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There are a lot worse things in this world than losing one's beauty - Myth Happens

Sovay
Date: 2016-02-25 02:45
Subject: There are a lot worse things in this world than losing one's beauty
Security: Public
Music:The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library, "Undying Undead Love"
Tags:patreon

Me at 5:45 AM: TCM, how thoughtful of you to show a classic women's picture starring Bette Davis and Claude Rains at an hour of the morning when I am unavoidably awake thanks to an upcoming medical procedure. A three-hanky soaper is just about my mental level right now.

Me, 146 minutes later: WHO ORDERED THE HOLOCAUST.

I would like to return to Mr. Skeffington (1944) when I have slept more than four hours in the last two days, because there are some very interesting strains of race and class in this melodrama, even if they sometimes appear to be taking place in a second, much more socially conscious picture through which the slightly Gothic romantic drama of the main plot periodically passes. Equally buried somewhere under the impressive aging makeup is the portrait of a complicated marriage. In 1914, Fanny Trellis (Bette Davis) is the celebrated beauty of a genteel but impoverished family, the latter primarily because her wastrel younger brother ran through their inheritance and has now begun embezzling from his employers; her exquisite looks and her flirtatious unattainability have all of New York society at her feet, but to everyone's surprise she pursues and presently succeeds in marrying middle-aged stockbroker Job Skeffington (Claude Rains), who enters her life the night he accidentally crashes one of her parties while trying to confront her brother about his phony bond sales. It is not an entirely calculated move on her part, though it restores the family fortunes and safeguards her brother from legal disgrace. To a girl who rates her self-worth by her ability to captivate men, Job is a gratifyingly lovestruck suitor, a forceful financier who doesn't lose his cool even when his office erupts into bedlam at the outbreak of World War I, but turns as awkwardly vulnerable as a schoolboy around the woman he has long admired from afar: "Dining at Sherry's. Dancing at the Waldorf. You never noticed me." Of course she wouldn't have. Even before we meet the eponymous Mr. Skeffington, we know he's not her kind of people. He's Jewish.

Even if he exists to make a point about anti-Semitism in America, even if he's not played by a Jewish actor,1 a Jewish romantic lead in a Hollywood movie from 1944 was unusual enough to get my attention, especially since TCM hadn't mentioned it. Aside from the physical fact that he's played by Claude Rains, Job is an attractive character, with a lively, ironic sense of humor and a capacity for gentleness that does not turn him into a doormat. He describes his life story as "routine rags to riches"; he was born into tenement poverty on the Lower East Side and responds to Fanny's artless fishing—"Skeffington, that's a strange name for Market and Cherry"—with the wryly spoken, but honest, "The immigration official on Ellis Island wasn't a good speller. 'Skeffington' was the closest he could get to 'Skavinskaya.'" His velvet-edged urbanity of speech is just as deliberately cultivated as Rains' own. He really loves Fanny, not the coquettish fiction of her; he's too shrewd a businessman not to recognize the self-serving aspect of her attentions, but he hopes that in time the distracted tolerance with which she permits their first kiss might change to real affection. But his motives are mixed, too: as much of his new wife as he sees clearly, she's also a symbol of the world he's never been allowed inside. "But I married the woman everybody else wanted to. That makes up for it." Especially given the whack of tragedy that is going to land on him later in the plot, I appreciate that Job, despite his name, is no saintly sufferer—he's a loving father and a brave soldier, but it's his weakness for his secretaries that enables Fanny to divorce him for a generous settlement once the marriage has really gone on the rocks.2

