  Dwan’s  direction,  and  yet  here  he  views  Howard  Hughes’s  famous  object  of  lust   primarily   as   a   sharp-­‐witted   tomboy.   (In   another   bit   of   pokerfaced   undercutting   of   genre   staples,  Andy  Devine  is  almost  baleful  as  a  greedy  informer,  miles  away  from  his  standard,   scratchy  Fordian  buffoonery.)     If  much  of  Montana  Belle  harks  back  to  Dwan’s  comedies,  its  closing  session  strongly  points   forward   to   Silver   Lode,   arguably   the   best   of   the   director’s   late   films.   As   in   that   subsequent   Western,   the   characters   find   themselves   in   an   ominously   deserted   town   adorned   with   the   celebratory  reds,  whites  and  blues  of  the  U.S.  flag.  The  sequence  that  follows—a  bank  robbery   followed   by   a   shootout—is   at   once   the   picture’s   most   brutal   and   most   affecting   passage.   Making  powerful  use  of  editing,  depth  of  field  and  movement,  Dwan’s  camera  watches  from   inside  the  bank  through  the  window  as  the  Dalton  gang  members  approach  from  the  street,   and  then  vigorously  shifts  angles  as  armed  deputies  aiming  from  balconies  reveal  an  ambush.   The  foretaste  of  The  Wild  Bunch  (1969)  is  clinched  when  the  surrounded  outlaws,  exhausted   and  finally  out  of  ammo,  calmly  settle  on  a  suicidal  pact  with  the  line  “Let’s  walk  out  of  this   town.”  In  its  unassuming  stylistic  virtuosity,  its  humor  and  intensity  and  ultimate  tranquility   in  the  face  of  impossible  odds,  the  scene  movingly  suggests  the  paradoxes  of  Dwan’s  career  as   a  seemingly  modest  craftsman  willing  to  stroll  into  hails  of  bullets.     279  


SWEETHEARTS ON  PARADE  (1953)    

Dave Kehr    

Throughout   his   prodigiously   long   and   productive   career,   Allan   Dwan   kept   his   work   fresh   (and   himself   employed)   by   changing   genres   and   shifting   moods   every   few   years.   The   sparse   Western   dramas   of   his   earliest   work,   in   the   waning   days   of   the   nickelodeon,   flow   into   the   exuberant   comedy   and   fluid   action   of   his   Douglas   Fairbanks   films   of   the   late   teens,   and   then   into   the   dramatically   nuanced   romantic   comedies   that   characterize   his   1920s   work   with   Gloria   Swanson   (there   is   no   doubt   much   more   to   this   period,   but   so   much   of   Dwan’s  early  work  has  been  lost  that  even  broad  generalizations  are  difficult).  The  30s  find   him   fully   engaged   with   the   social   issue   films   of   the   period,   from   the   anti-­‐war   Chances   (1930)  to  the  complex  treatment  of  race  relations  in  One  Mile  from  Heaven  (1937);  late  in   the  decade  he  veers  abruptly  into  broad  comedy  (The  Gorilla,  1939),  a  vein  he  follows  into   the  manic  farces  of  the  war  years  (Up  in  Mabel’s  Room,  1944).       The   end   of   the   war   finds   Dwan   under   contract   to   Republic,   where   the   tenor   of   his   work   shifts   again.   The   frantic   pace   of   the   wartime   comedies   relaxes   into   a   lyrical   mode,   and   elements   of   fantasy—improbable   coincidences,   seemingly   miraculous   events,   characters   who  suddenly  burst  into  song—come  to  characterize  what  I  think  of  as  the  “magic  realist”   period  in  Dwan’s  work:  a  great  expansion  of  warmth  and  optimism  that  leads,  mysteriously   and   inexorably,   into   the   cool   abstraction   of   the   final   decade   of   films,   made   for   the   independent  producer  Benedict  Bogeaus.    

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And yet,   at   the   center   of   this   constant   change,   Dwan’s   personal   themes   and   stylistic   approach  remain  remarkably  consistent.  The  outlines  of  the  distinctively  independent,  self-­‐ confident,  self-­‐actualizing  Dwan  heroine  are  already  apparent  in  the  earliest  of  his  one-­‐reel   westerns  from  1911,  as  embodied  by  his  leading  lady  Pauline  Bush  (an  active  suffragette,   whom  Dwan  would  marry  in  1915).    His  camera,  too,  had  acquired  much  of  its  distinctive   mobility  by  the  time  of  David  Harum  (1915),  which  contains  one  of  the  earliest  known  dolly   shots  in  American  movies.     The   dolly   shot   becomes   Dwan’s   primary   tool   of   expression,   central   to   his   concept   of   an   human-­‐centered   cinema,   in   which   the   performers   themselves,   through   their   constant   movement,   seem   to   carry   the   frame   along   with   them,   rather   than   being   anchored   as   elements  of  a  static  composition.  To  the  end  of  his  working  life  in  1961,  Dwan  remains  the   champion   of   what   might   be   called   an   anti-­‐expressionist   cinema,   in   which   camera   work   is   not   used   to   comment   on   the   characters   or   editorialize   on   their   metaphysical   condition,   but   to  present  their  personal  dynamics  as  fully  and  clearly  to  the  audience  as  possible.  When  he   needs   to   reframe   the   action   for   dramatic   emphasis,   Dwan   will   almost   always   prefer   the   invisible  grace  of  a  camera  movement  to  the  violent  disruption  of  a  cut.  From  this  flows  the   wonderful,   present-­‐tense   vitality   of   his   films,   as   if   the   stylistic   choices   were   being   determined   on   the   spot,   in   response   to   the   spontaneous   movements   of   the   actors   or   the   shifting  emotional  center  of  the  narrative.     The   counterpoint   to   the   present-­‐tense   freedom   of   Dwan’s   films   is   the   constraining   sense   of   the   past—the   weight   of   history,   tradition,   social   convention—which   Dwan   most   often   dramatizes   as   generational   conflicts   within   a   family.   Romantic   attractions   can   be,   and   generally   are,   immediate,   complete   and   irrevocable;   couples   are   formed   with   thrilling   alacrity   in   Dwan’s   movies,   often   at   the   initiation   of   women   (Rochelle   Hudson   in   That   I   May   Live  (1937),  Annabella  in  Suez  (1938),  Peggy  Moran  in  Trail  of  the  Vigilantes  (1940),  Ruth   Warrick   in   Driftwood   (1947))   who   forthrightly   declare   their   love   and   defy   social   convention   to   pursue   the   men   they   have   chosen.   (As   an   instinctive   feminist,   Dwan   often   celebrates  autonomous  women  in  a  way  many  celebrated  “women’s  directors,”  like  Cukor   and   Minnelli,   seem   barely   able   to   conceive;   as   Shirley   Temple,   in   many   ways   the   perfect   embodiment   of   the   Dwan   heroine,   repeatedly   declares   in   Rebecca   of   Sunnybrook   Farm   (1938),  “I’m  very  self-­‐reliant.”)     But  as  gloriously  direct  as  romantic  relationships  can  be  in  Dwan’s  work,  extended  family   relationships   are   almost   invariably   complex   and   fraught   with   emotional   conflict.   It   is   a   contrast  that  Dwan  develops  across  the  course  of  his  long  career,  through  all  the  shifts  in   genre  and  tone.       The  vast  number  of  absent  or  estranged  fathers  in  Dwan’s  films  has  been  widely  noted,  and   some   of   Dwan’s   most   vivid   work   centers   on   absentee   fathers   struggling   to   make   up   for   281  


their neglect   of   their   children:   Holmes   Herbert   in   East   Side,   West   Side   (1927),   Grant   Mitchell  in  Man  to  Man  (1930),  Victor  McLaglen  in  While  Paris  Sleeps  (1932),  Edmund  Lowe   in  Black  Sheep  (1935).  Significantly,  it  is  the  abandoned  sons  who  wallow  in  anger  and  self-­‐ pity   (George   O’Brien   in   East   Side,   West   Side;   Phillips   Holmes   in   Man   to   Man),   while   the   abandoned  daughters,  from  Marion  Davies  in  Getting  Mary  Married  (1919)  to  Natalie  Wood   in  Driftwood  (1947)  cock  their  chins  and  get  on  with  their  lives.       When  parents  are  present  and  accounted  for,  as  they  are  in  an  equally  imposing  number  of   films,  Dwan  often  plays  the  situation  for  comedy,  with  the  children  managing  their  parents’   troubled  marriages  or  chaotic  emotional  lives.  Dwan  enjoys  developing  parallel  plots  that   range   across   generations,   as   in   Young   People   (1940),   in   which   Shirley   Temple   mediates   between   her   adoptive   parents,   a   pair   of   rowdy   vaudevillians   (Jack   Oakie   and   Charlotte   Greenwood)   and   the   elders   of   the   conservative   New   England   town   to   which   they   have   retired,  or  Friendly  Enemies  (1943),  in  which  two  quarrelsome  old  men  (Charles  Winninger   and  Charles  Ruggles)  threaten  to  disrupt  the  engagement  of  their  children  (James  Craig  and   Nancy  Kelly).  Equally,  it’s  the  children  who  end  up  taking  charge  of  widowed  parents,  like   Jane   Frazee   in   Calendar   Girl   (1947),   who   guides   her   father   (Victor   McLaglen)   into   a   relationship   with   her   dancing   teacher   (Irene   Rich),   or   the   brothers   in   the   1938’s   Josette   (Don  Ameche  and  Robert  Young)  who  try  to  steer  their  playboy  father  (William  Collier,  Sr.)   away  from  a  gold-­‐digging  chanteuse  (Tala  Birell).       All   of   these   themes   come   together   in   Sweethearts   on   Parade   (1953),   one   of   Dwan’s   least   known   films,   but   to   me,   one   of   his   most   beautiful   and   fully   realized.   The   last   of   the   four   musicals   Dwan   made   at   Republic,   Sweethearts   is   a   sequel   of   sorts   to   the   apparently   successful   I   Dream   of   Jeanie,   a   1952   Republic   special,   produced   in   the   studio’s   thrifty   but   unstable  Trucolor  process,  which  featured  the  tenor  Bill  Shirley  as  19th  century  composer   Stephen   Foster,   the   baritone   Ray   Middleton   as   Edwin   P.   Christy,   the   minstrel-­‐show   performer  who  popularized  Foster’s  music,  and  the  soprano  Eileen  Christy  as   the  Jeanie  of   the  title,  a  fictional  (but  eminently  Dwaninian)  character  who  falls  in  love  with  Foster  and   rescues  him  from  her  manipulative  sister  (another  favorite  Dwan  plot  device).       Only  Middleton  was  a  star,  of  a  sort,  having  come  directly  from  the  four  year  Broadway  run   of  Annie  Get  Your  Gun,  in  which  he  sang  opposite  Ethel  Merman.  Shirley’s  future  celebrity   would  come  with  two  film  in  which  his  face  was  not  seen:  providing  the  voice  for  the  Prince   in  the  1959  Disney  feature  Sleeping  Beauty,  and  Jeremy  Brett’s  singing  voice  (“On  the  Street   Where   You   Live”)   in   Cukor’s   1964   My   Fair   Lady.   “Introduced”   in   Jeanie,   the   pert,   blonde   Christy  made  no  more  films  after  her  Republic  contract  expired,  though  her  singing  career   continued;   notably,   she   appeared   opposite   John   Raitt   in   a   1965   revival   of   Carousel   directed   by  Richard  Rodgers—a  piece  that  shares  some  DNA  with  Dwan’s  Sweethearts.     282  


