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Dorothy Mackaill films

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Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby intothenitrate » June 8th, 2011, 4:20 am

There's a little featurette over on the Huffington Post right now tracing the pop-cultural history of "the office wife," a secretary who takes on more duties than just typing and filing. Look what I found in the slideshow. I'd sure like to see the 1930 film mentioned on the cover of this novel. Over on IMDB it says it's Joan Blondell's first film, playing Mackaill's kid sister.
officewife.jpg
officewife.jpg (65.37 KiB) Viewed 7850 times


...looks like you have to scroll down to see the tie-in with the WB film, at least on my computer. How do you post a picture without having all that extra framery around it?
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Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby moira finnie » June 8th, 2011, 9:58 am

intothenitrate wrote:...looks like you have to scroll down to see the tie-in with the WB film, at least on my computer. How do you post a picture without having all that extra framery around it?

You can upload any image that you have on your computer to an online photo sharing site (Photobucket, Flickr, PictureTrail, etc.) and copy the image link, paste it here in a message, framed between [img ]the web address of your image[/img],* and then check the way the image can appear by hitting preview. We try to keep images at or below 500 x 500 pixels or only a bit larger in order to maintain the site and make it easier for people to see. I find that thumbnails for big pictures works well too. There are more helpful (I hope) hints found in this link that appears under Registering as a New Member:

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Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby CineMaven » June 9th, 2011, 12:46 am

"SAFE IN HELL" 8:30AM.
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Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby JackFavell » June 9th, 2011, 9:21 am

SAFE IN HELL SPOILERS

Well, I actually shed a few tears this morning, as Dorothy kissed her fella goodbye, then composed herself, lit a cigarette and strolled to her death. She was one heck of an actress. I was totally with her, and I loved how the bar guys turned out to be such gentlemen. I was so scared at the beginning, I thought she was a goner right off. I loved her transformation.

But I have to say how much I loved Nina Mae McKinney in this film, she was every bit as good as MacKaill. McKinney's electric singing of the song in the bar was pointed up by a 360 degree shot that follows her around the table! This is 1931, I might add, and I never expected so daring a camera angle in a movie of this time period. Anyway, that song was written by Al Dubin, Joseph Burke, Al Bryan, and CLARENCE MUSE, who also had a small role in the film.

And Wellman? After watching Other Men's Women right before, I am already of the opinion that the man was a genius, if I hadn't already thought so. The final 15 minutes of OMW was absolutely BEAUTIFUL - trains in fog, and then that last shot of Withers running along the top of the train?!!! Breathtaking.

Wellman's so tough, you don't realize how perfectly he directs. The way he singles out an item to look at in order to draw your attention to the most pivotal important point in the script, or the way he takes his time setting up a scene, or the way certain parts of his movies just crackle and bristle with excitement or shocking reality... it's all masterfully done, always with the flavor of something that's actually happening at the moment you are watching it. I love when his lens narrows down to something small. His movies can be hard to watch, but they are ALWAYS worth it in the end.

feaito

Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby feaito » June 9th, 2011, 9:41 am

Wendy, I'm glad you loved the film and congrats for the great review (I agree with you)!, I also loved it when I watched it last year and this what I wrote about it on another thread:

I saw an excellent Precoder: "Safe in Hell" (1931). Dorothy Mackaill is really an unsung, talented actress with beauty and lots of guts. She plays a woman (Gilda Carlson) who becomes a call girl, due to a no-good man's doing (Ralf Harolde who plays Piet Van Saal). The wonderful character actress Cecil Cunningham appears ever so briefly as a Madam who arranges her "dates"; unknowingly she goes to meet a client who turns to be Van Saal and kills him accidentally; then her long-gone love, a seaman (Carl) played by Donald Cook comes back and offers to marry her, but he confesses to him that she's become a call girl; he nevertheless forgives her and helps her to escape to Tortuga, an island in the Caribbean which is the only place in the world where they do not extradite criminals; Carl has to leave her, but promises to return and she's the only white woman on the island...and the hotel in which she's staying -run by Leonie, wonderfully impersonated by the very talented and beautiful Nina Mae McKinney- is full of crooks who want her badly....Mackaill is brilliant and I wished she'd become a bigger star during the talkies, because she had it all: talent, beauty, personality and appeal; and in the few films I've seen her in: "The Office Wife" (1930), "Kept Husbands" (1931) and even in a secondary role in "No Man of Her Own" (1932), she's superb! What a loss!

feaito

Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby feaito » June 9th, 2011, 9:48 am

Wendy, I also agree Re. "Other Men's Women" and W. Wellman, I posted these thoughts about that film and "The Purchase Price" on a thread dedicated to Wellman here at SSO, months/years ago:

Yesterday I saw two of the Pre-Code films included in The Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three, devoted to William Wellman.

