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WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

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pvitari
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby pvitari » May 8th, 2010, 12:45 am

I once had the great privilege of watching Are Parents People in the private movie projection room of a local film professor, with film scholar/historian/preservationist/DVD producer David Shepard there to run his private 35mm copy through the professor's projection system. (I think it was 35mm, not 16mm.) This professor's film room was a converted pool house.

(Wouldn't you all love to have a converted pool house set up for 35mm/16mm/DVDs? Some people DO live the fantasy! *sigh*)

It's an absolutely delightful film and it was so wonderful to see Betty Bronson who is tied with Mary Martin for my favorite Peter Pan ever. ;)

I wangled this invite to the professor's home because David Shepard was in town for the Silent Film Society of Atlanta's annual Silent Film Festival, a three-day weekend gorging on silent films hosted by Mr. Shepard. Bill Eggert, our indefatigable society director, arranged everything for these festivals and the professor attended a number of the screenings. Some of the films I remember from the festivals were Dreyer's exquisite social comedy Master of the House; Milton Sills in Valley of the Giants and a marvelous screening of Hitchcock's The Lodger, with wonderful musical accompaniment by Emory professor Don Saliers, one of the world's leading experts on liturgical music -- and father of Indigo Girl Amy Saliers. ;) That was the best viewing of The Lodger ever -- even the excellent recent DVD doesn't top it. Those were the days. The Silent Film Society, usually with 16mm prints, introduced me to a lot of great movies. Alas, the Society has been defunct for years, killed off by a combination of home video and some other problems and eventually Bill had to move out of town, which was the finishing blow.

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Gagman 66
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby Gagman 66 » May 8th, 2010, 1:24 am

:D Hi. Thanks for the wonderful recollections. ARE PARENTS PEOPLE does exist in a 35 Millimeter. The film was just recently screened in a newly restored and I assume complete print at one of the big festivals only a few months ago. I always get those confused, so I am not sure which one that it was it was off hand? I'll look it up. That being said, it's rather doubtful that David would have a 35 Millimeter print. He could have , but it's my understanding that the only 35 Millimeter elements are at the LOC.

The Grapevine DVD-R of ARE PARENTS PEOPLE is quite good. Jack Hardy who heads Grapevine has gone back and made up fresh and much improved transfers of many of the same films He had out on VHS years ago. The new release of Frank Capra's POWER OF THE PRESS (1928) with Douglas Fairbanks and Jobyna Ralston is much crisper looking than the standard Grapevine fair of old. Boasting a solid score too. Much cleaner audio than in the past as well. I can highly recommend that release.

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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » May 8th, 2010, 9:00 am

Yesterday, I watched "Cabiria," the Italian epic about the Punic Wars from 1914.

It is an enjoyable movie. I would almost say surprisingly enjoyable, because the title character is utterly passive, and the main hero is dull, and for a film about the punic Wars, it avoids Cannae and Zama, the two biggest battles.

BUT I really liked the character of Maciste. He had plenty of charm and humor. I can understand why there was a series of "peplum" (?) movies about this character.

Also, I liked the doomed Phonecian princess. She had a pet leopard (a few years before Gloria Swason and Cecil B. DeMille) and I liked the way the movie treated her as a tragic (and not evil) character. Her suicide had real emotional heft.

There were some spectacular scenes, like the failed Roman attack on Syracuse and the siege of the minor city in North Africa. The plot wasn't the tightest, but the film had its own charm, and I'm glad I saw it.

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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby charliechaplinfan » May 8th, 2010, 2:52 pm

I've packed in three silents and one documentary in the last few days.

Where East is East, one of Lon Chaney's last films, here he plays Tiger, a man who catches animals for circuses and zoos. The light of his life is Toyo his daughter played by Lupe Velez who plays Toyo with innocence whilst looking very knowing as only Lupe can. Toyo is engaged to Bobby Bailey played by Lloyd Hughes, a man without any moral fibre who is unfaithful to Toyo as soon as he's left her side. The object of his desire is Madame de Slyva, a siren who turns out to be not only Tiger's ex partner but mother of Toyo. Madame de Slyva returns to her abandoned daughter only to try to strip her of Bobby. Madame meets her end by a man in a monkey suit, sorry a savage gorilla. This movie doesn't give Lon Chaney is as much of a chance to shine as some of his previous films, it's still a very interesting Chaney/Browning collaboration.

Metropolis the 2010 release, feels far more complete than the version I'd seen before, the characters and their motivations are more understood. Such an iconic film and a masterpiece. A look at this version is a must.