Jeanie would   largely   be   an   excuse   for   Dwan   and   his   gifted   musical   director,   Robert   Armbruster   (unaccountably   uncredited   on   the   film),   to   assemble   a   number   of   public   domain  songs  into  a  musical  revue  that  suggested  one  of  MGM’s  (vastly)  bigger  budgeted   songwriter  musicals,  like  Words  and  Music  (1948)  or  Three  Little  Words  (1950).  Adding  a   second  soprano,  Lucille  Norman  (fresh  from  the  Warners  musical  flop  Painting  the  Clouds   with  Sunshine  (1951))  to  the  cast,  Sweethearts  on  Parade  seems  to  have  begun  in  a  similar   impulse,   with   Foster   augmented   by   Johann   Strauss   and   a   number   of   lesser   known   19th   century  composers,  none  of  whom  would  strain  Republic’s  coffers  with  royalty  payments.     But  in  Sweethearts  on  Parade,  a  far  more  ambitious  and  in  many  ways  more  personal  effort   than  Jeanie,  the  depth  of  Dwan’s  commitment  is  clear  from  the  film’s  first  spoken  words:  a   charming   bit   of   doggerel   that   evokes   Kokomo,   Indiana,   on   “a   soft   June   day/some   eighty   years  ago.”  The  verse  is  Dwan’s  own,  as  are  some  of  the  other  lyrics  heard  in  the  film,  and   the  voice  belongs  to  James  Kirkwood,  a  member  of  D.W.  Griffith’s  Biograph  stock  company   whom   Dwan   had   directed   in   four   films   in   1920   (including   “The   Scoffer,”   which   Kevin   Browlow  has  recently  rediscovered).     Kokomo   was   not   far   from   the   University   of   Notre   Dame,   where   Dwan   had   studied   electrical   engineering  from  1903  to  1907,  but  the  idyllic  Midwestern  town  of  “Sweethearts”—evoked,   with   amazing   economy,   through   two   interior   sets   and   what   looks   to   have   been   a   brief   location  trip  to  Lake  Arrowhead—has  little  basis  in  reality  (Kokomo  was,  and  remains,  an   industrial  city).  If  there  is  an  immediate  connection  for  Dwan,  it  is  probably  in  the  figure  of   Bill   Shirley’s   character,   Bill   Gamble—a   medical   doctor   who   has   given   up   practicing   his   profession   in   favor   of   performing   with   a   traveling   medicine   show,   just   as   Dwan   had   abandoned   his   engineering   studies   in   favor   of   joining   the   scarcely   more   respectable   early   motion  picture  industry.    Bill’s  best  friend  and  trailer-­‐mate  is,  similarly,  a  lawyer  who  has   thrown  over  the  law  to  pursue  his  passion  for  poetry;  played  by  Harry  Carey,  Jr.,  Jim  Riley   turns  out  to  be  James  Whitcomb  Riley,  a  historical  figure  who  later  became  a  popular  poet.     In  keeping  with  the  magical  tone  of  the  film,  he  frequently  speaks  in  rhyme.     Dwan,   always   a   master   of   structure   and   pacing   builds   the   film   (from   a   script   by   Houston   Branch,   who   early   in   his   career   had   written   the   play   that   became   William   Wellman’s   nightmarish  Safe  in  Hell  (1931))  as  essentially  a  non-­‐stop  series  of  musical  numbers,  which   serve   less   as   embellishments   to   the   plot   than   its   basic   narrative   units.   (The   singing   stops   only   during   the   melodramatic   complications   of   the   last   act,   as   Dwan   strategically   holds   back   the   emotional   release   that   the   characters   find   in   performance   until   the   final   resolution.)     The  film  opens  with  a  magically  professional  performance  of  a  Strauss  waltz  (with  added   lyrics   by   Dwan)   by   an   orchestra   of   children   arrayed   across   the   porch   and   front   lawn   of   Kathleen  Townsend  (Lucille  Norman),  Kokomo’s  premiere  music  teacher  and  the  mother  of   her   star   pupil,   the   singer   and   pianist   Sylvia   (Christy).   A   proposal   from   the   town’s   stuffy   283  


doctor (Clinton   Sundberg)   prompts   Kathleen   to   summon   up   suppressed   memories   of   her   past—of   her   career   on   the   stage   and   her   failed   marriage   to   a   promising   opera   star   (Middleton).  Dwan  rarely  interrupts  the  flow  of  his  present-­‐tense  style  with  flashback,  but   when  he  does,  his  reasons  are  considered  and  expressive,  and  so  the  reason  for  the  stylistic   departure   soon   becomes   brilliantly   clear—the   remembered   image   of   Middleton’s   Cam   Ellerby  immediately  summons  up  the  real  thing,  as  Dwan  cuts  to  the  wagon  train  of  Cam’s   medicine   show,   passing   at   that   precise   moment   before   the   house   of   the   two   women.   The   beautiful   Sylvia,   watching   from   the   front   yard,   catches   the   eye   of   both   Cam   (singing   “Roving,”   again   with   lyrics   by   Dwan)   and   Bill,   occasioning   a   flurry   of   intercut   point-­‐of-­‐view   shots,   the   camera   panning   with   Sylvia’s   regard   as   she   watches   the   wagons   pass,   and   moving   away   with   Cam   and   Bill,   as   they   look   back   at   the   girl   who   is   watching   them   with   such   interest.   A   magnificent   panning   shot   taken   from   a   moving   dolly   captures   Sylvia   running   back   into   the   house   to   tell   her   mothers   of   the   visitors—a   thrilling   moment   of   freedom,  grace,  and  boundless  energy  that  powerfully  evokes  the  loose,  swinging  style  of   Dwan’s  Douglas  Fairbanks  films.     The  return  of  the  absent  father  (though  it  will  take  a  few  reels  for  Kathleen  and  Sylvia  to   discover  Cam’s  true  identity)  is  breathtakingly  conflated  with  the  birth  of  the  perfect  love   (as  a  thunderstruck  Bill  turns  to  watch  Sylvia  run  into  the  house)—two  key  Dwan  moments   that   here   become   one.   The   balance   of   this   swift,   compact   film   (the   story   covers   perhaps   48   hours,  the  length  of  the  Ogalla  Medicine  Show’s  stay  in  Kokomo)  is  devoted  to  sorting  out   and  resolving  the  powerful  emotions  produced  by  this  “accidental”  encounter.     Bill   and   Sylvia   confirm   their   bond,   again   through   a   series   of   carefully   matched   camera   movements  following  the  same  right-­‐to-­‐left  flow  of  the  passing  wagon  train,  in  a  musical   number   (“Young   Love,”   with   music   by   Franz   von   Suppé   and   lyrics   by   Dwan)   set   on   the   shore   of   the   town’s   little   lake.   A   visit   to   the   tent   show   allows   Dwan   to   examine   this   mobile   community  in  detail,  outlining  a  whole  network  of  relationships  among  its  citizens,  while   introducing   Sylvia   to   the   lure   of   the   stage.   Cam   comes   to   life   only   when   he   sings;   otherwise,   he   is   a   surly   alcoholic,   hiding   his   feelings   even   from   the   show’s   female   star   Lolita   Lamont   (the   Cuban   singer   Estelita   Rodriguez,   who   was   herself   married   to   the   alcoholic  Republic  contract  player  Grant  Withers).  A  misunderstanding,  of  the  sort  Dwan   played   for   comedy   in   his   wartime   farces,   leads   Sylvia   to   believe   that   Bill   is   in   love   with   Lolita;  Cam  finds  himself  comforting  the  wounded  Sylvia  as  if  he  were  her  father—which,   when  Kathleen  comes  looking  for  her  daughter,  he  discovers  he  is.  It  is  left  to  the  gallant   Lolita  to  set  things  right,  which  she  does  by  revealing  to  Sylvia  that  Bill  is  in  love  only  with   her   and   that   Cam   is   her   long   lost   father,   a   selfless   act   that   results   in   her   exile   from   the   community  and  from  the  film.         284  


Dwan covers  these  improbable  incidents  with  such  speed  and  concision  that  they  come  to   seem   both   logical   and   inevitable.   With   his   engineer’s   sense   of   structure,   he   uses   one   plot   strand  to  reinforce  and  advance  the  other:    Bill  and  Sylvia’s  budding  relationship  (it  is,  of   course,  springtime,  and  the  trees  of  Kokomo  are  in  bloom)  awakens  Kathleen’s  memories   and   dormant   feelings;   Cam’s   recognition   of   his   parental   responsibility   toward   Sylvia   rekindles  his  love  for  Kathleen,  and  pulls  him  out  of  his  isolation  and  self-­‐pity.  And  finally,  it   is   in   finding   their   true   partners   that   Kathleen   and   Sylvia   discover   the   freedom   and   self-­‐ confidence  that  Dwan  admires  so  much  in  his  women.       Sweethearts   on   Parade   ends   with   a   splendid   moment   of   radical   renunciation—as   the   two   women   abandon   their   home,   their   community,   and   the   respectable   middle   class   life   they   have   built   for   themselves—with   a   jubilant   rejection   of   material   gain   and   social   position   whose  parallel  would  be  hard  to  find  in  the  cinema  of  the  1950s,  or  of  any  other  era.  As  the   show’s  wagons  pass  again  in  front  of  their  house  (this  time  moving  from  left  to  right,  giving   the  film  a  kind  of  circular,  symmetrical  closure  as  well),  the  women  barely  hesitate  before   throwing  a  few  belongings  into  carpetbags  and  joining  their  men  on  the  buckboard  of  the   leading  vehicle.    They  do  not  look  back—there  is  no  nostalgia  in  this  nostalgic  film,  only  a   sense  of  an  eternally  unfolding  present,  of  a  movement  that  will  never  end.  Dwan  leaves  the   exuberant  last  line  of  dialogue,  with  its  teasing,  multiple  meanings,  to  Harry  Carey’s  poet:   “We’re  rolling!”    

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WELCOME TO  POVERTY  ROW:   WOMAN  THEY  ALMOST  LYNCHED  (1953)    

Alfonso Crespo   Translated  by  David  Phelps     Dwan,  or  cinema  as  a  dynamometer.  Measuring  force,  verifying  the  torque,  calibrating  the   centripetal  and  centrifugal  tension:  the  shot,  sometimes  magnetic,  other  times  allows  itself   be  carried  along  on  the  strength  of  its  mobility  and  go  where  it  wants.  What  we  have  here  is   a   recipe   of   undeniable   purity,   typical   of   the   kind   of   pioneer   Dwan   was,   one   deeply   concerned,   in   his   earliest   formulas,   with   the   economy   of   the   gag;   with   what   might   be   called,   let's   say,   Bazinian;   and   with   suggestions   of   all   that's   being   done   and   undone   just   off-­‐screen.   Woman   They   Almost   Lynched   (1953)   is   marked   by   unadulterated   comedy,   and   this   is   perhaps   the   way   in   which   the   film   can   and   ought   to   be   thought   of   as   a   kind   of   prototype   for   its  immediate  successor  Silver  Lode  (1954)  and  even  for  another,  related  title,  Johnny  Guitar   (Ray,  1954).     The  key  here,  as  in  so  many  Dwan  films,  lies  in  the  near  proximity  of  intimate  emotion  to  the   tongue-­‐in-­‐cheek,  as  if  the  first  were  to  violently  burst  in  and  seize  us  thanks  to  the  second;   the   former   resembling   an   irresponsible   display   of   the   latter   (like   what   Tarantino,   for   example,  would  spend  years  attempting  in  a  more  ghostly  key,  to  varying  results).  Traces,  if   we  want  to  see  it  that  way,  of  an  idea  of  classical  cinema  in  which  it  was  still  possible  to  trust   in   the   resilience   of   genres   (stockpiles   of   conventions   and   familiar   gestures)   in   order   to   convey   a   message   about   the   capacities   of   mankind   to   improve   itself.   That   is   to   say   that   by   continuing   to   think,   as   Dwan   might   have,   that   love   is   really   a   miracle,   a   primary   force   of   transformation,   it   becomes   impossible   to   surrender   even   at   the   outskirts   of   the   industry.   And  so  to  survive  in  a  brothel,  as  Sally  Maris  (Joan  Leslie)  must  in  the  story,  means  forgetting   about   all   complaints,   squeezing   oneself   into   a   low-­‐cut   dress,   and   painting   a   prominent   beauty  mark  onto  strategic  locations.  This  is  why  Dwan  should  be  considered  not  only  as  a   B-­‐movie  master—even  if  the  almost  lynched  woman  and  the  various  supporting  characters   at  her  side  would  hardly  pale  before  the  heroes  of  other  outstanding  Westerns  made  in  the   margins  of  the  era,  like  Forty  Guns  (Fuller,  1957)  or  Terror  in  a  Texas  Town  (Lewis,  1958)— but   a   master   working   in   B-­‐movies   for   whom   neither   an   impoverished   budget   nor   means   would   weaken   his   extraordinarily   subtle   mise   en   scène   or   mar   his   ethos,   that   one   can   not   refuse  to  love  the  creatures  that  one  films.    

