WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

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

Post by MikeBSG »

Karloff is magnificent in "The Criminal Code." I love his first scene. The young guy is making some big speech about how he doesn't belong in prison. Karloff, one of his cellmates, just sits there reading a newspaper, utterly ignoring the guy. Karloff just radiates danger, and the way he moves from the chair to his bunk when the "lights out" signal is given, no wasted movements, just utterly efficient, makes us feel that he has spent a long, long time in prison.

The scene in which Karloff murders the stoolie is used as a clip in "Targets," Karloff's last film (1968).

Karloff believed that his work in "Criminal Code" put him into consideration for the Frankenstein Monster.
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pvitari
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by pvitari »

Speaking of Clarence Brown -- I watched The Son-Daughter which aired on TCM on Monday.

It's a gorgeous film -- with Brown as director, Oliver Marsh the cinematographer, Adrian the costume designer and Cedric Gibbons the production design -- it's a feast for the eyes. All sorts of dramatic lighting, fascinating camera angles, beautiful sets and costumes... Marsh was Jeanette McDonald's "exclusive" cinematographer and he was Mae Marsh's brother.

But it's one of the early 30s "yellow face" movies, with Caucasians cast as all the Chinese-American characters, and the effect, at least nowadays, is rather jaw-dropping. The actors, especially Helen Hayes, adopt every kind of stereotyped physical mannerism, and the English language dialogue -- which I guess was how Hollywood scriptwriters thought Chinese people talked -- is ludicrously stilted.

Actually Hayes' character is a remarkably determined, passionate, intelligent and clever young lady, who knows how to twist the scheming men surrounding her around her little finger, but with that ridiclous style of dialogue, and all her fan fluttering and ducking, it took a while to realize what kind of woman our heroine is. If only Anna May Wong had played this role!

Ramon Novarro gives the much better performance, underplaying as much as possible -- really, he's quite lovely. His presence certainly is a bit of cross-cultural weirdness! A Mexican-American with a slight but definite Spanish accent playing a Chinese prince masquerading as an immigrant student at...UCLA! (Alas, we never see him on campus.) ;) Lewis Stone is also very good as Helen's kindly and loving father, a doctor of traditational Chinese medicine, who must present a horrible decision to his daughter. Warner Oland is the main villain and H.B. Warner plays a "patriot" who on one hand should be one of the good guys but on the other forces the father into the horrible choice.


Ramon Novarro as "Mr. Tom Lee" -- and yes, he gets to sing in the movie too. I am always happy to hear his beautiful singing voice. :) Though the song is about as authentically Chinese as that chicken fried rice I had for dinner the other day. :)
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Ramon watches as Helen hides behind her fan for about the 1,453rd time
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

MikeBSG wrote:Karloff is magnificent in "The Criminal Code." I love his first scene. The young guy is making some big speech about how he doesn't belong in prison. Karloff, one of his cellmates, just sits there reading a newspaper, utterly ignoring the guy. Karloff just radiates danger, and the way he moves from the chair to his bunk when the "lights out" signal is given, no wasted movements, just utterly efficient, makes us feel that he has spent a long, long time in prison.

The scene in which Karloff murders the stoolie is used as a clip in "Targets," Karloff's last film (1968).

Karloff believed that his work in "Criminal Code" put him into consideration for the Frankenstein Monster.
I completely agree, I wish I could put it so well. There is an efficiency in his movements that heightens the feeling of danger, I love the scene when he serves tea to the old lady and how she berates him.

I didn't realise this predated Frankenstein, the other movie I've seen Karloff in that wasn't a horror film was Scarface, perhaps it's a pity he got so typecast.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
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MichiganJ
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by MichiganJ »

I watched the new Flicker Alley edition of René Clair's The Italian Straw Hat (Un Chapeau de paille d'Italie) (1927) and it was like seeing this wonderful film for the first time. I loved it so much that I watched it twice; once with the score compiled and performed by The Mont Alto Orchestra and once with the score by pianist Philip Carli. It's interesting how different the film plays with each score. With the Carli, the film becomes a hilarious farce, while the orchestra allows for a more complex experience, emphasizing less on any direct humor or gags, and instead focusing on the overall humor. Each accompaniment is valid and equally rewarding, but in quite different ways.
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Ann Harding
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by Ann Harding »

I completely agree with MichiganJ, the two scores are both very good on Italian Straw Hat. Flicker Alley has done an excellent job. :)