Anti-Semitism is a real factor in the script, not just a topical afterthought. The first we hear of "Skeffington & Co.," the automatic response is, "That's the Jewish firm?" The front door of the Trellis brownstone opens to admit an apparently endless parade of Fanny's admirers in evening dress; Job in his well-cut three-piece suit almost gets it shut in his face as though he were a tradesman who tried the wrong entrance. When Fanny confronts her irresponsible brother (Richard Waring) over his theft of $24,000, he bridles, "I'm glad Dad isn't alive to see you insult and humiliate me in defense of a cheap, common little—" and only Fanny's protesting interruption prevents us from hearing Trippy's epithet of choice. "I don't like him or his type." He will later enlist in the Lafayette Escadrille to get away from the shame of his blue-blooded sister marrying a nouveau-riche Jew, after first drunkenly attempting to pick a fight with Job: "I'm going to be challenged—he's going to heave his checkbook in my face!" He may be choosing his words carefully when he jeers, "If Skeffington's a gentleman, then a swine is what I want to be." The consternation in their social circle is less baldly stated, but no less bigoted, and the scope only widens as the film goes on. For my money, the most heartbreaking scene in the picture belongs to Job and his ten-year-old daughter (Sylvia Arslan) as he painfully tries to explain his reluctance to take his bright, devoted, desperately adored child to Europe with him after the divorce. The year is 1926. If she stays with Fanny, he argues, however carelessly her mother regards her, at least she can pass as not Jewish. "You will never know what it is . . . I mean, if you come to Europe with me, it's different there. People may look upon you as . . . Oh, this is very difficult to explain to a child."3 He does take her, though, and it is 1935 before she returns to America as a self-possessed, dark-haired young woman (Marjorie Riordan) explaining to her startled mother that she wrote "from Berlin . . . The Nazis don't frighten him, but they frighten me, so Dad thought maybe I'd better come back here to you." I uttered the all-caps line reproduced above. I hadn't realized the film's timeline was going to run so close to recent events. After that I felt no surprise whatsoever to learn that the plot had taken Job to a concentration camp; the only suspense was whether he was going to survive to reunite with his redeemed ex-wife or die before she realized she loved him after all.

And despite being the most compelling and remarkable thread in the entire plot, the events sketched here constitute perhaps a third of the film at most, the rest being concerned with Fanny's increasingly reality-detached attempts to preserve her image of herself as eternally youthful and desirable, which thanks to a stern cosmetic regime and genetic luck of the draw lasts right up until a ravaging bout of diphtheria allows Davis to go for the hagsploitation four decades ahead of schedule. There's poignant material in this plot, with fifty-year-old Fanny unable to imagine a life for herself beyond endless rounds of suitors and sexual adventures. She paints her face into a stiff doll-like parody of its girlish complexion; she begins to imagine that she is being haunted by Job, a silent apparition of spurned unconditional love; in order to assert her imperishable appeal, she convenes all her old admirers and their wives for a dinner party which rapidly turns into cringe tragedy, the audience queasily uncertain of Fanny's ability to accept the facts of passing time until the last lines of the scene.4 I am not even saying that Davis doesn't do a good job with a character who has to age thirty years in the space of two hours and resist any signs of emotional maturity until the very last beat. She has always been afraid to grow up, because she has never been able to differentiate it from growing old. That's fine; that's believable. But when you dovetail this plot with a cross-section of twentieth-century anti-Semitism culminating in a Jewish character losing their sight to the Nazis to make room for some kind of inner beauty disability metaphor, I want to play necromancer with Julius and Philip G. Epstein and explain that whatever tug of the heartstrings they were aiming for with their melodrama, the historical context just crushed it like a bug.5

I haven't really slept since Monday, so I had better wind this up. As far as Oscar-nominated box-office smashes of Hollywood's Golden Age go, Mr. Skeffington is one of the weirder I've run into lately. The original novel by Elizabeth von Arnim was published in 1940 and I would love to know how closely it adheres. Claude Rains is a national treasure. This bewilderment brought to you by my historically aware backers at Patreon.