Firstly I watched “Other Men’s Women” (1930) which tells the story of two guys who work together in a train and whose friendship is ruined by one of them falling for his pal’s wife. Grant Withers (Loretta Young’s first husband) plays the ne’er-do-well single guy, who’s a womanizer, an irresponsible drunkard, permanently cavorting. Regis Toomey is the down-to-earth, responsible type; a man with a pretty wife (Mary Astor) and a beautiful home.

Notwithstanding its flaws I found the film quite rewarding and well done, and was pleased by Withers’ honest impersonation as the childish big guy who falls madly in love with his best friend’s wife. He really impressed me. Mary Astor is lovely as the lady torn in between passion and duty. Regis Toomey is fine as Withers’ loyal, good-natured friend, who takes him to live with him and his wife, unaware of the results of this venture.

Joan Blondell plays deftly –as usual- a floozie who’s after Withers and James Cagney an energetic fellow co-worker in the railroad.

Very fine programmer.

Secondly I saw “The Purchase Price” (1932), a film which has unfair bad reviews in many sources, including Homer Dickens’ book The Films of Barbara Stanwyck.

Stany, who’s been one of my favorite actresses since I was a boy, plays a nightclub entertainer who’s fed up with her life –and married lover Lyle Talbot- and ends up living unwittingly in a farm with the character impersonated by George Brent.

George Brent’s performance as a naïve, sort of shy farmer impressed my favorably, because it’s quite different from the kind of roles he usually played and in my opinion he succeeded at it; with that “surprised” look on his face. When he first meets Stanwyck and he’s permanently sniffling –because of a cold-, which deeply annoys Stanwyck, I giggled constantly.

The characters’ romantic relationship is very well handled by the director, who builds up an intense sexual tension between both of them.

There is a perfect balance between romance and action in this film and it succeeds in depicting with sincerity the building of the relationship between the two lead characters; I “bought” every inch of it and that’s a result of Stanwyck’s tremendous talent, Wellman’s handling of the story and of Brent’s good performance, who may have seemed wooden for some other reviewers, but which was right for me.

There are many vignettes in this good little movie: when Stanwyck aids a lady who just had a baby alone with her junior daughter (portrayed by Anne Shirley who 5 years later played Stanwyck’s daughter in “Stella Dallas” (1937)). That scene is full of human touches.

There are other beautiful scenes, like when Stanwyck and Brent are sowing the seeds together in the country and later harvesting the wheat.

Good film.

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Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby JackFavell » June 9th, 2011, 11:04 am

Thanks, Fer! I loved your reviews...At first I wasn't so thrilled with Other Men's Women, I thought that Withers and Toomey were just OK, but then the film really started to grab me, and by the end, I really thought it was quite good. That last part with the men reconciling, and then fighting over who would take the train across the bridge was sad and beautifully shot. Joan Blondell also gets a drunken, alcoholic scene with Withers that is painful to watch as her face crumples and sags into what look like very real tears, her lipstick smudged, her mouth turned downward and in big fat closeup too. One has to respect Blondell for letting herself be photographed looking far from perfect... the result is great acting.

And speaking of great acting, was Dorothy MacKaill nominated for an Academy Award here, in Safe in Hell? No I guess she wasn't... She sure should have been. Wellman was not either not for this or any other of his early movies. I think maybe his movies at this time weren't prestige enough? Maybe too gritty? I felt MacKaill had something similar to Ruth Chatterton, the same strength, but more earthy. She has a more natural personality, but Chatterton got all the plum roles over the next few years.

