"The 2nd Kennington Bioscope Silent Film Weekend

BUY TICKETS ACCOMPANISTS CATERING

                  THE 2ND KBSFW  PROGRAMME NOTES

'THE FIGHTING SMILE'  (1925)

 

Independent Pictures Corp. Released May 1925. Director: Jay Marchant. Producer: Jesse J. Goldburg. Scenario: William A. Burton, Harry J. Brown. 35mm print

CAST: Bill Cody (Bud Brant), Jean Arthur (Rose Craddock), Charles Brinley, George Magrill, Billie Bennett.

Independent Pictures produced westerns between 1924 and 27 making over 40 in that short period. This one concerns a cowboy who has been away from home for a long time returns, only to find that the area he grew up in has been taken over by a vicious gang of cattle rustlers--and that his closest friend from boyhood is one of them.

 

Jay Marchant (1888–1962),

Jay Marchant was an American film director and actor. He directed 22 films between 1921 and 1925, including five film serials for the Universal Film Manufacturing Company. After the coming of sound he worked as assistant director on such films as Universal's Spanish version of Dracular (1931). He continued to working in the industry doing various jobs until 1958.

 

Bill Cody (1891-1948)

Independent producers along Hollywood's Poverty Row generally needed every gimmick they could think of to attract the Saturday matinee crowd. It was tough in those days competing with the bigger studios. In the case of Westerns, what better than to give them the same name of a real-life Western hero. So when a fellow actually named Bill Cody came to tinsel town, studio heads didn't have to conjure up some fake name to entice the audience. They had the real 'McCoy'. Bearing no known relationship to the famous buffalo hunter and showman except for the moniker, the reel Bill Cody was born William Joseph Cody, Jr., on January 5, 1891 with sources having his birth location as either St. Paul, Minnesota or Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Not much is known about his early life except that he attended Saint Thomas Military Academy in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and later St. Johns University in New York.

Fresh out of college, he joined the Metropolitan Stock Company and toured the U. S. and Canada for a number of seasons. His touring eventually led him to Hollywood in 1922 and he got a job, first as a stuntman, and then small bits as an actor.

When indie producer Jesse Goldburg was looking for a star, he signed Cody for a series of eight features for the 1924-1925 season. Cody had worked for Goldburg previously in two independent pictures under the name of Paul Walters.

Goldburg's Independent Pictures, while cheaply made, were smooth little westerns, shot in picturesque locations with good scripting and casting. J. P. McGowan, Robert N. Bradbury, and B. Reeves 'Breezy' Eason handled the directing. The first of the series was DANGEROUS DAYS, directed by McGowan. It was followed in short order by The Fighting Sheriff, with the remainder on the market within six months. Cody's Arabian horse, Chico, usually had a prominent role and he also rode a horse named King. Of rather short stature he was a good scrapper and handled himself much in the style of Bob Steele. It was not unusual to see him take on comers of all sizes, and the bigger the better.

Following the Goldburg series, Cody made two pictures for Pat Powers' Associated Exhibitors, The Galloping Cowboy, and King of the Saddle, released in 1926. That same year, he made Arizona Whirlwind for Myron Selznick through Pathe Pictures before forming his own production company. Probably the best of this series was Born to Battle (1927), with Cody doing some nice stunt riding and work with the bullwhip. With the silent era coming to a close, Pathe dropped Cody's releases scheduled for the 1928-1929 season, leaving him without any work. However, he obtained a contract with Universal for three detective yarns that rounded out his silent career. He also toured with the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Show in 1929 and was on the main card when Miller opened in Kansas City in March of that year. In 1930, Cody was introduced to sound, appearing in his first talkie, Under Texas Skies, a Bob Custer starrer for W. Ray Johnston's Syndicate Pictures that also featured former silent star Lane Chandler. It was a somewhat bizarre and dark film with Cody held captive most of the time by an ape-like mute (Bob Roper). Not an auspicious start for the former silent star. Nevertheless, Bill was back in the starring saddle when he signed with Monogram for a series of eight, co-starring young Andy Shuford (who'd previously appeared with John Wayne in The Big Trail in what has been billed as The Bill and Andy Series. The pictures were popular and contained the necessary amount of action to sustain interest.

First off the production line was Dugan of the Badlands (Monogram, 1931), with Robert Bradbury handling the directorial duties. Harry Fraser then took over and cranked out the remainder, last of which was Texas Pioneers, released in 1932. (In addition to Cody, Monogram's other western star for season 1931-1932 was Tom Tyler. For release season 1932-1933, Tyler and Cody were gone, and Monogram replaced them with Bob Steele and Rex Bell.) That year Cody joined the Bostock Wild Animal Circus with his Wild West show as the featured attraction. It's likely he continued into the next season since no film credits are shown for 1933.

In late 1934, Cody signed up with producer Ray Kirkwood for a series released by Spectrum Pictures, although one, The Reckless Buckaroo (1935), was issued by Crescent Pictures. With the possible exception of The Texas Rambler (Spectrum, 1935), the pictures fell somewhat below the quality of the Monogram series. Significant, perhaps, was the appearance of his son, Bill, Jr., in four of them. Outlaws of the Range (Spectrum, 1936) was the last of Cody's starring series, but not his last starring performance. It was back to the midway pit, touring the country with his Wild West Show for the next several years, appearing with several circus organizations, including possibly the Cole Bros. Circus.

The star of about three dozen silent and sound Westerns, plus three detective films, in a film career than spanned nearly 25 years, plus a Wild West Show performer in the tradition of his namesake, the "reel" Bill Cody died at Santa Monica, California, January 24, 1948 at the age of only 57. Bill Cody may not have achieved the fame of the original Cody, but fans of those early, exciting days of Western filmmaking remember the feisty little battler as one of the true pioneers of the Western genre.

Bill Russell - http://www.b-westerns.com/cody.htm

 

 

Jean Arthur (1900-1991)

Jean Arthur had a bubbly flair for reflecting the absurdities of life, a subtle vulnerability and a voice that wavered unpredictably between the spunky and the amiable. Arthur's winsome talent was brightest in roles where her hard-boiled career woman's exterior masked a marshmallow heart, as when she first exploited and then inspired such country bumpkins as Gary Cooper as Mr. Deeds and James Stewart as Mr. Smith in their uphill challenges to greed and corruption.  The actress's honesty made even implausible scenes and films appear credible. A shy perfectionist, she was invariably self-critical of her performances, refused to pose for cheesecake photographs, rarely granted interviews and was often suspended by Columbia Pictures for rejecting roles. "I just couldn't act in a bad picture," she once said.

