Monday, September 19, 2011

The Producers

Today happens to be the birth anniversary of producer Joseph Pasternak (1901-1991), woh was responsible for the production of a whole bunch of musicals at Universal in the late 1930s, specifically those starring Deanna Durbin. Then he left for MGM, and from about 1943 on produced a substantial number of musicals for them.

It's easy to overlook the work a producer does (or, I should say, did back in those days). I think this is especially true because of the idea of the auteur, and the number of people who seem to think that if a director gets in a dispute with a studio producer, it's the director -- the creative type -- getting the shaft. And I think that's unfair to producers. People like Pasternak (or Irving Thalberg before him) must have known pretty well what they were doing, especially since Pasternak got the reins of musical after musical after musical.

In fact, I think a good example of the importance of a producer is showing up tonight on TCM, which is showing Invitation to the Dance at 12:15 AM. This was Gene Kelly's pet project, even though Arthur Freed got producing credits. Kelly wanted to make a movie which was entirely based on dance, with little or no dialogue. And the result is what we get in Invitation to the Dance, which tells three stories through dance. Kelly starred, wrote, and directed, and we get a fairly uneven movie. With a more active producer to give a fresh opinion on what was happening during the prodcution, perhaps there could have been a better movie made. (To be fair, Kelly's vision here is the sort of thing that probably would have worked better as two-reelers back in the days when studios were producing such shorts.)

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