WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

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

Post by drednm »

I have America but have never watched it.
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MichiganJ
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

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I watched the terrific Lon Chaney film, While the City Sleeps, a film which proves, once again, that Chaney didn't need to hide behind makeup to create a terrific character. Here he's a tough New York police detective--the kind who has no qualms roughing up a suspect to get answers--who is trying to outsmart the smarmy Skeeter, nick-named "Mile Away" because he always seems to be a mile away from the crimes. Mae Bush and Anita Page (who has some alluring close-ups) are two women that Chaney tries to keep from being mixed up with the bad guys and there are some terrific location shots of Manhattan, particularly during an exciting rooftop shoot out. Speaking of, there is an amazing amount of violence in this MGM film, rivaling (and perhaps influencing) Warners' early talkie gangster films.
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drednm
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

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Chaney without makeup? Try Tell It to the Marines, a terrific film that stars Chaney with William Haines, Eleanor Boardman, and Carmel Myers.
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MichiganJ
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by MichiganJ »

There are actually quite a few Chaney films where the Man of a Thousand Faces relies on his own distinctive mug. Marines is probably Chaney's best performance, but his Callahan in While the City Sleeps is right up there.
"Let's be independent together." Dr. Hermey DDS
feaito

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

Post by feaito »

On Sunday morning I watched Richard Boleslawski's "Rasputin and the Empress" (1932), a heavy-handed drama that depicts the fall of the Romanoff Dynasty. Of the three Barrymores, John's impersonation of the fictional Prince Chegodieff (based upon the real life Prince Yusupov) comes off more natural and less theatrical. Lionel, on the other hand, chews the scenery as Rasputin, turning a florid performance. Ethel's Tsarina is dignified and fine, but the Theatrical mannerisms are very apparent. Later during the 1940s she achieved grand cinematic, restrained performances in such films as "Portrait of Jennie" (1948) and "The Spiral Staircase" (1945). The interesting facts about this production is that many people who had witnessed or taken part of the events depicted in the film were still alive when it was released, and in fact the Yusupovs sued MGM -as far as I recall. Also of interest is that Ethel Barrymore reportedly met the Tsarina, so in that respect, to portray Alexandra she had some first-hand insight. There is some real footage of Tsarist Russia intertwined with the film made at MGM. Interesting, but flawed; nevertheless some scenes have strong appeal. Sadly, some portions of the film seem to have been seriously tampered with and censored -notably some featuring Diana Wynyard as the Tsar's cousin (due to its Reissue under the Production Code?).

Today I finished watching the excellent Pre-Code "Life Begins" (1932) which deals with women in a maternity ward for "difficult cases" in a public hospital. Snappy and sharp like most Warner-First National films of that Era and with a sterling cast lead by lovely Loretta Young as a woman imprisoned for murder who's going to give birth to her first baby. Eric Linden gives a sensitive performance as his troubled husband -apparently Young killed an important man in self-defense, but that is never cleared. Aline MacMahon is magnificent as usual, as an the understanding head of the nurses and Mary Phillips is equally effective as a no-nonsense, hardboiled nurse. Glenda Farrell is wonderful -and scene stealing too- as a showgirl pregnant with twins. Clara Blandick is an elderly mother; Vivienne Osborne is another patient; Dorothy Peterson is a mentally troubled patient; Frank McHugh, a highly strung father; Preston Foster, a doctor; and even Gilbert Roland appears uncredited as the grieving Italian husband of Dorothy Tree, who loses their baby. The dramatic scenes are very sincere and the film could simply have not been filmed as it was, during the enforcement of the Prodcution Code. Totally recommendable and very engrossing.
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drednm
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

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Elaine Hammerstein had a sizable film career in silents. In Paint and Powder (1925) she plays Mary Nolan, a "lily of the alley," a struggling singer/dancer at Dago Mike's dive. Her boyfriend Jimmy (Theodore von Eltz) waits tables. When a big Broadway producer (John St. Polis) comes in one night, she goes into her dance but he never notices her. As he leaves, a crook lifts his wallet Jimmy see this and lifts the wallet from the crook's pocket. With cash in hand, he and Mary swank up and go to see the producer. They are turned away but she catches the eye of the lecherous partner (Stuart Holmes). Later, after Jimmy is hauled away as a thief, Mary talks the producer into trying to help but it's too late; he has confessed.

