I Hear Voices

“There’s only one degradation I haven’t suffered,” intones Claudette Colbert in THE HOLE IN THE WALL. Edward G Robinson’s first talkie.

“Nyeeeeaaaah, I know,” replies the Great Man.

We never really find out what she means, but you can find out about related subjects over at the Auteurs’ Notebook, where this week’s edition of The Forgotten probes the mysteries of The Beyond, and of the early talking picture too.

18 Responses to “I Hear Voices”

  1. david wingrove Says:

    This looks intriguing! Rumour has it that Robert Florey was the one-time Mr. Rudolph Valentino – or so says biographer David Bret. Mind you, it seems that Bret will say anything if he thinks it might sell more books.

  2. It seems at least conceivable. And I don’t know if you could say anything about Robert Florey these days that would make a marketable difference, he’s not the most high-profile Hollywood master. But he made a number of very nice, stylish films. Daughter of Shanghai with Anna May Wong is particularly nice, and Murders in the Rue Morgue is great fun.

  3. david wingrove Says:

    Of course, there are those who deny that Valentino was even gay…but if David Bret did want to fabricate an affair, there are many more famous names he might drag in.

    My favourite (most likely apocryphal) story in the book is of Valentino’s unrequite crush on Argentine tango star Carlos Gardel. Allegedly, Gardel refused to sleep with any man more famous than he was!

  4. There was a post on this film on the blog Obscure Hollow, which is where I first learned of it. Some enticing images there as well.

  5. http://obscurehollow.blogspot.com/2009/12/hole-in-wall-1929.html

    Ah-hah, we went for one of the same shots. They also have that haunting image of the woman taken on the real L-train in the film’s only location scene.

  6. David Boxwell Says:

    The great exception to the slowtalkers of 1929: Mamoulian’s APPLAUSE. The patter is extraordinarily lively, and the technology has trouble recording it all distinctly.

  7. David Boxwell Says:

    Florey brought his trademark mixture of German expressionism and French poetic realism to TV in 1959 in an episode of THE OUTER LIMITS, “Perchance to Dream.” Available to watch on hulu.com.

  8. David Boxwell Says:

    Florey and Karl Freund made magic together in MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1932). Pre-Hausmann Paris re-created with the best of Universal’s art direction talent, Germanic expressionistic camera chiaroscuro, and pre-Code disinhibition.

  9. David Boxwell Says:

    The most sheerly insane SLOWtalker of 1929: James Cruze’s THE GREAT GABBO.

  10. David Boxwell Says:

    Correction: “Perchance to Dream” was an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

  11. Oh yes, I love Gabbo. Genuinely insane, and Stroheim, who had a gift for slow-talking at the best of times, really becomes hilarious when we’re meant to buy him as a cross-talking ventriloquist, convulsing his audience with glacial repartee.

    Florey did some good Twilight Zone episodes too. Guys like him, Leisen and especially John Brahm seemed to preserve their talent better on the small screen than they managed in their last movies.

  12. David Boxwell Says:

    “Perchance to Dream” also found via google at CBS’s own site of vintage TV: veoh.com

    The very first shot could have been taken from SKYSCRAPER SYMPHONY (29). Florey was that consistent a visual auteur over 30 years!

  13. I can’t view the show since I’m not in the US, but from what I recall, the shot might actually be a stylish stock shot swiped from a feature film — perhaps even Skyscraper Symphony? Or King of the Underworld, which I recall having an elegant skyscraper shot, followed by a subjective camera murder and a death plunge…

  14. David,
    The stock shot thing reminds me of when I was watching a Thelma & Zasu short called Let’s Do Things – the opening shot made me think, “Ah! They work in the same store as Clara Bow did in It!” It amazed me that the pan down the Waltham’s sign into the street ended up as stock footage so soon. I was more used to less-recognizable stock shots. The most fun was watching people jetting by in cheesier films and noticing the plane had Boeing on the side, not a commercial carrier.

  15. I’m convinced the Titanic shots in Gilliam’s Time Bandits are stock footage from A Night to Remember, simply tinted blue to make them day-for-night, but I’ve never run a comparison to check.

  16. I recognize the shot in Perchance to Dream, but like everyone else, I can’t place it. I do think I saw it in a feature. David, be glad you can’t watch the episodes, unless you love having old TV shows running with new commercials. I had to look at Brooke Shields’ frightening puss at least four times. She’s got a bigger jaw than Richard Conte had.

  17. Yikes.

    The shot isn’t from The Crowd is it? I remember it being a spectacular move on a skyscraper…

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