Thank you for your time, and your golden voice.


I once wrote Leonard Cohen a letter. I didn’t get a reply so I’ll never know if he read it, but I can only hope he did. He meant so much to me, and to so many of us.

In 2009, my dad and I went to see Leonard Cohen at Hanging Rock, and it was one of the most meaningful performances I’d ever seen. I would see Leonard again, but that one was special. Two weeks later, Black Saturday gutted a nearby region of Victoria. Many houses and lives were lost. My parents’ country house was destroyed.

Leonard donated the money from that Australian tour to the victims of Black Saturday. He’d said that he loved the region and he wanted to offer help, so he donated money he probably needed himself. I often think of his act of generosity and compassion when I listen to his music, or when I return to the house that we rebuilt. I wrote him a letter because I wanted him to know how much that meant to me, and to my dad.

What a beautiful man. I’m so sad that he’s gone. We still have his voice, and what he meant to us. At least we have that.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Walter Neff’s apartment

I had a lovely surprise this morning. I was running in Los Feliz near my hotel (it’s cheap, but I can see the Hollywood sign from my room), and, while I didn’t expect it, I began to feel familiar with the area. Eventually, I ran past a street name I recognised. N Kingsley Drive: site of Walter Neff’s apartment. I’d seen it before, when I was in Los Angeles in 2013 and did a full sweep of Double Indemnity locations, but this morning I went down to it again. Such a nice feeling, to have such easy access to these icons that are so important to me.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dana Andrews & Cornel Wilde

Watching Shockproof (Douglas Sirk, 1949) — which sets itself up with a pretty great Bradbury Building cameo — I was thinking: Cornel Wilde is like a duller Dana Andrews type. And then, this shot happened.

2015-08-27 11.04.37 pm

Remind you of something?

Annex - Andrews, Dana (Laura)_01

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Today in male privilege is bullshit:


“In The Talk of the Town Arthur shared top billing with Grant, their names placed just above Colman’s in the credits. But she was a distant third in terms of pay. Grant received $106,250 to Colman’s $100,000, while Arthur, still in Harry Cohn’s doghouse, was cut back to $50,000.”

— John Oller, Jean Arthur: The Actress Nobody Knew, p137. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On the non-censorship of Letty Lynton (1932)


I revisited Mark A. Viera’s wonderful book Sin in Soft Focus. He elaborates on the production of Letty Lynton, although not without some judgement too (the murder “was excused by a woman’s need to defend her honour, even if she had tossed it overboard many reels earlier”). Apparently, in the lead-up, Jason Joy warned MGM that their script was too similar to Barnes and Sheldon’s play: “The woman in both has affairs because of the sex urge, not out of love.” It violated the Code in its philosophy. Such an approach to philosophy, says Viera, “made money, so Thalberg persisted.”

Apparently British censors didn’t pass the film because it “justified homicide without penalty.” In America, it was both despised for its lack of morals and lapped up for its honesty and support of equality. And now, we love it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letty Lynton (1932)


The first glimpse we get of Letty Lynton (Joan Crawford) is when she’s in the middle of a crowded dance floor, with a man. She says to him that she wants to stay with him, to be with him and eat lotus and poppy. These symbols of “Orientalism” are referenced to signify the decadence of Letty’s lifestyle, and signify the man, Emile (Nils Asther, often cast a pesky “Other”), as a source of . She’s a bored socialite, on extended hiatus in South America, indulging in opiates and foreign lovers.

They leave the club, and she says she’s thinking. “Silly business,” says her lover. “I think I’ve had about enough,” is her response. She’s clearly been trying to leave him for a while, and she tries again. Emile follows her to her apartment, and she tells him she is leaving, again. He resists, says that she will stay and he will make her love him more and more. She glances at him, and replies, “no”.  Simple as all that. Still, she succumbs to his charms once more (and with a moustache like that who can blame her?), for one more night (quoting Macbeth, of all things), and the next scene is shown escaping on a tender going out to the ship at sea, where she proclaims to her dedicated maid, “I feel as though I’m escaping from a burning building.” (There’s a few great other lines, too. “You know I never kiss anyone before one o’clock,” she says to another suitor in South America.)

She meets Jerry (Robert Montgomery) on the ship, and she is fast drawn to him. While in conversation, she says that she wishes she were a man. It’s not an uncommon for women in pre-Code films to express this wish. It’s demonstrative of a desire for more power than their sex traditionally offers, a drive for more freedom and personality. Even with this wish, though, she proclaims, “I never make any rules.”

