WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

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

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I'm glad you liked Two Seconds, Christine. I don't know how EG Robinson goes through so much in such short time taking us along with him and believeable all the time. He's a great actor.

Thanks for the information on George Bancroft, I've recently watched some of Von Sternberg's earlier films but Brent and Bancroft, my impressions of Brent are the same as Moira's. I knew nothing of Bancroft.
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by Birdy »

I just saw Three Cornered Moon, 1933 with Claudette Colbert, Richard Arlen, Mary Boland (who is delightfully flaky), Tom Brown and Joan Marsh and Wallace Ford. This was a great society-family in the depression story with plenty of laughs. Three Cornered Moon is the name of the stock that takes them down. Has this been discussed here? I seem to vaguely remember the name from before I'd seen it.
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by feaito »

Hi Birdy, I watched it in December 2009 and recommended it to Wendy and other members. This is what I wrote back then:
I watched the quite engaging Depression Screwballish comedy "Three Cornered Moon" (1933), so far the best film included in the Claudette Cobert DVD Collection. Meet the Rimplegar family from Brooklyn: the absent minded matriarch of the Rimplegar family delightfully and zanily played by the very funny Mary Boland who steals the show from everyone else; Claudette, the only daughter, in love with a no-good, pretentious, lazy artist played by Hardie Albright and hopelessly courted by the only mentally balanced character in the picture: Doctor Stevens, well played by Richard Arlen; elder brother Wallace Ford, who's studying to pass the Bar Examination to become a full-fledged lawyer, but who's been distracted from his task by a lovely air-head, played by beautiful Joan Marsh; now, there's an actor in the family, the affected William Bakewell, essaying Monsieur Beaucaire's title role, but getting in the end less than a one-line speech in a stage-play; and lastly, clean-cut, brave Tom Brown, the youngest sibling. There's also funny Lyda Roberti, as their Polish maid, who doesn't understand English.

In all a very fine effort by Elliott Nugent and the cast; not as leisurely played as later zany masterpieces like "My Man Godfrey" or "Bringing Up Baby", but anyhow a good movie that paved the way for those.
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Ann Harding
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by Ann Harding »

Yesterday I went to see a rare Pre-Code at the Cinémathèque. Okay America (1932, Tay Garnett) with Lew Ayres, Maureen O'Sullivan, Edward Arnold and Louis Calhern was a very interesting picture. Larry Wayne (Lew Ayres) is a columnist (in the Walter Winchell mould) who works for press and radio. He spends his evenings and nights in nightclubs and speakeasy spotting celebrities in difficult situations (with their mistresses) and getting informations from informers. He likes bantering with his secretary Barton (M. O'Sullivan) who is in love with him and cannot understand why he doesn't pay attention to her. Larry decides to inquire about the disappearance of a rich heiress. He confronts a notorious bootlegger Mileaway Russel (Louis Calhern), but falls into a trap. The mob boss (E. Arnold) kidnapped the girl to blackmail the President of the US into reducing his penalties (or the girl will die). This is where the film takes a new turn, not unlike Gabriel Over the White House (1934, G. LaCava). Larry decides to make justice himself. The President himself (only seen in shadows) said that special measures will be used to eliminate criminals (i.e. bootleggers and gangsters). So Larry kills the mob boss and later faces the consequences. The tone of the film at first was very much like a comedy (Platinum Blonde), before becoming much darker. It's quite amazing the number of films produced around that period that seem to advocate very undemocratic methods (not to say Fascist): Beast of the City and Star Witness belong to that trend. According to William K. Everson, at that time, California was close to be a police state and felt it could advocate it in films. I am glad I went to this curious picture. There was a host of great character actors: Walter Catlett as the upset City Editor, Louis Calhern playing a smooth villain and even Henry Armetta as an apple seller. Really interesting!
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Ann Harding
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by Ann Harding »

I revisited today One Way Passage (1932). It's certainly my favourite Tay Garnett picture with a sterling cast: William Powell and Kay Francis. Can you imagine a more sophisticated and elegant couple on the screen? I cannot. And the poignant romance is underscored by the comic pairing of Frank McHugh (guzzling down litres of pure gin) and Aline McMahon, playing a lady crook with gusto. The very simplicity and conciseness of the picture makes it a masterpiece of understatement. The two leads know their time will come soon. He is a murderer on his way to justice and she is terminally ill. So they want to spend their last days having the time of their life without revealing their secret to the other one. The film avoids pathos thanks to its comic touches. An absolute pleasure!
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by Ann Harding »

