Saturday, June 6, 2009

the evil midnight genre what stalks at midnight

That damnable film genre -- 1920s stage plays made into early 1930s movies -- is stalking me again, this time in the form of a film THAT NEVER WAS A PLAY. Well, not until Grahame Greene's 1970s version. But I still recognize the genre when I see it, even if it's in disguise. You bet I do.

"Raffles", the 1930 movie starring Ronald Colman and Kay Francis, isn't all that bad. It's pretty predictable though and some of the supporting cast -- including David Torrence, older brother of Ernest Torrence -- is really awful. I can't believe David Torrence's Scots accent was genuine, it was so completely awful. And both of the Torrence brothers freak me the fuck out. I hate seeing them, they scare me. It's not rational, but there you have it.

The best part of "Raffles" are the few really good sets, designed by my boyfriend William Cameron Menzies and filmed by my other boyfriend, Greg Toland. Just look at this set. Look at that font in the sign at top. Look at those curtains. That floor! It was hard to see in this screencap (my caps aren't very sharp nowadays, since I don't have Beloved Lappy right now) but that door is a lovely art deco iron-and-glass design.

Colman and Francis were, of course, ridiculously glamorous and lovely and fun to watch. Alison Skipworth, as the large and elderly Lady Kitty, was in the tightest gown I've ever seen. If she'd just had a bra it would have been better, but as Pauline Weston Thomas notes:
Big busted girls turned to bandaging their breasts flat, but many adopted the Symington Side Lacer, a bra that could be laced at both sides and pulled and pulled in to flatten the chest.

None of the bras gave much shape, but few ladies were seeking anything more than stopping the bust from wobbling...

Which is clearly what was going on here. Very disconcerting. I don't know why I think about these things when I watch movies, but I do.

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