Hitting the Wall

One usually hits a wall halfway through any intensive film festival, and Tuesday may have been ours. We saw lots of good stuff but didn’t make it to things we definitely had wanted to see, and I started a Luciano Emmer film and found I didn’t have enough concentration left to see it through.

We had planned a lie in, but couldn’t sleep so we headed to the Jolly for Raoul Walsh’s rowdy service romp WOMEN OF ALL NATIONS. Some thought it a weak entry, but I’m still impressed that they managed to get laughs out of El Brendel, world’s unfunniest dialect comedian. When jealous boyfriend Olaf, the strongest man in Sweden, appears, El B’s delivery of the line “It’s Olaf. And it’s all off,” lacks his usual smugness and really hit the funnybone on the head.

Plus Bela Lugosi as a cuckolded Arab prince.

This was followed by John Stahl’s SEED, introduced by Imogen Smith, who provided lots of interesting analysis of a slow but fascinating early entry in Stahl’s series of low-key melodramas on marriage and infidelity. “I hope you enjoy SEED.” We came to see Bette Davis playing a juvenile role, and stayed for the weird, ambivalent sexual politics. The film also finally made sense of the otherwise elusive appeal of John Boles. “You’re my measuring stick,” says one of the women in his life. And I can see how he’d be good for that, His head alone must be a good foot long.

Boles was back in SIX HOURS TO LIVE, supporting the equally rigid Warner Baxter, another man whose origin and purpose are still a total mystery. Raised from the dead by mad science, he might as well have not bothered. I call this one GRAVE-DIGGERS OF 1932. William Dieterle spent his time at Warners kicking against the regime of fast-paced delivery and short runtimes. Fox let him spread out a bit more, and the results in this one are a bit lugubrious at times, but with some genuinely exciting cinematic effects. A livelier cast would have pushed it over into greatness, but as it is, it’s enjoyably weird, and SIX HOURS TO LIVE did afford me half an hour of napping.

But you can’t see everything — maybe we should have gone to the 1918 TARZAN OF THE APES, or Zurlini’s CRONICA FAMILIARE with Mastroianni, and I’m sad we missed Pabst’s GEHEIMNISVOLLE TIEFE. We did listen to a lovely talk by Sir Christopher Professor Frayling about ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, but were too shattered to actually go see the film in the Piazza, which would have taken us up to around 1am, I reckon. By eating a leisurely dinner and hitting the sack, we hope to blast through some Maurice Tourneur, Segundo de Chomon, Henri Diamant-Berger, Sydney Chaplin, Mario Monicelli and Frank Borzage tomorrow. Wish us luck!

7 Responses to “Hitting the Wall”

  1. chris schneider Says:

    [Insert “going to SEED” joke here.] I’m fond of Warner Baxter in 42ND STREET, and I always thought Boles ideal as a passive-aggressive occasion for resentment in BACK STREET. Oh, yes, and I highly recommend the Carol Burnett BACK STREET parody.

  2. Stahl does use Boles’ non-qualities very well: he’s so transparently unworthy of the love of Irene Dunne et al.

  3. revelator60 Says:

    Boles was also an enjoyable presence in Rio Rita and King of Jazz. I’ve heard he’s also on form in The Rogue Song, but that film is still hard to find in semi-decent visual quality.
    Best of luck with tomorrow!

  4. revelator60 Says:

    Whoops, I meant The Desert Song! The Rogue Song features Lawrence Tibbett, not Boles.

  5. Does Rogue Song fully exist anywhere? I’ve seen a few clips. In “The Films of Laurel and Hardy” Everson speculated the experience may have triggered the boys’ series of operettas (or in my view, three operettas and one MacDonald-Eddy parody).

  6. revelator60 Says:

    Alas, The Rogue Song only exists in a fragments, though the complete soundtrack can be found at the internet archive. There’s also a reconstruction on youtube that marries most of the existing clips and images to the soundtrack.

  7. I must watch that when I get back. Have read so much about it.

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