Archive for Queen Kelly

The Sunday Intertitle: Mine, all mine!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2018 by dcairns

Seena Owen goes full Daffy Duck on Gloria Swanson in QUEEN KELLY, Erich Von Stroheim’s attempt to milk the absolute mostest out of every moment of melodrama in a misshapen, rollicking saga of innocence versus corruption and madness. It’s absurd, and impossibly drawn-out, but magnificent, even if only as demented trash.

Spectacularly incomplete — after an hour it starts breaking up into still photographs and captions to compensate for scenes lost, never completed or never filmed — Swanson and her producer, Joseph Kennedy, fired Stroheim when he finally went too far, though what would constitute too far for him is open to debate. It’s a ruin of a film — Kennedy evidently decided it was better for the movie to be ruined than himself, though why they didn’t replace EVS with some hack to quickly polish off the narrative is a mystery — at least they would have ended up with something releasable to show for the millions spent. It’s better this way, just as THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS should have a special edition that omits the scenes shot by other hands and paints in Welles’s missing sequences, using captions, stills, script pages and the stray moment glimpsed in the trailer but not in the final movie…

One surprise that shouldn’t have surprised me — the clip that turns up in SUNSET BLVD to illustrate Norma Desmond’s movie career — about the only commercial purpose those months of filming QK ever served — has been falsified, with fresh intertitles added to it —

In SUNSET BLVD, the sentiment expressed may be similar but the text is different — the intertitle puts into young Gloria’s mouth the words “….Cast out this wicked dream which has seized my heart…” Why change it? I think for RESONANCE — Wilder & Brackett’s new line turns the scene into an analog of SUNSET BLVD itself, with Norma’s movie-star madness as the “wicked dream.” Of course, it could be they’d located a variant print of the film with a wacky different set of titles, or it could be that Wilder just didn’t want any dialogue in his film he hadn’t written himself, or the impulse could have been to make QUEEN KELLY seem even more strange, dated and melodramatic than it already is… which would be impossible if you look at it as a whole, but very possible if you look at this one scene, a relatively restrained one by EVS’s fervid standards.

 

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The Film Preservation Blogathon Intertitle

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2011 by dcairns

I was puzzling over how to locate an intertitle which would connect closely enough with the week’s themes, the Film Preservation Blogathon and film noir… (donate here). I was going to look at the movie theatre at the start of THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE to see if there was any sign of an intertitle in that. I considered looking at silent versions of movies remade as noirs, or even early thirties versions which sometimes had intertitles — maybe the previous versions of THE MALTESE FALCON or THE GLASS KEY would have something suitable?

And then I remembered what should have been obvious — the film noir that’s all about silent cinema, SUNSET BLVD. Which contains extracts from QUEEN KELLY, including an intertitle which may well be the most influential since William S. Hart’s “When you say that — smile!”

It’s clear that SUNSET BLVD is a favorite of David Lynch — MULHOLLAND DR. references it in its title and in its plotline, and it seems to cast a shadow into INLAND EMPIRE also. Well, that intertitle feels very Lynchian — it invokes a mystical feeling, an attempt to exorcise a dream, a dream which has possessed someone (not something dreams are routinely described as doing). It seems to encapsulate the whole Laura Palmer storyline from TWIN PEAKS. Partly it does so because it’s so evocatively isolated from its surrounding movie — in choosing this scene, Billy Wilder created an ecstatic snapshot of silent cinema, which one might imagine to be full of grand statements like “…cast out this wicked dream which has seized my heart…”

Maybe the reason I still haven’t watched QUEEN KELLY is that I don’t want to know the solid and narrative-based facts that lead Swanson’s character to make that statement. Like Lynch, I love a mystery.