Archive for February 26, 2023

The Sunday Intertitle: On Location

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on February 26, 2023 by dcairns

A really lovely title card from A GIRL’S FOLLY. Having set up some romantic entanglements — Robert Warwick, it seems, just ain’t a one-woman guy — the movie decamps to the mountains, where we can expect heroine Doris Kenyon to collide with the movie-making troupe.

I remain unconvinced that the featured cameraman character is being played by Josef Von Sternberg. His role seems slightly too large (Sternberg was never more than an extra in front of the camera, so far as I know) and the actor too small. JVS was five foot four or five, no colossus, but this guy looks to be five foot nothing or under.

Hard to be sure without knowing the heights of his co-stars, but the leading lady of the film within the film TOWERS over him. He could go work for Polanski, who apparently likes short operators because they see the world the same way he does.

Doris at home — she swats a fly. Tourneur cheerfully undercuts the romance of country living just as he’s undercut the romance of movie-making.

Fantastic insert shot of an owl. A studio job — it still can’t convince me that the bright day-for-night sunlight of the location shots is moonglow, and I don’t know that even a blue filter would do the job, but one has to suspend one’s disbelief some of the time. I have a weakness regarding silent movie day for night — especially in NOSFERATU, where nightfall and dawn are such important plot points.

Doris is joined again by her spectral troubadour boyfriend — it’s been so long since she was introduced, a reminder of his (non-) existence is necessary. The transparent actor strums his mandible mandolin using only one thumb, dragging it across the fingerboard in a series of repetitive movements surely more pleasant to look at than to listen to. His other hand does random fingering of the frets. Nothing about this looks authentic to me, so it’s a good job he’s transparent, which works as an alibi for any kind of inauthenticity, I find.

Doris’s flesh-and-blood beau then shows up and rests his chin on her shoulder the way the Red Queen does to Alice. Then there’s an invasion of print damage, a column of bubbling effulgence down the centre of the frame, and a shot of Doris’ slumbering dad with a daddy long legs on his face, being operated by an occasionally visible wire. These things are the very staples of entertainment as far as I’m concerned. If the film keeps up this rate of stimulus I’ll never finish writing about it. (We’re nearly halfway, actually).

A classic bit of business, trotted out here for maybe the first time — Doris interrupts the shooting of a scene when she doesn’t realise that Warwick’s fall from horseback is a stunt. See every innocent abroad’s encounter with an apache dance.

Original or not, this business serves as a meet cute, and soon Doris is planning to run away and join the movie business — TO BE CONTINUED.