I watched another Duvivier silent, Le Mystère de la Tour Eiffel (1927). Alas, I was again really disappointed. The story resembles a lot a Feuillade serial. The script seems inspired by Feuillade's Barrabas (1920). Alas, it's a far cry from Feuillade's beautifully crafted twists and turns. The story revolves around a circus worker who had inherited a fortune. Several people try to prevent him from getting that money. One of them is the sinister DeWitt who heads a criminal organisation with robes not unlike the KKK. The film was shot roughly in the same places as Barrabas: Paris, Nice and its region. We get also the same elements: masqued gang, mysterious castle, abductions, escapes, aeroplane above Nice, etc. I don't think it's a coincidence. But, Duvivier doesn't know how to build up suspense. His sequences are badly edited and lack pacing. At 2h10, the film feels much too long. Some of the double exposures are also quite amateurish. I saw the Nederland FilmMuseum DVD with Dutch titles. I nevertheless managed to follow the story easily with a French synopsis. I was somewhat amused by the translation. The gang was called 'Les Compagnons de la Tour' (The Tower Comrades) in French and became the Ku-Klux-Eiffel in the Dutch titles! :lol: The music on the DVD is pretty awful: a ghastly patchwork of sound effects. Another disappointing Duvivier.
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Ann Harding
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by Ann Harding »

Image (The laboratory designed by Fernand Léger)

I have seen another bunch of French silents. First Marcel L'Herbier's L'Inhumaine (1923) with Georgette Leblanc and Jaque Catelain. This is a famous film because of its extravagant Art Deco sets. The story is not particularly exciting. It's about a famous opera singer who is driving men mad by her complete lack of emotions. One of them, a young engineer can't take it any more and decides to kill himself by crashing his car down a cliff. This is all very much like a cheap novel. But, L'Herbier knows how to build up a climax, particularly in the sequence when he goes down the road at full speed. It's very efficiently intercut with the singer performing. The final sequence takes place in a laboratory where he manages to revive the singer after she had been killed by a jealous lover. It's predates Metropolis by a few years. Overall, not my favourite L'Herbier (L'Argent and Feu Mathias Pascal are much better IMHO) but it was worth watching because of its design by painter Fernand Léger and architect Robert Mallet-Stevens.

I also saw Notre-Dame de Paris (1911, Albert Capellani) produced by Pathé and lasting only 35 min. This is probably one of the first versions ever made of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Alas, it's studio bound in a terrible way. The acting is atrocious: arms flapping around and eyes rolling... OMG! :roll: I find it hard to say anything good about it. Strangely, some short sequences were shot in the Notre-Dame cathedral itself and it made a huge difference. In terms of lighting particularly. The lighting was terribly flat in the studio sequences. It killed any atmosphere it could have had. A real antique!
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by feaito »

Well, at last after reading so much about the famous Talmadge sisters, finally I was able to see them on screen at their peak!

Firstly I watched "Her Sister from Paris" (1925), which, if I recall correctly, is based upon a story that was the basis for Garbo's last film "Two-Faced Woman" (1941). Well in this wonderful Silent picture it works fine because they don't make the husband realize he's being fooled and Helen (Connie's character) does have a twin sister -Garbo did not, didn't she? Connie Talmadge reveals as gifted comedienne and her looks and style are very similar, in my opinion, to lovely Marion Davies'. She's very appealing, especially posing as her sophisticated sister. Ronnie Colman has a secondary role, because the film is obviously a vehicle to showcase Connie's charm and talents, but he is very fine conveying in different moments of the film, mischief, naughtiness, boyishness and naïveté. He is dissarmed in front of this messy situation and he transmits that despair perfectly. George K. Arthur, as out-of-place and annoying I felt he was in the period costume film "Bardelys The Magnificent" (1926) is perfectly suited for this kind of contemporary, mischievous, tongue-in-cheek comedy. I had a very good time and laughed. Sidney Franklin's direction is fine.

But the biggest surprise for me was "Kiki" (1926). First of all, being no expert, I don't know how but I can tell that Clarence Brown's talent helps to lift this farce to a greater level. He handles the story magnificently and the pacing is great. After the movie ended I could not believe it was assembled together using three different prints (French, Czech and English). Kudos to the people responsible people doing such a great job! Superb! Norma reveals as a deft comedienne; she is dissarmingly touching and funny. I don't know if Brown's masterful talent brought it out of her, but in my opinion I felt she even surpassed Connie's comic skill -only comparing these two pictures I have seen- in her portrayal of the endearing, wild Kiki! I had read comments that Connie was better than Norma and I did not expect to like "Kiki" more than "Her Sister from Paris". Kiki won me over completely and I laughed out loudy most of the time. EXCELLENT!!!

