Tag Archives: Cecelia Ager

PM, August 16, 1946

Discovery of The Superkiss

PM Reviews
NOTORIOUS, an RKO-Radio picture at the Music Hall, starring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant, wit Claude Rains, Madame Kon- stantin, Louis Calhern. Story and screenplay by Ben Hecht, produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

That an Alfred Hitchcock picture strangles you with suspense as if it were slowly pulling a cord around your throat, is not news. That the cord Mr. Hitchcock uses in Notorious is silken, might have been anticipated. His devices for audience enthrallment have grown more opulent as they have become less ingenious. They used to be braided together of unexpected and unusual oddments; of late they have been fashioned of one slick, expensive piece.
But that the old master should now crack out with a love scene to make all previous movie love scenes obsolete, is-to drain the word of all its connotations- a sensation.
Heretofore the tender little was of love have not been Mr. Hitchcock’s forte. This was only because, Notorious reveals, he had not put his mind, or his memory, to it.
Inasmuch as life imitates the movies, look now for a change in the techniques of contemporary pass-making. In olden times the degree of heat used to be measured by the number of minutes clocked off during the kiss-direct. So wide-spread was the belief in this myth that the then Hays office felt itself compelled to limit the number of minutes, in order to avert explosions. Believing themselves ham-pered by this Hays office restriction, scientific movie producers then experimented with variations in position and came to the conclusion that the horizontal was the most inflammatory, at least to their box office returns.
But now, as a result of a scene between Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in Notorious, the whole belief in the prolonged, horizontal kiss-direct is shown up as so much naive superstition. Simply bypassing these well-established procedures, Mr. Hitchcock proves that a lot of little kisses, properly placed – on and by the right persons, of course – while they’re talking about something else, dinner, for instance – is the true expression of true love. Even while she stands by him as he telephones, Miss Bergman is unable to cease and desist from brushing Mr. Grant with a thousand hungry little caresses. Since each one is as light and swift as a butterfly, that old Hays office knows what it can do. This is it; this is the way it is; or, as we said earlier, since life imitates the movies, this is the way it’s going to be.
The rest of the picture, tautening its silken cord in skillfull, imperceptibly quickening tempo, has to do with our own FBI out- smarting some first rate, very suave, Nazi rascals in Rio, ring-led by Claude Rains and Mme. Konstantin, who plays his mother. Mr. Grant is one of the FBI agents, Miss Bergman another. Since for a spell it’s necessary for Miss Bergman to be married to Mr. Rains, in order to discover what he’s up to – actually he’s only up to collecting the raw materials for atomic bombs – you can imagine how Mr. Grant suffers. You will have to imagine it. Mr. Grant would be the last to reveal it, if he could.

PM, August 25, 1946

“Bogart, Bacall, Babes and Bums

The Big Sleep yearns to be the most shocking picture that ever was. To that end, it sells shock for its own sake-realizing that any good reason for its trafficking would necessarily weaken the blows.
Realizing, too, that because they’ve become so familiar, murder, crimes, beatings-up alone have lost much of their jolt-value-The Big Sleep decides that its chief assaults shall be made with the still shining bludgeons of personal corruption, fetidness, decay.
But it is so intensely proud of its new weapon, there is so much determination in its batterings, it is so dedicated to thoroughness in its laying bare of evil-that a terrible thing, the very last thing it wanted to have happen to it, happens to it.
The deep sincerity of its striving for vice arouses affection. It’s so very serious about purveying depravity that its seriousness becomes endearing. It becomes kind of touching, kind of sweet.

Men Are Killers

It becomes winning. It evokes the fond indulgence that a blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked, good little boy meets when earnestly relating the very naughtiest day-dream the dear little fellow is able to think up.
All the men in the The Big Sleep are murderers, naturally; all the women, babes. Except perhaps for the showgirls in a Metro musical. There has never been assembled for one movie a greater and more delightfully varied number of female knock-outs. But whereas Metro showgirls at least look content, every woman in The Big Sleep is feverishly hungry for love. Though they appear ripe, inwardly they are starved, and so desperate for assuagement that though every one of them would prefer Humphrey Bogart, they settle instantly for anybody.
Quickest settler of them all is Martha Vickers, who looks like somebody’s kid sister budding into beauty, and who acts at least like Lauren Bacall’s kid sister, who, indeed, she plays.

Female Technique

She too looks up at a man with her hair impairing the vision of one eye. She too talks cryptic, in a cigaret voice. Her legs too are long; her technique, aggression.
But when denied her opium and her men, Miss Vickers pouts; whereas Miss Bacall, denied her bottle and her man, smoulders. The distinction is slight – having to do with the virtue of the singular “man” versus the plural “men” – but sufficient to make Miss Bacall the heroine, a legal movie conviction required to be pinned on some lady in a picture so that the audience can feel reassured that God’s in His heaven: all’s right with the world.
The love song of heroine Bacall and hero Bogart is wailed on a police siren, the counterpoint to a phantasmagoria of violence, mist, and confusion; a great many uglinesses happening fast. But how or why one ugliness succeeds the last is not easy to determine, inasmuch as producer-director Howard Hawks is so entranced with making each ugliness an individual gem of its kind that their relationship to each other has been neglected.
But these individual gems are recommended as samples of the skill of cinema craftsmen when engaged in cutting and polishing rhinestones to simulate diamonds, instead of just cutting and polishing diamonds. They are marvelous fakes. If there were such people and things as The Big Sleep has made up, they would certainly jerk that way.

-Cecelia Ager

PM Reviews

THE BIG SLEEP, a Warner Brother picture at the Strand. starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall with Martha Vickers, Charles Waldron, John Ridgely, Elisha Cook Jr. Sonia Darrin, Pat Clark, Dorothy Malone, Regis Toomey; screenplay by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman from the story by Raymond Chandler; produced and directed by Howard Hawks.

PM Daily, March 3, 1948
by Cecelia Ager
“Hellinger Film is A Love Song to NYC
In his last production, The Naked City, Mark Hellinger has bequeathed is a love song to New York…”

Still no mention of Weegee…

NY Times Obit:
“April 4, 1981
Cecelia Ager, a film critic and commentator on the foibles and personalities of the entertainment business, died yesterday after suffering a stroke in Los Angeles. In a career that spanned the golden age of the movie industry, she wrote for Variety, PM, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and The New York Times Magazine and Arts and Leisure Section. She was 79 years old.”