Monthly Archives: January 2009

My Two Cents Worth on Daves’ BIRD OF PARADISE

I’m glad that Dave Kehr’s recent column in the New York Times about the neglected and underrated Delmer Daves has spurred some interest in Daves on his web site, but disappointed that no one except for me has thought to bring up Daves’ 1951 remake of King Vidor’s 1932 Bird of Paradise. It’s true that I have some personal investment in this kitschy South Sea island tale, having written the first chapter of my autobiographical Moving Places: A Life at the Movies (1980; 2nd ed., 1995) about its significance for me. But the second chapter of the same book, a much longer one, is devoted to that same year’s Doris Day musical On Moonlight Bay, and I’d never dream of making any special case for that movie.

By contrast, what seems memorable about the 1951 Bird of Paradise, apart from its lush Technicolor, is a certain tragic sense of thwarted utopian and liberal multiculturism, similar in some ways to what can be found in Daves’ previous feature, also with Debra Paget and Jeff Chandler (and made at the same studio, Fox), Broken Arrow (1950). I suppose this could be written off as some sort of camp in both movies, but personally I find this less of a hoot than Daves’ penultimate feature, Youngblood Hawke (1964), which Dave describes as “interesting” and, like some of the posters on his site, seems to take relatively seriously.… Read more »

Vanity Frame Enlargement (FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER)

The reproduction is grainy, but I’m still a novice when it comes to importing film frames to this site, so this will have to do. For friends and acquaintances who want to know when and where I appear as an extra in Robert Bresson’s Quatre Nuits d’un Rêveur (Four Nights of a Dreamer, 1972), here I am. This is right towards the tail end of the penultimate sequence, and that’s me on the left, in the suede jacket and the orange-red sweater, carrying something–I no longer remember what –under my right arm. I had a moustache in those days. It was a fall evening, as I recall, not too far from the Palais de Chaillot, and a bit on the chilly side.

The following night, which was the film’s final night of shooting, I wound up on a bateau mouche with Bresson and the small crew and a small performing bossa nova band and singer who play a major part in the film’s most memorable sequence, but this time it was only as an offscreen spectator. [1/17/09]… Read more »