Archive for Goldwyn


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on May 11, 2010 by dcairns

I used to think it was pretty neat that HE WHO GETS SLAPPED, my favourite movie, and the first MGM release, actually features a prominently placed lion in its action. Leo plays a crucial role in the plot, so it seemed just super that he also turns up in the MGM logo, proclaiming Ars Gratia Artis in lionese.

But now I’ve finally seen a Samuel Goldwyn production (SOULS FOR SALE) from before he got into bed, however briefly, with Mr. Mayer and Mr. Metro (what a funny name to have!), and I see that Leo is already very much part of the picture. Although he hasn’t yet perfected his roar, he just blinks very slowly and sadly at us, and attempts a sort of Cliff Richard sneer.

Actually, I’m not absolutely positive it’s the same lion.

Some dissertation could probably be written on Leo’s various incarnations. In the Technicolor days he lets rip with a massive snarl right off the bat, whereas in the silents, apart from being inaudible, he tends to sit there like a lemon for a quite a bit before giving vent. A sign of the faster pace of later movies, or a consequence of the demands of sound? Michel Chion should get to work on this.

Intertitle of the Week: Slumdog Millinery

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on May 17, 2009 by dcairns

Blizzard, underworld emperor of the Barbary Coast (Lon Chaney), attempts to conquer San Francisco — with headgear:


Such is the demented plot of THE PENALTY, directed by underrated Hollywood hack Wallace Worseley (THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME). This is the one where Chaney, as Blizzard, is famously truncated at the knees, stumping about in leather stump-boots, an impressive bit of costume and performance trickery. Gasp! as Chaney climbs a wall without benefit of legs! Wince! as he jumps off a table!


Too many good intertitles in this to number. I could take an intertitle a week from this film for a year, without running out of fresh delights, but I might run out of things to say. A few choice ones ~

“Hats and men — what’s the devil up to?”

“That monster ought to be chloroformed and put out of the way.”

“Listen, my baffled hero — if you wish the lady to go free –”

“–you must hand over to me your superb legs.”

“Don’t grieve, dear — death interests me.”

The movie’s chief strategy is to hurl surprise in the audience’s face with the hysterical frenzy of a Japanese schoolgirl in a water balloon fight. And the censor seems to have gotten into the spirit of the thing too, with bizarre decisions which flip conventional morality on its head. When Blizzard is eventually cured of his evil by an experimental brain operation (it wasn’t the loss of his legs that embittered him, it was the “contusion at the base of the skull” which drove him to psychopathy) and allowed to lead an evil life, the moral guardians of the day objected, even though the film clearly states that the character was not legally or morally responsible for his early crimes. So the studio shot an ending where a former criminal associate assassinates Blizzard and flees into the night. Justice is satisfied — in an ending where a good man is murdered and the guy who did it escapes scot-free to continue his criminal empire.


Even after the end title, we get the thrill of seeing the Goldwyn lion (MGM as yet but a twinkle), who does not bestir himself to roar, but merely sits, flyblown and depressed, wondering when is lunch. Based on this experience, I’m starting to think director Wallace Worseley may be a competitor for Tod Browning’s crown, as king of silent insanity. A fresh viewing of HUNCHBACK seems like a possibility.

Quote of the Day: The Bosses of it all

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , on March 31, 2008 by dcairns


‘Of all the bosses with whom I collaborated, Selznick and Zanuck and Goldwyn were the brightest. David, in the days he loved movie-making, was a brilliant plotter. He could think of twenty different permutations of any given scene without stopping to catch his breath. Darryl was also quick and sharp and plotted at the top of his voice, like a man hollering for help. Goldwyn as a collaborator was inarticulate but stimulating. He filled the room with wonderful panic and beat at your mind like a man in front of a slot-machine shaking it for change.’

~ Ben Hecht, A Child of the Century.

Gotta get this book. A kind-hearted student once photocopied an entire chapter of it, in which Hecht talks about movie censorship. He says that since movies always faded out just as characters were about to have sex, it’s natural to imagine that EVERY fade-out is a prelude to unbridled coupling. Next time you’re watching a 30s or 40s film and it’s proving a disappointment (maybe one of those BOSTON BLACKIE things, they’re dull as all hell), this might be a nice way to enliven it — imaginary intersticial pornography.

Bob and carol and Ted and Blackie


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