1. I didn't think Claude Rains was Jewish, but David Skal's Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice (2008) reports that "Rains had strong personal feelings on the topic [of anti-Semitism]; his wife was Jewish, and he believed there might be Jewish blood far back in his own lineage," which if true slightly mitigates my feelings of whitewashing and possibly explains the otherwise nonplussing casting of Rains as Haym Solomon in the Oscar-winning two-reeler Sons of Liberty (1939). Trying to think of Jewish actors of the time who actually played Jewish protagonists, I'm mostly coming up with John Garfield. Everyone else, it's bit parts or any ethnicity but.

2. Job has handled Fanny's own string of affairs discreetly, by which I mean with hilarious passive-aggressiveness: he has a habit of loitering downstairs in the drawing room and quite literally handing each latest lover his hat as he leaves, a gesture which confuses and embarrasses all of them and appears to entertain the hell out of Job. I can side-eye a lot about Mr. Skeffington, especially as we approach the third act and the script's present day, but I cannot accuse the Epsteins of making him a model minority.

3. Being as perceptive a kid as her mother earlier lamented ("It's impossible to keep anything from her. She's inherited all of Job's brains and none of my looks. As a matter of fact, Job says she looks just like his grandmother"), Fanny, Jr. promptly slings back, "I suppose it's easier to explain to a grown-up, isn't it?" and Job has no good answer for that.

4. There is almost certainly a dissertation to be mined from the film's awareness of femininity as a performance even as the narrative punishes Fanny for doing such an exemplary job; it can see both sides. "A woman is beautiful when she's loved," Job tells his newly pregnant wife, trying to allay her self-loathing fears of physical change. Fanny dismisses him tartly: "Nonsense. A woman is beautiful if she gets eight hours' sleep and goes to the beauty parlor every day. And bone structure has a lot to do with it, too."

5. They might have had a better chance if nobody had gone blind. The weight of history might still have been insupportable. I watched this movie with my mother who was also unavoidably awake and she was skeptical, too.

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teenybuffalo
User: teenybuffalo
Date: 2016-02-25 13:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Then I understand correctly that the movie is trying to make us feel sorry for Bette Davis's self-loathing and give us a to-me-you-are-beautiful happy ending, while WWII and the Holocaust are going on somewhere over to one side?

Years ago I remember hearing Teresa Nielsen Hayden listing the reasons she didn't like the movie Titanic. One of them was, "You know that before too much more time goes by, they're going to make a movie like that about the Holocaust." For my money, "they" already sorta did, multiple times, and this sounds like another installment.

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Sovay: Claude Rains
User: sovay
Date: 2016-02-25 20:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Claude Rains

Then I understand correctly that the movie is trying to make us feel sorry for Bette Davis's self-loathing and give us a to-me-you-are-beautiful happy ending, while WWII and the Holocaust are going on somewhere over to one side?

It is a little more nuanced in that seeing Job after he has returned from the camps—aged, blinded, as much of a stranger as she feels herself to be—marks the first time in Fanny's life that she has felt for someone other than herself; her heart goes out to him even before she makes the connection that she will never have to bear his gaze comparing her raddled reality to her lost idyllic youth. (She was desperately afraid that he'd be as shallow as the rest of her lovers: "Do you think I'm mentally deficient? I've seen the others. They all loved me, too—but when they took one look at me, they all recoiled. Every single one of them. And I'm not going to add Job to them." Discovering his blindness and his reaffirmed love, she is consoled and emboldened; it is proof that he cannot love her for her looks—and besides, since they last parted company in 1926, his mental picture of her will always be young and beautiful. Personally, I think that Job is blind, he's not an idiot; he'll figure out soon enough what she really looks like these days and I don't think he'll care, because he never did. But Fanny might have a hard time believing it and apparently the film worries the audience will feel the same.) But, yes, the Holocaust still has to happen in order for her to experience compassion, which seems a bit hard on eleven million other people.

