No Orchids

Fri, Sep 11, 2009

Last Thursday night, I had the chance to see the Wexner Center's good friend and past guest Richard Gordon introduce a sold-out screening of No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1948) at Film Forum in New York on the last night of their terrific "Brit Noir" series. Dick is best known for his role as a producer of such horror and science fiction classics as Fiend without a Face and The Haunted Strangler (both of which he has introduced at the Wexner Center in the past). But his association with No Orchids was as the American distributor.

The film was an attempt by British producers to create a real American-style gangster film and it was scandalous upon its release, even prompting a two-page spread in Life magazine about the furor the film was causing overseas.

British publications opined:

"A wicked disgrace to the British film industry." – Daily Express

"The morals are about level with those of a scavenger dog." – Daily Express

"All the morals of an alley cat and all the sweetness of a sewer." – Observer

In his introduction and during the Q&A after the screening, Dick explained how the film had to be cut in an attempt to appease censors and the Catholic Legion of Decency (it didn't work) and how he had to bring the film in through customs in New Orleans instead of New York because things are a bit less strict in the Big Easy. The evening was filled with great anecdotes including Dick's role in trying to get Jane Russell (hot on the heals of her role in The Outlaw) and George Raft to star in the film and his use of actors to stand in line to buy tickets for the New York premiere to help generate excitement (once inside the actors would go right back out and get in line again).

Joining Dick at the screening was No Orchids cast member Richard Neilson who had roles in such classics as Howard Hawks's I Was a Male War Bride, and the Powell/Pressburger films The Small Back Room and A Matter of Life and Death. Neilson shared many career anecdotes as well, the best of which involved essentially getting tossed out of Alfred Hitchcock's office during a very brief casting interview for Under Capricorn.

It was a memorable evening and it was nice to be there for Dick's night in the spotlight.

A number of films produced by Richard Gordon are available in Criterion Collection editions - such as Monsters and Madmen and Fiend without a Face - if you'd like to check them out.

- Dave Filipi, Curator, Film/Video

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