Archive for Stella Dallas

The Mother of Them All

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2016 by dcairns

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Our Indiegogo campaign is finished, and we scored 94% of our £5000 target, which is damned good. Anybody who still wants to donate and was waiting for payday can get in touch and contribute by Special Arrangement. The money raised will make our ambitious music score possible (Jane Gardner and her trio plus a roomful of early electronica) and cover the fact that our sound mix is going to cost twice what was initially budgeted, and reward our lowly effects artists, who are starving in their respective garrets and working longer on this thing than anybody else. We’ll also be assisted in publicising the film and getting it out to festivals. Anybody out there good at designing posters and postcards?

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Finished picture editing early enough yesterday to make it through to Bo’ness for the closing gala of STELLA DALLAS, the 1925 version directed by Henry King, not the better-known Stanwyck. Composer Stephen Horne is a great fan of this one and he fulfilled an ambition by scoring it — his multi-instrumental accompaniment supplemented ably by Elizabeth-Jane Baldry on harp, resulting in a sensitive and versatile score which enhanced the film’s humour as well as its obvious effectiveness as a weepie of “mother picture” as the contemporary press called it.

By crazy coincidence, in between edit and screening, my bathroom copy of Andrew Sarris’ The American Cinema fell open at Henry King, who made it into the chapter Subjects for Further Reasearch despite a write-up from the arch-auteurist that makes it sound like the world would be a better place had King been strangled in his cradle. It’s true that, side by side with vigorous stylists like Sun Yu (channeling/ripping-off Sternberg and Borzage) or E.A. Dupont, King’s coverage might seem prosaic at times, but he has his finger on the emotional pulse of the story and stages the climax in grand style. The true auteur is scenarist Frances Marion, and then we have Arthur Edeson as cinematographer and Stuart Heisler as editor to back King up.

Belle Bennett has the role of a lifetime as Stella, with Ronald Colman as her husband, and an embryonic Douglas Fairbanks Jnr pops up, looking very junior indeed. Jean Hersholt conceals his humanitarian tendencies as the unappealing Mr. Munn.

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Confession: I’ve never seen King Vidor’s remake. But I felt fine about that last night, as it meant I was experiencing the story fresh, and can now see how it was covered in the 1937 version.

Excellent intro and programme notes by Pamela Hutchinson, making the excellent point that Olivia Higgins Prouty’s source novel features characters whose perception has been influenced by cinema (“Laurel had seen too many closeups of faces not to recognize that look!”) The film’s climax (above and top) is all about the emotion of the act of looking, and the huge picture window through which Stella watches a wedding appears like nothing less than an illuminated motion picture screen.

The Sunday Intertitle: Yeast

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2016 by dcairns

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A full day in Bo’ness at last, soaking up the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema. Four shows on Saturday —

Buster Keaton & Eddie Cline’s MY WIFE’S RELATIONS — world premiere of newly discovered ending!

Doubled with Garvin and Marion Byron in A PAIR OF TIGHTS, a Hal Roach farce from the mind of Leo McCarey!

VARIETE by EA Dupont in a fresh restoration of glistening quality!

DAYBREAK, a fascinating Chinese rarity from the thirties in a hideous DVD, cropped and lacking contrast!

WUNDER DER SCHOPFUNG — German space documentary — a film that is to sci-fi what HAXAN is to horror, using a factual basis as pretext for as many startling images as possible.

I also saw Jessie, a volunteer who mentioned that she never makes it into the videos about Bo’ness, so I thought I’d give her some publicity here.

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Just time maybe to comment on the new ending of MY WIFE’S RELATIONS. The original cut fizzled out with Buster battling his in-laws in their newly acquired mansion, then swiftly cut to him on the back of a sleeper car — a favourite escape ending. This time the train is the Reno Express, so a quickie divorce is intimated. As a final shot it’s perfect, but the film doesn’t seem to get as there. A colossal ellipse gapes, not entirely complete-able by the imagination.

This new ending gets Buster out the house at least, but then the film simply stops, sans resolution. It’s absolutely clear to me that the two endings must be combined — Buster escapes the house AND boards the train. Then you got an ending. I’m even wondering, based on another error in the restoration involving the Polish intertitles (don’t ask), whether a combined ending was intended and then overlooked. Such blunders do happen — I saw several in Bologna involving restored Chaplin shorts which were still works-in-progress.

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More on the rest of these soon. I’m in the edit today! If I’m VERY lucky and efficient I might make it to STELLA DALLAS (1925) this evening.