Glenn Ford

Superman (1978, Richard Donner), the extended cut

The extended version of Superman runs three hours and eight minutes, approximately forty-five minutes longer than the theatrical version (Richard Donner’s director’s cut only runs eight minutes longer than the theatrical). The extended version opens with a disclaimer: the producers prepared this version of the film for television broadcasts (three hours plus means two nights). The director was not involved.

Neither, one must assume, was original editor Stuart Baird because I’m not sure anyone could stand to see their work so butchered. Superman’s already had one somewhat inglorious revision–the director’s cut–and this extended version takes it one step further. Scenes will now drag on and on as actors try one more line. The subtly of the cuts, which enhance the performances, is either gone or severely hampered. The John Williams music is rearranged to fit the lengthened scenes and sequences, with no attention paid to how the music fits the scenes.

Worse, padding the film out changes the emphases. Margot Kidder is far less relevant (Christopher Reeve’s Superman as well) because most of the added footage is Gene Hackman and company. In addition to introducing Lex Luthor (Hackman) as a piano-playing crooner, the extended edition has all sorts of physical humor and lame jokes for Hackman’s sidekicks, Ned Beatty and Valerie Perrine. Perrine gets a little more character–in fact, she’s the only actor who benefits from the extended material–while Beatty gets a lot less. The constant jokes make his presence drag, especially since he and Hackman aren’t funny with the physical humor.

The extended edition does explain a few things, like why Larry Hagman isn’t with the missile on Hackman and company’s second attempt at it. And Chief Tug Smith gets a whole subplot. In the other versions of Superman, he gets maybe a line or two in an interview with Kidder.

And there’s more at the beginning on Krypton. With everyone except Brando and Susannah York–though, wow, you forget how amazing they are together in their one scene. So good.

Actually, the extended version starts just fine. Terence Stamp’s microexpressions are preserved as well as Baird’s exquisite cuts between them. Then there’s a little more dialogue, here and there, with Brando and the other council members. The scene starts to drag and instead of the drag being corrected, it just gets worse. All the added lines are superfluous (as the two successful versions of the film attest).

Then the flying guard out to bust Brando for using too much power shows up. It’s a pointless addition–I assume it got cut because they couldn’t get the special effects to work or just decided it was a waste of time. But the producers want to waste some time with this cut. Well, executive producers. Original producer Pierre Spengler apparently didn’t have anything to do with bloating the film out. Ilya and Alexander Salkind, however, wanted to get it to those two nights for television.

Most of the added material–after the three major additions (Krypton, Hackman and company, Smith and the Native Americans)–is surplus dialogue. Lines no one would’ve kept. Including the actors. Besides Hackman seeming lost in the slapstick, Glenn Ford’s got a real awkward added line and can’t get any traction out of it. Though the extended scenes of the Daily Planet are interesting. They’re still too long.

After the surplus dialogue, the Salkinds threw in a lot of establishing shots. Lots of second unit. Lots of unfinished special effects–like during the way too long destruction of Krypton. Or special effects director Donner wisely cut just because they didn’t look any good even when finished. There’s some great helicopter footage of New York City though. Sorry, Metropolis. And, actually, Smallville too. It just doesn’t do anything.

Except add time. As scenes play long, even unpadded scenes start to drag–the mono soundtrack with the rearranged score doesn’t help–and subplots stop developing. Kidder disappears for way too long. Reeve gets some added material, which starts the character in a mildly new direction, but then there’s nothing else. The extended material is dead weight. Even when it’s good for character development, like with Perrine. And, to a lesser extent, Marc McClure.

Superman: The Movie: The Extended Cut is a swell curiosity, but nothing more. Maybe it really should be seen in two parts. Except, of course, it’s not like the Salkinds tried to do anything to make it feel like a two-part story either. Because their additive editing is disastrous and an ignoble diss to the film, its cast, and its crew. Not to mention the screenwriters, who clearly wrote some rather wordy, rather unnecessary lines.

