Sunday, March 1, 2009

Long day's Journey to the Sunday Matinee

Get out the Goobers.

Today we feature 1931's Strange Interlude, starring Norma Shearer and Clark Gable, based on some god awful Eugene O'Neill play. (They can't all be Long Day's Journey, you know. Even Long Day's Journey probably isn't Long Day's Journey, but I just love Ralph Richardson.)

Norma Shearer is married, but has a fling with Gable's Dr. Ned Darrell (O'Neill had apparently run out of surnames). A baby results, raised as the child of Norma and her husband. Through the magic of white chalk dust, everyone ages, I don't know, five or six decades. And the child starts out as David Copperfield, but ends up as Marcus Welby. That's all I remember.

Except the soliloquies. You must click on this link to see the inner thoughts of our hero and heroine. (Here's what's strange about this interlude: the inner thoughts sound amazingly like those old coffee commercials where Ted never had a second cup at home.)


  1. A bit of a "ring around the collar" waft as well. Did you know they remade this movie? I think it was for television.

  2. Wow, what a great find. I'd never seen this film before. Those inner monologues are hysterical.

    I think the O'Neill play ran about four hours. Yikes.

  3. Awesome! You must have seen "Now Voyager." It doesn't have inner thoughts vocalized, but has some great lines, like "Why ask for the moon when can have the stars!" (Maining: So what if we can't get married, because your crazy wife refuses to divorce, we can still smoke in bed together.)

  4. I love "Now Voyager". The scene where Paul Henreid lights up the two cigalettes is just unforgettable.
    The YouTube clip from Strange Interlude is like being able to actually hear the thoughts of people who are stoned and secretly wondering where the peanut butter jar is.

  5. Four hours? What cheek.

    Smoking in bed, peanut butter -- when something something's fancy turns to spring...

    I've been working in the garden and have come to the conclusion those beets I've been growing are actually kale. What cheek again.

  6. OMG - I can't believe it. I wore an identical dress at my daughter's 10th birthday party.

  7. Strange Interlude Tanka

    growing older
    life passed me by
    time doesn't change her beauty

    I must pretend I didn't see her
    I must never let her know

  8. Even tho my WV ("Word Verification") doesn't meet my high standards for pithiness (or cheek) I have to say that "Giant" in my opinion wins the chalk dust (flour?)in the hair award for "Least Convincing Device to Make Me Think Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor Are Really Old".

    And speaking of preposterous, "Vertigo" has now come on TCM.

    (Didn't Eugene O'Neill write a play that was so long it was to be watched over the course of two nights?)

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Wim Wenders' "Until The End Of The World" has a 6.5 hour version.

    I love in Voyager how smoking is the symbol of Bette Davis' emancipation from her overbearing mother. And sex, of course. You come a long way, baby!

    (Previous post removed due to ugly typos.)

  11. You caused me to get lost in reading about Eugene O'Neill. Presently, I desire to travel up to Danville and visit Tao House.

    Norma Shearer was always the same in every one of her pictures; so veddy veddy fine, and yet her screen breakups often end with a big fat tonsil sucking kiss.

    My matinee today is Chelsea Walls (2001)directed by Ethan Hawke, a relative of Tennessee Williams, another depressed and drunk playwright like O'Neill. In this film the inner thoughts are presented as lackluster dialogue. After screening your clip of Strange Interlude, the insight hit; all of the characters in Chelsea Walls need to STFU and just think in VO.

    How is the banana? I planted a sweet potato vine today.

    Oh, and Robert Z. Leonard of Chicago, Illinois is the genius that directed Strange Interlude-but he didn't want a credit (snort!)

  12. Robert Z. Leonard is wise to remain anonymous.

    Is it sacrilege to say (or just obvious) that whoever wrote the Strange Interlude screenplay is the poster child for "As you know, Bob," horrid exposition? Yack ack bad bad ack.

    And this *is* sacrilege because I worship Clark Gable, but perhaps he knew the script was dreck and it pained him to say it. It shows in his acting.

  13. I was reading about the play. It was just over four hours, and often was staged in either two consecutive nights, or starting in the afternoon with an intermission break for dinner. In the play, the actors spoke their inner thoughts to the audience, and sometimes used masks for when they were doing the inner monologue stuff.

  14. Wow, the screenwriters for this film -- Bess Meredyth and Gardner Sullivan -- had some serious career stability. They wrote about a bazillion scripts starting in 1910 and going through the 1970s. That makes William Goldman look like an amateur.

