Arts & Entertainment
View From 2,665 Feet
By Charles Alexander
Originally printed 10/24/2013 (Issue 2143 - Between The Lines News)
$9.49 is pittance to pay for a glamorous trip down memory lane. (The older I get the more trips I take; the intervals growing shorter and shorter, with an occasional shady rest stop in between.)
So, among the movies on sale during my Royal Oak's Barnes & Noble weekly visit I chose "The Razor's Edge." It's dated viewing. Hokey in its groping American seeks life's meaning at 2,665 feet in a mountain retreat in Southern India, but true to British author Somerset Maugham's book.
A David O. Selznick's 1946 postwar production, the movie cost a hefty $4 million dollars back then - about $12 million pre-recent stock market nose-diving dollars, and employed over 18,000 extras to compliment its stellar cast.
I wanted to see Tyrone Power - just out of the U.S. Marines an at the peak of his handsome good looks - Gene Tierney's breathtaking loveliness at 26, and Clifton Webb's faggy waspiness, made so initially memorable in the 1944 "Laura," his first Hollywood venture, again with Tierney.
Apart from Webb's Academy Award-nominated Best Supporting Actor performance in "Razor," losing out to Harold Russell for "Best Years of Our Lives," the film has other gay historical subtexts.
(My Cass Tech homeroom teacher Lawrence Timothy Ray was a Webb look-alike. He had also been a Broadway chorus boy with Webb in the 1920s.) Mr. Ray often began English Lit class, black horn-rimmed glasses in hand for elegant emphasis, with, "all right, teenagers let's take interactive dictation!".
Actor Tyrone Power was bisexual, gossiped to have had an S/M fling with swashbuckling actor Errol Flynn. And there's a brief passing comment - which only early movie fans sophisticatedly "in the know" might pick up on - made by Tierney about author Maugham being "a rather queer sort of man."
Maugham was indeed that. Married and father of a daughter, he said of his homosexuality, "It was only later in life that I realized I was a quarter straight and three quarters gay."
It was also Maugham who tattled that British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill had slept with wildly popular music hall entertainer and actor Ivor Norvello (every bit as photogenically-handsome and rugged as Power) and who described the encounter to Maugham as "musical." Musical, indeed.
Picking up on that note (and because Halloween's a week away), here's a warming antidote about Sir Winston I chanced to blog across.
One morning Winston Churchill was woken by a Prime Ministerial aide, who nervously informed him that a backbench member of Parliament had been arrested in the bushes with a guardsman, and that the newspapers had got hold of it. (The item, not the organ.)
Mr. Churchill ruminated for a moment, and then asked whether he was right in thinking that it had been particularly cold the previous night.
The aide shakily confirmed that it had been one of the coldest February nights on record. Before turning over and going back to sleep, the Prime Minister exclaimed, "Makes you proud to be British!" (Or, if the snowshoes fit, American.) May all your tricks be treats!