Thursday 24 September 2020

Roman Scandals (Frank Tuttle, 1933)

Directed by Frank Tuttle
Written by William Anthony McGuire, George Oppenheimer, Arthur Sheekman, Nat Perrin
based on the original story by George Kaufman & Robert E. Sherwood
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography: Gregg Toland, Ray June
Edited by Stuart Heisler
Eddie Cantor (Eddie/Oedipus), Gloria Stuart (Princess Sylvia), Edward Arnold (Emperor Valerius), David Manners (Josephus), Ruth Etting (Olga), Verree Teasdale (Empress Agrippa), Alan Mowbray (Majordomo), John Rutherford (Manius).
Produced by Samuel Goldwyn. Distributed by United Artists 
December 25, 1933
93 minutes

West Rome, Colorado. Eddie, a good-natured but clumsy delivery boy with a passion for Roman history, is tired of the deceit of the local authorities. Humiliated and banned from town, he daydreams and is transported to his idealised ancient Rome, where he becomes entangled in even more treacherous plots. As with the opening scene of the film, in which the Roman statues of the local museum are dressed in Eddie’s clothes, for Tuttle the story serves as a means of reconciling the old world and the new through popular entertainment.


Sunday 13 September 2020

Notes (and Images) on Frank Tuttle

"Tuttle’s importance as a communist comes from the fact, first, that he is recognized as a very capable motion picture director and, moreover, he is considered to be an excellent teacher of motion picture methods." The first serious appraisal of Frank Tuttle (1892-1963) in writing was not penned by a critic but an admiring FBI agent, who had the ‘red’ director under surveillance, adding these notes to his secret dossier.

With Bebe Daniels on location

Friday 11 September 2020

Film Composer David Raksin Testifies Against Frank Tuttle

David Raksin

It happened more than once: the HUAC interrogators pushing the interviewee to a corner, encouraging him to name director Frank Tuttle. Why so much sensitivity towards Tuttle? His name popped up on FBI's list very early on. He was successful and his name known and respected since the 1920s; he was highly educated (a Yale graduate) and sophisticated (amateur painter and sportsman); furthermore, his luxurious Beverly Hills mansion was in fact a meeting place of the members of the Communist Party. To HUAC, Tuttle was the epitome of the corrupting Red element in movie industry.

So unlike the common notion that Tuttle was a "stool pigeon", there were others who named him first. I've read at least three different movie people mentioning his name at the HUAC hearings between 1947 and 1951, including the Esquire magazine film critic Jack Moffitt.

Here's one example from September 1951 when film composer David Raksin testifies again Tuttle.

Monday 7 September 2020

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2020 - Opening Speech

Partly improvised, partly written, delivered on August 25 at Teatro Comunale di Bologna, also known as Bologna Opera House. — EK

As I'm speaking here, there is a film playing at the Jolly cinema. It's called The Star, and was directed by Stuart Heisler. It's about a washed-up movie queen who is looking for love in the ghost city of cinema. She drives along the famous streets where movie stars are supposed to live – but the streets are deserted. The actress, Margaret Elliott, played magnificently by Bette Davis, wants to get back on the big screen at any cost. The process is full of agony, humiliation and false hopes.

Like Davis’s character, most of us – for hours, days or even months – dreaded that it might never happen again. That we would never see a beam of light passing through that tiny hole in the wall. “An invention without a future,” was how one of the father figures of cinema described it. In March 2020 we began to fear that this might finally be the case. An affirmation was needed before things were lost.