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People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

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Ollie
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People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby Ollie » March 27th, 2009, 9:26 am

Over on CANDIDS, Knit said this was a 'fav-o-rite' film and it's also a strongly memorable film for me for several scenes. But there is also a construction of this film that I like, too.

It's sort of a slow-fishing-day bait-and-let-wait type of construction. We meet Finlay Currie's Shunderson and are aware that his presence is very forboding to many, but not to Dr. Cary Grant. And hearing Shunderson speak, he can go from forboding and almost heel-clickingly obedient into this soft gentler giant. Very odd. But we don't know why, and it's obvious there's a great question about his relational origins with an at-least equally mysterious Dr. Cary. And Jeanne Crain's no forthright "what you see is what you get" character either.

Everyone's got a complicated past. Everyone's got something going on that we don't know about, but we're baited into waiting for more info. And we have to sit under the tree, with this line hooked to our toes, watching the waters only slightly get stirred before we get additional glimmers.

Hume Cronyn plays another of his great mealy-weasly chiseler kind of bad guys. He's not such an obviously sinister snake-in-the-grass villain as in 1947's BRUTE FORCE, but Hume really makes me hate his villain in this film. (He's another actor who ends up with a huge variety of characters in his career.)

Walter Slezak, who has played many many slimy villains, is anything BUT in this film. Throw in Sidney Blackmer who, despite being intro'd as a pitiable character, quickly shows his admirable qualities instead.

Thank goodness for GREAT writing. Cary Grant and Jeanne Crain are the stars of this film - or at least on the marquee - but I think these other four are the real stars, the heart and core of this film. They are the engines, the wheels and the train tracks - which is even more appropriate as the film progresses.

Memorable scenes to me: of course, Number 1 is the Shunderson telling off Hume Cronyn at the climax. At a big-screen showing 5 or 6 years ago, the audience stood and cheered, then hissed and boo'd Hume one last time. Fantastic scene, so perfectly written and so well delivered.

The Train Calamity Scene is another wonderfully amusing scene, illustrating perfectly why some women insist they're married to 'boys'. And that they're fathered by 'boys'. And why they have friends that are 'boys'. I'm only sorry that Jeanne didn't insist she run the railroad "the right way". ha ha

And then Sidney Blackmer's introduction scene, on the porch and inside. A wonderful scene that could have been full of only depressing revelations but instead seems almost buoyed by the family revelations. Instead of pity or disgust, the dialog lays out all the reasons for the events, one piece at a time. Well written, well construction and well-paced scene.

This is a real 'nothing happens' film. This is only about the writing and the performances about a bunch of small people, who are never trying to achieve more than their own little goals. The pace of the film seems perfect for that, too, and congrats to the director for letting all these good pieces work together.

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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby knitwit45 » March 27th, 2009, 11:02 am

SHAZAM! I am one of those "I know what I like, but I can't really explain why" kind of movie enthusiasts, but Ollie, Ollie, Ollie....you hit it square on the head for me! Mr. Shunderson, (which was my introduction to the wonderful Finlay Currie), Walter Slezak's character (I'd only ever seen him as oily/evil), and Sydney Blackmer (Heidi's benefactor!) were all so wonderfully understated, human and sympathetic characters.

Will Wright, who started this discussion, was never more hateful than in this movie. Even the DOG hated him :shock: :shock:

The train disaster was so very funny, and the "men's" reaction was so very boyish...."No, TOOT TOOT TOOT, NOT TOOT TOOT!"

Thanks for putting into words what I knew in my heart, but couldn't pull out coherently!

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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby MissGoddess » March 27th, 2009, 11:23 am

Great movie, great post, Ollie.

Very underrated film by Mankiewicz, Grant, et al. Like you, I agree
the supporting players enrich the movie immeasurably.

I love the "novel" approach to medicine Dr. Praetorious has: "to make sick people well."

Who ever thought of that? lol

I think this movie is MORE applicable today than ever.


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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby moira finnie » March 27th, 2009, 12:10 pm

I find People Will Talk (1951) to be among this director's most interesting since it blends so many dark and light story threads together, eluded the Breen office, created a parallel to the ongoing HUAC hearings, (according to some things I've read about Joseph Mankiewicz in this period, he was also aiming his darts at Cecil B. DeMille's abortive effort to remove him from the head of the Screen Directors Guild in 1950), and managed to present a leading female who not only wasn't punished for her perceived sin, but got to marry the most handsome and suave guy in movies!

Despite the Production Code, Mankiewicz manages to slip in a running commentary on the pretensions of the medical profession, politics, academia, marital relations, and the human capacity for spite and jealousy in the film. Yet whenever I've viewed this movie, I've come away impressed with the rather novel view that the director-writer gives us of love, with all its imperfections, as the only worthwhile underlying reality.