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Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby kingrat » June 9th, 2011, 11:40 am

JF, so glad you got to see Safe in Hell. I'm taping most of the other Wellman pre-Codes. I agree with your description of Wellman's directing. There's a figure of speech called a synecdoche, which is using the part to stand for the whole, like referring to "the crown" to mean the power of the monarchy. Wellman uses the film equivalent of this all the time. He often doesn't begin a scene with an establishing shot, then move to a medium shot, then go closer in. He likes to show a significant detail which plunges us right into the situation. After all, this is the director who had Cagney slam a grapefruit into Mae Clarke's face. He doesn't show the deterioration of the relationship, just a memorable indication that it's over. Battleground begins with close shots of soldiers' feet. The scene in Wild Boys of the Road when we suddenly realize there's another couple out of sight in the back seat of the roadster works the same way. Not all of his films have similar scenes, but this seems to be a characteristic Wellman approach.

With hindsight it seems obvious that Dorothy Mackaill should have at least had an Oscar nod for Safe in Hell, but this was just a B picture. She and Nina Mae McKinney are wonderful. In filmlover's 1939 day by day postings, Hedda Hopper had a column lamenting that stars of earlier years weren't used as character actors even if they weren't given starring roles. She mentioned a number of actors people had asked her about, among them Dorothy Mackaill and Ann Harding.

feaito

Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby feaito » June 9th, 2011, 11:42 am

Welcome Wendy! I agree with your assessments Re. OMW. Ms. Blondell is always a plus to any film in which she appears.

Concerning Mackaill and Chatterton, the latter carried more prestige with her (as a well-known stage actress) and when she arrived in WB-FN (circa 1932), along with Bill Powell and Kay Francis, I think that Mackaill was not still under contract with that studio. When Mackaill filmed those Pre-Codes Chatterton was still a Paramount star.

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Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby JackFavell » June 9th, 2011, 5:47 pm

JF, so glad you got to see Safe in Hell. I'm taping most of the other Wellman pre-Codes. I agree with your description of Wellman's directing. There's a figure of speech called a synecdoche, which is using the part to stand for the whole, like referring to "the crown" to mean the power of the monarchy. Wellman uses the film equivalent of this all the time. He often doesn't begin a scene with an establishing shot, then move to a medium shot, then go closer in. He likes to show a significant detail which plunges us right into the situation. After all, this is the director who had Cagney slam a grapefruit into Mae Clarke's face. He doesn't show the deterioration of the relationship, just a memorable indication that it's over. Battleground begins with close shots of soldiers' feet. The scene in Wild Boys of the Road when we suddenly realize there's another couple out of sight in the back seat of the roadster works the same way. Not all of his films have similar scenes, but this seems to be a characteristic Wellman approach.


Awesome, kingrat! I had no idea there was a term for it! Thank you so much for the info.

I remember during "classic film college" at the other site a few years ago, we were comparing Public Enemy with Scarface, and the two films are so completely different in their set up - it's hard to believe they are even from the same genre. Hawks starts with the establishing shot of the street sign, then moves in on the remnants of the bachelor party. He sets his film up as a personal closeup of one man in one "neighborhood".

Wellman takes his time as usual, setting up the entire bootlegging business in Public Enemy by following the beer until it reaches the kids on the street - Tom and Matt. That opening minute is an indictment of all of society - the way that booze has infiltrated every aspect, down to it's most helpless citizens - the kids playing on the street.

With hindsight it seems obvious that Dorothy Mackaill should have at least had an Oscar nod for Safe in Hell, but this was just a B picture.


So Wellman was making quickie, cheap movies, using real life settings (mostly) and throwing his actors into it, sink or swim. And depression hardened audiences appreciated the rugged, feisty way that some of them reacted - actors like Cagney, MacKaill and Blondell responded with an unromantic slap in the kisser. They could take it and like it. It was exciting.

She and Nina Mae McKinney are wonderful. In filmlover's 1939 day by day postings, Hedda Hopper had a column lamenting that stars of earlier years weren't used as character actors even if they weren't given starring roles. She mentioned a number of actors people had asked her about, among them Dorothy Mackaill and Ann Harding.


