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Monday, June 18, 2012

Too Late Blues (1961)

An uncompromising jazz musician (Bobby Darin) holds firmly to his artistic convictions not to sell out for money and fame. But when he falls in love with a sad and wounded wannabe singer (Stella Stevens), he feels humiliated and ashamed when he can't physically defend her from a drunken thug (Vince Edwards) and he turns against her and his bandmates. After the critical success of his indie film SHADOWS (which won the Critics award at the Venice film festival) in 1959, director John Cassavetes second directorial effort was for a major studio, Paramount. Yet it doesn't have the feel of a slick Hollywood studio movie, it feels improvisatory and spontaneous (Cassavetes co-wrote the script) while retaining an authentic jazz milieu. Only the ending feels like a mainstream Hollywood film but I don't know if it was Cassavetes' idea or a compromise. The acting is excellent with both Darin and Stevens showing great potential that was never fully realized in either's acting career. Stevens, in particular, seems a major actress about to bloom. The nicely rendered B&W photography is by Lionel Lindon (MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE) and the minimal underscore by David Raksin (LAURA). Fine supporting work by Everett Chambers as Darin's mean spirited and spiteful agent, Cliff Carnell, Seymour Cassel, Nick Dennis, Rupert Crosse and Marilyn Clark as rich matron who makes Darin her gigolo.

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