Saturday, September 19, 2009

Of novels and movies and opera, oh my

Work on my new novel, "The Traitor," had stalled out a few weeks back, mostly because I couldn't hear the voice of one of my lead character. I realized why yesterday. He's a she. I had the wrong gender. Now, she's not only talking to me, but large chunks of the novel rotated and fell in place. They had worked fine before, but they work better now, with the whole change in dynamics that the gender change brings. Now, I can't wait to get back to it.

My movie watching has slowed lately. Must be the back-to-school season. There seems to be a hundred things to do every day right now. But I did watch another couple of Tyrone Power films I hadn't seen before. The Black Rose and Prince of Foxes.

I've always liked Tyrone Power, though I don't have a crush on him, nor is he one of my favorite actors. But I have a great abiding affection for him. As I've been watching these films lately, I realized part of why that is.

He belongs in opera.

Seriously. Tyrone Power is everything I look for in an opera tenor, he simply lacks the singing voice. He's certainly got the dark handsome looks of an Italian tenor, particularly in some of the period films I'm watching, but more importantly, he's got the personality to play all my favorite opera tenor roles. And that's a hard one to explain in words -- spirit, a certain joy in life edged with darkness but not cynicism, bravado in the face of death and pain and despair -- but Tyrone has the necessary operatic ingredients in spades, where my favorite actors do not. Sometimes, my family has fun casting our favorite operas with movie stars from certain eras, or genres, or even from specific movies. I don't think we've actually done Golden Age stars, but if we did, I'd pick Tyrone Power for the lead in most of my favorite Puccini and Verdi operas. There wouldn't even be any contest. Tosca, Butterfly, Turandot, Girl of the Golden West, Rigoletto, Masked Ball, Traviata... he'd be absolutely perfect in a movie version of any one of them.

Tyrone Power in Prince of Foxes... could easily be the Duke of Mantua about to start singing La donna รจ mobile in that outfit

As to the two films I watched, both were entertaining, but I much preferred Prince of Foxes. The Black Rose had some good parts, but was brought down by the female lead, who is supposed to be the Black Rose, but looked about 12-years-old. She was very innocent and earnest and sort of cute in a daughterly way, but really. As a love interest? As the titular Black Rose??? Weird casting decision. However, Jack Hawkins played Tyrone's best friend, and he's much fun.

And then there's also Orson Welles. He got all the best dialogue, and he really makes up for the lameness of the rest of the movie. (Tyrone plays a Saxon, pissed at the Normans, who gets in trouble at home and splits with a caravan of goodies bound for the Far East. Ends up fighting for Orson Welle's charasmatic, but bloodthirsty Mongol warlord as one of his captains, gets imprisoned in China, then ultimately returns to England with gunpowder and other technological info... which he gives to the Normans.) Welles is also in Prince of Foxes (part of why I chose these two films), and has quite a bit of the best dialogue there too. Orson Welles is a compelling actor to watch at any time, but he makes these very intelligent, but decadent and conscienceless characters, quite fascinating. What better actor to pick to play Cesare Borgia in Prince of Foxes?

"I was thinking." - Don Estaban
"Good. Practice makes perfect." - Cesare Borgia (Welles)

Orson Welles and his calculating stare

Prince of Foxes was the far better film. It was better written, better acted, better scenery, better action, and I really enjoyed it. (Tyrone plays Andrea Orsini, working with the infamous Borgias at conquering Italy until he falls in love and has a change of heart and decides to lead a revolt against the Borgias, which doesn't exactly go so swimmingly.) Man, Tyrone Power sure gets himself in trouble in his films, doesn't he? I'm starting to think there isn't a period film he was in where he doesn't get either seriously wounded or tortured. The actress in Prince of Foxes (Wanda Hendrix) was like some blonde Gene Tierney knockoff. Wide set eyes, prominent cheekbones, big lips and overbite. Not perhaps so much in a still shot, but in action, when she talked, all I could think of was Gene Tierney.


  1. wow, I glanced down at the photo before I finished reading what you wrote and actually thought that WAS Gene Tierney! Did she sound like her too?

  2. Yeah, she actually did sound like her. The pitch was very similar, and the way she enunciated/shaped her words was very Tierney-ish. Weird, huh!

  3. I can totally see Gene Tierney in that photo.

    I don't think I've seen those two Tyrone Power movies. I just got Pandora and the Flying Dutchman to watch this weekend. Will hopefully get to do that tomorrow.

  4. Hi Melissa - she really does look like her, huh!

    Is Pandora and the Flying Dutchman the one with James Mason and Ava Gardner? That's on my list of movies to see, but I haven't caught it yet.