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WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

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MissGoddess
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Postby MissGoddess » January 26th, 2008, 9:53 am

Has anyone here seen either of these films:

Reaching for the Moon. 1931. USA. Written and directed by Edmund Goulding. Story by Irving Berlin. With Douglas Fairbanks, Bebe Daniels, Edward Everett Horton. Preserved from original elements in the Museum's Douglas Fairbanks Collection. 90 min.

Now I'll Tell. 1934. USA. Written and directed by Edwin Burke. With Spencer Tracy, Helen Twelvetrees, Alice Faye. Preserved from original elements in the Museum's Twentieth Century Fox Collection. 86 min.

They will be shown at the Museumof Modern Art soon and I am curious to know more about them. I've never heard of them before.

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moira finnie
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Postby moira finnie » January 26th, 2008, 11:05 am

MissGoddess wrote: Has anyone seen...?
Reaching for the Moon. 1931. USA. Written and directed by Edmund Goulding. Story by Irving Berlin. With Douglas Fairbanks, Bebe Daniels, Edward Everett Horton. Preserved from original elements in the Museum's Douglas Fairbanks Collection. 90 min.


Hi Miss G.,
I liked this movie alot, though many people don't seem to like it due to the cheerfully artificial atmosphere of such fare. But then, I can enjoy these early '30s musicals occasionally, such as this one and We're Not Dressing, precisely because of their only nodding acquaintance with grim reality.

According to Matthew Kennedy's terrific bio, Edmund Goulding's Dark Victory, the director signed on after Irving Berlin had written the score and the script. Goulding, working with songwriter/actress Elsie Janis, jettisoned much of the script and the music, (earning Irving's disdain), and crafted this as a way of updating Douglas Fairbanks Sr.'s style. Fairbanks, whose character was described as a "harried, backslapping Dionysius" was seen in modern dress on screen for the first time in years. It takes place on board an ocean liner and incorporates the Depression along with lots of Pre-Code innuendo, even some pointed double entendre exchanges between Doug and the always reliable Edward Everett Horton, who keeps things from being leaden. Fairbanks was apparently an amenable presence, willing to work hard on the film and thought Goulding "a godsend for the talkies". I like Doug's brave game face in these late career flicks, though there's an element of sadness in his persona, at least for me.

The William Cameron Menzies art deco touches, (especially his terrific opening shot of miniature set of a city shown in the film) and the singing of a member of the Paul Whiteman Rhythm Boys, a certain Mr. B. Crosby are also notable. Bebe Daniels lent her beautiful presence to the film, but was apparently the sole fly in the ointment on set, according to co-star June MacCloy, who felt that Bebe's non-stop consumption of coffee all day contributed to her irritability. I thought that she had a nice spin on the light-as-air dialogue and is quite a shimmering beauty.

If I were with you in reality rather than just in spirit at this screening, I'd probably be looking for the moments in the movie when Bing, Bebe and June sing "When the Folks High-Up Do the Mean Low-Down", (LOVE that title, Irving), and of course, when Crosby sings the lovely Berlin tune, "Reaching for the Moon".

BTW, I'd love to see the Spencer Tracy movie too. Hope that you'll write about it after you've seen it. :wink:

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MissGoddess
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Postby MissGoddess » January 26th, 2008, 3:26 pm

Thank you so much, Moira. Just what I was hoping for. I just hope nothing schedule-wise will prevent me from seeing both of these films.

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr: My track record with his movies is ludicrous at worst and shameful at best. I have never seen one of his movies in its entirety. And it's purely by chance, not design. I suspect I shall adore him, and while I know this may not be one of his best movies or the best one to start with, I still look forward to it. If I'm not mistaken, in the Spring the Film Forum will be showing one or two of his silent classics, in an homage to United Artists. That will be fun.

Just try to keep me from posting my "reviews" after I've seen them! :lol:

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Postby MikeBSG » January 27th, 2008, 3:13 pm

I watched "The Bitter Tea of General Yen" and "the Wedding March" last week.

I was very impressed with "bitter Tea." I thought it was very well done, but I can see why Capra often downgraded it in his interviews as something he made when he had Academy Award fever. "Bitter Tea" is almost diametrically opposed to everything "Capracorn" stands for.

"The Wedding March" was slow to get started, but I liked it. It was nice to see von Stroheim playing a sympathetic character. As I mentioned elsewhere, this and "Foolish Wives" makes me wish that von Stroheim had had the chance to direct a supernatural horror film.

