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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 » January 24th, 2012, 10:49 am

I'm familiar with the lovely Miss Maris because her last film appearance was in the very famous 1984 Argentinian movie "Camila" (1984) directed by María Luisa Bemberg, starring Susú Pecoraro and Imanol Arias, in which she portrayed the grandmother of Camila, the title character. The film is reportedly based on fact. In the mid Nineteenth Century, Camila O'Gorman, the daughter of an upper-class, aristocratic Argentinian family is romantically involved with a priest and gets pregnant by him, causing a huge scandal. That country was under the dictatorship of Rozas during that period. Maris plays "La Perichona", Camila's paternal grandmother, who's been locked in her home for life by her stern son (Camila's father) due to her behaviour and the shame she has caused her family.

I had read that she was married to Brown, that she was educated in Europe and that she appeared in French and German Silent Films, which I'd like to see. She's also famous because of her appearance opposite legendary tango singer Carlos Gardel in a Paramount film made in Joinville. She also appeared opposite Bogart in his first film.

feaito

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

Postby feaito » January 26th, 2012, 3:10 pm

Yesterday I revisited a minor 1931 programmer starring Robert Montgomery and directed by Harry Pollard: "Shipmates" (1931) in which Bob portrays an irresponsible and mischievous sailor who falls in love with the lovely daughter (Dorothy Jordan) of an admiral and is involved in series of incidents with the flagships's officers and commanders. Ernest Torrence plays Bob's nemesis (at first), Gavin Gordon is an officer who is courting Jordan, Cliff Edwards is Bob's funny sidekick and Eddie Nugent, a young man who befriends Bob and introduces him to Kit (Dorothy Jordan). Enjoyable little film with many action scenes and sequences filmed on board navy ships. Better than I expected.

I wonder why Gavin Gordon after starring opposite Garbo in 1930, so soon became a featured player.

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

Postby intothenitrate » February 2nd, 2012, 12:15 pm

Sometimes I wonder if a film has become "better" in my estimation upon subsequent viewing, or if it was just that I happened to be more susceptible to it on that particular occasion. Maybe it's a little of both. I just watched the film Riptide (1934) and was fairly blown away by it.

It's a Norma Shearer vehicle with Herbert Marshall and Robert Montgomery manning the other two points of the triangle. Edmund Goulding has the writing and directing credit. (More on that later). I collected this film a while a back when I was working a checklist of pre-coders out of the back of Mick LaSalle's book, "Complicated Women."

Here's the dirt: Shearer and Marshall meet in New York and impulsively get married. He's an English lord, and she's obviously moneyed enough to go to swank parties, i.e. there's no issue about "station" driving the plot. She lets him know before they tie the knot that he won't be "her first," but he honestly says he doesn't care.

Fast forward five years. They're living in England and have a daughter. Everything's rosy, but he has to go to America on business--stag--and they're loathe to be apart.

To console herself, Shearer goes with Marshall's aunt--who used to be rather wild--to some hot-spot on the continent. There, she runs into the Montgomery character, whom she knew in New York. They get drunk together and jump into the pool in their evening clothes. Bob's on a roll, but Norma puts the brakes on in the nick of time and beats it back to her room. He follows, but she won't let him in. He tries to hop across adjacent balconies to get to her and accidentally falls. That gets into the papers.

Back at the manor, Marshall has returned from his trip and is livid. Shearer is completely honest about the situation, but he won't believe her. [Marshall is quite masterful at "wearing the horns," as he did for Garbo in The Painted Veil]. She even invites Montgomery over to corroborate the story--a very nice scene--but it does no good. Eventually, he drives her away with his cold petulance until she winds up in Montgomery's arms again, this time not so innocently.

How does it end up? Well, I wouldn't want to spoil that!

It's probably no accident that the outline of this plot is reminiscent of the groundbreaking Divorcee filmed a few years earlier...or any of several other "women's pictures" dealing with infidelity in the pre-code era. The difference (to me) is that this one is so natural in its execution. The characters aren't symbols; the acting isn't "presentational;" the supporting players behave like people in real life.

I haven't been wowed by everything Goulding's directed, but this picture is squarely in his wheelhouse. The fact that he wrote it as well as directed it must be the reason. Nobody is "selling" the dialogue--it comes off as naturally as if we were peering into these characters' real lives.

Two other striking things: First, after Shearer and Montgomery have gotten together the second time, they're playing backgammon. There is nothing overt in the dialogue to establish that they had been intimate. And yet, the way the scene is played, it's obvious. I'm not sure how they did it, but it's brilliant.

