There were years when I went to the cinema almost every day and maybe even twice a day, and those were the years between ’36 and the war, the years of my adolescence. It was a time when the cinema became the world for me. (“A Cinema-Goer’s Autobiography” in The Road to San Giovanni by Italo Calvino.)

Rick’s Journal    –  MY FILM CAREER

Baby  Face
Alfred E. Green

I never look forward to any film featuring Barbara Stanwyck  —  except The Lady Eve, Double Indemnity or Meet John Doe.  But this is a gripping story, visually presented.  The camera climbs up the building in which our “heroine” continually reaches for and achieves success.

She is believable in the role and gives the sex scenes  real punch.


William A. Wellman

Set on an Australian cattle ranch this period piece is a silly melodrama, but the direction and the performances makes us believe it.

Director William Wellman

There are fine moments.  There is a scene of Richard Dix and Irene Dunne exploring a trunk of clothes that has a magical light.  And in an at-the-piano scene in which Dunne sings to Dix’s accompaniment, their exchange of amorous glances is potent.  More than once in the film  Dunne’s thoughts in the form of unspoken flashbacks are superimposed over her face on screen.  The common silent technique is used to advantage here in 1934.

Unfortunately, the supposed Australian setting is warred against by a typical-then  Hollywood mix of accents.

SPOILER ALERT:  The ending is a 1934 shocker as Dunne rides off, on horseback, with Dix who is fleeing the police.

My Halliwell guide says that the film has a color sequence, but there was not one in the Turner Classic Movies print I viewed.


ADDENDUM TO FABULOUS DUO (Rick’s Flicks 10/26)

CINEVENT comment on the sequence in which Sascha plays his New York-inspired composition:  “The scene opens as Sascha is playing…As Gaynor runs down the fire escape, the music surges forth with a pulsating rhythm that could only be Gershwin.  For this complex mixture of curiosity and awe turning to alienation and depression, Butler created a wonderful montage full of Germanic images, including spirits rising from a graveyard and the skyline metamorphosing into clutching hands, as Gaynor runs through the city, each block bringing more terror than the last.  Gershwin’s score goes on to capture these images with a piece of music so reminiscent of his Rhapsody in Blue that he initially called it Rhapsody in Rivers.”  (Eventually New York Rhapsody.)    —    (From CINEVENT notes 2007 by Dave Snyder and Steven Haynes.)

THE LEGENDARY DUO _____________________________________________________________


Director Jim Jarmusch on photographer Robby Müller:  “He really taught me how to make a film:  how to avoid the obvious in locations; how to use beauty in the service of the story and characters; and how black and white can stimulate the imagination by a reduction of information  —  that it can be more dreamlike and evocative than color.”

Müller, who photographed Jarmusch’s Dead Man and Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, died this past summer.

(Quote from the New York Times obituary for Robby Müller by Richard Sandomir, 8/11/18.)


Until then,
See you at the movies,






GOLD          Karl Hartl          1934

The exposition is clear, simple and always interesting.  Shown rather than told.  The narrative is a smooth flow.  The photography in this near-SciFi film from Nazi Germany is clear and highly professional.  Am I being condescending?  What else to expect from UFA?

The story,  today, has to seem  not very original, however:  some German scientists’ attempt at alchemy, building to a moral dilemma  —  scientific and commercial success vs. the social good.  We’re talking gold  here  —  and materialism  —  and, towards the end, inklings of globalism.

Gold comes out of thirties Germany; but I detect no Naziism.  The individual who steals the German scientific secrets, and murders to do so, is a Scot who is capitalistically self-centered and selfish.  Is the struggle between this Scot industrialist bad guy and the German good guys perhapsmore propagandistic than I have taken into account?