However, if you’re a Fawlty Towers fan… Bruce Boa (from “Waldorf Salad”) does show up for a second and gets very angry. There’s also more John Ratzenberger, if you’re an avid Cliff fan.

Anyway. Editing is important. So is not purposely bloating out a film. The extra forty-five minutes are kryptonite to Superman.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Donner; screenplay by Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman and Robert Benton, story by Puzo, from characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; creative consultant, Tom Mankiewicz; director of photography, Geoffrey Unsworth; edited by Stuart Baird and Michael Ellis; music by John Williams; production designer, John Barry; produced by Alexander Salkind and Pierre Spengler; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Marlon Brando (Jor-El), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Christopher Reeve (Superman/Clark Kent), Ned Beatty (Otis), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Glenn Ford (Pa Kent), Trevor Howard (First Elder), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Jack O’Halloran (Non), Valerie Perrine (Eve Teschmacher), Maria Schell (Vond-ah), Terence Stamp (General Zod), Phyllis Thaxter (Ma Kent), Susannah York (Lara), Jeff East (Young Clark Kent), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), Sarah Douglas (Ursa) and Harry Andrews (Second Elder).


Dear Heart (1964, Delbert Mann)

Dear Heart starts awkwardly and ends awkwardly. At the beginning, director Mann and writer Tad Mosel are very deliberately setting up their protagonists and the setting. The awkwardness makes sense. That very solid foundation allows for everything following. The ending, which plays–at least for Geraldine Page’s character–like a reverse of the opening for a while, doesn’t get to use that excuse. After almost two hours of extremely careful plotting and deliberate planning, Mosel doesn’t use what he’s been setting up. It’s very disappointing.

Mosel gets away with a lot so it might just be one thing too many. He plots this film over two and a half days–Page is in New York for a convention, Glenn Ford has just accepted a promotion at a firm there–and Mosel is able to throw all sorts of wonky ideas into the mix. Newly engaged Ford gets to contend with his future step-son crashing (Michael Anderson Jr. is fantastic in the role).

So Ford’s conflicts are both internal and external. He does great work in both areas, but Page’s are all internal. And her character is an extreme extrovert–the way Mosel works in how she talks about herself when just meeting someone is amazing–but all of that conflict, Page doesn’t get to say it. She shows it in this extraordinary expressions.

Mann’s direction is good, script’s great, Page and Ford are great. Dear Heart’s great. It’s just not perfect; I guess it doesn’t have to be.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Delbert Mann; written by Tad Mosel; director of photography, Russell Harlan; edited by Folmer Blangsted; music by Henry Mancini; produced by Martin Manulis; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Glenn Ford (Harry Mork), Geraldine Page (Evie Jackson), Angela Lansbury (Phyllis), Michael Anderson Jr. (Patrick), Barbara Nichols (June Loveland), Patricia Barry (Mitchell), Charles Drake (Frank Taylor), Richard Deacon (Mr. Cruikshank) and Neva Patterson (Connie Templeton).


The Secret of Convict Lake (1951, Michael Gordon)

The Secret of Convict Lake is a depressing affair. I knew it was Glenn Ford and Gene Tierney, but Ethel Barrymore’s in it too. So you have these three fantastic actors—Ford and Tierney even muster enough chemistry to accomplish their ludicrous romance—and an otherwise lousy Western.

The film opens and closes with some useless narration, which probably should have given away the narrative problems, but it also has these great snow sequences. Unfortunately, those sequences are about as open as the film gets. The titular lake is never seen on screen and most of the film plays out in stagy scenes. Oscar Saul’s script is weak, but not so weak a good director couldn’t have done something with it. Gordon’s composition is, generously, inept. Some of the problems might have to do with the sound stages… but, really, he’s not much of a director. When the film opens up slightly at the end and goes on location, the composition gets even worse. Leo Tover’s photography might play some fault too. Sol Kaplan’s score certainly does; it’s awful.

Then there’s the supporting cast. Zachary Scott is half-okay, mostly terrible as the lead villain. Cyril Cusack, Richard Hylton and Jack Lambert are all bad as his sidekicks. Hylton, in particular, is laughably bad (as a psychopath).

