Archive for City Lights

The Sunday Intertitle: No Logo for Old Men

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on June 5, 2011 by dcairns

Gee Willikers, if Marshall Neilan had lived a bit longer he’d probably have had to seriously rethink his company logo.

It should be stressed that the year was 1925, the Nazi party didn’t exist, and the symbol in the centre had mystical associations but no political ones the Nazi party was still small, and the symbol’s mystic overtones still superseded its political ones. I’m betting this was the last time a swastika appeared as a logo on an MGM movie, though.

The film is THE SPORTING VENUS, an MGM melo with a bit of humour (but not enough) starring Blanche Sweet as “Lady Gwendolyne”, a high-class Scottish lady, and Ronald Colman as the lowly Scotsman who woos her.

Almost everybody’s Scottish in this film, except suave and villainous Count Marno (Lew Cody). And the titles boast of their location shooting — unlike many older “location” pics, this one does seem to have possibly sent its stars out of the country (to Cortachy Castle in Angus) rather than just gathering some second unit landscape plates to back-project behind them.

Too bad the movie’s so uninspired — heavy with MGM “quality”. Colman is handsome, Sweet is unusual, the Scottish settings were interesting to me, and I guess to be fair one would need to see a decent print before passing judgment on it. Hank Mann, the drunken millionaire from CITY LIGHTS, provides comedy relief. Here’s a review from the legendary F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre. I’d like to think my dodgy DVD was maybe filmed off his Steenbeck.

I haven’t had much luck with Marshall Neilan so far but I do intend to sample one of his more reputable hits.

City Heights

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on March 21, 2011 by dcairns

Screening CITY LIGHTS for students — not seen it for years, myself — I was thunderstruck by the bizarre cross-resonance generated at the end of the film. Released from prison, Charlie goes brokenly in search of the blind flower seller, revisiting the places he knows her from, without success. Then he wanders past a flower shop –


Wow. Just wow.

Not because CITY LIGHTS has a transcendentally beauteous ending — which it does — but because I suddenly flashed on a very different movie with a strikingly similar moment.

A Chaplinesque image, no? Think THE GOLD RUSH.

Released from hospital, Jimmy goes brokenly in search of the blind flower seller, revisiting the places he knows her from, without success. Then he wanders past a flower shop –

I can’t even begin to process this. (I will now begin to process this.) I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Hitchcock admired Chaplin, indeed I’d be surprised if he did not. I seem to recall they met and discussed whether Hitch should adopt American citizenship (he did;  Chaplin remained “A citizen of the world.”) But I never thought in terms of influence. And I would never have picked VERTIGO as a likely conduit for that influence. (What would I have picked?) Of course, it’s impossible to be sure there’s any conscious or even actual influence at work here — but it suddenly and epiphanically felt like there was.

I mean, Jimmy didn’t have to meet Kim outside a flower shop, even though Hitch has linked her character(s) with floral imagery since the start. Hitch realized that using a fresh location not seen earlier in the film would help soften the coincidental nature of the characters’ meeting. Chaplin, less concerned about such things (though he said, very wisely, “I don’t mind coincidence but I despise convenience,” a principle he broke with impressive frequency) has the flower shop situated right around the corner from the spot where Charlie got himself arrested. In all, despite it’s metropolitan title and themes, CITY LIGHTS portrays a city confined to a few minimal locations, New York type bustling thoroughfares, Victorian London slums, a mansion, a boxing ring. It’s the kind of city where failed detective Jimmy Stewart’s mentally shattered investigative procedure — simply go to the places where you’ve seen her before — would work.
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