Ronald Colman’s role is more important in this film and he’s seen to much better advantage. He plays a man of the world who falls for Kiki’s undeniable charms. George K. Arthur is superb as the naughty valet and the rest of the cast is uniformly good.

Thanks KINO for releasing these wonderful films!

One question….I read that the storyline of the French version of Kiki differed from the English or American version. Can anyone fill me in about that?

Another thing…I have just realized that Mary Pickford chose as two of her Talkies at United Artists, two of Norma’s most famous Silent films: “Secrets” and “Kiki”. Does anyone know why? Just a coincidence? Both were released by First National which later merged with Warners…How did United Artists or Joseph Schenck retain the rights to both stories? Thanks for any feedback.
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Ann Harding
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by Ann Harding »

feaito wrote:One question….I read that the storyline of the French version of Kiki differed from the English or American version. Can anyone fill me in about that?
I have a French novelization of Kiki which shows that the story is not different from the film as you saw it. What they meant by differences is probably more the title cards. From one country to another, the tone and style of the titles differ considerably. Actually, some title cards in this reconstruction are sometimes a little awkward in terms of jokes. (The translators had to make them up from foreign titles.)
feaito wrote:How did United Artists or Joseph Schenck retain the rights to both stories? Thanks for any feedback
I guess that both Kiki and Secrets belonged to Joseph Schenck (Norma's husband & producer). As he was a board member of UA, it was very easy for Mary Pickford to buy the rights from him as she was also on the board of UA. Obviously his previous productions were released via First National, but he was still the 'owner' of the film. First National was just a distributor.
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by feaito »

Thanks for your valuable feedback Christine!!
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

I watched Living on Velvet a 1935 Frank Borzage and whilst it should be classed outside of the precode era, Kay Francis belongs in precodes. Living on Velvet stars Kay Francis, George Brent and Warren William. George Brent is a flier who caused the deaths of his parents and sister but escaped himself without hardly a scratch on him. He's 'living on velvet' because he shouldn't be alive and leads a dissalute live before hooking up with old chum Warren William who in turn introduces him to the girl he's going to marry, Kay Francis. They instantly fall for one another and William's character being the kind of non jealous buddy, the kind only found in movies supports their marriage and rents them a home for a paltry $4.50 a month. Kay hopes marriage will quell in George the ache to fly and that he will learn to love their domesticity. After some shares of their's come good (they don't William just tells them they have and gives the $8000, what a guy) Brent builds his own airport using all their money and more. Heartbroken Kay leaves him, knowing he'll never change. There's a little more action after that but for those who want to see the movie, I'll leave the ending out.

There's an hilarious scene that pokes fun at Kay Francis's 'r's, she's shot up in my estimation for allowing the scene. Borzage's touch is all over this movie, the plot is a little hackneyed and obvious but he does as good a job as he can with it.
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pvitari
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by pvitari »

Youtube link to the famous "instantly falling in love" scene from Living on Velvet.

[youtube][/youtube]

I love the camerawork and editing in this scene. The editing cuts from Brent to Francis and back several times (both are talking to boring people about the weather) as they first spot each other -- then very quickly, there are no more cuts; instead the camera slides back and forth between them. The linkage between them is instantaneous. It doesn't cut again until Terry (George Brent) excuses himself from the person who's talking about the weather and passes by him on the way to Amy (Kay Francis). When Amy and Terry start dancing, everyone is moving in time to the uptempo song, but the soon-to-be-lovers are barely able to manage a slow dance as they gaze into each other's eyes. They're already in their own private (and very Borzagean) world.

Kay's gown is splendiferous as always. :)

I never was much of a George Brent fan until I saw this movie, which may not be A+ Borzage but is still very high on my list. :) I kinda fell in love with Brent -- at least in this movie.

Brent and Francis quickly made another movie together, Stranded, also directed by Borzage. This time Kay is a social worker/volunteer and George plays an engineer who thinks women belong at home, not the workplace. Kay does her darndest to change his way of thinking. ;) I liked it but not as much as Living on Velvet.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

You're so right about the scene where Amy and Terry meet, his editing is so good, words aren't needed. Only in movies do people meet like that and it's something Borzage could do better than anyone.