Most of the female actors are fine; except Ann Dvorak and her histrionics.

It’s a shame Fox didn’t team Ford, Tierney and Barrymore in a good picture.

Convict Lake’s a long eighty minutes.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Gordon; screenplay by Oscar Saul, based on an adaptation by Victor Trivas and a story by Anna Hunger and Jack Pollexfen; director of photography, Leo Tover; edited by James B. Clark; music by Sol Kaplan; produced by Frank P. Rosenberg; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Glenn Ford (Jim Canfield), Gene Tierney (Marcia Stoddard), Ethel Barrymore (Granny), Zachary Scott (Johnny Greer), Ann Dvorak (Rachel Schaeffer), Barbara Bates (Barbara Purcell), Cyril Cusack (Edward ‘Limey’ Cockerell), Richard Hylton (Clyde Maxwell), Helen Westcott (Susan Haggerty), Jeanette Nolan (Harriet Purcell), Ruth Donnelly (Mary Fancher) and Harry Carter (Rudy Schaeffer).


Superman (1978, Richard Donner), the director’s cut

If watching Richard Donner’s director’s cuts have taught me one thing, it’s Donner probably shouldn’t have final cut. His director’s cut of Lethal Weapon, for example, is atrocious.

He adds about nine minutes to Superman and, much like Coppola’s revision of Apocalypse Now, it’s a testament to the original film it can weather the additions. For the most part, Donner’s additions are small–I think the longest sequence is Superman versus Lex Luthor’s weapon gadgets–but these additions all go into the rather iconic sequences at the beginning of the film. In other words, Donner intrudes on the film in progress… it’s kind of like talking during the movie (or a big CG Jabba the Hutt all of a sudden appearing).

Worse, director’s cut editor Michael Thau can’t compare to original editor Stuart Baird (Superman‘s just an exquisitely edited film, an aspect I don’t think it ever gets recognized). And don’t get me started on the awful new sound mix.

But it can’t muck it up.

If anything, the director’s cut just shows Superman is bigger than the director and his troubles with the producers. The elements–the cast, the script, the effects crew and John Williams–are in place. Donner does a great job directing the picture, no doubt, but it’s never fit in his filmography. He’s never made anything half as good as a film and nothing a quarter as good as a director.

So, even though none of the additions add anything, Superman succeeds.

Wonderment outweighs bloating.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Donner; screenplay by Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman and Robert Benton, story by Puzo, from characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; creative consultant, Tom Mankiewicz; director of photography, Geoffrey Unsworth; edited by Stuart Baird and Michael Ellis; music by John Williams; production designer, John Barry; produced by Alexander Salkind and Pierre Spengler; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Marlon Brando (Jor-El), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Christopher Reeve (Superman/Clark Kent), Ned Beatty (Otis), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Glenn Ford (Pa Kent), Trevor Howard (First Elder), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Jack O’Halloran (Non), Valerie Perrine (Eve Teschmacher), Maria Schell (Vond-ah), Terence Stamp (General Zod), Phyllis Thaxter (Ma Kent), Susannah York (Lara), Jeff East (Young Clark Kent), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), Sarah Douglas (Ursa) and Harry Andrews (Second Elder).



This film is also discussed in Sum Up | Superman.

The Fastest Gun Alive (1956, Russell Rouse)

The Fastest Gun Alive–to put it mildly and politely–is a turkey. I thought, given Glenn Ford in the lead, it was going to be at least a decent Western… but it’s not. Ford’s great (more on him later), but the script is atrocious. It’s rare to see a script so fail its cast; to the point there’s nothing they can do except ride the tide until it’s over. Russell Rouse isn’t much of a director either. He had a couple okay shots, but he seems far bettered suited for television. He doesn’t bring any personality to the visuals. As a director of actors, he’s a disaster. He can’t figure out how to shoot Jeanne Crain’s concerned wife shots and the performance Broderick Crawford gives is awful from the start. Only at the end, when Crawford gets to tread water for a while, is he all right. At the beginning, not even in speaking scenes, he’s terrible.