A classic pre-Code woman, she says, “I haven’t been steering my course towards marriage, very much,” she says, resisting his approach, but she knows she will follow him. They kiss, then they’re engaged, and it’s all on. Off the ship in New York, her old beau finds out and tries to win her back, kissing her against her will, so Letty gets a good slap in there. The slap is one of Joan’s specialties. He blackmails her into his grasp, promising that he’ll expose their love affair to her new fiancé if she doesn’t. So she packs some poison, goes to his hotel, and asked for a glass of wine. She tries once more to beg for freedom, for the chance to marry her true love, but Emile won’t let her go. So she pours poison into her own glass, but to top off his arrogance, he takes the glass as she reaches for it and downs the whole thing.


Joan Crawford’s eyes are incredible in this scene. Earlier, when she made the decision to poison herself, her face and eyes blanked over with a terrifying determinism, a deathly blank stare. It happens again here as she reaches for her glass, then watched Emile drink his death. She waits, screams that it was meant for her but she’s glad he drank it, then leaves the room as the poison takes effect. She watches from behind a curtain as a waiter clears the tray from the hotel room, assuming Emile to be blackout drunk, and in a touch of humour, takes a glass of champagne for himself, too. (Clarence Brown’s direction is classy, typical of the time and yet so much more. Each placement of the camera suits the mood.) Letty then makes her escape from the room, wiping away her fingerprints, apparently planning to pretend she was never at the scene. Is it true that she never meant to poison him? We can’t be sure, but she seems genuinely sad, and ready to sacrifice her life if it means relief from unhappiness.


Suspecting her of murder, the police detective doesn’t only target her for the crime, but accuses her of living with the man for months! It’s as though the shame in that is worse than murder. That’s when it gets really heated. Jerry sticks up for her, gallantly (and to save his own face), “we’re not living in the early nineties” (those conservative times!). Letty Lynton is a true pre-Code diamond because Letty not only kills her former lover and gets away with it, but because she gets away with it because her new lover and her own mother provide false alibis, knowing she must be guilty. Upon realising that she’s a “tainted” woman, Jerry sticks up for her, stays with her, and they marry to combine their fortunes.

Letty Lynton was released, but has been widely unavailable since the 1940s, when a lawsuit decided against MGM that portions of the screenplay were plagiarised. (I’m sure its status as a pre-Code didn’t help either.) While adapted from a novelised version of a real-life murder case, Letty Lynton (written by Belloc Lowndes), was deemed too close to the play Dishonored Lady (1930) by Margaret Ayer Barnes and Robert Sheldon. Dishonored Lady was released as a film in 1947, a vehicle for Hedy Lamarr.  If you get a chance to see it, consider yourself lucky, and make sure you do.

What’s more, Letty Lynton is famous for this dress, with the puffy sleeves. But isn’t the other much more incredible? The costume design by Adrian, who dressed Joan Crawford often, is pretty excellent.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lawless (John Hillcoat, 2012)

“It is not the violence that sets men apart. It is the distance he is prepared to go.”

Lawless is not a great film. In fact it takes about thirty minutes for the film to hit its stride, shortly after Forrest (Tom Hardy) recites the above quote, to his brother Jack (Shia LaBeouf) and a change in the pace of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ score.

The story isn’t much new, and the editing is strange at times. It confuses perspective, rather than assisting it, giving it depth. It’s slow and it’s stagnating, which doesn’t quite work. I was missing the speed of Boardwalk Empire, which itself went so quickly at times it was hard to follow. Yet that was part of the point of Boardwalk Empire, and the show’s speed assisted it. Here, it’s confusing anyway.

A voiceover in the second half, that he’d heard there were problems in the country but was having the time of his life, is accompanied by a shot of homeless families waiting by the side of the highway, a billboard in the background declaring “highest standard of living”. It’s the failure of the American Dream motif, shoved right up in our faces. Perhaps it’s meant to be funny. In fact, maybe the whole selection of cliches are meant to be humorous, but the film doesn’t own its humour. It’s obvious, it’s clunky, it’s ludicrous. There’s a strange imbalance of restrained and saturated realism.

Then there’s the introduction to the final sequence where all the main men are “preparing” themselves. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a man preparing for battle on screen but it would certainly be more times than I’ve seen a woman…putting on makeup, for example. Speaking of, that didn’t even happen here, although Mia Wasikowska did change into a new dress, and Jessica Chastain showed her collarbone.


There’s a quite nice moment, after Forrest has had his throat slit. He falls and stares, rigid, up at the moon, which compares to the headlights of Maggie’s car as she drives back to save him. It’s nice; nothing special.

Jessica Chastain is probably the only thing worth seeing this for, but maybe see something which she’s actually *in* more of instead.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment