no such thing as a cinema audience... It is a television audience
January 23, 2015 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Ten o’clock on a grey, wintry morning and Mr David Niven marched up a deserted Champs-Elysées, some of the insolence of his erect Sandhurst carriage slightly curbed by a blinding hangover. 23 January 1965: David Niven on the golden days of Hollywood
posted by fearfulsymmetry (8 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
No matter what new medium gets invented, there are always people who complain that it's ruining the one they already work in, and miss the possibilities for new creative forms. Wait until everyone starts making VR movies in the near future.
posted by empath at 8:53 AM on January 23, 2015

This quote was more interesting to me, both from a how-it-was-back-in-the-old days perspective and a noodling-what-if-it-was-like-that-now? perspective:

"In the old days there would be flocks of writers in their own building sweating away on scripts and ideas. When they got a star like Clark Gable, immediately there would be a team of writers working out the next four great Gable vehicles. Today there is no continuity. They are mostly independent productions; when the film is made the team breaks up. Then, you see, that golden age of Hollywood was really a one-generation business, wasn’t it?"

In any case, The Guns of Navarone is amazing, in large part thanks to him.
posted by SafetyPirate at 9:06 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

In any case, The Guns of Navarone is amazing, in large part thanks to him.

Definitely... and he nearly died making that film.

The last sequence shot of The Guns of Navarone was the actual setting of the bombs by Gregory Peck and David Niven. With three days left to shoot, Niven was felled by an infection from a split lip sustained shooting in the studio tank. As doctors tried to identify the infection so they could treat it effectively, the production ground to a halt for a month. Finally, Niven defied his doctors' orders and returned to the set to finish the film before he had fully recovered. The relapse that resulted put him in the hospital for seven weeks.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:19 AM on January 23, 2015

That and the preceding bit -

The standards are so low. I am a tiny bit qualified to speak about this because I ran a television company with Charles Boyer and Dick Powell, and in less than five years we turned out 1,800 films. We were not consciously turning out crap. But there is such an enormous appetite for material and it has to be turned out so quickly that inevitably there is no time to get the finesse going.

is pretty accurate for the world of Internet journalism too.
posted by Devonian at 9:42 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've no idea why, but Niven, despite being born in London, claimed that he was born in Kirriemuir, a small town in Angus where I grew up, and which was also the birthplace of J.M. Barrie and Bon Scott (there's an allusion to this in the interview, which states that he was born in Scotland). His two volumes of autobiography are great, in that Hollywood tradition of rambling anecdotage masquerading as autobiography, though.

There's a great story in the second volume - which provides the title - about when he worked on The Charge of the Light Brigade, directed by Michael Curtiz:
Curtiz was the director of the Charge and his Hungarian-orientated English was a source of joy to us all.
High on a rostrum he decided that the right time had come to order the arrival on the scene of a hundred head of riderless chargers. 'Okay', he yelled into a megaphone - 'Bring on the empty horses!'
[Errol] Flynn and I doubled up with laughter. 'You lousy bums!' Curtiz shouted, 'you and your stinking language ... you think I know fuck nothing ... well let me tell you -- I know FUCK ALL!'
posted by Len at 11:29 AM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

For some reason I had a huge crush on David Niven when I was a tween. He seemed so suave and sophisticated and of another era. His books were great. When he died I was surprised at how sad I was.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:58 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

A Matter of Life and Death is excellent. (That's Kim Hunter talking to him.) Later, the film takes you ... here.

I do get what he's saying, a variation on they don't make them like that anymore, but in television terms it was only a few years more for Dennis Potter's very related projects Pennies from Heavan and The Singing Detective, and of course today is the "third Golden Age of Television" and all that, so I think he was responding more to the maturation of the medium toward mass tastes that was taking place then, a product in many ways of the distribution paradigm.

For Niven himself, of course, his significant career was pretty much over by 1965; there's nothing after that that's as well remembered, and certainly no more BAFTAs or Oscars. He became pigeon-holed as a somewhat more posh Terry-Thomas, the emblematic proper Englishman in Hollywood sundries. He was right to be depressed, I suppose.
posted by dhartung at 6:59 PM on January 23, 2015

One of the reasons I posted the article, and why I picked the quote, is that just a couple years later the New Holywood / New Wave would kick off with Bonnie and Clyde,.

We're kinda going through a similar period again with the death of the indies and the block-busterisation of the rest of cinema (but with better television) but I can't see any new wave coming to rescue us anytime soon.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:42 AM on January 24, 2015

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