Posted April 26 2011 - 11:01 PM
I may have more of a taste for uneven movies that most of the rest of you here, but in any case a few of things drew me into watching the 1955 VistaVision
production from Paramount Lady Gallant. For one, I was up in the middle of the night because
of a thunder storm, and I needed something to lull me back to sleep on the
couch--and it did do that for about half an hour in the middle of the picture.
Second, the film has in it Jane Wyman, Charlton Heston, Thelma Ritter, and, get
this, a special appearance by the great Miss Edith Head. Head not only designed all of the
outfits for this movie (for the whole movie Wyman is running an ever larger high
end fashion store in Texas called Gallant's), but at the end Head appears and
narrates the fashion show for the grand finale. Let me see if I can transcribe a
few of her pithy comments as the models display the wares:
Jane Wyman: "And now I'd like to introduce to you our guest commentator for
today, the world-famous designer, Miss Edith Head."
Edith Head (looking sharp, and a bit like a taller Edna Mode): "Thank you Miss
Gallant. As all of you know, there is no permanent fashion center of the world.
It could be in Paris, it could be Rome, New York or London, but after seeing
this collection, I'm sure you'll agree with me that today the real fashion
center of the world is right here in Texas."
Applause. And then as music plays she describes what the models are wearing.
I'll just do a few of them.
Head: "The fabrics used for this collection come from all over the world. For
example, these oil skins were originally used by Gloucester fisherman, and come
from our New England Coast. From another part of the world, from Chile, comes
the fabric for this poncho and sarape bathing costume. Suede from England and
Tweed from Scotland are combined in this three piece travel costume with its own
reversible cape and lap (?) robe. Wool from Canada and Frederica Alaska seal
skin. The coat is sleeveless, and reversible. The wool for this slim hooded coat
comes to us from France, and the natural royal blue fox from Norway..."
Anyway, it goes on, with quite a spectacular display, until this joke of a show
Head: "And now, Miss Gallant dramatizes Texas. Here in this magnificent gown
are all the iridescent colors of your own Texas oil!"
And the model parades around in an actually quite nice black gown as described
with matching fan.
The movie as a whole was just ok, although it had several good
moments for me at least. I like Wyman and Heston, although I didn't detect much chemistry, and
Ritter still steals the show in the scenes she's in. And
it's an unusual depiction of a very successful business woman in this era.
Although in the end she seemingly gives it all up to marry Chuck.
But that's literally in the last few seconds of the film. For
99% of the move (which takes place over 15 years) you see her as an ambitious
and driven woman, who is also nice, but who refuses Heston's repeated offers to
My guess is this was an "A-" production for Paramount for that year of 1955. Hitchcock did
two films for P that year, The Trouble with Harry and To Catch a Thief (both VistaVision productions that belong on blu).
Harry was budgeted at about 1.2 million according to wikipedia (that seems low, but
perhaps right) and the same shaky source says 2.5 million for Thief--a large
part of which was probably the salary for Grant.
Anyway, my guess is that this was about a $2 million or so picture too. Maybe
more. Fairly good production values. I like how the store changed and grew
through 4 distinct and ever larger incarnations over the years, and they
invested a fair amount in doing that. The music for this film was pretty weak, I
thought, esp. where it featured incessant reprises of the theme from "I've been
working on the railroad." The composer was Van Cleave. The director was Robert
Parrish, who I assume was a competent enough studio director.
Sorry to spill so much electronic ink on a movie like this. But I am fairly
easily amused, and tend to like old movies even of this type.
But my bottom line vote is that even though the fashion of Edith Head as well as some of the scenery from Texas would look great in blu, this one probably doesn't have commercial viability. It's an OK film (and a lot better than Ernest Goes to Camp--I'm giving that to the used bookstore at any price!), but just not enough of a near classic.
The pan and scan on netflix looks pretty good. The colors are decent, and there's not much in the way of dirt and scratches. I hope at least someday this film can get a widescreen streaming version.