Friday, January 14, 2011

Guilty Pleasure: Hotel 1967

 We go to the movies about every 8 years or so when something worth venturing out and sitting in a crowd of Nacho-eating, cell phone barking contemporaries coaxes us out of our sleeping beauty hibernation. We saw "The King's Speech" a few weeks ago when my partner was in town for the holidays and loved it. Of course we did; it's a throwback to an era that is dead as a doornail. And no patrons that night at the Tara Theatre in Atlanta had nachos! An enchanting evening for us, indeed!
But the point of this post is I'm kicking off a new feature here called "guilty pleasure" because even though I know the stuff I'm presenting is culturally suspect or even verging on camp, it's a nice category to plug my taste for over the top excess. Watching a film like 1967's Hotel with Merle Oberon, Michael Rennie, Karl Malden, Rod Taylor, Melvyn Douglas and onscreen appearance by the immortal jazz singer Carmen McRae deserves its own place here. It satisfies a craving for the look and feel of the early 1960s with its decor, costume, jewelry, hairstyles and, an added bonus, takes place in glamorous New Orleans hotel in the late 1960s before everything went south in the worst sense. Better yet,  my old VHS verison of this flic is now on Turner Classic Movie's archival on-demand dvd list and I bought a widescreen version on DVD where I will finally get to see the director's cut instead of the pan and scan hatchet job on the VHS. Film fans, rejoice. The first all-star disaster pic of the era, HOTEL, 1967, directed by Richard Quine. 
All Star Extravaganza 1967-style

Lots of between the sheets
scenes in this ad
Catherine Spaak. European. Divine. Sexy and 60s chic. 

She's corporate Raider, Kevin McCarthy's mistress and has her
own bedroom in their suite but she's into hotel manager, Rod
Taylor and doesn't want him to sell out to her boyfriend.

Hats, gloves, jackets. jewels, the works. 

So she's all buttoned-up in this scene (Chanel or Dior?)
but in just a few screen moments she will shed all the
couture wrappings.

He's her guy, even though he's not. After an innocent lunch
in the French quarter she asks to see his apartment.
He obliges and the haute couture outfit comes off in a flash.
That's sixtie's romance, folks! And how great is that?
Merle Oberon plays the Duchess, paired with Michael
Rennie's Duke. He's up for some ambassadorial
post in Washington but he's run over some poor
kid in a hit and run and the Duchess is spinning
fast to make it good and get his car fixed and driven
to DC by Richard Conte for a chunk of cash.

Phone fight! The Duchess is stopping the Duke from reporting
his hit and run so they can move on and get back to a fabulous
life of schmoozing on the British government payroll.
They are impersonating the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The
plot may be thin but the impersonations are dead-on. Go Merle, Go!

That necklace is the real star and Merle Oberon knows it!

A Class Act, all the way around. Forget the Royal Suite and
the couture gown. The Jewellry says it all!
Richard Conte is Chief of Security for the Hotel St. Gregory,
New Orleans. Rod Taylor, Hotel Manager, hates his
guts but has to deal.  Conte is shielding the Duke and Duchess
on the hit and run charge for a payoff.

Here's the payoff promise. Duchess sneaks off to a louche
French Quarter backstreet to meet her "Security Chief"
and bribe him with fifty grand to get that damn car
out of town and into DC for them before the Duke
gets busted.
Check out her big shades and the baby blue pillbox hat
and matching tailored outfit. You have to see Merle's wardrobe
and hair to believe it.
Why did I call it a disaster flic? Well, the glamorous St. Gregoy
Hotel needs to have it's elevators inspected more often. Cant' spoil
the ending but it's a tearjerker, par excellence!  That's Karl
Malden as a comic hotel thief who never gets a big take
until he grabs the Duke's briefcase!

OK, I warned you. I said it was guilty pleasure. Try it and see if you don't OD on the over the top excess of it all.
TCM's Warner Bros. Archive release on DVD

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