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In that  sense,  amongst  the  most  urgent  and  dynamic  strategems  of  the  subgenre,  we  might   reserve  a  special  place  for  the  resistant  shot,  filmed  almost  without  emphasis,  marked  by  that   moving  simplicity  mentioned  above  through  which  cinema  becomes  simply  a  concentration   and   display   of   elemental   forces.     This   is   how,   after   the   opening,   which   interweaves   with   some  comic  panache—a  first  echo  of  Buñuel,  and  not  the  only  one,  in  a  film  in  which  Totter   most  resembles  Silvia  Pinal—cases  of  violence  and  death  (the  Civil  War,  the  pillages  of  the   heartless  posses,  the  lynching  in  Border  City,  and  the  assault  of  Quantrill's  Raiders,  executed   with  all  the  diligence  and  detachment  of  the  cavalry  itself),  Dwan  finally  allows  us  a  breather   to   present   some   of   the   characters.   Taking   the   point   of   view   of   Quantrill   (Brian   Donlevy)   and   his  wife  Kate  (Audrey  Totter),  the  shot-­‐reverse-­‐shots  establish  a  hard,  fixed  framework,  like   the  effect  of  facing  a  photographer    on  their  parade  to  immortality:  there  is  Sally,  and  there   goes  Cole  Younger  or  Jesse  James,  entering  or  disappearing  from  an  off-­‐screen  space  that  is   felt   as   something   more   abstract   than   a   realistic   extension   of   a   human   gaze—and   more   like   a   metaphysical   back   stage.   Cinema   sets   these   fates   into   motion   and   agrees   to   suspend   judgment   'til   the   end,   when   we   will   know   what   reasons   these   men   and   woman,   now   looking   each  other,  have  to  lie,  to  drink,  to  start  running,  and  to  move  through  Dwan's  shots.     Such   contractions,   like   sculptural   folds   in   time,   hold   back   the   spatial   turmoil,   the   tendency   towards   movement   and   masquerade,   the   temptation   towards   the   carnavalesque,   and   it's   here   that   Dwan's   cinema   becomes   even   more   acute.   Per   Carmelo   Bene,   the   only   thing   that   can  actually  happen  in  a  movie  theater  is  for  the  film  itself  to  break,  and  it  wouldn't  be  wrong   to  understand  the  boutade  here  in  this  broader  sense.1  The  imminence  of  a  sudden  rupture,   which   has   been   played   with   in   cinema   by   phenomenalogists   and   modernists   alike,   relates   even   to   the   most   codified   cinema,   and   could   be   thought   of   as   one   of   the   sensory   and   intellectual  experiences  from  which  "classical"  derives  its  name.  Here,  in  the  vaudeville  of  all   these   masks   and   wigs,   where   male   extras   crudely   impersonate   actresses   and   the   windows   are  revealed  to  be  nothing  more  than  matted  rear-­‐projections,  Dwan,  as  he  had  been  doing  at   least  since  1916  (Manhattan  Madness),  and  would  do  once  again  a  year  later  in  the  startling   twists   of   Silver   Lode,   leaves   the   film   at   a   stand-­‐still   at   the   least   expected   and   least   appropriate   moments.   And   so   it's   here,   when   the   situations,   the   atmosphere,   and   the   characters  exhibit  themselves  prismatically,  that  they  reveal  themselves  as  formulations  of  a   fragile  present  where  anything  can  happen.  Allergic  to  cynicism,  the  filmmaker  looks  at  his   characters,  then,  for  all  their  possibilities,  for  their  openness   to  change,  and  the  edges  of  the   shot  takes  on  another  connotation.  This  is  what  happens  when  Kate  Quantrill,  ruthless,  cold-­‐ blooded   murderer,   levels   with   Sally   and   the   rest   of   the   saloon   girls   and   reclaims   her   old   personality,   her   name—Kitty   McCoy—and   her   aspiration   (always   the   dream)   to   become   herself  again  in  another  place.  In  a  few  seconds,  camp  and  parody  are  abandoned,  the  shots   coalesce,   and   the   off-­‐screen   space   is   signaled   on-­‐screen;     there   are   no   tricks.   Uninterested   in   storyline—the   great   title   of   the   film,   like   one   of   Bresson's,   has   already   sentenced   the   narrative  to  its  end—Dwan,  who  was  always  less  of  a  happy  ending  than  last  second  rescue   kind  of  director—Griffith's  lineage—who  gets  to  the  resolution  only  at  the  tail-­‐end  of  the  last   reel,   extracts   out   his   treasure,   the   perseverance   of   goodness   and   of   the   necessity   of   sacrifice   288  


and compromise,  from  this  world  of  swapping  signs,  in  which  everyone  lets  themselves  be   carried   along   by   their   impulses   and   drives   (once   again   Buñuel:   only   in   his   Mexican   period   could  a  man,  as  here,  have  confused  his  sister  with  a  prostitute,  or  a  young  woman  pass  from   Puritanism  to  repeatedly  bashing  the  head  of  her  unconscious  nemesis  against  the  floor).     It   was   Deleuze   who   summed   up   the   American   dream,   and   its   cinematic   corollary,   in   the   capacity  of  a  community  to  think  and  dream  itself  to  be  other  than  as  it  is,  to  be  worthy  of   change.2   Even   Woman   They   Almost   Lynched   and   Silver   Lode,   as   reflections   of   a   paranoid   climate,  the  fear  and  cowardace  instilled  by  Macarthyism,  participate  in  this  desire.  And  in   Dwan,  such  desire  tends  to  be  the  domain  of  women.  The  Southern  spy,  the  man  for  whom   Sally   comes   to   the   point   of   being   lynched,   doesn't   want   to   abandon   her   to   "this   bunch   of   renegades   and   drunks"   (alcohol,   as   Deleuze   will   soon   recall,   would   soon   be   the   principle   surrogate  for  oneiric  wistfulness),  but  as  he  is  wounded,  everything  falls  to  the  hands  of  the   women:   as   is,   then,   the   dirty   work,   the   lie   that   will   reveals   the   truth   and   reconcile   the   individuals   and   the   nation.   As   suggested   above,   Woman   could   be   considered   Silver   Lode's   prototype:   a   primitive   version   of   the   latter   (no   pejorative   meaning   here),   its   naturalist   variation,   particularly   for   all   the   historical   detail   it   accrues.     Both   films   seem   to   testify   to   what   Lévi-­‐Strauss   would   write   about   America   in   Triste   Tropiques,   linking   it,   with   obvious   cinematic   implications,   to   a   fount   of   malice:   that   America   was   a   land   that   passed   from   barbarism  to  decadence  without  ever  knowing  civilization.3  A  fairy  tale  partly  driven  by  its   magical  dissolves,  Woman  They  Almost  Lynched  is  one  of  the  most  beautiful  and  entertaining   of  Dwan's  pre-­‐civilization  parables,  all  of  which  convey  the  same  sense  of  longing.  When  all   is   over,   no   debts   are   left   to   pay   to   conscience   nor   society,   as   both   still   appear   to   be   under   construction:  neither  the  sadistic  mayor,  nor  Jesse  James,  Younger,  or  Quantrill  and  his  wife   receive   any   sort   of   punishment   for   their   villainy.   Almost   nobody   turns   out   to   be   what   we   believed   them   to   be,   and   everyone   is   granted   the   benefit   of   the   tabula   rasa.   Kissing,   whiskey...  "I  wish  I  was  in  Dixie."                                                                                                                         1  In  C.B.  versus  cinema,  television  interview  with  Sandro  Veronesi,  1995.   2  Gilles  Deleuze,  Cine  II.  Los  signos  del  movimiento  y  el  tiempo  (Buenos  Aires:  Cactus,  2011),   241-­‐269.   3  Claude  Lévi-­‐Strauss,  Tristes  trópicos,  (Barcelona:  Austral,  2006),  115-­‐116.  

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"L'AXIOME À  AFFIRMER  EN  FAIT  DE  BALLET":   SILVER  LODE  (1954)1    

Andy Rector  and  Bill  Krohn    

                                                                                                              1  Originally  published  as  liner  notes  for  the  Versus  DVD  in  Spain.    

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Reseeing the magnificent Silver Lode by Dwan, I thought that this B-movie gem functions like an hourglass, minutely regulating the flux of "what comes in" and "what goes out." Information functions as pure energy and the narrative obeys only the logic of the characters' desire. An unforgettable moment, "classical" if you will, when the cinema of series and genres, on the cusp of the 60s, accelerated and tended toward the diagrammatic. The Tiger of Eschanpur moment of cinema, the moment the “macmahonians” wanted to preserve under glass. The moment of Dwan. The moment of John Payne. -Serge Daney (“Journal de l'an passé”., Trafic no. 1, 1991).


Frieze, Mister


If Silver Lode sometimes takes on the qualities of a frieze, its friezes are perpetually menaced by a third dimension. The story begins when the frontality of four strange horsemen entering town on the 4th of July collides with the frontality of a group of local kids on holiday. A struggle for power, for the will of a town, Silver Lode is a film of collisions.


Standing Together, Breaking Apart Facing front is a political gesture, as it was when Hollywood's finest stood together against HUAC. The fake marshal (Dan Duryea) who wants to kill Dan (John Payne) and take everything he has is named McCarty. To counter what they claimed were reckless attacks by HUAC, a group of Hollywood liberals led by screenwriter Philip Dunne, with Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson, Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly and others, established the Committee for the First Amendment (CFA). The CFA traveled to Washington to lend its support as the eleven "unfriendly witness'" began their testimony. The committee disintegrated after the defiant testimonies of the Hollywood Ten.

If Silver Lode seems to recall these events at certain points, it's probably no accident. The film was written by Karen DeWolf: 1909-1989, a leftwing screenwriter (Appointment in Honduras) who was blacklisted in the second wave of HUAC hearings. After Silver Lode she had no further motion picture credits.


When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with one another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, to separate... When in the course of... When in the course of human events... When in the course of the humanist... When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary...

-We're so fond of Dan, why, we're inclined to forget we don't know very much about him. -Yes it'd be easy to have doubts wouldn't it Prescott? Then we wouldn't have to do anything for him.