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Postby charliechaplinfan » January 30th, 2008, 2:30 pm

In the past few days I've had the chance to watch

:) The Love of Jeanne Ney after being completely captivated by the films Pabst made with Louise Brooks. it was a very enjoyable film, not quite as stylish as Pandoras Box but memorable. I'd watch it again

:) Steamboat Bill Jnr for some reason despite being an avid fan of Buster too I hadn't seen this film. It's now one of my favorites. It has so many good scenes, the scene in the hat shop is funny and Ernest Torrence is such good casting as Buster's father. Just the type to be so dissappointed when your long lost son turns up dressed like Buster. The hurricane sequence is one of the best sustained comedy sequence in silent features.

:) The Outlaw and His Wife I've recently had chance to watch some films by Sjostrom most recently The Phantom Carriage and Terje Vigen. This film was just as impressive, Sjostrom has a way of using the nature and the elements which give his films a more recent feel to them. His use of the mountains in this film is magical. He is one of my favorite silent directors.
I pity Sweden losing their best talents to the US.

:) Heart o The Hills A Mary Pickford film, far from the best one that I've watched and the score had to be turned down. She is winsome as ever playing part of the film as a girl and the last third as a young lady.

I just love silents :D

feaito

Postby feaito » January 30th, 2008, 7:32 pm

Last weekend I saw two of the Marx Brothers early talkies: "Horse Feathers" (1932) and "Monkey Business" (1931), zany, mad comedies both. I enjoyed more "Monkey Business" than "Horse Feathers". Thelma Todd was really a talented woman; it's a pity she died so young

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Postby charliechaplinfan » February 1st, 2008, 2:31 pm

I agree with you about Thelma Todd I saw her in Speak Easily and I thought she was a hoot.

I've watched M'liss which I thought was a far better film that Heart O The Hills and it didn't suffer from a bad soundtrack.

I saw Wild Oranges a beautiful print, set amongst beautiful scenery. My first chance to see Virginia Valli. I was surprised to see Ford Sterling in a seriuos role but he was very good in it.

Then the newly released The River. The restorers have done such a good job with this film and even though it is d the more important missing scenes the essence and most important parts of the story line are still there. Much as I love Seventh Heaven I prefer this Borzage film and I prefer Charles Farrell performance.

Just to have a change I watched a talkie. Man of The World interesting to see William Powell and Carole Lombard in their first movie together. I've never seen either of them give a bad performance and this was no exception.

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Ann Harding
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Postby Ann Harding » February 2nd, 2008, 3:48 am

I watched quite a few silents recently.

First, I finished the Ford silents with Hangman's House (1928). The film was a disappointment compared with the others on the set. The script doesn't quite live up to its expectations. Victor McLaglen returns to Ireland to avenge his sister's death. But, the characters are rather stale. Great cinematography though.

I also watched a British silent: Maurice Elvey's Hindle Wakes (1927). This film is quite reminiscent of future kitchen sink drama as it highlights class differences and social mores far more then any contemporary American silent.

I watched again Alla Nazimova's Salomé (1923). The film is worth watching for its amazing sets and costumes by Natasha Rambova. She obviously design them from Aubrey Beardsley's drawings. But, overall the film is very slow moving in spite of Nazimova's convincing performance. More an aesthetic pleasure than anything else. It's probably better to listen to Richard Strauss' opera to get the violence and sensuality of the heroine.

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Postby knitwit45 » February 2nd, 2008, 5:52 pm

Hi Ann. I got to visit your lovely, wondrous city in 2004, and I will always yearn to go back.

My first encounter with Nazimova was in one of my "best" 5 movies, "Since You Went Away". I had no idea she had been one of the top movie stars of the silent era. I recently acquired a copy of "Camille", with Valentino, and I think it a much better version than Garbo's. I have started a quest for her movies, and will try to find "Salome".

Nancy

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Ann Harding
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Postby Ann Harding » February 3rd, 2008, 5:05 am

Hi Nancy! I hope you'll be back in Paris some day!!! :)
Regarding Salomé, it's available on DVD:
http://www.amazon.com/Salome-Lot-Sodom-Mitchell-Lewis/dp/B00009Q4W9/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1202032771&sr=1-1
I saw it on the Franco-German channel Arte that shows one silent per month. Nazimova is a really interesting personality. I read an overview of her career in the following book: The civil war on the screen and other assays by Jack Spears (Ed. Barnes & Yoseloff, 1977). I think it's a reprint of articles from Films in Review.

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charliechaplinfan
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Postby charliechaplinfan » February 3rd, 2008, 11:04 am

I've watched The Red Lily. This film was restored for TCM and a new soundtrack added. The restorers did a sterling job. The colouring and clarity of the picture is a joy to see.

