Monday, December 12, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: Platinum Blonde (1931) - Wisecracks & Minor Characters

[Quick Summary: A newspaper man impulsively marries his wrong match, a socialite.]
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I'm embarrassed that I didn't know how important Robert Riskin was.

(I'd even read one of his scripts!)

To rectify this, I'm making my way through this book. The intro is a hoot.*
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Platinum Blonde was Riskin's first film with Frank Capra.

The script went through several different hands, so it's uneven in some places.

However, the dialogue (Riskin's work) shines.

Though this is still early in his career, you can see how he's developing his two trademarks: wisecracks and great minor characters.

Note in the scene below:
- Wisecracks often utilize irony, wit, and stinging observations.
- Grayson is a minor character, but has all the punch lines.

ex. "INT. SCHUYLER DRAWING ROOM - NIGHT
MEDIUM SHOT
Anne in a stunning evening dress is seated, a cocktail in one hand, cigarette in the other. Dexter Grayson, in evening clothes, is standing before her.

GRAYSON: Where were you yesterday?

CLOSE SHOT - ANNE
She has a far-away, speculative look in her eyes.

ANNE: Oh, Stew and I went for a long ride. (Dreamily) Dexter, is there any finishing school we can send him to?

CLOSE SHOT - GRAYSON
GRAYSON: (witheringly) Yes - Sing Sing.

Anne. She ignores this crack.

ANNE: Just the same, he's going to be a different person when I get through with him.

Grayson. He is looking at her, deeply disturbed.

GRAYSON: When you get through with him?

DOUBLE SHOT

ANNE: Yes, it'll be a very interesting experiment.

GRAYSON: (sneering) To make a gentleman out of a tramp?

ANNE: Exactly.

GRAYSON: Now, Anne, you remember how much it cost to get rid of that baseball player?

ANNE: You don't seem to understand that this one's different. He has brains.

MED. CLOSE SHOT
Grayson seats himself beside her on the divan.

GRAYSON: (fervently) But what about me, Anne?

She looks at him coldly with almost an expression of dislike.

ANNE: You? Oh, don't go serious on me, Dexter."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Wisecracks and minor characters alone are not useful.  Wisecracks and minor characters in service of the scene's purpose are very helpful.

In this scene, they point out Anne's delusions of grandeur for humble Stew.

Platinum Blonde (1931)
Dialogue by Robert Riskin
Story by Harry Chandlee and Douglas W. Churchill
Adaption by Jo Swerling
Continuity by Dorothy Howell

*I laughed while reading a purported account about Riskin's first meeting with Frank Capra. In short,  Riskin tells Capra, "You don't want to adapt that play!"  ...and it's Riskin's play! (Apparently, Riskin was right because the film was not good.)

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