Hugh Martin is best known for his score for the 1944 musical Meet Me In St. Louis. Judy Garland sang three of his songs, The Trolley Song, The Boy Next Door, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. This is what he had to say in City Secrets Movies:
Passion (Madame DuBarry)
Vincente Minnelli and Fred Zinnemann
Night of the Hunter
Tree Grows in Brooklyn
My love affair with movies began early--too early,
as it turned out, because my first experience occurred when I was six years
old, and it was a disaster. My poor, unsuspecting mother took me to see a
silent movie called Passion. Pola
Negri played Madame du Barry. When they dragged her to the guillotine she
pleaded with the French revolutionaries for her life. "Don't kill me!" the
title card screamed. "Life is so sweet!"
Now it was my turn to scream: convinced that I was
right there, in the middle of the Place de la Bastille, I was carried out of
the theater shrieking at the top of my lungs. Mother rushed me home, put me to
bed, and phoned for the doctor, but all to no avail; I hollered for several
Through the years I continued to over-respond. (In
fact, I do so to this day.) But I learned to control myself sufficiently so
that I didn't have to be removed-that was the last thing I wanted. In spite of
my terror attack during Passion, a
1919 German film by director Ernst Lubitsch, I have never found a place more
desirable than a movie theater.
Another silent film that made a lasting impression
on me was D. W. Griffith's Broken
Blossoms (1919). This was--and is--a film of great richness. It is rich in
beauty, as visually lovely as a lotus blossom. It is rich in emotion, too; the
performances Griffith brought forth from Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess
are more powerful than anything the screen offers today.
Moving into movies with sound, William Dieterle's
first American film was The Last Flight
(produced by First National in 1931). In an interview in The New York Times, Dieterle stated that
regardless of all the awards lavished on him later, The Last Flight was the movie he believed to be his best. I agree
wholeheartedly. We find Mr. Barthelmess again in this one, and his leading
lady--the ethereally beautiful Helen Chandler--is every bit as sensitive as Ms.
Gish. John Monk Saunders, a popular novelist of the 1920s, wrote the
screenplay. His style is reminiscent of Hemingway, but I like him better.
Hemingway goes for the jugular; Saunders goes for the heart.
The best musical of all time came from Paramount in
1932: Love Me Tonight. Director Rouben Mamoulian
gave Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald a luster that sparkles as
brightly today as it did then (if you can find a good print). Don't bother
searching for better songs than those Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote for
Maurice and Jeanette, because there are none. "Lover," "Isn't It Romantic?" and
"The Son of a Gun is Nothing But a Tailor"--all of the songs are unsurpassable.
Another fine Mamoulian film is Applause (Paramount, 1929). I became addicted to Helen Morgan when
she sang "Bill" in Show Boat, so
Mamoulian's hunch that she had the making of a great dramatic actress thrilled
and fascinated me. Her performance, under Mamoulian's loving direction, is
Only Judy Garland came closest to the place in my
heart occupied by Helen Morgan. There's nothing esoteric about Judy's movies.
Most of them were commercial as well as artistic blockbusters and need no help
from me in attracting attention. However, The
Clock (MGM, 1945) did become slightly lost in the shuffle. Too bad, because
her acting had never been stronger. It was the second time she teamed with
Vincente Minnelli, and he found depths of feeling in his wife (they married
shortly after making The Clock) that
none of her other work has quite matched. And Robert Walker's performance is
Charles Laughton directed only one movie, The Night of the Hunter (1955). It was received without
excitement by critics, and this wounded Mr. Laughton so deeply that he never
put on the director's hat again. Our loss, more than his. I find it a
breathtakingly original film, with ingenious directorial touches and wonderful
performances by Robert Mitchum, two splendid child actors, Shelley Winters, and
the inimitable Lillian Gish. Good actresses don't die; they just get better.
Did you happen to see The Good Fairy? If you did, I don't have to tell you what a charmer
it is. Preston Sturges wrote the screenplay in 1935 for Universal. He adapted
it from a play by Ferenc Molnár,
turning it into a vehicle for Margaret Sullavan. Although Sturges wasn't the
director, it has many of the earmarks of a Sturges comedy masterpiece: the
hilarious dialogue, the sweetness, and the stable of great character actors he
loved to assemble (Frank Morgan, Reginald Owen, Alan Hale, Beulah Bondi, and
Eric Blore). This is Morgan's best and funniest performance, and Herbert
Marshall scores beautifully as the inamorato
of Luisa Gingelbusher (Sullavan). William Wyler directed it with his usual
skill and taste; Sturges himself couldn't have done it better.
Elia Kazan directed his share of blockbusters, but
the film of his that I cherish the most is A
Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945). James Dunn, Dorothy McGuire, and Joan
Blondell are superb; but it's the portrayal of young Francie by Peggy Ann
Garner that knocks me out every time I watch it, year after year. With due
respect to Judy Garland, Jackie Cooper, Margaret O'Brien, and Shirley Temple, I
believe it to be the best juvenile performance ever.
POSTED BY Robert Kahn on June 28th 2010 | Add a comment