Concerning Mackaill and Chatterton, the latter carried more prestige with her (as a well-known stage actress) and when she arrived in WB-FN (circa 1932), along with Bill Powell and Kay Francis, I think that Mackaill was not still under contract with that studio. When Mackaill filmed those Pre-Codes Chatterton was still a Paramount star.


Thanks, Ferchu! I wondered what happened - it seems like they crossed time periods, but MacKaill was left out in the rain somehow, while Chatterton must have had the better original contract. I'd be hard pressed to say that Chatterton was any better, at least after seeing this movie.

feaito

Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby feaito » June 9th, 2011, 9:37 pm

Undoubtedly one of Chatterton's finest roles was yet to come under the deft direction of Willy Wyler in that masterpiece titled "Dodsworth" (1936). As for her Pre-Code period, she's very good in "Female" (1933).

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Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby JackFavell » June 10th, 2011, 6:40 am

I like Female and Frisco Jenny.... as for Dodsworth, I am completely in awe of her performance as Fran - I am so torn in this movie, I find myself strangely drawn to Fran, I have some empathy for her even if she is horrible - she herself doesn't even know why she does the things she does. It's brilliant.

But I sure would like to have seen Dorothy do some roles of higher caliber in sound pictures.

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Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby intothenitrate » June 10th, 2011, 2:20 pm

I too am a big fan of Safe in Hell, Dorothy Mackaill and William Wellman, but that's not too hard to say, obviously. I liked the way you described the "crackle" of those early thirties pre-coders of Wellman's, JF.

I've tried to collect as much Wellman material as I could--including a documentary--and have several recordings that were broadcast when William Wellman Jr., was Robert Osborn's guest a few years back.

Here's some extra background I gleaned.

During the early thirties, when the Warner Brothers' production-line methods were getting geared up, directors weren't involved with the editing of their films; they had already moved on to directing their next assignment. Wellman hated this. So instead, for all intents and purposes, he virtually edited the film in the camera. That is, he didn't give the editors multiple takes to choose from, and created those long roving shots (as you describe) that were difficult to take apart (by the editor). I don't remember the exact film or footage, but William Junior said that there was one film his Dad did that only had a couple of hundred feet of film that weren't used in the final print (Or some ridiculously small amount). And he (allegedly) always finished the project on time and under budget. In an on-camera interview, Wellman Sr. said that when an actor asked him to do another take (and he thought it was fine as is), he would indulge the artist by pretending to shoot it again, despite the fact that there was no film in the camera. The film had long since been sent to the lab.

In that Martin Scorcese documentary about Val Lewton, (have you seen it?), there's a Japanese director who talks about an extra special quality of films that have been made under the stress of a compressed time schedule. He was taklng about Lewton's period when he made Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, etc. I think that this insight applies to Wellman's pre-code period. He was a man at the height of his powers, working under tremendous pressure, and turning out gold.
"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."
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Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby JackFavell » June 10th, 2011, 3:27 pm

Oooh, thank you for taking the time to post the extra info, intothenitrate! I think I vaguely remember that story of the unused footage ...some tiny amount that Wellman had leftover. As for the actors, that story of pretending to be shooting over again is a riot... probably not if you are an actor though.

And I totally agree, he was spinning gold. :D :D

And kingrat, I watched Battleground yesterday afternoon, a movie that is growing on me, and couldn't help noticing the boots...he always comes back to the boots...thanks.

feaito

Re: Dorothy Mackaill films

Postby feaito » June 10th, 2011, 6:15 pm

JackFavell wrote:Oooh, thank you for taking the time to post the extra info, intothenitrate! I think I vaguely remember that story of the unused footage ...some tiny amount that Wellman had leftover. As for the actors, that story of pretending to be shooting over again is a riot... probably not if you are an actor though.

And I totally agree, he was spinning gold. :D :D

And kingrat, I watched Battleground yesterday afternoon, a movie that is growing on me, and couldn't help noticing the boots...he always comes back to the boots...thanks.


Ditto to all Wendy wrote! Thanks intothenitrate! The Wellman documentaries included in the Pre-Code Hollywwod Collection Nº 3 are priceless!!

As for Dodsworth each time I've seen it I've rooted only for Walter and lovely Mary Astor. Ruth is magnificent as the bitchy Fran, because I've completely hated her character each time! :wink:


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