RSS
 

Archive for the ‘Early 20th Century Hollywood’ Category

Tess Of The Storm Country

10 Jun

Tess Of the Storm Country – Directed by John S. Robertson. Melodrama. Will the man in the mansion get rid of that bunch of smelly folks at the bottom of his hill? 118 minutes Black and White Silent 1922.

* * * * *

A full-blown melodrama, nothing omitted but a train wreck. I marvel at what silent film asks of one, for what it asks is one’s imagination. And the way it goes about that is to be mute. So one must interpret, lean forward to hear, pay attention, fill in the blanks. And one is given a lot to pay attention to, a lot to engage with. Mary Pickford is a dream actress, quick, imaginative, experienced beyond measure, and always willing to appear foolish. Here she’s a little hellcat of a fisher shack girl, whose hometown a rich nasty is trying to close down. I have nothing more to say, except watch her fight scenes, and there are a lot of them. And watch her business with the rake. She’s a master. A master actor and a master entertainer. She produced this film. She was the most powerful and capable woman Hollywood has ever known. She founded and personally ran Untied Artists, she wrote certain of her own films and produced a number of them, and some of those of her husband, Douglas Fairbanks. She founded the Academy. She founded the Actors Hospital and Home. She founded the School of the Cinema at UCLA. And she was the superstar female actor in the world in her day. Hooray for Mary! The picture is also accompanied by a first class modern score.

[ad#300×250]

 

 

 

 

 

Daddy Long Legs

10 Jun

Daddy Long Legs – Directed by Marshall Neilan. Melodrama. A mischievous orphan girl is helped by a mystery man. 85 minutes Black and White with Color Filters, Silent 1919.

* * * * *

Isn’t this what we’ve always wanted: an unknown benefactor who sees through our detractors’ faults and banks us and banks on us and appears at the end as…. Ah, yes. And so our Miss Mary plays the juvenile orphan on this path, but with many a digression into naughty pranks and hijinks, which solidify the stark disapproval of the matron – but that’s what matrons are for, aren’t they? Some of these antics read like vaudeville turns, for Mary Pickford trod the boards from small childhood in second rate theatre companies touring through Canada and the States, and there she not only learned her craft but the tricks of the trade. So she’s a lot of fun as the movie marks time with a close-order-drill of great energy and variety until it gets on with the plot, which has to do with social rank, of course.  She is really wonderful here, and why is that? Because she is a fine film actress, one might say a revolutionary actress. Everything is simple unselfconscious as only plenty of rehearsals can provide. She does everything immediate and small. She was the first actress in film history to ever have a close-up. And how right that is, for the entire character registers on her visage in response to the forces that beset both her and the orphans around her. You will be interested to see the costumes of the period. And how smoking played such a large part in film acting from the time film started until quite recently. Tobacco in all its forms was the greatest of all actors’ props. It was versatile, it gave something for the actor to do, it was expressive, it could define mood and power. It gave one pause. It gave one interruption. It gave one romantic liaison. Take a look at Daddy Long Legs’ use of it here. It rises like an infernal emanation from behind the back of that chair, like a volcano not yet disturbed.

[ad#300×250]

 

 

 

The Fall

15 Oct

The Fall — directed by Tarsem Singh — a silent film stuntman falls from a train trellis and recuperates in a hospital where he meets a fantastical five-year-old girl and together they go on adventures, adventures, adventures. 117 minutes color 2006

* * * * *

Lee Pace forms half of the power of this piece; the other half is supplied by a 5 year old girl, Catinca Untaru, who is also beautiful — in the same way Elizabeth Taylor was beautiful at her age — dark eyed and forthright. She plays the enchanting and enchanted unwitting go-between in a dangerous plot in half of the movie, and in the other half she is part of a fabulous fable along the lines of The Wizard of Oz, in which all her regular-life characters also feature. The story is directed well in the first part of this fable, but things do not so much progress as parade as the treatment comes to depend too much on extravagant settings, so the conflicts in the tale become somewhat mocked by the spectacle. However, the film is beautifully shot throughout. And the little girl is so true that I would watch nothing else, were the young man not being played by The Great Lee Pace, for he matches her in connection, in humor, in reality of response, at every point. He is the only actor I have ever seen who is actually capable of contemplation on the screen. His ability to be present unselfishly is a wonder to behold. Of course, he is wonderful to look at also, as great stars always are, even those not as physically good looking as he is, and he is a male at the peak of his masculinity here, which is an additional great natural treat. I found the film unusual and gripping. It’s worth more than a casual viewing in my view. For we all share the same false and true stories of our lives.

[ad#300×250]

 

Beyond The Rocks

12 Oct

Beyond the Rocks — directed by Sam Wood — subjecting herself to the needs of her family the lady marries for money, but falls for a valiant aristocrat — oh dear!  Black and white, silent, 1922.

* * * * *

Gloria Swanson was an odd looking little person, with a big hatchet face, cruel lip rouge, and a dazzling overbite. Rudolph Valentino’s eye makeup would make a tall man topple. The oddity of their apparitions on screen matched nothing in the movie goer’s daily life. Swanson was no taller than a footstool and had no figure. True,Valentino had beautiful shoulders and looked super in suits. But what was their appeal? It was, I think, that acting was in their bodies, and their contemporaries were young when they were young. For these two acting was a matter of embodiment. Swanson was a movie star at — what? — age 14 or 15? She was never a jeune fille. Essentially she was not a leading lady either, but a star soubrette. (Jean Arthur is the type. So is Reese Witherspoon) But the point is she could act because she could respond inwardly and naturally to what was being thrown at her. She was real. Valentino, being a male, was going to be a less good actor than she, but he had the same ability to respond. In this picture, there is a moment in a garden in a dream scene from the 18th Century in which he takes her hand and kisses it and lays his cheek upon it. It is one of the great moments in all cinema. No  wonder the ladies fell for him. Such vulnerability is as rare as rubies. You’d have to go to Montgomery Clift’s dance with Anne Baxter in Hitchcock’s “I Confess” to see again how a heartthrob is created in one moment forever. I found the film fun, and I expected it to be expected and it is, so that’s all right. The accompanying material is wonderful. The story of the Collier Brothers man who owned the long-lost print is exceptional. Swanson’s voice-over on the re-run holds the key to acting for all actors: she believed! Listen to her, and never forget.

[ad#300×250]

 
 
Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button