WRITTEN ON THE WIND ( 1957 )


HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAUREN BACALL

LAUREN BACALL ( in DARK PASSAGE )

When Lauren Bacall looks at you, or gives you her side-eye glance, brothers and sisters…you  are  done! Her eyes are scorching laser beams, slicing through you like butter. Her gravelly voice can be commanding, withering or mesmerizingly sultry. When she died last August 12th, 2014, it was a shock to all in the classic film community. She seemed so indomitable. She could glare death into submission. What was I thinking. It truly sunk in as I bought several New York newspapers the day her passing was announced:

LAUREN BACALL ( NY DAILY NEWS - I ) LAUREN BACALL ( NY POST ) LAUREN BACALL ( NY TIMES - I )

That’s just me; being romantic again about the power these film stars hold over me. Here in the cocoon of this blogathon, I can speak of one of my favorite performers when Crystal’s blog: In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood presents THE LAUREN BACALL BLOGATHON. My “Bacallathon” entry will be Douglas Sirk’s 1956 film WRITTEN ON THE WIND.

   LAUREN BACALL BLOGATHON BANNER ( Mine )LIEBSTER ( WRITTEN on the WIND )

Lauren Bacall gives a subtle quiet performance as Lucy Moore in “Written on the Wind.” She starts off with edge, sharpness; after all, she’s an Executive Secretary for a top advertising agency in NYC. The film’s opening shorthand gives us the score on her.

WRITTEN ( I )

She wants a career. Picture her at 21 with a martini in one hand, witty repartee in the other and fending off Madison Avenue Casanovas with the other other hand. She says so:

  WRITTEN ( VII ) WRITTEN ( VIII ) WRITTEN ( IX ) WRITTEN ( X )

          STACK:      “What wouldn’t bore you?”
          BACALL:   “My career.  Advertising.”
          HUDSON: “Bravo, as they say in Texas.”
          STACK:      “Where did you learn the advertising game?”
          BACALL:   “With the Sheridan Agency.”
          STACK:      “Top drawer, huh?”
          BACALL:   “One of Madison Avenue’s finest.”

By mid-point in the movie, we are in the SAME predicament as Bacall:

“How the  *$^!#@*&  did we get here?”

The movie is actually told in flashback to show how we ALL got to this point. And for the sake of full disclosure, I must admit I don’t understand her character’s psychology in even marrying Robert Stack in the first place. The why of her marrying him is the crux of the story and sets a lot of things in motion…check out this clip:

So…you tell me. He never blinks, and has a glassy glazed intense look on his face. If I question her motivations for marrying this guy, the movie might be over in 20 minutes, and you might not want to read about her any further.  It does naggle at my brain. But lets just take it as a given.

 WRITTEN ( XIII ) WRITTEN ( XIV ) WRITTEN ( XV )
( Temptation )

WRITTEN ( XII )WRITTEN ( XXXIV )Now even though we   all do know
Bacall has edge, her panther-like persona is not brought to this role. She is rather demure I’d say ( often casting her eyes downward. ) She is partly an observer…a conduit of the crazy goings-on of this waaaayward family of the rich and neurotic she’s married into. She’s warm. She exhibits a calming kindness and understanding. Of course all bets are off when it comes to dealing with her new sister-in-law, played with fire and pizzazz by Dorothy Malone. Malone plays Iago to her brother,

WRITTEN ( XXXXXXII ) WRITTEN ( XXXXXXIII )
( Tell me lies…tell me sweet little lies )

dropping innuendoes and sarcasm like bar-bells. If he had any self-esteem he wouldn’t believe her but, well…therein lies the rub. When she belittles him to his new wife, Bacall steps up to the plate in his defense, swatting down her dear, heat-seeking sister-in-law:

 WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXX-I ) WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXXX - II ) WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXXX - III ) WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXXX - IIII ) WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXXX - V ) WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXXX - VI ) WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXXX - IX ) WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXXX - VIII )

MALONE:   “Anyway, about your marriage. You have my condolences.”
BACALL:     “Pardon me if I seem to be brushing you out of my hair.”
MALONE:   “Darling I’ll send you some of my towels. I believe you’re still wet behind the ears.” 

I love their exchange. Bacall’s no patsy. She doesn’t show fire, but the sharpness is there. What’s more, she tempers that edge, which is what I like about her performance in this movie. She has a nice scene when she meets her father-in-law, played by Robert Keith; he senses she’s no gold digger – she has a down-to-earth personality and a direct gaze. Though his manner is avuncular, he’s got his issues too. He IS the Dad who put his friend’s son ( Rock Hudson ) above his OWN son ( Robert Stack ).

