Archive for Quo Vadis?

The Sunday Intertitle: The Nine Billion Names of Plumper

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2022 by dcairns

I found another film starring Raymond François Émile Marie Pierre Frau AKA Raymond Dandy AKA Kri Kri AKA Patachon AKA Bloomer, only in this one he’s Julius AKA William. I SUCUORI (1912) — translates as THE IN-LAWS but was translated in Britain as FAMILY JARS (?) and in Holland, as seen in this print, as JULIUS EN ZIJN SCHOONPAPA (JULIUS AND HIS DADDY-IN-LAW). It’s possible this one exists TWICE on the IMdb, under those names but also under an Italian title, LA TROVATO DI KRI KRI, aka BLOOMER’S SMART IDEA (1914) — but maybe that’s a different film altogether? Or maybe this is JULIUS EN ZIJN SCHOONPAPA all right, but the other two titles are BOTH different films?

British plot synopsis from IMDb: “William and Edith, newly married, are spending their honeymoon in a delightful country village, when, suddenly they receive a telegram from Edith’s parents, quickly followed by one from William’s parents stating that they would pay them a visit. All four duly arrive and enjoy a happy reunion for a short while, but soon a warm political discussion develops, with the result that the two families part in anger, taking their respective children with them. Both parties make their way to the station, where they find that the London train is two hours late. The old people philosophically settle down to wait in the rest room, and are both fast asleep, while William and Edith patch up their differences and decide to go to Brighton to finish the honeymoon, leaving a note to that effect. When the London train is due, the old people awaken, and, reading the note, realize the ridiculous aspect of the whole affair, and decide to let bygones be bygones.”

The film has absolutely nothing to do with that synopsis, so I think it’s been misnamed.

Julius/William/Dandy/Frau/Kri Kri/Bloomer is “madly in love with the daughter of the rich Jeweler Wamperl.” Immediately a decent bit of depth staging as our man of a thousand names flirts furtively with the daughter,who’s peeping from behind an upstage curtain, while he’s dusting the sparklers in daddy’s showroom. Whenever the old man turns in his direction, he drops the glances and starts furiously working the feather duster, albeit sometimes at thin air. It suddenly occurs to me that J/W/D/F/K/B reminds me markedly of Norman Wisdom, though he doesn’t push the simpleton schtick so very hard.

Respect to Frau-Dandy for casting odd-looking women as his romantic interests in both of his films I’ve viewed, rather than glamourpusses. Realising he wants a plain Americain type shot, probably before it was named, he advances to the camera and she joins him. Doesn’t make any sense psychologically — he wants to be with her and moves further away, forcing her to advance even more — it’s purely a technical choice because a closer shot is warranted and neither camera movement nor editing within the scene are really popular options yet. In its lack of logic, but its visual effectiveness, the move is both crude AND elegant.

Some vigorous but vague mime follows, and an equally vague intertitle: “Beloved Susanna, there is nothing left for us to do… but get on with it.” Seems like an elopement is planned — so this has nothing to do with the plot of I SUCUORI, but this could be KriKri’s Bright Idea we’re witnessing.

Maybe not so bright — once Susanna has left, Kri Kri turns his pockets inside out, expressing his disconsolate poverty. Still, as we know from LA TRAGEDIA DI KRI KRI, he’s a resourceful fellow. So he confides in daddy (played by the same unknown actor named as Potbelly in TRAGEDIA), without naming the girl: “My betrothed is very rich… her father is against our marriage… I have to elope with her… but how do I get the necessary small money?” Apparently a romantic as long as it’s not his daughter involved, Potbelly/Schoonpapa advances the cash.

There’s a definite continuity in Frau/Dandy’s work: both films so far are about fleecing his prospective father-in-law. A popular theme, no doubt.

A jitney elopement! Kri in his car coat and massive motoring cap! The sweeping romance of the nineteenteens! Then, to make clear that our sweethearts are now legally wed, a wordless conversation with the vicar — I say “vicar” because he’s exactly like a vicar in a British sitcom of the seventies, beaky, ascetic, sexless, volubly chummy.

