Archive for Marion Davies

The Sunday Intertitle: Ready for Teddy

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on July 15, 2018 by dcairns

Ugh. It turns out I have a DVD of Monta Bell’s LIGHTS OF OLD BROADWAY starring two Marion Davieses, but it is of unwatchably poor quality. Good thing we saw a beautiful print of it in Bologna.

The juvenile Teddy Roosevelt who makes a cameo is replaced by a faceless radioactive golem, which is a lot less funny. He just makes the whole thing creepy. Throughout this blurry nightmare, anyone who’s not in tight close-up loses all their facial features except for eyebrows, if dark, and mustaches, if present. So, obviously Marion is the big loser here.

Balanced atop a tower of tables, our star is transformed from a feisty Irish colleen to a terrifying, flour-encrusted zombie out of a Lucio Fulci movie. Don’t bootleg, kids! Home taping is killing music — and it’s illegal. Although, if you want to experience an analog of extreme autism, watching a silent movie populated by faceless cyphers might, I suppose, be illuminating.

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I Guess That’s Why They Call Them McHughs

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2018 by dcairns

Thursday kicked off with LIGHTS OF OLD BROADWAY, a fun Marion Davies vehicle in which she played twins, separated at birth and never really reunited since director Monta Bell apparently hadn’t heard of split-screen. One twin is posh and boring, to make producer William Randolph Hearst happy, one is a boisterous Irish colleen, to give vent to Davies’ comedy chops, if chops can be said to have a vent.

The old New York setting was amusingly rendered — 5th Avenue looked like a troglodyte enclave, and there were walk-ons by a nubile Thos. Edison and an eight-year-old Teddy Roosevelt. The movie burst into Technicolor to render scenes in the variety hall where Davies dances, and when the electric street lights come on for the first time.

Frank Currier throttles Charles McHugh. We all win.

The daily spanking was performed on Davies by her rambunctious da, ever-ready to bean an Orangeman with a brick, and then on him by her. The Davies sire was played by Charles McHugh, the spit of Matt McHugh, whom I take to be his son, but neither the IMDb nor Wikipedia confirm this.

Matt turned up, in an archetypal sidekick role as Butts McGee, hero’s ivory-tickling pal, in THE MAD GAME, a Fox post-code with a lot of interesting elements. It does go downhill when gangster Spencer Tracy reforms and has plastic surgery to go undercover. You can’t really disguise a face like Tracy’s. Everything is too big to add to. The anonymous artisan entrusted with the job dyes the star’s hair, tans his skin, applies a Dirty Sanchez mustache, wouldn’t-it-be-rubbery yellowface eyelids, false teeth and a lot of Don Corleone appliances stuffed in his mouth. Even Tracy can’t act through that lot, and it kind of hurts to look at him, but he does do a good voice — very Don Corleone, in fact.

This may be why Tracy didn’t use much make-up when he played Mr. Hyde. And have you EVER seen him in an effective make-up?

Meanwhile, the great Frank McHugh (or Fronk McHuge if you’re Jean-Pierre Melville), with whom the McHugh clan reached its schlub-apogee, has been conspicuously absent from Bologna, something that should be rectified with his own retrospective sometime soon.

A Miss

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2017 by dcairns

Unable to see everything showing at the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival — adding up the price of tickets and the price of transport, I decided to skip last night’s show of TOGETHER, Lorenza Mazzetti’s 1956 film, described by Lindsay Anderson as an early example of Free Cinema, and tonight’s showing of King Vidor’s THE PATSY, starring Marion Davies. This decision was something of a wrench! Maud Nelissen is doing the music for the latter, along with Filmorchestra The Sprockets, and she was behind the greatest musical/cinematic spectacle of my life, Von Stroheim’s THE MERRY WIDOW in Bologna.

But I have to save money somewhere, and schlepping to Bo’ness for one movie would not be economical. Plus I have seen THE PATSY on the big screen before (though I’ve totally forgotten WHERE — I think it must have been Edinburgh Film Fest and it must have been over a decade ago. I know I saw THE SCARLET LETTER).

THE PATSY is a charmer. Maybe less ambitious than SHOW PEOPLE but funnier. Marion gets to freak out wicked stepmother Marie Dressler by pretending to be crazy, and she also performs (on the slenderest excuse) drop-dead accurate parodies of rival movie stars ~

Gloria Swanson. Mae Murray.

Lillian Gish.

Pola Negri.

This was almost a standard bit at the time — doesn’t Colleen Moore do more of less the same thing in ELLA CINDERS? Or maybe Beatrice Lillie in EXIT SMILING? I wonder how those parodied took it?