A Shot in the Back Because Silver Lode portrays a seesawing political situation where groups clash, separate and shift, it needs a forum — a stage — where these transformations can be portrayed as if on a blackboard. With its large open space the stable serves this purpose. These shots of Dan and Rose spell out the ABCs of the frieze-language, as Rules of the Game had of course already done almost 20 years earlier. In this shot from Renoir's film we see how the rules begin to be complicated by depth: a diagonal and a space opening up behind, with looks within the shot that direct ours without any need for montage that brings in outside looks: without suture. Within the solidarity of the three shots from the first stable scene a gap opens showing the background. It is plugged momentarily by Rose's father, the richest man in town, who still sides with his accused son-in-law.


A look off reintroduces the enemy camp, within which the law (the Judge and the Sheriff) are already caught, and undermined by the looks of townspeople who are already wavering about the accusation brought by McCarty, the false marshal. "Our" side, Dan's side, in which Rose's brother is the hothead (as he will be later when turns against Dan), now appears for what it is: an extra-legal form of vigilante justice. ("Let's shoot our way out," the brother urges.) Behind the trio, who are implicitly supported by the family's money, the father begins to show concern at this confrontation taking place in a kind of no man's land: a public space (the stable) that is nonetheless not an official space. (The only official space is the Judge's office.)


The Void, Dan's Horse


Serge Daney, when he wrote "Rio Lobo: Viellesse du Meme" in 1971, succeeded in bringing the tradition represented by Hawks (and more radically by Dwan) under the law of "suture" by finding "writing," "spacing," "the off-space" hidden in Hawks' cinema, which in the 60s had morphed into groupings and choreographies of sculptural masses in human form like so many Straub-Huillet films to come. A recurrent type of plan-sequence in Silver Lode does the opposite when a hole suddenly opens up in the middle or on the left side of the screen, and someone fills it. It's as if Dwan were amusing himself by displaying within his own cinema of spatial integrity the law of the film series theorized as suture: "A" stops talking and is replaced by a void of sorts -- a hole; "B" fills the hole ("sutures" it) and starts talking in turn, like a short-reverse shot mediated by the imaginary void Jean-Pierre Oudart calls the Absent One. A frieze fragment from Acropolis. Is this Dan's horse, the nominal pretext for everyone gathering at the stable? In the film, we never see it — another kind of "structuring absence."


A GRAIN OF SAND

“If that's the case (Daney continues), modern filmmakers tried to slow down the hourglass, to show certain grains in closeup.”


As in Dalle nube alla restistanza (Huillet-Straub, 1979), it's time to retire to the bar. This is the film's second no-man's land, its second center.


The divisions in Dan's side appeared in the stable; here the same thing happens to McCarty's side. Blocking Dan's attempt to bribe one of his men, McCarty steps into the breach, but Dan opens another gap for Johnson (whom Dolly has spotted as the weak link) to escape.


a grain of sand: Jeune femme Ă sa fenĂŞtre lisant une lettre (Jean-Claude Rousseau, 1983)


Windows

That dangerous hole in the canvas can turn into a window.


But the window of the telegraph office is a picture window, an internal double of the film image (at least in this film) that also figures the telegraph's role of connecting the town to the greater world of which it is a double, where the synecdoche opens onto infinity.


Truth and Illusion


The town turns against Ben, branded as a murderer in series of shot-reverse shots where the potential for falsehood in the procedure is painfully demonstrated (Dwan is a Bazinian director) — a sequence that looks back to the first stable scene and reverses it.


Invitation to the Dance

Dolly's room is a stage set, with characters entering from stage left via the window and stage right via the door, as in a Feydaux farce. "What do you think this is, French farce!?" says Dolly, and at that very moment, thanks to the music box that has been playing the whole time, the scene becomes a dance.


When Dolly ushers McCarty out at the end of the scene, we see a tableau on the wall of the corridor — one of the shallow boxes in picture frames containing cut-outs that are all over the hotel. This one contains a cutout of a dancer in black and white, probably Colombine from the commedia del'arte.

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"A savoir que la danseuse n'est pas une femme qui danse, pour ces motifs juxtaposes qu'elle n'est pas une femme, mais une metaphore resumant un des aspects elementaires de notre forme, glaive, coupe, fleur, etc., et qu'elle ne danse pas, suggerant, par le prodige des raccourcis et d'elans, avec une ecriture corporelle ce qui faudrait des paragraphes en prose dialoguee autant que descriptive, pour exprimer, dans la redaction: poeme degagE de tout appareil de scribe." (Mallarmé, “Ballets”)


CINEPLASTICS


“The cinema is plastic first, it represents a sort of moving architecture which is in constant accord -- in the state of equilibrium dynamically pursued -- with the surroundings and landscapes where it is erected and falls to the earth again.” (Elie Faure, Art of Cineplastics, 1922)

“I believe that great architecture consists of constructing a building and in saying afterward: What are we going to do in here?” (Jean Renoir, 1966)

Silver Lode was designed and filmed to be projected in 3-D, but coming at the end of the first wave of 3-D films, it may never have been shown in that format — like Dial M for Murder, which was released "flat" and finally shown in 3-D in the early 80s, when the procedure was making a comeback. Let's hope that during the current 3-D boom this collaboration between the production designer of Citizen Kane and the last great poet of space in cinema will be unearthed and finally shown.


JEAN-CLAUDE BIETTE: “What was the art of Allan Dwan? Principally this: he always made the same cinema, as if the rest of cinema had only evolved technically and in its formulae… He was a great storyteller….He was also a great poet of space: Whether in his first silents or his later color films, one finds the same constant exaltation of space (quite close to that which animated Keaton)…. This tradition of the most exact reproduction of space is essentially American (more than Hollywoodian) and is linked to the cinema of slapstick (Mack Sennett) and the cinema of melodrama and cops-and-robbers: it is constant in Griffith, and was extended to comedies by DeMille and Lubitsch, But I believe it is Walsh and Dwan who offer the most beautiful examples.


“...The ability to recreate the totality of a setting in the spectator's imagination augments the force of the story‌. Dwan brought this art to perfection. In his late films the feeling of harmony arises from the instinctive application of the secret geometrical rules he had developed in the silent period (rules that are apparent in his 30s parodies with the Ritz Brothers and also in The Iron Mask). And he knew, thirty years before Kubrick in 2001, how to make marvelous use of the upper edge of the frame (Frontier Marshal).


“...Comme Jacques Tourneur, Dwan avait un secret de fabrication qui est au coeur du cinema et qui s'est perdu. Pas parce que le cinema aujourd'hui n'en est pas digne, mais parce qu'un secret de fabrication, c'est intransmissible. “

Bogdanovich: You never thought about posterity? Dwan: Hardly ever thought about tomorrow.

(Cahiers du cinéma, no. 332, February 1982) Allan Dwan on a 'Flying A' (American Film Company) interior set, circa 1912.


"Space is the time you need to go to someone else." (Godard, 1980)


NOTES ON  FORM  AND  SPACE   IN  THE  AMERICAN  WEST:   PASSION  (1954)     Graham  Swindoll     1.  

While  often  praised  as  one  of  the  three-­‐way  collaborations  between  director  Allan  Dwan,   cinematographer   John   Alton,   and   producer   Benedict   Bogeaus,   Passion   (1954)   is   rarely   spoken   of   on   its   own   terms.   It   is   one   of   Dwan’s   plethora   of   hidden,   forgotten   films,   overshadowed  in  modern  assessments  by  its  more  critically  renowned  predecessor  Silver   Lode  (1954).  It’s  certainly  an  easy  film  to  ignore,  with  an  often  meager  revenge  narrative   populated   by   cardboard   cut-­‐outs   of   western   mythology   (the   kindly   grandfather,   the   evil   land   baron,   the   spicy   Latina,   et   al.).   At   first   glance,   few   would   question   its   dismissal   as   a   rote  western;  its  merits  are  not  as  loud  as  its  ragged  colors.  But  such  a  dismissal  would  be  a   mistake.   Passion   presents   an   artificial   world   of   remarkable   consistency,   encased   within   a   series  of  formal  compositions  of  escalating  complexity.  Its  simple  narrative  trappings  belie   its  inner  intricacies;  it’s  a  shallow  film  of  remarkable  depth.  

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2.

It's  a  simple  narrative:    Juan  Obreon  (Cornel  Wilde)  rides  his  cattle  home  after  a  time  away.   He   returns   to   the   kindly   Melo   family,   an   old   couple   with   vivacious   twin   daughters   (Yvonne   de  Carlo  &  Yvonne  de  Carlo),  one  of  whom  has  just  birthed  Obreon's  son.  The  land  they  live   on   is   owned   by   Don   Domingo   (Richard   Hale)   a   greedy   landlord   who   demands   rent   that   the   Melo  family  cannot  pay.  Domingo  hires  a  group  of  thugs  to  burn  down  the  Melo  hacienda,   which,   in   its   fifteen   minutes   standing,   is   presented   as   a   simple   heaven   on   earth.   The   old   woman,  her  husband,  and  and  the  mother  of  Juan's  child  are  killed.  The  tougher  de  Carlo   sister   escapes   and   tells   Obreon   what   has   happened—triggering   his   quest   for   vengeance   that  drives  the  rest  of  the  film  forward.  One  by  one,  Obreon  hunts  down    the  perpetrators  of   the  massacre,  seeking  confessions.  During  each  encounter  he  is  forced  to  kill  and  move  on.   Lackluster  policemen  (led  by  a  baggy-­‐bottomed  Raymond  Burr,  secretly  on  Obreon's  side)   hunt  our  hero  for  his  murderous  crimes.  After  a  bravura  pursuit  of  the  final  killer  into  the   snow   capped   mountains,   and   moments   before   the   policemen   are   forced   to   gun   Obreon   down,   de   Carlo   manages   to   inform   him   that   his   infant   son   survived   the   fire,   and   the   last   living   killer   makes   a   confession   to   the   lawmen   before   giving   up   the   ghost.   All   is   saved;   presumably   Obreon   can   still   marry   the   woman   who   looks   exactly   like   his   previous   common-­‐law  wife,  raise  his  child,  and  become  the  head  of  the  atomic  family  that  Domingo's   henchmen   cruelly   stripped   away   from   him.   Indifferent   nature   and   human   brutality   are   overcome,   and   the   groundwork   for   a   future   California   of   middle   class   families   is   laid.     The  average  spectator  expects  a  film  to  satisfy  in  the  meaning  of  its  story  and,  perhaps,  in   the   feelings   and   emotions   of   its   characters.   A   viewer   of   more   discerning   taste   might   expect   beauty   in   the   overall   structure   of   a   film,   in   the   unity   of   rhythms   and   content   across   its   whole.  Judged  on  these  values,  Passion  appears  unspectacular  failure.  To  love  it  you  must   look   for   the   beauties   of   each   shot   and   glance—not   as   a   whole,   necessarily,   but   in   and   of   themselves.       322


3.  

We   must   always   speak   of   two   auteurs   of   Passion:   the   one   who   moves   the   bodies   (Dwan)   and   the   one   who   lights   them   (Alton).   Viewed   from   a   distance,   it   is   almost   impossible   to   define   where   the   thoughts   of   one   begin   and   the   other   end.   If   critics   tends   to   push   away   the   cinematographer  as  author  in  favor  of  the  director,  it  is  frequently  for  no  other  reason  than   convenience.  The  force  of  Alton's  presence  demands  we  consider  him  on  equal  footing.      

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4.

