Nitpick: The Miracle is That He’s Kissing the Old Apple
September 13, 2008 Leave a comment
First, a fun fact about Glenn Ford, the original Dude, courtesy of the New York Times:
By 1965, his star power [no pun intended] had enabled him to build a luxurious home home in Beverly Hills featuring an atrium over which hung a 900-pound artificial sun. Mr. Ford could switch it on whenever he wanted to feel drenched with light.
I suppose an atrium with artificial sun is even better than one that lets in actual sun.
Nits I picked:
- Joy Boy’s the narrator at the beginning. It’s Peter Falk’s voice that tells us that “By the second year, the club was a sensation,” and that Queenie was “pretty good.” Why doesn’t Joy Boy give us a grumpy epilogue in which his heart either implodes or grows grows three sizes?
- Best quote from that VO: “The dude kisses the old apple, but I know better. I kiss the iron doors.”
- Weird things happening with literacy. Apple Annie’s pretty damn eloquent in her letters, but the high society recruits can’t read. Also, literacy humor: chauffeur guy says “If I could write, I’d be in the navy.”
- They don’t seem to know what to do with Bette Davis’ character, whose transition from curmudgeonly weirdo drunk to lovely maternal figure boggles the mind.
- Bizarre portrayal of alcoholism. So real in the hovel, when she’s reading the letter. So strong a theme throughout. Her alcoholism seems to have something to do with her witchy Sybilness:
“Because the little people like you. You can’t see ‘em. They live in dreams.”
Once she’s gone ladylike, she reaches for the bottle just once. Yes, at breaking point, but honestly. So much less complex. Not a single attempt at doubletalk? Not one attempted hustle? At least the Judge gets to play “billiards.” For a screwball comedy, there are lots of missed opportunities.
- Why all the love for Apple Annie from the other “godfathers”? I guess it’s kind of like those “Adopt a Child” campaign, except that the poor are all chipping in to buy stuff for one girl.
- Kind of unforgivable that the “godfathers” never even get to meet her (not counting the deaf woman who gives her a flower). Unless I missed something—they were riding in a cab at the end, but I didn’t get why.
- The poster—at the 12 minute mark—of Queenie. Fascinating. Not a nit. Just surprising.
- Poor Herbie. The only one deprived of a happy ending, and just because he stole her letters for her.
- Gayness: Yes, there’s Pierre. But what do we make of the fact that Hutchings and the Judge are clearly falling in love? Also, aww, Hutchings.
- Constant allusions to Cinderella and Snow White. Is this supposed to be the witch from Snow White redone as Cinderella? The Dude snatches Queenie’s shoe during the fight, Apple Annie’s obvious, Hutchings “likes Cinderella stories.” We’re getting beaten over the head with something. Is that something really respect for the desires of the poor and aged?
- Is this why, even though the focus keeps sliding away from Apple Annie’s story once she gets into the Marberry, the camera keeps trying to yank us back? This is the point, it insists. The whole plot seems to be trying its darndest to honor an old woman’s life ambition. Nice. But 1) it remains a subplot, 2) it’s a clear instrument of the Dude’s growth, 3) it’s doing weird work trying to restore family values to a nutty cast, and 4) it explains why Joy Boy can’t possibly be narrating the thing. Why on earth would Capra start us off with him as the storyteller?
- Like this list, and as you point out, the movie is SO LONG. I enjoyed it, but it’s something like 140 minutes.