She began acting on the Broadway stage and returned in 1950 for a widely praised performance in the title role of Peter Pan, Sir James M. Barrie's 1904 fantasy about the lad who refused to grow up. The production had 321 performances, one of the longest runs for the classic. Interpreting Peter Pan. The hit prompted Miss Arthur to drop her guard and give an interviewer this interpretation of the theme: "Peter represents the youth in all of us: the freshness and originality of childhood before our parents and schoolteachers have pressed us into a mold. Barrie meant that we should not let that 'genius of childhood' escape us, not let our neighbors and the man at the corner grocery store do our thinking for us. If I can get over the message that we should all try to be ourselves, to be free individuals, then I'm sure I'll have accomplished what Barrie wanted." The actress, who was originally named Gladys Georgianna Greene, was born on Oct. 17, 1900, in Plattsburg, N.Y., and grew up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Her father was a photographer. When pressed by Hollywood to choose a stage name, she selected one honoring two idols: Jeanne d'Arc and King Arthur.

She attended George Washington High School and soon became a successful advertising model, which led to a movie test and contract. She acted in dozens of silent two-reel comedies, melodramas and westerns. Easily making the transition to sound, she played ingenues in a spate of comedies, adventure yarns and melodramas. In three of them, she had to cope with the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu (played by Warner Oland). Back to Hollywood. But unhappy with her roles and determined to master her art, Miss Arthur returned to New York in the early 1930's and acted for several years on the summer theater circuit and Broadway in a total of 14 plays. Most were flops, but critics began to laud her maturing talent.

She won a contract with Columbia Pictures, returned to Hollywood and her comic talents blossomed in The Whole Town's Talking, a 1935 gangster yarn of mistaken identity. Miss Arthur credited Frank Capra with nurturing her skill in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). In the first comedy, playing a reporter, she humiliates a naive well-meaning heir -- played by Mr. Cooper -- and then saves him from his greedy tormentors at a sanity hearing. In Mr. Smith, as a secretary, she deceives an artless young senator (Mr. Stewart), but later uses her parliamentary expertise to aid his filibuster and defeat his foes. Other comedy successes included Easy Living, You Can't Take It With You, The Devil and Miss Jones, The Talk of the Town, The More the Merrier, in which she, with Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn, wrestled with the housing shortage in World War II Washington, and A Foreign Affair. She was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in More the Merrier.

The actress also won plaudits for roles in such films as Diamond Jim, The Plainsman, History Is Made at Night, Only Angels Have Wings, Arizona and later, in 1953, in Shane, about the disturbing effect of a gunfighter (Alan Ladd) on a frontier family, with Miss Arthur playing a gentle and loyal wife and mother.

At the peak of her career, in the mid- 1940's, she began studying many liberal-arts subjects at colleges. All my life, she said, "I've wanted to make enough money so I could stop and be a student for a while. The only real reason for living is doing what you want to do, or trying to, anyway." Years later, she taught acting at Vassar College. Her later stage appearances were frustrated by directorial and cast disputes and illnesses. On television, she played an urbane lawyer in The Jean Arthur Show in 1966, but the scripts were more far-fetched than funny. Her elusiveness led to contrasting stories about her self-doubts and later psychoanalysis with Dr. Erich Fromm. In 1972, she remarked, "I guess I became an actress because I didn't want to be myself."

Miss Arthur was married twice, to Julian Anker, a photographer, in 1928, and to Frank Ross, a producer, from 1932 to 1949. Both marriages ended in divorce. In later life she spent most of her time at her coastal retreat in Carmel, where she once remarked, "I have a very good life" with some good friends, a brood of cats and "the sea on three sides of me."

PETER B. FLINT - THE NEW YORK TIMES

 

 

 

 

'The Film Society Programme presented by Tony Fletcher'

 

At last years shorts programme we projected three films that had been shown at the London Film Society including the forty minute 'Ménilmontant.' This year we will show a further six films.

The original idea of the Film Society, the first in the Europe came from Ivor Montagu and Hugh Miller who wanted to emulate what the Theatre Society was doing - showing films that would otherwise not be seen. Montagu wrote most of the programme notes for the feature films and shorts between 1925-29, extracts of which I have used below.

The screenings occurred on Sundays once a month at various Cinemas in London apart from the four summer months. In all over five hundred films were screened between 1925-39 when the Society closed due to the advent of World War two.

 

Brumes d'Automne / Mists of Autumn (1928)12'

France Prod: Films MARKUS

Director: Dimitri Kirsanoff. CAST:Nadia Sibirskaia. 35mm print.

The film is a poetic evocation of a lost love. Kirsanoff and Sibirskaia made several other silent films together including Menilmontant and Sables.

 

Regen / Rain (1929)14'

Dutch Prod: Liga Films. Director and Photography: Joris Ivens  and Mannus Franken. 35mm print.

This was the third production of the Film Society of Holland and was photographed entirely with a hand held camera.

 

A Film Director's Nightmare / Come to the KIPHO (1925) 4'

German Prod: Werber Films. Director: Julius Pinschewer. Writer: Guido Seiber. 35mm print.

A publicity-film for the 'KIno und PHOtoausstellung' in Berlin in September 1925. KIPHO is the name of the annual German film industrial fair. Glimpses can be seen of the silhouette filmmaker Lotte Reiniger as well as the feature films Siegfried and Caligari.

 

Aschenputtel / Cinderella (1922)13'

German Prod: Institut für Kulturforschung (Hans Curlis). Director and Animator: Lotte Reiniger. English Intertitles: Humbert Wolfe. Print source: 35mm print.

In December 1927 the film was first shown without intertitles, however a second showing in March 1930 incorporated a poem by Humbert Wolfe. This was Lotte Retniger's second completed silhouette film and went on to make the first animated feature, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1923-6).

 

Fall of the House of Usher (1928) 13'

USA Directed by Melville Webber.  Photography: James Sibley Watson, Jr. 35mm print.

CAST: Herbert Stern (Roderick Usher), Hildegarde Watson (Madeline Usher), Melville Webber (A Traveller).

Based on the Edgar Allen Poe story, the film incorporated various optical tricks and shadows - "patterns - effected by the use of prisms and folded paper set s at varying distances from the lens."

 

Rackmaninioff's Prelude in C Sharp Minor (1927) 7'

GB Producer, Director, Castleton Knight. CAST: Castleton Knight. 35mm print.

This is Castleton Knight's own interpretation of Edgar Allan Poes' story, The Premature Burial. It was filmed at the directors own home which was lit by two studio lamps. The moving camera effects were obtained by fixing a camera to the lower part of a child's scooter. Knight himself conducted the orchestra at The New Gallery Kinema.

 

 

 

 

'HARA-KIRI' (1928)

 

France Prod: Les Artistes Réunis 1928. Artistic Manager and Producer: Marie-Louise Iribe. Directors: Marie-Louise Iribe, Henri Debain (directors uncredited). Technical Manager: Maurice Forster. Photography: Maurice Forster, Georges Asselin. Scnario: Pierre Lestringuez. Design: Robert-Jules Garnier. Costumes: Shingo Tsurumi. Print source: BFI 35mm

CAST: Marie-Louise Iribe (Nicole Daomi - The Woman), Constant Rémy (Professor Samura Daomi - The Husband), Liao Szi-Yen (Prince Fujiwara Yesato), André Berley (The Police Inspector), Labusquière (The Ambassador), Michaud (The guide), Wuriu (Fujiwara's brother), Toshi Komori (Marquis Awaji), Madmoiselle Dao, Georges Asselin.

