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Posted: January 19th, 2008, 3:19 pm
by feaito
I thought that it might be a good idea to have a separate thread for Sielnts and Pre-Codes everybody has seen... Here I go my my first "contribution" :wink:

I watched a very nice print of "The Smart Set" (1928) taped off TCM. In it William Haines plays a pampered Polo player, full of himself who's chosen to take part of the American Polo Team. Alice Day is his love interest Polly; Jack Holt is the team's Captain and Hobart Bosworth is Alice Day's dad.

Although at times the antics of the character played by William Haines become sort of annoying and it's hard to root for his conceited character at first, in all I enjoyed the film very much and thought it had quite a contemporary feeling to it, and I must say it's mainly due to Haines' acting and persona (notwithstanding the fact that you may not like it all the time).

To discover William Haines' persona in some of the films I've had the chance to watch (two of them thanks to an American pal -the other is "Fast Life" 1932) has been very enlightening; I feel that until you have not seen a certain actor onscreen and you have not experienced one of his performances, you don't really know the subject matter, no matter how much you may have read about him (prior to seeing Haines' onscreen for the first time I had read his Biography). Thank God for Movie channels like TCM, which preserve the Cinematic Heritage of the USA.

Up to recently, when it came to Silents and early talkies, I had pictured the hero, the villain, the sensitive guy (Lew Ayres, Douglass Drumbille), the debonair man of the world (Bill Powell), the tough guys (Cagney, G. Robinson), the Macho He-Man (Gable) et al, but not this kind of pampered, sometimes annoying, immature, devil-may-care but ultimately charming kind of youngsters played by Bill Haines; always playing and fooling around, who try to win their ladies with all kinds of clowning and shenanigans. ("The Smart Set" and "The Girl Said No" are good examples of his Persona)

The film has brand new score and I liked it. Alice Day (Marceline's sister) is quite charming as Bill's love interest and responds well to him; Jack Holt is good as usual and Harry Gribbon, who plays Haines' valet, is very funny in a couple of scenes with "Master Van Buren". It was good to see Julia Swayne Gordon as Haines' mother.

Posted: January 19th, 2008, 4:09 pm
by Gagman 66

:D Hey, I have this one and several more Wlliam Haines Silent's! I say, You and I have really got to communicate better. How come you won't ever talk to me??? Leave me a message please!

Anyway, Here is my review of this picture from my good friend Derek's goldenageofhollywood forum, posted last month.

:) A TCM, and World Television Premier last weekend, this virtually unknown Silent feature is typical William Haines fair. Yet another insufferable "Smarty Pants" who eventually recognizes what an immature Wise-guy that He has been, and makes amends!

:o It's the same in virtually every film. BROWN OF HARVARD, TELL IT TO THE MARINES, WEST POINT, SPEEDWAY, WAY OUT WEST, even LITTLE ANNIE ROONEY. Haines is a habitual practical joker who doesn't take anything seriously until misfortune finely starts to befall him or those people around him that He cares the most about. In this case, A Horse! In every picture, before long He matures, and literally transforms into a different person!

:P The leading lady be it winsome Mary Brian, perky Eleanor Boardman, indifferent Joan Crawford, or exuberant Anita Page, is generally annoyed by Haines brash often abrasive personality, and off the wall shenanigans in the beginning, but eventually falls hook, line and sinker for the guy!

:oops: A rare exception is Marion Davies in King Vidor's SHOW PEOPLE. In this movie She is at first caught off guard by this flamboyant Billy Boone character, but by the time that their initial meeting is over she is already in love with the Fella! It doesn't take half the picture before Haines start's taking her breath away, as it generally does in Haines films. He wins over Peggy Pepper very swiftly.

:lol: Certainly Tommy Van Buren in THE SMART SET could have used a good stiff kick in the Keister! Born into a family that treats the game of Polo like a religion, Tommy is good at the game, and He knows it! He flaunts his skills, and takes every opportunity to remind people of them, every chance that He gets. Arrogant, and self absorbed to fault, it is hard to find many redeeming qualities to this prankster, unless you delve beneath the surface? They are there someplace, trust me. Turns out He has a fierce loyalty to his prize Palomino, and a young Stable-Boy, who apparently idolizes him?

:x Fed up with his Son's drinking and other escapades, after his walking off the team, just to make a point convinced of his indispensability, Tommy's Father threatens to disown him! He won't do that, but He does decide to put all of his Boy's prize Polo Horse's up for auction!

:cry: Yipes! A better title might have been "Please Daddy, Don't Sell My Pony"! Tommy is lost without "Pronto: to ride in the matches, and isn't the same player anymore! After losing his thoroughbred Tommy realizes that He had better start to grow up and fast!