I am reminding myself that in 1944 it wasn't yet a cliché for the Holocaust to happen to the one Jewish character in the script; I think in fact Mr. Skeffington must have been one of the earliest American films to mention the subject. (The depiction of the Holocaust on film is not my forte. The earliest example I've seen personally is The Great Dictator (1940), with To Be or Not to Be (1942) a close second—neither gets anywhere near the extent of the reality, but they do engage directly with Jewish persecution and with the concept of the camps. Night Train to Munich (1940) and Pimpernel Smith (1941) also include concentration camps as key plot elements, but they are British and their camps are also—perhaps due to timing as well as knowledge—more about internment and hard labor than industrialized extermination. Job has pretty clearly been through something awful. Because I keep trying to apply reality to this ending, I am left wondering how he got out, in a film released in February 1944. The advancing Allies wouldn't start liberating camps until that summer and then the majority in 1945. Maybe he escaped during one of the uprisings at Sobibór or Treblinka. Maybe I am overthinking this movie.) If the Nazis aren't in the original novel, I'm even willing to believe that the filmmakers might have felt it was dishonest to pretend that they didn't exist and wouldn't have affected the life of their Jewish co-protagonist. That's commendable. I'm still left feeling weird enough about the whole thing to write two thousand words about it at odd hours of the morning. It's not like he couldn't have gone blind in a car accident, you know?

Edited at 2016-02-25 10:49 pm (UTC)

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Alexx Kay
User: alexx_kay
Date: 2016-02-25 23:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

All Through the Night (1941) is an interesting case. Bogey and friends versus evil Nazi spies Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorre as a comedy thriller. The camps do come up as a plot point. Released less than a week before the Pearl Harbor attacks.

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Sovay: Claude Rains
User: sovay
Date: 2016-02-26 19:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Claude Rains

Bogey and friends versus evil Nazi spies Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorre as a comedy thriller.

I have to say that sounds like a deeply confusing experience.

(I've actually heard of the movie; I've just never seen it.)

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Alexx Kay
User: alexx_kay
Date: 2016-02-27 01:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

It worked for me. I expect mileage varies considerably.

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Jo Walton: J For Jo
User: papersky
Date: 2016-02-25 14:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:J For Jo

I have read the book (Elizabeth Von Arnim) and it was published in 1940 and therefore does not have the Holocaust. Also, it's set in London, not New York. But it still surprised the heck out of me.

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Sovay: Claude Rains
User: sovay
Date: 2016-02-25 18:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Claude Rains

I have read the book (Elizabeth Von Arnim) and it was published in 1940 and therefore does not have the Holocaust.

I wondered, although there could still have been concentration camps. I am thinking of finding and reading it for comparison.

But it still surprised the heck out of me.

In a good way or in the way of the film?

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Jo Walton: J For Jo
User: papersky
Date: 2016-02-25 18:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:J For Jo

There were, but I don't think she knew about them. When I saw the concentration camp in The Great Dictator>/i> I cried because they couldn't imagine, but I knew.

Mostly in a good way, because he was a Jewish romantic hero, and done with respect, but also the whole thing was just so unexpected -- her being haunted by him, and then getting him back blind. I kept having this "What universe is this?" feeling.

However, the Von Arnim book I'd really recommend, free on Gutenberg and really great, is Fraulein Schmitt and Mr Anstruther. The Enchanted April is adorable, but FS&MA is amazing.

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ethelmay
User: ethelmay
Date: 2016-02-25 22:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Josephine Elder knew about the camps in 1940 (her Strangers at the Farm School, about two refugee Jewish children arriving at an English school, has someone escaping from a camp).

