Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Fox Catalog: ON THE RIVIERA and THE THREE FACES OF EVE on Blu-ray ""

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


ON THE RIVIERA (1951; Walter Lang)
I have to admit that I'd somehow never even heard of ON THE RIVIERA before this new Blu-ray release. I'll chalk that up to not bring as well versed in Danny Kaye's filmography as I'd like to be. Thankfully this film gives a double dose of Kaye in that he swings a dual role here. He plays both a somewhat second rate nightclub showman as well as a very sophisticated record-breaking aviator/businessman. When the entertainer realizes he looks just like the famous pilot, he seizes upon it as an opportunity to reinvent a new act for himself (wherein he makes himself up to look like said pilot). The two men begin to entangle themselves in each other's lives and wackiness ensues so to speak.
The transfer here is just lovely. Bright and colorful and detailed as it should be in Technicolor. The costumes are pretty gorgeous so that helps the overall presentation look great. And speaking of gorgeous, let's talk about the two lovely leading ladies of this film. Gene Tierney is of course a vision and she looks just stunning in high definition color. I'd seen her once before this way in LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, but this film is obviously more designed to be eye popping than that one (though both films are Technicolor). The surprise of the movie for me is the French actress Corrinne Calvet. I had only seen her in one other feature, this year in fact. It was called ROPE OF SAND and she starred in it with Burt Lancaster, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains and Peter Lorre. That film is more of a noir and she gets a tiny bit overshadowed in the cast by the veritable CASABLANCA reunion that is going on there. In this movie she is given a bit more of a showcase. As lovely as she is in the B&W of ROPE OF SAND, she is captivatingly beautiful in and amongst color palette of ON THE RIVIERA. Danny Kaye shines here as well and is more suave than I am used to seeing him. He's always charming and warm in his performances and songs, but there's even an element of 'lady's man' to the characters he portrays in the film. The musical numbers are lavishly produced and well staged and this film is overall quite pleasant indeed.
This Fox Blu-ray has a few supplements of note:
-"The Riviera Story: A Remarkable Impersonation"- (11 mins)
Uses film historians to talk about how the plot line to this film is one that Fox loved at the time. They loved it so much, they had even used it a few times before this. The piece examines the films that preceded this one and how this one came to be and how it was effected by censorship differences. The historians compare and contrast differences between each of the movies.
-"A Portrait of Danny Kaye"- (27 mins)
Great little retrospective piece on the actor, the man and the father that Danny Kaye was. Included are interviews with Kaye's daughter and Film Historians discussing Danny's upbringing, rise to fame via the stage and then his Hollywood career.
-"The Jack of Clubs: Choreographer Jack Cole"- (10 mins)
Is exactly what it's title indicates, an examination of the life and work of ON THE RIVIERA's choreographer Jack Cole and how he funneled an interesting melange of influences into his own unique and memorable style.
A quick post script: I noticed a 'Film Fact' on the back of the Blu-ray case which declares that the painting of Gene Tierney seen in ON THE RIVIERA is the same portrait of her that was used in LAURA. That's pretty cool.

THE THREE FACES OF EVE (1957; Nunnally Johnson)
I used to often associate this film as some sort of quasi sequel to the notorious Bette Davis film, but I was a fool for doing that. Unlike Davis though, this film's star Joanne Woodward did win the best actress Oscar for her portrayal here. She was apparently a relatively unknown actress at the time.
Before Sally Field dominated our multiple-personality performance consciousness with her turn in SYBIL, THE THREE FACES OF EVE was one the thing to beat. This story is based on a true case, which was at the time the most highly detailed account of what we now call Dissociative Identity Disorder known to medicine. Director Nunnally Johnson(THE MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT) based his script on a book by psychiatrists Corbett H. Thigpen and and Hervey M. Cleckley. The film even features a post credits "introduction" with a man(Alistair Cook, who also narrates the film) talking to camera, explaining that the film is very much based on a true story and what a multiple personality is. This intro was meant to give the film an extra air of credibility. Much of the dialogue is even said to be taken from the clinical records.

I find it rather fascinating and serendipitous that Joanne Woodward would really kickstart her career with this personality disorder film and that she would later play opposite George C. Scott in another personality disorder film - THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS(which is a favorite of mine). She is very very good here and it really is a part that allows her to showcase her abilities as an actress via these three different roles. It's almost like three different movies in one in some ways, and I can kind of see why some actresses may have been afraid to attempt it. Backing Woodward up, the inimitable J. Lee Cobb plays the psychiatrist in the film. It's an unusual role for him in my mind as I'm used to seeing him play heavies, but he certainly pulls it off. For me, it is actors like this in supporting parts that can help sell a story like this as well as the leads.

This Blu-ray has a lovely transfer, which exhibits Stanley Cortez's(NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS) crisp B&W cinematography in an elegant way. The disc also includes a solid commentary track from Film Historian Aubrey Solomon. Right up there with your standard Criterion Film Scholar commentary. Solomon gives a nice history of the making of the film as well as some scene specific notes. His comments are interesting and informative. Though are some small gaps, the track is pretty much wall to wall through the whole film. Very educational and worthwhile.

No comments: