Archive for Chaplin’s Goliath

I Was Hippodrome’s First Victim

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2015 by dcairns

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I got an early heads-up on the programme for this year’s Hippodrome Festival of Silent Film, unspooling in scenic Bo’ness in March (18th-22nd), and it’s exciting stuff. I think the choices have been getting bolder each year as the films play to packed houses. It’s one thing to run Chaplin films with live music, it’s another to add Ozu to the mix. This year we have forgotten movie stars and filmmakers known to silent buffs but unfamiliar to the general public, but the loyal audiences of Bo’ness can be trusted to trust the Fest in turn and show up, knowing it’ll be worthwhile, even as a devoted crowd of silent movie buffs descends on the sleepy town for whing-ding, I believe it’s called.

Very excited about William S. Hart’s HELL’S HINGES, to be accompanied by Neil Brand and the Dodge Brothers. They performed along to BEGGARS OF LIFE last year and it was unbelievably entertaining. There’s still a lot of love for westerns among the older generation in Scotland so I think this chance to discover one of the earliest important cowboy stars will only create an appetite for more. This could be addressed further down the line with Tom Mix, Borzage’s early self-starring oaters, or THE COVERED WAGON and THE IRON HORSE.

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The screening of ANNIE LAURIE pleases me greatly because it was something I suggested a couple of years ago — I have no idea if my hint found its way to the right ears, or if it’s just a coincidence. The Scottish connection makes it a natural choice, and Lillian Gish is overdue for an appearance. It’ll be great to finally see a good print, especially with the Technicolor sequence.

Also Scottish-themed, in a way, is Oscar-winner Kevin MacDonald’s documentary CHAPLIN’S GOLIATH, telling the story Eric Campbell (he of the eyebrows), who liked to claim he was from Dunoon (due west of Bo’ness on the opposite coast). Fresh information, as they call it, has since come to light, but I’m glad MacDonald got his Scottish-funded doc made before research cut the legs from under it… It’ll also be great to see the man-mountain E.C. on the big screen, menacing Charlie as usual.

Surprise choices CHILDREN OF NO IMPORTANCE and SALT FOR SVANETIA continue to broaden the fest’s scope in bold new directions. I’m excited about the rarely-seen SYNTHETIC SIN with Colleen Moore, and favourites PICCADILLY, THE NAVIGATOR and the Barrymore DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE all make appearances with exciting new music.

A shame there’s no Jane Gardner this year, but addicts can check out her trio at The Wash House, Portobello this weekend, with screenings of THE BLACK PIRATE on Friday and SEVEN CHANCES (with ONE WEEK) on Saturday. Yay!

The St Andrew’s Day Intertitle

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on December 2, 2013 by dcairns

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Finding intertitles from late movies to write about for the blogathon is always an interesting task. This one is from THE ADVENTURER, and it qualifies because this 1917 Chaplin short is the last appearance — or one of the last, he made four films that year — of Chaplin heavy Eric Campbell.

Chaplin never did find anyone to replace Campbell, although this arguably pushed his plots into more adventurous terrain. Soon after this, the leading lady stops being automatically Edna Purviance, and stops being a stock figure. The villains become a more variegated bunch, and the days of “a park, a pretty girl and a policeman” are over, in favour of more ambitious and sprawling narratives.

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THE ADVENTURER is much more sophisticated than any Keystone knockabout, but it’s still a very tight and simple farce, with Chaplin as escaped convict wooing Edna while trying to avoid the clutches (and truncheons) of the law and the machinations of music hall cad Campbell.

This same year, Campbell, who had a history of drunk driving, finally removed himself from the silent comedy gene pool in an auto smash. His ashes remained unclaimed for thirty-five years, and ended up in an unmarked grave somewhere at Rosedale Cemetery.

He’s an interesting figure. Kevin Macdonald made a documentary about him, CHAPLIN’S GOLIATH, predicated largely on Campbell’s status as a Scottish immigrant to Hollywood and funded by Scottish TV. Part of the film shows the placement of a memorial in the town of Dunoon, Campbell’s claimed birthplace.

But it turns out Campbell wasn’t from Scotland at all. He just liked to say he was.

He apparently thought it sounded more glamorous than Cheshire, or more in tune with the image of the burly, tough hard-drinking lummox. One wonders how Macdonald could avoid stumbling across this fact at some point in the course of making his extensively researched 54-minute film…

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It can at least be said that Campbell went out on a high, with THE ADVENTURER, THE IMMIGRANT, THE CURE and EASY STREET all appearing in that last year. Any one of them would ensure him glowering, mad-eyed immortality.

Charlie Chaplin – The Mutual Films volume 2 (1916) [DVD]

Charlie Chaplin – Essanay & Mutual 3-Disc Steelbook Collection [DVD]

Charlie Chaplin Short Comedy Classics – The Complete Restored Essanay & Mutual Collection