The late Leon Shamroy was a robust, hearty man who at the beginning of his long career as one of Hollywood's finest cinematographers carried his own camera to work every day--aboard a streetcar. On Thursday, UCLA's "Technicolor: The Glory Years" pays tribute to Shamroy with a screening of "The Black Swan" (1942) and "Leave Her to Heaven" (1945) at 7:30 p.m. in Melnitz Theater.
"The Black Swan," which takes its title from a pirate ship, is the archetypal Technicolor swashbuckler--and a timeless pleasure. Ben Hecht and Seton I. Miller adapted the Rafael Sabatini novel centering on the adventures of Morgan the Pirate (played by Laird Cregar with suitable relish) in the days of the Spanish Main with a zest matched by Henry King's direction.
Tyrone Power is the dashing hero; Maureen O'Hara--a leading lady born for color if ever there was one--is the proud lady he pursues. In his first experience with Technicolor, Shamroy brought "The Black Swan" to life in such lush hues that they still take your breath away, and for his efforts he won his first Oscar.
Shamroy, however, understood that Technicolor should be modulated to suit each film. Color in "The Black Swan" is as bright as it is appropriately subdued in the classic woman's picture "Leave Her to Heaven," which was directed with compassion by John M. Stahl from Jo Swerling's adaptation of Ben Ames Williams' best seller. It's so involving you might even forget you're watching a color film with its genteel Better Homes and Gardens settings were it not for the bold Victory Red of Gene Tierney's lipstick.
Tierney is the beautiful heroine, a woman so insecure beneath her glamorous, poised surface that her possessiveness destroys those she loves and finally herself. Tierney probably is remembered more for her beauty than her talent, but here she is absolutely riveting in a performance that scarcely could be bettered. Despite a melodramatic courtroom finish, "Leave Her to Heaven" has an acutely perceived psychological validity that is as timely as ever. Tierney's victims include Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain and Darryl Hickman; Vincent Price is her discarded but vengefully loyal first love. Phones: (213) 825-2581, 825-2953.
Experimental film maker Yvonne Rainer's "The Man Who Envied Women" (at the Nuart Tuesday and Wednesday only) is a movie that talks too much. The much-praised Rainer has wit, but it's lost in this scrapbook of a film containing endless verbiage. For all its funny bits and flashes of insight, "The Man Who Envied Women" succumbs to inane babble and self-destructs long before it's over. Phones: (213) 478-6379, 479-5269.
The UCLA Film Archives' "Classic Films From India" continues this weekend with the films of Rajaram Vanakudre Shantaram, a pioneer who directed his first film in 1927 and his last half a century later. Of the three Shantaram films to be screened, the 1937 "Duniya na Mane" ("The Unexpected") is considered to be the best, which unfortunately is not encouraging. It is a film of considerable naive charm, but is so slow and repetitive that its long-winded 2-hour, 34-minute running time seems more like twice that. To watch this museum piece is like watching paint dry. "The Unexpected" screens Saturday at 8 p.m. in Melnitz Theater. Full schedule and further information: (213) 825-9261, 825-2581.
A pair of AIP's best "blaxploitation pix," "J.D.'s Revenge" (1976) and Jonathan Kaplan's extraordinarily witty and visual "Truck Turner" (1974), screen at 7 tonight in USC's Norris Theater. The complicated but entertaining "Legend of Musashi" kicks off a Samurai series Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. at the Monica 4-Plex.