Maybe I like to be cheap once in a while….

….maybe everybody does. The following scene is a classic Hollywood moment from Vincente Minnelli‘s 1952 melodrama The Bad and the Beautiful between Lana Turner and Kirk Douglas —and both prove why they are masters, though Douglas steals this one at the 3 minute mark with the classic tirade which includes the cutting: “Maybe I like to be cheap once in a while, maybe everyone does! Or don’t you remember?” Brilliant, and the “GET OUT!” at the end seals it.

I discovered Minnelli’s classic after re-watching Curtis Hanson’s 1997 film adaptation of James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential over Christmas break. (So much better than DiPalma’s shit show that was an adaptation of The Black Dahlia, which Ellroy somehow finds it in himself to defend.) L.A. Confidential is one of the masterpieces of Hollywood from the 1990s in my mind, and when reading up on the film, thank you Wikipedia,  it turns out Hanson had a mini-film festival of 1950s L.A. films to prepare the actors and crew for the period they would be immersing themselves in:

To give his cast and crew points and counterpoints to capture L.A. in the 1950s, he held a “mini-film festival,” showing one film a week: The Bad and the Beautiful, because it epitomized the glamorous Hollywood look; In a Lonely Place, because it revealed the ugly underbelly of Hollywood glamor; Don Siegel’s The Lineup and Private Hell 36, “for their lean and efficient style; and Kiss Me Deadly, because it was “so rooted in the futuristic 50s: the atomic age.” Hanson and the film’s cinematographer Dante Spinotti agreed that the film would be shot widescreen, and studied two Cinemascope films from the period: Douglas Sirk’s The Tarnished Angels and Vincente Minnelli’s Some Came Running.

Man, I can’t help but think this this kind of studying and history helps make great films. It’s like a syllabus, each film represents a thematic, stylistic, or aesthetic approach they are trying to incorporate into the actual thing they are creating. And more and more this is why I can’t fully understand the haters when it comes to Tarantino. I love the way he studies film with such a hardcore eye, and then creates from that inspiration. You can argue it’s a bit over-the-top, but the older I get the more I realize how hard it is to do any one thing well, no less a series of things based on your passion. I can’t help but admire his breadth and depth of knowledge and affectionate allusions. What’s more, Hanson seems to be operating in much the same vein as Tarantino in L.A. Confidential, and while the allusions aren’t as in-your-face, they’re still very much omnipresent, take the Pantages marqueee (right next to the Frolic Room) as a subtle homage to the films that inspired his vision:


What’s more, I can’t help but love the fact that Hanson had Russell Crowe study Sterling Hayden’s performance in  Kubrick’s The Killing “for that beefy manliness that came out of World War II.” Sterling Hayden may be the coolest looking man on the silver screen outside of Terence Stamp, and given the choice between the two I would have to go Hayden because he was a 6′ 5” badass, had six kids, sailed around the world in a boat named the Wanderer and wrote books. Anyway, here’s to directors like Tarantino and Hanson that love cinema and study their artform with a cultural critics eye!

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2 Responses to Maybe I like to be cheap once in a while….

  1. Brian says:

    The Killing has both of my favorite character actors in it… Sterling Hayden and Tim Carey.

    BTW, can’t remember if you’ve seen the Altman version of The Long Goodbye or not… but beside it being the proto-Lebowski, it also features a wild performance by Hayden.

    • Reverend says:

      I have to watch that again because I can’t really remember The Long Goodbye too well, I saw it in LA back in the early 90s, and my memory is hazy. Also, to be honest my issues with Raymond Chandler run deep, but I just read William T. Vollman’s afterword (the web is nice!) to Georges Simenon’s Dirty Snow (which is amazing) and it kind of frames Chandler in a light I’m much more fascinated by—limited by history to the moral moment he lived in, unlike Hammett. I can buy that, so all this to say I am getting the Long Goodbye this week cause I need to see Hayden and I liove you!

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