  People  are  always  walking  by  in  the  distance,  drifting  by  in  the  background,  unnoticed  by   the  stars  and  unaffected  by  the  drama.  An  entire  world  hovers  at  the  edges  of  the  film.  Not  a   naturalistic  world,  though  its  contents  are  quotidian.    It  is  a  world  of  murmurs  and  colors,   figures   as   hollow   and   mythic   as   the   protagonists   that   drive   the   narrative.   Nondescript   individuals  carry  out  their  daily  tasks,  shadows  flow  across  walls,  animals  pace  freely.  The   speech   is   neither   realistic   Spanish,   nor   the   comfortable   American   English—instead,   phrases  are  all  poorly  translated  from  the  former  into  the  latter,  full  of  awkward  rhythms   and   misplaced   emphasis.   Not   a   photograph,   but   a   fresco   in   gaudy   colors,   peddled   to   the   floods   of   tourists,   entitled   "Life   in   Old   California."   By   extension   of   this   concept,   we   can   look   at  the  film  as  a  series  of  paintings  (part  classical,  part  kitsch).  

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5.  

First  shot,  post  credits:  a  man  on  a  horse;  behind  him  a  layer   of  cows;  behind  them  a  layer   of   men   on   horses   moving   from   side   to   side;   then   a   river,   trees,   a   hill;   the   horizon.   A   succession   of   separate   and   independent   fields.   We   will   see   different   versions   of   this   receding   composition   played   out   again   and   again,   with   Almost   immediately   follows   the   introduction   of   Don   Dimengo,   the   villain,   standing   in   silhouette   smoking   a   cigarillo.   A   railing.   A   ledge   with   a   clay   pot.   Dirt.   A   man   on   a   horse,   looking   back.   A   fountain.   Women   doing   the   wash.   Further   back,   men   going   about   their   business.   Even   further,   an   empty   square,   stairs,   a   house,   a   hill   with   trees.   Passion   is   a   flat   narrative   composed   of   many   flat   fields,  but  the  result  is  three  dimensional;  like  Disney's  Snow  White  and  the  Seven  Dwarves   (1937),   Passion   is   in   essence   a   series   of   glass   plates   of   overlapping   paintings,   resulting   in   a   sensation  of  depth  formed  from  a  series  of  two  dimensional  layers.     A  later  shot  opens  to  an  empty  square  with  an  arch  in  the  distance  and  beyond  that  a  trail   and  woods.  A  woman,  moving  away  from  the  camera,  walks  calmly  towards  a  set  of  stairs.   Obreon  rides  through  the  arch,  towards  the  camera,  which  slowly  pans  to  follow  his  path,   then   back   to   its   original   framing.   A   man   carrying   a   bundle   of   sticks   crosses   the   screen   from  right  to  left,  while  Obreon  moves  from  background  to  foreground,  and  the  woman’s   movement   counters   his,   moving   away   from   the   lens   towards   the   background.   A   man   enters  from  the  left  side  of  the  frame  to  take  Obreon's  horse  as  he  dismounts.  The  woman   starts  her  way  up  the  stairs.  The  man  with  the  sticks  exits  on  the  left.  The  man  takes  the   horse   and   begins   to   walk   towards   the   arch,   while   Obreon   walks   towards   the   camera.   From   the   bottom   of   the   frame,   a   dog   enters,   running   towards   Obreon.   The   woman   approaches   the   top   of   the   stairs,   the   man   and   horse   continue   straight   back   towards   the   arch,   and   Obreon   and   the   dog   exit   the   left   side   of   the   frame.   The   next   shot   immediately   begins   with   no   fewer   than   7   separate   planes.     From   the   interior   of   a   room,   the   camera   looks  out  through  a  doorway   towards   a   porch.     Obreon   enters   on   the   right.   Beyond   him   is   a   set   of   wooden   stairs.   Beyond   the   stairs,   a   man   walks   from   left   to   right.   Beyond   him,   a   second   man   mirrors   him,   walking   right   to   left.   Past   them   are   trees   and   flowers.   Beyond   325


that, an  empty  space  of  dirt,  a  wall  jutting  partially  into  the  frame  from  the  left,  and  finally   followed  by  the  walls  of  buildings.  This  view  last  only  a  few  seconds,  until  Alton  pans  to   follow  Obreon  into  the  interior  of  the  building.    

These  obsessive  sequences  of  layers  could  be  overlooked,  but  once  noticed,  they  take  hold   of  the  film:  each  space  appears  riddled  with  openings,  doors,  windows,  gates.  Every  wide   shot  becomes  flooded  with  possibility.  Slowly,  but  surely,  the  compositions  transcend  the   narrative  framework  they  have  been  placed  within.    

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6.

How,  one  asks,  does  the  form  of  this  film  (layer  upon  layer,  plane  upon  plane)  add  to  the   narrative?  It  doesn't.  They  run  parallel.  In  Passion,  form  and  content  are  not  harmonious;   they  simply  exist  alongside  one  another  for  the  same  80  minutes.       The  constant  parade  of  windows,  doorways,  passages,  allies  and  trees  become  a  game  for   the   eye   One   can   almost   feel   Dwan/Alton,   a   bit   bored   perhaps   (shooting   their   2nd   of   3   westerns  in  1954-­‐  and  how  many  westerns  had  they  individually  worked  on  before  these?),   trying  to  discover  a  new  type  of  space  in  every  shot.  Their  multi-­‐plane  approach  gives  the   external   figures   something   to   stroll   through.   The   multitude   of   windows   give   more   than   a   glimpse  of  painted  backdrops;  they  give  us  a  view  of  an  entire  world  existing  just  outside   the  boundaries  of  our  narrative.      

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7.

Dwan   is   one   of   cinema's   masters   of   proscenium   stagecraft.   His   approach   to   movement   throughout  Passion  is  essentially  theatrical:  it  is  derived  from  a  static  frame  and  the  tension   of  bodies  moving  in,  out  and  around  it.  The  angle  of  view  is  generally  medium-­‐wide;  bodies   are   presented   in   their   entirety   and   information   is   conveyed   through   the   movement   of   actors   bodies   more   than   the   contortions   of   their   faces.   Camera   movement,   montage   and   optical  effects  are  not  foundational.  As  in  theater,  the  basis  is  the  presence  of  a  body  in  a   space,  and  the  movement  of  that  body  in  relation  to  the  spectator's  eye.     Much   could   be   made   of   Dwan's   early   career   working   as   an   assistant   to   D.W.   Griffith.   In   Griffith  we  see  the  cinematic  essence  of  "bodies  in  space"  in  a  primitive  mode,  stylistically   inconsistent   (following   no   rules,   instead   writing   them),   always   serving   a   basic   emotional   utility.     Dwan   takes   this   emotive   style   and   develops   it   into   calculated   composition.   By   infusing   Griffith's   instinctual   staging   with   a   certain   self-­‐consciousness,   Dwan   becomes   the   stepping  stone  towards  the  later  great  "theatrical"  filmmakers  (Rivette,  Oliveira,  late  Dreyer,   etc.).   This   is   not   to   say   that   Dwan   eschews   all   camera   movement   or   montage;   rather   it   is   through   theatrical   composition   that   Dwan   arrives   at   the   core   of   his   cinema.   His   approach   allows  his  audience  to  look  into  and  through  each  space,  instead  of  being  immersed  within   them.  The  central  focus  is  not  the  bodies  themselves,  but  the  space  around  them.     As   opposed   to   the   lyrical-­‐primitive   approach   of   Griffith,   or   Oliveira's   modernist,   hyper-­‐ aware   style,   Dwan   emerges   as   a   classicist.     He   is   the   silent   director   who   evolved,   but   never   abandoned  the  stylistic  ideals  of  the  1910s.  The  compositional  paradigm  remains  theatrical   in   essence,   not   overtaken   by   the   documentary   elements   of   photography,   nor   the   innovations  of  montage  beyond  the  basic  Griffith  model.  He  follows  tradition,  but  uses  the   rules   to   suit   his   distinctive   tastes.   Working   along   with   Alton,   a   stand-­‐in   for   Griffith's   Bitzer,   Dwan  calmly  rediscovers  movement  within  this  framework,  bit  by  bit,  one  shot  at  a  time.       328


8.       The  action  of  the  narrative,  like  the  mise-­‐en-­‐scene,  is  not  psychological,  but  physical.  The   film  is  punctuated  by  a  series  of  violent  struggles,  sparked  by  the  initial  violence  against  the   Melo   family.   Interestingly,   guns   only   come   into   play   in   the   first   and   last   of   these   scenes.   Tossing   the   typical   western   shootout   aside,   Passion   is   film   of   knives.   However,   it's   not   a   brutal   work,   no   Rancho   Notorious   (1952)   or   The   Naked   Spur   (1953),   with   their   shows   of   man’s   cruelty   towards   man,   and   the   force   of   body   against   body.   Instead,   Passion   is   sorrowful.  The  acting,  mostly  disposable,  is  dotted  with  remarkable  moments  of  pain  and   realization,   and   the   violent   struggles   culminate   in   sensations   of   loss   rather   than   victory.   Neither   the   crimes   themselves   nor   the   vengeance   are   glorious—they   are   small,   pathetic,   misguided.     This   sadness   is   tucked   away   throughout   the   film,   most   elegantly   in   the   face   of   the   goon   played  by  Lon  Chaney,  Jr.,  whose  every  glance  contains  a  desolation  at  odds  with  the  simple   scumbag   he   portrays.   After   the   brawl   in   the   bar,   Chaney   glances   up,   a   brief   moment   of   reflection,  an  inner  pain  not  paved  over  by  drink  and  glory  and  evil—with  the  realization   that   he   has   done   something   wrong   in   taking   innocent   life.   Such   moments   break   the   facade,   push   past   the   script,   and   place   the   spectator   face   to   face   with   a   humanity   which   seeps   through   the   seams   of   otherwise   flat   characterizations.   The   sensation   given,   in   these   brief   moments,  is  as  emotionally  overwhelming  as  any  psychological  realism.  

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9.

  The  final  movement—into  the  mountains—is  largely  separate  from  what  has  preceded  it.   The  orange/tan  base  color  is  replaced  by  a  blinding  white,  framed  by  blue  and  green.  The   background   figures   who   move   so   insistently   through   the   rest   of   the   film   disappear;   the   complex  planes  of  urban  areas  and  interiors  replaced  by  the  expanses  of  the  endless  rows   of  hills,  trees  and  mountains.  This  empty  world  feels  as  if  it  were  eternal;  and  the  struggle   up   the   mountain   like   the   scaling   of   mount   Olympus.   The   smallness   of   the   central   drama   becomes  apparent  next  to  the  scope  of  the  vistas.  The  clouds  roll  in,  followed  by  darkness,   and  the  camera  moves  closer,  out  of  the  reality  of  location  and  into  a  series  of  constructed   sets.   I   would   unscientifically   estimate   that   Passion   is   roughly   50   percent   studio   and   50   percent   location.   Alton's   punchy,   high   contrast   Technicolor   photography   unifies   this   potential   visual   disparity.   His   camera   manages   to   restrain   the   splendor   of   the   California   landscape  and  elevate  the  artifice  of  the  cheap  sets  to  the  same  pitch.  Transitions  between   location   and   set   are   hardly   jarring;   the   control   of   color   and   texture   is   too   complete.   The   "real"   looks   so   fake   that   the   manufactured   feels   like   documentary.   The   final   cabin   echoes   the  interior  of  the  Melo  hacienda,  and  as  the  tragedy  is  washed  away  with  sweat  and  snow,   the  camera  glides  past  de  Carlo  and  Wilde,  towards  its  final  resting  place:  a  cabin  window,   looking   out   at   a   fake   tree,   with   a   painted   backdrop   of   mountains   and   sky.   The   awkward   murmurings  of  the  characters  drift  and  diffuse  against  the  blue-­‐white  landscape,  and  in  this   final   gesture,   Dwan/Alton   remind   us   that   what   is   beyond   the   window   is   of   equal   importance  to  drama  within  the  cabin.    