He feels sorry for the pretty girl and gives her a part in his big new show. She becomes an overnight star (Jimmy is serving time). Time passes and she's opening in a big new show. Jimmy has gotten out of jail (he's been pardoned). As he waits outside in the alley, Mary agrees to go to Holmes' apartment to a party. She gets drunk and ends up in bed, passed out. Just as Holmes is about to make his move, Jimmy bursts in and there is a big fight. But when Jimmy spies Mary in a negligee (she was dressed by drunken women at the party), he assumes and worst and runs away.

More time passes and she's still a big star on Broadway. Jimmy is in the audience and ready to start anew but alas, he is too late: Mary has married her producer (St. Polis). The closing shot shows her sobbing into her wedding gown as Jimmy is now lost to her.

The musical numbers are pretty much a bust without real music. The dancing consists mostly of high kicks. Yet Hammserstein is quite beautiful, a cross between Clara Bow and Barbara LaMarr, and a decent actress. The rest of the cast is solid.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I've been watching Folies Bergeres De Paris with Maurice Chevalier, it's made in 1935 but deserves to be included in the precodes because of the feeling of the picture and Chevalier's presence. Chevalier is an entertainer at the Folies, a headliner and has a rather demanding girlfriend played by Ann Southern. Part of his act is a send up of a rich Baron, an industrialist and speculator, he's very good, no one can tell them apart, including their own partners, the Baron's wife is played by Merle Oberon. A delightful mix up takes place but the highpoint for me is Chevalier singing some of his best known hits including Raindrops and the Busby Berkeley like dance sequences.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
MikeBSG
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by MikeBSG »

I saw the restored "Metropolis" last week and was really amazed by what was added.

It seems like "Metropolis" is different every time I see it. (I have seen the 1984 Moroder-Pat Benatar version twice.)

I really liked the footage of Fritz Rasp, as the sinister Thin Man. Boy, he seemed to corner the market on slimy roles in Weimar cinema. What stunned me was the scene of him in this hat reading a newspaper as he spied on someone. He looked a bit like the Joker in Tim Burton's 1989 "Batman." What a coincidence.

And then today I got my schedule and see that TCM is showing "Metropolis" in November. Well, the chance to see it on a big screen doesn't come along every day, and I'm very glad I saw it that way last week.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I watched Barbed Wire yesterday, directed by Rowland Lee and starring Pola Negri and Clive Brook. Pola is a French farmer's daughter and Clive Brook is a German prisoner of war who comes to work on the farm. Part of the farm is given over to make a prisoner of war camp, at first Pola does not speak to any of them, bitter that her brother had been killed in the war. Clive Brook can speak French and slowly, very slowly she comes to trust him and after he saves her from being raped by a French officer, she comes to love him. When the end of the war is declared neither country will accept the lovers, they are torn as to what to do until Pola's brother returns from a POW camp and accepts them. There are extreme parts of this film, like Pola's father dying when he sees her embracing the German POW. However the story feels fresh and the plight of the lovers real. Pola is good in the lead, looking like a farmer's daughter apart from kohl lidded eyes and Clive Brooks is good as her lover.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

Fernando, I watched Life Begins after your write up yesterday. What a rollercoaster, all the women's stories are interesting, it comes in at 70 minutes and felt like I'd been watching it for far longer. Some emotional performances and a tear jerker, at least for me.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
feaito

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

Post by feaito »

Glad to hear you also enjoyed it Alison. Those snappy Warners Precoders are so good and their short run time is so adequate when one has to watch them at night during the week. Besides, Loretta was usually superb in the early '30s. I like her films of that time.
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

A couple of years later Loretta would have a baby by Clark Gable, I'm surprised she wasn't put off having kids for life.

