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WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

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feaito

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

Postby feaito » September 25th, 2010, 2:20 pm

I saw the landmark King Vidor film "Hallelujah! " (1929) of which I enjoyed the excellent cinematography, King Vidor's inventive use of camera -technically the film is an achievement- and Nina Mae McKinney. What a great, lost talent. I saw her recently in "Safe in Hell" (1931) and it's a pity that Hollywood wasn't able at that time to do better with the talented, beautiful and sexy, black actresses of that Era -Mildred Washington and Theresa Harris come to my mind too. The DVD edition included two Vitaphone shorts which feature Nina, singing very well and looking ravishing.

I wonder if there are any alternate prints of the film, because it was obvious to me that it was a reissue done in the late '30s or early '40s, due to the art and logos featured on the opening and ending credits.

feaito

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

Postby feaito » September 27th, 2010, 9:24 pm

I watched "Ladies of Leisure" (1930) and I was completely blewed away by the film and Barbara Stanwyck's terrific, luminous, nuanced and multilayered performance. She plays Kay Arnold, a call-girl who very credibly falls in love with an artist (Ralph Graves) who's the scion of a wealthy NY family. I hadn't seen Graves in any film before and he's very good as Stany's object of love and affection. Their romantic scenes together and the depiction of the process in which they fall in love are expertly staged by Capra. It's such a subtle film, full of wonderful details and realistic performances. Marie Prevost is a hoot as Babs totally "on-the-level" pal. Lowell Sherman is equally good as Graves' dipsomaniac playboy friend and Nance O'Neil gives a beautifully restrained performance as Graves' understanding mother. A total winner and one of the best early talkies I've seen. In fact one of Capra's most sincere films, devoid of any sentimental manipulation. Capra's pre 1935 films have something fresh and unique that his later masterpieces, notwithstanding their artistry and great quality, lack...a certain spontaneity...I don't know. After watching the film I had to pick Elizabeth Kendall's book "The Runaway Bride" and read again the chapter about this wonderful film! My mother watched part of the film and she was impressed how Stany in this stage of her career resembled my great grandmother.

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

Postby MikeBSG » September 30th, 2010, 8:53 am

I watched "Sparrows" a couple of days ago.

It was my first Mary Pickford movie. I wasn't taken with Pickford. I didn't dislike her, but I didn't really find her that appealing.

The movie itself seemed awfully old fashioned for 1926. Then the children began their escape from the island, and the movie became gripping. Now I could see why people found the movie impressive. The whole half-hour from when they start their escape across the bog to when they are taken off the boat is just wonderful, suspenseful filmmaking.

I read that Pickford at one point wanted to destroy all her old films, saying that she had entertained her own generation and that was enough. I can sort of understand her sentiment. Certainly, unlike, say Chaplin or Louise Brooks, she doesn't seem to have cast a spell on me.

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

Postby drednm » September 30th, 2010, 1:30 pm

Well to be fair, you need to see at least one more Pickford silent. Stella Maris may be her best silent (dual) performance but I also think she's terrific in My Best Girl, Tess of the Storm Country, Daddy Long Legs, Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Even in her weaker films, I always enjoy Pickford, a terrific mix of actress, comic, imp, and pretty girl next door.

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

Postby drednm » October 1st, 2010, 8:39 am

The Great Meadow is an early (1931) talkie “western” about settlers moving from Virginia, across the Appalachian Mountains into Kentucky. The film stars Johnny Mack Brown and Eleanor Boardman as a newly married couple who make the trek to “the great meadow” because of a speech given by Daniel Boone.

This is a solid film with excellent production values that do not glorify or simplify frontier life in 18th century America. Life is rugged and tenuous with starvation, illness, and Indian attacks all a part of everyday life.

Brown is solid as the impetuous settler who is up to any task of frontier life. He leads the band of settlers across the rugged mountains and keeps them moving despite the hardships. After his mother is killed by the Indians, he foolishly embarks on a journey of revenge. Boardman, who made only a handful of talkies, is quite good as the naïve young woman who trudges forth with her husband, only to be abandoned by him.

The supporting cast includes solid work by Lucille LaVerne (the mother), Gavin Gordon as Brown’s rival, Russell Simpson, Julie Haydon, Dale Fuller, Guinn Williams, Anita Louise, Virginia Sale, Sarah Padden, John Miljan, and Helen Jerome Eddy as the woman driven crazy by Indian attacks.

Worth looking for.

feaito

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

Postby feaito » October 1st, 2010, 11:40 am

I had a feeling that "The Great Meadow" was much better than what the capsule review included in Maltin's Guide leads us to believe...

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

Postby charliechaplinfan » October 1st, 2010, 2:22 pm

drednm wrote:Well to be fair, you need to see at least one more Pickford silent. Stella Maris may be her best silent (dual) performance but I also think she's terrific in My Best Girl, Tess of the Storm Country, Daddy Long Legs, Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Even in her weaker films, I always enjoy Pickford, a terrific mix of actress, comic, imp, and pretty girl next door.