WRITTEN ( XVII ) WRITTEN ( XVIII )

STACK:    “Mitch’s old man was my Dad’s boyhood pal. His idol, I guess. He’s a small rancher. Kind of a legend in our country. A great hunter. Sort of a throwback to Daniel Boone. I used to wish he were my father.”
BACALL:  “Is your father aware of this?”
STACK:   “Dad’s a big man. So big he and I know I can’t fill his shoes. Even come close to it.”
BACALL: “Can anybody?”
STACK:    “Yes.   Mitch.”

This is one of the things that makes Bacall sympathetic to Stack. With her influence, she makes Stack want to be a better person. And though I STILL see no visible means of his being a tangible asset to the family oil business, he’s laid off the booze and has gotten rid of the gun he sleeps with underneath his pillow ( RED FLAG #1 or #5,374 ). Sirk leaves no foreshadow unturned, heralding it with dramatic music. But can one person prop up another person’s life? Bacall’s about to find out it’s an impossible job.

WRITTEN ( XVI ) WRITTEN ( XXXXX )

Back In the Friend Zone is Bacall’s ‘Rock’. Rock Hudson did see her first at the ad agency

WRITTEN ( IV ) WRITTEN ( III ) WRITTEN ( VI )

but faint heart never won fair maiden. His pal ( Stack ) swoops in with his charm and millions ( and unwavering gaze ) – probably their dynamic since childhood. With Bacall marrying Stack, Hudson sort of stands watch over her from the sidelines. He’s a comfort to have around even if they don’t act on their feelings. Oh yeah, there are feelings. She definitely shows us she’s attracted to him; they’re shy around each other. And Stack is as territorial as a dog with a mailman’s leg. She’ll need Hudson more than ever now.

    WRITTEN ( XXXX ) WRITTEN ( XXXXI ) WRITTEN ( XXXXII ) WRITTEN ( XXXXIV )

DOROTHY MALONE ( I )

WRITTEN ( XXXXVIII ) WRITTEN ( XXXXVII ) WRITTEN ( XXXXV ) WRITTEN ( XXXXIX )

Her father-in-law has just keeled over dead from a heart attack in the classic Mambo of Death dance scene ( click Malone above for her dance scene and here for her Oscar-winning speech ). Bacall’s reaction is a combination of horror and numbness. Keith’s death leaves her alone with a nymphomaniac sister-in-law and an alcoholic husband. Hudson’s sort of an enabler in all this, not definitively putting his foot down. So NOW, he’s had enough?

WRITTEN ( XXXXXXI )

“To Hell with the Hadleys!!”

He’s going to a safe place ( Iran!!! ) to work for another oil company and get away from the lot o’ them. I like how subtly torn Bacall shows us here; her body language leans slightly forward…anxious to stop him, but stopping herself ‘less she looks like she wants to stop him…which she does.

WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXI ) WRITTEN ( XXXXXXVI )     ( Lets just kiss…and say goodbye )

BACALL:     “Will you pick me up at the drugstore in about an hour please?”
HUDSON:   “Better take a taxi.”
BACALL:     “Am I that much trouble to you?”
HUDSON:  “You don’t know how much.”
BACALL:    “I’ll be waiting for you.”

The soft sweet pain and yearning of unrequited love.

The descent begins in earnest when Stack believes he can’t father children and Bacall tells him she’s pregnant. He goes from zero-to-sixty…downhill. All Sirkian Hell breaks loose.

WRITTEN ( XXXXXXX )

And Bacall is caught in the cross-hairs.

WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXIV )WRITTEN ( XXXXXXVIII )WRITTEN ( XXXXXX )WRITTEN ( XXXVI )WRITTEN ( XXXVIII )  WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXI )WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXX )
WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXV )WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXVII )WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXVIII ) WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXX ) WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXXVII )WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXXII )  WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXXV )  WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXXIV )

WRITTEN ( XXXXXXXXXVIII )Many times Sirk positions Bacall in scenes in the middle between Hudson and Stack, or puts Stack between Hudson and Bacall. She plays calm and understanding. She’s fearful. She is a woman in trouble in a troubled marriage using coping mechanisms to survive this. She IS a damsel-in-distress but doesn’t go big or showy. Bacall is usually a cool customer; calm, smoldering and collected. I see her maturity as an actress through quietly shifting emotions to weather this soap op’ry storm with a good message…even a smart gal like Lauren Bacall can get in trouble.

You can get all manner of Lauren in this BACALLATHON. To see one of her other screen personas all you have to do is put your fingers together, and click. Click the banner for other blog entries. Click the YouTube thumbnails for a nice tribute to Written on the Wind accompanied by a Britney Spears song ( yes, Britney! Give it a chance ) – and for the film’s official trailer below. Thanks for reading. Lauren Bacall, you made your mark. It’s your birthday, but you’ve given us the gift. YOU.