It is interesting seeing a laying in ward, times have changed, although these were difficult births my first was born by Caesarean and I was on my feet 12 hours later. No lying in these days, I'm not sure we changed for the best there.
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?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I watched the Criterion edition of Nanook of the North today. Wow, although I could see that Flaherty didn't always fill the screen to it's full potential in some of the inside scenes it didn't matter. The way he uses the outdoors and the day to day lives of the Eskimos is just spellbinding. The undertaking immense. The narrative is compelling and so very poignant when you realise that Nanook and all his family perished shortly afterwards in a storm.
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?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

Red Headed Woman, wow, now that's what I call a precode. Before Jean Harlow started playing the blonde often mistaken for a gold digger, she played a gold digger, either in a red wig or with a red rinse to her hair. She's absolutely brazen, she goes straight after her boss when she finds the wifes away, not giving him any chance to refuse her charms and when his wife comes home early she's delighted and sets her cap for him using some not very nice tactics. Once her boss played by Chester Morris is divorced they marry, she's still not satisfied because no one accepts her because everyone loves the ex wife, so she schemes again by bedding her husband's big business contact. Finally she goes to New York and becomes the mistress of the business man whilst carrying on an affair with the attractive French chauffeur, Charles Boyer. She gets found out in her infidelity, her husband remarries his ex wife and two years later we see that Jean is in Paris, the sweetheart of an ancient race horse owner and with the same chauffeur. How used we are to seeing gold diggers getting their comeuppance but here for once, the gold digger just picks herself up and on to the next sucker.

Jean is fabulous here, in one of the best roles of her career, she just devours men, I like Chester Morris he does try to resist her but can't help himself. It's fun to watch Charles Boyer in one of his first American movies, what he made of the lovely Jean who knows.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
feaito

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

Post by feaito »

I loved this film too....These were my thoughts about it, when I revisited it in August of this year:

Since I'm reading Thalberg's Bio and there is extensive background on the making of "Red Headed Woman" (1932), I decided to revisit the film with my wife and we watched it in the projection room and boy we had a lot of fun! My wife was amazed at Harlow's character's shameless audacity and I made up my mind that Lil is even a decidedly bolder and wilder character than Lily Powers (of "Baby Face" (1933)). In the latter, you get to know Lily's background, how her father pimped her -the motive behind he way of being- and she was redeemed by love. There's no redemption about Lil and no explanation for her mercenary, greedy ways. She's just a brazen gold-digger. She could well be the female counterpart -as I've stated before- of the bold chauffeur impersonated by John Gilbert in his rawest Pre-Code: "Downstairs" (1932).

In Thalberg's Bio Vieira tells that the sneak preview of the film did not go well, because audiences tended to sympathize with Chester Morris' wife (Leila Hyams), so they added the opening scenes in which they show Lil dying her hair red, trying a see-through dress, thus establishing the nature of Harlow's character, and then audiences laughed at Lil's shenanigans. Anyhow, she's brutal in her pursue of comfort and money; completely ruthless. My wife doesn't find Jean Harlow beautiful, in fact she found Leila Hyams a knockout beauty. And I agree with her in that Leila Hyams was on of the most beautiful actresses of the period: beautiful blue eyes, flawless features, a long neck, beautiful collar-bones, elegant, chic, sexy.... but she lacked Harlow's raw sex-appeal and in-your-face attitude. People nowadays might not perceive all the fuss about Harlow, but in those days a body like Jean's: fuller in the hips and legs, not wearing a bra or undies, with those tight satin dresses clinging to her body...Wow! She set the screen on flames. In my opinion, Harlow got more beautiful when MGM (due to Censorship issues) softened her image and in films like "Wife Vs. Secretary" (1936) she looks much prettier. Men (Chester Morris, Henry Stephenson) are showcased as complete fools in this picture; easily manipulated and had. To see Charles Boyer's (playing a chauffeur) as Harlow's love (& sex) interest is an added bonus to the all-around quality of this Pre-Code. One of the wildest Pre-Codes!
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