This may sound sappy, but in the verbally deft and entertaining way that it is presented, it is quite moving. You see it in the openly expressed affection of the characters played by Cary Grant, Walter Slezak, Finlay Currie and Jeanne Crain for one another. All of them have their foibles, but forgive one another for them and, more importantly, love each other because of them, (though Grant is close to perfection, the screenwriter saves him from that fate with some well placed peevishness and childlike wonder).
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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby jdb1 » March 27th, 2009, 12:46 pm

I'm going to offer a note of dissention here -- I've never been able to warm to this movie.

First off, I think Grant looks somehow uncomfortable throughout, something very unsual for him. Secondly, I think this is a movie that never quite makes up its mind what its thesis is. Although I don't think this is really presented as a open-ended story, the movie tries to squeeze in every possible ethical ramification of every point raised, without reaching any discernible conclusions. It keeps changing its moral mind.

I frankly find the tone rather sour, and I especially find something "off" about Crain's character. Moira, what you describe in Grant's character as "peevishness and childlike wonder," I see as rather sinister. I think this is the one and only movie wherein I don't enjoy watching Cary Grant. Aside from Finaly Currie, I've never really liked any of the characters here.

It's just one of those things -- you can't like them all.

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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby moira finnie » March 27th, 2009, 1:14 pm

Hi Judith,
I think that you may be seeing Jeanne Crain's genuine discomfort. She and Mankiewicz were never simpatico and he accepted her casting in this movie and A Letter to Three Wives reluctantly. Also, Ms. Crain was pregnant with one of her seven children during filming, so perhaps she was really queasy and "off".

Grant, who expressed some trepidation with dramatic roles after None But the Lonely Heart failed to win him respect had mixed feelings about the film. He reportedly loved working with Finlay Currie, who would entertain the cast and crew with his old soft shoe routines from the turn of the century when he used to slay them in the music halls and vaudeville stages! Grant's Dr. Praetorius character and Finlay Currie's Shunderson were both drawn from a play by German writer Curt Goetz which reportedly emphasized the mysterious and sinister airs that you noted in these characters. Cary Grant, as he did repeatedly in the late '40s and early '50s tried a couple of different roles and made noises about quitting acting, but eventually went back to what he believed the public wanted from him: a variation of the Cary Grant persona in some form of romantic comedy. He apparently didn't think that the public would accept him in much else, (unless it was a Hitchcock picture, and he turned down a half dozen of those proposed projects in the '50s and '60s).

There are decent accounts of his hemming and hawing over this part, his disappointment in its box office and his conclusions about his career in Graham McCann's "Cary Grant: A Class Apart" (Columbia University Press, 1998) and Nancy Nelson's "Evenings With Cary Grant: Recollections in His Own Words and by Those Who Knew Him Best" (Citadel Press, 2003).
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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby Ollie » March 27th, 2009, 2:14 pm

I'd like to find good arguments against JDB's points, but I understand those comments. I didn't warm to this on the first or second viewing. I think the "showdown" climax was the only scene I kept recalling, and the strange story about how somone's finger ends up in someone else's mouth.

This is also a film like many of my favorites that I no longer notice 'the stars' - for me, it's all about the supporting characters. Will Wright's hateful character is rather typical for him. I wonder how those people felt about being so type-cast? When Will Wright gets to play a pussy-cat, it's always a good moment.

I think that screen cap of the 3 men - just look at the venom and anger in that one little snippet. It's SO perfect. These men could have guns at each other's bellies, ready to blow each other apart. They could have been destroying each other's villages just a few seconds before that. Those incredibly angry looks, however, are part of what makes that scene SO memorable. Very grown men, their best laid plans destroyed in a toy-train-wreck, finally move into the other room, and onto other issues. Toot toot toot.

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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby jdb1 » March 27th, 2009, 3:32 pm

I think what's just been said above defines the problem I have with this movie: perhaps it's that the individual aspects of it, which are so obviously appealing to some of us, do not equal the whole. There is a disjointed aspect to this movie that bothers me, as though it were cobbled together from several unrelated sources. I don't know if it's the failing of the writing, the direction or the editing, or perhaps all three departments were never quite on the same page, and could never quite achieve the cohesion they wanted.

I think I knew that Crain was actually pregnant at this time and that she wasn't happy during the filming, but that's certainly gives me one more reason not to want to see this movie again.

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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby mrsl » March 31st, 2009, 2:22 pm

As I read Ollie's post and those that followed it, I felt there was nothing more I could say because I agree he hit the nail on the head with his character studies. THEN . . . I got to Judith's post and burst out laughing. JDB and I agree on probably 95% of what she posts. Often when she, moirafinnie or lzcutter, respond before I do, I have nothing left to say, so I just go on to the next thread. In any case, I was so sure that JDB was going to offer more congrats, that I laughed at myself more than at her. I, also see her point, but this little gem has long been a quiet favorite of mine. Quite often when I cannot find anything to my taste to watch, I will pop in my copy of People Will Talk because I know it will lift my spirits if they need it. The beep, beep, beep scene brings tears of laughter to my eyes every time, between their facial looks and the sound of grown men and their beep, beep, beeps. I also give a woo-woo sign to Saunderson when he dresses down the 'little man'. But I love the rousing ending with that song- you can beat me with a wet noodle for not knowing where it comes from, but although I've heard it hundreds of times, I never heard what it is, I assume it's from Harvard's glee club or some such thing as that is what it sounds like.