Albers, in center, as Dietrich’s lover in Von Sternberg’s THE BLUE ANGEL

The directing is straightforward and competent.  The film is well-paced with a lot of effective silences.  And the actors are successful.  Hans Albers stars as the principal good guy German scientist  —  principal because he’s the one left alive.  According to Katz (Film Encyclopedia), Albers made no films between 1935 and 1943.  Interesting.  Katz also reports that Brigitte Helm retired in 1935,  He comments that the silent star (now posthumously world famous as a result of the longevity of Metropolis) was less successful in talkies.  I do not agree, based on her performance here.

Some footage from Gold appears in Curt Siodmak’s 1953 American film The Magnetic Monster, starring inveterate monster chaser Richard Carlson.  The climactic scene of Gold, in which our German good guy destroys the alchemical machine stolen by the Scotch bad guy, is brilliantly and matchingly spliced into the conclusion of Siodmak’s film.

On right, Richard Carlson who after such diverse films as TOO MANY GIRLS, HOLD THAT GHOST AND THE LITTLE FOXES, became creature chaser par excellence in the second phase of his career.

The Magnetic Monster          Curt Siodmak          1953
editor, Herbert L. Strock ; production designer, George Van Marter


Until then,
See you AT the movies


As Vasili in Dovzhenko’s EARTH (1930) Semyon Svashenko secured his niche in film history  —  secured the niche he had established the year before in the same director’s ARSENAL (1929) in which he played Timosh the Ukrainian (Svashenko was Unkrainian as was director Dovzhenko).  Today’s writing on film (and on just about everything else under the sun) ridiculously overuses the word iconic; but it is the word that suits the photograph on this page from ARSENAL, one of the most internationally recognizable stills from the silent era and a memorial of a stirring performance.

But Svashenko’s portrayal in the lyrical EARTH is in and from another dimension, and no one who has seen him dance down the road in the moonlight is likely to forget him.

Semyon Svashenko was still acting in 1957 and receives a credit in AND QUIET FLOWS THE DON (directed by Sergey Gerasimov).    And he has a role, though not the lead, in BALLAD OF A SOLDIER ( directed by Grigoriy Chukhray, 1959), a popular film in the United States at the time of the Cold War thaw and Russian-American cultural exchange.  And  he was billed as Old Ukrainian in the 1966 Russian WAR AND PEACE (directed by Sergey Bondarchuck).

He died in 1969.

the great Svashenko

the great Svashenko

ARSENAL is available from Kino Lorber in a beautiful digital remastering by David Shepard.  Kino also offers EARTH, not a remastering  but an acceptable print.


Until then,
See you at the movies,


Rick’s Journal     –  MY FILM CAREER


(This is a revision and expansion of a blog I posted 9/26/14.)

The town where I grew up boasted a Roxy.



In my movie childhood  —  which chimes with all my childhood because my life has been lived at the movies  —  one of our downtown theaters, the Roxy, often showed on Saturdays what their ads called reissues.  Was the rest of the world calling them re-releases?  Or was everyone saying reissues then?

There were eight movie theaters downtown within a five-block area, seven of them on the same street, three of them in a row on the same block, right next to each other.  All of them, on their signs and their marquees and in their ads, used the British spelling theatre.  The later and  eighth house, on a side street, was called the Temple, and it would eventually become my temple because it showed older movies almost exclusively.

Occasionally the management interspersed an Adults Only documentary shot on location featuring barely clad tribes for the titillation (pun intended) of my budding adolescent urges and surges.  But the standard fare was thirties/forties Hollywood.  And I ate it up.

I saw It Happened One Night there.  And Mr. Smith and Mr. DeedsScarfaceThe Public Enemy and Little Caesar (a double bill!).  Jezebel.  And I recall a lone British film, called in America The Invaders (English title The 49th Parallel).  I was trying to see  —  and it wasn’t easy then or there  —  as many Leslie Howard films as I could.  He was special to me because he had been Vivien Leigh’s Ashley.  (The Invaders featured Laurence Olivier and Anton Walbrook, too.)