The script’s a silly revision on High Noon, an idiotic examination of cowardice. The Fastest Gun Alive does have some interesting elements, but they’re unrecognized. Ford’s character isn’t presented as a coward until after a big revelation scene, so before it, he just comes off as a weak-willed man who succumbs to peer pressure. Ford and Crain play these scenes beautifully–going through the film with those assumptions about Ford almost make him the villain, as he abandons pregnant Crain for his fellow men’s image of him. Then there’s Crawford’s character, who–we learn in the last act–is a villain (a fast-drawing villain, of course) simply because his wife left him for a Faro dealer. He’s overcompensating. Unfortunately, this detail is revealed after Crawford’s palled around with a kid, which added some depth to the character. The revelation just explains it.

But Rouse and co-writer Frank D. Gilroy aren’t interested in subtlety or rewarding a participating viewer. They’ve got a generic western and they follow it. The wheel ruts going through the town become a metaphor for the entire picture.

There is some further atrociousness, however. Not satisfied with a seventy-two minute picture, Rouse puts poor Russ Tamblyn on display for an involved, acrobatic dance sequence. It’s amazing what Tamblyn could do, he was a flexible guy, but it not only doesn’t further the story, it degrades Tamblyn. Besides that sequence, he doesn’t have a character. He’s around occasionally, but all as an excuse for a three or four minute dance routine. He’s good in the three or four unrelated deliveries he has. I hope he got paid well for it.

Rouse pads in other places too… introducing useless supporting characters and contrived relationships. Even with all the dressing, The Fastest Gun Alive is anorexic. The most interesting possibilities–like why Crain stuck with Ford for so long or how she got together with him in the first place–are never discussed, because it might reveal the big revelation too early.

There’s a brief moment, in the last scene, when the film could overcome all its defects and really be something, really put forth an idea, really make a statement about violence and the way people interact with each other, the responsibilities of community.

It doesn’t.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Russell Rouse; screenplay by Frank D. Gilroy and Rouse, based on a story by Gilroy; director of photography, George J. Folsey; edited by Harry V. Knapp and Ferris Webster; music by André Previn; produced by Clarence Greene; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Glenn Ford (George Temple), Jeanne Crain (Dora Temple), Broderick Crawford (Vinnie Harold), Russ Tamblyn (Eric Doolittle), Allyn Joslyn (Harvey Maxwell), Leif Erickson (Lou Glover), John Dehner (Taylor Swope) and Noah Beery Jr. (Dink Wells).


Superman (1978, Richard Donner)

I love how the end of Superman, with the spinning back of the earth, causes so much trouble for people. My fiancée–before Marlon Brando had even gotten the kid into the spaceship–made me stop the movie twice (I had to tell her to stop, though I love her line about Superman having just as many plot holes as the Bible) to make observations about its inconsistency. So, two major inconsistencies in the first ten minutes. I was more concentrated on Krypton’s apparent lack of atmosphere and the effect it’d have on the three criminals (wouldn’t they suffocate before the Phantom Zone got them?). My point being, Superman is rife with dramatic inconsistencies and silliness, the world-turning being one of the lesser ones.

I’ve probably seen Superman six times as an adult, maybe seven (this viewing is the fourth time since 2001), so it’s kind of hard to write about it like it’s tomorrow’s bread. I notice things, every time I watch, and sometimes I’ve noticed them before and sometimes I think I have or haven’t. Superman‘s an incredibly watchable film, because it works so damn well–I can’t think of a film where the music was more important than this one. John Williams’s score literally makes the film. Something about the epical storytelling and Donner’s use of cranes and his short on dialogue, but not short in running time scenes, makes Williams’s music essential. Without it, Superman wouldn’t just not work, it’d be funny looking. There’s music for most of the movie, with the exception of the Daily Planet scenes. The other superior technical aspect of the film is the editing. Donner shot some great coverage for the film and editor Stuart Baird puts it all together beautifully–that scene in the cornfield and the Superman finding Lois in the car scene are both editorially magnificent. I never thought about it before, but in a certain way (not narratively) Superman‘s got a lot in common with 2001.

