If I was a guest speaker in a course teaching Film as Art, I would tell the class that one must pay attention to the details in the big picture. It's not just about the actors. Movies are a collaboration. The set designer, the cinematographer, the costume designer -- even the hair stylist contribute to help the director and screenwriters make the picture the best it can be. Those craftspeople help tell the story and give us clues as to a character's destiny or true nature. Those are revealing clues. I've blogged about this before but let me give you examples again. When we first meet Rita Hayworth's blonde character in 1947's The Lady from Shanghai co-starring and directed by Orson Welles, she seems to be a woman in distress, a female who needs help. Is Elsa Bannister really helpless -- and harmless? Look at the sign above her lovely blonde head in this shot.
The Lady from Shanghai is neither helpless nor harmless after all.
This is all the literature of film.
Dancer Rita Hayworth was famous for her red hair which delighted audiences in some delightful Technicolor musical comedies.
No Hollywood actress could switch from movie saint to slut as easily and as effectively as Jennifer Jones. She won her Best Actress of 1943 Oscar for her superb work in The Song of Bernadette as the French peasant girl who was visited by the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, became a nun and, after her death, would be canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church.
Jones played a temptress in a 1950 British drama called Gone to Earth. She's an animal lover and a beautiful gypsy in this film. She and a fox will both be chased by men.
George Cukor's masterpiece, his 1954 remake of A Star Is Born, is a rare drama with musical numbers and one of the few times a remake was just as good -- if not better -- than the acclaimed original. Judy Garland as the band singer who gets discovered by a fading movie star and James Mason as the alcoholic actor who discovers her, loves her and sees her film career eclipse his own got Oscar nominations for their work.
Norman Maine graciously calms and guides a scared Esther before her screen test at his studio.
Band singer Esther Blodgett got more than she dreamed of. Much more.
On a small TV screen, you might some of the genius in The Graduate from director Mike Nichols. Benjamin, played by Dustin Hoffman, is a like a lost lamb in a Southern California jungle. Mrs. Robinson, a serious middle-aged drinker, is like a jungle cat intoxicated on her own power and he's her prey. Notice how cleverly Nichols frames and costumes her. Anne Bancroft obviously picked up on that for her portrayal. She's brilliant as the predatory Mrs. Robinson. She fascinates me more than any other character in the film.
Look at that now-famous shot with the arched leg. Who's got the power in that scene? She does. Brilliant.
She's a sly cat with claws out in the suburban California jungle. Look at what she wears. The wildlife stalker animal attitude adorns her clothing.
I love that shot in The Graduate. Just thought I'd share. Watch a classic movie this weekend and tell me how you liked it. Notice the details.