The Sunday Intertitle: Gloria’s Technicolor
STAGE STRUCK screens on Friday at the Hippodrome , Bo’ness, as part of their Silent Film Festival. It’s a charming slow-burn romantic comedy starring Gloria Swanson, displaying the knockabout skills
honed wasted at Keystone, and which surface in her work unexpectedly from time to time (pratfalls in SADIE THOMPSON, creepy Chaplin imitation in SUNSET BLVD), and directed by Allan Dwan.
Gloria plays a downtrodden waitress mooning after short-order cook Lawrence Gray, who’s obsessed with the glamorous actresses of the local showboats (we’re in small-town Ohio). She’s very knowingly having fun with her clothes-horse persona: a Technicolor dream sequence shows her in a variety of preposterous gowns, but during the rest of the movie her sartorial options are either practically limited or else disastrous experiments. Gloria’s beauty is unconventional enough for her to play just-plain-funny-looking without a hint of condescension.
My copy of this is a bootleg produced by some entrepreneurial bandit who evidently smuggled a camcorder into a viewing room at some archive and filmed the VHS timecoded copy as it played on a TV screen — I’m picturing his camera tucked inside a grimy raincoat, lurching noticeably from time to time as he shifts furtively in his swivel chair. For an altogether better viewing experience, head to Bo’ness, where you can see it projected, on a big screen, with a live audience, live musical accompaniment, and the elegant surroundings of Scotland’s oldest purpose-built cinema. Should be quite an occasion!