Archive for Souls for Sale

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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Leo

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on May 11, 2010 by dcairns

I used to think it was pretty neat that HE WHO GETS SLAPPED, my favourite movie, and the first MGM release, actually features a prominently placed lion in its action. Leo plays a crucial role in the plot, so it seemed just super that he also turns up in the MGM logo, proclaiming Ars Gratia Artis in lionese.

But now I’ve finally seen a Samuel Goldwyn production (SOULS FOR SALE) from before he got into bed, however briefly, with Mr. Mayer and Mr. Metro (what a funny name to have!), and I see that Leo is already very much part of the picture. Although he hasn’t yet perfected his roar, he just blinks very slowly and sadly at us, and attempts a sort of Cliff Richard sneer.

Actually, I’m not absolutely positive it’s the same lion.

Some dissertation could probably be written on Leo’s various incarnations. In the Technicolor days he lets rip with a massive snarl right off the bat, whereas in the silents, apart from being inaudible, he tends to sit there like a lemon for a quite a bit before giving vent. A sign of the faster pace of later movies, or a consequence of the demands of sound? Michel Chion should get to work on this.

The Sunday Intertitle: Hollywood and Bust

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2010 by dcairns

Rupert Hughes’ rather novelettish SOULS FOR SALE, based on his own serialised book, manages to entertain both in spite of and because of a motley array of virtues and vices. The daft story about a runaway bride plunging into the movie business while her husband, a bigamous serial killer, flees the police (they’re paths will cross again, you see) is amusing, and the backdrop of 1920s movie-making, accompanied by copious guest appearances (Chaplin, Stroheim, er, Niblo) sometimes derails the narrative momentum but offers the movie’s true raison d’etre.

There are a lot of memorable intertitles in this one! When the heroine collapses in the desert and is rescued by a sheik, she gasps “Are you real–or a mirage?” To which the arab prince replies, “Neither, I’m a motion picture actor.”

Richard THE WHISTLER Dix — never actually young.

The movie came to mind as a result of Shadowplay’s SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS Film Club discussion about Hollywood-on-Hollywood movies, but what it really is reminiscent of, during the desert scenes, is Fellini’s THE WHITE SHEIK, subject of an earlier Film Club here. Since Fellini was only three when SOULS FOR SALE was released, it might seem unlikely that it could have directly influenced his own tale of a runaway bride meeting a sheik on a location shoot, but Fellini’s co-scenarist Antonioni was considerably older and might very well have seen and remembered Hughes’ movie…

One nice intertextual joke comes when the fugitive bad guy charms a lonely spinster into filing off his handcuffs. “Too bad we couldn’t hear his story,” laments the title card, “but it must have been a good one.”