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Tag: Jimmy Stewart

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Broken Arrow Stills

Some stills I captured from one of my favorite Jimmy Stewart westerns, Broken Arrow. This one happens not to be directed by Anthony Mann. These feature some angles, compositions and lighting, and take good advantage of the surroundings.

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As was typical of Hollywood at the time, parts for Native Americans went to white folks like Debra Paget and Jeff Chandler. They do a decent job, but this casting mars the film, much like Natalie Wood in the The Searchers, as gorgeous as she is.

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Check this nice write-up for more stills and some Jonny Quest history.

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TothPix: FBI Story, part 2

Continuing an examination of Toth's comics adaptation of  The FBI Story (1959)...

Both panels (below) are straight-on shots, pretty much from eye level, carrying on the "documentary style" employed for most of the story so far. Again - great folds on the clothing as Chip's on his way out. Then we move on to a domestic Christmas scene. I love how Toth knocks the tree out to black - the decorations colorfully popping...

(Not facing panels.)

...which he carries through the scene. Great compositions here, as he lowers the POV on the first shot, framing the mistletoe kiss and reaction of the characters in the background with the foreground tree and Christmas gifts. Very natural action and body language in the second, Chip nearly cropped out of frame as we center on the exchange between his wife and partner.

(Not facing panels.)

More spotting of blacks to enliven and ground the talking heads. At times (as with the head in the foreground, right) Toth knocks out a figure/object completely in black, others (as with Chip to his left) he allows a tiny bit of light into the shadow for definition and depth.

The good vibe and news turns dark - wife, Lucy realizes the danger of their situation. Black becomes more dominant - with the background, more harsh shadows, pipe, suspender strap and tree. The cropping of the pipe into the partner's face is vérité, seemingly not staged, also focusing our attention on Lucy's reaction. In the second frame, a somber Lucy is shown in dour profile, offset in the panel, enveloped in the dark tree. Even her red dress and the sparkling decorations can not cheer her mood at the thought of wearing black at her husband's funeral.

(Not facing panels.)

A super page (21, below) in a story where overall page composition is not paramount. More action, dynamism, contrast and variation of shots on this page, and it all works together beautifully.

Close-up of frame 2: Dynamic, expressive, chiaroscuro. There's hardly a holding line here - it's nearly all light & shadow, à la Noel Sickles.

Close-up of frame 3: More of the same - all light and shadow. A 3/4 overhead shot, the image has but three colors. Toth not only has the perspective right, but all the details on the car, even while he didn't worry about pristine rendering. Fine with me. More than fine.

The next page is another winner: Varied shots; silhouettes; decent, minimalistic coloring. Frame 4 is great - love the sweep of action, the folds of the suit bleeding into the dark street. I wish Toth had done more with Baby Face in panel 3 - it could've been more dramatic, perhaps more lighting or a lower angle? As is, it's too static.

With the final two panels, Toth pulls way back, enveloping all in black - the characters float in the darkness, no horizon line, setting the stage for the sparse and striking death scene on the following page....

Toth's rough rendering grounds the truth of this death scene, more poignant, honest and touching than most in any genre. Sam's body slumps in panel 2, Toth cuts to a close-up of Chip in the third, the darkness nearly overtaking everything in the last frame as Sam slips away. The lone word balloon in that final panel stands out against the black, spaced far from Chip have the moment last a beat longer. The tails of the balloons trickle down to each speaker like tears on a face or rain on a window pane.

Next Toth Tuesday, I'll wrap up the The FBI Story with the final third. Good stuff ahead....

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So What's So Wonderful?

Another post following up on Christmas... Somehow, I squeezed in my annual viewing of the Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life, but it didn't get my full attention between turns during a game of Scrabble. I wasn't fully engaged, so wasn't weepy during the usual scenes, probably a first for me. I did find myself speaking the dialogue as the movie played, so much of it permanently ingrained in my brain. But I'll have to pay more attention again next year. I'm still surprised when I read that some people can't stand the movie as they find it overly sentimental and saccharine. While I'll admit that's certainly true in a handful moments of the movie, it's more filled with romance, then frustration and dread, and especially during the 20-minute noir nightmare sequence, it's downright frightening. All of which I wrote about extensively last year.

I came across a few who have similar take. In his New York Times video feature review, A.O. Scott finds the movie and Bedford Falls to be a welcome holiday respite from our real-life Pottersville. Another Times article has an even more grim view:
Lots of people love this movie of course. But I’m convinced it’s for the wrong reasons. Because to me “It’s a Wonderful Life” is anything but a cheery holiday tale. Sitting in that dark public high school classroom, I shuddered as the projector whirred and George Bailey’s life unspooled. Was this what adulthood promised?
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation.
This writer sees Bedford Falls as stifling and Pottersville as a lot more fun. Whether you agree with all his points regarding what would be George's actual effect on his town, or whether George would end up in jail anyway, his is an interesting look at the movie from another angle, and he certainly sees the dark side. Taking issue with some of that author's points, One GenXer envisions a sequel beyond the happy ending, to a troubled marriage for George and Mary. And this overview sees Wonderful Life as the most depressing of Capra's movies, comparing it to his other works. So, if you've been turned off by the angels, a cartoonish villain or the sugar-sweet finale, give It's a Wonderful Life another shot. There's a nagging discontent to satisfy any cynic, plenty of darkness to delight any Scrooge.