Double close-up in back of moving car — very nifty. And the anonymous heroine suddenly looks very glamorous in her headgear. The Italians really dressed well in the teens, unlike just about every other filmmaking nation. Theda Bara was the exception in the US — she was excused frumpery.

Having learned how he’s been tricked, Wamperl/Potbelly writes furiously: “Degenerate daughter, don’t expect a cent from me so long as you live.” He shoots little glances through the lens at us, eager to have our approval of this stern course.

A lovely formal composition of the newlywed Fraus/Dandys/Kri Kris/Plumpers sitting for some reason on a table glumly reading the disinheritance letter.

Since this does indeed seem to be BLOOMER’S SMART IDEA/LA TROVATO DI KRI KRI, the leading lady must be Lea Giunchi, who has been celebrated a bit recently as one of the wild female silent clowns of Europe. She co-starred with Kri Kri quite a bit, and sometimes he’s very much the supporting player to her headliner. This means we can also identify Potbelly/Wamperl as Giuseppe Gambardella, a name which seems to suit him. He was a frequent support to both Lea and Raymond.

“Julius heeft een goede idee.” — he writes to his schoonpapa. The actors, who do have a great rapport, somehow make a scene of him dictating to his wife a telegram into something engrossing and delightful, despite us having no idea of its contents.

Finally a telegram-intertitle clears up the mystery in a surprising manner: “My poor man died suddenly out of grief over your letter. Please send money for the funeral. Your unfortunate daughter. Lucie.”

This is tremendously like the plot of the first Kri Kri we watched, but then he made around sixty-nine films in 1913 alone, so a certain repetitive quality is to be expected. I note also that Susanna is now Lucie. Names are so fluid around here.

Some of Kri Kri/Plumper’s other titles are KRI KRI E IL “QUO VADIS?” — the actor apparently plays a role in the Roman epic, so naturally he made a short film about doing so — BLOOMER AND THE AIR BALLS; BLOOMER AND THE EGG POWDER; BLOOMER AND THE TANGO; BLOOMER AND THE SAUSAGE; BLOOMER AND THE MAID’S SHOES; BLOOMER, RESERVIST; BLOOMER, SOMNAMBULIST; BLOOMER, NEGRO; BLOOMER, NATURALIST; BLOOMER, GLADIATOR; BLOOMER, SOCIALIST; BLOOMER MENDS PLATES; BLOOMER EXCHANGES COATS; BLOOMER HANGS HIMSELF; BLOOMER SMOKES OPIUM; BLOOMER YAWNS; HEADLESS BLOOMER and BLOOMER’S BLOOMER. I leave it to others to speculate how many of these are the same film under different titles. Maybe he played a socialistic naturalist gladiator somnambulist who smokes opium, yawns and hangs himself.

The emotional fraud suckers pops completely, and he is soon weepingly visiting his degenerate daughter’s place, where all the other hysterical mourners are in on the gag, and Bloomer/Kri Kri is hiding in the next room. It’s really evil, a paranoid fantasy out of THE GAME. What if everyone we know is only pretending to have emotions? One particularly vocal mourner keeps provoking double-takes from Wamperl — I guess he’s letting his wails turn into laughs, but it doesn’t quite communicate without the aid of a microphone. The double-takes become triple, quadruple, quintuple. Giuseppe is a skilled and relentless comic.

Two days later, Wamperl and his wife, who has hitherto not appeared, decide to attend the wretched son-in-law’s funeral, but arrive instead at a wild party, attended by the deceased, which they have paid for. Plumper hides under the tablecloth, but is discovered.

Incredibly, the soft-hearted Wamperl is so relived that he hasn’t killed a man with a stern letter, his anger swiftly turns to joy and he and Madame Potbelly join the party as guests of honour. So that’s nice. His son-in-law is obviously something of a psychopath, but here is a nice splitscreen vignette thing to show how OK it all is.

If I can find more films by Julius AKA Raymond François Émile Marie Pierre Frau AKA Raymond Dandy AKA Kri Kri AKA Patachon AKA Bloomer AKA William, I shall tell you about it.

