Sunday, October 07, 2007

BACHELOR FLAT (1962), John Williams, and So On

I recently obtained a widescreen copy of Frank Tashlin's Bachelor Flat (1962) with Terry-Thomas and Tuesday Weld. It's not on DVD and it was never on laserdisc or VHS, but apparently the Fox Movie Channel showed a widescreen print one time (I think they've reverted to showing it in fullscreen, though).

Andrew Sarris called this Tashlin's best movie, but I think it has too many flaws to live up to that billing. Tashlin complained about being forced to use Richard Beymer for an important part and about the fact that the movie was cut down too much before the release, and you can definitely see where the cuts were made (Celeste Holm's part almost disappears from the movie because her scenes all end abruptly). Tashlin turns in some weaker-than-usual gags and and borrows very heavily from other movies like his own Susan Slept Here (Tuesday Weld's juvenile-delinquent act is all borrowed from Debbie Reynolds in the earlier movie) and Hawks' Bringing Up Baby (there's an extended gag about a dog burying a dinosaur bone).

All that said, I was very glad to get a copy because a) I loved this movie when I saw it as a kid, and b) It's the last truly "Tashlinesque" Tashlin movie, the one that really feels like only he could have made it. All his other subsequent movies were either Jerry Lewis vehicles (which, since Lewis produced them, are as much his movies as Tashlin's) or work-for-hire projects for aging stars (Bob Hope, Doris Day, Danny Kaye). Bachelor Flat is a real Tashlin movie right down to the crazy fade-outs -- here and in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter, Tashlin always has the screen fade to blue or green or red instead of fading to black. And he has Tuesday Weld and Terry-Thomas, both of whom make up for Richard Beymer's miscasting. You can tick off the Tashlin elements: the bad-taste risqué jokes involving a teenage girl (Weld), the cartoony chases, the sympathetic middle-aged woman (Holm), the gag about how bad old movies look when they're shown on TV (Beymer tunes in to watch a black-and-white movie, and the screen immediately distorts).

It also is the last Tashlin movie to have one main satiric theme running through it, the way all his best movies do. Here it was, in Tashlin's words, about "The difference between us and our British cousins." The Terry-Thomas character, a prudish, reserved British professor teaching in California, unexpectedly finds himself treated as a sex symbol by women because they find his British reserve and good manners and sartorial good taste (the running gag of the film is that he constantly carries an umbrella around, even though he's in California) irresistible. The Beymer character admits that no girls are interested in him; they only want Terry-Thomas -- and the joke is that you can kind of see how this would be true, because while Beymer's character is younger and more conventionally handsome, he's also kind of a clod. Terry-Thomas for his part is just put off by American aggressiveness, and finally is convinced by Beymer that the only way to turn off American women is to become an aggressive, lecherous drunk -- that is, a typical American. It's very much of its time, of course: even two years later, post-Beatles, you couldn't have made a movie about inhibited England vs. vulgar America.

The other thing I noticed about the film was the musical score, by the young John Williams (or "Johnny" Williams as he was billed at the time). The score is described in more detail at this John Williams fan website, but it's quite an impressive score, especially for a comedy. As Terry Teachout has pointed out, comedies don't usually have particularly good scores. For many years they barely had scores at all (most sound comedies in the '30s and '40s just didn't use music except in sentimental or action scenes). And big-name composers would hardly ever work on them; at Fox, Alfred Newman almost never did comedies, and neither did his friend Bernard Herrmann; Newman usually handed comedy scores to Cyril Mockridge, who cobbled together scores based on familiar public-domain tunes. John Williams in the '60s was one of the few composers who really specialized in comedy, and his scores for movies like this or Guide For the Married Man were a lot funnier and more imaginative than most; in fact, I like his early comedy music better than most of his bombastic post-Star Wars scores.

Here's a dialogue-free scene from Bachelor Flat which is carried by Williams' music, and also contains some Hitchcockian angles (a reminder that Tashlin always wanted to do a serious thriller, but he could never put such a project together).