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10.     What  saves  Passion  from  being  the  footnote  that  it  seems  is  an  approach  that  supersedes  its   surface  content.  Dwan/Alton's  agenda  is  not  in  the  narrative  but  in  the  environment;  their   ideas   emerge   from   within   the   images   rather   than   being   placed   on   top   of   them.   If   Dwan   has   long   lingered   in   the   shadows   of   his   contemporaries   in   Hollywood,   it   is   because   he   is   a   formalist  almost  to  a  fault.  The  aspects  of  a  film  usually  regarded  as  important  are,  at  best,   workmanlike   in   Passion.   It   is   in   their   sense   of   craft   and   control   of   space,   their   ability   to   formulate  a  narrative  film,  not  as  a  story  but  an  object,  that  Dwan  and  Alton  push  us  past   any  perceived  mediocrity,  through  the  window,  and  towards  the  sublime.    

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SEEING DAYLIGHT:   CATTLE  QUEEN  OF  MONTANA  (1954)    

Gina Telaroli  

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Stills are from the following films:

THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN ALIVE (Dwan, 1961) YOUNG PEOPLE (Dwan, 1940) BACK TO THE FUTURE (Zemeckis, 1985) ROBIN HOOD (Dwan, 1922) TIDE OF EMPIRE (Dwan, 1929) CATTLE QUEEN OF MONTANA (Dwan, 1954) MANHATTAN MADNESS (Dwan, 1916) MANHANDLED (Dwan, 1924) SLIGHTLY SCARLET (Dwan, 1956) SUEZ (Dwan, 1938) THE WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED (Dwan, 1953) MONTANA BELLE (Dwan, 1948/1952) STAGE STRUCK (Dwan, 1925) THE IRON MASK (Dwan, 1929) WAY DOWN EAST (Griffith, 1920) INTOLERANCE (Griffith, 1916) THE GIRL WHO STAYED AT HOME (Griffith, 1919) UP IN MABEL’S ROOM (Dwan, 1944) and the following paintings:

Mary Magdalene (Jusepe de Ribera, 1641) St. Mary of Egypt (Jusepe de Ribera, 1641)

Gina Telaroli, May 2013


ESCAPE TO  SEE:   ESCAPE  TO  BURMA  (1955)    

Arnau Vilaró   Translated  by  David  Phelps  

In  the  first  part  of  Escape  to  Burma  (1955),  a  not-­‐at-­‐all  inconsequential  event  might  pass  us   by   unnoticed.   The   workers   of   the   famous   elephant   breeder   of   Burma,   Gwen   Moore   (Barbara   Stanwyck)   are   convinced   that   the   evil   spirit   of   a   tiger   has   killed   an   elephant.   Nevertheless,  Western  reason  prevails:  spirits  don't  leave  tracks,  and  so  the  only  possibility   remaining  is  that  the  elephant  was  devoured  by  a  flesh-­‐and-­‐blood  tiger;  to  which  there  is   an  additional,  biological  explanation:  the  elephant  was  already  quite  old  and  easy  prey  for   any  predator.    

403  


The sequence   of   the   tiger's   capture   might   put   us   in   mind   of   the   celebrated   dialogue   between   reality   and   imagination   that   André   Bazin   would   propose   in   "Forbidden   Montage"   ["Montage   Interdit"].   When   Gwen   throws   herself   towards   the   tiger,   the   shot   opens  up  and  heightens  the  impression  of  reality—we  feel  as  though  Gwen  and  the  tiger   were  slowly  moving  closer  together,  as  they  listen  to  each  other  from  afar.  In  the  moment   of   the   attack,   a   first,   affective   shot   of   the   tiger   inspires   the   imagination;   we   hear   Gwen   scream,  we  see  her  fall,  and   just   as  quickly,   Jim   Brecan's   (Robert   Ryan)   gunfire   strikes   its   target;  this  single  shot  is  presented  between  two  shots  of  the  cat:  its  leap-­‐attack  and  its   last  breath,  fallen  to  the  ground.  The  temporal  leap  of  each  of  these  three  shots  clarifies   the   operation   of   montage   and   demonstrates   "that   the   primary   material   of   the   film   is   authentic   and   that,   nevertheless,   'it   is   cinema.'"1   The   sequence   exposes   the   limits   of   montage,   but   also   its   virtue:   there   is   an   absence   conveyed   by   what   we   don't   see   during   the   gunshot,   a   possibility   for   imagination   to   meet   reality,   for   the   spirit   of   the   tiger   to   become  present  as  well.     The  backdrop  for  the  action  of  Escape  to  Burma  bears  this  dialogue  from  within:  that  is,   within  the  woods,  amongst  the  beasts,  and  in  the  temples  where  the  Burmese  rites  take   place.   The   setting   for   the   film   is   as   appropriate   for   staging   the   adventure   of   a  character   escaping  something  as  it  is  for  remaining  in  a  dimension  where  something  escapes  us.  The   fugitive   mentioned   above   is   Jim   Brecan,   and   his   goal   is   very   precise:   to   flee   from   those   who  accuse  him  of  the  death  of  the  Burmese  prince.  Brecan  discovers  a  possibility  to  hide   himself  in  Gwen's  house.  The  protagonist  holds  a  mystery  within,  but  the  interest  here  is   not   in   finding   out   what   it   is,   since,   on   the   one   hand,   the   enemy   has   already   announced   where  Jim  Brecan  is,  from  the  beginning  of  the  film,  and  on  the  other  hand,  it  doesn't  take   long   to   intuit   that   the   fugitive   is   falsely   accused.   The   mystery   itself   isn't   in   what   the   character   is   hiding,   but   in   that   Dwan   wants   us   to   take   close   notice   of  this   mysteriousness,   what  arises  in  the  first  moment  that  Brecan  and  Gwen  exchange  glances.  He  hides  under   the   name   of   Martin   and   entrusts   her   with   a   few   rubies   without   discussing   his   origins.   She   asks   no   questions,   and   he   gains   his   safety   in   the   refuge   offered   him   by   this   unknown   woman.   And   this   is   how   the   premise   is   established   that   will   allow   us   to   understand   the   relationships  between  the  characters  of  the  film:  they  need  to  be  ignorant  of  each  other  in   order   to   trust   one   another   as   well.   Between   this   couple,   a   decisive   gesture   will   hold   them   together   forever:   Gwen   keeps   the   jewels   in   her   safe   while   insisting   that   "you'll   have   to   stay   here   now";   their   union   is   conceived   through   what   is   kept   secret,   as   the   following   image   testifies:   while   they   embrace,   the   darkness   of   the   night   creeps   into   the   room   and   furtively  overtakes  both  their  bodies.       We  now  move  into  their  strange  relationship  with  a  third  character,  who  has  to  play  by   the  same  rules.  This  is  captain  Cardigan  (David  Farrar),  who  has  come  to  arrest  Brecan.   Gwen  helps  Brecan  to  escape,  Cardigan  follows  his  trail,  and  she  doesn't  delay  in  coming   after   them,   not   so   much   so   that   she   can   beg   the   fugitive   to   turn   himself   in,   but   so   that   she   404  


can stay  with  him,  watch  him,  control  him.  And  so  if  Brecan  embodies  their  secret,  she  is   the   one   who   is   pulling   the   strings   behind   the   story—let's   remember   that   we're   on   her   terrain—who   is   the   motor   of   the   fabulation—the   Gwen/Dwan   parallel   shouldn't   be   ignored—and   this   is   why   she   gives   free   reign   to   Cardigan,   so   that   again   the   three   can   intersect   and   the   action   continue.   Brecan   is   arrested,   night   falls,   and   a   Buddhist   temple   serves  as  shelter;  we  continue  in  this  foreign,  unknown  land:  "where  they  leave  offerings   for  the  spirits,"  she  claims.  The  characters'  sleep  is  interrupted  by  a  band  of  thieves,  Gwen   shrieks,   Cardigan   asks   them   to   let   her   go,   and   when   one   of   the   strangers   lifts   his   knife,   Brecan   intervenes;   next,   it   is   the   captain   who   assists   him.   The   enmity   between   the   two   heroes   begins   to   fade,   but   Cardigan   still   controls   Brecan's   fate;   yet   now,   to   his   good   fortune,  the  situation  flip-­‐flops:  Cardigan  is  tied  up,  he  is  not,  and  Gwen  is,  though  rather   loosely—once  again,  a  metaphor  of  the  fabulation  she  represents:  she  can  untie  Cardigan   and   continue   interceding   in   the   story.   Brecan   escapes,   but   luck   will   have   them   meeting   again   the   following   night   under   the   same   roof,   now   that   of   a   different   temple.   The   next   morning,   Gwen   sounds   the   gong:   "My   people   may   be   looking   for   me,"   she   says   as   justification;   but   she   is   enabling   the   obligatory   battle   between   the   two   heroes   to   forget   that  they're  enemies  and  help  each  other  fight  against  those  who  want  Brecan's  head.     The   trajectories   of   the   characters   are   altered,   their   destinies   transformed,   each   new   encounter  forcing  them  to  determine  once  again:  Who  is  chasing  who?;  What  is  each  one   looking   for   in   relation   to   the   next?;   What   is   each   one   looking   for   in   himself?   Ortega   y   Gasset  would  write  that  man  is  a  continual  faciendum  [un  quehacer],  one's  own  continual   task  of  choosing  one's  options  and  making  decisions  at  every  intersection,  to  which  Lluís   Duch   adds   that   Being   can   only   resolve   its   ambiguities   ambiguously.   "Before   the   contingencies   of   living   there   offers   itself   the   conditional   "if"—"if   one   thing,   then   another"—and   this   is   the   vital   presupposition   that   best   elucidates   our   state   of   flux,   of   flexibility  in  the  world."2  If  the  characters  of  Escape  to  Burma  lack  coherence  it's  because   they   yield   to   such   fluctuation,   that   is,   to   the   nature   of   their   being,   of   Being.   Nothing   interests   Dwan   more   than   that   they   fully   reach   this   point   of   Being—the   spectacle   "wouldn't  work  if  the  intimate  story  wasn't  right,"  he  declares  in  his  long  interview  with   Peter   Bogdanovich3—and   he   takes   concrete   interest   in   this   being   whose   condition   is   ambiguous.   To   reach   the   point,   Dwan   takes   two   paths.   On   the   one   hand,   he   delimits   his   adventures   with   clarity,   without   any   tricks   or   holes,   nothing   cryptic;   that   is   to   say:   to   avoid  fogginess  in  order  to  clear  up  any  fog  that's  already  there,  to  be  better  able  to  see   the  opaqueness  of  this  being.  On  the  other  hand,  he  lays  out  the  action,  as  Hawks  would   also  know  how  to  do,  as  not  to  ever  dally  at  obstacles  but  better  overleap  them;  or,  what   amounts  to  the  same  thing:  by  paying  attention  to  the  relationships  that  are  established   between   the   action   and   its   agents,   rather   than   concentrate   on   the   action   and   its   agents   themselves.   It's   what   Deleuze   saw   in   Hitchcock.   And   here,   we   can   also   reformulate   the   question,   "But   who   killed   Harry?"   in   relation   to   the   prince,   because   even   knowing   that   Brecan  was  the  assassin,  we  don't  need  to  know  it,  and  this  is  why  Dwan  makes  it  clear   405  


who is  who  from  the  start.  As  in  the  Hitchcock,  what's  relevant  here  is  not  the  crime,  but   what   happens   between   those   who   commit   themselves   to   its   investigation.   Hitchcock's   modus   operandi   is   well-­‐known:   to   situate   his   character   in   the   role   of   the   spectator   and   creator  at  once,  like  James  Stewart  facing  the  window-­‐spectacle  in  Rear  Window  (1954),   or  like  those  character-­‐spectators  in  The  Trouble  with  Harry  (1955)  (its  Spanish  title  But   who   killed   Harry?   [¿Pero   quién   mató   a   Harry?]),   who   entertain   a   fiction   that   they   themselves  have  created  from  behind  a  tree.  In  Dwan's  film,  as  we've  seen,  the  creator  is   an   elephant   breeder   [la   creadora   es   una   criadora]—and   the   ending   confirms   how   she   must  pass  herself  off  as  a  spectator  in  order  to  retake  control  of  the  story.    