The Florida Theatre was downtown’s showplace.  Three stories.  Three balconies.  Three lobbies.  Even a Colored Entrance sign over a door on the side street.  The Florida was the site of my first movie.  According to my mother, the witch in Snow White so frightened me that I claimed to be sick and had to be taken to the rest room.  And that reminds me that at the Florida there were also three men’s rooms and in one of them I learned about what the Boy Scout manual used to call self-pollution, learned about it through an incredible exhibitionist demonstration about which one of my tender years in that era neither complained nor sued.

The Florida would later be where I first saw The Yearling and where my teen loins first lusted after Jennifer Jones as Pearl Chavez in Duel in the Sun.

In the next block from the Florida were those three-in-a-row theaters; a regal block:  the Palace, the Empress and the Imperial.    The Palace was a first-run house, usually for programmers and sometimes for double features.  All these theaters had but a single screen, of course, showing just one film or, at most, two.  The Palace was where I would see and fall for the Andrews Sisters (cf. Rick’s Flicks 3/24/12 and 2/1/13).  And it was where my brother would take me for my first view of The Wizard of Oz.  In those days a theater ran a film continuously  —  no breaks, no bringing up of the lights.  And like most people  —  except for my father who always found out when a movie started and and would never see one except from its beginning  —  we just walked into a movie at any convenient time.  And my brother and I entered the land of Oz as Judy Garland, scouting apples, found the Tinman’s rusted foot.  She was, from my first moment, never only Dorothy.  She was JudyGarlandasDorothy.  Older brother Joe and I were seldom friends.  There would come a time when we were  near sworn enemies.  But he gave me The Wizard of Oz, and I must be ever grateful to him for that.

I have just remembered that the Palace also offered vaudeville  —  vaudeville in its last days and on its last legs.  A double feature AND a stage show.  Magicians.  My first singing Alaskan princess (probably from the Bronx, had I known).   My first strippers.  Stand-up comics with raunchy jokes.  I started out at the Palace in my grade school years, but you can be sure I understood the jokes.  I still remember one of them.

VivienLeigh1948And while the Palace was a first-run house, it showed Gone with the Wind after its initial release at the Florida a block away.  So, it was at the Palace that I first saw a preview of the Wind and felt crushed that the trailer was all drawings and paintings.  No advanced live footage of the Wind in those days.  I had about a year to go before I would fall in love, once and forever, with Vivien Leigh.

The Empress and the Imperial featured second runs, the Empress often opening with what had closed at the Florida the previous day.  It was at the Empress that I first saw Gone with the Wind two days in succession.  I had already seen it in two neighborhood theaters, as they were then called.  Then I saw it on a Saturday and a Sunday at the Empress.  My mother was going to go with me on Sunday, but when my Dad drove us past the theater, we saw a two-block line.  My mother changed her mind; but they dropped me off, and I waited in that line to see my Vivien Leigh.  In those days our city, with its navy base, and our theaters were filled with sailors.  I remember a gob in the men’s room at the end of the movie that Sunday saying to everyone there, “If that movie had lasted five more minutes, I’d have pissed all over myself and all over the theater.”

One of the most exciting aspects of Gone with the Wind was its length  —  unusual then.  (At the time I did not know about Italy’s Cabiria or France’s La Roue or any other Gance or the trials  and tribulations of Greed.)  I was captured by the very idea of the length of Gone with the Wind.  I remember being angry when I had first learned about the length of the 1959 Ben-Hur.  William Wyler or not, who did Ben-Hur think it was?  Soon there would be a slew of lengthy blockbusters as studios  —  they were still trying to exist, then, in the old way  —  sought to make films, often of inflated length, that would consume all of an evening.  When you got home from your movie it was too late , in those days, to settle into television.

The last of the theaters to be built downtown, the St. Johns, was a studio theater.  It was Warner owned and showed Warner films only and was open, of course, seven days a week all day.  That’s how many films a studio turned out in those immediate postwar days.  I remember a flitty friend from school days describing the theater as “too severe,”  something he must have heard his mother say.  But the St. Johns  was unusual, to be sure.  Tomato red walls in the lobby.  No decorations on those walls.  I visited this severe place less often than I visited the other theaters I’ve fondly named and remembered.  Was I already reacting unconsciously to what would become a definite adult perception?  —  that Warner Brothers movies were filled with unlikable characters who talked too fast.