I have to agree with drednm, Mike, you need to give her another go and watch two or three of her films, Sparrows is one of the last she ever made and not the best for showcasing the child woman she was famous for. My Best Girl shows how modern and adaptable to trends she can be. Along with the films mentioned I'd add Love Light and Little Annie Rooney. It took me a couple of films but I think she's one of the best of the silent actresses with more range than sometimes given credit for, an able comedienne and dramatic actress.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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

Postby drednm » October 2nd, 2010, 8:43 am

I'll have to re-watch The Love Light... I don't remember it. I would also recommend the much maligned Coquette. Yes it's creaky but Mary Pickford (in her new bobbed hairdo) makes a startling talkie debut (and won an Oscar) in a very adult role. Yes her Southern accent isn't all that good, but she's a wonderful actress. Johnny Mack Brown is also solid. The supporting players don't do very well, but the courtoom finale is good, and the final scene (silent) with Mary walking down the sidewalk into the darkness is beautifully done.

As for The Great Meadow, the only things I didn't like were Eleanor Boardman's Hollywood makeup and the ending, which seems rushed. The storyline about "westward expansion" tells us about the first steps West, an era largely overlooked in American history.

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

Postby drednm » October 4th, 2010, 9:41 am

Finally got around to watching The Mother and the Law (1919). I thought this culled re-release of the modern story from Griffith's Intolerance (1916) did very well as a standalone film with only a few glitches where something seemed left out or there were blanks left in as the episodes were stitched together.

In any case the performances remain quite strong with Mae Marsh scoring well as "the Dear One." Evene the staccato ending from the original still works as one piece with Robert Harron going to the gallows. Miriam Cooper, as "the Friendless One" had a much bigger role than I remembered and was quite beautiful. I also had forgotten the incredible closeups Griffith gives the three stars.

Oddly, one "flashback" scene remains from Intolerance. In the middle of the story we get a short story from the Nazarene arc with the adulterous woman about to be stoned (shades of Iran!).

Strong story and very well done. Quite an indictment of "uplifting" societies as well as the sociology of slums.

Now if I could only find The Fall of Babylon.

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

Postby Birdy » October 4th, 2010, 10:03 pm

A new one to me Union Depot, 1931 with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Joan Blondell, Alan Hale, Guy Kibbee, Frank McHugh. Doug's charming hobo smile, the violin case full of money, and Joan's innocent show-girl make for a great story. This pre-code was a lot of fun.
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feaito

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

Postby feaito » October 5th, 2010, 8:48 pm

I loved it too when I watched it Birdy.

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

Postby drednm » October 6th, 2010, 5:51 am

Also recently watched Griffith's One Exciting Night with Carol Dempster as the frail heiress involved in "old dark house" murder mystery involving imposters, a stranger, and of course a family fortune. Henry Hull and Charles Emmett Mack co-starred. The film was too long but had some nice segments and the usual Griffith touches. Dempster was very good. This film joins Isn't Life Wonderful and The Sorrows of Satan as proof that Dempster was really a good actress.

Then I watched The Enemy which examined the friendship between a German and an English boy as WW I breaks out. The German (Ralph Forbes) is on the verge of marrying Lillian Gish as the war is announced. He immediately quarrels with the Englishman (Ralph Emerson). The couple have their honeymoon night and then the boys march off to war. Gish, who looks incredibly beautiful in this film, is left behind to run the home. Her professor father is father for his anti-war sentiments and the family plunges into poverty as prices spiral. Gish is forced into prostituion to keep her baby alive. A jarring and beautiful film and a real surprise for those who think Gish played only pallid virgins.

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

Postby MichiganJ » October 6th, 2010, 10:05 am

I agree that One Exciting Night is too long but I think it does contain one of Dempster's better performances. I wish Dempster was in some films directed by someone other than Griffith. The only one I'm aware of is Sherlock Holmes, and in that she barley registers.

The Enemy sounds very interesting. Gish as a prostitute is rather surprising. Of course she didn't always play virgins, but if she had, The Scarlet Letter and Way Down East would be pretty short films.

Speaking of Way Down East, in re-reading Kevin Brownlow's Behind the Mask of Innocence, he talks about the censorship board in Pennsylvania that would not allow the depiction of a pregnant woman because "children believe that babies are brought by the stork, and it would be criminal to undeceive them." I wonder how films like The Scarlet Letter and Way Down East could have possibly played without Gish being pregnant.

The censorship issues by the various state and local boards fascinate me. While folks in different regions in the country were seeing a film with the same title, stars and director, they weren't always seeing the same film.
"Let's be independent together." Dr. Hermey DDS

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

Postby drednm » October 6th, 2010, 10:15 am

The state censorship boards were idiotic.... if the final reel of The Enemy were found, this would probably rank as a major silent film.

I agree, Dempster was a cypher in Sherlock Holmes. She plays the floozie in The White Rose but I don't remember much about her in that one. And I also liked her in Sally of the Sawdust.

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

Postby MichiganJ » October 6th, 2010, 10:45 am

I think I agree about Dempster in Sally. While her acting style is all over the place, it actually works to convey the many facets of the girl/woman that Sally is, rounding out her character somewhat.

For reasons I can't explain, one of my favorite later Griffith's is America. Unfortunately Dempster has real trouble playing a member of the British upper class, and is even worse as the love interest. I still like the movie, though, and I'm always rooting for Dempster in whatever I see her in. She had impossible shoes to fill, coming after Lillian Gish, and I don't think Griffith really knew how to direct her. In each role, though, she has some fine moments, so she wasn't without some talent.
"Let's be independent together." Dr. Hermey DDS


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