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Jen
User: ylla
Date: 2016-03-03 15:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

The book's on gutenberg (or one of the gutenbergs) - http://www.gutenberg.net.au/ebooks11/1100021h.html

I think the whole backstory is dealt with in one paragraph there (although the book's set pre-WWII, so I suppose there wasn't the same weight of history hanging over it yet):
"I had the greatest difficulty in getting anything out of him," said George. "I had to keep on assuring him no one was listening"—and he went on to tell her how poor Skeffington, as he persistently called him, had first begun losing money in Mexico, where he got mixed up in politics, and revolutions, and God knew what, and when things got too hot for him there he had come back to Europe, and gone to Vienna and started again, and with his usual skill had managed to get richer than ever when the Nazis walked in. Vienna wasn't exactly a healthy place for a Jew, and he was soon in serious trouble—for a moment George didn't seem able to go on, seemed to be staring, with horror in his eyes, at something he could hardly credit,—such serious trouble that he was lucky to get away with bare life, if bare life, said George, his eyes full of that incredulous horror, could be called lucky, and was now in London, and on the rocks.

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Sovay: Rotwang
User: sovay
Date: 2016-03-03 18:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Rotwang

I think the whole backstory is dealt with in one paragraph there (although the book's set pre-WWII, so I suppose there wasn't the same weight of history hanging over it yet)

That's really interesting! So, yes on the Nazis, no on anything as explicit as a concentration camp, which curiously seems to make a difference to how unbalancing to the narrative I find Job's blindness, especially since the novel doesn't appear to contain any of the inner beauty stuff. There's the one thought from Manby, the maid: "No need for help here, thought Manby, suddenly aglow with pride; her lady was going to do the right thing, and she was more beautiful to Manby at that moment than she had ever been in the days of her glory." But that has nothing to do with how Job sees Fanny or how Fanny sees herself. I'll have to read the rest of the novel.

Thank you!

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drwex
User: drwex
Date: 2016-02-25 16:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Quite a piece for four hours' sleep. Thank you.

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Sovay: Claude Rains
User: sovay
Date: 2016-02-25 19:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Claude Rains

Quite a piece for four hours' sleep. Thank you.

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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gwynnega: lordpeter mswyrr
User: gwynnega
Date: 2016-02-25 19:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:lordpeter mswyrr

Wow. I saw part of this film on TCM awhile back, but I didn't realize the Holocaust showed up.

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Sovay: Claude Rains
User: sovay
Date: 2016-02-25 19:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Claude Rains

Wow. I saw part of this film on TCM awhile back, but I didn't realize the Holocaust showed up.

TCM said: "Grand soap opera spanning several decades of N.Y.C. life from 1914 onward. Davis is vain society woman who marries stockbroker Rains for convenience, discovering his true love for her only after many years. Lavish settings, bravura Davis performance." Who expects the Nazis from that?

Edited at 2016-02-25 07:43 pm (UTC)

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asakiyume: Aquaman is sad
User: asakiyume
Date: 2016-02-26 13:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Aquaman is sad

Mind = Boggled. In spite of your reply to teenybuffalo, it still sounds like Job's horrific experiences are somehow set in a scale which on the other side is balanced by Bette Davis's facing aging and lost looks.

(I like your line about mistakenly equating growing up and growing old--I think that's a general piece of wisdom that lots of people could benefit from)

On the one hand, it's interesting and gratifying to see Hollywood treating anti-Semitism seriously and directly in the 1940s. On the other hand, the other horse that's pulling this chariot of a movie is just too pathetic.

How can the audience possibly believe in Fanny as a worthwhile person--as someone worth the love of Job--when she holds on to her invincible shallowness as long as she does? You say that Job sees past it, but is there anything to see past? This is the problem I have with Fanny's plotline as you describe it: if she can have remained so silly for so long, how could she ever have been worth his time? Or does the film show us sides of her that aren't so silly? I could maaaaaybe accept her shallowness if we clearly saw that she had more to her but didn't trust those characteristics and felt she had to fall back on her beauty.

But really--to be glad a guy has been blinded because then he won't see your ruined face? That's worse than pathetic.

ETA: This comment of mine comes off too angry sounding. I'm not angry, and I really enjoyed what you wrote. I'm just boggled at the film and frustrated by my conception of Fanny--but I should have toned that down, because I haven't seen the film, etc. etc., and I suddenly feared I'd been offensive...