Once more unto the Roxy and its reissues.  I can still see a poster outside the Roxy Theatre, Ann Sheridan sprawled across a tabletop in Navy Blues.  I never did get to see the movie.  It became one of those movies that you somehow always miss.  It would have already shown at the other downtown theaters, and the Roxy was its last stop on the way out of downtown.  The Roxy was the place to see things before they got away.  But my mother wouldn’t let me go see Navy Blues that Saturday.  I called home to ask.  It would have been my fourth movie that day.  A single feature at the Florida, followed by a double bill at the Imperial, with Krystal hamburgers in between.  She drew the line at a fourth movie because, without older brother Joe, I would be getting home alone after dark.

I was sometimes, though, allowed two double features, in fact often.  And I  saw everything I wanted to.  I can’t remember ever being advised, as a child, against a movie  —  except that she spoke against Duel in the Sun which I was seeing weekly, following it from theater to theater.  I was in high school then, hormones a-rage.  My father exhibited no interest in what I saw.  When I was smaller my parents  —  I realize, now, always happy to have me out of the house  —  would drop me off at a theater and come back for me afterwards.  Sometimes I would be left at one theater in the afternoon and picked up at another one in the evening.

Before the Temple had reopened and been sanctified, my Roxy periodically had films from the past.  How did a grade school kid get hung up on older films?  I lived for the “Current Week,” a feature of the Saturday evening paper.  All theaters listed their programs for the coming seven days.  My brother never dived for his sports pages with more thrill than I lunged for the “Current Week.”  It contained the programs not just for those eight theaters concentrated in the holy five-block downtown area but for all the neighborhood second-, third- and fourth-run houses as well.

In my earliest discovery of the “Current Week,” I had no idea of the meaning of the word current.  I don’t know how I even knew its pronunciation.  In my life at the time it meant my movie week.  A poet’s heart leaps.  My stomach did when I would reach the Roxy  towards the end of the alphabetical list of theaters in the “Current Week” and find, in parenthesis after the title of next Saturday’s movie, the word reissue.   The Roxy changed its program four times each week.  They offered one movie on Sunday and Monday, a different one on Tuesday and Wednesday, yet another on Thursday and Friday and, finally, one which ran for one day on Saturday.  I deliberately read through the theaters in order, saving the Roxy till last where it naturally stood until the St. Johns was added.  The Roxy’s add for Saturday would read TODAY ONLY.  Saturday was reissue day  in a week when they were showing a reissue.  Oh, and the ad in the paper on Saturday would contain, under the title, in parenthesis, the word reissue.

I am still unable to answer my own rhetorical question.  I don’t know why I was so attracted to what was not new and preferred the Roxy’s Saturday programs and those reissues at the Temple.  Some of it may have been my mother’s telling me about her own moviegoing days as a youngster.  I knew about Rudolph Valentino and Clara Bow and Mary Miles Minter and Ramon Novarro and Doug and Charlie and the man who would become my beloved Buster  —  I knew about them long before I had the opportunity to see them.  But until that chance came, I had my Roxy and my Saturdays there.

I remember Too Hot to Handle.  I went to the movie already liking Clark Gable and Myrna Loy because my parents enjoyed them so much.  And Red Dust.  My parents loved Jean Harlow, too, though I confess that at the time she never looked real to me.  I also saw Algiers at the Roxy.  Mom and Dad had Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow, but I discovered Hedy Hedy OneLamarr myself.  There was Tugboat Annie, though as a grade school-er I was incapable of realizing the wonder of Marie Dressler.



