Archive for Manhattan Madness

The Sunday Intertitle: Douglas Fairbanks Hearts Miklos Jancso

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2011 by dcairns

Doug, the wonder boy of the silent screen, likes to unwind by meditating upon the long tracking shots of a ’60s Hungarian arthouse epic.

WILD AND WOOLLY (1917), directed by John Emerson and written by Anita Loos, is in many ways a companion piece to the previous year’s MANHATTAN MADNESS (Allan Dwan) — both are posited on east-west contrasts of Wild West buckaroo hi-jinks versus New York metropolitan shenangans, and both involve Doug being caught up in elaborate charades staged for his benefit, making each a prototype of David Fincher’s THE GAME.

In W&W, Doug is a cowboy enthusiast and businessman sent way out west, where the townsfolk try to impress him by putting on bar-room brawls, gunfights, a train robbery and an Indian uprising. This stuff has the delirious, cliche-wallowing strangeness of WESTWORLD. Things get out of hand when the Indians revolt for real, having figured out that an entire town firing blanks to impress a visitor will be a pushover. Now it’s up to the soft Easterner to save the day. Lots of clambering over rooftops, jumping on horses, etc, and a nice moment where Doug gains access to the ammo in his upstairs hotel room by climbing onto a ceiling beam in the downstairs bar and kicking his way through the floor of his room.

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The Sunday Intertitle: Go East, Young Man!

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , on January 17, 2010 by dcairns

From MANHATTAN MADNESS, directed by Allan Dwan, where Doug Fairbanks complains of the inferior quality of violence available to the sophisticated gentleman in New York, as opposed to the prairies of Nevada.

Doug has come East to negotiate the sale of some horses to the mysterious Count Winkie (a man so mysterious he hasn’t considered changing his name), and finds himself the recipient of a crazy plot involving kidnapping and much athletic climbing about on the outside of a house.

After the visual splendor and economy of A MODERN MUSKETEER, this one seemed unambitious and primitive, but then it was made a year earlier — during which time Dwan honed his craft on twelve or so movies. Also, my copy of this one played much too fast, rendering the fisticuffs chaotic and the cutting stroboscopic. Perhaps post-1916 re-editing was also to blame, since the IMDb gives Winkie’s name as the more sensible Marinoff. Somebody may have tried to turn this from light comedy adventure into slapstick farce. Weirdly, the plot felt like five minutes’ work, while the intertitles seemed redolent with wit and likely the product of long hours’ cogitation. A strange set of priorities, somebody had.

Still, Doug is as irrepressible as ever, and winks at the audience at least three times, which is good enough for me. He is the real Count Winkie, and the biggest media winker prior to Superman.  I’m working my way up to the really celebrated Fairbankses — THIEF OF BAGDAD, ROBIN HOOD, THE GAUCHO, THE IRON MASK, WHEN THE CLOUDS ROLL BY…