The other thing was that there are male supporting characters who seem gay. They aren't queenie, like you see in some pre-codes, but there's enough in their mannerisms and behavior to suggest it. [I've read about Goulding, so maybe I was looking for it]. What's sweet about it is that these characters are completely attuned to the emotional struggles of the (straight) principals, are warm and supportive. If one were to abstract a thesis about love from the screenplay, it would be that it's all cut from the same cloth. They're gay and it doesn't matter.

We get our kicks from pre-codes for their often salacious or sensational aspects. But the Code didn't just put a damper on the presentation of sex, drugs, violence and deviance. It also stifled the impulse to try to reflect "people-as-they-really-are." This film is a superb example of just that. In some respects, it seemed more modern than many films made today.
"Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
Goodnight Basington

feaito

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

Postby feaito » February 2nd, 2012, 12:29 pm

What a great thorough & insightful review intothenitrate, you made want to see the film again (I've already seen it twice). Didn't it seem to you quite "episodic" and somewhat "choppy"? I recall feeling that after seeing it.

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

Postby intothenitrate » February 3rd, 2012, 7:45 am

Hey Fealto, how are you? Like I said at the top of my post, I may have just been susceptible to a particular aspect of the story. As a film about two people, maybe it does suffer from continuity problems. I must have been tracking the thread of their happiness together. Maybe there was something in the dialogue that pointed me to that aspect. The milestones of the relationships--independent of "calendar time"--seemed to be rolled out in a logical and regular order.

The outline of the story reads like a programmer "weepy," but it was done with such care and attention...definitely "above and beyond the call of duty."
"Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
Goodnight Basington

feaito

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

Postby feaito » February 3rd, 2012, 9:51 am

Hello intothenitrate, I'm fine thank you.

I appreciate your further feedback. "Riptide" is a film that always intrigued me and it was the first film ever I bought at Amazon on VHS format; the first I bought on DVD format was "Only Angels Have Wings" and the first CD I bought at Amazon was Swing Out Sister's "Filth and Dreams". One never forgets "the firsts" in our lives :wink:

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

Postby intothenitrate » February 9th, 2012, 4:41 am

Late to the party as usual, I finally got around to watching Abel Gance's J'Accuse (1919) last night. Wow! There's quite a notable conversation about this film back on page 114 of this thread.

I'm writing in haste here, but just to mention three things that stood out for me:
1) Using excerpts from actual soldiers' letters for intertitles. So poignant.
2) Scenes of devastation were not the fabrication of back-lot set-designers, but the real thing.
3) The sophistication of the editing and the variety of shots making up a given scene--I thought I was watching a film made in the later twenties.

Ok, this is a fourth thing. I really appreciated the care that went into showing the progression of combat conditions going from bad to worse. When the principles first go to the front, they're wearing soft hats and the trenches are dry and orderly. Towards the end, the men are in helmets, sitting in shell holes alongside the dead, caked in mud, with grim, haunted expressions on their faces. You don't need a title card to tell you that war is an absolute evil. Gance brands it into the pit of your stomach with his imagery.
"Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
Goodnight Basington

feaito

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

Postby feaito » February 9th, 2012, 4:50 pm

I agree with you intothenitrate, it's a very poignant and utterly realistic film and having been filmed when WWI was actually taking place, IMO helped masterful Abel Gance to convey in this film, all the sorrow and pain that it caused to humanity.

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

Postby charliechaplinfan » March 4th, 2012, 3:03 pm

I watched Jimmy The Gent with James Cagney and Bette Davis, Jimmy was as loud and in your face as it's as possible to get, playing a genealogist and chisiller knowing all the tricks in the book to get to a pay out before his rivals. His main rival employs his ex girl Joan played by Bette Davis, who has a far more classy establishment, as Jimmy finds out when he pays a visit and instigates some changes at his own establishment, he's bent on getting his girl back and attracting more clientele. The film meanders for 70 minutes, made palatable by Cagney and a lovely looking Bette Davis in the leads.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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

Postby Birdy » March 7th, 2012, 10:21 pm

I also watched a James Cagney recently: Blonde Crazy, 1931. Jimmy played a slick-talking shyster who was eventually redeemed in character, if not in situation. He partners with Joan Blondell, turns her to the dark side and refuses to admit he's in love with her. They are joined by Louis Calher, Ray Milland, Guy Kibbee, Noel Francis, Maude Eberne and Nat Pendleton.
What a group!

