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Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Cecil B. De Mille’s directing skills grew increasingly stiff after the early ‘20s, and adding Technicolor in the ‘40s just made everything look more arthritic. He retained, as ever, his hold over narrative structure (his saving grace), but the combination of hokey stories, acting, motivation, film technique, studio sets & out-of-touch attitudes skirted with outright derision from all but the naifest of audiences. This tall, tall pre-Revolutionary tale (‘injun’ nations join in war against the white man) is typically ridiculous stuff, yet about halfway thru you may find yourself succumbing to the consistency of its puddingheaded vision. Only Gary Cooper is near his best (though Boris Karloff is weirdly riveting as Top Chief) while you’d never guess that Paulette Goddard would ace the role of a lifetime in Alex Korda’s masterpiece, AN IDEAL HUSBAND/’48, the year after this remarkably poor showing. Weak as it is, it’s probably De Mille’s best work from the decade.

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