Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Power and the Glory (2016 restoration at MTI Film) (4K DCP)

The Power and the Glory. Colleen Moore (Sally Garner), Spencer Tracy (Tom Garner).

Hans andra hustru / Potenza e gloria. Director: William K. Howard. Year: 1933. Country: USA. Section: William K. Howard: Rediscovering a Master Stylist.
    Sog., Scen.: Preston Sturges. F.: James Wong Howe. M.: Paul Weatherwax. Scgf.: Max Parker.
    Int.: Spencer Tracy (Tom Garner), Colleen Moore (Sally Garner), Ralph Morgan (Henry), Helen Vinson (Eve Borden), Clifford Jones (Tom Garner Jr.), Henry Kolker (signor Borden), Sarah Padden (la moglie di Henry), J. Farrell MacDonald (Mulligan).
    Prod.: Jesse L. Lasky per Fox Film Corp. DCP 4K. D.: 80′
    [Not released in Finland].
    The title of the film stems from the Lord's Prayer.
    From 20th Century Fox / Park Circus.
    Restored in 2016 at MTI Film, with the supervising of 20th Century Fox, from two dupe negatives and one fine grain.
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna.
    Cinema Jolly, e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti, 28 June 2017.

Dave Kehr (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Credit for The Power and the Glory is usually assigned to its famous screenwriter, Preston Sturges, who based this story of an American tycoon’s rise and fall on the biography of C. W. Post, a breakfast food magnate to whom Sturges had been briefly related by marriage. Yet the film’s bold, flashback structure – so clearly influential on Orson Welles – has several precedents in Howard’s work, going back to his 1922 Deserted at the Altar."

"More important, in its tenderness and concern for its flawed or damaged characters, its sense of lost happiness linked with an irrecoverable past and a present fraught with fear and regret, and supremely in its insistence on mercy and forgiveness as the highest human values, The Power and the Glory is of a whole with Howard’s deeply felt, almost painfully sensitive work."

"As the railroad tycoon Tom Garner, Spencer Tracy has the first role of his film career to reveal his full range and power as an actor; as his wife, the great silent comedian Colleen Moore finds unexpected dramatic depths in what would prove to be one of her last starring roles. Rich in deep focus effects, the cinematography is again the work of James Wong Howe.
" Dave Kehr

Mordaunt Hall (quoted by Dave Kehr, Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Granted that the so-called ‘narratage’ treatment of the film The Power and the Glory, which is now on exhibition at the Gaiety, is interesting as a novelty and eminently well suited to this particular story, it is a question whether it will prove as successful with other productions, except possibly, as one studio official pointed out, in the picturing of biographical stories. It assuredly will not revolutionize the producing of films, any more than did Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude, with its spoken asides.
This comment, however, is not intended to detract from the excellence of The Power and the Glory, for Jesse L. Lasky, the producer, has made it an emphatically compelling and stirring work. The original method of story development certainly enhances the value of this production. It lends to it strength and saves the narrative from any possible bromidic or stereotyped turns, which might have easily occurred in such a drama had it been filmed in the ordinary fashion. It also gives an opportunity for contrasting incidents, which would not have been possible in the usual chronological fashion of telling this story. In fact, Mr. Lasky is to be congratulated for his boldness in sponsoring such an idea, for anything new is welcome, even though it may not be destined to change the whole scheme of things in the talking picture studios." Mordaunt Hall, “The New York Times”, August 27, 1933 (quoted by Dave Kehr, Il Cinema Ritrovato)

AA: I saw for the first time The Power and the Glory which was never released in Finland and has not even been telecast in our land.

The Power and the Glory is generally referred to as an influence on Citizen Kane, which it plausibly is. Orson Welles was influenced by many things, from King Kong to Marcel Proust (Madeleine / Rosebud). Great artists from William Shakespeare to Bertolt Brecht have been influenced by others. What matters is: have they created something unique and original?

With Citizen Kane the answer is yes. It is a work of extraordinary poetry in which everything connects. The more often one sees it the greater it gets. Each time it's different. Seen today, it would resonate with Donald Trump whose favourite movie it is. We know his 2002 Errol Morris interview about Citizen Kane and Trump's baffling lesson from the movie: "get yourself a different woman".

Affinities of The Power and the Glory with Citizen Kane include: a complex flashback structure, starting with the death of a great man, basing the narrative on a dialogue of conflicting views (here between Henry and his wife), the importance of childhood, and a central role of a loyal colleague.