But the brightest of those early memories of the Roxy is still The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.  Bright indeed.  The first Hollywood film shot outdoors in color.  The color is rich but never garish; the photography is careful and quietly artful.  In the overall running time, there may be two mattes.  Fred MacMurray and Henry Fonda and especially Sylvia Sidney compel us to believe this unbelievable tale of sentimentalized mountain folk from the popular novel by John Fox, Jr. which also became popular as a play.  (See Pine note below.*)

There is just enough of a hard edge to the characters  —  and the playing  —  of MacMurray and Fonda to assist their credibility.  There is a surprising and even harder edge to June, the Sylvia Sidney character, a facet the actress grasps and delivers.  She is a mountain girl who for years has had an understanding, as it used to be called, with Dave, a cousin (Fonda), an understanding that she has never fully accepted and from which she periodically frets and revolts.  To their mountain area comes the railroad, hungry for their land.  June finds herself attracted to the railroad’s business representative Jack Hale (MacMurray) who is attracted to her as well but proves a man of mature responsibility, refusing to take offered advantage.  When June is given a chance to go to the city, she is fierce in her determination to take it, a chance finally “to have my fancies.”  As a small child I somehow knew what she meant.  She wanted pretty clothes and pretty things, which were her dreams.  The background of the story is a Hatfield/McCoy-like feud.  Here they’re the Tollivers and the Falins.

Fuzzy Knight has two memorable songs in the movie, and they actually belong in the story.  And while later, seeing this film as an adult, I had to suffer a supposedly cute Hollywood kid, at least Spanky McFarland as Buddy is not a smart aleck and does not even feel superior to all the adults around him.  I always enjoy glimpsing Clara Blandick before she became Auntie Em, and she has a small role as a landlady.

Sylvia Sidney gave many outstanding performances during a long career.  Well worth watching:  Sabotage (Hitchcock); Fury (Fritz Lang) (both from the same year as The Trail of the Lonesome Pine); Dead End (William Wyler); The Searching Wind (from the play by Lillian Hellman);  Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (Academy Award nomination).  She also had stage successes, one of which was the role of the governess in The Innocents, a dramatization of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.

+Pine note:  The novel  was filmed in 1914; in 1916 (directed by Cecil B. DeMille); and in 1923 starring Mary Miles Minter, Antonio Moreno and Ernest Torrence.

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine     Henry Hathaway     1936


Until then,
Let’s go the movies.
See you there,



“this almost insane, passionate affection for film…”

Are you insane?  Are you passionate?

The phrase in quotation marks is from Seductive Cinema, the art of silent film  James Card who for many years was director of the Department of Film at the George Eastman House of Photography in Rochester, New York.  Card is passionate, if perhaps not insane.  His informative, ravishing book is not to be missed by an film buff and especially the buff drawn to silent film and interested in the real difference between talking and silent pictures.  The difference is not the addition of dialogue.  Rather, that is at best a superficial difference.

Card’s charming and lively book presents a brief history of the development of motion pictures  —  their possibilities and the deliberate limitation of those in the interest of commerce.  He offers unusual glimpses into Hollywood history as he relates his museum’s relationships with various studios and studio heads.  Most of his history is embedded in his narration of these relationships and in his very original descriptions of the work of certain artists (and sometimes his personal acquaintance with them)  and embedded in his attacks on filmmaking giants  —  Griffith and Stroheim, and on writers of legendary film books:  Lewis Jacobs and Terry Ramsay.

Card has his favorites and  —  with the exception of his excessive adulation of Joan Crawford  —  his favorites are among my own, so of course I am partial to his book.  He is aware of the literal greatness of Mary Pickford; of the excellence of Norma Shearer (and of her power within MGM).  And I am happy to find a sophisticated writer on film who recognizes and describes so well that talent and charisma of Clara Bow:  “Writers have sometimes often placed Clara Now, along with Colleen Moore, Bessie Love and Marion Davies as just another flapper…But Clara Bow should more properly be compared with Greta Garbo than with any other film actress…To an almost mystical degree, the images of Clara Bow and Greta Garbo emit powerful stimuli from the motion picture screen  —  Garbo registering ambiguous mystery, Bow assaulting the viewer with enormous vitality and breezy sexuality…one is impressed by the positive dynamism that radiates from the shadow of Clara Bow on the screen.”

