Archive for Bebe Daniels

The Sunday Intertitle: Luke Out

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on August 11, 2019 by dcairns

OK, one last Lonesome Luke film, LUKE JOINS THE NAVY. It seems to be the last one on YouTube, increbibly: they’re all out of copyright so I thought there might be lots.

This one is… short and mostly inoffensive. There’s a little dwarf-kicking, but they expect it, don’t they. The film looks to be only a fragment or truncation. Lloyd shows great agility. There’s even an intertitle, luckily for me, though it looks modern and who knows if even the wording is authentic?

Again, there’s no real difference between Snub Pollard’s character and Luke’s. Why have the little guy at all? When Harold discovered the “glasses character,” who quickly revealed a gentler side, Snub almost immediately became the heavy, which gave him a reason for being there. And maybe it’s OK to have a short, stocky villain? Like Yosemite Sam? Although I think in the later features Lloyd always benefitted from being up against impossible odds, otherwise it was too obvious that the clean-cut boy next door was going to win.

My favourite bit here might be the zero tolerance approach to pathos. Luke definitively loses the girl (an embryonic Bebe Daniels, I think) less than a minute in, and launches into a vile, gurning bawl. An old-timer smacks him hard in the face, and he snaps right out of it and gets back to his knockabout. Good!

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The Sunday Intertitle: Use Force, Luke!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on August 4, 2019 by dcairns

LUKE’S MOVIE MUDDLE (1916) AKA THE CINEMA DIRECTOR… gets by, like MENILMONTANT and THE LAST LAUGH, without intertitles, though this particular print, the sharpest on YouTube, has no main title either.

But text seems uncalled-for, as the action is so basic. If last week’s Luke short was just people hitting each other with clubs, and it was, this one is all people being shoved into an out of chairs. The site of suffering shifts downwards from cranium to coccyx.

All very limited, but short enough not to outstay its welcome. And there’s nostalgia for the day when your fellow customers’ hats were the biggest nuisance you faced in the audience. Actually, no — 1916 punters no doubt talked loudly, crunched their food, rustled their wrappers and laughed in the wrong places, we just don’t get that here because its a silent film.

The Sunday Intertitle: Wirework

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2018 by dcairns

1910’s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (Otis Turner) is a very sound example of those earlies that almost seem to be built around their intertitles. The system is simple: reduce a famous book everyone sort-of knows to about eight sentences. Insert shots illustrating those sentences in between thee titles. Film done!

Dorothy is blown to Oz along with a cow and a donkey and a scarecrow (he’s not an Oz native in this version, so we’ll have no mucking about with dreams at the end). The animals are men in costumes — I’m assuming they’d be men, in which case the cow is also a drag act. The loose-limbed Scarecrow is pure Ray Bolger, a welcome link forward to what we all feel is the authentic OZ film of ’39.

On touchdown, most of the characters are shown already in situ, just sort of ACTING as if they’ve been dropped by a cyclone, but the Scarecrow drops from a great height, falls gently to earth, then rolls over several times before getting his bearings. This worried me, rather. I’ll explain.

When Mark Cousins interviewed Donald Sutherland, the Great Man talked about doing his rope-dangling but in the church in DON’T LOOK NOW by himself because “The stunt-man, at the last minute, didn’t want to do it for some reason.” (If it were me, I’d be very curious about the reason.) Years later, Sutherland was complimented on his bravery by another stuntman. “Oh, it was quite safe, I had a Kirby wire on.” “Yes, but you were going LIKE THAT,” [rotates finger to indicate spinning] “Yes?” “Well, when you go LIKE THAT [rotates finger] on a Kirby wire, the Kirby wire BREAKS.”

So I hope that scarecrow didn’t do too many takes.

Anyway, turns out Dorothy is played by a tiny, nine-year-old Bebe Daniels and the Scarecrow is future director Robert Z. Leonard. He would have been on the MGM lot when they were filming the ’39 version! He could have said, “Remember, play him LOOSE-LIMBED!” I’m fantasising — Ray Bolger never in his life needed THAT bit of advice.

Oh, Momba the Witch (Winifred Greenwood) also enters by wire, and it’s a real coup de cinema, as she soars over the heads of a throng of Ozites, who scatter as she lands, centre-screen and resplendent. Glinda the Good (Olive Cox) pops from the undergrowth on a wire that just elevates her a few inches off the ground for a moment, but gives her rise a fluid, effortless grace. Amazing what you can do with wires. When you consider the actors who have done their most popular work on wires (Chow-Yun Fat, the entire cast of THE MATRIX) it’s surprising we don’t attach all our actors to wires all the time. We might not choose to yank Tom Hanks twenty feet in the air to emphasise a dramatic moment in THE POST, but the facilities would be on hand if we did.

The Lion is a man in a costume, but he wears a great big lion head, so he doesn’t have Bert Lahr’s expressiveness. (You know that W.C. Fields nearly played the Wizard? He went so far as to annotate his script with additional dialogue. The best line read, “Remarkable! He even smells like a lion.” The friend who told me this added, “It would have been a whole. Different. Movie.”)

The Tin Woodsman, looking just like Jack Haley, is surrounded by a bleak landscape of massive deforestation. Leave him rusty! Seeing him referred to as The Woodsman got me thinking about David Lynch, a big fan of the Victor Fleming version. And bang on cue, a winged frog shows up! Coincidence? I think not!

Momba’s house has an evil face. I wondered if, like Baba Yaga’s domicile, it could get up and walk. But it doesn’t bother.

Momba’s fatal dowsing doesn’t make her shrink through the floor, she just fades away, like Graf Orlok in NOSFERATU.

The Great Oz himself is Hobart Bosworth, who would direct what may have been America’s first feature film, THE SEA WOLF, a few years later. It’s lost now, swept away on the great cyclone Time.