Jan 23, 2014

As good as Rififi is,

And it is very good, I have to say that my favorite part of Criterion's new bluray edition of this classic Fifties heist film is the supplementary interview with the director, Jules Dassin.  Dassin tells two great stories, both involving his friend at MGM, Gene Kelly.

The first one concerns the annual baseball game that MGM would have with the folks at Twentieth Century Fox.  This apparently was a big deal.  Fox and MGM took the game very seriously, and went all out to win.  The captain of the MGM team, Gene Kelly, had just heard that Dassin had signed a deal with MGM and was eligible to play in the game.  Dassin was put in the outfield and was the star of the game which MGM won.  Dassin mentions too, how the studios would play in costume, essentially.  MGM wore baseball uniforms from the early part of that century that had been built by the costume department for past films.  The players all wore handlebar moustaches, as well.  When Dassin's agent heard about this he asked Dassin if he had signed the contract for MGM yet.  Dassin said he had.  His agent said, "That's a shame.  If you had held out until after the game, we might have gotten a bigger deal for you."

The other story takes place at the Cannes Film Festival of 1955.  Dassin by this time had been blacklisted in the United States and had found that the only country that would let him make films was France.  So he made Rififi which was a smash success and he even won a prize at Cannes.  At this point Dassin was already used to "vanishing" or hiding whenever he bumped in to old Hollywood friends, so as not to embarrass them because of the blacklist bullshit.  He was also used to seeing old Hollywood chums hide or vanish around him.  When Dassin noticed that his old baseball teammate and great friend Gene Kelly showed up at Cannes that year, Dassin immediately hid behind a bush.  Kelly saw this, though, went behind the bush, grabbed Dassin on to the pavement and embraced him, saying, "What are you doing?"

Jules Dassin (using the stage name Perlo Vita) in Rififi

Rififi is a genuine heist classic, and comes highly recommended by me.  The thirty minute no dialogue robbery sequence is worth the price of admission alone.

All my love,

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