Differences are more important. Citizen Kane is the story of a man who was raised with a silver spoon. Tom Garner in The Power and the Glory comes from a poor home.

Kane never experiences a happy marriage. The young Tom Garner's life is shaped by the love of a soulmate, Sally (Colleen Moore), without whom he would not be who he is.

Kane's right hand man Jed Leland (Joseph Cotten) rejects his boss, desillusioned with Kane's betrayal of ideals. Tom's secretary Henry, his childhood friend, defends him even beyond death.

Kane has money to burn. Garner is poor to begin with, a self-made man. More to the point: a man who builds his career in tandem with a wife who understands him better than he.

What Garner and Kane have in common is courage and will-power. They take chances.

Before meeting Sally Tom is a happy-go-lucky trackwalker who cannot read, write or count. Sally the schoolteacher teaches him the basics and sends him to an engineering school. Growing older Sally and Tom are estranged, and Tom falls in love with Eve Borden (Helen Vinson). As Tom is never at home, a close relationship develops between Eve and the idle Tom Jr. (Clifford Jones). When a baby is born, and the true fatherhood is revealed to Tom Sr. it is too much for him to bear. As had been the affair with Eve to Sally.

The Power and the Glory is a more personal story than Citizen Kane. The love story between Sally and Tom is the primary current. Kane's last word is "Rosebud", Tom's last word is "Sally".

The Power and the Glory is also a story of a ruthless railroad tycoon who does not hesitate to bully partners, is not afraid to face thousands of striking workers alone and can crush a strike via violence which lead to hundreds of casualties. This aspect of The Power and the Glory remains on the level of a case study where Citizen Kane achieves the resonance of a Weltanschauung.

Loss of childhood is central in Citizen Kane. Having been deprived of a normal childhood Kane never grows up emotionally. Childhood for Tom has been a school of self-confidence if little else. He can be perfectly happy without financial success.

The little Tom teaches Henry to swim and dive. When Tom's hand is seriously hurt at his deepest dive, Henry dresses the wound and inserts a healing leaf to stem the bleeding. The scar on Tom's hand remains, but a close-up of it is not a sign of a childhood wound that never healed. On the contrary, it is an image of survival and an eternal bond.

The film is well cast. It is not surprising to find Spencer Tracy magnificent here. He had charisma to begin with, since his first starring role in John Ford's Up the River, followed by Rowland Brown's terrific Quick Millions and other strong parts.

The revelation is the grown-up persona of Colleen Moore in the female leading role. She had been a jazz age comedienne until 1929 in films such as Synthetic Sin but with the coming of sound she took a four year break from the movies. In her comeback role as Sally she carries the film with confidence, tenderness and wit.

The proposal sequence is wonderful and humoristic. Tom means to ask Sally at once, but they need to climb to the top of the mountain before he manages the crucial question. Her looks are telling.

William K. Howard condenses the complex story to an amazing 78 minutes. Fox, the production company, coined the term "narratage" for the way the story is told, and Preston Sturges, the screenwriter, was proud of its inventiveness, but as Dave Kehr states above, Howard was already a veteran of this kind of structure. It is not without predecessors, either, but the importance of The Power and the Glory was generally acknowledged in Hollywood, which is why it will always remain relevant in the Citizen Kane context.

For decades it was reportedly impossible to access a decent print of The Power and the Glory.

The visual quality was brilliant in the digital projection of this new restoration of a remarkable movie.


During the funeral service for Tom Garner, the much-hated president of the Chicago & Southwestern Railway Company, called the greatest railroad in the country, Henry, his elderly secretary and friend from childhood, leaves the church in an emotional state and returns to the railroad office where he places into his pocket a picture of Tom as a young man holding his son.

At his modest home after supper, Henry talks to his wife about Tom, whom she despises. When she says that it is a good thing Tom killed himself and blames him for the death of 400 men during a strike and for "kicking out" his wife of many years to make way for someone young and pretty, Henry asserts that Tom cannot be judged by ordinary standards.

Henry then relates various scenes from Tom's life: Their lifelong friendship begins at an old swimming hole when Tom, a boy a few years older than Henry, pulls him into the water against his will to show him how to swim. Tom purposely loses their subsequent fight, but bests another boy, who starts to battle Henry. On a dare, Tom dives into the water from a tall tree and gets his hand stuck between two rocks underwater. Henry is terrified that Tom has drowned, and after he surfaces, Henry spits on a leaf and secures it to Tom's hand with a piece of his own shirt to heal his wound. The two boys walk home sadly because they know they will be separated soon, as Henry will be starting school away from home, while Tom, whose father is poor, will remain behind.