:wink: Alice Day a former Mack Sennett "Bathing Beauty", and frequent co-star in Harry Langdon, and Billy Beven's Two-reel comedies is the lady who finally brings "Mr. Devil May Care" to his well hidden senses! I thought she was wonderful as Polly daughter of a aging Polo Star in this picture, and it may be the first time I have ever seen her in a feature film? While not the stunning beauty that Her Sister Marceline was, Day was none the less a gifted comic actress, and was a very well known on-screen performer at the time.

8) Jack Holt is the strait-laced rival suitor, and He probably deserves to wind up with the Spirited Polly more than Tommy does. Haines is one of the great forgotten comic actors. A seemingly endless supply of kinetic energy and innovation on screen. Yet, at the same time He could shift bases to the dramatic at the tip of a hat.

:cry: Though largely forgotten today, at the time this film was made Haines was pretty close to the biggest Male Star in Hollywood. Certainly in the top 5. The majority of his surviving work seems to survive in excellent condition. Haines is certainly ripe for rediscovery. TCM seems to have enough titles now restored with scores to make for a very nice Box set collection in the near future.

:D For the most part I enjoyed the new scoring by former TCM Young Film Composers competition Winner Marcus Sjowall. Although some of it was a might to modern sounding. The Jazz during the party was good, and sounded authentic enough. I honestly didn't realize that Polo was ever such a big deal in the U. S. A.? I guess it must have been fairly popular during the 1920's?

Posted: January 19th, 2008, 5:40 pm
by feaito
Hi Gagman,

Thanks for your words and for posting a thorough review of the film. I have also posted on Derek's Site (Golden Age of Hollywood). Fine people over there too.

It's a pleasure to chat with all of you on these Boards. I have nobody in this huge city to talk with about Classic films, in terms of a true film-buff I mean. Least of all about Silents or Pre-Codes. No Festivals, film Forums, nothing! Chilean Film buffs are keener on Classic contemporary European Art-Films (post 1950s mostly) and independent movies released in the USA. The only older films people seem to know here are Casablanca, GWTW and The Wizard of Oz. Period.

Posted: January 19th, 2008, 11:43 pm
by drednm
Haines is one of my favorites and I think I have every film of his that is still existing with the possible exception of SLIDE KELLY SLIDE.....

I think he could have been a great dramatic actor but he never took movies very seriously and enjoyed being a goofball.... yet he has moments in BROWN OF HARVARD and WEST POINT that are among the great dramatic moments of silent films...

He's also a total delight in SHOW PEOPLE and most of his talkies are fun. FAST LIFE and WAY OUT WEST and THE GIRL SAID NO are fun and JUST A GIGOLO shows Haines in more of a Robert Montgomery type of part....

He could have had a long and wonderful career in movies and should be better remembered than he is.

Posted: January 21st, 2008, 11:05 am
by charliechaplinfan
I've just had my first chance to see William Haines, the film was Show People a film I'd wanted to see for so long. I love Marion Davies in this and The Patsy. William Haines gave a very good performance too. Is this his usual character in all of his films?

Posted: January 21st, 2008, 12:11 pm
by MissGoddess
I recently watched A MAN'S CASTLE (1933) and I loved it! I think Burt Reynolds really made a good point in his tribute to Tracy when he said he had the ability to play men of any I.Q., from working class to geniuses. In A Man's Castle he plays a drifter, without a "home" but he likes it that way. Until Loretta Young comes along. The movie opens with a familiar Depression era scene: Loretta and Tracy sitting on a bench in Central Park. He's dressed in a tuxedo and feeding pidgeons some popcorn, which homeless waif Loretta eyes hungrily. He takes pity on her in his gruff way and takes her to a swell spot for dinner (which he subsequently reveals he cannot pay for). Where did he get the monkey suit? We find out it's a rented suit, affixed with an electric sign advertising a merchant who hired Tracy to walk around and flash his chest at the passers-by for a few bucks. Hilarious. Frank Borzage directed this quirky story about how differently people cope with the Depression and at times I was reminded by its whimisicality of Gregory La Cava's My Man Godfrey. There is a tone of devil-may-care over and above the despair in these characters which is unique I think to American Depression era films. Walter Connolly gives a most unusual performance as a homeless minister in search of a congregation and Marjorie Rambeau is perfection as the alcoholic Flossie.

This movie truly deserves to be dusted off, cleaned up and brought to dvd or shown on TCM. Tracy may be hard to like at times in it, but just you try to resist his skills as an ARTIST.

Posted: January 21st, 2008, 12:35 pm
by feaito
"A Man's Castle" should really be properly restored and released on DVD. It's good that you got to see it April.

Posted: January 21st, 2008, 2:10 pm
by charliechaplinfan
I agree Man's Castle is an absolute gem. I think it is one of Spencer Tracy's best performances.