The film is a co-production by three of the actors in the film - Marie-Louise Iribe, Constant Rémy and André Berley, although Iribe seems to be the driving force. In March and April 1928 the credited director of the film was Henri Debain, however by July 1928 Iribe had taken over. According to Kevin Brownlow and Lenny Borger, Iribe and Debain had an argument on set, Iribe slapped him and Debain walked off.

Iribe herself was married to Pierre Renoir (brother of Jean) at the time of filming. This production with its avant-garde cinematography, is an attempt at an Art Film. It is not without its faults. The intertitles are inconsistent and sometimes misleading. Why is the Japanese Prince referred to as coming from The Levant? Some of the action you have to guess!  However having an affair with a man of a different culture and colour was a brave thing to attempt, even in 1928. Did it meet censor problems because I have found no record of the film being shown in Britain. What does succeed, in my opinion is the integrity and dignity of Iribe's performance. Her artistry exudes every scene she is in.

Tony Fletcher

 

Marie-Louise Iribe (1894-1934)

Marie-Louise Iribe was born Pauline Lavoisot on November the 29th 1894 at her parent’s home on the Boulevard de Clichy in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. Her father, Louis Lavoisot, was an officer in the French marines and awarded the Chevalier of the Legion d¹Honneur. Her mother, Jeanne (née Iribe) was a housewife. She was the niece of Paul Iribe, a famous designer and an associate of Coco Chanel.

Pauline decided at an early age that she wanted to be an actress. After school, she entered the Paris Conservatoire where she took Georges Berr’s acting courses. In 1913 she adopted the stage name of Marie-Louise Iribe, playing small roles at the Comédie Française in plays such as L'embuscade by Henry Kistemaeckers and  "The Wedding March" by Henry Bataille.

She graduated, winning the second prize, in 1914 and started performing on stage in several Parisian theatres. She was hired by Jacques Copeau to work in the Vieux Colombier company, playing in The new idol by François de Curel, The romantic by Edmond Rostand and Claw by Henri Bernstein. In June 1917, she starred in One evening when we are alone, at the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, a fantasy in one act, written by and with Sacha Guitry. In 1925, she shared billing with Eve Francis in Nachalo, a play based on revolutionary Russia by André Salmon and René Saunier, also starring Peter Renoir, who she married a few months later after a long relationship with actor André Roanne.

Meanwhile  in 1913 Iribe had entered the world of cinema playing juvenile leads in small films by René Le Somptier, Louis Feuillade and Gaston Ravel. In 1921 Jacques Feyder showcased her in L'Atlantide an adaptation of the novel by Pierre Benoit where she played the little slave Tanit-Zerga serving Queen Antinea played by Stacia Napierkowska. The same year, she played Marguerite Madys’ sister in The open wings, a drama directed by Guy du Fresnay.  

She left for filming in Germany but returned to France to work Gaston Ravel in The Keeper of the flame (1924) and Henry Fescourt An American Son (1925). Dissatisfied by what she was being offered Iribe created her own production company, 'The Artists Reunited' with her husband Pierre Renoir, funding films close to her heart. For its first project, she chose an original screenplay by her friend Pierre Lestringuez Marquitta adapted and directed by her brother-in-law Jean Renoir, the story of a street singer who becomes a big star.

The same year she produced Blackmail the first film directed by actor Henry Debain starring Huguette Duflos. When Henry Debain fell ill a few days into the start of shooting of their next film Hara-Kiri she decided to take up the reins of its production and direct it herself. In 1930, she wrote, produced, directed, both the French and German versions of the Ogre based on a Goethe poem, with leading roles for Joe Hamman, Mary Costes and Otto Gebühr.

Pierre Renoir and Iribe divorced in 1933 and she died prematurely on April 12th, 1934 in Paris. She was a highly cultured artist of exceptional sensitivity who has earned a place in film history as one of the early women producer/directors.  

Donald Pascal

 

 

 

'THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY' (1922) +  shorts

 

 

THE JEST (1921) 13' (20fps)

GB Prod: Screen Plays. Director: Fred Paul.  Writer: Norman Ramsay. Series: Grand Guignol. 35mm print.

Fred Paul (1880-1967) He specialized in reworking popular novels and plays, adapting Lady Windermere's Fan, The Lyons Mail and The Vicar of Wakefield, for example, in 1916, with a host of major stars from the London stage. By the '20s he was making, and sometimes starring in, adventure stories and melodramas. Explaining the philosophy behind his 'Grand Guignol' series of short films (1921), he claimed in a article in Kinematograph Weekly that: "I attempt to show life as it really is, its sordidness and cruelty; the diabolical humour of the destiny we call fate, which plays with us as it will, raises us to high places or drags us to the gutter; allows one man to rob the widows and orphans of their all and makes a criminal of the starving wretch who in his misery has stolen a mouthful of bread." These films were strong on atmosphere and often had interesting storylines and settings.

Bryony Dixon - Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

 

SYNCOPATED MELODIES: BARCELONA (1927) 11' (20 fps)

GB Producer: Harry B. Parkinson for Fred White. Director: J. Stevens-Edwards. Photography: Jack Miller, William Harcourt.

CAST: Jack Hylton and His Famous Orchestra, Sidney Firman and The London Radio Orchestra. 35mm print.

The song Barcelona was written in 1925 by Tolchard Evans (music) and Gus Kahn (Lyrics). This was the first in H. B. Parkinson's series of twelve "Syncopated Melodies." At the end of the film the audience are requested to join in. Harry B. Parkinson (1884-1970)  was a prolific producer and director of "Interest Films," most remembered for his suppressed The Life of Charlie Chaplin (1926) and for his films of London life.

 

THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY

GB 1922 Prod: Artistic Films. Director: Manning Haynes. Producer: George Redman. Script: Lydia Hayward. Story: W.W. Jacobs. Photography: Frank Grainger, Print source: 35mm print. 60'

CAST:  Daisy England (Mrs Green), Johnny Butt (Mr Green), Cynthia Murtagh (Betty Foster), Charles Ashton (Robert Letts), Bertie White (Henry Widden),  Moore Marriott  (The Mate), A. Carlow Grand (The Captain), George Grogie (Mark Sanders).

Although the film was shown to the trade in June 1922, it did not get a cinema release until April 1923, showing the developing problem of block booking in BritIsh cinemas. The story of the film was based on Sailor's Knots by W. W. Jacobs. A brief synopsis from a review in The Cinema stated " Mrs Green, late Foster, is sorry she ever married again, for Mr Green shows that he only courted her because of the little household goods she has, which rightly belonged to her dead son. Robert Letts, sailor and cook finds Mrs Green weeping on the quay. A happy thought strikes them - why should not Letts pretend that he is the 'dead' boy, returned after being shipwrecked?"

