The Sunday Intertitle: Tillie Eulenspiegel

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Then Marion Davies is not the girl for you, sir.

TILLIE THE TOILERS is based on a newspaper strip cartoon, but it’s a Marion Davies production and apart from going brunette to match the drawn character she’s up to her usual light comedy tricks. At no point is she required to change costume in a phone booth, as diverting as that would be, or scale a tall building with anything more strenuous than a single elevator.

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The titular Tillie is a secretary on the make, rather callously ditching her beau so as to pursue first the foppish assistant manager, Mr Whipple (George K. Arthur), from whome she extracts lunch, and then a passing millionaire, Mr. Penny Fish, for whom she ditches Whipple with haste and not a little relief. It’s to the credit of the screenwriters and Davies that Tillie remains somewhat sympathetic throughout.

We’re at MGM’s Number One plot here, recycled through several Joan Crawford vehicles a couple of years later — how to marry well while remaining virtuous. It’s OK to be a little mercenary as long as you stay virginal.

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George K. Arthur is an interesting figure — he backed Von Sternberg’s first film, THE SALVATION HUNTERS, on the proviso that he play lead, which he wasn’t very suited to doing. He’s much better as a supercilious schnook here. Sternberg claimed that the budget Arthur promised turned out not to exist, and so Sternberg ended up paying for the film himself.

Returning to his native Britain, Arthur, produced the early shorts of Jack Clayton and Wendy Toye, for which cinephiles should thank him. I’m presuming in those cases the money actually existed. Mr Whipple came a long way.

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10 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Tillie Eulenspiegel”

  1. You must try and see the 1922 British version of Kipps, directed by Harold Shaw and starring a pre-Hollywood George K.Arthur……charming and wonderful use of locations in Shaw’s trademark style. Rumour has long had it that a young man calling himself Joe Stern was part of the unit before he too went to Hollywood…….

  2. You’ve presumably heard the whimsical theory (can’t remember who first aired it – maybe Kim Newman) that The Woman in Black is actually the sequel to Half a Sixpence.

  3. Anne, I had not heard that theory! And my awareness of the plot of Half a Sixpence is so slight I struggle to make sense of the idea.

    Mark, I know Sternberg had some kind of acting/extra role that brought him into contact with Clive Brook long before their Hollywood collaborations, so the rumour may be true.

    The two were billeted together on location. Brook saw Jo staring at his reflection, whereupon Jo asked, “Which is more repulsive, with the moustache or without?”

    “Why do you want to look repulsive?”

    “If they hate you, at least they remember you.”

  4. I think it’s not so much the plot as the name ie Kipps. It’s not that common a name, and Hill must have been aware of the Wells novel when she wrote hers.

  5. Flash bang wallop what a spectre!

  6. “how to marry well while remaining virtuous”
    Unlike Barbara Stanwyk’s Lily in Baby Face, who more realistically manages the same ascent while remaining determinedly unvirtuous.

  7. Yes, occasionally Hollywood would drop the veil of social illusions slightly and grant a peek at something seedier.

  8. That was the glory of “pre-code”

  9. This is all I can think about.

  10. There’s a resemblance! The apples doesn’t fall far from the tree in the Whipple genealogy.

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