Card writes more about individuals than about individual films.  He does give some space  —   and much admiration  —   to Herbert Brenon’s Peter Pan; and he is good on Henry King’s Tol’able David.

Among Card’s scattered gems:

—    writing about days when theaters ran the projector continuously and one walked in willy nillly, then stayed until “this is where I came in”:  “Thus every movie became something of a mystery picture; one did not know what had gone on before the moment of being seated.”

—    writing about the importance of seeing films more than once:  “Given the illusory nature of the medium, just seeing a film once is not really enough to write about it confidently.”  –  “The emotional impact of a movie, especially a good one, can easily lead the observer down the primrose path of inaccuracy.”

—    writing about directors’ views of their own work:  “Often it is disillusioning to learn of a great director’s own favorites among his creations.”  (Hear!  Hear!)  “Sternberg told me his own favorite work was The Devil is a Woman  —  a film almost totally devoid of any action, and, told entirely in flashbacks, it is without any sense of forward progression.  Worst of all, Marlene Dietrich performs in it with what Louise Brooks described as ‘having the cutes.’  Dietrich herself has acknowledged this trite movie as containing her own favorite role.”  (Rick’s note:  Ingmar Bergman is not always that clear-eyed discussing his own work.)

—    writing about The Crowd:  “After seeing The Crowd, who could forget the scene where that born loser, intent on suicide, is dissuaded from the act by his small son?  As they walk along the bridge over the railroad tracks, he father weeping, the little kid reaches up and takes his dad’s hand.  Vittorio De Dica did that moment again at the end of The Bicycle Thief.  Certainly the Vidor scenes had impressed the Italian directors.  Roberto Rossellini in Open City remembered Mélisande in  The Big Parade trying to hold back the truck that was rushing Jim to the front, when he had Anna Magnani in the same sort of desperate protest.”

Describing the premiere at the Warner Theatre in New York in 1926 of Don Juan with John Barrymore, Card writes that there was an accompanying stage show in which the family troupe called the Cansinos danced.  He claims that daughter Rita appeared.  It’s just possible.  She would have been seven and a half, Rita Hayworth would.

Introducing his own book, James Card writes:  “An index is provided, but you will look in vain for a section of notes of the sort that try to validate every statement the author makes throughout the text.  Have faith.  This writer was there.”  Ah!  Insanity.  Passion.



Until then,
See you at the movies,



Rick’s Journal     –     MY FILM CAREER

Am I approaching more mature judgment?  I find myself having second thoughts about more than one film.  I am no longer giving every silent film the benefit of the doubt.  I have just reached a revised opinion about Griffith’s Orphans of the Storm which I am almost certain I unreservedly admired during my first viewing  (See RICK’S FLICKS 10/16/15).

All this is prelude to expressing my first Harold Lloyd disappointment.

WELCOME DANGER     Clyde Bruckman     1929     starring Harold Lloyd

This is my first disappointment in a Harold Lloyd vehicle (except for being embarrassed earlier by some racial humor).  According to Walter Kerr in his splendid The Silent Clowns, Lloyd had completed Welcome Danger as a silent, then re-shot it.  Kerr suggests that it was completely re-done; but it appears to me that considerable silent footage was saved and that some dialog is post-dubbed, especially the voice of the loyal policeman.

What’s funniest in Welcome Danger are moments which are amusing with no dependence on sound:  Bledsoe (Lloyd) interfering with  —  or assisting  —  fellow passengers on the train; uniquely pacifying a baby; making someone’s cigarette lighter work.  His almost missing the train.  His sneaky collection of a pile of stones in the interest of a further embrace from the girl. His finally getting the tent set up only to have it immediately collapse.  The funniest scene, for me, appears on the rear platform of the train as Bledsoe, desperate for a final look at the girl, collars a tourist in the man’s own binocular strap.

