Archive for Anita Loos

The Sunday Intertitle: Meat Cute

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on October 30, 2016 by dcairns

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In the Doug Fairbanks vehicle HIS PICTURE IN THE PAPERS, directed by John Emerson and co-written with Mrs. Emerson — Anita Loos, the more talented half of the team — Fairbanks plays the heir to a vegetarian health food empire who prefers martinis, pugilism and roast beef to his fathers diet of “perforated peas” and “toasted tootsies.”

To effect the traditional meet cute, the plot has Doug sneak off to a restaurant to enjoy a steak, where he will encounter the leading lady, also a supposed veggie, also moonlighting as a meat-eater.

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Oddly, though the film is shameless propaganda for the carnivorous cause, depicting herbivores as timid and bloodless creatures, effete and un-American, photographically speaking it makes the greens look more appealing, even though they’re robbed of greenness in the b&w image. Doug’s dish, on the other hand, looks pretty disgusting onscreen, its natural colour leeched away. in his enthusiasm, Doug contrives to exacerbate the problem — in a typical bit of silent-movie actorly business, he tries to gesture excitedly at the meat in the insert shot, his fingers protruding into frame and seemingly giving the slab of flesh an affectionate pat.

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Who does that?

A lot of Doug’s eating-acting is similarly overdone, with facial expressions more appropriate to a soul in torment than a man enjoying a slap-up beanfeast. This may be why his reputation has survived more as a performer of impressive stunts than as a performative gourmand.

Also featuring Erich Von Stroheim as “One of the Weazels.”

The Sunday Intertitle: I’m Your Secretary

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on August 31, 2014 by dcairns

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THE SOCIAL SECRETARY, from the husband-and-wife team of John Emerson and Anita Loos. Emerson is remembered almost solely for being Mr. Loos, which isn’t quite fair but is nearly fair. As director, he does a drunke scene wobblycam shot here that’s pretty damn inventive for 1916. But it’s his sole flourish.

You can’t quite make a feminist hero out of Anita. Because I say so. While the fact that she had a glittering career and was such a sharp observer of the Hollywood scene makes her a poster girl for the cause, what she wrote is informed by all sorts of prejudices of the day — she’s not trying to strike a blow for the girls, just trying to amuse herself and her audience.

In THE SOCIAL SECRETARY, Norma Talmadge can’t keep a job because her bosses are always flirting with her. Cue shots of dowdy secretaries at the secretarial rooming house she stays at, complaining that they’ve never had any problems. Meanwhile, a rich society dame is complaining her secretaries always leave to get married. Her ne’er-do-well son suggests advertising for one with the proviso “Must be extremely unattractive to men.” Norma sees this ad and sees in it the answer to her problem. Donning glasses and putting her hair in a bun and assuming a sniffy expression, she snaps up the position in a jiffy, even though none of this disguise conceals the fact that her figure is… well, “unattractive” wouldn’t be the first word I’d think of.

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This being 1916, on her days off, Norma throws off her frumpy dress to reveal, beneath it, another frumpy dress.

Should have been a nice romcom but is more straight drama. Most welcome surprise is a sleazy journalist, played by —

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Erich Von Stroheim. Trading monocle for pince-nez. Playing it for laughs, which consists of a sour expression to match Norma’s when she’s in frumpface.

Intertitles keep harping on about what a scavenger, what a vulture he is, kind of unnecessary when Loos has named him Mr. Buzzard. Intertitles generally a bit lacking in wit. “Was Anita on strike?” asked Fiona after one which read, simply, “Midnight.” “It’s no MATRIMANIAC,” I agreed. “Nothing is.”

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes -and- But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady

The Sunday Intertitle: Douglas Fairbanks Hearts Miklos Jancso

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2011 by dcairns

Doug, the wonder boy of the silent screen, likes to unwind by meditating upon the long tracking shots of a ’60s Hungarian arthouse epic.

WILD AND WOOLLY (1917), directed by John Emerson and written by Anita Loos, is in many ways a companion piece to the previous year’s MANHATTAN MADNESS (Allan Dwan) — both are posited on east-west contrasts of Wild West buckaroo hi-jinks versus New York metropolitan shenangans, and both involve Doug being caught up in elaborate charades staged for his benefit, making each a prototype of David Fincher’s THE GAME.

In W&W, Doug is a cowboy enthusiast and businessman sent way out west, where the townsfolk try to impress him by putting on bar-room brawls, gunfights, a train robbery and an Indian uprising. This stuff has the delirious, cliche-wallowing strangeness of WESTWORLD. Things get out of hand when the Indians revolt for real, having figured out that an entire town firing blanks to impress a visitor will be a pushover. Now it’s up to the soft Easterner to save the day. Lots of clambering over rooftops, jumping on horses, etc, and a nice moment where Doug gains access to the ammo in his upstairs hotel room by climbing onto a ceiling beam in the downstairs bar and kicking his way through the floor of his room.