This next scene doesn't have any music except for what Williams referred to in "chords for cuts to brassieres," but it features one of the most Tashlinesque shots ever: a woman on a vibrator/reducing machine eating a huge piece of chocolate cake, all the contradictory American obsessions (they're health nuts and junk food addicts) rolled into one. The woman, Francesca Bellini, was an ex-dancer who was also used around this time by Jerry Lewis in The Ladies Man and by Lewis and Tashlin in Who's Minding the Store? I don't know if they had bigger plans for her, but anyway she wasn't heard from again after a few TV guest shots.



And Williams also came up with some funny music for the dog burying the dinosaur bone -- which, as you can see, is a little bigger than in Bringing Up Baby. The shot of the dog pushing the bone across the beach was, Tashlin said, his parody of CinemaScope. Specifically, early CinemaScope movies had a lot of gimmicks to fill the entire wide screen, and this scene is just a slight exaggeration of some of the stuff that "serious" 'Scope movies used to do.



15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for loading these, looks like it would be a very enjoyable movie. Love the DOG!

Mike Durrett said...

This may be the only Tashlin I've never seen, but I remember when it came out when I was a kid.

I found this piece interesting (as I do anything about Tashlin) because I do recall seeing "Music by Johnny Williams" numerous times in credits, but I never made the connection to John Williams. Now that I know and have listened here, I must say "Star Wars" could've used more bongos.

Michael Jones said...

I've always loved the work he did with Irwin Allen. From the Sci-fi 60's TV of Lost in Space and Time Tunnel to the big disaster flicks, especially The Poseidon Adventure. Those reached me as a youth and have remained iconic.

easy phentermine buy phentermine no prescription said...

z0Mkpa Wonderful blog.

phentermine vs meridia said...

Please write anything else!

credit card number hacking said...

Magnific!

name said...

Please write anything else!

cheap coch tours said...

Magnific!

dancing with the stars tour 2006 said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.

contamination and recall i said...

Thanks to author.

ringtones said...

Please write anything else!

said...

Wonderful blog.

cialis 20mg said...

Uq5y6T Magnific!

really free ringtones said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

徵信,徵信網,徵信社,徵信社,感情挽回,婚姻挽回,挽回婚姻,挽回感情,徵信,徵信社,徵信,徵信,捉姦,徵信公司,通姦,通姦罪,抓姦,抓猴,捉猴,捉姦,監聽,調查跟蹤,反跟蹤,外遇問題,徵信,捉姦,女人徵信,女子徵信,外遇問題,女子徵信, 外遇,徵信公司,徵信網,外遇蒐證,抓姦,抓猴,捉猴, 調查跟蹤,反跟蹤,感情挽回,挽回感情,婚姻挽回,挽回婚姻,外遇沖開,抓姦, 女子徵信,外遇蒐證,外遇,通姦,通姦罪,贍養費,徵信,徵信社,抓姦,徵信,徵信公司,徵信社,徵信公司,徵信社,徵信公司,女人徵信,
徵信,徵信網,徵信社, 徵信網,外遇,徵信,徵信社,抓姦,徵信,女人徵信,徵信社,女人徵信社,外遇,抓姦,徵信公司,徵信社,徵信社,徵信社,徵信社,徵信社,女人徵信社,徵信社,徵信,徵信社,徵信,女子徵信社,女子徵信社,女子徵信社,女子徵信社, 徵信,徵信社, 徵信,徵信社, 徵信社,
徵信,徵信社,徵信,徵信社,徵信,徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信,徵信社,徵信, 徵信社,徵信,徵信社,徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 外遇, 抓姦, 離婚, 外遇,離婚,
徵信社,徵信,徵信社,徵信,徵信社,徵信,徵信社,徵信社,徵信,外遇, 抓姦, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社,徵信,徵信, 徵信,外遇, 抓姦
徵信外遇抓姦離婚婚前徵信工商徵信尋人大陸抓姦法律諮詢家暴婚前徵信工商徵信外遇抓姦尋人離婚家暴大陸抓姦感情挽回
婚姻挽回大陸抓姦尋人
大陸抓姦,徵信,徵信社