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WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

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

Postby Ann Harding » January 26th, 2010, 8:48 am

Yesterday I watched Old San Francisco (1927, A. Crosland) with Dolores Costello & Warner Oland. This is really pure hokum with a really improbable story written by Darryl F. Zanuck (!) and the kind of racial prejudice associated with 'Yellow Peril' in mind. Tha last of the Vasquez family are fighting eviction from a nasty called Chris Buckland (W. Oland) who hides his oriental blood under his western attire. The heroine is saved -very timely, isn't it?- by the San Francisco earthquake! This total nonsense benefited from a gorgeous cinematography by Hal Mohr and great sets by Ben Carré. Some scenes and titles made me guffaw. I am still amazed that the future producer of Grapes of Wrath could write such xenophobic nonsense....!

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

Postby Ollie » January 26th, 2010, 12:21 pm

Christine, I'm always delighted that we've been saved - Western Civilization - from those yellow-devils because Hollywood refused to allow Orientals to lead Oriental stories. Obviously, the public wanted to see those stories, and I've never quiet understood how Hollywood could make the incredibly fantastic leap "Audiences are interested in Oriental tales but not Orientals themselves".

Part of it, I'm sure, is lack of contract players, or the great desire to use contract-talent in whatever tales the filmmakers could find. I'm just sooo thankful that those evil Richard Loo and Anna May Wongs were kept from our forefront of stardom. Gosh knows how far we've have plunged into the pits of hell if we'd actually seen THOSE people acting! Whew...

Of course, I do give full license for actors to act.

I'm not sure I'll ever forgive the filmmakers, however, when they deliver bombs like Kevin Costner's ROBIN HOOD accent. I guess pinning or painting his eyelids could be worse. After all, anything's possible.

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

Postby myrnaloyisdope » January 26th, 2010, 1:26 pm

Hate to say it but not a whole lot has changed. Realistically the only major Asian star in Hollywood is probably still Jackie Chan and he was poached from Hong Kong. Zhang Ziyi and Lucy Liu have had periods of stardom, but not particularly prolonged, ditto Chow Yun Fat. But it could be argued that there has been no homegrown Asian movie star since Anna May Wong.

Perhaps the single benefit of Hollywood's perpetual use of yellow-face was the fact that it kept Myrna Loy working long enough to find stardom. Without all those exotic roles, she probably would've called it quits pretty early on.
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Ann Harding
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby Ann Harding » January 27th, 2010, 6:15 am

Yesterday I attended a screening of The Crowd (1928, K. Vidor) with live piano accompaniment. They showed the Photoplay Production print dating back from the 80s. This Vidor picture is for me one of the greatest silent film ever made. On a big screen the faces and emotions take on a new life. The everyday life of the characters still rings true to this day and the challenges of the Sims family are just the same as today: crowded flat, lack of money, unemployment, etc. The film drew a big crowd and the cinema was full. I suspect many of them had never seen a silent film before as they were attracted by the name of the pianist who appears regularly on TV and radio. It was gratified to see that they reacted well to the picture. But, alas, I found the piano accompaniment to be rather messy as if the pianist had not rehearsed his piece enough. Nevertheless it was a great experience to see the film well projected at the right speed.

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

Postby charliechaplinfan » January 27th, 2010, 6:40 am

The Crowd is one of my favorites too, let's hope the pianist managed to convert a few of his fans to watching more silent movies.
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby feaito » January 27th, 2010, 7:34 am

How fantastic Christine. That must have been a incredible experience. Was it a 35MM print? You are lucky. I also think that it's one of the best, if not the best, Silents ever made.

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

Postby Ollie » January 27th, 2010, 9:35 am

Six years ago, my wife started working with local film-festivals to bring in "unknown to them" British films, and we found oddball distributors that had prints. And soon thereafter, there were DVDs released of these. GREEN FOR DANGER, for example. A lot of the Powell & Pressburger works. And literally dozens and dozens more. It was strange. It was, like, "Show the film in festivals, then release the DVDs for sale" as if they were 'seeding the land' for popular interest. So many of the films, I'd never heard of, much less seen, but I wonder if Silents can get the same treatment?

This "coincidental release" of DVDs following film-festival showings was also mirroring the GOJIRA film's 2002 North American film-festival presence, where X number of copies were passed around for a year or so, and in 2004, the DVD was released. First-time showing of the film on North American soil, followed by a great production of the DVD.

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

Postby Ann Harding » January 27th, 2010, 11:24 am

charliechaplinfan wrote:The Crowd is one of my favorites too, let's hope the pianist managed to convert a few of his fans to watching more silent movies.

I talked with some friends who were new to the film and they said they loved it. So in spite of his very average score, people did enjoy the film. I suppose I have become really hard to please. Knowing the film too well with the Carl Davis score makes me quite picky.
feaito wrote:How fantastic Christine. That must have been a incredible experience. Was it a 35MM print? You are lucky. I also think that it's one of the best, if not the best, Silents ever made.

Yes it was a 35 mm print. But, it's dating back from the 80s. It didn't have the sharpness and contrast of some other Photoplay prints. But, still it's a vast improvement on a CF print of The Crowd I saw some years back.