LAUREN BACALL ( BANNER #2 )  

 

(  H O M E  )

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30 thoughts on “WRITTEN ON THE WIND ( 1957 )

  1. I often marvel at the huge number of Beautiful People in modern films, where every dame’s a drop-dead gorgeous specimen, and all the men are outdoing Ben Affleck, hoping to catch Cary Grant. Still. But then films like WRITTEN remind me that this casting style has been nearly forever… Fay Wray had some big hairy apes occasionally, but she’d get Joel McCrea even more often. (Why oh why did she ever go near deserted islands and jungles? I dunno…)

    Thanks for this write-up. I grew up with Bacall as the big part of my favorite movie-watching experiences, only meeting her later in life (1998) and I kept finding reasons to cross her path until her magical last book-tour brought her to my li’l ol’ hometown so I could manage a few show-off days. And in every wonderful episode, I kept thinking, “TV is missing one of the best interviewers by not having her aboard…” Alas, your newspapers were right, even in her last 20 years – she was from a classic era and no matter what brightest-star she was sitting with, they would simply melt beside her and only want to listen, instead of promote whatever grand tour their agency decreed. “Tell me more…” Always more.

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    • Movies…they are such a fantasy. Yes even “Dead End“… the poor people didn’t really live like real poor people lived. Seems like we’ve been stuck with the Impossibly Beautiful People from the beginning of Thomas Edison.
      ___

      What a dream to have met her, you lucky dawg! I do imagine these legends have an aura ( and lotsa stories ) that draw people to them. (( Sigh! )) You lucky dawg. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. I enjoyed reading this. (how do you get the photos up there looking so hi-quality?) Lauren looks stunning here; almost untouchable. But it’s DOT MALONE who stole my heart when I saw this as a kid. (thx to mom). Those sexy, slightly baggy blue eyes and that 80s hair! Bad Girl! And the soundtrack really put you in the mood. Good one, Tex.

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    • Hi Rob. No arguing about Dorothy Malone. She was sumthin’ sumthin’ in this film. ( “I’m filthy, period!” ) Poor girl, she never got the man she wanted. But I hope you were also able to appreciate Bacall’s performance too. It was quiet and subtle. My pix? Well this time it was pretty time-consuming. I watched the movie’s DVD on my laptop and when scenes came on I wanted to capture, I literally took a pix of the monitor with my camera. Then cropped the photo. For each and every one you see here. Whew!! All for Bacall. Thanks for reading this post and commenting. Now to, a-hem, let you go back to Malone…

      ( Have you seen her in “The Last Sunset” “The Last Voyage” “Warlock” “The Tarnished Angels” to name a few??? I like her too. )

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love Robert Stack’s performance, but every time I watch this film I always shout at the TV, “Lauren, don’t marry him! Take Rock Hudson instead!” That’s the effect Lauren Bacall’s character has on me. You’re absolutely right when you say even a smart girl can get into trouble.

    Wonderful post. Thanks for this.

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    • Hahahaaaaaa! Yes, I yell at Bacall too, but you know how it goes…it won’t be a movie without a conflict. It won’t be a movie if we don’t pick the bad boy. Aye yi yi! I enjoyed on Bacall’s journey in this. I can’t escape saying it again, what must’ve been in her character’s mind: “What the hell have I gotten myself into.” Thanks for your comments, Silver Screening!

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  6. Great review as always and terrific pics.
    Must admit I think Malone and Stack absolutely steal the film. Who’d have guessed Robert Stack was capable of playing such a tortured character.
    Love Bacall of course but don’t rate this as one of her best. Sorry.

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      • Lauren in Written on the Wind is similar to Irene Janson in Dark Passage and Nora in Key Largo – sweet,loving , capable and low key. – and very good of course.
        But the roles that stand out for me are To Have and Have Not,The Big Sleep and How to Marry a Millionaire. Maybe just bigger personalities, no nonsense, knows what she wants,ready with the snappy reply.
        It’s a pity Lauren didn’t make more films.
        And in case I haven’t said it often enough (!) I was so lucky to see her on stage in both APPLAUSE and WOMAN OF THE YEAR She was terrific.
        Just my opinion of course.

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  7. Yep. Saw Lauren several times in Applause at Her Majesty’s theatre in London in the 1970s. Waited many times at the stage door afterwards. She always signed programs etc for fans. As Margo Channing in this musical version of All About Eve, she was awesome. And she had some great songs to sing in that throaty voice of hers.
    They did a TV version in which Larry Hagman costarred ,but if only they had recorded a live performance on Broadway or in London.
    Woman of the Year ( based again on a famous film), I saw in San Francisco. Again, she was so good, though I preferred Applause.

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