406  


We come  back  to  the  film  where  we  left  it,  at  the  final  battle.  Gwen  is  wounded,  the  story   comes  to  a  close,  and  Brecan  can  only  turn  himself  in.  But  a  boy  arrives  in  time  with  a  letter   in  his  hand.  It  turns  out  to  be  the  letter  that  the  prince  wrote  moments  before  dying,  and   whose  contents  explain  why  he  let  himself  be  killed  by  his  friend  Jim  Brecan.  Gwen  listens   to  the  new  story,  all  that's  needed  to  save  her  friend,  to  clinch  the  happy  ending.  But  if  we   go  back  a  bit,  we'll  recall  that  the  boy  appeared  much  earlier  in  this  story,  just  before  Gwen   decided  to  go  after  Brecan  following  the  captain's  arrival.  And  as  in  the  death  of  the  tiger,   this   event   is   also   signaled   between   two   shots—which   should   reaffirm,   for   anyone   in   doubt,   that   Dwan's   cinema   is   not   at   all   far   from   ours.   Gwen's   decision   is   prefaced   by   her   empty   gaze—a   strange   expression   for   a   character   who   is   always   attentive,   always   up   for   adventure—and  it  is  not  by  chance  that  this  gaze  occupies  the  interval  between  the  boy's   yawning  and  then  falling  asleep.  Once  again,  the  montage  only  reveals  the  element  which   passes   us   by   unnoticed   while   holding   control   over   the   film.   The   boy   affords     Gwen   a   suggestion  of  the  waking-­‐sleep  to  which  Duch  refers,  one  required  to  envisage  the  infinity   which  man  lacks.  The  boy,  waking-­‐sleeping—always  a  new  story—has  been  there  all  along,   propelling   the   adventure,   and   he   now   appears   in   order   to   remind   his   creator   of   his   role,   so   that   she   can   again   assume   an   outward   form—in   the   inspiration   or   foundation   of   the   story—that   will   never   be   definitive,   that   will   always   escape   us,   but   that   has   to   escape   us   in   order   to   appear   anew   and   so   on   ad   infinitum.   It's   how   Dwan,   like   Hitchcock,   per   Godard,   also   knew   how   to   take   control   of   the   universe,   even   while   it   passes   by   unnoticed.                                                                                                                                           1  André  Bazin,  "Montage  interdit,"  Qu'est-­‐ce  que  le  cinéma?  (Paris:  Les  Éditions  du  Cerf,  

1975), 49-­‐61,  http://yrol.free.fr/montage%20interdit.pdf.  Trans.  David  Phelps.   2 Albert  Chillón,  La  condición  ambigua.  Diálogos  con  Lluís  Duch  (Barcelona:  Herder,  2011).   Trans.  David  Phelps. 3

Peter Bogdanovich,  The  Last  Pioneer  (New  York:  Praeger,  1971),  168.

407


IN THE  BEGINNING  WAS  THE  BEGINNING:   PEARL  OF  THE  SOUTH  PACIFIC  (1955)    

Pablo García  Canga   Translated  By  David  Phelps  

  There   are   filmmakers   who   are   happy   in   the   water,   others   in   geisha   houses,   deserts,   or   cities,   in   daytime   or   nighttime,   in   violence   or   in   calm,   filming   horses   or   filming   cats,   with   long   takes   or   rapid-­‐fire   montage.   There   are   filmmakers,   I   suspect,   who   are   most   content   in   the  first  moments,  others  in  the  middle,  and  others  in  the  endings.  I  get  no  greater  joy  in   Brisseau's  films,  for  example,  than  in  the  endings,  the  sudden,  final  ten  minutes,  in  which   the  story  has  come  to  an  end  and  time  accelerates  in  the  form  of  an  epilogue.     Of  the  Dwans  that  I'm  familiar  with,  the  late  films,  nothing  is  quite  like  those  first,  principle   moments.   Their   unhurried   pace   especially   stands   out—as   each   shot   adds   to   the   last,   as   the   viewer  must  continually  readjust  his/her  understanding  of  the  scene.     The   start   of   Pearl   of   the   South   Pacific   is   another   of   Dwan's   perfect   openings.   Fast   and   perfect.  A  sailboat  crossing  the  sea.  (No,  I'm  lying,  the  sailboat  doesn't  cross  anything,  but  is   already  there,  in  the  sea,  nothing  more.  Nothing  crosses,  nothing  traverses  in  this  film.  An   economy  of  time  and  spaces.  We'll  come  back  to  this).     Next,   the   ladder   down   to   the   cabin.   The   legs   of   a   woman   appear.   They   pause   before   we   can   see   the   torso,   never   mind   the   face;   we   have   only   the   short   pants,   a   knee   lightly   flexing   forward,  a  classical  pose,  beauty  in  theory  and  practice.     The  following  shot:  a  man  stretched  out  on  the  cabin  bed.  Next  to  him  a  bottle.  He  awakens.   Sits   up   with   some   difficulty.   He   knocks   over   the   bottle,   so   that   even   the   most   inattentive   viewer   will   take   notice   and,   putting   one   and   one   together,   the   bottle   and   the   difficulty   408  


sitting up,   will   comprehend   that   this   man   is   awakening   out   of   a   terrible,   drunken   stupor.   Some   shadows,   subsequently,   loom   over   him.   The   man   realizes   the   presence   of   someone   else  in  the  cabin.     Reverse-­‐shot  from  his  point  of  view:  the  woman  finishes  descending  the  ladder.  The  shot,   blurry,  as  if  seen  through  his  hangover,  comes  into  focus  as  a  magnificent  introductory  shot   of   Virginia   Mayo,   proudly   herself,   vindicative.   (The   shot   is   blurry   due   to   his   hangover,   of   course,  but  also  due  to  the  filmmaker's  obligation  to  disclose  each  element  one  by  one,  until   he  has  given  us  at  last  the  face  that  corresponds  to  those  legs,  the  beauty  of  Virginia  Mayo).     In  shot  reverse-­‐shot:  dialogue.  The  man  recognizes  the  woman.  He  wants  her  to  leave  the   ship  (but  to  leave  the  ship  is  to  leave  the  film  and  this,  of  course,  is  impossible;  it's  already   cast   off,   in   three   shots   it's   cast   off   as   an   unstoppable   mechanism,   and   there   is   no   way   to   correct  its  course,  no  way  now  to  avoid  the  coming  adventure).     And   once   again   a   pair   of   legs   descend   the   ladder.   This   time   they   are   the   legs   of   a   man   (and   the  pants  are  long).  With  the  legs  comes  the  face,  and  the  camera  moves  back  to  reframe   this   new   figure   (a   new   piece   of   the   puzzle)   next   to   the   woman.   And   then   this   new   man   announces:  "Meet  Miss  Delane,  my  new  fiancée."     And,   before   the   confusion   of   the   still-­‐hungover   first   man,   the   woman   puts   her   arms   around   the   second   and   offers   him   such   improbable,   likely   ironic,   praise   that   some   essential   element  of  her  character  is  now  introduced:  she  is  lying  through  her  teeth.  And  we  know   what  those  legs  are  capable  of.  And  face.  And  all  the  rest.     We   have   gone   one   minute,   twenty   seconds   from   the   end   of   the   opening   credits.   Amazing   pace,   Dwan's.   A   gradual   pace.   No   shot   is   too   fast,   but   lasts   the   right   amount   of   time   for   us   to   see  what  we  have  to  see.  It's  not  the  montage  that  speeds  up,  but  the  story.  Because  each   shot  carries  a  new  element  in  relation  to  the  last.  One  idea  per  shot,  the  B-­‐movies  would  say.     And   this   is   how   the   rest   of   the   film   will   proceed,   with   this   slow   speed   or   this   speedy   slowness.  Another  memorable  example:  the  woman  slaps  the  man,  the  man  in  turn  is  going   to  hit  her,  but  then,  once  again,  there  is  a  reversal:  rather  than  hit  her,  the  man  can't  help   kissing   her   instead.   And   without   changing   shots,   the   hand   of   a   second   man,   whom   we   haven't  seen  come  in,  grabs  that  of  the  first  and  starts  a  fight.  No  longer  one  idea  per  shot,   but   two   ideas   per   shot.   With   the   greatest   economy   of   means,   to   reverse   the   script   and   trajectory.  Allan  Dwan,  incessant  storyteller.     What  precedes  this  kiss  and  this  fight  is  a  scene  in  which  a  secret  is  revealed:  the  man  and   the   woman   already   knew   each   other,   had   already   been   lovers.   On   paper,   this   sequence   might   seem   similar   to   one   in   Johnny   Guitar   (Ray,   1954).   Virginia   Mayo   even   says   the   line   409  


that, "I   saw   your   face   in   every   man's   face   I   looked   at."   And   yet   the   scene   is   radically   different   from   Ray's.   No   past   is   evoked.   The   romance   barely   exists   as   it   is.   Mostly   it   is   a   supplementary  tidbit  to  the  story,  another  piece  added  to  the  puzzle.  The  main  purpose  of   the  love  affair  is  to  insert  complications.     Advancing   shot   by   shot,   Dwan   attains   a   strange   velocity,   something   like   that   of   a   helicopter's   blades,   or   the   spokes   of   a   bicycle   wheel   when   they   turn   too   fast   for   human   comprehension   and   soon   seem   to   be   staying   in   place,   or   even   slowly   moving   backwards.   But   without   appearances   deceiving   us,   without   us   ever   forgetting   that   it's   moving   at   top   speed  and  that  little  would  be  left  of  our  hand  if  we  ever  thought  to  interrupt  its  course.     The   gradualness   at   the   heart   of   Dwan's   films   is   deceptive.   Nothing   stays   in   place.   We   are   in   the  eye  of  a  hurricane.  We  move  forward  without  pause  toward  the  end.  Toward  an  ending   so  inevitable  it  is,  perhaps,  disappointing.  Because  for  Dwan,  for  the  Dwan  with  which  I'm   familiar,   his   principles   have   been   set   into   motion,   as   has   his   constant   complicating   of   the   situation,  of  what's  at  stake,  and  he  seems  to  feel  less  at  ease  when  he  has  to  bring  the  story   to  a  halt,  to  a  close.  For  Dwan,  having  to  interrupt  the  film  is  like  a  kid  having  to  interrupt  a   game   to   go   have   dinner   or   take   a   bath.   It's   something   necessary,   a   superior   order,   of   the   parents   or   of   the   state,   but,   it   follows,   ultimately   an   order   that's   a   nuisance.   But   then   it's   all   the  same:  the  next  day  there  will  be  more  games,  or  a  new  film.     An   ending   that's   perhaps   disappointing,   but   inevitable.   An   ending   that   returns   the   characters  to  the  beginning.  An  ending  that  is  a  moral  solution.  The  characters  of  the  film   are  always  confronted  with  moral  dilemmas:  to  lie  or  not  to  lie,  to  betray  or  not  to  betray,   to   abuse   or   not   to   abuse   their   power.   Of   all   of   them,   the   most   important,   around   whom   the   others  arrange  themselves,  is  Virginia  Mayo,  who  wavers  between  her  conscience  and  the   gold,  between  innocence  and  whatever  love  would  have  her  believe.     As  it  turns  out,  there's  very  little  action  in  the  film.  An  attack  on  the  boat,  a  fight  with  the   octopus  that  guards  the  taboo.  Very  little  action  and  very  few  sets.  A  question  of  economy.   This   is   why,   we've   said,   nothing   crosses   the   ocean.   And   why   we   don't   see   them   crossing   through   the   jungle   to   get   to   the   lake   of   the   taboo.   There's   no   shot   that   doesn't   work   to   advance  the  story,  that  doesn't  work  to  twist  it,  to  turn  it,  or  overturn  it,  even  morally.  Time   tight  within  the  shots;  between  them,  speed.     A  question  of  economy.  Morality  is  cheaper  to  perform  than  action.  Not  much  is  required  to   stage   morality,   as   Dwan   well   knew,   as   Rohmer   did   as   well.   Just   a   few   characters,   a   few   vacillations.  (Only  this  little  is  required  to  generate  suspense,  just  one  character  spying  on   another.   These   moments   occur   frequently   in   late   Dwan,   and   perhaps   earlier   as   well.   Equally  frequently—lies  and  disguises.  Not  much  is  required  to  create  fiction  and  danger,   the   danger   of   being   discovered   or   of   not   discovering   the   other.   Was   Dwan   interested   in   410  


