Archive for Baby Peggy

You know me, anything in a pith helmet.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on February 3, 2021 by dcairns

Episode 4 of THE RETURN OF CHANDU picks up quite a bit. I neglected to tell you that at the end of Ep 3, Chandu and his supporting cast take off on a private sailboat, hoping to escape the evil cult. But the evil cult leader is aboard! Oh no, this is the very thing we wanted to avoid.

Now read on…

The evil cult leader, who is really more of a first officer, disables the boat’s engine’s and attempts to do an Ann Darrow on Princess Nadja, abducting her onto a rowboat under cover of darkness. But Chandu steps in and uses his hypnotic powers, augmented by that special WHITE ZOMBIE lighting around his eyes, to thwart the scheming evildoer, who has to settle for jumping overboard to escape the whammy.

Dissolve to the port sets from SON OF KONG, where a cult member disguised as a colonial cop succeeds in abducting the Princess and her chum Dorothy Regent, who’s played by silent film goddess Clara Kimball Young.

Chandu doesn’t need to use his spiritual powers on this one, he just follows the sound of sinister drumming and is able to interrupt a HELP! style human sacrifice at their temple, in a back room of this dive bar. Having a temple in a bar seems like good one-stop-shopping for all your spiritual needs, however the Bast statue and the altar and sacrificial flame look incongruous in what seems to be another recycled set with an OLD DARK HOUSE vibe. (It’s not literally from ODH though, you can tell by the banisters.)

Oh, we also get what passes in my book for a Special Guest Star: this is Louise Emmons, whose pouchy face I recognized at once from THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, where she plays a comprachico, kind of another cult member, part of Victor Hugo’s fictional tribe of gypsy freakmakers. Nice to see her again, and it feels strange to have such an elderly bit player making the transition into talkies. While gathering nuts for the winter.

She’s no Baby Peggy but I’m grabbing all the star power I can here.

Chandu puts the whammy on an acolyte and enters in disguise (the acolytes wear sort of black pussy hats, or more properly pussy hoods, in which Bela Lugosi looks extremely cute). And then there’s what Scots would call “a big rammy,” a chaotic saloon-brawl punch-up in which inevitably the banisters get the worst of it, and the cult’s deputy leader falls into the flames.

And then, with the ladies rescued, another weird low-tension un-cliffhanger: Chandu is chatting up the Princess and seems to be getting on quite well, and everybody is satisfied that the evil Ubasti cult is no more, and then we cut away to a pyramid-encrusted island and it turns out they’re still out there. But the threat is, by definition, far off… ending the episode here and calling it a cliffhanger is a bit like having your hero spot a cliff through a telescope and say, “What about we hike over there and hang off that thing?” I question whether it really qualifies as a suspenseful finish.

However, the Ubastis have the big gate from KING KONG, so we’re definitely watching episode 5! With no giant gorilla, the gate is merely an excuse to eat up footage, with the vast doors swinging laboriously open each time, just to admit normal-sized dudes. Brilliant.

Can-Do Chandu

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on January 28, 2021 by dcairns

I was looking around for another serial to watch and we tried THE RETURN OF CHANDU but Fiona found it too boring after four episodes. Still, it prompted some observations.

Fun that Bela Lugosi got promoted from being the villain in CHANDU THE MAGICIAN, the William Cameron Menzies/Marcel Varnel feature, to being Chandu himself in the sequel serial. And kind of a shame that he’s actually really GOOD in this — subtle and sympathetic. I say it’s a shame because those qualities are kind of squandered on this material, you know?

The most exciting performance is from Baby Peggy, but she’s only in a couple of episodes as a random party guest. She should have been the female lead, although on the other hand she really didn’t want to be acting at that point and was only doing it because her family had spent all her silent movie child star money and still expected her to support them. Still, she brings rare zest to the proceedings.

You can immediately see that she’s too interesting-looking to play a movie serial female lead.

I dunno, I would probably have kept wasting my life watching this. I think we need to find another serial we can both dig, though.

The Sunday Intertitle: Boxed Baby

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , on November 11, 2018 by dcairns

THE FAMILY SECRET is a Baby Peggy movie directed by William Seiter. It’s a fairly efficient cuteness delivery mechanism for Peggy’s perky personality, apart from her taking a few minutes to get born at the start and the fact that she’s a literal baby for the whole prologue, reduced to a carry-on prop and played by an actual infant. Things only get going properly when she becomes herself. The same is true for all of us.

Waiting for Baby Peggy is like waiting for Groucho.

I like Seiter’s flat-on, boxy compositions. Maybe they add to the story’s sense of Baby P. as a chaotic free spirit trapped in a fusty, rigid household. One early shot fulfills my Eternal Dream: the corners of the room match and lot into the corners of the frame exactly. You could project this life-size and then, if you were Buster Keaton, you could just walk right in, in the manner of Sherlock Jr.

Of course, Baby Peggy is still happily with us, aged 100. So it would be quite possible to project this film at the right scale and let her have a shot of tottering in. She could meet her younger self and destroy the whole space-time continuum, which let’s face it has been in decline for a while now and could probably use clearing away.

Do it, Baby Peggy!