Monday, February 22, 2016


FEBRUARY 19, 2016

(This is the fourth installment of my essay on 2 key influences on me during the period in the early 1990’s when I was drawing “The Mark”, the first of which is the movie producer for RKO in the early/mid 40’s, Val Lewton.)

Enough about Val Lewton; if you want to find out more watch the documentary commissioned by Turner Classic Movies, “Val Lewton, The Man in the Shadows” (2007).

My other big aesthetic discovery during this period (the early ‘90’s) was Ernst Lubisch, master of “The Lubisch Touch” (cue Claudet Colbert slapping Gary Cooper across the face in “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife”). My first exposure was “Shop Around The Corner”, starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan. Once you get past the lead’s casting as store clerks in a leather goods store in Budapest, it’s romantic movie magic all the way. What makes this movie so great, in my opinion, is that neither of the leads is completely likeable; Stewart can be an syncophantic martinet and Sullivan tends to be a pretentious snob. I find this leavens the saccharine, making their blossoming relationship believable, poignant.

As with Lewton, Lubisch tends not to pass judgment on his characters but observes them with loving detachment, as one would scuffiling puppies. Even the Nazi’s, in “To Be Or Not To Be” are treated with the same deadpan humor, so much so that the movie was panned upon its initial release as being “inappropriate”.  The leads, played by Jack Benny and Carol Lombard, are narcissist actors who almost have to be tricked into heroism. Yet the veneer periodically cracks to show real sadness and anger over the way the Poles in this movie are having their lives destroyed by the fascists and how steep is the price for resistance. Similarly, I’m thinking of the scene in “Ninotchka”, where the titular heroine (Greta Garbo), back in Soviet Russia from her all-to-brief visit to Paris, rips open the long hoped-for love letter from Count d'Algout (Melvyn Douglas). We are close on her face as she expectantly starts to read the unseen missive, then her expression slowly changes to sadness and a tear rolls down her face. She hands the letter to her visiting friends and through their eyes we see that all but three words have been redacted.

This is page #21 from "The Mark" issue 1, volume 2, otherwise known as "The Mark In America", published by Dark Horse Comics in December 1993. Written by Mike Barr, Drawn by Brad Rader

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