This is the third of six features Artistic produced using a group of actors similar to a Repertory Company. One shot in the film stands out - a depiction of Autumn and Spring.

Tony Fletcher

 

W.W. Jacobs (1863-1943)

William Wymark Jacobs was born in 1863 in London. Jacob’s father was a manager at a nearby wharf. Often, Jacobs and his siblings would spend most days observing the many ships coming in and out of the harbor. His mother, on the other hand, died when Jacobs was very young. With his mother’s death and his father’s low-paying job, the Jacobs’ family was rather poor. However, the family’s financial deficit did not falter Jacobs, for he became quite successful with his writings. He did not start out writing. In fact, after he graduated from private school, he was a clerk. His passion was not working this type of job, yet it gave him a suitable income. However so, while working as a he started submitting works to small magazine companies in the late 1800s. In the early nineties Jacobs had some of his stories published in Jerome K. Jerome and Robert Barr's illustrated satirical magazines The Idler and Today. The Strand magazine also accepted some of his works. After many publishers started accepting the majority of his works, Jacobs became confident enough to quit being a clerk and pursuing his writing career. His commitment occurred at the turn of the century, where he also met his wife, Agnes Eleanor. He then wrote novelettes and short stories. Some are: At Sunwich Port, Dialstone Lane, The Lady of the Barge, Night Watches. Mostly his stories are about the lower class in England. Jacobs undoubtedly had a keen interest in horror stories. He wrote many stories on the subject of supernatural. Some which include The Monkey Paw, In the Library, Sam’s Ghost, and His Brother’s Keeper. Although Jacobs had a strong fondness to supernatural literature, his works mainly pertained to his childhood. Many titles included The Skipper's Wooing, Captains All, Sailors' Knots, and Night Watches all referred to his childhood. The majority of his output was humorous in tone. His favourite subjects were 'men who go down to the sea in ships of moderate tonnage' Jacobs died in London on September 1, 1943.

http://people.hsc.edu/students/lawrencea/biography.htm

 

 

'JAZZ MAD' (1928)

 

Production Universal-Jewel 1928. Directed by F Harmon Weight. Adapted/Cont*** by Charles Kenyon. Story by Svend Gade.

Scenario by Charles Kenyon. Titles: Walter Anthony. Photography: Gilbert Warrenton. Editor: Edward L Cahn. Supervisors: Paul Kohner, Lois Weber.

Original title The Symphony

CAST: Jean Hersholt (Franz Hausmann), Marion Nixon (Elsa Hausmann), Geo Lewis (Leopold Ostberg), Roscoe Karns (Sol Levy), Torben Meyer (Klein),

Andrew Arbuckle (Schmidt), Charles Clary (Mr Ostberg), Clarissa Selwynne (Mrs Ostberg), Archduke Leopold of Austria (extra), Alfred Hertz (himself, conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra)

30,000 people may appear in the final scenes of this film, but it is not one of Universal’s spectaculars, like Hunchback of Notre Dame orPhantom of the Opera. It is an intimate story of a German composer, who comes to the United States to perform his symphony only to be greeted with incomprehension and ridicule.  It appears to have been inspired by F W Murnau ‘s The Last Laugh, in which Emil Jannings  plays a proud doorman at a top-flight hotel who is reduced to the rank of lavatory attendant. Jannings , now in Hollywood, had made another ‘humiliation drama’  the year before, Way of All Flesh, directed by Victor Fleming. The Jannings role is here given to Jean Hersholt, a prolific and popular actor who who had played one of the leads in Greed (1925)

 

The man who wrote the story was an emigre director from Denmark, Sven Gade, (pronounced Gahda, but often referred to as Mr God at Universal) who worked in Berlin, co-directing and co-designing Hamlet (1920) with Asta Nielsen. He came to Hollywood in l923 and was art director for Lubitsch on the Mary Pickford epic Rosita (1923). He directed  several films in America – none that I have seen were up to the standard of Mr Weight.

 

Hollywood at this period was scorned for its lack of culture, but while they may have had no theatres and no concert hall, they did have the Hollywood Bowl. ‘My mother and Mrs Ivy Mason Carter started the Hollywood Bowl,’ said Agnes de Mille. ‘I remember mother coming home from a walk one day and saying “I’ve been up in the foothills off Highland Avenue and there is a little cup of hills there and the acoustics are astonishing We’ve been sitting in the sagebrush and a man has been dropping quarters and fifty cent pieces at the bottom of this bowl and we can hear them around the hills. We’re going to try music there..” Enough money was raised to get the Los Angeles Philharmonic to go up there and play under Alfred Hertz, who was a very well-known conductor. They had the platform and the people sat on wooden benches or in the sagebrush. Mother used to spread blankets on the grass and we’d go up four nights a week for all summer long and hear symphonic music. At the end of the summer, thanks to the pennies we’d all contributed, they lit a fire and burned the mortgage.’

 

This story may have some truth to it – Agnes de Mille was there, after all. But Los Angeles A-Z (Univ Calif Press, 1997) says it was developed by H Ellis Read, who chose the spot while hiking in the hills with his father. Calling to each other from deep in the hollow to the rim high above, they were amazed by the clarity of the sound. It opened in 1916 with an all-star production of Julius Caesar; the cast included Douglas Fairbanks and Mae Murray. Tickets; 25 cents. The first musical offerings took place in 1922 under primitive conditions. Lloyd Wright, son of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright improved the acoustics with a shell in 1924, which has been replaced three or four times since. 

 

Ordinary silent films – as opposed to the expensive productions which got all the attention – were often brushed off by trade papers with the suggestion that they be booked for a single day at neighbourhood theatres. This one was spared that fate, but Variety said that Universal hadn’t given it the production it deserved. “It has been handled without inspiration and will be simply another movie”. They praised Hersholt and regretted he was so often buried under third-rate material. ‘It isn’t a bad picture by any means, but neither is it distinguished.”

 

This must have dismayed the front office. Universal catered for rural audiences in the mid-west and were known as the Sausage Factory of Hollywood.. They did not spend much on the films for their regular audiences – westerns with Hoot Gibson or Pete Morrison seemed to satisfy them – but they had a brand known as Universal Jewel, on which they took more time and spent more money. And produced some exceptional films. Then there were the occasional Super-Jewels like Phantom of the Opera (1925)

 

 

 This has the look of a Jewel -  Universal assigned to it some of those associated with hits like Cat and the Canary (1926) such as producer Paul Kohner, cameraman Gilbert Warrenton and title-writer Walter Anthony – but the titles don’t mention the name.  And why did they give such a promising subject to such a minor director?

 

F Harmon Weight was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1897 and was an actor on the stage for sixteen years. He entered pictures in 1918, when theatre business slackened, and became an assistant director at Flying A . As a director he was assigned a few prestige pictures with George Arliss. He made a hit with Mary Carr, Drusilla with a Million (1925), about a charity patient in an old people’s home who inherits a fortune from a distant relative, thus infuriating the other patients.

