"La, a note that follows So…"
The Worst Lyric in Cinema History™
(if we're not counting "Adieu, adieu, to yer and yer and yer…")
Wise died a few days ago (14th September 2005). Joe Ranft
died in a car crash a month earlier. Wise was almost exactly
(to the month) twice Ranft's age. Both deaths are
a very sad loss to cinema. You may be forgiven for almost
knowing the first name from somewhere but maybe not the
second… Hollywood, like everywhere else, is still
ultimately ruled by nature and happenstance - in this case,
old age (Wise was 91) and terrible happenstance (Ranft was
45 and five and a bit months).
once worked on a television series about sex. Non sequitur
much? Stay with me.
was potentially a wonderful series but egos, cowardice,
stubbornness and stupidity torpedoed it as effectively as
the iceberg ripped holes into the hull of a certain luxury
liner. In other words, it was a normal, run of the mill,
TV production. As an incentive (let's use the correct word
'bribe') to continue working on this series (I could see
how it was slowly imploding and did not want to implode
with it), I was offered a trip to L.A. to meet the man who
edited Citizen Kane.
roll at the frickin' least.
have to understand that to a film editor in the early 90s,
the mere idea of meeting the man who edited Citizen
Kane was like being offered the idol Indiana Jones
is seeking at the start of Raiders. I needed
proof before I agreed to brave the tarantulas and the dubious
company of Alfred Molina's Sapito. I mean the poison was
still fresh… Three days.
seemed that Robert Wise's wife, Millicent, was a firm natural
history fan and had struck up a friendship with my boss
at that time. He had pulled out an Ace I could not have
ignored and eagerly went back to work on what was turning
into a meltdown of a series, a maelstrom of crossed wires
that would end careers and turn friends into enemies. And
did I even get to board the plane? Of course not. In certain
circumstances, bosses bend the truth like Beckham's balls
and to this day I have not let him forget his promise. On
the 14th September 2005, the promise became impossible to
keep because Robert Wise died. To some, Wise was the Judas
Iscariot of cinema despite his career success and obvious
talent. How so? He was the poor bastard who had to re-direct
the ending and edit the 'slashed to ribbons' version (pretty
sure those are not the words used on the DVD cover) of Orson
Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons. Wise
has been dogged with that traitorous reputation but while
Orson Welles still enjoys (if not life itself) a thoroughly
deserved reputation for being an extraordinary talent, Wise
fell in happily with the humble craftsman's tag. Hey. Here
are a few examples of Wise's crafted output. He was a truly
talented director in his own right and directing any one
of the following would have earned him a place in cinema
history… I still remember when, as a fifteen year
old one fine summer morning, I saw The Haunting for the first time on TV. It scared the A, C and B Jesus
out of me.
Curse of the Cat People (1944)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Run Silent Run Deep (1958)
West Side Story (1961)
The Haunting (1963)
The Sound of Music (1965)
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
perhaps not Star Trek The Motion Picture…
Let's leap forward to Joe Ranft, still gurgling 'Dada' while
Robert Wise was trying to keep the Jets and the Sharks apart.
If I mentioned that Ranft was a writer of Disney's über-hit The Lion King, would that bring him some
kudos? Alas, no. There were three credited writers and twenty
five (count them), twenty five additional writers
of Simba's first adventure, of which Joe was one. With all
respect to the creative process but Disney seems to go through
writers like toilet paper but I'm not sure if that analogy
stands up as I can't identify what Disney creature would
actually use toilet paper. Remember, most Disney animals
have no ani – sorry, this time it really must be the
plural 'anuses'. So like most creative folks, Ranft had
to look elsewhere for artistic fulfilment.
didn't hurt that he used to go to school with a certain
John Lassiter. Despite his evident story sense and value
as a writer, he scored performing two characters on two
of Pixar's biggest hits. He voiced Heimlich the Caterpillar
(as a rough temporary recording) in A Bug's Life but when the artist employed to voice the creature turned
in a performance that Ranft had bettered as a temp, Ranft
was duly awarded the job. Now Pixar had a double talent,
a writer with an unerring sense of narrative and a voice
talent that could be further exploited. Joe Ranft also played
Wheezy the penguin in Toy Story 2 (a beautifully
measured and heartbreaking performance) as well as being
one of a superlative team that gave life to the original Toy Story.
pass on. Sometimes something as idiotically random as a
car crash takes away those who may have achieved greatness.
Pixar mourns Ranft's accidental demise.
movie gods mourn both its losses.