Thursday, January 10, 2008

Comedy Tonight, If By "Tonight" You Mean "April 22"

The Digital Bits takes time out from its Blu-Ray victory lap to report that Universal will be releasing four much-requested Paramount comedies on April 22:

- The Major and the Minor (1942), Billy Wilder's first and in some ways funniest movie as a director;

- Midnight (1939), written by Wilder and Charles Brackett and directed by Mitchell Leisen, with Don Ameche, Claudette Colbert and John Barrymore, a movie that is fondly-remembered enough that it recently spawned remake rumors;

- Easy Living, directed by Leisen and written by Preston Sturges, starring Jean Arthur, Ray Milland, and Edward Arnold. Often thought of as a sort of embryonic Sturges movie; he didn't direct it, but it's the sort of movie he would later direct.

- She Done Him Wrong with Mae West and Cary Grant.

(For some reason Sturges and Wilder never had much good to say about Leisen, though by any normal standards he was one of the best directors at Paramount; maybe they just happened to feel they would have done these scripts differently, but his direction has a lot of charm, which is not something that Wilder or Sturges were particularly good at creating.)

4 comments:

Thad said...

Great news about "The Major and the Minor" . I've only ever seen that in 16mm at a friend's house.

Aaron T. said...

Excellent news! I've been wanting to see Easy Living for quite some time.

Anonymous said...

I love Mitchell Leisen's movies, especially Midnight and Easy Living. So glad they're coming out on DVD. I wish they'd issue Remember the Night and an obscurer favorite of mine, Kitty, a splendidly entertaining costume drama in which Paulette Goddard sleeps her way up the aristocratic ladder in 18th century Britain (and did a pretty credible Cockney accent to boot). The whole thing is a true essay in costume porn - if I remember correctly, they were done by Raoul Pene du Bois and are amazingly accurate for a studio movie of the day.

Cristiane

Jenny said...

Have you read the fantastic book on Leisen? It's in my opinion one of the great Hollywood tomes, period. Gives via the author/editor/interviewer, David Chierichetti, a vivid and believable picture of what working at the top in the golden age of film was like.

I revere and love both Sturges and Wilder, but have bristled at the suggestion that they were ill-served by Leisen--a meme apparently started by both of these talented gentlemen(esp. Billy)in their own words and from their own extremely biased perspectives and taken as gospel truth by various writers and film historians. But Leisen pays both of them great credit (which they certainly deserved) while making the point that as writers first, they each had a tendency to fall in love with words to the exclusion of all else, resulting a hell of a scene if Leisen cut any dialogue at all from his films.
And they were his films just as much as Sturges' or Wilder's and Brackett's. Leisen was a a stylist, not a studio hack. An actor's director with great instincts. I put it down to plain old professional jealousy on the part of the not-yet-directors as well as a likely personal antipathy for the then super-successful Leisen, who wasn't unconditionally beloved by all the guys on the lot.