Saturday, April 22, 2006

More Crowtherisms

I wrote before that New York Times movie critic Bosley Crowther was "the epitome of the critic who had no idea what was going on in American movie-making at any point in time," especially when it came to the film noir cycle, which he just couldn't wrap his mind around. I already quoted from his review of Double Indemnity, but here are some quotes from some other Crowther reviews of movies that are now considered seminal:

Crowther on Out of the Past:

But after this private detective has re-encountered an old girl friend (who originally double-crossed him after luring him to double-cross his boss, whom she had shot) and the two get elaborately criss-crossed in a plot to triple-cross our boy again, the involutions of the story become much too complex for us. The style is still sharp and realistic, the dialogue still crackles with verbal sparks and the action is still crisp and muscular, not to mention slightly wanton in spots. But the pattern and purpose of it is beyond our pedestrian ken. People get killed, the tough guys browbeat, the hero hurries—but we can't tell you why.

Crowther on The Asphalt Jungle:

One finds it hard to tag the item of repulsive exhibition in itself. Yet that is our inevitable judgment of this film, now on the Capitol's screen.

For the plain truth is that this picture—sobering though it may be in its ultimate demonstration that a life of crime does not pay—enjoins the hypnotized audience to hobnob with a bunch of crooks, participate with them in their plunderings and actually sympathize with their personal griefs. The vilest creature in the picture, indeed, is a double-crossing cop. And the rest of the police, while decent, are definitely antagonists.

Crowther on Breathless:

This should be enough, right now, to warn you that this is not a movie for the kids or for that easily shockable individual who used to be known as the old lady from Dubuque. It is emphatically, unrestrainedly vicious, completely devoid of moral tone, concerned mainly with eroticism and the restless drives of a cruel young punk to get along. Although it does not appear intended deliberately to shock, the very vigor of its reportorial candor compels that it must do so.

Crowther on The Searchers, apparently under the impression that Ethan Edwards is a really cool role model for us all:

The Searchers, for all the suspicions aroused by excessive language in its ads, is really a ripsnorting Western, as brashly entertaining as they come... John Wayne is uncommonly commanding as the Texan whose passion for revenge is magnificently uncontaminated by caution or sentiment.

Crowther on To Be Or Not To Be:

Too bad a little more taste and a little more unity of mood were not put in this film. As it is, one has the strange feeling that Mr. Lubitsch is a Nero, fiddling while Rome burns.

Crowther on Bonnie and Clyde:

It is a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick comedy that treats the hideous depredations of that sleazy, moronic pair as though they were as full of fun and frolic as the jazz-age cutups in Thoroughly Modern Millie. And it puts forth Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the leading roles, and Michael J. Pollard as their sidekick, a simpering, nose-picking rube, as though they were striving mightily to be the Beverly Hillbillies of next year.


Anonymous said...

You have to remember that back when Crowther was serving as film critic, the Times' coverage of Arts and Leisure was far more elitist than it is today, when it came to coverage of more mainstream and pop culture things like mainstream movies, TV shows and Top 40 music. So if a critic didn't get those things, it wasn't a big deal to the higher-ups at the Times, since they in general didn't get them either, and really didn't care to get them, until the paper started a reamp to make it more mass culture reader-friendly in the late 1970s (though there are times nowadays when I think they've lurched way to far in the other direction, as when it was noted at the time "Sex and the City" did its final show for HBO that the Times had written 87 articles on a series that produced a total of 90 episodes).

Jenny Lerew said...

Wow. Great set of awful review excerpts. At least we had Manny Farber at the same time....and a host of others much less obtuse.