 

The BFI have a 35mm print of a comedy he made in 1926 with Mary Astor and Lloyd Hughes, Forever After, which is charming enough, but made me think he ought to be called F. Harmon Weightless.

 

But you can’t have classics all the time. This is a handsome and enjoyable production and we are showing a tinted Kodascope print. As you will see, however, the finale will be a challenge for the pianist.

 

Kevin Brownlow

 

PS Variety added that the title Jazz Mad had no connection, however roundabout, with the story.

 

 

 

 

 

'THE MAN WHO LAUGHS' (1928)

 

Universal Pictures. Released 4 November 1928. Based on the novel L'homme qui rit by Victor Hugo (Paris, 1869).

Presented by Carl Laemmle. Production Superviser: Paul Kohner. Director: Paul Leni. Story Supervisor: Dr. Bela Sekely. Scenario: J. Grubb Alexander. Titles: Walter Anthony. Adaption: Charles E. Whittaker, Marion Ward, May McLean. Photography: Gilbert Warrenton. Technical and Art Direction: Charles D. Hall, Joseph Wright, Thomas F. O'Neill. Editor: Maurice Pivar, Edward Cahn

Costumes: Dave Cox, Vera West. Production Staff: John M. Voshell, Jay Marchant, Louis Friedlander. Technical Research: Professor R. H. Newlands. Song: "When Love Comes Stealing"  Walter Hirsch, Lew Pollack, Erno Rapee. 16mm print.

CAST: Conrad Veidt (Gwynplaine), Mary Philbin (Dea), Olga Baclanova (Duchess Josiana), Josephine Crowell (Queen Anne), George Siegmann (Dr. Hardquanonne), Brandon Hurst (Barkilphedro, the Jester), Sam DeGrasse (King James), Stuart Holmes (Lord Dirry-Noir), Cesare Gravina (Ursus), Nick De Ruiz (Wapentake), Edgar Norton (Lord High Chancellor), Torben Meyer (The Spy), Julius Molnar, Jr. (Gwynplaine, as a child), Charles Puffy (Innkeeper), Frank Puglia, Jack Goodrich (Clowns), Carmen Costello (Dea's mother), Zimbo (Homo, the Wolf).  

 Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle had a fascination with French literature that resulted from a combination of his first-generation immigrant status, his intuitive marketing savvy, and his assimilation of 19th Century American Midwestern values. The son of a Jewish-German peddler, Laemmle came to America in 1884, settling first in Chicago before drifting around the Midwest, trying his hand at farmwork before taking a succession of bookkeeping jobs. After building a mail-order catalogue business for a clothing store in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Laemmle abruptly quit in 1905, opening a movie theater in Chicago. By the end of 1906, Laemmle had both a chain of theaters and his own film distribution service. In 1909, Laemmle became head of the Independent Motion Picture Company, or IMP, a leader of the independent film companies that were battling the Edison-Biograph trust. By 1912, IMP had been absorbed into the larger Universal Film Manufacturing Company, and Laemmle was at the reins when operations were moved in 1913 to Universal City, in California’s San Fernando Valley.

Laemmle made sure to keep his name closely identified with his product. Having started his career in the movies as an exhibitor, he directly addressed theater owners by publishing a series of ghost-written articles in Universal Weekly, a newsletter sent to all of his customers, which soon earned him the sobriquet “Uncle Carl.” Every film produced by Universal bore the legend “Carl Laemmle Presents” ahead of the title. After importing the 1925 French Pathé adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, he promoted it by sponsoring the “Carl Laemmle-Victor Hugo Scholarship,” a $6,000 tuition prize awarded to high school students for the best essays on the topic “What ideals for life do you find in Les Misérables?”

In American entrepreneurial fashion, Laemmle’s interest in higher education and culture was not born of Platonic idealism; he expected a return on his investment. While the novels of Victor Hugo might represent “literature,” Notre-Dame de Paris is also a bodice-ripper with a tailor-made role for Laemmle’s hugely popular box office attraction Lon Chaney, “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” who was born to play Quasimodo. Laemmle returned to Hugo for the 1927 film of The Man Who Laughs, but this time he looked to Germany to replace Chaney.

Conrad Veidt was 19 years old when he joined Max Reinhardt’s Berlin Theater company in 1912. After serving in the German army during World War I, Veidt returned to the Reinhardt company in 1917. With German film production centered in Berlin, Veidt appeared in many films while maintaining a busy theatrical schedule. He made a number of movies for Richard Oswald, a producer of Aufklärungfilm, social dramas that exploited topical and risqué subjects. In Anders als die Andern (Different From the Others, 1919), Veidt portrayed a closeted homosexual violinist threatened by an extortionist aware of his passion for a student. The film was an attempt to build public opposition to Paragraph 175, a German law criminalizing homosexuality (the film created a sensation, but the law was not repealed until 1994).

A slim 6’3” figure with angular features and piercing eyes, Veidt was able to move easily between romantic leads and character parts. His roles in Der Kabinett des Doktor Kaligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 1920) and Orlacs Hände (The Hands of Orlac, 1924), allowed Veidt to create archetypal characters that continue to influence horror films even today. After seeing Veidt’s portrayal of Ivan the Terrible, 16th Century Tsar of Russia, in Das Wachsfigurnekabinett (Waxworks, 1924), John Barrymore brought him to the United States to play the 15th Century French King Louis XI in The Beloved Rogue (1927). The Man Who Laughs failed to achieve the box office success of Laemmle’s previous gothic spectaculars The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, possibly due to the fact that, unlike Lon Chaney’s monsters, Veidt’s character is an essentially decent man.

Veidt abandoned Hollywood in 1928, convinced that his foreign accent and limited command of English would not be welcome in America during the new era of talking pictures. He made several sound films in Germany, but he soon became intensely troubled by the rise of the Nazi Party. Veidt’s third wife, Ilona “Lily” Prager, was Jewish, and he was also a friend of Hans Grohman, a homosexual artist and anti-fascist writer who the Nazis executed gangland-style in 1933. Having already appeared in several British films, Veidt made plans to move to England. He wrote the single word Jude (Jew) on the official form requesting his reason for leaving Germany, although he had been born of Christian parents.

When Veidt returned to Germany in 1934 to fulfill a contractual obligation for the film Wilhelm Tell, he was kidnapped by Nazi agents who demanded that he withdraw from a planned British production of Jew Süss, an adaptation of a 19th century novel condemning German anti-Semitism. When British producer Michael Balcon inquired as to Veidt’s whereabouts, German officials responded that the actor was too ill to travel. Balcon arranged for a British physician to go to Germany to examine Veidt, after which the Nazis chose to release the actor rather than risk a diplomatic incident. Following his release, Veidt completed Jew Süss and the Nazis declared him an enemy of the state. He arranged for the removal of his second wife and their daughter to neutral Switzerland, and he never returned to Germany.

