Monday, May 27, 2013

Birthday Boy: Thriller


I'm increasingly intrigued by the plethora of video riches now available for the asking on YouTube, not to mention taking advantage of same to fill some lamentable gaps in my education.  This weekend, for example, when not riveted by the Divine Miss M., I caught up on a very odd little film that is more discussed, I think, than seen: the Tallulah Bankhead vehicle A Royal Scandal.

Don't get too excited - it's awful.  It looks like they spent 70% of a moderately exiguous budget on gowns that make Bankhead look less like Catherine the Great than whomever it was that Margot Channing was playing in Aged in Wood, and the tone is sufficiently uneven that it seems like nothing so much as a Sternberg script directed as a Ritz Brothers epic.  Which is to say,  I suppose, it's a Fox attempt at sophistication, and despite a great deal of Acting from Miss B. (some of it, to be fair, good fun), it's flat as a pancake.

All that said, I did sit up and pay attention during the brief appearances by today's celebrant (102, were he still haunting us only on film), Mr. Vincent Price.  We are so used to him as a cheerfully menacing presence in bad horror films and on TV that it's easy to forget that he was in the beginning quite comely, not to mention that he had a good run as a leading man or featured player in the '40s before becoming entrenched horror pictures good and less so.  In Scandal he's the cheerfully effete French ambassador, who ends up as the Empress's consolation prize when she loses William Eythe (who's kind of a bore anyway) to Anne Baxter (who has a couple of oddly Sapphic moments as a lady in waiting, and even they're not very interesting).

While Price will doubtless have a kind of immortality for having lent his voice to Michael Jackson's monster (in more ways than one) hit, I'm awfully glad that at the end of his long career, he had two roles that gracefully limn his range as a screen presence.  In his final film, Edward Scissorhands, he revisited the Gothic guignol in which he he earned his living for so many years, gently sending up the very idea of a mad scientist, and it makes a fitting valediction.  Three years earlier, though, he recalls his days as a more romantic type in The Whales of August, where he is a touching foil for its formidable stars, Misses Gish and Davis, playing a gentle, faded Continental aristocrat (a senescent edition of his earlier ambassador, perhaps).

In his private life he seems to have been rather cheerfully effete himself, and in his final marriage found a soulmate in the mordant Australian phenomenon that was Coral Browne.  Immersed in art and cooking, they appear to have had a very good time.  After Tallulah, she must have seemed a rest...

8 comments:

  1. and an interesting juxtaposition with the liberace movie having premiered last night. how many zillions of queer men were there that held their noses and dove (liberace never going to such extremes of course)?

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    1. Somehow, I don't think Vincent did much Coral diving.

      (...a Shakespearean with a wittier mind than I would have come up with something along the lines of "of his boners was Coral not made" or similar...)

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  2. Mr Price and Ms Browne were a match made in Guignol... It was, after all, "that effing lady" who famously said "Women feel very comfortable with homosexuals. There is a certain delicacy. We don't want to be pounced on every 30 seconds by some hairy ape." And she should know, she married two of them.

    According to Alan Bates, a woman came up to Vincent at a restaurant and said, "Can I have your autograph," and he said "Certainly" and signed it "Dolores Del Rio".

    RIP both Vincent and Coral - I miss them dearly. Jx

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    1. i won't bore you with my little moment i had with coral, i know i've blabbed about it before. the world is a far more hideous place without her.

      are there new corals coming along to pick up the slack?

      and i mean no disrespect to vincent.

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    2. *scurries out to find said moment, fails*

      Do tell!

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    3. i know i've told it before, probably more than once.

      it was a usual day. i worked in back bay, boston. everyday i went to deluca's (which is still there i believe) and got my coffee and cranberry-orange muffin, expertly baked by the expertly baked emmett. as i stood there, blabbing with emmett about nothing, a woman's voice interrupts us...."pardon me, but do you have any bah-nah-nas?" i turn & it's coral! coral fucking browne right in front of me! as you know, i'm a crappy writer & equally lousy at speaking, especially when perfect words are in order. i was truly speechless. i quickly told emmett that he needed to, "hop to it" for here was a great star of great magnitude standing before us. i must have said the usual, "oh i love you, bla, bla, bla" kind of stuff, this i don't remember. what i do recall is that i asked her what she was doing there & she said that vincent was in town to do some promo work for "mystery" (you know, WGBH) and they were staying at the copley plaza & he wanted a banana. (JUST occurred to me, maybe he had her out looking for BANANAS, wink-wink) i also recall that i was wearing my peewee herman t-shirt, which coral remarked about positively. why i didn't drag her back to the salon i have no idea, i was shocked. what did make me happy was that probably not many people were shitting at the site of her and making a big honking scene. i think she loved my kvelling & i'm glad to have been of assistance. sure, light years before cellphones and cameras.

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    4. Wonderful! I always love an encounter like that, when it involves the sort of luminary who basks in the attention. For very good reasons in this low age of predatory paparazzi, many no longer do - really no longer can - but it's nice to know that even in a Boston deli, a star like Coral had a chance to shine. Lovely of you to give her the chance to do so.

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  3. I remember Vincent from his horror movie days.. I spent far too many rainy Saturday afternoons watching old movies as a child...but who knew he was a Babe!

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