The resultant scar on Tom's hand is apparent years later at a board meeting of his railroad, when he bangs his fist demanding that the members agree to his purchase of the seemingly insignificant Reno and Santa Clara Railroad. Because Tom convinced Henry, who had become his secretary, to buy shares in the smaller railroad before word got out about the takeover, Henry was able to make enough money to build the house in which he and his wife now live.

Henry goes on to tell his wife of Tom's courtship of his first wife Sally: Because Tom, now a trackwalker, cannot read, he brings a letter Henry has written him from business school to Sally, the teacher of the mountain school. Sally teaches Tom reading, writing and arithmetic and accompanies him on a hot Sunday afternoon for a walk. At various stopping points up the small mountain, Tom almost proposes, but loses his nerve until they reach the top, where Sally accepts his proposal, despite the fact that her best dress and new tight shoes are now ruined.

Henry then relates to his wife Tom's first meeting with his future second wife, Eve Borden, which occurred after Tom purchased the Santa Clara Railroad, of which Eve's father was president: Although Tom held a grudge against Borden because he once kept him from joining a club, after spending an afternoon with Eve, a young divorcée, Tom allows Borden to remain president and becomes smitten with Eve.

That night, Tom argues with Sally about their son Tommy, who has been kicked out of college, and leaves to stay at his club for a few days. Sally had defended Tommy, saying that he should have fun while he is young, unlike Tom, whom she now realizes she had pushed to become a success when he was young and wanted nothing more than to remain a trackwalker.

Henry relates that after they married, Sally, not satisfied with Tom's lack of ambition, and wanting good clothes, a nicer home and a carriage, convinced him to go to engineering school in Chicago while she took over his job as a trackwalker.

Henry now tells his wife that shortly after meeting Eve, Tom tells her that he loves her but that he cannot divorce Sally, and Eve demands that he make up his mind. Sally, who has noticed a change in Tom, visits him in his office and suggests that they take a trip to Europe together. She blames herself for becoming a "disagreeable old woman" until Tom confesses that he has fallen in love. Tom then insists that they take the trip, but Sally, blaming herself for pushing him his whole life, says that he should do what he wants once before he dies. She walks out of the office in a daze and, after giving her purse to a flower vendor, walks under the wheels of an oncoming streetcar. Henry tries to explain to his sceptical wife that Tom could not help falling in love.

He relates a scene from twenty-eight years earlier: Tom comes home to Sally with news that he has been promoted to supervise the building of the Missouri bridge. Sally then tells him the equally momentous news that she is pregnant. Overjoyed, Tom says that his boy will be someone to be proud of when he is old. At Tommy's birth, Tom thanks God.

Soon after Sally's death, Tom marries Eve and invites Tommy to live with them. During the honeymoon, a strike breaks out, and Tom invades a meeting of his workers. After telling them that people are depending on his railroad to deliver food, he warns that he has sent for men and guards to keep the trains running. Violence during the ensuing strike takes the lives of 406 men.

When Henry's wife remains convinced that Tom killed himself because his conscience bothered him over Sally, his treatment of his son and his responsibility for the deaths of the workers, Henry finally reveals what led to Tom's suicide: Upset at Tom's absence during the six weeks of the labor disturbances, Eve begins an affair with Tommy. On Tom and Eve's wedding anniversary, he returns home unexpectedly and overhears her on the telephone call someone "darling" and say that her young baby looks like him.

Tom returns to his office in a daze and during a board meeting, keeps remembering Eve's words. He yells out uncontrollably, and Henry takes him home, where Tom confronts Eve and demands to know whom it is their son looks like. Tom menacingly approaches the baby, and Eve screams, then agrees to tell, but breaks down and pleads for him not to make her.

Shattered, Tom softly repeats Sally's last words to him, "Why shouldn't you be in love and do as you want just once before you die," then goes into his room after putting his arm around Henry's waist and shoots himself. He dies in Henry's arms after saying Sally's name. After Henry finishes telling Tom's story, his wife, without a word, puts her hand on his shoulder and walks upstairs, leaving Henry alone with his thoughts.

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