My Gleanings

Friday, May 09, 2008

Cahiers du Cinema and Paddy Chayefsky

Sidney Aaron "Paddy" Chayefsky was one of the premier scenarist of the "Golden Age of Television" in the early 1950s. When the screen version of his 1953 teleplay, Marty, won the Academy award for Best Picture in 1955, he began a transition to film and Broadway. The following gives some idea of the reception which Chayefsky was accorded at Cahiers du Cinema from 1955 to 1959.


From Cahiers du Cinema “Cannes Ephemera” June 1955 (page 11, my translation)

That night the USA presented Delbert Mann’s Marty, making a significant impression on the spectators and the jury. It is a sort of “Brief Encounter” American-style. Two solitary souls – the shy young butcher and the not so attractive young woman – meet and open their hearts up to each other. Solitude cedes place to the attempt for happiness. The whole here arise out of the optics and themes of TV and for good reason since it is a teleplay which is the basis of this genial and endearing film.

From Jacques Donoil-Valcroze’s review of Marty in the August-September 1955 issue of Cahiers du Cinema (pages 40-41 my translation)

But the film, which takes place over two or three days, goes along its own happy little road without affectation and reaches its conclusion with no accommodations or concessions. The tone of the dialogue is, in this genre, a model. Chayefsky has effortlessly found the right note which he maintains throughout the film whose simplicity, humor and goodwill are fully appropriate for the proposition.

Marty was considered by Cahiers’ charter conseil des dix in November 1955. It was awarded 3 stars by Jean de Baroncelli and Georges Sadoul and 2 stars by André Bazin, Henri Agel and Pierre Braunberger. One star was awarded by Jacques Donoil-Valcroze. The film was bulleted by François Truffaut and Jacques Rivette. The other two panelists – Simon Dubreuilh and Alain Resnais – both abstained.

The Catered Affair

Chayefsky did not write the scenario for the film version of his teleplay The Catered Affair; Gore Vidal took on that responsibility. Scouring the monthly "films released in Paris between" feature of Cahiers and checking Cine-ressources. I can find no release date in France for this film in France. However, the film does have a French title Le Repas de noce which suggests that at some point it was released in France.

The Bachelor Party

From Cahiers du Cinema June 1957 by François Truffaut (page 31, my translation)

This technically impoverished and unequally acted film with excellent dialogue benefits from the admirable photography of Joseph LaShelle and most of all by the influence exercised by the films of Fellini over Hollywood, more personal subjects, more frankness and veracity.

From Cahiers du Cinema September 1957 by Louis Marcorelles (page 30, my translation)

First writer of American television, Paddy Chayefsky, author of The Bachelor Party, is an excellent observer, skillful at typifying his characters, catching hold of them in their most immediate reactions. He composes his narrative a little like a novelist, through an accumulation of insignificant details. More than in Marty, he knows how to depict the banality of existence in a big city in the 20th century.

Delbert Mann, the director, is content to follow the dialogue, to carefully avoid any divergence between image and spoken action. We accept, or refuse, this logorrhea; we like, or dislike, Chayefsky's characters. Their truth, maybe, does not pass beyond the strict circle of the New York neighborhood where we witness them trailing through their worries. But they have the merit of existing, a merit rather rare on the screen, where accomplice shadow favors all escapism.

From Cahiers du Cinema October 1957 by Claude de Givray (page 30, my translation page 56) [note: de Givray's review concerned dually Delbert Mann's The Bachelor Party and Daniel Mann's Teahouse of the August Moon]

Placing itself under the aegis of the first of the capital sins, sloth, we discover The Bachelor Party. Delbert [Mann's] camera is quite as heavy and awkward as that of Daniel [Mann], both still being held on a leash by the memory of the cables of the television studio. But here the damage is limited since the true auteur of the film is the clever screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky, renowned for his demagogic Marty.

In the conseil des dix, the film was awarded 3 stars by Jean-Pierre Vivet. It received 2 stars from André Bazin and also Henri Agel, Pierre Braunberger, Georges Sadoul and Robert Benayoun. Both Jacques Donoil-Valcroze and Jean-Luc Godard gave the film 1 star. Jacques Rivette and Charles Bitsch abstained.

The Goddess

From Cahiers du Cinema October 1958 by André Bazin (page 50, my translation) [note: André Bazin's review of The Goddess together with a review by him of the film Ten North Frederick were the last reviews by André Bazin published in Cahiers.]

I recognize that Paddy Chayefsky's film has the makings to baffle and I do not take it for a convincing undertaking, but what there is that bothers me in him seems worthy of esteem, if not admiration, and, in any case, interest.

It is worthy to note that Bazin's review mentions Chayefsky from the first paragraph and uses his name 11 times. John Cromwell, the director of the film, is not cited until about three-quarters of the way into the review. His name is mentioned 3 times.

The film was rewarded with 21 stars by the conseil des dix. Bazin, Jean Domarchi, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette and also Pierre Braunberger awarded it 3 stars. Henri Agel and Jean de Baroncelli gave it 2 stars. Charles Bitsch and Jacques Donoil-Valcroze gave it 1 star while Eric Rohmer abstained.

François Truffaut, Louis Marcorelles and Pierre Braunberger placed The Goddess on their 10 best list for 1958.

L'Ecrivain de television

In December 1958, Cahiers published L'Ecrivain de television (The Television Writer) by Paddy Chayefsky, an article that was pieced together from parts of the foreward he wrote for his book Television Plays published in 1955 by Simon and Schuster and also the commentaries he provided in that book for his teleplays The Big Deal and Marty.

Middle of the Night

From Cahiers du Cinema June 1959 by Jacques Donoil-Valcroze (page 46, my translation). Donoil-Valcroze was covering the 1959 Cannes Festival where this film competed.

Nothing that Paddy Chayefsky does leaves me indifferent, but why the devil doesn't he direct his own stories? On this occasion, it is manifest that Delbert Mann is not at the level of the material. Be that as it may, The subtlety and authenticity of the plot, as well as, the veracity in the description of the sociological background deserve better direction than the rather flat and direction of Delbert Mann.

From Cahiers du Cinema July 1959 by Louis Marcorelles (page 56, my translation)

Firstly, the sharp gift of observation of the auteur, his fashion of seizing mediocre human beings in the worst discomfort of daily life. Our Chayefsky takes delight in exposing Yankee materialist nothingness, does not worry for a second of examining the other side of the coin, to understand how these failures of the industrial 20th century nevertheless continue to survive...

Delbert Mann...a veritable piece of blotting paper of a director (that I guess is why Chayefsky dedicates himself with this delirious admiration to him)...

We recall, incidentally, The Goddess, because John Cromwell, its director, is the antithesis of Delbert Mann and Chayefsky. An out-and-out idealism there swept away Chayefsky's miasma provoking the ire of the scenarist worried about this warping.

In the conseil des dix, the film was awarded 3 stars by Jacques Rivette and Jean-Luc Godard. It was awarded 2 stars by Eric Rohmer and Jean de Baroncelli. And, it was awarded 1 star by Jean Douchet and Jacques Donoil-Valcroze, as well as Henri Agel, Claude Mauriac and Georges Sadoul. No one bulleted the film, but Pierre Braunberger abstained.

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