Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tonight or Never (1931), Mervyn LeRoy.

Hello front desk? I can hear the happy couple next door kissing, dammit!

This film revolves around one central event: lonely opera diva Gloria Swanson arrives on the doorstep of a stranger (and, rumour has it, gigolo to another, aging opera star) in hopes of a romantic evening. I suppose what the Hays Code would have washed out, if this had been made a few years later, would be a fairly straightforward and mature depiction of female loneliness and desire.

Don't know if 1931 movies are considered "early talkies" -- there's a noticeable lack of music, aside from a delightful zither performance on the banks of the Danube. Early treat to see how Gregg Toland (Citizen Kane cinematographer and creator of the "deep focus" technique) places the camera so that we get a visual underscore of what is going on in the script. See below for a particularly vivid example! The only thing I have ever read about Toland has been a great article by Hinton Als in the New Yorker (June 19, 2006); in it, Als points out that as early as the mid-30s, Toland "began producing his most resonant work, shooting actors with an impressionistic flair." Please write a full biography, man!

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