Later on in the house scenes Kay/Amy wears a strange piece of headgear whilst she's doing the housework, in another scene she has the biggest bow on the front of her frock. It's another plus point with Kay Francis, she was something of a clothes horse and anything looked good on her.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin
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pvitari
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by pvitari »

Kay Francis -- the queen bee of the Warners lot during the early to mid 30s, eventually supplanted by Bette Davis -- wasn't just "something" of a clotheshorse. She was famous for her fabulous wardrobe, with gowns designed to fit like a second skin by Warner Bros. chief costume designer Orry-Kelly (who of course designed her gowns for Living on Velvet and Stranded). I myself not only love her clothing, but those big dark eyes and her beautiful sleek dark hair. I guess I wouldn't hire her to play Shakespeare, but she was perfect for those WB melodramas. ;)

Check it out:

http://emmapeelpants.blogspot.com/2010/ ... ancis.html

A great website about Kay:

http://www.kayfrancisfilms.com/

And more:
http://www.divasthesite.com/Acting_Diva ... rancis.htm

The Self-Styled Siren is a big Kay Francis fan:

http://selfstyledsiren.blogspot.com/200 ... -1934.html
http://selfstyledsiren.blogspot.com/200 ... ember.html
http://selfstyledsiren.blogspot.com/200 ... recap.html
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by charliechaplinfan »

You must be something of a fan, thank you for posting the links, I'm becoming more and more of a fan myself.

Today I've watched a double bill of Marion Davies talkies. The first Bachelor Father, Marion plays Tony one of Cecil B Aubrey's illigetimate children, he has another daughter and a son. It's got to be a precode, he postively celebrates the fact he's had these children with different mothers and not provided for any of them until now when he's reached is twilight days. The book the solicitor has is full of ex lovers who have sued/blackmailed him. Marion/Tony turns up at the baronet's grand residence and wins the old man over with her charm, her mother being the only woman he's ever loved. Unbeknowst to Tony, she isn't his daughter, her guardian has passed her off as such. When Tony finds out she can't tell the old man for fear of hurting him. There is a side story with a flyer who when she's found out she plans to depart with him on his non stop flight over the Atlantic pond. A really delightful precode that shows Marion's talents very well.

Paging Miss Glory was made in 1936 and is one of the last films she made. Her co stars are Pat O'Brien and Dick Powell, the later I believe she had an affair with behind old WR's back. She's seen very unflatteringly for the first hour. She is a chambermaid and ends up impersonating a photograph celebrity. When she's made up and unveiled, it really is plain girl to wow. Despite her affair with Powell she doesn't seem to have very much chemistry with him on screen being better foil to Pat O'brien and Mary Astor in a role that falls far shorter than her considerable talents.
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phil noir
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Re: WHAT SILENTS & PRE-CODES HAVE YOU SEEN LATELY?

Post by phil noir »

I thought it was interesting in Bachelor Father - which I enjoyed a lot; I think MD was delightful in it - that C. Aubrey Smith's children voted to call him The Chief (instead of Father). Isn't that what Hearst was called? I'm sure I've seen a biography of him with that title. I wonder whether it was an in joke on Marion's part. It certainly gave a new dimension to the scenes where she was snuggling up on the arm of CAB's chair.

This week I've also watched Little Old New York, which had a few flashes of MD's emerging comic verve, but I think was mostly the kind of big-budget drama that Hearst wanted her showcased in at that time. She certainly made a very photogenic boy - much prettier with short hair than with those awful ringlets; but I think they could done something a lot more Shakespearian and interesting with her relationship with Harrison Ford prior to her discarding of her disguise.

I've now seen three out of the four Talmadge films - only Her Night of Romance to go. I thought when Kiki started that I was going to really like it, but as it went on, it just got more and more tiresome. (To my eyes at least; I know others really liked it.) My opinion is that Norma was running through all the things that comedy was supposed to consist of - falling over, wiggling her backside, running around frantically - but without any real feeling for it. Her sister could get much more out of just a purse of the lips or a quirk of the eyebrow. I couldn't believe that Ronald Colman would want to be in the same room as Kiki for five minutes, let alone fall in love with her. George K. Arthur was fun as the valet, though, and I really liked the set design for Colman's apartment.
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