Edited at 2016-02-26 04:51 pm (UTC)

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Sovay: Claude Rains
User: sovay
Date: 2016-02-26 19:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Claude Rains

On the one hand, it's interesting and gratifying to see Hollywood treating anti-Semitism seriously and directly in the 1940s.

As a historical document, it really interests me. It's three years earlier than Crossfire (1947) or Gentlemen's Agreement (1947), my previous benchmarks for Hollywood treatments of anti-Semitism. It is not euphemistic about Job's Jewishness. It is not euphemistic about the Nazis. It's the earliest movie I've seen with a Holocaust survivor. But it's all oddly submerged in the melodrama of Fanny coming to terms with the loss of the sexual allure by which she has always defined herself and I really think the last-minute intersection of the two is disastrous.

On the other hand, the other horse that's pulling this chariot of a movie is just too pathetic.

Like I said, I don't think the ending works! I lay more of the blame on the interaction with history than on the characterization of Fanny. After she delivers the speech about not wanting to add Job to her long list of shallow ex-lovers, she steels herself and goes down to face him anyway. And he doesn't recoil. It is not immediately apparent that he's blind. He has a stick, but he's in frail health, and he has a thousand-yard stare, but he's been through hell; they talk a little, he calls her "as beautiful as ever," and it's not until he rises to greet her and stumbles over a hassock that Fanny realizes he hasn't been seeing her all this while. In this sense my mother and I both felt the blindness was a narrative cop-out as well as historically dicey, because what's important is Fanny's decision to show herself to the one person she now realizes she couldn't bear to be rejected by: to let herself be seen honestly and be rewarded for her bravery. She's been struggling toward self-awareness since her illness and is now finally acting on it. The revelation that he can see her only in the metaphorical sense doesn't diminish the courage of her choice, but it does retrospectively cheapen the stakes. And to be strictly fair to Fanny, the line about Job always seeing her as young and beautiful is spoken by a third party as he looks on approvingly, so it is possible for the viewer to decide—as my mother and I did—that he was not speaking for Fanny herself but talking through his hat. The trouble is that, since it's included in the script at all, I am concerned that the audience is intended to believe it and find it a touching romantic irony rather than a horrific misuse of historical atrocity. Again, the film is so early—the war isn't even over!—that the idea of a Jewish character suffering the Holocaust so that a non-Jewish character can be enlightened is not yet a pattern. Knowledge of the Holocaust was much more limited then; what would have read as a fairly traditional melodramatic device now comes across as much more irresponsible equation of sufferings. I can still side-eye it, though.

Frankly, I would still have problems with the ending if he had gone blind in a car accident. We would just have been able to avoid the Nazis being partly responsible for the happy ending.

Edited at 2016-02-26 07:39 pm (UTC)

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moon_custafer: acme
User: moon_custafer
Date: 2016-02-27 01:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:acme

I generally dislike the blind-love-interest trope, because it implies the blind person is automatically saintly and/or unable to figure it out from other information. I do appreciate that an episode of a 1990s animated X-Men series subverted this by having the blind/formerly blind character point out in the last scene that it was kind of hard to not notice that Dr. McCoy is seven feet tall and covered in fur; and that in any case, that's what attracted her in the first place. Unfortunately the series never brought her back as a character.

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Sovay: Claude Rains
User: sovay
Date: 2016-02-27 05:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Claude Rains

I do appreciate that an episode of a 1990s animated X-Men series subverted this by having the blind/formerly blind character point out in the last scene that it was kind of hard to not notice that Dr. McCoy is seven feet tall and covered in fur; and that in any case, that's what attracted her in the first place.

Nice!

I've figured out that part of the problem I have with the climax of Mr. Skeffington is that it treats Job like a device where previously he was a person. Throw in the Holocaust and the disability metaphor and it's just hard to take seriously, except with annoyance.

