- I revisited LaCava's admirable UNFINISHED BUSINESS last night, which is
such an unusual film, both in LaCava's filmography (did he ever do
anything else so swallowed up, so indirect?) and Hollywood's. The
exceptional script was a solo credit for one Eugene Thackrey.
Immediately afterwards I saw LaCava's LADY IN A JAM, certainly a film with
construction problems, and one that never quite does justice to its
beginning, where it sets out to deconstruct the archetype of the screwball
heroine by giving her a plausible psychology (and thereby turning her into
a dangerous sociopath, hated by all). At any rate, some of the dialogue
was exceptional. Thackrey took one of three writing credits, along with
Francis Cockrell (who co-wrote Fregonese's THE RAID) and Otho Lovering (a
director/editor who never had another writing credit).
According to the IMDb, Thackrey had only two other writing credits, one
for dialogue on another LaCava film, BED OF ROSES. (The other was one of
the story credits on Walsh's ARTISTS AND MODELS.) At first I wondered
whether Thackrey was a pseudonym for LaCava. But both LaCava and Thackrey
have dialogue credits on BED OF ROSES.
On the Internet, there's an article on winemaker Sean Thackrey:
Here's the relevant passage:
Thackrey was born into a creative family. His father Eugene was a
journalist and playwright who moved to Hollywood to write screwball
comedies. His only stand-alone screenwriting credit was for "Unfinished
Business," starring Irene Dunne, in 1941, just as World War II commenced
and the studios wanted more serious fare. The son of a Kansas preacher,
Eugene Thackrey met wife-to-be Winfred, a script supervisor, on a movie
While Eugene gave up on his movie-career dreams, becoming what Sean calls
a successful but embittered newspaper reporter, Winfred worked on movie
crews for her entire career. In 2001, at the age of 102, she published her
first and only book, "Member of the Crew," about her experiences.
In case you wonder whether there is really a need for auteurism, the above
should restore one's sense of mission: how can any film be more serious
than UNFINISHED BUSINESS?
The IMDb's user comments also point to the amount of work left to be done:
"Every star has a list of movies they'd rather not have made, and I would
guess this movie is one of Irene Dunne's. She did a good job in it, and
the plot wasn't as inprobable as many movies on the market today. But the
movie is dated in many ways: Small town girl goes to big city; falls for
the first smooth-talker she meets; marries somebody else on the rebound;
eventually falls deeply in love with him; everybody lives happily
ever-after. If Irene Dunne weren't in it, this movie would have little to
commend it. But she adds luster to practically everything she ever made.
This is a film worth watching because it has its comic moments. And after
all - it has Irene Dunne."
One can object to such comments whether one is championing LaCava,
Thackrey or the remarkable Ms. Dunne. Maybe the historical agenda of
auteurism was less about directors than about wanting to overthrow the
prevailing sensibility of film thought and substitute something less
oblivious. - Dan
- Really apprecriated this post from Dan Sallitt.
In his book "The Primal Screen", Andrew Sarris proposed related ideas in his
essay "Auteurism Vs Amnesia". Auteurists really do have a mandate to try to
preserve the best of our culture, and share it with the world.