The films stars Ramon Navarro and Enid Bennett as lovers who escape to Paris only to be seperated. For a year they toil alone, Ramon's character living rough with his friend Bobo, excellently portrayed by Wallace Beery. Enid's character takes menial work but becomes a fallen woman. When Ramon finds her it is because he has accompanied her to her lodgings. He is disgusted by her and assaults her. In a rage he then attacks a police constable. Enid covers for him. Other humiliations are forced on her by Ramon but eventually he sees the error of his ways. She sees the errors of her ways and becomes a seamstress and waits for him to come home from jail. It all ends happily ever after. It's themes are very grown up and it shows the realism that silent audiences were allowed to see.

Then I watched The Goddless Girl fantastically scored by Carl Davis. The tale is a tale of tolerance. A group of atheist students hold a meeting which is broken up by a crowd of Christian students. Tragedy ensues when a girl is killed in the rioting. The leader of each gang and one other member go to the reformatory.

The story is also a story of redemption as Judy the leader of the athiests discovers God through her own actions and the actions of her friend Mame and with the leader of the Christian group she finds love.

What i got from this story is that indoctrination doesn't work. Judy finds her own way to God and the Christian boy finds his way back through Judy.

A fascinating film.

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Gagman 66
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Postby Gagman 66 » February 3rd, 2008, 1:01 pm

Alison,

:) Regarding. THE GODLESS GIRL (1928), I watched this one again yesterday too. Because a couple 3 friends had brought it up. I'm talking about the Photo-play Productions version with the fabulous Carl Davis score, which aired Twice on Film Four in Britain last April.

:? Sadly, that is not the version that Image Entertaiment released on DVD, in the TREASURES FROM THE AMERICAN FILM ARCHIVES 3 Box set a few months ago. However, I hold out fervent hope that it will be that one aired when TCM debut's this film!

:roll: As TCM obtained the rights to The Photo-Play Productions version of Paul Leni's THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1927), over a full year before it came out on DVD from Kino. I hope and pray that TCM will also acquire the rights to the Photo-Play Edition of De Mille's THE GODLESS GIRL as well.

:shock: One of my close friends did not like this picture, for what ever reason, I simply can not imagine? Everyone else who has seen it has been totally blown away by the movie! THE GODLESS GIRL a Powerhouse of a movie! Cecil B. De Mille gets the most out of everyone in the cast, the Photography and Cinematopgaphy leaves one in shere awe! Truly a forgotten Masterpiece! One of the best features of the late Silent Era, having originally been released as a Silent in Mid-1928.

:o The only other Lina Basquette Silent I have seen so far, is Frank Capra's THE YOUNGER GENERATION (1929). Basquette appears considerably slimmer for what ever reason in that film than in the De Mille feature?

:? Tom Keene billed here as George Duryea, was Renee Adoree's leading man in Alan Dwan's TIDE OF THE EMPIRE (1929). The only other Silent I have seen him in. Noah Beery pops up in numerous films including Michael Curtiz NOAH'S ARK (1928), and almost always as a villain!

:D The always delightful Marie Prevost steals every scene She is in, and a fair amount of the Movie. I love the "Mame" character, but perhaps it was She who should have played the lead of Judy THE GODLESS GIRL? Marie also appeared as a Blonde in Lewis Milestone's THE RACKET (1928), which I think was the first time that I ever saw her in anything?

:( The Silent version of THE GODLESS GIRL was released in Mid-1928. It was later re-edited, and re-released with synchronized score, some goat-land dialogue sequences, and a different ending tacked on! De Mille apparently had little to do with the revision?

The Photo-play Productions edition with Carl Davis score, presents the original 1928 Silent-cut of the film. The new Treasures 3 DVD set though, from Image Entertainment offers just a lone Piano score! Virtually unthinkable for a Silent film in 1928! I was afraid that they would not shell out the bucks for the rights to a Carl Davis score, and they didn't, but than I'm sure that both He and Robert Israel don't come cheap!

Oddly enough, This film received miserable reviews back in the day, but I agree that it is among the best De Mille pictures that I have seen. Perhaps this film can be viewed in a different light now?
Last edited by Gagman 66 on February 3rd, 2008, 3:04 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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charliechaplinfan
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Postby charliechaplinfan » February 3rd, 2008, 2:51 pm

Perhaps you're right. Perhaps it is perceived differently now. I too liked Marie Prevost I think she shone and stole many scenes but I did like Lina Basquette in the role of Judy.

A truly lovely film.

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Gagman 66
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Postby Gagman 66 » February 3rd, 2008, 5:07 pm

Alison,

:D Here is a big article about THE GODLESS GIRL, I pulled from someplace several months ago. No authors name was given?:

"Pathé released the Silent version of THE GODLESS GIRL in August 1928 to lackluster business. By early winter, the distributor recognized that silent films had little chance of finding an audience during the “all-talking” picture craze and withdrew the film."

