Archive for May 9, 2010

The Sunday Intertitle: Hollywood and Bust

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2010 by dcairns

Rupert Hughes’ rather novelettish SOULS FOR SALE, based on his own serialised book, manages to entertain both in spite of and because of a motley array of virtues and vices. The daft story about a runaway bride plunging into the movie business while her husband, a bigamous serial killer, flees the police (they’re paths will cross again, you see) is amusing, and the backdrop of 1920s movie-making, accompanied by copious guest appearances (Chaplin, Stroheim, er, Niblo) sometimes derails the narrative momentum but offers the movie’s true raison d’etre.

There are a lot of memorable intertitles in this one! When the heroine collapses in the desert and is rescued by a sheik, she gasps “Are you real–or a mirage?” To which the arab prince replies, “Neither, I’m a motion picture actor.”

Richard THE WHISTLER Dix — never actually young.

The movie came to mind as a result of Shadowplay’s SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS Film Club discussion about Hollywood-on-Hollywood movies, but what it really is reminiscent of, during the desert scenes, is Fellini’s THE WHITE SHEIK, subject of an earlier Film Club here. Since Fellini was only three when SOULS FOR SALE was released, it might seem unlikely that it could have directly influenced his own tale of a runaway bride meeting a sheik on a location shoot, but Fellini’s co-scenarist Antonioni was considerably older and might very well have seen and remembered Hughes’ movie…

One nice intertextual joke comes when the fugitive bad guy charms a lonely spinster into filing off his handcuffs. “Too bad we couldn’t hear his story,” laments the title card, “but it must have been a good one.”

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