Posted: January 21st, 2008, 3:03 pm
by feaito
Yesterday I watched Allan Dwan's "Stage Struck" (1925). In it Gloria Swanson demonstrates the tremendous skills she had for physical comedy. I was simply amazed by her comedic expertise, no doubt acquired while she worked with Mack Sennett during the teens.

Swanson is no sophisticated creature here (except at the beginning of the film when she's daydreaming about being a world-renowned stage actress), but a first-rate comedienne. Lawrence Gray plays amusingly her love interest; the man she's absolutely devoted to, heart and soul. Ford Sterling plays the funny man who owns a Showboat and Gertrude Astor, the alluring actress who stars in his show.

Entertaining film.

Posted: January 21st, 2008, 3:43 pm
by charliechaplinfan
One film I'd absolutely love to see.

Recently I've watched Master Of The House by Dreyer. A fabulous film about a woman who is working herself to death looking after her family and a husband who is king of his house and goes out of his way to make life more difficult for her. The wife is whisked away for a rest and to get her health back and husband is left with the old nanny who soon puts him in his place. most of the film is set in two small rooms to add to the feeling of being boxed in.

Then I watched The Black Pirate with Douglas Fairbanks. Very sumptuous colours and glorious action. One of the best Fairbanks films.

Posted: January 23rd, 2008, 1:39 pm
by charliechaplinfan
Yesterday I got chance to see Little Annie Rooney for the first time. Mary plays the tomboy so well at 33, she's delighful in the fight scenes, making mischief with such gusto. As a homemaker looking after her policeman father and brother she shows the care and attention that little girls show when entrusted with an important job. When faced with tragedy her acting is underplayed and very poignant. How strange she should play little girls so well when she wasn't allowed a childhood of her own.

A little gem of a film.

Posted: January 23rd, 2008, 6:32 pm
by Gagman 66

:o Where did you find a copy of Swanson's STAGE STRUCK? I have been looking for this film for a long time. Does it still have the 2-Strip Technicolor sequences? This film was just restored a couple years ago, by George Eastman House, but has not been released on DVD.

:( You asked me about THE COSSACKS (1928), with John Gilbert, Renee Adoree, and Nils Asther. I know of one person who has a very good print, but I'm very sorry to say, that they will not trade, or sell me a copy. I also found a guy overseas last year that has a recording of this movie, but I have no idea of the quality? I do have Tod Browning's THE SHOW (1927), with Gilbert, Adoree, and Lionel Barrymore, if you need that one? The print and the score, are both very nice.

:? I am also looking for a quality copy of Gilbert's MAN, WOMAN, AND SIN (1927), with Jeanne Eagels. I have this film, but the it's from VHS, and looks like it was a Fith generation copy, before being transfered to DVD-R! The original recording though might have been quite good.


:) LITTLE ANNIE ROONEY, has long been one of my favorite Pickford features! I am still waiting for a fully restored version with a full-Orchestra score, to be released by Milestone. Even though I really love the Bill Perry score too.

Posted: January 23rd, 2008, 10:11 pm
by feaito

The copy I watched of "Stage Struck" was poor & in parts quite unwatchable. I hope that the restored version will be released on DVD by Criterion or Kino.

I have "The Show", thanks. I loved that film!

I don't have "Man, Woman & Sin".

Posted: January 24th, 2008, 6:59 am
by drednm
Gish had a different kind of beauty from Loy and the others who came a little later. Gish was like a china doll. She's quite beautiful in THE BIRTH OF A NATION, BROKEN BLOSSOMS, WAY DOWN EAST, ORPHANS OF THE STORM and her later silents like LA BOHEME, THE WIND, THE SCARLET LETTER.

I've seen Gish in a couple of early talkies and she has a fine voice but seems older than her real age (mid 30s).... ONE ROMANTIC NIGHT and HIS DOUBLE LIFE, which was 1933... she didn't make another film until 1942 in COMMANDOS STRIKE AT DAWN.

Louis B. Mayer basically drove Gish out of Hollywood because she was so expensive and (like Garbo and Hepburn) wouldn't play the "movie star" game. I think Gish adapted to sound better than say Pickford or Swanson but didn't like the new studio system and the types of films made in the early 30s.

Yet I could see Gish in the Garbo part in GRAND HOTEL or even in CIMARRON.... She was one of the greats.

Posted: January 24th, 2008, 6:01 pm
by charliechaplinfan
Thanks Gagman, I loved Annie Rooney but I think my favorite Pickford film so far is My Best Girl. It's just so sweet. I like all her work, it's enchanting.

I wish I could help you with those films Gagman but I know of nobody who has them :(

Last night I watched Marianne with Marion Davies. Quite a revelation, no wonder she made the transition to sound so successfully, she was so talented. She does a marvellous impression of Maurice Chevalier singing Louise, looks lovely cross dressing and has a gorgeous French accent. I'm becoming a big fan.