"Pathé attempted to revitalize the movie by tacking on dialogue scenes, a process known as “goat gland.” Goat gland took its name from a surgical procedure developed around 1920 by quack doctor J.R. Brinkley, who implanted goat testes into humans as a way to cure maladies such as impotence, arteriosclerosis, and dementia. The talking scenes were shot by character actor Fritz Feld, without the supervision of DeMille, who had broken his contract with Pathé and signed with MGM."

"Despite the addition of the goat gland scenes, the film was still a commercial and critical failure during its 1929 general release, ultimately bringing in $489,095, significantly under its $722,315 cost. A New York Times review complained, “The story, which stretches from unexpected ludicrous slapstick through scenes in a burning reformatory, the intensity in feeling of which equals motion picture depictions of the French Revolution, is punctured with vapid, religious admonitions and strange, heavenly warnings in the form of crosses burnt into the palms of the heroine.” Variety sustained the attack: “DeMille had his tongue in his cheek when he directed this hack yarn.” The reviewer continued, “Direction, editing and production all are below DeMille standards.In fact, it’s hard to believe the maker of a long list of snappy pictures could have turned out such a disjointed, listless, length of celluloid.”

"DeMille attributed the film’s failure to its already outmoded position in the transition from silent to sound cinema. If this was the case, the director was partially to blame. Even with the success of THE JAZZ SINGER in 1927, DeMille insisted that THE GODLESS GIRL would be a hit as a silent picture. Lina Basquette, the film’s star, credited the movie’s poor reception to its brutal subject matter. “THE GODLESS GIRL” she recalled in 1992, “came out just when people were getting used to the fluffy musicals Hollywood was pumping out. The American public didn’t want to look at reformatory schools, kids rioting, atheism, godlessness and the whole bit.”

"Curiously, the movie fared better in Europe. In the Soviet Union, the film became an unexpected success when Soviet distributor Sovkino “remontaged” the film by pulling out the last reel, in which the Godless Girl finds redemption, so that the picture played as celebration of atheism among American youth. DeMille claimed that when he visited the Soviet Union in 1931, he was hailed as a national hero for having made the film."

"In Germany, the movie attracted many admirers, including an aspiring politician named Adolph Hitler, who sent a fan letter to Lina Basquette. According to Basquette, by 1937, Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, and Leni Riefenstahl wanted to groom the American actress to become UFA’s biggest star. However, this plan was quickly abandoned after Basquette kneed the monorchid Führer in the groin when he made an unwelcome pass at her during a visit to his Berghof Alpine retreat."

"Communists and fascists aside, the film has garnered its share of fans over the years. The film experienced a revival in the late 80s and early 90s with DeMille retrospectives at the Cinémathèque Française, the National Film Archive, the Rassegna Internazionale Retrospettiva, and Le Giornate del Cinema Muto. For his program notes to the 1989 DeMille retrospective at the American Museum of the Moving Image, Robert S. Birchard wrote, “DeMille pulled out all the stops on THE GODLESS GIRL, as if aware that this would be his farewell to the silent screen. Part outrageous melodrama, part social comedy, part prison reform propaganda, and part religious parable, it is a film of irrational yet compelling power.”

"For many years the film was projected silent, sans the goat gland scenes. However, the UCLA Film and TV Archive preserved the film with its grafted-on dialogue scenes, ensuring that the movie could be seen in all its part-talkie glory. The goat gland version is a poignant illustration of the aesthetic and technical problems that arose during the conversion from silence to sound, as the film moves from the dynamic editing and staging of the reformatory fire sequence to the inert and banal talking conclusion. With its peculiar mix of silent and talking scenes, fundamentalism and atheism, innocence and sadism, moralizing and decadence, THE GODLESS GIRL is a film oddity worthy of appreciation."
Last edited by Gagman 66 on February 4th, 2008, 3:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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charliechaplinfan
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Postby charliechaplinfan » February 4th, 2008, 2:54 pm

What a fascinating article. Thanks for posting Gagman :)

I watched West Point last night. I've only seen William Haines in Show People and I couldn't make my mind up about him. I loved his character in Show People but I wanted to see another film to assess him properly.

The film was made on location at West Point and had a fabulous look to it. I love to watch Joan Crawford in silent films and she has a 'jazz baby' look about her in this film.

William Haines's character was a little too full of himself for me. It was probably a winning formula at the time or maybe it's a character that doesn't translate well to this side of the pond, or maybe it's just my preference.

Having said this it was a wonderful opportunity to see one of the major male stars of the 20's.


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