Kiki, simply charming and delightful, Norma Talmadge grows on the viewer as Kiki, someone who lies her way into the chorus line of Victor Renal's show and then causes calamity on opening night. Feeling sorry for Kiki, Renal takes her to a restuarant, partly to spite Paulette his showgirl girlfriend. Kiki gets drunk and Renal has to take her home, only she has no home to go to, so he takes her to his home only to discover that she is a bit of a wildcat when she thinks he is too fresh with her. She makes such a nuisance of herself but Renal can't throw her out because she has no home to go to, so she stays and sabotages his romance with Paulette. Finally found out, thrown out and the lovers reunited, Kiki has a catatonic fit, so bad that it could effect her for years. These are the really cracking scenes in the movie, Ronald Colman and Norma Talmadge have great chemistry together and are hilarious as he tries to manoeuvre Kiki's body. Kiki's persistence is rewarded in the end as Renal finally discoveres that it is Kiki that he loves.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby MichiganJ » May 8th, 2010, 3:31 pm

I recently watched Kiki, too, and thought it was good. Although it does feel like two different films that were meshed together; one being a backstage comedy and the other a bedroom farce. The stage antics didn't do much for me; it was predictable and we've all seen it before and done better and funnier. The bedroom stuff, though, was very funny, especially the butler's reactions and byplay. The catatonia bit was also funny, but ran too long and had no payoff, which was kind of a let down. I know for sure I wouldn't want the doctor who diagnosed Kiki to get anywhere near me.

I also watched Norma Talmadge's Within the Law, and all I can say is, if this was representative of the kinds of films Norma was known for, it's curious that she was known at all. The plot is nonsensical, the direction is abysmal, and the performances are one-note at best. For her part Norma had two expressions: dour and more dour--and each one she over-emoted. This is the kind of movie where the NYPD had so little real crime to thwart that they could keep tabs on the folks who were staying 'within the law', and when bringing people in for questioning, had no qualms pointing a gun and demanding a "confession". (And it didn't work, neither!)
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Gagman 66
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby Gagman 66 » May 8th, 2010, 4:07 pm

Kevin,

I would have been nice if Kino had included SMILIN' THROUGH rather than WITHIN THE LAW. Or better yet, THE WOMAN DISPUTED". But Clarence Brown's KIKI is one of the funniest films I've ever seen and to me is among the very best unknown Silent comedies of the 1920's. The film was actually a huge hit in 1926, but it's success has been forgotten. Remember the LOC print was spliced together from 3 different incomplete sources. I don't see where it seems like two different films myself, but that may have something to do with your impression as such. I've posted allot about the movie in other sections of this forum in the past. Including a couple vintage reviews.

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MichiganJ
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby MichiganJ » May 8th, 2010, 4:18 pm

Jeffrey,

It's okay that it's a backstage comedy and a bedroom farce. It just seemed to me like one of the early two-reel comedies, where one reel was about one thing and the other something else and they just bridged them together. In Kiki, they make little reference to the stage show again, once they are in Coleman's abode. Presumably either Kiki or Paulette is still in the show, no? Is Coleman still the show's director? In the last half of the film, it's as if the show never existed.

The film still works, though.

(Wait till I write about the Constance collection. Either my expectations were too high or I was wearing my cranky pants or something….)
"Let's be independent together." Dr. Hermey DDS

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Gagman 66
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby Gagman 66 » May 8th, 2010, 4:44 pm

Kevin,

Are you saying that you were disappointed ion the Constance set too? I think it's a great release. You had already seen HER SISTER FROM PARIS I believe? And I think HER NIGHT OF ROMANCE is even better. Both delightful movies. By the way, Cranky Pants are never I good thing! :lol: :lol:

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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby Gagman 66 » May 8th, 2010, 4:51 pm

:( I wanted to be sure to mention, did anyone else catch this? Just before the Prime-Time hour on TCM yesterday evening, they ran a clip from the 1931 sound reissue of THE BIG PARADE during a MGM Parade extra from the 50's. Much of the epic "Jimmy Leaves for the Front" sequence joined in progress, minus a few key frames and some title cards, was shown. The William Axt- David Mendoza, Maurice Barron music was so drowned out by excessive sound effects tracks that it was highly distracting. I sure hope that when we finally see the new restoration on TCM, or DVD, that it does not have all those garbled sounds overpowering the music. :( I'm all for a new recording of the original 1925 Axt-Mendoza score, while at the same time if possible keeping the 1983 Carl Davis one. But We definitely don't need all those annoying effects tracks in the way. They are just not complimentary to the greatness of the film. :|

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pvitari
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby pvitari » May 9th, 2010, 12:27 am

Gagman, then it must have been a 16mm copy -- it was so long ago I can't really remember, other than the print looked terrific. ;) And that those silent film festival weekends were a highlight of the year for several years. Bill at the time was a film studies grad student at Emory Univ. so we were able to draw upon Emory's resources for financial support and good venues.