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asakiyume: Aquaman is sad
User: asakiyume
Date: 2016-02-27 19:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Aquaman is sad

it treats Job like a device where previously he was a person.

And I really dislike this--what a loss. Way worse than blindness.

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asakiyume: nevermore
User: asakiyume
Date: 2016-02-27 19:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:nevermore

Simultaneously nodding approvingly for what you express and giggling at 7-foot fur-covered Dr. McCoy.

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asakiyume: black crow on a red ground
User: asakiyume
Date: 2016-02-27 19:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:black crow on a red ground

The revelation that he can see her only in the metaphorical sense doesn't diminish the courage of her choice, but it does retrospectively cheapen the stakes. --Yes. It's what you might call bad overengineering--making everything extra airtight for safety's sake and ending up suffocating the important point.

To get back to the historical interest: it's good proof to show that people--some people; Hollywood script writers, at any rate--did know what was going on in Nazi camps. I get the sense that our pop-culture narrative is that people didn't really know until the war was over. (I realize no one who studies history thinks that...)

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Sovay: Rotwang
User: sovay
Date: 2016-02-27 21:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Rotwang

I get the sense that our pop-culture narrative is that people didn't really know until the war was over. (I realize no one who studies history thinks that...)

I don't actually know our pop-culture narrative! I have always had the impression that the camps were a known factor in the U.S. from before its entry into the war, partly because of the part they play in movies of the time; it was the extent and organization of the killings that came as a surprise, and I think of that news as blowing wide open after the liberation of the death camps in 1944–45. I have made no systematic study of this history, however, and therefore should find some sources. [edit] According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the State Department got news of the "Final Solution" in 1942 and later that year the Allies issued a joint statement on the subject; details of the genocide were not, however, necessarily front-page news. After 1945, it starts to become much more publicly known and real, as opposed to reported and horrifiedly disbelieved. I have not yet seen Orson Welles' The Stranger (1946), but it's famous for being the first commercially available film to include documentary footage of the camps. Previously, I think that specific visual information had been limited to newsreels or documentaries and at least one of the documentaries was shelved until 2014.

Edited at 2016-02-27 10:11 pm (UTC)

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asakiyume: black crow on a red ground
User: asakiyume
Date: 2016-02-27 22:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:black crow on a red ground

Whoa, just having one of those moments when the reality of it all hits again. Sometimes it's just too horrible having any connection to H. sapiens.

But then I can collect myself and remember that it's not all Holocaust. It's just that when you have one of those moments, it blots out everything else.

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Sovay: Rotwang
User: sovay
Date: 2016-03-03 18:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Rotwang

it still sounds like Job's horrific experiences are somehow set in a scale which on the other side is balanced by Bette Davis's facing aging and lost looks.

See comment left by ylla above—the climax of the novel contains almost the same actions as the movie, including some very close or identical dialogue, but the interpretation is more oblique, the effect of Job's blindness less sentimental, and the disability metaphor appears to be the addition of the screenplay, all of which means the novel does not call out the same all-caps response from me. Now I can't tell if I should go on blaming the Epsteins for the screenplay or fault the studio for wanting a sappier happy ending. Delete the line from George about how Job will always see Fanny and it might still almost have been salvageable as it stood. The Holocaust hadn't yet happened when the novel was published; by the time of the film, it was too late.

Edited at 2016-03-03 06:33 pm (UTC)

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asakiyume: black crow on a red ground
User: asakiyume
Date: 2016-03-04 05:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:black crow on a red ground

The Holocaust hadn't yet happened when the novel was published; by the time of the film, it was too late.

There's sobering time magic going on, isn't there, between the book and the movie. It's kind of breathtaking to contemplate. The book: created in a world that didn't yet know about the Holocaust. The movie (and all of us): existing in a world that can't not have experienced it, can't not know it (even if some would deny it).

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