He continued to act in British anti-Nazi films, and he signed his savings over to the British war effort as an interest-free loan. In 1939, he became a British subject. While in the United States to supervise the preparation for American release of Contraband (1940), for which he was both the producer and the star, Veidt was cast by Louis B. Mayer in the anti-Nazi propaganda film Escape. Veidt decided to stay and pursue an acting career in American movies, and he became best known for his portrayals of evil Nazi characters culminating in his performance as Major Strasser in Casablanca (1942). He sent his earnings from these pictures to the British government. At the age of 50, he died of a heart attack on a Hollywood golf course.

Laemmle’s “family business” approach did not adapt well to the era of talking pictures. Facing insurmountable debt, Laemmle surrendered control of Universal in 1936. Before his death at the age of 72 in 1939 (from cardiovascular disease), Laemmle personally arranged and financed the emigration of hundreds of German Jews who were fleeing the Nazi Holocaust.

Richard Hildreth - San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2008

 

 

 

 

'NAPOLEON' (1927) with Kevin Brownlow, and the original 9.5mm print which started his 60 year quest to restore Abel Gance's epic film

 

To tie in with the BFI release of this new restoration Kevin will tell the story about his discovery of a 9.5mm home movie copy of the film while he was still at school. We will screen part of that original 9.5mm print.

Kevin and his colleagues at Photoplay, initially the late David Gill, and then Patrick Stanbury, have worked with the BFI National Archive on a series of film restorations of Napoleon, culminating in a new digitally restored version of Abel Gance’s cinematic triumph. This legendary five and a half hour film was first presented, partially restored, at the BFI London Film Festival in 1980. The latest digital restoration of Napoleon will have its premiere screening with a live performance by the Philharmonia Orchestra with Carl Davis conducting his mammoth score (the longest ever composed for a silent film) in early November 2016 at the Royal Festival Hall.

The film then goes on theatrical release in UK cinemas and will also be available on BFI DVD/Blu-ray and BFI Player...It has been entirely re-graded and received an extensive digital clean-up throughout. This is the most complete version of the film available. Kevin has spent the last 50 years tracking down surviving prints from archives around the world since he first saw the 9.5mm short version as a schoolboy in 1954.

 

Napoleon (1927) will be shown at the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday 6 November  

 

 

 

'PARADISE'  (1928)

 

GB 1928 Prod: British International Pictures Elstree Studios. Director: Denison Clift. Editing: Emile De Ruelle. Art Director: J. Elder Wills. Writing: Violet E. Powell from the novel by Philip Gibbs. Photography: René Guissart. Print source: BFI 35mm

CAST: Betty Balfour  (Kitty Cranston), Joseph Striker (Dr. John Halliday), Winter Hall (Rev. Cranston), Alexander D'arcy (Spirdoff), Barbara Gott (Lady Liverage), Dino Galvani (Manager), Boris Ranevsky (Commissioner), Jack Manners (Orchestra Leader), Albert Brouett (Hotel Detective), Claude Maxted, Ina De La Haye (Douchka), Leila Dresner, Polly Emery.

The Story of the film is an adaption of The Crossword Puzzle By Sir Philip Gibbs. Kitty the daughter of a clergyman wins £5000 in a crossword puzzle competition and decides to go to the Riviera to spend her winnings and look for love. She meets a gigolo Spirdoff who she falls for and in perhaps the best scene in the film visits the artist commune of the Russian émigrés.

Overall this is an unusual vehicle for Betty Balfour which shows she had more depth to her than just comedy - there is some real pathos in her performance.

(NB. The film does contain several flash intertitles). Between 1921 to 1923 Denison Clift, who was from the USA, directed-eleven features in Britain. None and known to survive. Extras in Paradise are said to include Leslie Henson, Ernest Truex, Basil Dean, Graham Cutts, E. Phillips Oppenhimer and Cosmo Hamilton.

Tony Fletcher

 

Betty Balfour (1903-1977) Comic Charm

Betty Balfour was born in London, Great Britain, in 1903. She made her stage debut at the age of 10 (in 1913 or 1914 – the sources differ) at the Court Theatre and she became one of C. B. Cochran's stars.

Years later, when she was appearing in Medora at the Alhambra Theatre, film makers T. A. Welsh and George Pearson saw her and were impressed by Balfour’s delicate expression and comic charm. They signed her for her film debut in Nothing Else Matters (George Pearson, 1920) with Hugh E. Wright.

Betty instantly showcased her comic talents. After replacing Gertrude Lawrence on stage in The Midnight Follies, Balfour was back with Pearson for her first starring role in Mary-Find-the-Gold (George Pearson, 1921).

It was her role as the wayward florist Squibs Hopkins in Squibs (George Pearson, 1921) that established Balfour as a national star, creating a persona that would both propel and restrict her career. Squibs is a cockney flower girl working at Piccadilly Circus, and this proved to be the ideal vehicle for Balfour’s cheerful disposition, amidst a dreary London setting.

The instant success of the film lead to three sequels, Squibs Wins the Calcutta Sweep (George Pearson, 1922), Squibs M.P. (George Pearson, 1923) and Squibs’ Honeymoon (George Pearson, 1923).

In the Encyclopedia of British Film, Brian McFarlane calls Balfour "a great mimic". At the beautiful website Women and British Silent Cinema, Dan Horn writes that "it was this refreshing charisma, typified in Squibs, which made Balfour an icon of the silent era". Horn quotes film historian Rachael Low, who comments that Balfour was "able to register on screen a charm and expression unequalled among the actresses in British film".

In the more gritty productions Love, Life and Laughter (George Pearson, 1923) and Reveille (George Pearson, 1924), she demonstrated a more serious side to her character. When Betty rejected Pearson's offer to divorce his wife and marry hér, her professional partnership with Welsh-Pearson ended. Their final film together was Blinkeyes (George Pearson, 1926).

 

The Country's Favourite World Star

At the time, Betty Balfour was the most popular actress in Britain, and in 1927 the newspaper Daily Mirror named her as the country's favorite world star. The popular Squibs films, and an array of product endorsements, ensured that Balfour’s vast fan base had flourished. Balfour made no attempt to break into Hollywood but like Ivor Novello she was able to export her talents to mainland Europe.

She starred in the German films Die sieben Töchter der Frau Gyurkovics/A Sister of Six (Ragnar Hylten-Cavallius, 1926) with Willy Fritsch, and Die Regimentstochter/Daughter of the Regiment (Hans Behrendt, 1929), in the French films La Petite Bonne du Palace/The Little Maid at the Palace (Louis Mercanton, 1926), Le Diable au Coeur/Little Devil May Care (Marcel L'Herbier, 1927) with Jaque Catelain, and Croquette (Louis Mercanton, 1927), and in the Austrian-British production Champagner/Bright Eyes (Géza von Bolváry, 1929) with Jack Trevor.

In these films she re-established herself as a sophisticated, fashionable woman of the world, far removed from the persona that had typecast her. Consequently, her popularity in Britain began to decline.