But then, as police chief, Bledsoe follows a Chinese hood into a Chinese restaurant because he sees a gun protruding from the man’s hip pocket.  Bledsoe causes a literal free-for-all as he tries to find the man with the gun.  Everyone in the restaurant is in black except our hood.  Why Bledsoe can’t remember, as we do, that the hood was wearing white and why he keeps searching men in black remain mysteries.  But the unfunny fight goes on forever building to a line of dialog about all Chinese looking alike.  The line is hard to take in these days and times  — even for this reviewer who willingly has always cut silents a lot of slack as products of their era.

Speaking of which:  the actress playing Bledsoe’s girl is truly lovely and very likable; but she delivers every line with that early talkie artificiality which is hard on suspension of disbelief.  Lloyd’s voice is fine, and he speaks more naturally than all the other players; but the prissiness which was typically a part of his screen persona is somewhat less attractive with a voice.

TCM shows a handsome print thanks to the UCLA Archive and thanks to the daughter of Harold Lloyd who has so artfully and faithfully preserved for us her great father’s great legacy.

ADDENDUM:  Not a film within a film but a photo within a film:  Early in the story we see Billie try to take a picture of herself at one of those self-photo coin-operated machines that were common once upon a time.  Billie loses her coin.  The machine does not deliver a picture.  A short time later Bledsoe  —  the two have not met yet  —  takes a picture of himself at the same machine.  He receives a photo of himself with Billie’s picture superimposed on it.  We have not a play within the play nor a film within the film but a picture within the picture.  The photograph becomes a significant fantasy for Bledsoe and will help bring him and Billie together.

The quotation from Walter Kerr is from his The Silent Clowns, Knopf, 1975.

NEXT POST Friday October 30
Until then,
See you at the movies,


Rick’s Journal  –  MY FILM CAREER


Orphans of the Storm     D.W. Griffith     1921

Robert E. Sherwood (!) wrote:  “There is scarcely a scene or an effect in the entire production that is not beautiful to look upon, and there is scarcely a moment that is not charged with intense dramatic power.”

There is no accounting for taste.

This was my second viewing of Orphans of the Storm, and I am much less impressed this time.  The story, of two devoted sisters separated during the French Revolution, is implausible and foolish.  Almost all the acting is over-wrought, including that of both Gishes.  In the violently emotional scenes of which there are several and which are always too long, Lillian is embarrassing and unbelievable.  Dorothy, whom increasingly I consider the better actress, is even more over the top here.   Lillian is usually good at sex, and she is excellent in the scene where she grasps the villain’s intentions.  She is rarely as good at love, and she regularly spoils love scenes with what I find myself thinking of as her simper.

Lengthy Griffith never cuts to the chase, but he always get there.  The cross-cutting is excellent here.  If cross-cutting did not originate with Griffith, by this time he owned it and revels in it; but it is diluted by a foregone conclusion.

Griffith through and through:  There is a scene in which our villain’s coach runs over and kills a small child, and he asks if the horses are hurt.  It is an obvious and overdone scene, but it might have been moving had not Griffith inserted a mood-shattering title to inform that it is an actual historical incident.

The script is based on a play.  The Charles Affron biography of Lillian Gish gives the authors as Adolphe D’Ennery and Eugène Cormon.  Variety gives the play title as Les Deux orphalines.

Robert E. Sherwood wrote the cited comment for Life.  It is quoted in Halliwell’s guide.


On Saturday October 17 at 10:00 PM (Eastern), Turner Classic Movies offers an opportunity to  see Leslie Howard in his heyday as popular star and critical success.  The Petrified Forest also has Bette Davis in a performance coming between her two Academy Awards and in one of three appearances with Howard.  Humphrey Bogart has the supporting role of a lifetime as Duke Mantee, and he and Howard are excellent together  —  as they will be again the following year (Stand-In).  The Petrified Forest, 1936, is from the play by Robert E. Sherwood and is directed by Archie Mayo.  Tay Garnett directed the two men in Stand-In.


Until then,
See you at the movies,