Anne
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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby Vienna » October 30th, 2012, 4:52 pm

Worth watching if only for Finlay Currie's "Shunderson" and his story of how he escaped death. - that wonderful accent.
Hume Cronyn did what he could with an unsympathetic character. And as much as I love Cary Grant I tend to agree he seemed not quite comfortable with his character and underplayed it to the extent, the character seems a little grey.

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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby RedRiver » May 30th, 2013, 12:16 pm

I'm pulling up old threads today. Nothing else to do. This is a fine and sophisticated comedy...or drama. I'm not sure which. That's one of the things I like about it! Like most Mankiewicz films, the story is told in words, not pictures. He didn't have the visual poetry of a Ford or a Hawks. But the dialogue is clever and challenging. The story thoughtful and smart.

I tend to compare this film to George Stevens THE TALK OF THE TOWN. Maybe it's just the title. The presence of Cary Grant. Mankiewicz' film is the better of the two. Where one leans toward romantic whimsy (hard to avoid when Jean Arthur is on board), the other is more serious. More real. I like PEOPLE WILL TALK.

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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby MissGoddess » May 30th, 2013, 2:14 pm

i like it, too. in fact, it's one of my favorite cary grant movies though i've read somewhere that he wasn't pleased with it (possibly because it didn't do too well in the box office). love the choo-choo scene. was walter slezak ever so lovable?
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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby moira finnie » May 30th, 2013, 8:17 pm

MissGoddess wrote:was walter slezak ever so lovable?

Yes, he was a darling in this role, but I am not an objective observer. I grew up with Walter Slezak narrating Peter and the Wolf on a record (remember those?). No one--not even Sterling Holloway's version of Prokofiev's classic by way of Disney--can make me see the magic of this music the way that he did. Miss G., if you like Slezak, you might want to read What Time Is the Next Swan, his autobiography in which he writes about Hollywood but also most disarmingly about his charmed youth in Vienna (where his father, opera singer Leo Slezak, was a world famous tenor). I was shocked when I was old enough to realize he was that Nazi in Hitchcock's Lifeboat.

Have you ever seen him when he was young and beautiful in Carl Theodor Dreyer's Michael (1924)? Walter plays an older artist's inspiration/obsession. In the picture below Slezak is on the right and Benjamin Christiansen is his mentor, tormented by the youth's need to live outside of his studio. This film's homoerotic overtones made it rather notorious at the time of its release, but the story was just as much a mediation on creativity and the artist. This beautifully made film shows up on the TCM schedule occasionally.
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While working in theater and films, Slezak became friendly with a certain Michael Kertész aka Michael Curtiz. Wonder what ever happened to him?
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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby MissGoddess » May 30th, 2013, 8:32 pm

Honestly, Moira, I learn more from you about the movies than Robert Osborne (shhhhh...you didn't hear me say that, Robert! :D )

For some reason I'm not surprised to learn that Slezak came from a gifted and culturally rich background. His wit and comfort with the finer things in life really shine in this movie. He's so different to the Nazi in Lifeboat that I'm sure for years I had no idea they were the same man. Only the voice pegs him now.

However I'd never have pegged him even if Michael were a soundie by that picture!! Whistling at Walter! This evidently was before all too many brats and sauerkraut (from a barrel, not a can).

Your mention of Peter and the Wolf took me straight back to grade school music class and how our teacher would sometimes play a record of this classic as a treat if time was left over at the end of the period. I'm afraid I have no idea which version was used but I like to think it could have been Walter's. I know it enchanted me as it did you.
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Re: People Will Talk (1951 d-Mankiewicz)

Postby mrsl » May 30th, 2013, 11:56 pm

.
Although I responded on this film, I'm surprised I never came out with guns blazing to exclaim what a terrific movie it is. People Will Talk has always been in my top 10, favorite comedies. bit then again, it can also be classified as a drama. As for Jeanne Crain not being up to par in this. I think that was due to the character she was playing. The girl was confused, embarrassed, worried and terribly unhappy for the first 3/4 hour. Even after her marriage, she wasn't 100% sure it was for love or just kindness - hence the scene in the bedroom with the letter when he finally convinced her that he loved her and her baby. Cary, himself was, I believe a little put off over the outcome of the script. I believe he went into it thinking it was going to be a light romantic comedy, then it turned into a sort of jealousy prodded scandalization. I agree that Findlay Currie, Walter Slezak, and Hume Cronyn were in top form for their roles although a bit repetitious or stereotyped.

But, all in all, I feel this film offers something to everyone - a bit of mystery, romance, envy, and comedy. If you've never seen it, try to catch it next time it's on, but be sure to watch from the very beginning, or you may not get what is going on later.
.
Anne


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