Friday, 30 September 2011

Virginia Mayo

One of the advantages of having your own blog is that you are free to write exactly what you want. At the moment I'm thinking about national cinema and its more recent cousin, transnational cinema (no, I don't understand what it means either) and my own contribution, a-national cinema. But that is all work-related, even though I will soon post something about that. But today I will be posting film clips with Virginia Mayo. She is one of my favourites, and I wish I had seen more of her films, but I have only so much time at hand. She was especially good when she was a bit rough, because she had a kind of raw sexuality and a fierce temper, and when the two are combined there's a lot of energy let loose. I think I especially like her when she was working with Raoul Walsh, as in Colorado Territory (1949) and White Heat (1949).

Let's begin with a clip from White Heat. James Cagney and Edmond O'Brien are the two men, and it is the last 20 seconds that is the highlight of the sequence.

Here's the trailer for Colorado Territory. Raoul Walsh is here remaking his earlier High Sierra (1941). That one had Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino and is set in the present day, a cross between film noir, gangster film and melodrama. Colorado Territory has all of that too, and a western setting. Joel McCrea and Mayo are playing the parts instead of Bogart and Lupino. It is actually interesting that she works so well with McCrea because they're each others opposites. He's calm and laidback, more comforting than sexy, but maybe that's why they're such a good pair.

She often did musicals even though she didn't sing. Her voice was always dubbed, which makes me reluctant to include a singing sequence, but this number is so good I have to show it. It is from A Song is Born (1948), which besides Mayo and Danny Kaye has a large number of great jazz musicians. Jeri Sullavan is the voice to Mayo's lips.

(It might be one of Hawks's lesser films, but then his benchmark is rather high.)

I'll end with something different, a scene from The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Mayo plays the wife of a returning soldier, played by Dana Andrews. The war has led to the two of them no longer understanding each other, and the love has died, if it ever existed. We are beginning to see that in this clip (you'll have to click on the link yourselves). This is a film of frequent brilliance, and this sequence is not necessarily the most brilliant, but it'll do for now.

You've probably noticed that the clips I've shown are from a very short timespan. She was active from the early 40s and she did her last film as late as 1997 (The Man Next Door it was called and I haven't seen it and nor have I any particular wish to do so...) but already from the late 1950s she did mostly small parts in TV-series, including Santa Barbara and Remington Steele. Yes, those were the days when TV was often a retirement home for old actors/actresses.

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