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

Postby MichiganJ » January 27th, 2010, 11:29 am

Although a little too old for the role, Richard Barthelmess plays Jack, the captain of his college football team in The Drop Kick (1927). The melodrama is as silly as they come. Jack's married old roommate has been pilfering funds from the college team to keep his wife, Eunice (a terrifically vampish Dorothy Revier) in the clothes and jewels she wants. But with "the big game" ahead, Jack's friend commits suicide, and Jack, who had been innocently visiting with the conniving Eunice, is led to believe that the suicide was over their perceived infidelity. This can't help but effect Jack's play in the big game, and oh boy does it ever. Interestingly, although Jack is the team's kicker, he's also the guy in the huddle who calls all of the plays, and more than once, he's given the ball to run with! As a running back, though, Jack is a good kicker. Each time he gets the ball…he fumbles! (A future Viking.) Never fear, though. Mom's in the bleachers…

Queen Elizabeth (1912)--I was expecting a boring tableaux film with little action, and while it is tableaux, the film is far from boring. Sarah Bernhardt (!) plays Elizabeth, and she certainly commands the screen. Much of the acting is broad, as one might expect from such and early film, but the period setting and costumes somehow help to quell much of the theatrics and Bernhardt is pretty great. It starts off like a filmed play, but fortunately many of the following scenes are shot in, what really appears to be, actual locations. The highlight is Essex loosing his head, a sequence which has one of the best title-card placements, ever (just as the blade is about to strike!), and Bernhardt's death scene is a hoot.
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby Gagman 66 » January 27th, 2010, 2:39 pm

Christine,

:o THE CROWD was the very first presentation in the Thames Silents series back in 1981. I have been told that Warner's has run off a fresh new transfer in the last few years. Just like the restorared THE BIG PARADE we are still waiting for it to pop up on TCM.

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

Postby myrnaloyisdope » January 27th, 2010, 11:29 pm

I was really fortunate to see The Crowd at Cinematheque Ontario in November, and I was also very impressed. It's been my favorite silent film for several years, and it was wonderful to see it in the cinema with live accompaniment. I agree with Christine though that the Carl Davis score is superior to what was played live. Oh well, still one of favorite cinema experiences.
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby Ann Harding » January 29th, 2010, 5:30 am

Le Roman d'un mousse (The Story of a Ship's Apprentice, 1913) by Léonce Perret.
ImageImage
This is the third feature length picture of Léonce Perret published recently on DVD. But, Kino didn't include it in their box. I got hold of a copy of the original Gaumont DVD set. I don't regret it. It contains also a wealth of silent shorts which are really worth investigating. The story mixes murder mystery with adventure. And again, we get some wonderful seascape and some views of Biarritz (in the Bay of Biscay), Le Havre and Saint-Malo. The young Charles-Henri becomes a ship's apprentice against his will when his nasty stepfather plots to kill him and his mother to inherite their fortune. The beginning of the film is rather slow moving and quite wordy. It changes when we reach Saint-Malo and the boy wakes up at sea. He is protected by a nice old fisherman, Father Paimpol. As usual with Perret, there is a visual poetry due to the lovely image composition. This is another winner from this great director! Alas the print is a nasty Belgian dupe with Flemish/French titles. A real shame as it must have looked stunning.

Among the shorts I have watched so far, I liked particularly Molière (1909) where a very young Abel Gance plays the title role. There he is on the right holding a sheet of paper. He also wrote the script. This is really well handled up to the death of the author on stage.
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby Ann Harding » January 30th, 2010, 9:13 am

I went to another screening yesterday. I saw Pêcheur d'Islande (1924, Jacques de Baroncelli) with Charles Vanel and Sandra Milowanoff.
Image Sandra Milowanoff as Gaud in the traditional costume of the ladies in Paimpol.
This film is an adaptation of Pierre Loti's famous novel taking place in Northern Brittany, in Paimpol. In this small fishing harbour, ships went all the way to Iceland to fish cod for 6 months every year. No need to say that it was extremely dangerous and many men died at sea. Yann (C. Vanel) is one such man. He refuses to marry for fear he might never come back. Gaud (S. Milowanoff) loves him deeply and cannot understand why he stays so cold towards her. After two years, he changes his mind and they marry. But, the fishing season is arriving and he has to leave. All the women gather in the port to see the boat leaving. Gaud follows the coast until Yann's ship disappears on the horizon. Then the long wait starts. Alas, Yann will never come back. They are caught in storm that sinks the ship. The film has been entirely shot on locations in Brittany and uses all the actual places described by the author. We get some amazing seascapes from the steep coastline and we also see 'the wall of the men lost at sea' in the local cemetery, where they list the name of all the men and ships lost at sea. The number is quite staggering: 2000 men died in the space of about 60 years. The film manages to combine the authenticity of a documentary (local people were used as extras) with some great performances from the two leads. I had a lump in my throat when Gaud was bidding farewell to Yann as he was leaving. There was a great sense of foreboding and you sort of knew he was never going to come back. The print was absolutely gorgeous: sharp, contrasted with a wonderful cinematography. You nearly felt the wind as you watched it! Such a shame this film is hardly ever shown....Let's hope it will be one day available on DVD.

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

Postby silentscreen » January 30th, 2010, 9:45 am

You get to see the most amazing films Christine! You are so fortunate to have a cinema in your country that cares about classic films. Here in the States we can only rely upon the occasional festivals, and they are all over the place.
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Postby feaito » January 30th, 2010, 2:12 pm

silentscreen wrote:You get to see the most amazing films Christine! You are so fortunate to have a cinema in your country that cares about classic films. Here in the States we can only rely upon the occasional festivals, and they are all over the place.


I concur. Christine really has the opportunity of seeing such out-of-this world films. Films one even didn't knew existed anymore. And not only French treats, but German, Swedish, American.... Paris is the city!!


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