spies and   disguises   themselves,   or   was   he   interested   in   them,   above   all,   because   they   were   an  endless  source  of  a  script's  twists  and  turns,  of  the  misunderstandings  within  the  film?).     And,  deep  down,  what  moral  conclusion  is  it  towards  which  we're  inevitably  led?  A  return   to  the  foundations  [una  restauración  del  principio].  Pearl  of  the  South  Pacific  is  a  story  of   taboos,   and   like   all   films   about   taboos,   it's   also   the   story   of   a   paradise.   More   than   Tabu   (Murnau,  1931)  or  Tabu  (Gomes,  2012),  I'm  thinking  of  Brigadoon  (Minnelli,  1954)  and  The   Village   (Shyamalan,   2004).   A   paradise   based   in   a   denial   of   the   outside   world.   A   paradise   that   in   one   way   or   another   might   be   mistaken   for   totalitarianism.   The   ending   of   the   film   allows   us   to   recover   the   initial   paradise,   but   only   after   having   tasted   pain,   and   after   having   integrated  the  outside  world.     As   in   the   Ramuz   novel   Joie   dans   le   ciel   (1921),   in   which   a   town   awakes   one   day   to   find   that   everything  has  changed,  that  the  dead  have  come  back  to  life,  that  the  blind  can  see,  that   the  lands  are  springing  forth  crops  without  a  care,  that  all  is  happiness.  They've  awoken  on   the   other   side   of   life,   in   paradise.   A   paradise   where   time   stands   still   (the   opposite   of   Dwan;   with   Dwan,   no   paradise   can   last   more   than   two   mintues   long).   And   yet,   it   is   not   full   happiness,  and  only  a  flight  towards  the  mountains  and  a  vision  of  hell,  of  forgotten  pain,   makes  them  accept  that  they've  attained  happiness  at  the  end,  the  frozen  time  of  paradise.   (Ramuz  has  another  work  with  the  same  plot,  a  story  entitled  La  Paix  du  ciel,  in  which  the   same   storyline   is   reduced   to   a   single   couple   and   it   is   the   memory   of   earthly   tears   that   allows  them  to  at  last  accept  the  peace  of  heaven).     The  film  concludes  by  recovering  its  foundations,  that  initial  happiness,  through  its  twists   and  turns.  Like  a  dance  in  which  after  twirling  and  twirling,  after  a  few  bodies  have  fallen  to   the  floor,  the  initial  form  is  regained.  And  so,  just  before  this  hasty  ending,  Dwan  has  time   to   give   us   one   more   detail,   one   more   supplementary,   cruel   idea,   since   there   is   something   cruel  in  submitting  the  characters  to  permanent  flux.  Mayo  is  going  to  be  sacrificed.  She  is   placed  against  a  wall  and,  with  a  slow,  percussive  tempo,  they  start  hurling  spears  at  her,   two   by   two.   The   spears,   landing   closer   and   closer   to   her   each   time,   mark   out   two   lines   whose  point  of  intersection  will  be  her  body.  It  serves  little  purpose  at  this  point  to  recall   Achilles  and  the  tortoise.  These  spears  will  end  up  reaching  their  point  of  intersection,  the   beautiful  captive,  if  nothing,  like  the  swift  consciousness  of  everything  she  stands  to  lose,   the  sudden  recovery  of  the  film's  foundations  [el  súbito  principio  recuperado],  stops  their   advance.   But   it's   time   to   have   dinner,   it's   time   to   take   a   bath;   the   spears'   assault   stops,   and   paradise  is  regained,  until  the  next  film,  the  next  game.    

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I DIDN'T  EVEN  KNOW  HIS  NAME:   TENNESSEE'S  PARTNER  (1955)    

Santiago Gallego    

Translated by  David  Phelps  

Tennessee's  Partner  counts  among  the  series  of  ten  films  that  Allan  Dwan  filmed  at  the  end  of   his   career   with   producer   Benedict   Bogeaus   for   R.K.O.   Produced   the   year   after   what's   probably  Dwan's  masterpiece,  Silver  Lode  (1954),  the  shoot  would  reunite  Bogeaus,  master   cinematographer  John  Alton,  artistic  director  Van  Nest  Polglase,  composer  Louis  Forbes,  and   costume  designer  Gwen  Wakeling  for  a  Western  that  its  director  would  sometimes  call  the   favorite   of   his   films—a   statement   which   has   the   added   merit   of   coming   from   a   filmmaker   whose  oeuvre  is  so  extensive,  if  often  invisible,  a  good  part  of  it  having  been  lost  forever.     A  filmmaker  accustomed  to  filming  quickly,  on  shoestring  budgets  with  little  room  for  any   vacillations   or   lack   of   professionalism—professionalism   connoting   a   clarity   of   ideas,   a   cleanness   of   expression,   and   an   economical   shoot—Dwan   was   a   master   when   it   came   to   filming   serial   movies   without   seeming   to   do   so,   but   also   without   trying   to   hide   it   either,   without   inflating   it   into   a   pretense   of   what   cinema,   quite   wrongly,   is   supposed   to   be.   The   end  of  his  career  at  R.K.O.  weaves  together  such  a  web  of  ideas  (his  Rousseauian  ideal  of   casting  his  heroes  out  of  society,  leading  them  to  find  rest  in  small  populations  and  remote,   untouched   paradises,   uncontaminated   by   the   blind   greed   of   the   white   man)   with   such   aesthetic   coherence,   that   it   would   not   be   absurd   to   compare   these   films   to   the   "Ranown   Cycle,"   which   Budd   Boetticher   would   film   in   the   same   years   with   Randolph   Scott   and   producer  Harry  Joe  Brown.  

412


Elizabeth Farnham's   premises   (Rhonda   Fleming),   dubbed   the   "Marriage   Market,"   are   established  as  a  refuge  for  the  protagonists  and  the  center  of  the  story,  a  space  demarcated   apart   from   a   city   full   of   businessmen   and   gold   diggers   eager   to   do   whatever   it   takes   to   win   a   miserable   stake   in   a   new   gold   mine—men   that   nobody   should   turn   their   back   on.   Farnham's   business   promises   "Young   Ladies,   all   able   to   cook,   all   desirous   of   finding   decent   husbands,"   and   she   earns   her   income   from   hostessing   (politely   termed),   complemented   by   ten   percent   of   the   winnings   of   her   lover,   the   cardshark   and   gunslinger   played   by   John   Payne.  He  calls  her  "The  Duchess,"  and  she  reciprocates  with  "Tennessee."  Neither  do  we   ever  come  to  know  the  real  name  of  "Cowpoke"  (Ronald  Reagan),  the  miner  who  appears  in   town   to   retrieve   his   girlfriend   Goldie   Slater   (Coleen   Gray)   for   their   marriage,   but   who   after   intervening   on   behalf   of   the   gambler,   as   one   of   the   latter's   rivals   targets   him   in   the   back,   finds   himself   having   to   kill   the   assailant.   Afterwards,   Tennessee   will   spend   a   not   insignificant   sum   of   money   to   get   rid   of   his   savior's   girlfriend,   in   reality   a   gold-­‐digger   already  known  to  Tennessee  who  has  been  planning  to  ditch  her  naive  lover  after  obtaining   his   $5000   wedding   gift.   After   Tenneessee   is   accused   of   murdering   Grubstake   McNiven   (Chubby  Johnson)  to  keep  possession  of  a  gold  mine  that  was  recently  discovered  with  his   backing,  the  real  assassin,  Turner  (Anthony  Carusso),  tries  to  knock  off  the  gambler  when   the  latter,  upon  the  sheriff's  arrival,  turns  around  and  leaves  his  back  open  to  the  killer— the  moment  that  Cowkpoke  intercepts  the  path  of  the  fatal  bullet,  targeted  at  his  friend,  and   offers  up  his  life  for  his  friend's.     Tennessee's   partner,   the   title's   subject,   is   in   reality   two   people,   on   the   one   hand   the   Madame   to   whom   he   has   both   business   and   emotional   ties,   and   on   the   other   hand   the   miner   Cowpoke,   who   besides   having   saved   him   at   the   beginning   of   the   story,   becomes   a   presence   who   introduces   a   sense   of   companionship   and   order—and   even   domestic   concerns—into   his   solitary   home,   where   Tennessee   gives   the   miner   refuge.   Robin   Wood   would   undoubtedly   rub   his   hands   together   in   glee   at   another   example   of   a   "virile   friendship"  that,  as  usual  in  the  absence  of  any  sexual  fruition,  is  cemented  by  a  punching   match  that  serves  as  a  demonstration  between  the  two  friends  of  how  much  they  love  each   other   deep   down   (even   though   social   and   personal   repression   would   prevent   them   from   expressing  it  in  any  other  less  violent  form)  and  culminates  with  the  sacrifice  of  one  for  the   other,  in  the  kind  of  now-­‐abandoned  world  that  would  feed  the  imagination  and  delirium  of   filmmakers  like  Michael  (Elizabeth?  Michelle?)  Cimino.  And  although  certainly  the  script  by   Krims,   Beauchamp,   Baker,   and   Sherman   (taken   from   a   public   domain   Bret   Harte   short   story)   offers   roles   for   women   throughout—especially   just   off-­‐screen   and   in   Tennessee's   past—it's   clear   that   the   character   of   Rhonda   Fleming   radiates   modernity   and   independence,   the   same   force   of   character   and   decisiveness   so   dear   to   the   Hawksian   women.     413  


This story  of  love  and  friendship  between  two  men  offers  Dwan  the  chance  to  exhibit,  here,   the   poetry   of   his   dry   lyricism,   of   his   invisible   style   that   is,   nevertheless,   tremendously   effective   at   effacing   any   sense   of   interference   between   the   camera   and   the   actors.   Dwan   takes  full  advantage  of  SuperScope  in  shooting  the  first  scene  in  the  jail,  a  frontal  medium   shot   filmed   without   a   cut,   in   which   Tennessee   and   Cowpoke   cinch   their   bond   through   an   elliptical   dialogue   in   which   they   appraise   their   lives,   while   avoiding—as   always   in   Dwan— anything   superficial   or   incidental.   It's   the   same   quality   possessed   by   the   display   of   Cowpoke's   corpse   ("I   didn't   even   know   his   name,"   declares   Tennessee   before   his   dead   body)   and   his   subsequent   funeral,   filmed   in   a   wide   shot   that   maintains   the   feeling   and   intimacy   of   this   elegiac   moment   and   affirms   the   quiet   virtues   of   an   filmmaker   indispensable   for   understanding