Back in Britain, she featured successfully in Alfred Hitchcock's comedy Champagne (1928), but Balfour's sound debut The Nipper/The Brat (Louis Mercanton, 1930), based on the Squibs character, was only moderately successful.

Her popularity diminished in the 1930s, and Balfour began to struggle for leading roles. She only played a supporting role to Jessie Matthews in Evergreen (Victor Saville, 1934) and appeared with John Mills in Brown on Resolution/Forever England (Walter Forde, 1935).  Even a musical remake of Squibs (Henry Lawson, 1935) with Stanley Holloway was unable to recapture her former popularity.

In 1945, after a nine year hiatus, Balfour appeared in 29 Acacia Avenue (Henry Cass, 1945) starring Gordon Harker. This was to be her final film.

'Britain's Queen of Happiness' was not happy in her private life. After a stage comeback failed in 1952, she attempted suicide. For the last 20 years of her life she was a recluse.

At age 74, Betty Balfour died in 1978, in Weybridge, England. She had been married once, to composer Jimmy Campbell from 1931 till their divorce in 1941. They had one child.

http://filmstarpostcards.blogspot.co.uk

 

 

 

'THE RED MILL'  (1927)

 

Released by M-G-M, 29 January 1927. A Cosmopolitan Production. Directed by William Goodrich (Roscoe Arbuckle) and (uncredited) King Vidor. Adapted by Frances Marion from the musical comedy The Red Mill by Victor Herbert and Henry Blossom. Titles: Joe Farnham. Camera: Hendrick Sartov. Editor: Daniel J. Gray. Settings by Cedric Gibbons and Merrill Pye. Wardrobe: André-Ani.

CAST: Marion Davies (Tina, drudge at the Red Mill tavern), Owen Moore (Dennis, a handsome visitor), Louise Fazenda (Gretchen, daughter of the Burgomaster), George Siegman (Dillem, the innkeeper), Karl Dane (Captain Jacop, Gretchen’s lover), J. Russell Powell (Burgomaster), Snitz Edwards (Caesar, Dennis’s valet), William Orlamond (Governor) and Ignatz the Mouse as `himself’.

Mention Marion Davies to most people and, if they have heard of her at all, it is most likely as the long-time mistress of press baron William Randolph Hearst. Some may know she had a film career but, perhaps in recollection of the parallel figure in Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (where she was transmuted into a reluctant and inept opera singer), assume she was without talent and in the public eye solely because of her powerful mentor.  

Hearst did indeed promote Davies’s film career, establishing `Cosmopolitan Productions’ almost exclusively for this purpose, but the difference between Davies and her fictitious counterpart was that she genuinely had talent, at least for comedy. She was reportedly very funny in person and possessed a considerable gift for mimicry. Hearst did not help her cause when preferring to cast her as an immaculate heroine in prestigious drama - just about the only reason to look at their 1924 Revolutionary War epic Janice Meredith is a cameo by W.C. Fields as a British sergeant – but when she was allowed to do comedy, Marion Davies proved herself among the best.

Hearst’s newspapers had played a major role in turning public sympathies away from comedian Roscoe `Fatty’ Arbuckle during the 1921 scandal that had ended his onscreen career.  Arbuckle, aided by such close friends as Buster Keaton, was getting some work directing shorts under the name `William Goodrich’ but sought to re-establish himself in feature-length films. At least one source claims it was Keaton who persuaded Davies to invite Arbuckle and his second wife, Doris Deane, to visit Hearst’s vast estate, San Simeon. Davies, at least, wanted to compensate Arbuckle for the damage inflicted on his reputation by the newspapers owned by Hearst (who is said to have admitted to Arbuckle both his ignorance of the actual details of the case and how many papers he had sold on the strength of the scandal) and invited him to direct her next picture, an adaptation of the 1906 Victor Herbert stage musical The Red Mill.

Modern audiences may be puzzled by the idea of a silent film adaptation of a musical-comedy. There were quite a few and, in the inevitable absence of the songs, the usual approach was to take the story element, or `book’, as a starting point on which to build sequences that would work visually, as well as to tailor the lead role for the film’s star. In stage musicals the book is frequently not the strongest component and Frances Marion’s screen adaptation of The Red Mill shows a considerable degree of revision. Davies’s character `Tina’, a slavey in a Dutch tavern, was given a more consistent central role and the two male protagonists - originally a visiting American vaudeville team - became instead a handsome (and surprisingly shallow!) love interest for Tina, accompanied by his put-upon valet. The male lead was played by Owen Moore, the first husband of Mary Pickford, while the role of valet went to Snitz Edwards, better remembered for similar roles in Keaton’s films.  As Tina, Davies took the bold step of being made up as `plain’ for much of the action, being presented as a cosmetically-enhanced beauty only when the plot demands. When in white-faced gawky mode, Tina from some angles actually resembles one or two of the drag roles essayed at that time by Stan Laurel (!), while in others she brings to mind Arbuckle’s former co-star at Keystone, Mabel Normand. The Arbuckle influence permeates a number of well-sustained gag scenes, among them Tina’s struggle with a collapsible ironing board, her attempts to undress Louise Fazenda (another of Arbuckle’s Keystone contemporaries) and a skating race culminating in an ingenious gag involving ice that the present notes will make no attempt to spoil.

From all accounts, Arbuckle handled the assignment without difficulty but Hearst, whose protectiveness of Davies seemed in some people’s eyes to verge on paranoia, became concerned over Arbuckle’s directing, or at the direction in which he was taking the film.  Hearst brought in King Vidor - who subsequently directed Davies in the comedies The Patsy and Show People – to oversee Arbuckle’s work at every stage. Vidor knew that Arbuckle required no assistance and, despite the latter’s seeming acquiescence, was embarrassed at having to advise him in the setting up of every shot. Vidor told Arbuckle biographer David Yallop that he had been unpaid save for the gift of a diamond-studded watch from Hearst, which the director retained for the rest of his life.

In the end, only `William Goodrich’ received director credit but the experience was a further blow to Arbuckle’s damaged morale, perhaps compounded by the fact that, according to Davies’s biographer Fred Lawrence Guiles, The Red Mill did not recoup its admittedly considerable budget. The film languished in the studio vaults until Robert Youngson used footage from it in his 1964 compilation M-G-M’s Big Parade of Comedy, suggesting that – at least to a new audience uninfluenced by other factors – its obscurity was perhaps undeserved. In more recent years it has been revived in its entirety but has seldom been seen theatrically. Today’s screening provides a rare opportunity to enjoy this collaboration between a major film comedienne and an important comedian/director.

Glenn Mitchell

 

 

'THE SENTIMENTAL BLOKE' (1919)

 

Southern Cross Feature Film Company. Released 1919. Produced and Directed by Raymond Longford. Based on the poem by C.J. Dennis. Writers: Raymond Longford, Lottie Lyell. Cinematography: Arthur Higgins. Edior: Lottie Lyell. Assistant Directors Arthur Cross, Clyde Marsh. Production Assistant Lottie Lyell.

