Archive for the ‘Gloria Swanson’ Category

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.


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