Archive for the FILM Category

A Schedule for Chaplin

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on May 13, 2021 by dcairns

Since this year is the 100th anniversary of THE KID, maybe I could accelerate my writing on Chaplin enough to get around to writing about that one before the year’s out? Admittedly, THE KID premiered in February 1921 so I’m too late for the actual, to-the-day centennial, but if I get my skates on I could celebrate the centenary of PAY DAY in Sepember. Not sure anybody sees that as a major event, but it was technically Chaplin’s last short so it has some significance.

Certainly the idea of following Chaplin’s own sched seems foolish — it would mean slowing down to one piece a year, then gaps of years between pieces. And the only real reason to watch all his films in order is to get a sense of CC’s development as filmmaker and clown, which would tend to be dissipated if I leave seven years between THE GREAT DICTATOR and MONSIEUR VERDOUX, or ten years between A KING IN NEW YORK and A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG. Longterm projects are reassuring in these uncertain times, but there are limits.

If I do one Chaplin a week I’ll hit THE KID in October. To hit PAY DAY in September I’ll need to go faster. So maybe we should have a Chaplin Week somewhere in there, probably during the Mutual period? (I have half the Essanay films to do, then all the Mutuals, then five First Nationals before it’s Jackie Coogan Time)…

Drowning in a Sea of Bliss

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2021 by dcairns

ON SUCH A NIGHT might not qualify as a forgotten gem but its certainly a curio. Grant Richards (as “Nicky Last”) is going to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit but a flood gives him a second chance. His new wife, Karen Morley tries to rescue him with Alan Mowbray’s travelling magic show but they’re pursued by the real killer, Eduardo Ciannelli (as “Ice Richards”) and a fast-talking newspaperman (Roscoe Karns) and they all end up stranded by the flood in a southern mansion full of stereotypes of one kind or another (white-bearded colonel, superstitious black servants).

The verbose and ebullient Mowbray (as Professor Ricardo Montrose Candle) seems to be inhabited a role conceived for WC Fields — florid speech, including “comic” racism (“My suntanned friend”), elaborate endearments, legerdemaine, perhaps with Lupe Velez as the missus ( “My little cactus flower.”) Here, she’s played by Milly, much later in THE CONFORMIST as Trintignant’s mum. Such recasting would have moved this movie towards INTERNATIONAL HOUSE territory. Despite the thriller aspects — which show signs of promise early on — it’s halfway to such lunacy anyway. WC Fields in a disaster movie is an inspiring thought. You could get him to say the title: “Why, it’s a veritable towering inferno.” “My, my, my, this is quite the Poseidon adventure.”

And yes, E.A. Dupont directs. There’s a bit of unchained camera business going on, but it doesn’t rise to the spectacular. Still, it’s a peculiar and different film, an independent production now seemingly extant only in a ratty, fuzzy form. I’ll take what I can get: several of Dupont’s US films aren’t discoverable at all…

Oh, and Mowbray speaks of composing a song to be entitled “Drowning in a Sea of Bliss,” but since he never gets anywhere with it, I’m attempting a set of lyrics.

I’m drowning in a sea of bliss

Sinking down for your liquid kiss

It’s not that surprising

The water is rising

With the sound of a terrible hiss

A dum-dee dee dum…

ON SUCH A NIGHT stars Philo Vance; Pendola Molloy; Oscar Shapeley; Dr. Satan; Madre di Marcello Clerici; Granville Thorndyke; Dr. Lupus Crumm; Mrs. Leeson; Himmelstoss: Capt. Englehorn; Teeler Yacey; ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ Brewster; Uncle Cato; Black Mammy (uncredited); Little Joe Jackson; Yankee on Street (uncredited); and Fantastic Brown.

Panchromatic Pandemic

Posted in FILM with tags on May 11, 2021 by dcairns

I have a new piece at The Chiseler. Writing it kind of gave me palpitations, although I’d had too much coffee also. Never muse on the Coronavirus and the future of cinema on five cups.