CAST: Arthur Tauchert (Bill the Bloke aka The Kid), Lottie Lyell (Doreen), Gilbert Emery (Ginger Mick), Stanley Robinson (The Bloke's Friend), Harry Young (The Stror 'at Coot), Margaret Reid (Doreen's Mother),

Charles Keegan (Parson), William Coulter (Uncle Jim), Helen Fergus (Nurse) and C.J. Dennis as Himself.

 

The Sentimental Bloke is regarded by many as the greatest silent film that Australia has produced. It was very popular when released in 1920 – partly because the book of verse by CJ Dennis was well-loved – but the film was largely forgotten by the 1930s, after 'talkies’ took over. Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell had been a successful acting duo since 1909, when she was 19 and he was 31. He had married in 1900, but his Catholic wife refused to grant a divorce, so Longford and Lyell could never solemnise their relationship the way that Arthur Tauchert, as 'The Kid’, does in this film. Nevertheless from 1911 until her early death in 1925 from tuberculosis, they lived and worked together on a series of acclaimed and controversial films, that were generally very successful.

 

The Bloke, as it’s affectionately known, is remarkable for the naturalism of its acting and the humour with which it portrays a working class milieu. Dennis’s poem is set in Melbourne, but Longford and Lyell relocated it to Sydney’s Woolloomooloo, which had a well-deserved reputation as a tough, inner-city neighbourhood. The violent gangs (or 'pushes’) had largely disappeared by the time it was made, and Australia was just emerging from the First World War. The Kid is 'saved’ from his life as a wastrel by the love of a good woman, a suitably reformist message – but most of the fun in the film concerns sin, in its many forms.

 

The book, published in 1915, is set pre-War, and that may be part of what made it popular with postwar audiences: it showed the city as a colourful pageant, full of unlikely characters, horse-drawn carts (not cars), and plentiful diversion in the form of pubs and 'two-up’ schools. The reality, in cities like Sydney and Melbourne in 1920, with thousands of maimed soldiers returning to grim prospects, was very different.

Part of what makes The Bloke so enduring is that Longford and Lyell (who collaborated on all aspects of the film) have real affection for the milieu and characters they depict. Arthur Higgins’ cinematography has an almost documentary feel in some scenes, such as the wedding reception. Film acting in 1919 was usually much more gestured than it is here. Arthur Tauchert, a former labourer himself, was performing in suburban vaudeville theatres when he was cast. His performance as Bill, the sentimental tough guy, grounds the whole film in reality. He can hardly believe his luck in finding Doreen. The possibility that he might lose her is kept very real throughout, because he’s very human, and succumbs easily to temptation. Even with its reformist message, the film never seems preachy. Rather, it had a strongly optimistic tone, a sense of hope – which may have been another reason for its success.

Paul Byrnes - Australian Screen - http://aso.gov.au/titles/features/sentimental-bloke/notes/

 

 

 

 

'THREE BAD MEN' (1926)

 

Fox Film Corporation. Premiere Chicago opening 31 August 1926. Based on the novel Over the Border by Herman Whitaker (New York, 1917). Presented by William Fox. Director: John Ford. Assistant Director:  Edward O'Fearna. Adaption and scenario: John Stone. Titles:  Ralph Spence, Malcolm Stuart Boylan. Photography: George Schneiderman.

CAST: George O'Brien (Dan O'Malley), Olive Borden (Lee Carlton), Lou Tellege (Layne Hunter), Tom Santschi ("Bull" Stanley), J. Farrell MacDonald (Mike Costigan), Frank Campeau ("Spade" Allen), Priscilla Bonner (Millie [Stanley]), Otis Harlan (Zach Little), Phyllis Haver (Lily), George Harris (Joe Minsk), Alec Francis (Reverend [Calvin] Benson), Jay Hunt (Nat Lucas), Walter Perry (Pat Monahan), Grace Gordon (Millie's pal), George Irving (General Neville), Vester Pegg, Bud Osborne.

 

When Ford was ready to make another big movie in 1925, he returned to the Western genre. Ford learned a great deal about his craft from  the improvisatory; trial-and-error process of making The Iron Horse (1924), and the result was 3 Bad Men, the silent film pointing most clearly to the strengths of his mature masterpieces. Set in 1877 during a Dakota  land rush, 3 Bad Men gracefully blends the epic with the intimate. Although the director's favorite among his silent work was, Marked Men (1919), 3 Bad Men contains many thematic similarities to the lost Harry Carey Western, as well as casting MacDonald in another leading roll as a kindhearted desert rat. Both stories are centered around three outlaws who redeem themselves by protecting pilgrims (a child in the earlier film, a young woman in the latter) who need their help to reach what 3 Bad Men explicitly calls"the promised land."Ford again draws ironic parallels with the Bible story of the Three Wise Men, represented here by MacDonald's Mike Costigan and his pals "Bull" Stanley (Tom Santschi) and "Spade" Allen (Frank Campeau). They serve as matchmakers for Lee Carlerton (Olive Borden) and the Irish immigrant saddle tramp who loves her, Dan O'Malley (George O'Brien)...

Thanks in large part to the magnificent work of the cameraman George Scheiderman, 3 Bad Man contains some of the most complex compositions of any Ford movie and some of his most virtuosic use of chiaroscuro in black-and white photography. Yet despite its pictorial sophistication, this picaresque adventure saga always unfolds with effortless naturalness, and the images never come across as mannered or overly studied.

Much of the location shooting was at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, against the specular panorama of the Grand Tetons, the setting for sequences of the outlaws and a pioneering wagon train journeying to the Dakota Badlands. Ford filmed the land rush in California's Mojave Desert, basing it on the biggest Oklahoma land rush, the one in 1893: "We used over two hundred vehicles-stages, Conestoga wagons, buggies, broughams, every blasted vehicle there was-and hundreds of men riding horses, all waiting for the signal to cross over riding like hell." The director sprinkles wonderful comic touches into the midst of the spectacle, such as shots of a straggler driving a wagon at a snail's pace and another wobbling along on a big-wheeled bicycle while while being towed by a horse, holding on to its tail.

And in a (literally) running gag about the reckless process of chronicling contemporary history, Ford showed a newspaperman in a moving wagon cranking out extras on his printing press from within the actual event. Ford was discovering how to depict historical events not as static pageantry but as re-created documentary, overflowing with irrepressible, unprintable energy and drama, yet also seen intermittently from a contemplative distance. Other films have attempted similarly elaborate land rush sequences, but Ford's direction has never been equaled for its scope, verisimilitude, and sheer cinematic excitement...

The aftermath of the filming was traumatic for Ford, helping explain why he did not make another Western for thirteen years. The boom in big-scale Westerns initiated by the success of The Covered Wagon (1923) already was starting to fade by the time 3 Bad Men was being edited. After a preview audience reacted badly to the film, Fox made heavy cuts. Released on 28, 1926, 3 Bad Men received only middling response from reviewers and the public alike, soon fading into obscurity.

Extracts from Searching for John Ford, by John McCabe (2001).