I loved unreservedly both movies in the Constance Talmadge set, but had problems with the two in the Norma T. set. Kiki had its moments but I found the character rather off-putting -- she seemed almost stalkerish to me. As for Within the Law... rather dreary.

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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby MichiganJ » May 9th, 2010, 10:11 am

I had not seen either of the Constance films before, but had seen Kiki and thought it was good both times.

The Constance films are considerably better than Norma's, with Her Night of Romance being the best. However, it took me a long time to figure out that Romance wasn't exactly a romantic comedy, but rather a screwball comedy. That helped to alleviate some of the inanities that made up the plot--most notably the whole Jean Hersholt character and "deal" he and Colman make. Not only is the plot device absurd, it paints Hersholt's lawyer character as unscrupulous and rather smarmy. (Giving lawyers a bad name I might add. Who ever heard of an unscrupulous and smarmy lawyer?). Plus, since Hersholt is the "bad guy" in the story, it's interesting that his character simply disappears and doesn't even warrant a comeuppance.

Her Sister From Paris kinda drove me a bit crazy because it makes Colman's character to be a big dolt. Being a twin myself, I actually like the whole changing identities story lines (remember the great Brady Bunch episode where Peter meets his "twin" in school--a laugh riot!), but the plot device only works if it's "believable". Here, after years of marriage, Colman doesn't even know that his wife has a sister at first, let alone a twin. Of course his wife is frumpy, but only in one of those Hollywood ways that require a haircut, new clothes, and a birth mark to make her beautiful--and unrecognizable to her husband. Okay, fine, he doesn't recognize his own wife by looks. Nor speech. Nor mannerisms. Nor kiss. Fine. Fine. Fine. But kiss? Hmmmm. But okay, let's say he's too smitten by his wife's sister, enough so that he wants to runaway with his wife's sister---and… Who cares that it all comes out right in the end. The guy is a complete dolt with a capitol A. And frankly, his wife is too, for setting the trap, and playing along as her husband falls in love with her sister. (Which, of course is really her; but the big dolt didn't know it!)

The film has its moments, but the suspension of disbelief required is remarkably high.

Like I said, my expectations were pretty high, especially for the Constance films. I adore her in Intolerance, and was really hoping to see some of that feistiness in these films. Both were good, and I'm very happy they were restored and made available. But I just was expecting too much. (And wearing those pants.)
"Let's be independent together." Dr. Hermey DDS

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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby Gagman 66 » May 9th, 2010, 10:48 am

Kevin,

:o Well, you may not know that HER SISTER FROM PARIS was remade as Greta Garbo's last film TWO FACED WOMAN in 1940. Generally, considered a disaster. Other than the basis premise, I don't really see where the two films look much alike at all. Personally, I find the Silent version much funnier.

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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby MikeBSG » May 9th, 2010, 12:57 pm

I'm working my way through a disc of Max Linder comedies.

The ones I liked best are "Max goes Ice Skating," "Max Gets Stuck up" (problems with flypaper) and "Max Takes a Bath."

Max certainly has charm. I like the fact that he seems so cheerful, even though things go disastrously wrong. I love how he tries to maintain dignity, even if he has flypaper stuck to his elbow when he's courting his sweetheart or the fork and glass are stuck to his hands at a bourgeoise dinner table. My son also got a bang out of "Max Gets Stuck Up."

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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby charliechaplinfan » May 9th, 2010, 2:05 pm

I thought Kiki was a bit stalkerish too, I hope no one was using her methods to learn how to get a man, Ronald Colman had remarkable patience with her, she is sometimes beyond cute and downright annoying but the film picks up considerably in the last half, due for me at least, to Ronald Colman and not Norma Talmadge. I did wonder throughtout what Mary Pickford's version wolud be like, as I could see the young Mary being great in this role. I was hoping to expect better from Within the Law in terms of Norma's acting, I couldn't see from Kiki why she was one of the most popular women of the silent screen, the only excuse I colud find was that she might have had more appeal in her earlier career.

I loved Constance in Intolerance, I have high hopes for her movies.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby silentscreen » May 9th, 2010, 11:46 pm

I have seen very little of Norma's movies, and only a slight bit more for Connie. But for me at least, from what I've seen, I enjoy Connie more. She had great chemistry with Colman- it was almost like opposites attracting. Norma does a brilliant job in Kiki from the very standpoint that you don't know what to expect from her in a comedy, but she doesn't disappoint. You can always count on Connie in that genre. I have seen a couple of her other comedies, but I don't think she did straight melodrama to compare it to. Has anyone seen Connie in a melodrama besides Intolerance?
"Humor is nothing less than a sense of the fitness of things." Carole Lombard


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