Sunday, May 2, 2010

My Interview with Kim Morgan

The image conjured up by the term "film writer" is generally that of a pale, bespectacled, balding, middle-aged guy in a rumpled suit. Kim Morgan is not your typical film writer: blonde, beautiful, funny and effervescent, with a ferocious intelligence, she is also an authority on Film Noir and "Pre-Code" cinema.

To paraphrase the late, great Lux Interior of the Cramps, "She got good taste."

In addition to writing movie columns for L.A. Weekly, The Huffington Post, the MSN Movies blog, and her own Sunset Gun, Morgan has been working the festival circuit, most recently presenting and moderating screenings of Barfly with director Barbet Schroeder and Synedoche, New York with writer/director Charlie Kauffman at Ebertfest in Chicago.

This Sunday May 2nd, Morgan will introduce the Alamo Cinema Club's presentation of 1931's Night Nurse, directed by William Wellman, and starring Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Blondell, and Clark Gable, and preside over the Q&A with the Alamo's Lars Nilsen.

Kim sat down with the Austin Classic Movies Examiner to discuss 'Night Nurse,' Pre-Code Cinema, and the great Barbara Stanwyck.

The period between the dawn of the talkies and the enforcement of the production code produced a lot of great films, many of which were much grittier, racier, and more realistic than the ones that followed. What do you find most compelling about pre-code cinema?

So much. There’s a fascinating mixture of gritty realism and beauty, thoughtful explication of society, particularly regarding the depression, and then, flat out exploitation (but good exploitation, and there is good exploitation). There’s unique faces, young actors revealing the charisma that will make them enormous movie stars in the near future. There’s cinematic invention -- the talkies produced so many challenges for filmmakers and some of them, Wellman included, created some staggeringly beautiful moments (look at those gorgeous faces in his silent film Wings, look at that innovative, moving opening shot of the hospital in Night Nurse). These movies are old, but they feel new to me. They move. They’re fast. They’re funny and smart and usually beautifully crafted. And they’re still relevant today

What makes Night Nurse such a great example of pre-code filmmaking?

Night Nurse is about breaking rules. Pre-code is, essentially, about breaking rules. There’s so much discussion of ethics vs. humanity in Night Nurse that is especially interesting and again, remains timeless. And then all of the “salacious” elements. From Stanwyck and Blondell constantly dressing and undressing, Gable slugging and drugging women, starving children for money, the bootlegger as hero. And that ending! The ending is one of the greatest pre-code endings – ever. I don’t want to give it away here.


The Alamo Cinema Club presents
Night Nurse, presented by film writer Kim Morgan, Sunday May 2nd at 7 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, 320 East Sixth Street in downtown Austin.

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