I'm sure a lot of you have seen this one and it may have been discussed somewhere but I didn't find it.
I love how they run their rackets from 'a small hotel in the midwest' to 'the biggest hotel in the biggest city'.

feaito

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

Postby feaito » March 21st, 2012, 4:09 pm

Thanks to Wendy, who wrote on a thread devoted to Charles Boyer about "The Magnificent Lie" (1931) being available to watch on youtube I watched two other Paramount Early Talkies:

"Secrets of a Secretary" (1931).The print available on youtube is good; an engrossing film with Claudette Colbert (who in the first scenes at a lavish party is wearing a blond wig) as an impoverished socialite who has to work as a social secretary for a daffy matron played -perfectly- by Mary Boland. Georges Metaxa -who is featured in Astaire & Rogers great 1936 film "Swing Time"- plays a young foreign man disinherited by his rich father, who marries Claudette when it's still believed that her family has BIG money. I did not like his characterization, feeling it was forced and unnatural; In this Valentino-Gigolo kind of role I think that George Raft would have been better, in spite of the fact that he wasn't a great actor. Herbert Marshall plays a British Lord who falls for Colbert, rather unamusingly. Colbert with her incredible charm and talent carries most of this picture. A must-see for her fans.

"The Marriage Playground" (1929). I was surprised to read excellent reviews of this film at IMDB and good ones in Lawrence J. Quirk's book "The Films of Fredric March", all of which praise highly Mary Brian's and March's performances. I liked March's performance, but I disliked Brian's, finding her rather artificial and that at times she acted as if she were in a Silent. Well, the print isn't as good as the previous I saw, and that did not help me to enjoy the film either. I found it rather stilted and stiff. In this movie based upon Edith Wharton's "The Children" Mary Brian plays the eldest daughter of a quarreling couple (the wife is played by Lilyan Tashman), who takes care of the couple's youngest children (not all of them are sons and daughters of the couple, one of them (Mitzi) is daughter of another marriage of the husband and there are twins who belong to another husband of the wife). Philippe De Lacy, Mitzi Green and Anita Louise play the oldest children. Kay Francis plays the actress-mother of Green. Fredric March is an old friend of the couple and Seena Owen plays March's flame. Only interesting as a curio (IMO). Uninspiredly directed by Lothar Mendes. Anyone here seen this one??

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

Postby Rita Hayworth » March 21st, 2012, 5:07 pm

feaito wrote:Thanks to Wendy, who wrote on a thread devoted to Charles Boyer about "The Magnificent Lie" (1931) being available to watch on youtube I watched two other Paramount Early Talkies:

"Secrets of a Secretary" (1931).The print available on youtube is good; an engrossing film with Claudette Colbert (who in the first scenes at a lavish party is wearing a blond wig) as an impoverished socialite who has to work as a social secretary for a daffy matron played -perfectly- by Mary Boland. Georges Metaxa -who is featured in Astaire & Rogers great 1936 film "Swing Time"- plays a young foreign man disinherited by his rich father, who marries Claudette when it's still believed that her family has BIG money. I did not like his characterization, feeling it was forced and unnatural; In this Valentino-Gigolo kind of role I think that George Raft would have been better, in spite of the fact that he wasn't a great actor. Herbert Marshall plays a British Lord who falls for Colbert, rather unamusingly. Colbert with her incredible charm and talent carries most of this picture. A must-see for her fans.



This is my favorite Claudette Colbert Film ... and I have seen it on You Tube. Your write up is excellent here.

feaito

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

Postby feaito » March 21st, 2012, 8:23 pm

Thank you very much Kingme. Did you see The Marriage Playground?

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

Postby Rita Hayworth » March 21st, 2012, 10:17 pm

feaito wrote:Thank you very much Kingme. Did you see The Marriage Playground?


I have not seen it.

feaito

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

Postby feaito » March 23rd, 2012, 8:19 pm

Finally I watched the 1932 film "What Price Hollywood?", a landmark Pre-Code that predates "A Star is Born" (1937).

It's an excellent film perfectly directed by George Cukor, in which Constance Bennett has one of her best roles. She had such an appealing husky voice, beautiful wavy blond hair falling over her face and she was so slim and classy (sigh); Lowell Sherman is superb as the waning director who discovers her. Neil Hamilton, who later achieved TV fame in Batman plays Connie's husband. Louise Beavers plays wonderfully Connie's maid, she is truly priceless, her natural warmth and kindness, has made her become one of my favorite character actors; thanks to her talent and naturalness she never comes across as stereotypical; she had truth in her art. Recommended.


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