Yesterday I saw a terrific Pre-Code at the Cinémathèque: Afraid To Talk (1932, Edward L. Cahn) with Eric Linden, Sidney Fox, Louis Calhern, Tully Marshall, Edward Arnold and Mayo Methot. This gangster film dealt with a corrupt American city where everybody is a crook taking bribes from top to bottom: the mayor, the governor, the DA and the chief of police. A bellboy (E. Linden) becomes by accident the witness of a killing. He gets caught between the gangsters' boss (E. Arnold) and the corrupt politicians. But the danger he faces from the politicians (particularly the DA played with relish by L. Calhern) is far greater than from the gangsters themselves. This is certainly the most severe indictment of corruption I have ever seen. The DA decides to frame the bellboy and make him the murderer. Several policemen are ordered to beat the hell out of the boy to make him confess something he didn't do. After that treatment, he is sent to hospital. Thankfully, a good lawyer starts an investigation into police's methods. The DA and the mayor then decides to kill the boy in his cell and to make it look like a suicide. In the end, nearly all the corrupt politicians are deposed and the crooked DA is shot by a gangster. But, this is where the film is quite amazing, the governor stays and makes people believe he 'cleaned the city' while he was as bad as the others. This terrific film was a Universal production with Karl Freund behind the camera. One of the screenwriters was Albert Maltz (who was blacklisted later on). The print I saw was gorgeous. I just wished this film was better known because it really deserves it.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I watched Five and Ten today, directed by Robert Z Leonard and starring Marion Davies and Leslie Howard. Marion is the daughter of a Five and Ten store proprietor, a fairytale Barbara Hutton, the crux of the story is that she is noveau rich and despite donating generously to charities of the old bloods she finds it difficult to be accepted by anyone but the fiance of Muriel Preston/Mary Duncan. The fiance is Leslie Howard who falls for Marion/Jennifer but feels honour bound to Muriel despite being integral in designing the biggest skyscraper for the Five and Ten. The head of the family played by Richard Bennett is so wrapped up in his business that he doesn't realise his wife is lonely and his daughter is in love with a soon to be married man. It's only the son played by Kent Douglass who realises and takes drastic action to reunite the family. Irene Rich rounds off the cast as the mother. There are some lovely location scenes of New York and Marion has never looked lovelier in the dresses designed for her, beautiful floaty white fabrics that suit her so well. A lovely precode.
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by Libertine »

charliechaplinfan wrote:I watched Five and Ten today, directed by Robert Z Leonard and starring Marion Davies and Leslie Howard. Marion is the daughter of a Five and Ten store proprietor, a fairytale Barbara Hutton, the crux of the story is that she is noveau rich and despite donating generously to charities of the old bloods she finds it difficult to be accepted by anyone but the fiance of Muriel Preston/Mary Duncan. The fiance is Leslie Howard who falls for Marion/Jennifer but feels honour bound to Muriel despite being integral in designing the biggest skyscraper for the Five and Ten. The head of the family played by Richard Bennett is so wrapped up in his business that he doesn't realise his wife is lonely and his daughter is in love with a soon to be married man. It's only the son played by Kent Douglass who realises and takes drastic action to reunite the family. Irene Rich rounds off the cast as the mother. There are some lovely location scenes of New York and Marion has never looked lovelier in the dresses designed for her, beautiful floaty white fabrics that suit her so well. A lovely precode.
Ah, I loved that movie! I have nothing more to add though.. but I really loved it.
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by MichiganJ »

Watched the precode Jungle Bride (1933) starring Anita Page as a woman who is shipwrecked on an island somewhere off the coast of Africa. Shipwrecked with her are her newspaper reporter fiancé and the guy she is sure is the real killer for a murder her brother has been sent up for. Some Gilligan's Island-isms aside, the film is a real hoot and at just over an hour, it never outstays its welcome (not that Anita Page, especially with what she almost wears, could ever outstay her welcome).
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Ann Harding
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by Ann Harding »

Recently, I saw Das Schiff der verlorenen Meschen (The Ship of Lost Men, 1929) a silent directed by Maurice Tourneur with an international cast: Robin Irvine, Fritz Kortner, Marlene Dietrich and Vladimir Sokoloff. In 1929, Tourneur left the USA for good after spending 15 years there. He was fed up with the new supervision system created at MGM where each director had to accept the presence of a supervisor on the set. Tourneur felt he had enough experience as a producer/director and didn't accept this new diktat. In Germany, he shot this film (which he wrote as well) entirely in studios. This is rather strange for a film supposed to take place at sea! I guess shooting with a mock-up boat in a water tank eliminates storm, sickness and delay. But, alas, it also eliminates reality and open-space and makes the film claustrophobic. The transfer I saw seems to have been done at rather slow speed. It certainly affects the movie a lot. As usual with Tourneur, we get some superb composition and lighting in some scenes. But, I felt the film's script was rather predictable. A strange ship full of former convicts and other strange people leaves for Brazil with on board a young American doctor (British actor Robin Irvine). He is taken against his will after boarding the ship to help a sailor. Once at sea, he befriends the cook (Russian Vladimir Sokoloff). They notice one night the wreck of a plane. The doctor rescues the pilot and brings him on board. Then, they discover it's a woman (Marlene Dietrich, still unknow and rather plump). In the meantime, the nasty Captain (F. Kortner) is victim of a mutiny and his thrown overboard. Later the inebriated sailor will chase the only woman on board around the ship. Overall the characters lacked depth and the story lacked suspense. I was also really annoyed by the lack of outdoors, apart from the very first scene. Nevertheless, it's always good to see a Tourneur picture, even if slightly disappointing.
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by moira finnie »

