Monday, June 11, 2012

Disposing of a Dead Elephant

In 1949, Joan Crawford reunited with "Mildred Pierce" director Michael Curtiz and actor Zachary Scott to make the melodrama "Flamingo Road," in which she plays a onetime carnival hootchy-coothcy dancer who runs afoul of a corrupt sherrff, played by the great and portly Sydney Greenstreet, all set in a steaming, small Florida town. It's a classic Crawford setup (the tagline for the film: "A wrong girl for the right side of the tracks."). Although 20 years too old for the part, Crawford the trouper pulls it off, and she looks great. Pauline Kael called the film "garishly overwrought," but what's wrong with that now and then? Kael does admit that Greenstreet "gives the picture a campy charm," which indeed he does.
The film, written by Robert Wilder (based on his play) and Edmund North, boasts some first-rate dialogue. Here's my favorite exchange:
Sheriff Titus Semple (Greenstreet): "Now me, I never forget anything."
Lane Bellamy (Crawford): "You know sheriff, we had an elephant in our carnival with a memory like that. He went after a keeper that he'd held a grudge against for almost 15 years. Had to be shot. You just wouldn't believe how much trouble it is to dispose of a dead elephant."
If you hear a better conversation in any of this summer's upcoming "blockbusters," please let me know.


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