The Sunday Intertitle: Blackmail and Female

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2021 by dcairns

Pordenone Festival of Silent Film has started, and we’re attending virtually, which means we don’t get Lubitsch’s LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN, but I guess that’s OK as I’ve seen it. We do get the very interesting JOKEREN/JOKER, from 1928, a Danish production from Nordisk with a German director, Georg Jacoby (known for his Nazi era operetta-films) and multinational stars including Brits Henry Edwards and favourite Shadowplayer Miles Mander, the human knitting needle.

The intertitles are a bit blah, and they’re also modern reconstructions with no attempt at period style. The dialogue is stuff like “I was in love with a young woman, but she left me for the rich Sir Herbert,” while the narrational titles just describe what we’re about to see, which is shockingly primitive for a 1928 film.

A shame, but a minor one, because the film itself is very sophisticated, even louche. Set in Nice at carnival time, apropos of Jean Vigo, it benefits greatly from the colourful, somewhat surreal location, with tragic scenes enacted by men in pantaloons and false noses.

Miles Mander is the whole show in my opinion, an actor you can really HEAR in silent films, whether you’ve heard him in talkies or not. Ideally cast here as a skeezy lawyer who’s bankrupted himself over an unfaithful mistress and now resorts to extortion to square the bills, he’s also quite smellable as he awakens in dirty shirt and braces, sprawled over his desk in a cat-infested office. Anyone who brings such sensory overload to a soundless film is aces in my book.

Of course it’s not really soundless because multi-instrumentalist Stephen Horne provides marvelous accompaniment.

In the title role, Henry Edwards cuts a dashing figure, so unlike Joaquin Phoenix. IMDb has bifurcating him, attributing this sole credit to a separate Mr. Edwards from the rest of his filmography, which is British — he turned up in films from the teens to the fifties — OLIVER TWIST, GREEN FOR DANGER, good things like that. Here, in his youth, he’s what I’d call a proper matinee idol, while at the same time his bony, beaky features do suggest the titular playing card, or perhaps Mr. Punch. If that sounds not quite attractive, he’s a British leading man of the early twentieth century, what do you expect? His performance emerges from under a glistening pomaded carapace. But he can do soulful.

This was my first Jacoby film, I think — he doesn’t move the camera* but his shots are lovely. Without the ability to screen-grab from Pordenone’s streaming platform, I can’t show you any though. I’m keen to see Jacoby’s silent QUO VADIS with Emil Jannings as Nero, and I should check out his Hitlerian musical output sometime.

Pordenone is superb value, whether in-person (impossible for me at the start of the new teaching year) or online — check it out!

  • STOP PRESS – Jacoby does do some simple but elegant walk-and-talk shots.
  • Gabriel Gabrio, a kind of tuxedo breeze-block, is Sir Herbert Powder, his physique suggesting that he must be quite a convincing Jean Valjean in Henri Fescourt’s LES MISERABLES.
  • Elga Brink, another victim of IMDb bifurcation, is an elegant and sympathetic heroine.

The Sunday Intertitle: Dramatis Personae

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , on September 6, 2015 by dcairns


Reading about cinematographer and effects artist Eugenio Bava in Tim Lucas’ magisterial study of his son Mario encouraged me to look at the 1912 QUO VADIS?, which he shot. It begins, in a manner familiar from many silent films but relatively new at the time, with the cast, represented by title cards and then by portrait shots, allowing the audience to know who they were watching. Very early silent films had no titles, but the audience’s appreciation of certain stars led to a demand to know who they were. Nowadays, it seems like everybody from the caterer to the wallpaper designer gets a credit, but in fact this is not show — really big movies still leave out the names of probably half the people who worked on them. Thank God.


Each of the portraits in QUO VADIS? starts with the actor looking off screen right, then each thesp slowly turns until they are looking right at the camera. The effect is of scanning the movie audience for a particular face, and then stopping once they’ve located US. After a while (cast of thousands = long title sequence), this started to creep me out very slightly. I’m not normally bothered by the fact that movies are populated by dead people, but these ambulatory corpses seemed to know too much. And they were being a bit over-familiar, if you ask me.