  15. I can see how this would have worked on stage as a kind of interesting experiment. It might have been interesting to have the actors speak directly to the camera, instead of doing the voice-over thing.

    At The Second City, we used to do this as a comic improvisation. You improvise a scene with your scene partner, then share your inner thoughts with the audience. It's hilarious.

  16. Ok, two things. No, three things. No, four things:

    vertigo has THE most ridiculous plot ever devised. And what did the Kim Novak character do when she received her payment for the initial impersonation -- spend it on eyebrow pencil? Still, I love it.

    Now Voyager is ever so much fun, but my favorite Davis movie is the first two thirds of Dark Victory. "...and I am accustomed to a great deal of exercise."

    And lastly, Laurie, you totally break me up. They wore masks? Masks? And is James Goldman related to William? Becuz Lion in Winter is my favorite play/screenplay evah.

  17. Ok, five things: Petrea, this play is sick and you can't make it better (word ver: Bliect). But I would really enjoy that improv.

  18. Okay, I believe you, the play is sick. I was just trying to give O'Neill a chance, but I never read it. You know how they ruin the original material when they make it into a movie. Happens all the time except Lord of the Rings.

  19. Here I am late at the party again. All the good sparring is over, and all I can say is that it's got Clark Gable and that's good enough for me.

  20. OK, one thing. There was a hysterical skit on SNL with Joe Montana in which he's this nerdy guy who he arrives home one evening to find his roomate on the sofa with a woman. All of the characters have a polite interchange, but after each, "Hi, Bob, how was your evening?" type comment is is their real thought like "I wish he'd hurry up and go to bed already." Only Joe's character always says just what he thinks, so his spoken line and his thinking line are always the same. It was just real funny. Sadly, it's not on YouTube.

  21. Karin, William Goldman is considered the grand poobah of screenwriting -- at in terms of anyone who went to film school from the late seventies to the late nineties. I have no idea if someone else has eclipsed him in reputation. He wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and a slew of other films including Princess Bride, Misery and Chaplin. There was a rumor that he was the one who actually wrote Good Will Hunting but he swore up and down he only advised Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. That script had a lot of his signature touches, but then again, most screenwriters under 40 have tried to write like him.

    More about him on IMDB

    Mister Earl, I wish I could see that SNL skit!

    I'm thinking of getting a mask and just doing asides with it in my normal life...


  22. OH, and yes, James Goldman is William Goldman's brother. I just found that out by looking him up.

  23. uhhhh, I was expecting boxers. (inner dialogue) where the hells the boxers?

  24. Oh, Vertigo...

    Spellbound was just on TMC. It's another riot: Ingrid Bergman as a psychiatrist, and Gary Coopere his amnesiac patient suspected of murder. There are hilarious dream sequences (I seem to remember that Salvador Dali was involved), and really really bad pop psychology.

  25. Marcus Welby is good...I liked watching that show. And The Family (guess that came later). And Father Knows Best reruns (everyday after school in 8th grade). And My Three Sons reruns.
    Was this supposed to be a "take-me-down-the-memory-lane" post?
    PS - I did post a photo of what should be MFK's 1st house in St. Helena. I really wanted to see what the new book author said she called The Last House - there was a bell nearby that a she wrote about a boy ringing. Maybe next time I'll have more that an hour to look around - but I was glad for that. I asked at 2 bookstores if they knew which was her house on Oak St. - they did not. Shame, shame.

  26. Yes, I wish someone would find the SNL skit and the coffee commercial.

    And Laurie, the mask idea is inspired. It's really hard to look insane these days, but that would do it.

    Vanda -- you mean, you didn't believe Ingrid Bergman as a psychiatrist? Why, she absolutely lost herself in the role. She was unrecognizable. As they all were back then.

    Tash, I'm going to email you about MFK.

  27. I was hoping for a Tracy/Hepburn movie. Sigh

  28. Mr. Earl, I don't know how long ago that SNL sketch was, but in the early days SNL was highly influenced by The Second City. Many cast members and writers were Second-City alumnae (Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, etc.) and even one of the acting coaches was also one of our directors. One summer, during their hiatus, Joe Piscopo (remember him?) and Eddie Murphy came and took improv workshops with us, and it wasn't unusual for SNL stars to visit and perform with the mainstage company.

    Unfortunately, I was with the touring company and often missed those big nights...

  29. Hi Altadena Hiker,
    Thanks for your visiting on my blog and nice comment. I wish I took these amazing photos... but the photographer is Nick Dawe and his site is this:
    And I also think that he must be very charming!

    I like so much old movies!