The Sunday Intertitle: No Logo for Old Men

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had mystical associations but no political ones the Nazi party was still small, and the symbol’s mystic overtones still superseded its political ones.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.

23 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: No Logo for Old Men”

  1. David Boxwell Says:

    In Cukor’s THE WOMEN (39) Lucille Watson blithely refers to the luxury of spreading out “like a swastika” in a large bed.

  2. Was there ever a musical made in Hitler-era Germany with a Busby Berkeley-like number where chorus girls form a swastika? It seems like a missed opportunity for Goebbels if there wasn’t.

    Neilan’s later silent work seems pretty hard to find, but when I see companies like Paramount, FBO, and state’s rights films I can guess why. He sorta ended up the same way as Cruze, I think both were known drinkers.

  3. Yes, I believe Neilan drank himself into an early grave.

    There IS a Nazi-era musical in which the chorus girls are played by SS officers because the leading lady was so tall that ordinary chorines wouldn’t do. I believe it’s called, amusingly, Die Grosse Liebe.

    But they generally kept politics out of their entertainments, apart from Jew Suss. Goebbels took the view, like Richard Schickel, that movies should be shallow entertainments. That’s why he supposedly didn’t get on with Leni Riefenstahl.

  4. Nazi-era musical revues? Here’s Gustaf Grundgens and his creepy Aryan teeth, performing “The Night is not Just For Sleeping — It’s also for Torchlight Parades!”

    Quite bumptious.

  5. David Boxwell Says:

    Gigi, as we call him around this house, sports the most amazing leather garment in Fritz Lang’s M. Mephisto indeed!

    Neilan hitched his wagon to aging Mary Pickford, so whatever talent he had got overshadowed by her Baby Jane antics.

  6. Hitler’s favorite movie was Broadway Melody of 1940

  7. …or Lives of a Bengal Lancer, according to some accounts.

  8. Christopher Says:

    Marshall Neilan,Guinn Williams,Todd and Pitts and the Hal Roach paycheck windows

    the most obvious of early “good vibes” swasitka on Clara Bow

  9. Beautiful images!

    Gustaf Grundgens’s teeth represent Nazi Germany’s only success with their nuclear programme.

  10. The Nazi Party had been going for years by 1925- the Beer Hall Putsch and Hitler’s incarceration (and writing of Mein Kampf) had happened in the preceding couple of years. They began using the Swastika as a symbol of the party consistently on armbands and banners from about 1920.

  11. Schickel and Goebbels linked, that gave me a an evil smile.

    My latest American film swastika sighting were Leo Carrillo’s in The Gay Desperado.

    Neilan went from Pickford to do shorts at Sennett and Roach. Makes me wonder about Saint Mary (in some silent forums, they just about canonize the woman).

  12. John Seal Says:

    Actually, the NSDAP was extant in 1925–the party was founded in 1919. By 1925 it was on the cusp of tremendous growth (Hitler had just been released from prison in late ’24).

    That said, Neilan’s Swastika is not the ‘classic’ design we now associate with Naziism, so we’ll give him a mulligan.

  13. Thanks, Tom and John. My history’s even woolier than I thought. Cram one bit of info in that brain and something else falls out the back.

    I’d forgotten the swastika in The Gay Desperado — what’s it doing down Mexico way?

  14. La Faustin Says:

    The really magnificent Zarah Leander (and her SS Cuties?) in DIE GROSSE LIEBE:

    There’s this gallant flyboy and this glamorous singer, see, but a series of misunderstandings and coincidences keep them apart; basically Betty Grable and John Payne, only wearing swastikas. The Siren is right — movie musicals make the whole world kin.

  15. Native American art used swastikas long before the Nazis, so Hollywood designers would be very aware of the design. Now I’m not sure if it went as far down the southwest to reach Mexico, but I have seen it in Arizona art from the turn of the last century. It wouldn’t matter, the gang crossed the border often enough that it’s plausible Carrillo could have picked them up anywhere. Why as late as 1936 is another question. My second-latest sighting is four years before.

    Grundgen’s phosphorescent teeth are really something to behold.

  16. I’ve seen a picture of circa-1919 Freikorps soldiers — pre-Nazi, although some of them probably ended up in the NSDAP — who had swastikas on their helmets.

  17. What’s Zarah wearing? Are those bandoliers?

    And does my memory deceive me or does Graf Orlok in Nosferatu have a swastika in his weird correspondence?

  18. WHERE did you get a DVD of The Sporting Venus???????

  19. From an American gent with a voluminous collection of rarities. Packages winged across the Atlantic, and thus I acquired it. Is it on your wish list?

  20. La Faustin Says:

    A couple of weird things (out of an embarrassment of riches, obviously) about Katya’s Gründgens clip:

    1. The film, made in 1938, is entitled Der Tanz auf dem Vulkan, or DANCE ON THE VOLCANO’S EDGE

    2. Gründgens, anticipating Jean-Louis Barrault and Sacha Guitry, is playing Deburau. (Deburau was a mime, you say? Take it up with Goebbels.)

    And something weird about the Zarah Leander clip: her song, “Ich weiss, es wird einmal ein Wunder Gescheh’n,” which was an enormous hit, the “Keep the Home Fires Burning” / “I’ll Be Seeing You” of the Third Reich, was written by a Pole (music) and a homosexual Jew (lyrics) staving off the concentration camp by producing uplift for the war effort.

    This recalls a story, part of the folklore of German movie émigrés, wherein an executive at a post-“Aryanization” UFA has his chauffeur drive him through the woods to Oranienburg, site of the first concentration camp, where he shouts hopefully through the barbed wire, “Hey boys – got anything for me?”

  21. Ha!

    I guess an ubermensch mime not only can talk — he can sing, sing, sing!

  22. La Faustin Says:

    Gotta sing, Gotterdammerung!

  23. Christopher Says:

    don’t forget the swastikas on Rock Hudson’s Indian horse blanket in Winchester ’73

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