from the Somerset Maugham play The Land of Promise
The plot is simple and spare, but this is a gripping drama with mesmerizing performances by its two principals. Nora (Mona Palma) marries Frank Taylor (Thomas Meighan) to escape the house of her brother and ferocious sister-in-law who has humiliated her. But immediately after the quick civil ceremony, she returns the ring, making clear that she will not be a wife to Taylor but will be his housekeeper and cook as was their bargain.
The erotic tension that now mounts in the small cabin they share is not of the fierce quality of a similar situation in Victor Seastrom’s The Wind, but it is dramatic and effective. (The sequence in The Wind may be heightened by the fact that it is the decorous Miss Gish we are watching.)
The photography captures the spacious and grim landscape to which our refined heroine is unaccustomed and fills it with moving farm machinery and blowing wheat. Even scenes that one can imagine playing well theatrically within the proscenium arch are — in a manner bringing to mind the future Wyler) — given cinematic punch with camera point-of-view and visual surprises. There is a writing lapse in that Taylor’s reason for marrying Nora is never clear. But this taut drama is unforgettable.
The Golden West
from The Last Trail by Zane Gray
This film has trouble deciding what kind of picture it wants to be: a railroad-to-the-west movie; a cowboy/Indian shoot-’em-up or a romantic operetta. Director Howard exhibits interest in the camera, though. There are two impressive process shots, both brief, and one that is not a process in which the camera is apparently mounted on the front of a horse and carriage that is making a turn. Later he moves his camera among the dancers at a party and then cuts from harp strings to the beribboned tunic on a military chest in the next scene.
In one sequence our romantic couple decide to have their fortunes told in a cabin in the slave quarters. Seven years before Gone with the Wind Hattie McDaniel reads the cards for them.
Bert Hanlon is excellent as traveling merchant Dennis Epstein.
Delayed review: On the last blog (6/21/13) I promised to discuss a currently playing French film. Reflecting on Renoir is taking more time than I imagined, and I am delaying the discussion for one week. Renoir will be the subject of the July 5 Friday blog.
NEXT POST FRIDAY JULY 5
Hoping to see you back here then,
And in the meanwhile: see you at the movies,