Archive for Lew Cody

Naked Constance Bennett Destroys Editing

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2014 by dcairns

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THE COMMON LAW is an RKO-Pathe pre-code featuring a skinny, tousled, painfully young Joel McCrea (whose acting, however, is exactly as it would remain, which is to say, just great) as a painter in a Paris garret and a young, skinny, non-tousled Constance Bennett as his life model.

The story isn’t very interesting, though sometimes the dialogue is OK and the artists’ ball bit is a nice spectacle. There are two things of greater interest than either of those, though.

The first is the way Constance Bennett destroys the art of montage by disrobing. The movie is pre-code alright, but it’s not THAT pre-code, so that when McCrea is conversing with the nekkid lady, director Paul L. Stein (a minor German import) is compelled to cover the conversation from one side only, that of McCrea (today the temptation might be to go the opposite route). This has the effect of making the editor’s craft, elsewhere striving for invisibility, very much visible and indeed obtrusive. Bennett becomes a merely radiophonic presence, like a putatively unclothed poltergeist or something. The longer she remains invisibly naked, the more visible and the more naked Stein becomes.

Finally, Stein tracks away, way back, red-faced, to take in the whole scene and we might wonder what all the fuss was about, since CB is artfully draped…

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The other thing of note is Robert Williams, who would be elevated to leading man status in Frank Capra’s PLATINUM BLONDE, opposite Jean Harlow and Loretta Young. Close proximity to that pair might be more than many of us could handle, and Williams promptly dropped dead, before the film was even in cinemas.

It’s even more tragic than that cheap joke. Williams was a unique talent, with an odd voice, face and delivery, but so appealing and offbeat that he could conceivably have been a major star. Even if he’d simply sunk back into best pal parts (his role here), his quirky, almost Fieldsian delivery would surely have kept him busy in the Frank McHugh/Jack Carson type roles.

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Less interesting but noteworthy: Lew Cody, Hedda Hopper, and Yola D’Avril, who played an unending array of Fifis in early thirties Hollywood. OK, only three of her characters were actually called Fifi, but three is quite a lot. Al Pacino, one of our most versatile thesps, has NEVER played a character called Fifi, which gives you some idea.

The Sunday Intertitle: No Logo for Old Men

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on June 5, 2011 by dcairns

Gee Willikers, if Marshall Neilan had lived a bit longer he’d probably have had to seriously rethink his company logo.

It should be stressed that the year was 1925, the Nazi party didn’t exist, and the symbol in the centre had mystical associations but no political ones the Nazi party was still small, and the symbol’s mystic overtones still superseded its political ones. I’m betting this was the last time a swastika appeared as a logo on an MGM movie, though.

The film is THE SPORTING VENUS, an MGM melo with a bit of humour (but not enough) starring Blanche Sweet as “Lady Gwendolyne”, a high-class Scottish lady, and Ronald Colman as the lowly Scotsman who woos her.

Almost everybody’s Scottish in this film, except suave and villainous Count Marno (Lew Cody). And the titles boast of their location shooting — unlike many older “location” pics, this one does seem to have possibly sent its stars out of the country (to Cortachy Castle in Angus) rather than just gathering some second unit landscape plates to back-project behind them.

Too bad the movie’s so uninspired — heavy with MGM “quality”. Colman is handsome, Sweet is unusual, the Scottish settings were interesting to me, and I guess to be fair one would need to see a decent print before passing judgment on it. Hank Mann, the drunken millionaire from CITY LIGHTS, provides comedy relief. Here’s a review from the legendary F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre. I’d like to think my dodgy DVD was maybe filmed off his Steenbeck.

I haven’t had much luck with Marshall Neilan so far but I do intend to sample one of his more reputable hits.

The Sunday Intertitle: A Thrill in Three Tongues

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on May 16, 2010 by dcairns

Lew Cody, whose performance in SOULS FOR SALE gets hammier each time he appears. The above image catches him at the midpoint between Act 1 restraint and Act 3 barnstorming.

I’m still wittering on about SOULS FOR SALE, mainly because I’ve been so busy (mostly with unproductive busywork) this week that I haven’t seen any more silent films. Still, this one is a doozy.

Having fled to Egypt in an undeveloped plotline that really should have been excised from the script (but the author of the source novel is screenwriter and director of the film), serial killer Scudder takes in a movie, and by chance discovers that his runaway bride has become a star. “Scudder couldn’t read the French or Arabic subtitle, but the English version held a thrill for him.”

So what we have here is a trilingual intertitle from a film within a film. Some novelty value there, I’d say. Don’t say you don’t get your money’s worth.

I’ve never seen a film in Egypt but I did see GHOST IN THE SHELL in Marrakech, which was an interesting experience. A movie ticket is very cheap in Morocco, so people mainly go for the air conditioning, to talk in the comfort of a cool, shaded environment. They not only do not switch off their mobile phones, they answer them and have long talks while the film is in progress. This wasn’t as distracting as it might have been, since absolutely everybody was doing it, all the time. Still, I wouldn’t really want to be a filmgoer in Morocco, since the kind of immersive experience I seek in a movie wasn’t really possible there.

This was at the Marrakech International Film Festival, an extraordinary beanfeast which I shall tell you all about another time.

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