Movie Diary 6/7/2021

It’s Mental Work (Alex March, 1963). An hour-long episode of “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre,” written by Rod Serling, originally scheduled for telecast on November 22, 1963 – but delayed. This was presented by UCLA as a streaming tribute to Serling, who adapted a John O’Hara story (adding a racial-prejudice angle along the way). Lee J. Cobb plays a weary bar owner, about to cash out to the syndicate but toying with the idea of selling to his salt-of-the-earth bartender (Harry Guardino, the show’s true lead). Gena Rowlands plays Cobb’s possibly-calculating girlfriend, Archie Moore is another barkeep, and Stanley Adams is an obnoxious middleman for the buyers. A very sharp piece, with lots of Serling-esque material about lonely souls, and a strong ending. March directed a lot of television, and a few features, including the inept The Big Bounce and the George Plimpton adaptation Paper Lion.

The Deadly Affair (Sidney Lumet, 1967). A John le Carre novel, with Lumet’s casual style working against the author’s precision – but still, there are interesting moments, and the overall dreariness now seems of-a-piece with Cold War stories. James Mason, pretty animated, plays the main spy, surrounded by people of various levels of trustworthiness: wife Harriet Andersson, friend/fellow spook Maximilian Schell, Holocaust survivor Simone Signoret, policeman Harry Andrews, with good bits for Lynn Redgrave and Roy Kinnear. Freddie Young shot it, in washed-out Cold War tones; music by Quincy Jones.