Other things I noticed this time was Donner’s great close-ups of Terence Stamp at the beginning, which I’m sure I’d noticed before, but never really appreciated, especially since it’s a movie called Superman‘s first real scene. Glenn Ford gets better with each viewing… The infamous “Can You Read My Mind?” flying dance number, which has become, in the last couple viewings, my favorite scene in the film. Also a big fan of the interview scene and the helicopter scene from the cinematography angle. I think the last time I watched it, I appreciated Superman ignoring Marlon Brando for Glenn Ford (something Bryan Singer ditched in the latest “sequel”), and I appreciated it again this time.

It’s amazing to me, the film I’ve seen, man and boy, fifteen or twenty times, about a flying guy in blue tights, still has so much to offer.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Donner; screenplay by Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman and Robert Benton, story by Puzo, from characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; creative consultant, Tom Mankiewicz; director of photography, Geoffrey Unsworth; edited by Stuart Baird and Michael Ellis; music by John Williams; production designer, John Barry; produced by Alexander Salkind and Pierre Spengler; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Marlon Brando (Jor-El), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Christopher Reeve (Superman/Clark Kent), Ned Beatty (Otis), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Glenn Ford (Pa Kent), Trevor Howard (First Elder), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Jack O’Halloran (Non), Valerie Perrine (Eve Teschmacher), Maria Schell (Vond-ah), Terence Stamp (General Zod), Phyllis Thaxter (Ma Kent), Susannah York (Lara), Jeff East (Young Clark Kent), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), Sarah Douglas (Ursa) and Harry Andrews (Second Elder).



This film is also discussed in Sum Up | Superman.

Interrupted Melody (1955, Curtis Bernhardt)

Interrupted Melody is an interesting example of economic storytelling. The film covers about ten years, has a number of strong character relationships, but moves gently through all of it. It’s got moments where there isn’t any dialogue, just the look between characters, it’s got a great love story–and, even better, a great struggling marriage. Director Bernhardt deserves a lot of the credit–for example, he knows just how long to let these scenes go and the first date between Eleanor Parker and Glenn Ford does better in five minutes what most films–most good films–spend twenty doing. It’s not just Bernhardt though. Interrupted Melody was co-written by Sonya Levien, who also worked on The Cowboy and the Lady and it had similarly perfect pacing.

Most of Interrupted Melody is a showcase for its actors, whether it’s Parker or Ford or even a young (and good-looking) Roger Moore. The film’s structure varies in focus–for instance, there’s a large part where Ford is the protagonist over Parker–but manages the transitions back and forth beautifully. So beautifully, in fact, I don’t even recall the first transition. The second, later one, I still do….

Besides being Parker’s best performance (probably, at least in the lead), Interrupted Melody has a great Glenn Ford performance. Ford never gets the proper respect–search for him on IMDb and the first title to come up is Superman, but he’s really good, especially in this, mid-1950s period of his career. Melody‘s not out on DVD, but it does run occasionally on TCM. TCM has their wonderful database, which allows you to vote for films for Warner Bros. to release on DVD. Like Interrupted Melody, for example.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Curtis Bernhardt; written by William Ludwig and Sonya Levien; directors of photography, Joseph Ruttenberg and Paul Vogel; edited by John D. Dunning; produced by Jack Cummings; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Glenn Ford (Dr. Thomas King), Eleanor Parker (Marjorie Lawrence), Roger Moore (Cyril Lawrence), Cecil Kellaway (Bill Lawrence), Peter Leeds (Dr. Ed Ryson), Evelyn Ellis (Clara), Walter Baldwin (Jim Owens), Ann Codee (Madame Gilly), Leopold Sachse (Himself) and Stephen Bekassy (Count Claude des Vignaux).


This film is also discussed in Sum Up | Eleanor Parker, Part 2: Technicolor.
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