Ann Harding wrote: The doctor rescues the pilot and brings him on board. Then, they discover it's a woman (Marlene Dietrich, still unknow and rather plump).
I have always wanted to see this film, in part because of Dietrich, but more because Fritz Kortner and Vladimir Sokoloff interest me. Isn't it interesting that all three of the players you mentioned had careers in English-speaking movies as well? When I was researching the life of Vladimir Sokoloff, I came across an account of a visit he paid to Dietrich on the set of No Highway in the Sky (1951). Sokoloff mischievously made sure that the surrounding reporters knew that Marlene‘s nickname in those pre-von Sternberg days was “Fatty”.
Poor Marlene!
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MichiganJ
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by MichiganJ »

I watched the not very good but nevertheless fascinating precode, Hell Harbor. Lupe Valez stars in, what I think is her first surviving talkie, and when she's on screen, everyone else disappears. It would be years before "The Mexican Spitfire" nickname, but boy does it apply. "The Hot Pepper", too. Phew…

The plot, about a sleazy guy witnessing a crime and demanding the hand of Lupe to keep his silence, is pretty slim and filled with plenty of holes. But who cares? Not only do you get Lupe, but there's also the re-teaming of Greed foes, Gilbert Gowland and Jean Hersholt. They hate each other here, too, and this time you get to decipher Hersholt's German accent as well as Gowland's rather heavy British accent! (Changes the dynamics of Greed altogether). Also on hand is Arbuckle & Keaton sidekick, Al St. John.

Henry King directs with a heavy hand and it's difficult to believe this was the same director who helmed Tol'able David, among others; although, to his credit, for an early talkie the camera moves some. The pacing, though, is leaden, even in the truncated (and better) 64-minute cut. Both the 90-minute and shorter versions are included on the DVD.

Also watched the blu-ray of the silent comedy clip compilation, The Slappiest Days of Our Lives (1953). The film is actually the French production, Ça c'est du cinéma, but as narrated by Peter Sellers. It features clips from many silent shorts but tries to create a feature story. It fails miserably and is only marginally amusing. Oddly, the feature is dedicated to Mack Sennett, but most of the clips are from other than Sennett productions, and some, including the Keaton, comes from one of his talkie shorts (with the sound erased).

As bad as it is, it is still pretty interesting. Sellers does a spot-on Stan Laurel and occasionally comes out with a very funny line. Although the print quality varies, it's also nice to see some of the early silent comedians in HD. Wish the film was funnier, though.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I've watched both Grass and Chang documentaries by the film makers Merian C Cooper and Ernest Schoesdack. The first made in 1925 is starts in Angora in Southern Turkey and is about the migration of a tribe to find grass and meadowland where their livestock can graze and where the can survive. To get there they have to cross a fast flowing river and cross a high mountain range. The location work is stunning for it's time, we see shots of a fast flowing river in which livestock and people are trapped and aerial shots of the tribe crossing the mountain range, it's difficult to tell if this is from the top of the mountain or from a balloon or aeroplane. It must have been fascinating for the people of the day unused to documentaries of this kindas it was fascinating for me who loves documentaries of these types.

Chang was far more difficult for me to view, some would say I'm a softie and I would concur but I found the deaths of tigers and leopards on screen quite difficult to take. Yet it obviously has the merits of Grass as a documentary. Two interesting films.
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by MichiganJ »

Chang pushes the definition of documentary to its limits since it is a fictional story, but one filmed on location and with non-actors. It is fascinating and a great film, but I am also disturbed by the animal killing.

Grass fits my definition of documentary more closely and is pretty great, with plenty of amazing shots (that, even if staged, are quite impressive.)
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Ann Harding
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by Ann Harding »

Now, Alison, you should watch the documentary about Merian C. Cooper. He had such an adventurous life! You'll learn plenty about the shooting of both films. :wink:
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